When the climbers returned to base camp, they stopped at the Kibo Hotel and ordered a gala dinner party to celebrate the end of the trek. Bob Leo sent a GH truck with one of the native drivers over to our camp with instructions to bring me to the Kibo hotel and join the celebration with the crew. The driver gave me the message, but Gatti sent the truck back to the hotel without me. He was mad, because Bob had not asked him for permission to send me over to the hotel. At least that is the way I thought of it at the time. Author’s note: The Gatti-grams that we saved from the waste basket, and the group I have cataloged in a three ring binder are loaded with Gatti’s ire. And in his missives, he really let go on both Bob and me. There is much too much to put in this web site, but I will give the reader a view of the choice bits we had to live with while on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. The following message came after Bob had sent the request, but Gatti put a stop to that, because the ham station would not be on the air according to the contract. And he didn’t want to spend any extra days in Africa than he had to. The first page of the following Gatti-gram is missing, but here is some of an addendum, page 1A.. The main page of the addition is also missing. It was apparently addressed to the two radio hams. Ham radio is a hobby, but to Gatti it was a money-making business, and he didn’t like the way we used the hobby for friendship and enjoyment, he kept thinking we were his slaves to do as he directed. The Gatti-gram: “Naturally, as writing and narrating certainly is NOT your business, you began at once with just the statements which should have been left out entirely—thereby risking to spoil entirely Power’s stories, and all they cost to me, incidentally. “I am afraid that despite so many many talks & notes from me, and 3 months of continuous contact with me, neither you nor Snyder have yet got the simple point that you are nothing more than technicians here to run my own station EXACTLY AS I WISH. (The capital letters in the last bit were at least one half inch high! He must have been mad when he scratched out the Gatti-gram.) “Just as the photographers use very scrupulously my negatives and cameras (and some of their own) to take just the pictures I want and exactly as I wish, so you should have learned long since to use my station, my power, my recorders, etc. EXACTLY as I say. “If you don’t like my way of running my expedition, all either, or both of you has to do is to leave it. I have already spent too much of my valuable time trying to make the situation crystal clear to you both. Now my patience has come to an end, and this if FINAL. “Leo’s extremely inconsiderate and ill-mannered actions of the other night when I had 103.7 and Mrs. Gatti was not well either, and yet had worried, written notes, etc. to arrange hot baths and dinner for the 5 of you, was very much resented, too. (The next line is unreadable) “It managed to sour entirely, for both Mrs. Gatti and myself, the pleasure of the return of the 5 of you. “Incidentally, (about your changing Mrs. Gatti’s orders to the driver and taking the liberty of sending back a truck for a much misplaced whim of yours) you better learn once and for all that Mrs. Gatti is the president of the Corporation which has engaged you all. And that when I am away or sick she is the only one to give orders in this expedition. “Let me repeat -- disagreeable as this truth is—that you are my only two permanent headaches in the camp. I had hoped that you, Leo, had finally managed to understand the situation and that you, Snyder, were seriously trying to. If I was mistaken with one or the other, or both of you, we part company at the earliest possible. Headaches are painful. If let go too long they might be unbearable.” Gatti signed the above with his usual AG in script. The reader can get a good idea of from the above what it was like to be in the Gatti-Hallicrafters expedition. He was forever picking on Bob and me as if we were ruining his expedition. I often wondered what the previous ten expeditions were like. Later on, after I left the GHE, I was having lunch with the superintendent of the Parc Albert over in the Belgian Congo. When he found out that I had been with Gatti, his face frowned and he said the following to Arch Oboler and me: “If Mr. Gatti ever gets into the Belgian Congo again, I can guarantee you that he will never set his feet in the Parc Albert as long as I am the superintendent!” I didn’t ask why, but I’ll bet it was something not too happy! Gatti to my knowledge never had any bad words to say about or to Weldon King. Bob and I visited Weldon’s home in Springfield, Missouri in 1985. Weldon had spent his years after the first Gatti trip by going back to Africa with Gatti to other parts of the dark continent. I always thought that King’s father had something to do with Weldon’s trips with the Italian “explorer.” Clyde King had the record of driving the first automobile across the middle of Africa in early years, and King was also the export vice president of International Harvester Company while we were in Africa.