“Ron Benjamin Talks about His Father’s (Harry Benjamin) Career”

Over a number of months I sent several letters and emails to Harry Benjamin asking about his life on Galloo Island Lifeboat Station. Several weeks went by and I hadn’t heard from Harry or his family. On the 6th day of June 2012, Ron Benjamin (Harry’s Son) sent me an email on behalf of his parents (Harry & Gladys Benjamin). Ron Benjamin’s email had some very detailed information about his father career while serving with the United States Coast Guard. The information was really intriguing and I want to know more about Ron Benjamin and his father’s Harry Benjamin’s life. Ron and I decided we would setup a telephone interview for the 23rd day of June 2012 just after 12:00 noon E.S.T. Below is the result of our two hour telephone conversation and the contents of a few emails we exchanged after our initial conversation.

       My father’s name was Harry Benjamin. My dad enlisted in the United States Coast Guard on the 17th day of March 1938 in Buffalo, New York. Once my dad completed basic training he was transferred to Charlotte Lifesaving Station located in Rochester New York. My dad was stationed there from the middle of June 1938 and transferred to another station around the same time in 1940. According to Ron his father received his transfer orders to Galloo Island Lifeboat Station. My dad remained on Galloo Island until the end of 1943 or the early part of 1944. My dad spent roughly twenty-seven months on Galloo Island. As we continued our interview, I discussed with Ron some of the discrepancies in a letter between his dad and retired Coast Guardsman’s Gordon Koscher. Ron and I decided to stop our interview for a few minutes in order to clear up those discrepancies in his father’s service history.

Author’s Note:

“In a handwritten letter to Gordon, Harry Benjamin stated he was discharge from the United States Coast Guard on the 17th day of March 1941 and he was out of the United States Coast Guard for about ten months. I let Ron know the Gordon sent me a copy of his dad letter. According to Ron Benjamin the timeframe doesn’t add up to ten months as previously stated. Ron believes that it may be a mistake that went unnoticed even after his dad sent the letter to Gordon Koscher. I talked to Ron a little more about his father’s letter to Gordon. Ron Benjamin seems to think the dates and some of the other statements in the handwritten letter were incorrect. Ron also stated he didn’t know who Gordon Koscher was or if he served with his father on Galloo Island. At this point we can’t be sure because my dad can’t address this discrepancy.”

While in labor my mother was helped onto one of the power boats and ferried over to the mainland. Ron Benjamin was born in the City of Henderson Harbor, New York in 1941.

Author’s Note:

“What most people don’t know is Henderson Harbor is closest city to Galloo Island.”

My dad (Harry), mother (Gladys) and I lived on Galloo Island for the first three years of my young life. Ron doesn’t really remember much about his childhood on Galloo Island. What Ron did remember was life on Galloo Island was very hard on his mother Gladys Benjamin. My mother told me more than once that she didn’t like being isolation from the mainland, her family and her friends. According to Ron stories about his life on the Galloo Island were told time and time again to him. In Ron’s mind these stories are true and I remember the events as they actually happened. I know living on Galloo Island we were pretty isolated from everything. The biggest challenge was getting supplies from the mainland to the island. Ron Benjamin stated that over the years he heard many tales from his dad and some of the men his dad served. Those tales were on how difficult it was to get supplies to and from the mainland during the winter months. My dad told me
you there were only two ways to bring supplies in. You could transport them in by boat providing the lake was frozen over or by plane (Piper Cub) and that was especially challenging during those long cold snowy months. Pilot Russ Walden and his small Piper Cub would take off from mainland and landing on the icy ground just behind the lifeboat station or set his plane down on Lake Ontario when it was frozen over.
There were times when my dad would bundle up and walk from Galloo Island across the frozen waters of Lake Ontario to Snowshoe Bay, New York that was some fifteen miles away the island. Once he reached the mainland and conducted his business, my dad would hitch a ride from Watertown, New York to Sacketts Harbor, New York and then make his way back to Galloo Island on the Piper Cub piloted by Russ Walden.  Ron told me Surfman no. 9 Arthur Cushing and his dad were some of crew members that help lay a single telephone cable from Sacketts Harbor, New York to Galloo Island and then up to Galloo Island Lifeboat Station. The man in charge of the crew laying the cable from the mainland to the island was Chief Warrant Officer Black. According to my dad Chief Black was a direct descendent of an American Indian tribe. At this time I don’t remember which tribe it was and where they originated from.

After Galloo Island my dad was transferred to Tibbett's Point (“Cape Vincent”) in 1944 and remained there until 1947. He was the Officer in Charge (O.I.C) at Tibbett's Point Light and Fog Signal Station located in New York. My dad was transferred to Hawaii for three years (1947 to 1950). His next stop was Buffalo Lifeboat Station from 1950 to 1952, back to Tibbett's Point Light and Fog Signal Station from 1952 to 1956. He was again transferred from Tibbett’s to Minneapolis Shoal Light which stands 10 miles South of Peninsula Point on Lake Michigan and the closest city to the light is Escanaba, Michigan. My dad was station at that remote location from 1956 to 1959. In late 1959 he transferred to an Icebreaker stationed off Detroit, Michigan. His last assignment was onto another United States Coast Guard Icebreaker located off the coast of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. This transfer was considered a ship change by the United States Coast Guard. My dad retired from the United States Coast Guard in 1963.

Ron was always puzzled about this part of his dad’s service:

“Though my dad had no sea duty until his last two stints (Detroit and Sturgeon Bay Icebreakers) which he needed to achieve his Chief status, he was always an Office-in-Charge no matter station he assigned or transferred too. I don't know how he accomplished it but my dad always wanted to stay on land based to be with his family.”

Ron told me after his dad retirement from the United States Coast Guard, his parents moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin. According to Ron his father (Harry) and mother (Gladys) both passed away within the last four years. The Benjamin’s had four children, three sons and one daughter.  Ron told me as we finished up with our telephone interview that he has lost one brother and a sister. I lost my parents after we lost my brother and sister. Ron Benjamin thanked me for my interest in his dad’s service history and I thanked him for allowing me access to his dad’s life and time in the United States Coast Guard.

My Final Thoughts:

“Over Harry Benjamin distinguished career, he was deeply commitment to his family, those he served with and those he assisted while serving his country. The Benjamin’s made sacrifices and adjustments as Harry’s career moved him from station to station, but their family roots remained deeply entrenched in the foot print they created. To the Benjamin Family your dad’s legacy lives on in your hearts, in each of your soles and in the minds of those who knew him best. He is gone now but his legacy lives on!”
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