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Thread: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

  1. #1016
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Best wishes Jack.
    I once thought I was wrong, but I was wrong, I wasn't wrong.

  2. #1017
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    We turned in our dress uniform on to be unceremoniously carted off to some uncaring tailoring outfit. I had mixed emotions at peeling off my dress blues. I felt more like a US Navy sailor in them, but it was good to release the pent up sweat contained by pure wool and just endure the inescapable heat our barracks still clutched. My roommates and I returned to our working dungarees still a bit dank at the arm pits.

    A commotion drew our attention. It came from below, on the lower deck, and didn’t have the ring of another fight. Potter and Finnegan got to the door opening before Kunes and I to tumble down the stairway. A large group of Company 256 had encircled a lone figure quite distinctive from the recruits drab in the wrinkled dungarees. At first glance it looked like an officer in khakis but there were no epaulets... It was Chief petty officer Kinter resplendent in his new Chief’s uniform. He appeared a bit awkward at first but his typical broad grin broke out beneath a hat displaying three simple letters: USN, over a gold anchor. We were in a kind of awe. Here he was, our big brother all decked out in a new uniform endowed now with a more recognizable authority than the garb of an ordinary sailor. It was easy to see that Kinter still felt like one of us, especially standing in the middle of recruits. all decked out in an entirely different garb than we sailors. For a second I wondered how he’d make the transition to a Chief in the mental sense. There’s more to it then donning a different cut of uniform.
    Someone shouted:

    "Where ya going next, Kinter?" quickly correcting himself by adding : "Chief."

    "I’m assigned to the USS Missouri. She’s in Norfolk, VA. now."

    Everyone knew that ship, the one where Japan surrendered, ending WW2.

    "When ya leaving?" asked a voice in the muddle of recruits.

    "In a couple of days." Kinter replied, his grin broadening a bit betraying eagerness.

    "Ya mean you won’t be here when we graduate?"

    "Chief Williams and Ellis will be there."

    "Ellis?" groaned a voice somewhere in the crowd.

    Chief Kinter was quick to pick up on a disparaging tone. His expression quickly changed. Now more serious...

    "Yeah, Chief!! Ellis," spoken a bit louder and delivered in such a way as to expect respect from all present.

    We recruits got the message implied by Chief Kinter. However the puzzled expression on our faces prompted Chief Kinter to look around knowing more was expected from our big brother.

    "Ya might be interested to know that Chief Ellis is still recovering from serious burns he got from rescuing some ship mates trapped in a shipboard fire... He’ll probably get some kind of medal."

    I could hear the far off whistle of a distant train. It got that quiet for a moment as we absorbed this bit of scuttlebutt about Chief Ellis. Maybe that’s why he seemed so twisted looking. Like it was difficult for him to stand tall like Chief Williams. I glanced at Kunes.
    He wore a curious expression on his face, like he now had some empathy for Chief Ellis. I had been noticing Kunes flinching some at anything about fire and vowed to surface his anxiety at an opportune moment alone. The humor of all got back to normal as we joked about Chief Kinter and hoped we might again come across him during our time in the Navy.
     

    Finnigan had a stack of letters near him in the lower bunk and was scribbling away, replying to some of them. Kunes and I were pouring through the Blue Jackets Manual studying for the upcoming exam. Potter was readying his uniform for a mid watch two hours from now.
    Taps sounded. That brown noser of a Company Clerk was yelling, "Lights Out!" We couldn’t see him as our room walls protected us from eye contact, but we knew that squeaky voice was always trying to sound important.

    A dim red light filtered in from the hallway It illuminated escape routes in the event of fire. I had gotten to know it and the shadows it cast on my surroundings. A few distant conversations drifted in as a company of recruits drifted off to sleep, each with different thoughts. I struggled with how to steal into my roommate Kunes’ secrets. Then it came to me ...and a restful sleep.
    The stirring of the roving patrol whispering to Potter woke me. He quietly dressed all prepared for his midwatch.. Kunes beneath me rustled. I could feel the bunk move. Finnegan farted. I guess one can do that in sleep. I went off again confident in my strategy to probe into Kunes’ mind
     
     
    It was Friday. A barracks inspection started the day, followed by the usual drilling in which Chief Ellis ran us through our paces. Some review classes finished another hot day. Saturday would again have us competing, this time for the Regimental Rooster. Then after that - Liberty. Recruit training would soon be coming to a close and a seven day leave for home.
    We knew that spotless whites would count at the review, so the washing rack was full as Company 256 recruits scrubbed their dress whites to hang and still catch the lowering sun for drying. There was no room for me. I drifted back into the barracks figuring to come back when the scrubbing crowd thinned a bit. I was surprised to find Kunes there sitting on his bunk still in dungarees and leggings.





    His eyes bored into the Bluejackets Manual. It was opened to the fire fighting section. Outside laughter drifted in. but the room was quiet.
    Just Kunes and I. Now was my chance.

    "Hey, Richard." I sometimes called him that. "What do you think about Chief Ellis?"

    There was a pause. Scuffling below meant some recruits were filtering back into the barracks probably to change into undress whites, the uniform of the day after 16:00. Kunes looked up. It was as though he didn’t know me but slowly became aware of the moment.

    "Yea," he replied, "He’s coming around ... drilled us pretty good today."

    There was no further remark. Just a silence. I really wanted Kunes to comment on the prospect of Chief Ellis getting a medal and how he was burned.
    I realized I had to be a bit more focused.

    "I wonder just how severe his burns were."

    I paused. Still.. silence. I decided to play my ace card.

    "My mom told me about the burn scars on her arm received when she was a teenager. Someone stretched their arms out at a dinner table while boiling hot coffee was being poured, spilling on her. Those twisted scars looked horrible to me as a kid growing up."

