The U.S. Congressman And The Saga of The Seth Parker
July 5, 2012 by rtwsenior
Dear Ms. Brown – received your email and request for assistance on your pending trip to American Samoa now scheduled sometime during the first and second week of September this year.
I suggest you coordinate your trip with my chief of staff Iuli Godinet and let him know how we can be of assistance to you on arranging meetings etc ….. He can be reached at … (deleted) ……sincerely, Eni Faleomavaega
From: rtwsenior <[email protected]>
Sent: Fri, Jun 22, 2012 10:43 am
Subject: Concerning the 77th anniversary of the sailing of The Seth Parker from Pago Pago.
Dear Congressman Faleomavaega,
Would you please suggest ways that I might arrange a meeting in Pago Pago, Samoa, between September 10 – September 16, 2012? I am embarking on my second around-the-world journey this August and will be in American Samoa anyway, whether a meeting proves possible or not. This request is not at all for funds or any financial return for any activity I might be able to organize in the islands. My interest is historical and sentimental and I have keen wish to share a true story with “my virtual family” in American Samoa. These family members are the descendants of the eighteen Samoan crew members who sailed aboard The Seth Parker almost eighty years ago. None of us would have been born if that ship had gone down, as it very well might have. My 75th birthday is September 10, 2012 and I can’t imagine any better way to spend it than by telling this remarkable story to anybody who wants to hear it….but particularly, to those of us who have no idea how close we came to non-existence.
To be sure, I do harbor a hope that I might, someday, interest the New Zealand Film Industry in reading the script I’ve written telling this tale cinematically. Surely, my meeting in Pago Pago might advance that cause, but it is not the main reason that I wish to do this.
Three weeks from today, July 13, 2012, marks the 77th Anniversary of the sailing of The Seth Parker from Pago Pago in 1935. This was a famous radio broadcast ship owned by Phillips Lord, (later, the founder of the Gang Busters radio program), popular in the Depression Era as Seth Parker, a Lake Woebegon-sort of a preacher character. He outfitted a four-masted schooner and sailed as far as Tahiti, broadcasting to the folks back home. Two hurricanes badly damaged the vessel and he sold her in American Samoa to a Hawaian tuna company. The ship sat in Pago Pago Harbor for some time and was believed to be a Jinx ship, a ghost ship.
My father, Russell Dickinson, arrived in Pago Pago around May, 1935, aboard The Cimba, also famous for being one of the early small boat around-the-world sailing attempts. The voyage was serialized in Rudder Magazine and the book, The Saga of Cimba by Dick Maury, the vessel’s owner, has been reprinted five times and is currently designated a Sailor’s Classic.
Father left the Cimba and signed on as Second Mate with The Seth Parker. I have his original, unpublished manuscript which tells the harrowing tale of what occurred aboard that truly-jinxed ship between July 13 and September 16, 1935, when the Parker was towed into Honolulu harbor.This very-detailed manuscript is too long for an article and too short for a book. But it’s perfect for a movie script and I’ve been writing various versions of such for over thirty years.
The Insatiable Sea, now posted on my studio at http://studios.amazon.com/users/10660 has some fictionalization in the backstory of the characters but every event and sailing detail is exactly as it happened, though I do speculate, as my father did, about the true motives of the purchasers who would perhaps insure an unseaworthy vessel for more than it was worth and then stack the cards so completely against it. People maimed valuable race horses during the depression to collect the insurance, didn’t they? Anyway, the only reason that the Seth Parker made it into port was because Father and the two other officers mutinied and confined the heroin-addicted Captain to his quarters when he refused to radio for a tow ship out of Honolulu. In fact, the Captain had almost sailed without a radio until the First Mate rebelled against that idea.
This is such a great story….really quite a classic, as far as sea tales go, and it would be a shame for it never to be heard by anyone other than myself and my immediate family members. I have actually written two versions of this story. One, in which I didn’t fictionalize a thing and which covers the Cimba voyage. However, I don’t own the rights to that material; although the Maury family knows and approves of that first rendition, titled The Saga Of The Seth Parker. I only mention this if the addition of a bit of backstory and speculation would disturb your sense of historical purity. Of course, the material I will present in person comes exclusively from Russ Dickinson’s eyewitness account.
I have three names of people who sailed with that ship: a crew member named Paito and two women brought along at the last minute, whose photos and names appear in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper article of September 16, 1935. Part of that article is my cover illustration for the script on the Warner Bros site, but not the page with the girls. They were Masele, 23, and Masani, 26. Perhaps these names will help to identify their current family members and maybe other crew, as well. Twenty-one native Samoan boys were originally signed on as crew for $15 per month, per man. Apparently, five of these men jumped overboard and were pulled into canoes of their shouting friends and family members just before the naval ship, The Ontario, pulled the Parker out to sea. Perhaps, long memories and oft-told stories abound already in Pago Pago, fueled by wild reports of the survivors who surely eventually returned to their home island. They must have told the same tale from the crew’s point of view but many of the details of what occurred to cause these enormous woes would not have been available to them. I would like to fill in those missing pieces.
Frankly, this is such an enormous undertaking that very little could be accomplished in just one evening. I have a month, or longer, to play with, as I am allowing three months in Oceania and three in each of the countries of New Zealand and Australia. Like my father, I am a world-wanderer and now spend my life living on Social Security, seeing the planet. So, I do have the time to devote to “Getting This Story Into Port,” so to speak, as I have desired to do for almost forty years since I came across this manuscript. But, follow-up will take care of itself. My need of the moment is to arrange a beginning. A meeting place, perhaps a school or a historical society; and a campaign to locate crew descendants and anyone else interested in this project….perhaps media, nautical historians, genealogists…who might like to get in on the creation of whatever may come later.
I’m open to your suggestions and am not asking you to take this on, personally. Just to pass me to somebody who can help with ideas and plans before I arrive in Pago Pago in late August or early September.
Linda J. Brown