—and remember, the vehicles were all donated to Gatti by the IH company. Weldon visited me in Fargo when he was on a picture shooting trip for those little round 3D View Master picture reels. He really saw the world doing those kind of photo assignments. Bob and I stayed at Weldon’s big home in Springfield. On the back of his house he had added a huge room with a complete genuine theater pipe organ installed. In the evening, Welson played for us during the evening. He was quite an accomplished organist, and he really made music boom out when he played for our enjoyment. (I have a picture of Weldon’s organ room.) Back to Africa in 1948. When Bob and I got together and discussed Gatti’s continuing request to talk business over the air, we decided to write him a letter which gave him an ultimatum. This is the letter Bob and I composed, and sent to Gatti on Gatti-Hallicrafter’s stationary, It happened when we became tired of listening to his commercial demands for business communications. I was hoping he would fire me, and I was not going to quit because I could not afford the price of the ocean or air trip back to the states. The bike rider incident had made so mad, that I wanted to get out of Gatti’s grasp. I first thought of going to the Tanganyika people who issued ham licenses and asking them to cancel the license that was issued to me. Remember that was the expedition’s license. So here is the letter: March 7, 1948 Mr. Attilio Gatti Dear Sir, With reference to your notes of yesterday regarding the operation of your radio station, we wish to say the following: In the future we will both operate your station EXACTLY as you wish, as long as it does not violate the spirit of "amateur radio," and the laws of the country in which we operate. This, therefore, eliminates all third party messages and all business contacts and we will not operate the station for those purposes. For your information, a third party message is any information from or to any person other than the licensed operator at both ends. Ownership of the station does not invest any right to operate same, unless an operator's license is held by the owner If this is not agreeable with you, that is: to operate the expedition's station strictly as an amateur station, you have the prerogative to discharge the both of us as stated in our agreements, and to return to us both to New York. Useless to say, we have during the past months done everything we could to make the expedition a success, and to be considered "permanent headaches" is adding insult to injury. Sincerely, William D. Snyder Robert E. Leo


We assembled, as we usually did when the commander wanted to have a meeting, in the the dining tent. Gatti came in without his usual smile on his face. I could see he had some typed papers with the official stationary printing on them. Edwards had tipped me off what was coming; I was going to get the axe. Gatti sat down across from me. Bob was by my side at the table. The station had been off the air for two days, no contacts with Fleasler, Oboler or any one for two solid days. “Snyder,” Gatti said as openers, “you have been a thorn in my side ever since New York. You haven’t done things the way I, or Missus Gatti, ordered them done. You have had some strange idea that you were running my radio station as if it were yours... and I can’t have that in my expedition. So, Missus Gatti and I have decided to terminate your contract with the expedition.” With that speech, Gatti handed me my termination letter which Edwards had typed the day before. I had never been fired from any job before, so I felt the sting of embarrassment and the joy of liberation in mixed emotions. To W.D. Snyder Your letter of the 7th of March does very little credit indeed to your integrity, to your intelligence, to your character: TO YOUR INTEGRITY, because, supposing that this station had been violating the "spirit of Amateur Radio" and the laws of the country in which we operate (which you know to be nothing but a bare-faced lie) it implies that you and Leo didn't mind in the least taking part in these "violations" for the last two months or so, as long as it suited your convenience. TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE, because you should have had enough of it which evidently you do not to realize the level these stupid accusations of yours involve not only our station but also all the others which were accomplices in these suddenly discovered violations. In other words, and individual of your education, experience and caliber, now has the fantastic gall of judging and condemning not only myself but a man like Mr. W..Halligan, and the entire Hallicrafters organization, and such outstanding and really good and experienced and splendid hams as Jerry, and Jackie, and