    Kunes put down his Blue Jackets Manual and looked straight into my eyes.
    To be continued..

    JD
     
     
     
     
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  3. #1018
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Great reading Jack! I wish I could remember some of the details of boot camp like you. With that your story brings back some great and some not so great memories of boot camp.

  4. #1019
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Merry Christmas to all and have a great and healthy New Year.



    JD
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  5. #1020
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    You too!

  6. #1021
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Well, some are still "viewing" this tale so here goes :

    I felt uneasy, like his direct look was slipping into my being. Then his focus glossed, like I wasn’t there. Kunes was looking back, far back into a past he’d rather forget.
    He took a deep breath like one might do in a confessional when revealing grievous sins to a faceless voice confined in a wooden box.

    "It was just past my nineth birthday. My uncle Carl was just finishing a carbon and valve job on his ‘31 Chevy. I was helping him, so glad to get my hands dirty and into the guts of a real gasoline engine."

    Scuffling sounds on the lower deck threatened an intrusion into the confessional. Kunes faltered for a moment but quietly continued.

    "I can remember how good I felt inserting the valve keepers behind the valve springs, like I was important, helping to do the job. Uncle Carl was smiling as he wiped his big hands on some greasy rags glad the job was finished. I felt the same way He got behind the seat to start her up. Well, that engine cranked over but didn’t start, despite long periods of his foot on the starter pedal and working the throttle..

    " She needs some hand choking," he announced.
    "Dick! Get in and step on the starter pedal."

    " I was real eager to get behind that wheel and take over the controls.
    I pushed in the clutch to doubly make sure she was in neutral and waited for the signal from my uncle."

    "Ok Dick crank her over."

    "Boy was I thrilled. My feet could hardly reach the starter pedal. My uncle had the throttle linkage under his control and I could almost see his hand over the carburetor. I pushed down on the starter pedal. That dammed engine just ground away, then suddenly there was a kind of roar. I could see flames shoot up and my uncle reel back screaming in pain."

    My roommate stopped, his eyes refocused to the present but cast to the side. Our room was silent. Kunes recovered quickly but added,

    "His face and hands were horribly burned."

    I didn’t say a word but sensed a feeling of guilt in my fellow recruit.

    Kunes didn’t go on. I figured there was more to this story but I remained silent.



    A feeling of excitement hung in the barracks as we prepared to go to the parade grounds over at Camp Barry. Dress whites was the uniform of the day. Once again we were to march and compete for the Regimental Rooster. Finnegan was putting a final spit shine on his dress shoes and bitching that they were not broken in yet. After all, the only time we wore them was for our one liberty and the competition. Potter chimed in,

    "Hey we get liberty right after the parade."

    "Yeah!! and it will be next week we graduate and will be leading off on the parade grounds,"
    Kunes was quick to reply. As we both continued rolling up our neckerchiefs.
    I almost forgot about that and what the future had in store for us. One test to advance to seaman apprentice and then assignments telling each of us where we were to go. And there was a week of leave to go home.
    Finnegan was quick to mention about going back home. I wondered just how he would handle each of the many girls he corresponded with. Eventually we all assembled in front of the barracks at the urging of our recruit Commander Boyd.

    Chief Williams slowly went through the ranks looking us over more closely, even squinting at our shoe laces to see if they were laced the Navy way. I wondered if he still had a bet about Company 256 winning another Rooster. Chief Ellis stood at the head of the company just kind of watching. Somehow he looked straighter as though he knew he was accepted by the boots in front of him.

    "Company...At ease," shouted Chief Williams. Our rifle butts just kissed the ground. We were all feeling the glaring sun just level with the top of the flag pole.

    "You men have come far and I’m proud to be your Company Commander. Today is your last competition and next week you will be graduating, off, on leave, and then assignments to schools or to the fleet. Your written exams will be next week as well so bone up on your Blue Jackets manual."

    I glanced at Chief Ellis. I couldn’t see any expression on his face as the sun was in my eyes.
    "Oh yes, liberty will be right after the competition and a time for some relaxation off this base. There’s much to see and do in Chicago."

    I almost saw a wink in his eye and was glad he didn’t say any thing like "Behave your selves," like a parent might. Rather he was trusting that we were US Navy sailors and would act as such. My mind wandered some I did recall raucous behavior of some sailors in news reports. My attention was brought back by Chief William’s raised voice.

    "Today Chief Ellis will run you through the competition for the Regimental Rooster."

    "Company! Attention! Take over, Chief Ellis."

    It was a bit of a shock to these ears. Did Chief Williams have that much confidence in his assistant? Or did he feel we had the right stuff no matter who gave the commands? What about any bets he may have had? Or was there something more being taught to us recruits?
    I could sense all eyes shifting to Chief Ellis, mine included, Would he measure up ? Was he to be tested as well as the recruits before him ? Our company could lose the Regimental Rooster because of an incompetent Chief. After all, we wanted to win that banner. Was this possible under the command of a Chief that had yet to march us off any where, let alone to a competition?




    Company 256 was ready but was Chief Ellis

    Chief Ellis straightened as a full Company of eyes bore his way. He never flinched.

    "Company!...Right shoulder...Arms!"

    It was a sweet sound in perfect sync as we all shouldered our rifles.
    "Right!.. Face!" The sound of men turning broke the brief silence. Eyes now stared unseeing in another direction.

    "Company... Forward... March." The words broke loud and clear even echoing in my brain.
    Company 256 stepped off... to glory or humiliation ?


    JD
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    .
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  7. #1022
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Great to see the posts back!! Happy New Year & thank you very much.

