Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Navy and I, Part III

Where was I? Oh yes, I received a new corrected set of orders to transfer to Helicopter Utility Squadron Four (HU-4), there at NAS Lakehurst. No travel paid involved.

I reported to the HU-4 duty office at the 2nd large hangar. Where most people arrive reporting for duty in dress whites (dress is a must when traveling with orders) and with their duffle bag, I was dressed in denim and looked like I had just walked off the streets, the only thing I had with me were my orders.

The duty CPO (Chief Petty Officer) told me to report to the second floor to the personnel office.

On each side of the hangar were levels high, or two and half, there was a mezzanine also of offices. On the other side of the hangar was another helicopter squadron, HU-2.

In time I would learn that HU-4 served smaller ships such as destroyers and ice-breakers in the Artic and HU-2 served aircraft carriers.

I entered Personnel and presented the guy at the counter my orders. A couple more guys behind the counter came up and since I had an audience I told them how I was first assigned to the U.S.. J.K. TAUSSIG, but got sent here, 13 miles inland, and my stay at the Security building. They all seemed to have found the humor in the situations.

Then, one said “Lets see your dick.”
I, surprised, said, “Huh?”
Another one said, “Come on, lets see your dick, pull it out.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because we want to see it. Come on, pull it out”, and they leaved over the counter to get a better look.
I could feel my face getting flushed. I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
Then all the men behind the counter, maybe six now, all burst out laughing.

It was kind of a joke-initiation they did on all newcomers, providing the officer of the office was not around.

I checked into the HU-4 enlisted barracks which is probably between a mile and a mile and a half from the hangar. There the MA (Master of Arms) issued me a blanket, two sheets, pillow, and pillow case.

The barracks building had a bottom floor and top floor. The bottom floor on end had a game room, which was mostly a pool room. And on the other end was the head (restroom), showers, washing machines, dryers, and a press to press your clothes. The top floor had the same design except instead of the game room was a TV room.

All the comforts of home. Except you were not allowed to drink in the barracks and you had to turn the lights out at 10:00, but the game room and TV room both were going on 24 x 7.

The dormitory of the barracks, top and bottom was made of cubicals. Each cubical slept 4 men, on two sets of over-under bunks. Each cubical was to have a writing table and four lockers.

Two of my cube-mates were out on detachments. A detachment was what was called a group temporary on a ship. My cube-mate there was named Marlow. Marlow looked very much like Mike Myers. He was from either West Virginia or Maryland.

As most new people at my position (the bottom of the pecking order) I was assigned the First Lieutenant’s Division. The 1st Lt’s division men were the housekeepers of the squadron. They swept, mop, polished, dusted – you name it. The boss was Chief Kobus, from Chicago, his assistant was a guy named Wineguard, and the clerk for that office was a baby face tall lanky guy at least 6’4” named Perkins, from Maryland. Perkins always had a cigarette hanging out of mouth and he looked like some kind of child-giant he was so tall with his baby face. He looked like a walking contrast.

The only thing worse than that department if mess cooking. The squadron had to supply the chow hall with 4 people. Their stay there was about 6 months. Most of the that worked there had to get up at 2am… it was a place we all dread we might be sent one day.

The rule was your sea bag (duffle bag contents) had to have your complete uniform with your name properly stenciled in the right places. If you had you sea bag inspected and it passed you would get “LA” stamped on your liberty card and that mean when you showed the guards at the gate you could come and go in civilian clothes.

Of course that was worth something. You would be treated like a social outcast if you have to drink at bars and go to movies and things with a uniform on.

I worked hard getting my uniform up to date and made sure everything was properly stenciled in the right place. I asked Chief Kobus to check my sea bag for the LA. He told me to get Winegard to check it out, he was too busy. I asked Winegard and he told me to see Perkins. Perkins was the same rate as I was, why would he be inspecting my sea bag. Anyway, I asked Perkins and he looked at me like that was a lot of trouble to take those long stilt legs to the barracks to check out my sea bag. He asked me if I had my liberty card, which I did, I pulled it out. He reached across his desk, got the “LA” stamp and stamped it on my liberty card. That was that.

I told my cube-mate Marlow about the LA stamped on my card. He laughed. He said, “Now, where are you going, now that you can?”

Bars? I speculated.

Then we talked about New York City. You can get on the bus and go to New York. I said I just may do that. He said he hadn’t been to the big city so if I didn’t mind, he would go with me.

Early Saturday we left on the bus.

Again, I found my eyes glued to a bus’s windows. We made our way north. There was a big difference going north from Lakehurst than going East to Lakehurst. Going east to Lakehurst it looked more rural – barns, pastures, small quaint towns. Going north was more urban. More towns and more industrial kind of settings. And more inner city graffiti. And just outside Newark was huge smelly oil processing areas.

