Amelia Island resident Alfred “Al” Kremler has led an interesting life — from riding circles around veteran bicyclists, surviving Japanese kamikaze attacks, and walking a beat as a New York City cop.
When 16-year-old Kremler graduated from high school in Queens in 1942 his father, a Manhattan banker, told him: “Forget about college, get a job.”
The youngster’s brother-in-law lined him up with a position as a laborer on a construction crew that was erecting a building for what he discovered a few years later was part of the famed “Manhattan Project,” the top-secret government mission responsible for developing the atomic bomb.
But with World War II raging the young Kremler decided that he wanted to join the fight and persuaded his parents to let him sign up at 17 for the Navy, where he was trained as a pharmacist’s mate a position that, under the direction of medical officers, administered medical assistance and treatment.
Following his enlistment Kremler was assigned as one of the first crew members of the USS Dutchess, a Windsor class attack transport ship named for a New York State county, that loaded and unloaded troops and casualties among the many Japanese islands being fought over in the Pacific including Okinawa, Saipan, Leyte and the Philippines. The ship was awarded a battle star for meritorious participation and having suffered damage during battle conditions.
During his service aboard the Dutchess, Kremler saw his ship attacked by kamikazes as well as shelled by Japanese destroyers, but he says some of the most harrowing times came during typhoons that sank two U.S. destroyers and saw two of his crewmates killed by lightning strikes.
He was a member of the Dutchess from the day it was launched to the day it was decommissioned in December 1945. The Dutchess was eventually reflagged by the Republic of China, renamed the Oriental Jade, and eventually scrapped in 1974.
But it was Kremler’s prowess on a bicycle, beginning in high school, that led to his notoriety in New York City and upstate. As a member of the Long Island Wheelman’s Association. The young Kremler went through the competition like a hot knife through butter, picking up trophy after trophy in races ranging from 10 to 100 miles in distance.
He received his first bike at age 12 and tried to keep up with racers in his neighborhood without much luck. “I saw a bike in a store window for $25 and was determined to get it,” he recalls. In order to buy it he earned money doing a variety of odd jobs, the most interesting one filling beer growlers for men at a local TB hospital. “They’d hand me a quarter over the fence to go to the local tavern and fill their beer growlers for twenty cents, ” he said. “I kept the nickel change and eventually earned enough to buy that bike.”
“However, my dad was an avid New York Yankee baseball fan and wanted me to be a baseball player,” says Kremler. “He took me to Yankee stadium a number of times and I actually met Lou Gehrig.”
After being discharged from the service following Japan’s surrender, Al and 16,273 other men took a New York City Police Department examination, which 72 percent of them failed. Kremler registered the fifth highest score on the test and soon thereafter donned a NYPD uniform and was assigned as a street cop in Queens starting at $60 a week. Out of that first paycheck he had to pay for a tailored uniform, his badge and even ammunition for a gun he was awarded for finishing in the top ten on the exam.
His police career began under New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia during the Murder, Inc. era when Arthur Wallender was Police Commissioner.
But walking a beat didn’t last long when the brass downtown heard about his two state cycling championships as a 15 and 16-year-old high school student and the youngest member of the Long Island Wheelmen.
“I was called into the Commissioner’s office and asked if I could beat biking champ Joe Nolon,” recalled Al. “I told them ‘I always have.’ ” and from then on he became a member of the New York Police Association bicycle team traveling the country and picking up four New York state championship trophies.
His competitive cycling days came to an end at his peak in 1949 when in a qualifying race for the U.S. Olympic team he was injured in a race in California.
“The dirt track we were on was in terrible condition as they had run a midget car race the night before and we were riding in their ruts,” he said. “The rider in front of me went down and I hit him and tore up my arm and hip and that was it.”
Al retired from the NYPD in 1967 and then entered the car business, first as a salesman and then in management.
He and his wife, Vilma, had two daughters and a son. “I married the coal miner’s daughter,” chuckles Kremler, who said his father-in-law had at one time worked in a mine. His wife passed away in 1985, and Kremler eventually moved to Amelia Island with his son, Bill, a retired New York State police officer in 2004, along with son Bill’s wife, JoAnn.
I first met the 91-year-old Kremler, who looks 25 years younger, doesn’t wear glasses, and weighs a few pounds over his riding weight, when we moved into our Amelia Island home in Seaside in 2011, and he bounded across the street to introduce himself. I’ve enjoyed being this fascinating man’s neighbor ever since.
Cup Of Joe Runneth Over & Out: News-Leader columnist Joe Palmer, who wrote the local bi-weekly’s periodic “Cup of Joe” column has announced on Facebook that he’ll no longer be contributing his thoughts to the editorial pages of that publication in the future.
The only thing over the years that Palmer and I have ever agreed on is our opposition to Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Chip Ross’s shabby treatment of the commissioner’s very dignified and pleasant Broome Street neighbors, the Sauer family. Other than that I’m not a fan of Palmer’s musings, nor is he a fan of mine. We’ve both acknowledged as much in print so I won’t miss his opinions.
It appears that Palmer’s latest contribution, a screed that even Mother Jones would find cringe-worthy — not because the folks there would disagree with its premise — but because it was so amateurish and poorly written.
Palmer, a self-proclaimed “southern humorist” whose writing produces more grimaces than grins, wrote a February 14 Valentine’s Day piece headlined “The empty vessel” in which he accused President Donald Trump of a variety of sins including associating with evil people, dishonesty, inhumanity, cruelty toward others, being dishonorable, and more. The only transgressions he left out were the Holocaust, Christ’s crucifixion, and not putting the curtain inside the tub when showering in hotels.