    Garret

  8. #1023
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    tap tap tap
    No adversary is worse than bad advice.

  9. #1024
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    There was still a lot of the day left after Saturday’s competition on Camp Barry parade grounds. Eight bells had sounded and the almost straight up sun confirmed it. Liberty lay ahead. We gulped down our Navy chow and little was said about how we fared when Chief Ellis put us through our paces. This time Finnegan had a liberty card and so did the rest of us. So chatter about Chicago was the topic.

    Our train picked up speed. You could feel its smooth electric acceleration. No steam locomotive for this Chicago bound train. Kunes, Potter, Finnegan, and I hung on to what hand holds we could find deferring our seats to some seniors and ladies. We’d all had become imbued with what our uniforms meant and determined never to disgrace it. Chicago lay some distance down the tracks and our liberty cards gave us time to explore a big city. We had no idea what we wanted to do. Just get away from Great Lakes and boot camp. Maybe we could see what our uniforms could attract in the way of the opposite gender. Perhaps some of Finnigan’s charm could spill over for us. He had managed a flirtation with one gal at the PX. A northbound train whizzed by. Its whistle faded quickly. None of us spoke. We were absorbing another world, one we had left just a couple of months ago. Each of us alone in a crowd. I knew what dominated Potter’s mind but did he have the money? Or could we be just "lucky"?
    Our train slowed. Standing, I couldn’t see just where we were, but a stop was coming up for sure. We braked smoothly. None of us swayed. I bent over to look out a window. Travelers and advertisements adorned the station.




    One poster stuck out above the rest, at least to my 18 yr old eyes. Navy training couldn’t subdue the hormones coursing through our bodies. Potter’s idea seemed good after all. I had 25 bucks stuffed in my wallet. It felt tight in my dress white trousers. The doors closed. We easily slid forward again like it was so easy to move tons of train by the unseen power of electricity, so different than a noisy chugging coal fired locomotive. There was no doubt Chicago was getting close as formidable buildings swallowed up our train.

    Union station, Chicago, reminded me of Grand Central station in NYC . It bustled with life. Civilians mostly, but a sprinkle of sailors like us just emerging from the train. Finnigan spotted a photo taking booth.

    "Hey, lets get a picture of us in our dress whites."

    "Yeah," we all agreed. It would be something to send back home. A group picture was impossible but we managed a picture by pairs for a quarter each. Potter looked at Finnigan’s photo paired with himself.

    "Ya know, this one looks better than the one on your ID card."

    Finnigan agreed but looked up nudging Kunes and me .

    "Who are those fat guys with those weird hats?"

    I stared. Most had big bellies protruding as though they were something to show off, but the hats had a look I’d seen before: an Arab sword and quarter moon were prominent on the cone shape. But where? They were a jovial group and seemed bent on having a good time. Two bandied a stick of some kind.

    Out on the street horns blared, the sun seemed blinding. It managed to blast its heat from between a forest of tall buildings. I was used to it but Potter and Finnigan constantly looked up. Kunes and I focused ahead as our bodies moved north like a force was pulling us in that direction. Yet we felt like our course was aimless. Swarthy vendors hawked hot dogs and orange drinks for a quarter prompting Finnnigan to pipe up:

    "I’m thirsty!"

    Potter agreed. "Lets find a place to get a beer."

    My mind wondered if he was recalling the beer bouts his older Navy brother boasted about. We shuffled on. It was good to see the ladies of any age all decked out and window shopping The four of us peered in beside a youngish pair but they quickly moved on as if we had a pox. On we drifted out of step with each other. Then it hove into sight - an outdoor beer garden. It even had trees to give shade that buildings missed

    "Let’s go in and have a few," cried Potter.

    His declaration was echoed by Finnegan. Kunes remained silent like he had some secret knowledge, a trait I had noticed about him. I wondered about my own reaction. I hardly ever drank a beer and secretly dreaded the idea of gulping down one just for appearance sake. I’d rather have a Coke. Other sailors were seated there. All had petty officer’s "crows", one, a first class gunner’s mate with a hash mark. A half full pitcher dominated the table which was surrounded by foaming glasses. They hardly noticed us preferring to see what skirts drifted by. An empty table beckoned. In we strode with a haughty air. It was good to sit. The cane seats protested as they tried to conform to our butts. Mixed conversation of other patrons drifted to our ears. In the far end of the beer garden I spied more of those red hats. The wearers looked younger. Potter nudged me.

    "Here comes the waiter."

    I turned my head and sure enough a determined individual was in bound dodging a few tables much like sister Julia maneuvered past desks to enforce discipline back in grade school. However, our waiter bore a grin instead of vengeful look. He looked old, probably the same age as Chief Williams, and about as trim. Maybe he was retired Navy. Potter was ready, almost like he had rehearsed his words.

    "We’ll have a beers all around," as if spoken with a practiced confidence.

    Potters words seemed to astonish the waiter. They were uttered even before he could speak. Quickly our waiter glanced at each one of us. Then regaining his composure he now wore a smirk like he knew he was already one up on us.

    "Could I see your ID cards, please," spoken like a chess player announcing "check" to his opponent.

    I glanced at Kunes as he reached for his wallet. Finnigan was startled but Potter’s mouth dropped. Then it dawned on me as each of us surrendered our cards for inspection. Finnigan muttered something but Kunes and I knew the score and were just waiting for the waiter to give us the sad news.

    "Gentleman, I cannot comply with your wishes." You’re all under 21, but I can serve you a great mixed non alcoholic drink. You’ll like it." and with a wink, he added, "Trust me." He was smart, like he sympathized with our plight, but knew how to bring us back up. We sailors glanced at each other and almost in unison said, OK.
    Finnigan adding,

    "Let’s see what ya got."