From the New Jersey side we could see the Statue of Liberty, and the big building of Manhattan in the background. We went down a hill, hit some backed up traffic and next we went through the Lincoln Tunnel. That was an eye opener for a Georgia boy too.

I remember leaving the Lincoln Tunnel and as the bus made its way up a block or two I saw windows with pulley-type clothes lines close to windows. Some windows had plants in tray shaped holders that held under the window. Wow! New Yorkers!

The bus pulled into Port Authority which is on or near 42nd Street.

We walked through the huge building and out in New York City. I was amazed. We more or less took a look-but-don’t-stop tour of the area. We walked by and area with several movie theaters, on to Times Square, walked down Time Square and saw the fork where the Big Ball falls every year.

I remember a bunch of come-on stores that was meant to rope the tourists in. Also, there was a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

The park on 42nd, about behind the library with the two lions, was a man singing operatic. He was good…. But had to resort to street performances for spare change and maybe hoping to be discovered.

We took a combination of subways that only Marlow know, and ended up in Brooklyn. There we went through a court yard and knocked on the door of an apartment. A woman answered. She had a baby in her arms. Marlow knew the woman well, and they talked a good deal about their friends.

After we left, we made our way back. I forgot what we ate for lunch and dinner. We probably had street vender sandwiches.

In the evening we went to a club that had a big picture of Chubby Checker on the outside. We went in, paid the cover charge and sure enough there was Chubby Checker there singing. He sung the twist a lot that night. It seemed more couples were interested in dancing to the twist than watching Chubby to perform.

Nest we went to a USO on the east side of 5th Avenue. We hung out there for a while and thought it would be best to find a cheap place to sleep or walk back to Port Authority and head back to Lakehurst.

When we walked out of the USO an slick Italian-looking guy materialized and struck up a conversation. It didn’t take me long to figure out the guy was making a play for Marlow.

He told us we could sleep at his place, but he had room for only one of us, so if one would come with him he would give the other one the money to stay at the Sloan House YMCA. He and Marlow walked me to the Sloan House and he gave me fifty bucks and I went in and Marlow and he split.

I slept in a small room. That morning I went to restroom and it was crowded with men doing their hygiene and taking dumps and pissing.

It was Sunday.

I went back to Port Authority. I forgot the details but I think I was to meet Marlow at a prearranged time. I was there earlier than I should had, the room only cost $15, so I had a nice breakfast. I looked at magazines for a while at a magazine stand, sat and enjoyed watching people a while. And I returned to the 42nd and Times Square area to hear more of that hustle bustle store front blaring music coming from the tourist traps.

I got back to Port Authority and went to a bar in the building and ordered a Manhattan. That seemed appropriate at the time. So did the second one. And the third.

During the 3rd Manhattan I began to think about my hero of years ago, the creator and editor of MAD comic book, Harvey Kurtzman. Somehow, from his satires I pretty much decided he was a New York City resident. So, I went into a telephone booth at the bar and lugged the big telephone book and looked up Kurtzman, Harvey.

To my delight Harvey Kurtzman was listed in the telephone book, it showed him living in Mount Vernon, NY, and I felt bold enough to dial the number. Harvey answered the phone. He was very polite and thanked me for calling.

Not long after that Marlow showed up at our preplanned time. He acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened to him recently. We rode back on the bus.

We were back on the base in time to eat dinner. Which I did. IMarlow climbed into his rack (his was the second level over me) and slept until the next morning.

In the chow line was a young man I recognized as being one of the people in the Personnel Office leaning over the counter to see if I was going to expose myself or not.

He introduced himself to me. His name was Don. I told him about Marlow and I going to NYC from Saturday morning and just within 30 minutes arriving back. He asked where did we stay and I said the Sloan House YMCA. He said, “Both of you?” … I stumbled on that and dodged the question. Don then had a focus. It was uncanny how he deducted it all, which he pretty much hit it all on the head…. He was questioning me with smile on his face. By instinct he asked the questions that pointed right to what Marlow did.

After we had dinner Don and I walked over to EM Club to have a few beers. He is from Chicago, his mother’s name is Mike, a Chicago cop, and his father worked the railroads. His father was blind in one eye. It seems there is a game played by different railroad company employees, a “gotcha!” game…. If you can hit one of them with a bb gun, you, well, win. Win what, I am not sure. His father was hit in the eye by a bb.

Don and I became friends and our friendship lasted many years (about 20 years) after we were released from active duty.

To be continued.



Blogger kenju said...

What year did you go to NYC?

9:31 PM  
Blogger ET said...

first time, Sept 1953

1:45 AM  
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