“Meet Me By The Slop Chute On The Ol’ Whangpoo”

by | Mar 23, 2023

My fatherVernon H Sparks, BMC, WWII Pacific

Dad’s medical records revealed his own painful trauma from WWII. I was totally in the dark for so many decades. As I slowly read his Navy records from 1936-1960, his experiences helped me see a larger than life picture of a man who served America with pride and honor. It was sad but healing for me to go back in time to learn who Dad was. It struck me that I didn’t know him at all.

As I looked closer and connected the dots, Vernon, had fun and took full advantage of those moments free from combat. He loved Shanghai. He loved his shipmates as brothers. They had a good time together and forgot the war for a moment.

Let’s take a look at one such time when WWII was coming to the end.

Definition of slop chute

1a chute toward the rear of a ship for dumping garbage

2: slang a tavern frequented by military men

USS Bellegrove LSD2

Iwo Jima, Feb 1945

The USS Bellegrove (LSD2) had just completed eight missions in the Pacific War, as the map indicates. It had been 25 months since the ship’s last Liberty port. It was a horrific and deadly war to secure the Japanese occupied islands. Taking Iwo Jima was the worst of the battles.

Too many lives were lost on the beaches and at sea. My father, Vernon H. Sparks, Boatswains Mate Chief (BMC), along with his shipmates, couldn’t wait to let off some steam. My father would say, “it was battle stations every day, all day and night.”

Toward the end of March 1945 the Bellegrove set sail for Shanghai. This was the first Liberty port in 25 months! By then, Iwo Jima was secured, the fighting was over.

Vernon had already spent his share of time in Shanghai before the war. He knew it well, and always enjoyed hanging with his shipmates at the assorted taverns, called “Slop Chutes,” on the river front.

Vernon longed more to go home to see my mother, Marcella, and first born son, Jerry. He finally came home in June 1945, around the end of WWII. It was from there the rest of the Sparks clan of five children came into a world recovering from WWII.

Liberty, Shanghai, March 1945

The first day and night of Liberty proved a time to release the trauma and stress of war. This night gave them freedom to forget thoughts of combat that chewed away hearts and souls, that were never t the same again.

While heading back to the ship, just before midnight curfew, the men strolled slowly, shoulder to shoulder, and sang, “meet me at the ‘slop chute’ by the ol’ Whangpoo.” It was a jolly loud evening of booze, laughter and comraderie. Vernon usually led the way.

The Bellegrove would set sale for Pearl Harbor the following morning. From Honolulu, my father was assigned to another ship for the return home, once and for all. I know Dad was terrified

Once Dad returned home in June 1945, the war never ended for him. The war came home to the kitchen table.

My family’s post WWII life was no picnic at the beach. As a Navy family we served too and survived, but not without scars. Caring for my father was nearly impossible in those days, as it was for 10s of thousands of veterans who were injured physically and mentally during the war years.

We had little or no awareness of mental health challenges back then. There was some talk of “battle fatigue,” though. What was that? I still look back and wonder how we persevered.

Read about our post WWII family life in my book, Reconciliation a Son’s Story. Click the book cover…

Meet me by the slop chute
On the old Whangpoo
Bring along your dinner
There’ll be room for two.
We’ll have mashed potatoes
And some Irish stew,
Meet me by the slop chute
On the old Whangpoo!
I ain’t got no money,
I ain’t got no chow,
So you see that everything
Is ding bu hao.
Bring along your girlfriend,
There’ll be room for two.
Meet me at the slop chute
On the old Whangpoo

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
View all posts by stevesparks →

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