    Potter spoke next. "Who are those guys over there with the funny hats?"

    "Oh, they’re Shriners, in town on a convention," replied the waiter.
    Now it came to me. Yeah, I’d seen them before in the Movietone news back home. I could hear their laughter over at that table. I figured they were loaded in more ways than one and they must have had deep pockets. Our waiter disappeared giving us a chance to look around. Few if any women came by. I guess shopping or coffee shops drew their attention.

    "Ahh," exclaimed Finnigan after taking a big swig of one of the four drinks left by our waiter. I sipped mine, at first not being as adventurous as our charming liberty mate. For a few moments we sat in silence, each of us absorbing a world we almost forgot about. The hustle and bustle of a big city, people of all ages walking by garbed in every manner of dress. Dogs dragged old and young of both genders. Cars and trucks honked and braked, lights flashed. Even the distant rattle of an elevated train tickled my ears. Smells drifted by from God knows where, some good like mom’s home cooking, others foul. We sailors were out of tune with the civilian world. The military life was now in our core, but our origins were etched too deep and couldn’t be erased.

    To be continued

    JD
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  10. #1025
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    :cough:
    No adversary is worse than bad advice.

  11. #1026
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    A cool breeze drifted to our table. It seemed out of place, more like it had a message, and it restrained our conversation for a moment. Kunes was the first to break the spell.

    "Where are we going from here?"

    Spoken as though it had deeper meaning than the immediacy of the moment. Potter squared his hat. It was on the back of his head whenever he was relaxed and away from any Naval admonishment.

    "Let’s get a cab and tell the driver to take us to a whorehouse."

    "Yeah! Let’s get some rubbers first," seconded Finnigan. I guess those VD movies had some effect on him.
    I wasn’t surprised about Potter, likely recalling his brothers Navy yarns. I knew he had sex on his mind for some time and I think most of us did. Kunes was on another track, but spoke with an expression of a tolerant parent.

    "I mean after graduation from boot camp, I put in for Electrician A school." I knew his father was a contractor in that business.

    Finnigan looked annoyed. "I didn’t join the Navy to go to school. I put in for a fleet assignment. I want to go places and see things. Sitting in a class room... not for me."

    Potter slid his hat back. "Me," he exclaimed, "I’m going for hospital corpsman, I like the idea of helping people."

    My mind briefly slid to his determination to get laid, perhaps odd to readily expose himself, but we all tended toward thoughts in that direction..

    "What about you Dillon?" Kunes directed his query as all eyes fell on me.

    "Aviation Mech. school. The future is going that way even if I don’t become a 20 year man."

    None of us intended to make the Navy a career but you never know. I remember during the war seeing pictures of guys working on planes parked on a hanger deck of some carrier steaming in the Pacific. It appealed to me, travel around and learn something.

    Our near empty glasses stood on the table devoid of any shadows. The sun started hiding behind some fast moving clouds. Those Shriner guys were whooping it up almost drowning out the noise of the city. I could still hear the squeak of wheels off in the distance, reminding me of the L train making a tight turn on a NYC 3rd Ave. elevated railroad.
     
     More beer appeared on those other sailors’ table. They seemed anchored and not about to leave any time soon. I was tempted to ask them where to go but thought better of the idea.
    Our waiter probably knew we were getting antsy and anxious to leave. He brought the check and never asked if we wanted something else. It seemed as though he knew we had limited funds and it was time to weigh anchor and move off...but where to?

    Back on the street, Finnigan flagged down a bright yellow cab and herded us in. Even Kunes yielded. Off we sped, our hailing sailor sitting right next to a swarthy looking driver who had little acquaintance with a razor. The meter ticked away. Numbers appeared and increased with great rapidity. I felt for my wallet. It was thin without much in it.
    Finnigan glanced at the ID of the driver. It glared smugly near the sun visor where rosary beads dangled. I couldn’t make out any name on the greasy look the ID had. But the image suggested our driver in his better days.

    "Geraldo," Finnigan, up front could see the ID clearly and exclaimed, "Can you take us to some place where there are girls?"

    From the back seat I could see Geraldo’s eyes in the mirror. He looked puzzled and stopped for a red light, but that meter was still ticking away.

    "You know Geraldo, ‘girls,’ preferring not to use the word whores and gesturing with his hands.

    "Si," Geraldo grunted like he understood what we wanted and slammed down on the gas pedal making a quick turn at the next corner. His face grinned. Finnigan looked smug, and so did Potter probably recalling his brother’s Chicago adventures. Kunes appeared resigned like me as the meter ticked up to 5 bucks drowning out any city noises. Our cab buzzed along but looked like it was merging in a general direction groups of people were walking.

    "Plenty girls here, you see" Geraldo managed to say in a now musical tone as though he had overcome some speech defect. We slowed and stopped. The four of us looked out the window.




    Geraldo spun his head around flashing a big grin and turned down the meter handle. The ticking stopped but read $10.50. Finnigan looked pissed, so did Potter. Kunes and I felt relieved as we got off easy with the fare to the Chicago Railroad Fair. We all tumbled out as Finnigan settled with Geraldo. Potter pushed his white hat forward and winced.

    "S**t. I didn’t expect to wind up at a train show," adding, "We shudda been more clear."

    "Lets go in and see what happens," I chimed up figuring our cabbie must have taken a few of the fair sex here to the train show. Kunes just started walking to the admission booth.
    A small sign read:

    "Service men in uniform admitted free." That was a first for us and in we passed.