everybody else who participated in these contacts. TO YOUR CHARACTER, because after having been at least 90 percent the cause of making the entire radio climb of the Kilimanjaro A SHEER FARCE; after having made me suffer the loss of a tremendous amount of money and precious time; after having broken almost every one of my instructions and of your contractual obligations all you can think of is to try to get out of all responsibilities by practically attempting to blackmail me into accepting what you OF ALL PEOPLE wish to dictate. Except for showing once more the level if your integrity, of your, of your intelligence and of your character, all this would be quite laughable if it were not so disgraceful especially after you made a perfect nuisance of yourself, all along since the first days in New and York, by delaying the work of the entire expedition with the disturbances you have so often created; by absorbing so much of my time; by exercising an extremely bad influence over Leo; by the sloppiness of your person and of your manners; by the disgustingly poor care of the equipment I have confided to your care, etc. etc. Under the circumstances, all I can do is to use the termination notice I gave you in Kwale more than 15 days ago and to terminate your contract as of today. Your salary therefore will cease today. As by clause 7 of your contract, I will at the Corporation's expense, provide you with: a/ Transportation from here to Moshi. b/ Ticket from Moshi to Mombasa. c/ passage from Mombasa to New York. Check for said passage has already been mailed to the Mombasa agency of the American South Africa Line, from which you will get your ticket. As undertaken by the Hallicrafters Company in the release which they asked you to sign, they stand ready to pay your transportation from New York to Fargo, N.D. Truly, The letter was signed by Attilio Gatti for the Vermont corporation of the Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition. Remember there were two corporations, the other one was the same title only for the Illinois corporation. Gatti handed me my termination check, and advised me that I was to contact the Farrell lines in Mombasa for ship transportation home to the USA. He also instructed Norman Wakeford to drive me to the railroad station in Arusha to catch the next train to the coast. I stood up, and with a smile on my face, offered my handshake to Gatti as a goodbye maneuver. He looked at my outstretched hand for a moment, and then after a pregnant pause, reluctantly shook it with the rest of the European staff looking on. I felt relieved that I was done with the so-called commander and his so-called scientific expedition. As I left the dining tent, Gatti was smiling at Bob and saying: “Now, Leo, when you are away from the bad influence of Snyder, I’m sure you will be able to do a better job running my radio station...” I walked to our Higgins trailer to pack my belongings for the trip home. About half way there, Edwards came running towards me, “Hey, Bill,” he said, “wait for me. I’m going with you. I can’t stand that officious ass anymore myself. I’ve typed my last letter for that bloke. Too bad it had to be to you. He’s keeping Bob because if both of you left, he’d be stuck with that contract with Hallicrafters. He has to keep the ham station on the air for six months; and like the old bastard told me, ‘not one day more.’” “Yes, I gathered that, Doug.” I said. “Now I’m sorry I got him to take both of us on this thing. He’d be up shit-creek without the proverbial paddle.” After the good byes, Edwards and I loaded in the station wagon and Norman took us to the rail station in Arusha. Gatti even came to say goodbye and shook our hands as if to enjoy getting rid of the “thorn in his side” he had grown to hate. And so, Doug Edwards and I became official cast-offs from the Gatti-Hallicrafters African Expedition. I remember thinking what Rollie Sherwood at Hallicrafter’s would think when he heard the news. On the dusty road trip to the rail station Norman said to me, “Bill, why don’t you move in with my mother in Mombasa. You can use my old room while you’re waiting for the ship to come into port. Gatti seemed to think it would be a couple weeks before the next one on the Farrell Lines is due. I think it’s the ‘African Planet’—the one Arch Oboler is coming on. Gatti will probably go down to meet Oboler when the ship comes in. He really wants Oboler to join the expedition—the radio writer smells of money.” On the train trip to Mombasa, Doug and I talked of Gatti and his expeditions. We agreed that he wasn’t the easiest guy to work for in the present environment. Then I brought up the idea of going to the Tanganyika government and telling them to cancel my license for the ham station. It was made out in my name, and therefore the operations of the Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition could be canceled be me. “I’d love to do it, but I don’t think I will, because I would hate