I haven’t made another installment in my Navy career lately.
In the last episode I and some Navy friends visited my uncle in Carmel, New York, home of Reader’s Digest. Their dog almost got ran over by a speeding car but his tail was chopped off. I don’t recall leaving a cliff hanger.
Once a week the officer of each unit was to give us an encouraging pep talk. A good talk by your officer is good morale was the belief. One week our officer, a Lieutenant, Mr. Edwards, head of the personnel office gave a talk on how enlisted men, when they are out of the service should treat officers, also out of the service. There was a lot of B.S. but the bottom line was that ex-enlisted men should treat ex-officers with respect, the same as when you were in the service.
I did not agree. I said both should treat each other with respect, until either one does something to betray that respect.
He disagreed. He said “An officer’s respect was a “given”, because an officer is always a commissioned officer, if he is on the payroll or not.”
“But what if he robs a bank? I asked. If I was the arresting policeman, and was enlisted, do I treat him with respect?” I asked.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Mr. Edwards said.
I said, “What if I see an ex-officer passed out drunk and wallowing in his own vomit do I try to help him, but by doing so, it would show that I recognize his present state, which is unbecoming and officer.”
“There you go,” Mr. Edwards said, “a real officer wouldn’t find himself in that situation.”
“I have seen officers in that situation.” I said.
“He wasn’t a real officer, not deep down, if he did something like that.”
“How are we to know when we see an ex-officer and we are ex-listed whether deep down he was an officer in his heart?”
“Well, you treat him with automatic respect.”
“And he doesn’t have to treat us with automatic respect?…. What if I am his boss in the civilian world?”
OK, lets get back to work!
The next day I and my friend Don was transferred out of the Personnel Office to I & E (Information and Education).
In Don’s case, it was guilt-by-association. He kept giving me signals to shut the hell up. He already had almost ten years of brown nosing at the Chicago Tribune to know when to fold.
The I & E Office was a small staffed office. It’s purpose was to encourage reenlistment and had books available to check out for advancement in one’s particular rate. One person was leaving and two of us took his place.
Now, with us added, the had us two, Ron (a second class) from Minneapolis (Sam’s cube mate), and the division officer.
The division officer was a little short depressed intimidated man we will Kenny. How can a runt like that get respect when his favorite subject was how inferior he was to most of the human male specie? Kenny didn’t hang out in the officer’s lounge much. He was not the kind to mix well with other officers – he was afraid they might ask him something.
Kenny had a very simple signature. It had no personality at all. It was probably text book right, with the right curves in each letter, he was even afraid to have his own identity in his signature.
Back then, officers’ social abilities and even their wives social adaptation were a big influence on promotion decisions. One of our friends slipped and looked at Kenny’s evaluation. His wife got as bad marks as her husband. He wasn’t around long. He was transferred out.
One night at Murphy’s Bar just north of the Sea Side Heights Beach, Don was on the prowl trying to pick up some girls and he was pretending to be an officer, thinking that would be a better chick magnet. I wasn’t there, I probably had duty that night. He was telling some girls he was a Helicopter Pilot and another guy walked up and got in on the conversation and said that was a coincidence because he was a helicopter pilot too. And he called his friend over and he too was a helicopter pilot. Through the evening it came out they both were officers, due to check in at a helicopter squadron HU-4 in the morning.
To Don the gig was up. He called one of them aside and confessed to them that he wasn’t really an officer, he was just trying to pick up some women. The guy got a big kick out of that.
Not only did he and his friend check in HU-4 the next morning, but he was assigned to be our new division officer, over the I&E Office. He and his friend reminds me of the Smothers Brothers, small in statue, witty, ant not very reverend towards authority.
Our division officer would take us on helicopter rides. He had to fly something like 50 hours a month to keep his status in the pilots pecking order. He would take us the Bell Helicopters, one at a time, one on one day and the other one the next day. The Earth scape was beautiful up there, the curvature of the earth, and so high up you could see the ocean.
We told him about a nudist colony we read about at Cape May, New Jersey, which wasn’t far from Atlantic City. We each got a birds eye view of that.
He also gave us a thrill and demonstrated auto-rotation. At a high altitude he would turn off the engines and we would fall. Which was a thrill, watching the earth get closer and closer at a high rate of speed, then whamo! The whole time you are falling the propellers are forced by the air you are tearing through to turn…. The more you go the harder the propeller turns, then it starts auto-rotating. It builds up enough to become a force, where the helicopter will land softly. Of course, you have to know how to guide it so it will do the right thing.
A game developed with this division officer. When our commanding officer would come in the room whoever would see him first is to holler, “Attention on Deck!” and I never knew him to keep us that way, he would say “Carry on.” Before the sentence was even out good. He would usually put his hat with its scrambled eggs on the hat section of the coat rack and go back and talk to our division officer. One of us would slip up to the his hat and put it on. We would be in the sight of our division officer, but the CO would not see us, he would be facing him. Which ever was wearing the hat would cross his arms to look very stern and you could see a flicker in our division officer’s eyes saying, “You fools!” We never got caught. We were good.
Off hand I cannot remember that officer’s name, but he earned my respect.
Christmas season was upon us. Most of my friends went home. I stayed. I had the office to myself for over a week. It seems nothing is draining as being away from home for a long duration and you hear Christmas music.
Obie invited me over to their house for Christmas. The last time I was there was the night of the spaghetti fight. Before the night was over Lucy was as drunk as the last time, and their daughter still looking sweet and innocent.
By this time our a new man came to our squadron. He name was Dick. You have seen him on NBC News. He was the new journalist for the squadron. He liked jazz and so did I, he also introduced me to The Realist magazine edited and published by Paul Krassner. We hit it off pretty good. He and his wife Nancy also invited me to have dinner with them during the Christmas season. Before he came in the Navy he was a pager for NBC. And after that he was radio news announcer in Harrisburg, Pa. After he got out of the Navy he went back to his job at Harrisburg, and later got a promotion to Washington DC.
Don came back before New Years Eve and we all went out hitting bars in the Lakehurst and Toms River area. We heard that all the neighborhood bars would have free food. We were game.
I only have one memory of that night. We ran into Lucy, Obie’s wife. Obie had duty that night and she was getting drunk, or I think she was already drunk, with her female friends that was at the spaghetti fight, one that night was intended to be my dinner date. Neither one acted as if we have met before, and I don’t think Lucy even remembered it. She introduced us like it was the first time.
Lucy was complaining about a bar on the main street of Lakehurst told her to leave, she had had enough. “Alcohol or food? I thought. So, we went back to the bar, she figured it would be better if a number of us went in together. The bartender called her name and pointed to the door. She said, “You don’t tell a fucking lady she can’t sit down!” And with that she picked up a ball off the pool table and threw it hard at the window, which broke.
We left. And 1963 was closed out.