    Lake Michigan looked peaceful stretching out in the back ground but the sky hinted something more was to intrude in the now sunless sky. The four of us looked around. Trains and families dominated the foreground, not an unescorted woman in sight. Our expressions now matched the sky - glum, one might say. Kunes was quick to adapt, striking out boldly to see a locomotive so massive up close and not belching ash to foul our freshly washed uniforms. A few of those Shrinners were in sight. One teetered a bit. Their convention in the windy city might have been timed to see the sights of the Fair.
    That locomotive, though sitting quietly, exuded power. We all stood in awe, forgetting our baser instincts.




    Ultra modern, "world's most powerful" Northern (4-8-4), CNW class "H" at a Chicago Railroad show

    It looked massive, dwarfing any trains we may have seen before. We all probably tinkered with model trains in our youth, but seeing the real thing this big close up captured our attention. But... it lacked life. It was dormant, not making a sound or motion. Not the hiss of steam, the chug of mighty pistons, haunting whistle calls, or even screech of brakes, and heralding bells were to be heard. In a sense, I preferred the clinker throwing belching engine that once soiled our laundry drying on the company clothes line. We got in closer, maybe to find an imperfection like a bit of rust or a scratch in the paint. Moving parts had a gleam, so did the motionless bell despite a darkening sky. I felt absorbed. This magnificent machine still cast a spell. I knew it moved and took people or things places just like ships.
    Finnigan suddenly broke the spell with his elbow prodding my rib.

    "Sheesh, look at that." I turned. A multitude of uniforms hove in sight and they were all girls. A lightening bolt stabbed the sky over Lake Michigan. Thunder blasted our ears but our eyes feasted on something else.

    To be continued
     
    For train buffs

     
     
    Great train motion
     
     
     
    Last edited by J. Dillon; 05-29-2013 at 06:19 PM. Reason: fix
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  12. #1027
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Phew! I needed an installment! Thank you sir.

  13. #1028
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Kunes shook me awake, I drew the 04:00 to 06:00 rear door watch. It was dark but a dim light filtered in from the hallway. It shone on Finnigan, illuminating a grin that spread from ear to ear... He tossed a bit, muttered something but his smile held fast. Perhaps he’s recalling the better moments of yesterday’s liberty. I dressed, buckled on the guard belt and relieved Kunes. He wasn’t in a talking mood. I stood alone, a fearless guard of the rear door now void of sailors voices. It was so quiet I could hear a few snores from inside the barracks and some crickets resuming their call for mates. A cool zephyr drifted by, probably left over from Saturday’s liberty and thunder storm. It was now Sunday and reveille wouldn’t be till 06:30. Plenty of time to recall the day.

    Our driver, err what was his name? Oh yes, Geraldo, knew what he was doing steering us to the Railroad Fair. The nurses were having a convention too and getting anywhere out of their studies was a goal. It was like a magnet - four sailors and a bevy of nurses collided, but in reality we all took shelter in the nearest building as the weather outside erupted in torrential downpours. They giggled, we stared, still kind of bewildered at our luck and how to best use what fate and the wiles of Lake Michigan weather threw at us. We drew closer to our quarry with a bit of hesitancy. But the magnet was working both ways, unstoppable as the greater force of nature had its way. Finnigan was the first to speak. I could see he was focusing on a redhead whose warm blue eyes met his, both unable to tear away.
    Our homely recruit broke the spell "Hi, I’m Tom." The flow of conversation opened. "That was a quick storm that came up," he added. with a practiced air.
    "Tom?" Who’s that? I thought we always called him Finnigan.

    The blue eyed redhead shook out her cape but not before answering our "Tom".

    "My name is Mary Lou. We’re nursing students from Saint Xavier."
      
    I had heard enough sailors with southern drawls by now to recognize one even if it was a female’s voice. It was so smooth and a delight to hear, so different to the abruptness of military orders and manner. In that brief sentence she suggested breeding and culture. My thought was further reinforced as she continued draping her dripping cape across her arm. Mary Lou turned to her companions who stood near by eager as we sailors to mingle.

    "My friends here are Jane, Carol and Janet."

    What beauties, I thought, so neat and trim with their summer nursing student uniforms on. Maybe they thought the same of us?

    Finnigan introduced us in turn, pausing a bit, recalling our first names that were in order here.
    For a second Potter, Kunes and I stood in awe taken aback a bit on how fast things had changed with no prospects of meeting the opposite gender to now, flooded with more than we could handle. The other nurses faded away and our four couples found a place to sit down for some refreshments and to exchange experiences in kind of similar worlds.

    A distant train whistle brought me back to the present. We were sailors about to finish up recruit training and head out into the real world of the fleet or more intense training elsewhere. Opposites do attract, I thought. It was obvious that Finnigan or "Tom" and Mary Lou had hit it off. She was from the deep south and from a family of means while Tom was from a poor mining family in Pennsylvania. Was it love at first sight? Potter, Kunes and I had received some addresses of our nursing counterparts for pen pals. But Finnigan... probably a dilemma, as he still had plenty of ladies to ponder judging by the letters he received from home, many sealed with lipstick.

    That p**ck of a company clerk Brosnaham came by. He had roving patrol but wanted some conversation. The crickets stopped chirping.

    "Where are you going from here, Dillon?"

    he inquired with a hint of friendliness. My first thought was to answer with,

    "The mess hall for breakfast." but I decided to take up on his mood.

    "I hope Aviation Mech school," having no idea just where it was. He must have sensed this.

    "Yeah, that’s in Memphis, Tennessee," he replied with a knowing air.

    I figured he must be right being the company clerk handling some of the request chits we had put in and privy to just where thing were. I thought of the "Sunny South" and how nice that might be with the prospect of a winter coming up. He must have read my thoughts.

    "Winters are cold here in Michigan. I might be going to Yeoman A school right here at Lakes."