to toss my good friend, Bob Leo, into a situation that he be caught spending more time in Africa with the so-called commander,” I said. Doug agreed with me, and so we dropped the conversation. On our arrival at Mombasa the next morning, I called Norman’s mother who was the rice ration board administrator for the Kenya government. “Norman called me that you were coming, and I have his room all ready for you,” she said. I moved into Norman’s room on the second story of a building right downtown and across the street from the Arab Mosque. Mrs. Wakeford was a lovely widow. I gathered she was well into her sixties after a life in India where she had been married to an officer in the British army there. She had been born in India to British parents and had grown up there in the colony. Although she had never been to England, she continually referred to it as “home.” “I hope one day to go home to England,” she would often say. Her home, an apartment in a building belonging to an Indian landlord, was spic and span despite the fact that she worked all day running the Kenya Rice Ration Board. She had lived in Kenya for a number of years after her army husband had died in India. Norman had been schooled in Kenya and could speak and write Swahili of the purest type, not the “kitchen Swahili” that most Europeans spoke to cooks and houseboys. Mrs. Wakeford could also speak Hindustani fluently. Norman’s room was overlooking the main street of Mombasa. The windows were holes in the structure without glass or screens of any kind. As in most tropical countries the ceilings were very high to allow the heat to rise and the windows were right to the ceiling to make a vent for the rising warm air. Norm’s bed was an old army cot, rising only about ten inches off the surface of the floor. A big mosquito bar hung from the ceiling and was a god-send when the bugs came during the night. Mombasa is one of the hottest places on earth. The water pipes serving the city run only a few inches under the ground, so in the late afternoon, a shower consists only of warm water, no cold is available. The humidity is always high as Mombasa is a seaport city, and the temperature goes well into the hundred plus range during the daytime because it is nearly on the equator. The air rarely cools down much during the night;. I can’t recall air conditioning anywhere in the city. “Mom Wakeford,” as I used to call her, was a wonderful cook, and she loved to do just that. She introduced me to a number of wonderful oriental and Indian foods. Curry, with all the sambal trimmings was her specialty. And she did it perfectly. The Moslem Mosque was right across the street from the apartment and the calls to prayer were quite audible with no glass in the windows. And I could hear the Arab street coffee venders walking up and down the main drag of Mombasa jingling some little brass cups that were the musical signal of their trade. During the period the dhows from the Persian Gulf were in Kilindini harbor, the Arab captains and crews were quite colorful with great curved daggers tucked in thesash they wore around their waists. Mombasa was a very picturesque city and the harbor area was like a another page out of the Arabian nights. I really enjoyed walking in that part of the city. I didn’t have an auto, so I had to walk everywhere, thus I got a good look at the city. Edwards would pick me up in his MG A auto and we’d go out to various clubs and night spots, so I got to see a lot of the tropical city. My first day at Mom Wakeford’s was a busy one. I walked to the Farrell Steamship Lines office; the South African Line had changed its name while I was with Gatti, and found out a bit about my sea trip to the USA. The lady at the counter was quite helpful. “We really don’t have any space on the next ship, the African Queen, but I think we can get you on the next one after that,” she said as she rippled through a stack of papers on her desk, “but I can’t tell you which one will be first.” “You mean I will be here for quite a spell?” I asked. “Oh, yes, Mr. Snyder,” she said spiritedly, “space to New York, or Montreal, or any port in the states is quite hard to get these days. You must remember, we book you to the first port of call in the country, not to any specific city. And lately we’ve had a lot of ships going to Birmingham with cargo that is picked up in Beira and Capetown, and so you may have to disembark there if the vessel goes there first.” “So I’m here in Mombasa for a few weeks perhaps?” “Yes, Mr. Snyder. I would say anywhere from two weeks to a month. Keep checking with us and leave word where we can reach you if you leave Mombasa for any period of time.” My next stop that day was at Barclay’s Bank. I had the check from Gatti and I intended to open a bank account with it. When I pulled the check out of my wallet and turned it over to endorse it, I stopped in my tracks. Something I had not seen before caught my eye. It was a qualified endorsement reading: “Accepted in full payment for all services and expenses according to our contract.” I stopped trying to get a bank account set up at that point. My next stop was the American Consul office and there I met Ed Mulkay, the vice consul for Mombasa. Ed was a young and handsome fellow. “We’ll have to have a drink some evening. Come around for sun-downers, Bill, and we’ll get better aquatinted,” he said. I brought up the contract with Gatti, and the fact that I had no money unless I endorsed that check that signed off my rights to expenses. “Don’t worry, Bill,” Ed laughed, “we have a fund of something like a buck a day for stranded Americans in Africa. We’ll help you out of the country.” “That’s damned nice of you, Ed,” I said, I just don’t want to lose my expenses home. My contract says if I quit I have to pay my way home. That’s why I made a fuss and got canned.” “Well, keep in touch with me. And by the way, Bill, Arch Oboler, the famous radio playwright, the guy that did all those ‘Lights Out’ programs is coming to town on the African Queen. They’ll be docking next Tuesday and he’ll be joining the University of California African expedition. Uncle Sam’s army Captain George Russell will be meeting him with an army truck and pulling Oboler’s house trailer up-country to Nairobi.” “Who is this Captain Russell?” I asked. “He’s a US Army geographer. He’s with Wendell Phillips’ and the U of California expedition. George is a pretty sharp fellow. He’s been here a few times making road and highway surveys for our government in case of another big war.” “And Oboler is going to join the California outfit?” “Right.” I laughed. “Gatti is going to be terribly surprised. He’s been thinking Oboler is going to join him on safari.” “I’ve got a letter from Oboler here,” Ed said as he rumaged through his desk, “outlines everything for me.” I enjoyed what I was hearing. “What I know about Gatti, Bill, isn’t too much,” Ed said easily, “but he is just barely being allowed here in Kenya. Officials say that he won’t be let into the Parc Albert again; that’s the big wildlife park in the Belgian Congo. Got that fact from the park manager a few months ago. Gatti did something he didn’t like. I don’t know what it was, but it must have been something pretty bad!” “That tickles me no end,” I said. Gatti didn’t have a good reputation with the local African governments after all, and it pleased me to hear it. Mom Wakeford was a great hostess. She cooked curries for me that really thrilled my taste buds. And her stories of growing up in India were fabulous. “It’s great fun to have you here, Bill, Mom said, “With Norman on safari with Gatti, it’s been pretty lonesome around the house. I hope you can stay a long while.” After seeing a lawyer and showing him the check and the contract, he advised me to go ahead and cash the check which I did. I had money again for sun-downers. Ed, the Consul, called me to join him in meeting Oboler on the ship which was about to dock in Kilindini Harbor. “George Russell and I will pick you up at ten in the morning,” Ed said on the phone. “You’ll get to meet George and Oboler all at once.” I was excited. The thought of meeting one of the world’s most prolific radio script writers was exhilarating. On the way to the ship, George and I traded quick resumes. I had been a Captain in the Signal Corps for one of my three years of overseas service in the Pacific theater of operations and we had lot in common. “How’s this U of Cal expedition, George?” I asked. “If I were Oboler,” said George, “I wouldn’t touch it with a fifty-foot pole. Wendell Phillips is something to stay away from at all costs. He’s a sort of con man.” “Like Gatti?” “I don’t know anything about Gatti,” George said, “but Wendell is something else. He managed to get the Navy to send a medical team over here to do all kinds of research. Now Wendell is going to try and rent out one of the Navy cameramen to Oboler cause the playwright made a donation to the expedition coffers. And he’s got me and my truck going to haul Oboler’s trailer around Africa. At least he thinks that’s going to happen. I’ll get Oboler to Nairobi and then I’m heading out to do my own thing.” I was getting a clearer picture of what African Expeditions were like, and I was glad in a way that I was getting out of the life. On the African Queen we met Arch Oboler and his wife, Eleanor. He was Jewish and a little man with a slight paunch. She was trim, dark haired, and a good conversationalist. Oboler’s trailer was still in the hold of the ship and wasn’t going to lifted out until the next day. “It’s too far back,” said the first mate of the Queen. “Be tomorrow at the earliest.” Oboler and his wife moved to a hotel in downtown Mombasa. Consul Ed was quite attentive to the Obolers. Right out my bedroom window was a big sign that read, “Beware of Pickpockets.”

CHAPTER 13, The Firing

Copyright 2003,William D. Snyder
All Rights reserved
The Christmas card, Bill got from Mom Wakeford.