2013-11-29 / Community

Old Salt: A Tale Told By Two

By Dan Guarino

“Old Salt,” written by Mary Dady Clarity recounts the true stories of a boy’s childhood on the island of Broad Channel and a man’s journey first through the US Merchant Marine Academy and then into an eventful career in the United States Navy.

“Old Salt” is about Captain Mike Clarity, US Navy, retired.

Recently Mary and Mike Clarity sat down with The Wave to answer a few of questions about the book. Q: What prompted you to write this book? How did it come about?

Mary: I began writing Old Salt as a gift for Mike’s daughters. I knew that Mike had great stories and I wanted his girls to have a record of them.

When I asked Mike to use a tape recorder for that purpose, he failed miserably. He sounded very stilted. It was obvious that it wasn’t going to work.

When I read in a local paper that a course on writing memoirs was being offered as a Continuing Ed class, my mission began. Q: Where is the book available?

Mary: Old Salt is available on Amazon.com, Amazon kindle and large book stores will order it upon request. Q: How did the actual process of writing it work, between Mike telling the story and you making it into a book?

Mary: When I first began to write Old Salt I questioned Mike about the stories I had already heard. At that time I was thinking of a collection of essays.

Our Q&A sessions resulted in accessing a journal that Mike kept during his “Sea Year” at Kings Point. He also found his Ships Books, that were much like high school yearbooks,

As he dusted off and reviewed these treasures, his mind was stimulated. The result was a pouring forth of more material than I had anticipated.

Meeting weekly with my newly acquired writers group kept me on task. Q: How long did it take to write Old Salt?

Mary: At some point I began to chronicle the stories into book form. For most of the nine years I found it embarrassing to tell people that I was writing a book, and that I was serious about it.

My only encouragement came from my fellow writers. The Old Salt himself didn’t become a fan until he read some of the Navy stories.

It was about year seven when he ventured to tell me that it wasn’t half bad. Before that he was glad that I had an interest and had made some friends of my own; but it wasn’t any different than if I had joined a garden club. Q: Mary, is this your first book? And can we expect more?

Mary: Giving Old Salt my best shot took all of nine years. For that reason, and that I was born so darn long ago, I don’t see myself writing another book. Q: There are a lot of fascinating stories in the book. What are some of your favorites?

Mike: My favorite stories were 1) how we managed to get the Princess of Lichtenstein to visit the US Merchant Marine Academy and how we got her to grant amnesty to our class for our major offense of kidnapping several who raided the Academy the night before our annual football game. 2) The response I got from the gathered crowds after knocking down the King’s grandson while taking the Admiral’s ski lesson in Oslo, Norway.

3) How I managed to refuel my ship, USS Cochrane, from an aircraft carrier in the midst of Typhoon Pamela in the Philippine Sea.

4) The thrill I got being captain of the sailing ship Mayflower II for the four hours it took to sail down New York Harbor to salute Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as they crossed the harbor in a specially rigged Staten Island Ferry.

She said she missed seeing the Mayflower II departing England, and I was the only remaining Mayflower crew member in the US who was available to take her to see it under sail. Q: Mike, what would you say was the high point of your Navy career?

Mike: The high point of my career was definitely command of the USS Cochrane DDG-21. Command at sea was my utmost goal since my first day as an ensign aboard my first Navy ship.

Being able to lead and inspire the finest of America’s young men provided me the greatest satisfaction anyone could hope for. Seeing the pride these young sailors displayed while attempting to make their ship “Number One” was one of my life’s greatest rewards. Q: How far back do your families go in Broad Channel?

Mike: My Mom, Marguerite Gronachan Clarity, was one of the first children of Broad Channel in 1912. Her father, Martin Gronachan, moved many of the houses on Ruffle Bar to Broad Channel by barge. He moved one of them to 11th Road and the Gronachan family moved in.

He delivered ice to Broad Channel residents by horse and wagon in the summer and coal in winter.

During Prohibition, he delivered ‘adult beverages’ to the many Broad Channel watering holes in the double bottom of his barge.

Mary’s family, the Rauerts, moved to Broad Channel from Brooklyn in 1945. Q: How did Hurricane Sandy affect you?

Mary: Many have asked, “What’s next?” Frankly, I haven’t felt the void yet because Old Salt and Hurricane Sandy overlapped.

After Sandy hit it was hard to think about anything else even though we were in Florida. About that time Mike convinced me that Old Salt was finished and I ought to either publish or pack it up.

Somehow, in spite if my low-tech abilities Old Salt was published. And with the aid of family, and our contractor, we survived.

In mid-June when we arrived back in BC our place was still pretty rough.

Little by little it got a lot better. Currently it’s almost finished, and better than ever. Q: Finally, what would you like future readers to come away with after reading Old Salt?

Mike: Mary’s goal was to make sure that my three daughters would have a summary of my stories to recall after I am gone. But now that it’s finished and has become a book, I hope future candidates for the Merchant Marine and Naval Academies can get a look at what could be in store for them. And, for other readers, to see that an ordinary kid from a small waterfront community can reach their goals if he or she works hard and is “Persistent!

That is my motto!

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