    It was quiet for a moment Then surprisingly, Brosnaham added,

    "Company 256 won the Regimental Rooster. It will be presented next Sat at our graduation ceremonies."

    The announcement didn’t have immediate impact. The end of Boot Camp, a coming leave, and on with our Naval career seemed a more fulfilling prospect. Brosnahan moved on back past the clothes line that held some laundry. The crickets now resumed, preferring to chirp for lonely watch standers.

    I wondered where we would all be a year from now. Potter got a pen pal student nurse’s address, maybe then can compare medical training .. if he gets to go corpsman A school. In time, the darkness left, unveiling familiar things like a curtain slowly rising. Now the sun was about to make an appearance on Camp Moffett. Company 256 was ready for the last week of recruit training... then home for a week of leave, and then the Real US Navy.

    To be continued

    JD
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  14. #1029
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Thanks Jack.
    I had been expecting to see another chapter posted after the 4th weekend, you're only a few days behind!
    No adversary is worse than bad advice.

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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    08:30 It was hot. We were at parade rest. Everyone was sweating. I could see the wet shirt backs of the ranks in front of me. Chiefs Williams and Ellis stood before the assembled Company 256, both their faces beaded with moisture. No breeze came off lake Michigan. Chief Williams waited for the chugging locomotive to pass, its whistle fading off, but not the smoke. It just seemed to hover over the tracks casting a ghostly motionless shadow.
    Chief Williams stood still but his eyes moved among the ranks of the assembled boots in front of him. I felt like he was peering into the soul of each and every recruit. He had our rapt attention.

    "Men, I’m proud to be your Company Commander. You have earned the Regimental Rooster and next Saturday you’ll be leading off the parade at Camp Barry and graduation from recruit training."

    Our Chief paused and glanced at Chief Ellis.

    "Your training here has enabled the whole Company to function as a team and carry out orders from any command with confidence. I trust this lesson will carry over into your time in the Navy."

    I thought of Chief Ellis taking over last Saturday. Was it deliberate, to prove what our Company Commander just said ?

    "But there is another side you’ll need to succeed in the Navy," continued Chief Williams, his eyes still penetrating deep into all into the men in front of him.

    "You must always study for advancement in rate. That means the books. This week you will be taking several exams for advancement to Apprentice, to see just what you have learned here at Great Lakes. After graduation a one week leave will be granted so you can go home and show off your uniforms to family. We will be still have drilling, inspections...and! that includes yourselves, and the barracks, and oh yes, some more shots."

    None in the ranks squirmed at that last word. We had been well acclimated to the Navy’s fondness for the needle.

    " Company... attention!" barked Williams, Chief Ellis, march the men to the infirmary."

    I glanced at Ellis, now esteemed by us recruits, our bond strengthened with mutual respect. We marched in perfect unison. A cadence call seemed hardly necessary. A new company hove in sight, so obvious in their its unfaded dungarees, blundering along with broken steps, their sweating Chief calling cadence loud and clear. I felt like an ole salt as did the others of Company 256 all around me. Our much scrubbed trousers now a lighter blue were a tangible badge of seniority. And of course, our banners - Battalion, Regimental Rooster, and the Company 256 flag leading the columns ahead.

    It was lunch time. The chatter on the chow line was about the coming week and what lay ahead. In we filed to the mess hall, our chow trays heaped with pork, beans, and vegetables. Ice cream was plopped in one corner by a bored mess cook, but the desert brought smiles to us recruits We seated ourselves still cloaked in sweat and sore arms. Finnigan slid his full chow tray on the table and reached for the salt. His freckled face had a touch of tan and was still sweating.

    "Ya going to hit the books like the Chief advised or write love letters?" inquired Kunes as he took a seat across from Finnigan looking him straight in the eyes.

    His tone was more sarcastic than curious, I thought. Potter looked up perhaps detecting the same drift. Finnigan had been busy with the pen and was just peeking into the "Bluejackets Manual. "

    " Don’t worry, Kunes. I can crash into it just before the tests." retorted Finnigan with a smirk.

    "There’s lots of stuff not in the manual," I added.

    "Like what ?"

    "How about just who’s who in the Chain of Command," I shot back.

    Potter got in his two cents with:

    " Yeah! who’s our Regimental Commander?"

    That seemed to shut up Finnigan. Me too. I had no idea who commanded the regiment.

    "Does any body here know ?" I blurted.

    We all turned to Kunes. He always had answers and wore an air of superiority, or was it the ice cream he was already dipping into that caused his glee? Kunes played with the last spoonfull, hesitant with an answer. Was he toying with us as well, not immediately divulging what lodged in his brain?

    He finally replied, "Lt Commander Hotchkin."

    Potter had a look as if to be one up on Kunes and faced him with a knowing look. I could almost hear the click of gears shifting into position.

    "OK, Kunes... Mr. Know It All, do you know about Rocks and Shoals ?"

    We all were stumped on that one, even Kunes judging by the puzzled look on his face. But Potter was prepped long before he joined the Navy. His brother, being a WW2 Navy veteran, passed on to his eager brother stuff not usually spoken about. I figured it must be about piloting a ship and avoiding the shore. We all looked at Potter who knew the answer to the question. Potter cleared his throat.

    " Rocks and Shoals has to do with enforcing Naval discipline, or you might say, who gets flogged and why."

    "Flogged!!... Sheesh."

    It was quiet in the barracks that evening. Not the usual skylarking and laugher. Most had noses in the Blue Jackets Manual even quizzing each- other. I could hear some reciting of the eleven general orders of a sentry. Then a louder voice commanded my attention. It came from the lower deck and sounded like Recruit Company Commander Boyd. Things became clear when he mounted the 2nd deck.