Four paragraphs into his lengthy and angry diatribe he stated that he wasn’t writing about “policy and politics” but his intent was to “examine the person.” He then let loose with a salvo of malice and accusations that on most elementary school playgrounds are traditionally followed with “nahnah-nah-nahnah.”
In his Facebook announcement Palmer said he received a message from the paper’s editor that the News-Leader publisher (Foy Maloy) essentially saying “knock it off” and in the future don’t comment on national politics. Hey, wait a minute, didn’t Palmer say he wasn’t commenting on politics or policy? Ole Cup of Joe found it insulting that the publisher said: “…..that if he wanted to keep writing for his paper that I needed to not opine on national politics” and relayed that message via the paper’s editor instead of calling him personally. Palmer also wanted to make it clear that the paper didn’t dump him adding: “I wanted to put the word out pre-emptively. They didn’t divorce me. I divorced them.” So there, you stupid pooh-pooh heads!
Oh well, the paper’s publisher, Maloy, dumped my “Dave’s World” column four years ago saying I was “too controversial” and because of me he said it suffered 30 cancelled subscriptions” apparently putting a severe dent in that publication’s circulation numbers. It didn’t hurt me financially as I didn’t get paid for it anyway and neither did Palmer for his stuff.
Perhaps Cup of Joe should have stuck to writing about his two favorite topics — himself and his dogs.
Dan Voll Tributes: The Historic Fernandina Business Association (HFBA) President Chuck Hall tells me that this year’s Sounds on Centre sessions will be dedicated to the memory of late musician Dan Voll, who passed away late last month and who played in those events over the years. Posters and T-shirts with Dan’s image will be available. On March 4, the Green Turtle will host a “celebration of life” in Dan’s honor from 3-7 p.m. featuring Dan’s recorded music and a video presentation. A number of local musicians will play beginning at 7 p.m. says Dan’s good friend Susan Gallion. The event is expected to be packed to the rafters.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: If you want a reason to drink then the Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise’s 6th Annual Food & Wine Tasting fundraiser event for local charities is the place you want to be Saturday, March 3, from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. at Fernandina Beach’s Atlantic Rec Center, 2500 Atlantic Ave. Tickets are $75 each and available online at AmeliaIslandRotary.org. Attendees will sample a variety of wines and craft beers, along with enjoying a selection of items from area restaurants and entertainment by the big band, Crescendo Amelia. Money from the event will benefit The Boys and Girls Clubs of Nassau County, Nassau County Council on Aging, and Friends of Fernandina Aviation for scholarship funds to help students attend the National Flight Academy. On February 24th from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm in Downtown Fernandina Beach the 12th Annual Amelia Island Chili Cook-off will host the best chili from North Florida. There will be live music, interactive kids zone, arts, craft vendors and more. The event is a benefit fundraiser for the Amelia Island Montessori School. Tickets are $12.00 for adults and $7.00 for Children 12 and under. If you are interested in being a vendor or would like to join the chili competition contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 904-261-6610. Tired of barroom trivia? Then try the coffee shop brand which starts at 6 p.m. Friday March 2nd at the downtown Centre Street Amelia Island Coffee Shop. Oh, they also serve beer and wine too and have a full menu that includes sandwiches (chicken salad, tuna salad, BLT, Reuben, etc), wraps, wings, charcuterie, Philly cheese steaks, and more.
I’ve never met Joe Palmer; but from what I’ve read of his work and Facebook postings, he seems like the kind of guy that pouts if his wife doesn’t laugh at one of his “jokes.” Not only is there a sense of misplaced arrogance in his writing, but his tired, leftist talking points are enough to make a reasonable person nauseous. Maybe if he’s upset about leaving the paper he can write fluff pieces for BuzzFeed or HuffPo.
Short and brief message this week, Dave.No sweat just a quick read for a change.Agree on Joe Palmer’s work he started out writing about his southern mom and her wonderful cooking as well as his Great Danes.He should have stayed with those subjects for sure they were his best work.
I always enjoy your posts, Dave – thank you!
Re. Joe Palmer, he finally wrote a political piece that had a reasonable point. I find Trump as immoral and repulsive, personally, as Joe seems to. Sadly, Trump was running against someone amoral and repulsive. As awful as immoral is, amoral is worse, in my opinion. I’d rather do business with someone who knows the difference between right and wrong and chooses wrong than someone who believes they are above right and wrong. So, I had to decide which philosophy I thought was better for the country, free enterprise liberty or socialist/communist enslavement and voted based on that. I’m sure some would characterize my summarization of the two candidates differently and I respect that. On the bright side, if the media is successful in bringing down Trump, Mr. Pence seems to be a pretty moral guy – I’m sure Joe would like him.
That said, when Joe writes about national politics, the hatred is bitter and brutal and sad. I won’t miss those articles at all. When he writes about his dogs, it’s some of the most loving and moving stuff I’ve read in years. His article about having to euthanize Samson can make me cry just remembering reading it. I greatly appreciate his heart for Great Danes and his willingness to provide for them. I’ll really miss those articles.
Hey Dave, Thank you for kind thoughts and remarks about Dan Voll, but the event on Sunday, March 4th WILL NOT FEATURE LIVE MUSIC. Those of us on the “Celebration of Life” committee don’t know where that rumor started! From 3 to 7 pm that day, only Dan’s recorded music will be playing over the speaker system, along with a video presentation. The event is intended to be reverent and respectful. We are asking that if any musicians intend to play, please wait until after 7 pm to set up equipment, do sound-checks, etc. We are hoping that people who knew Dan will share their memories among themselves and have some peaceful time to express their love for him. The family wants this event to be what we originally planned. Live music and jam sessions have never been part of that 4-hour event. Afterwards, musicians are welcome to play their hearts out in honor of this great man.