    " There will be a more intense cleaning of the barracks tomorrow. Our marks as a Company will be judged also on our ability to keep our living spaces clean," said in a way that all could hear, even to the furthest room. I’d come to respect Boyd more, but not that trailing wimp of a Company Clerk. Finnigan closed his manual. I could see him mulling over what he had been studying. Same with me trying to cram all we had learned in the past 10 weeks. Kunes lay in his bunk, his hands behind his head as though to hold in all he had absorbed. Potter was already asleep but wore a content smile. Taps sounded. Now it was really quiet. Nothing stirred. Each recruit hopefully ready for the dawn and testing.

    To be continued

    JD
     
     
     
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  16. #1031
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    I could see Finnigan’s vigorous use of the eraser. He was two desks forward away from me. Kunes abeam, wore a kind of smirk like the tests we were taking were too easy. I read each multiple choice carefully as some had two possible correct answers. Potter was out of sight probably behind me. A Chief roamed the class room glancing at papers as we recruits penciled in our answers. The wall clock’s second hand swept the dial passing each number of the 24 hour time. The Chief looked bored like he’d rather be at the CPO’s coffee shack. He ignored the clock and preferred to glance at his watch. Finnigan was using his pencil again. Kunes looked up, obviously finished. I reviewed my answers and doubted some. It was quiet, just the distant cadence call of some recruit company passing by. I looked up. The sun thrust through a window to cast a beam on the Chief’s bald head. It gleamed and set him off like a signal lamp prompting him to bark:

    "You men have five minutes to finish up." Finnigan dropped his pencil but quickly retrieved it to once again use the eraser, quickly spinning it around to pencil in an answer. The minute hand of the wall clock steadily advanced easily overtaken by the second hand.

    "Time’s up!" cried the Chief as though he was personally feeling a relief from some kind of pain. "Will the Recruit Company Commander and clerk collect the papers."

    Brosnahan leapt up at the chance to exhibit his imagined importance. Boyd, more relaxed, paused a bit to let some recruits pencil in a final answer.

    Outside, the sun glared like it was scowling on us marching recruits. The chow hall was in sight promising a welcome relief, a meal, and a chance to discuss the first testing.
    Finnigan looked glum. Kunes confident and Potter hungry. Myself a combination of all emotions.
    Potter was the first to speak.

    " Not one question on the Chain of Command."

    "What!" exclaimed Finnigan. "I had two." Potter and I were surprised.

    Kunes, ever so knowing replied,

    "Did you really think we all got the same test?" He added with a smile, "Id guess there were probably four differnet tests".

    Mmm... Food for thought. I wondered if the next morning’s test would be the same. I looked at Potter thinking his older brother might have had divulged something about Navy testing. His expression was blank

    That night Finnigan was deep into the Blue Jackets manual. But as it turned out to no avail as the Navy had something different in mind regarding testing.
    It was just after "colors". Company 256 stood at attention. Chief Williams faced us. His demeanor seem to project contentment, like he was well satisfied with things.

    " Parade ..Rest," was the first order given. A slight scuffling sounded as the assembled company carried out his command. Our recruit Company commander Boyd had organized things well before Chief Williams morning appearance. We had another field day concerning the barracks and things looked pretty shipshape there. This was well before our Chief’s inspection.

    " Men, this company has been selected above all others to receive a different manner of your final testing and promotion to Apprentice. Your readiness for the fleet and for further training will depend on how well you fare. I do not know what form it will take but I’m confident you will rise to the challenge and you will come through with flying colors."

    "Attention! Recruit Company Commander Boyd march the Company off to the Armory."

    With that short address our Chief stunned the men before him . It was something we didn’t expect and raise in me at least, a sense of apprehension. What had the Navy dreamed up now? I could hear a buzzing in the ranks, which the Chief ignored.
    Boyd came to the front of the company, summoned up his best voice, and commanded:

    "Company... Forward march."
    Off we stepped, left foot first to the Armory and the unknown.

    To be continued

    JD
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  17. #1032
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Gah!
    To short by far.

    Well, I'll keep on eagerly expecting the next installment as I have been for years now.
    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    Probably the greatest thread in the history of the WoodenBoat Forum.
    Quote Originally Posted by Duncan Gibbs View Post
    Probably the greatest post in the history of the WoodenBoat Forum.
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  18. #1033

    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Thanks again for the update. Keep the story going, I enjoy it !

    In particular the story of the trip on the R Tucker Thompson inspired me to work on taking similar trips.

    Todd

  19. #1034
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Excellent thread.
    Enjoy a good rum on the rocks at sunset.

  20. #1035
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    ]

    Company 256 steps out for the Armory

    Boyd kind of sung the cadence call. We had gotten used to its uniqueness and even considered it a signature of Company 256. We knew we had a reputation to live up to as the Regimental Rooster flew at the head of the company, borne at the head of the column of seasoned recruits. I wondered if observers had any sense of the anxiety felt in the marching ranks. My mind wandered off a little. I had grown fond of the rifle on my shoulder. We would soon part, its essence residing deep within the wood and steel, to be passed on to some other recruit.
    The armory loomed ahead containing some kind of test about which we knew nothing. Our loyal Chief would have prepared us if he knew anything. Perhaps this is just part of Naval training, I thought- to adapt to the unexpected.

    "Company!.... halt!" cried Boyd.

    We drew up in front of the armory. It looked solid, firm, strong. Two 3" 50 guns pointed skyward as though ready to shoot down menacing clouds that had blown in from Lake Michigan.
    A lone Chief stood at the entrance. He stood at parade rest.

    "Have your men stack arms and file into the armory, single alphabetical file."

    The Chief looked trim and fit. He wore five hash marks on his right arm. An eagle presided over crossed anchors on the left arm. His voice had a commanding sound affirming his status, a contrast to Boyd’s echoing the Chief which he did in words but not in authoritative tone.

    "Stack arms and line up alphabetical."

    Easy, so far, as we had to do this maneuver for pay day. It was a chance to exchange quick thoughts as we mingled to find our places. Maybe more shots, whispered some. Nah, we had had plenty of them. Even Kunes looked unknowing, a different feel for him. Finnigan, not far behind me, looked resigned, probably thinking, just something else to deal with. Potter was out of sight. I just took a deep breath as we filed in.

    It was dim but my eyes adjusted quickly. Various signal flags hung from the overhead as before and that 5" practice loading gun stood firmly in place. What was different were rows of tables each loaded with various Naval apparatus from cordage to fire fighting gear and even guns. Several petty officers and Chiefs stood behind the gear loaded tables. They looked eager to stump us with bewildering questions or demonstrations.

    Behind them all, a full Commander hovered, his attitude relaxed as though he was attending a social event. Recruit Adams headed the long column of nervous Boots. I could only guess what he was thinking. I now figured out what was about to happen. We were to be quizzed in person about the various gear on the tables. No paper test but actual handling or putting into action what we had learned. I could feel my nerves tighten . Could I measure up? Just what would I be asked to do? At least I had time to prepare myself. But Adams? He was first to be assaulted with questions. Strangely, Horatio Hornblower came to my mind. I remember reading how midshipmen would endure a similar style of questioning for advancement in rank. Maybe this very Commander, now wearing a smirk, had read the works of C.S. Forester. We recruits drew tightly together almost like lovers, so as to hear just what was going on ahead of us enabling us to prep ourselves and check our memory banks. I could hear the question Adams fielded as he faced a boatswain mate handing him a length of 1/4" manila line:

    "Tie a bowline knot," commanded the sailor handing Adams the line with his one hash marked arm.

    Adams quickly tied the knot and handed it back.

    "Move on."

    Adams moved to the next table. On it was fire fighting gear. He was motioned past that to a table with some pictures on it. I wondered just what they depicted. On the line moved. Soon I’d be next. I felt myself sweating. As I got closer I could see ahead other recruits being questioned by Chiefs or petty officers. No Naval gear was in front of them. What were they being asked? I hoped they would ask me about knots. I felt confident about that. I calmed down a bit as it was apparent that recruits were being randomly picked, but all had to face some questioning or demonstration of something learned at boot camp. I was next. I looked at the boatswain mate mentally urging him to ask me to demonstrate a knot. He waved me on to the fire fighting gear. On it was an OBA. The Chief asked me to put it on. My mind went blank. It seemed like an eternity before I acted, but suddenly my training kicked in. I recalled how Potter had coached me into it. The Chief seemed satisfied and told me to move on. I at once was relieved, confident I could answer any forthcoming questions. As I looked up, a wiry second
    class Quartermaster asked me,

    "What’s a relative bearing mean?" looking me straight in the eye.

    I looked back and with some hesitation replied:

    "A bearing taken from the bow like dead ahead would be 000 or 360o and broad on the starboard beam as 90o."

    He grinned for me.

    Out of nowhere the Commander appeared. His eyes focused on Dunham, behind me.

    "What was the name of John Paul Jones’ first command in the US Navy?"

    I couldn’t see Dunham’s face but he hesitated and finally replied.

    "It was the Bon Homme Richard Sir."

    "Wrong." Not hesitating the Commanders stepped forward and looked into my eyes.

    "What’s the correct answer, sailor."

    I knew the correct answer but felt a kind of guilt in being forced to correct a fellow recruit. I sensed that the officer read my dilemma. He rephrased his question.

    "In what ship did John Paul Jones raid the British coast?"

    "It was the Ranger, Sir".

    I was thinking that the Commander was trying to trip me up. It was the Sloop Providence that was Jones’ first command in the US Navy. But I never expressed that thought. Best to leave things as they were.

    The line moved on. Every man in the Company had at least several questions and many opportunities to demonstrate gear used by the Navy. It was a "Hands On" affair. But the Navy still had more surprises for us recruits.

    We then filed into an adjoining classroom to fill out pay chits, receive information concerning transportation home for a week’s leave and a return ticket to NOB Great Lakes.
     
    Our barracks were alive with excitement that evening, the banter mostly about the hands on tests and the questions asked. Several had to point out at least three safeties of the Colt 45. Others had to assemble various implements used in fire fighting. Brosnahan had to do the 16 count manual. By the time taps sounded the whole company had an air of confidence, like we had come through for ourselves and Chief Williams, and besides, now we had some money in our pockets!
     
    To be continued

    JD
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  21. #1036
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Happy Birthday Jack!
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  22. #1037
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    And many more!
    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    Probably the greatest thread in the history of the WoodenBoat Forum.
    Quote Originally Posted by Duncan Gibbs View Post
    Probably the greatest post in the history of the WoodenBoat Forum.
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  23. #1038
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    Default

    J. Dillon, thank you for this gorgeous thread!

    I read your stories over this past weekend. Truly inspiring...& funny & a well written story.

    WOW. I suspect you'll have many fans for years to come!

  24. #1039
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    07:00..The sun was again priming to blast us as we recruits filtered back from the mess hall. In the barracks Finnigan looked at the company bulletin board. Scanning the calendar he declared

    "I’ll be home in less than a week."

    "Yeah," replied Potter. "We still got a few more days here."

    That meant one more parade but we’d be leading it off, I thought, thinking about the glory involved.

    Kunes was more focused.

    "We’ll have our assignments too, just where and who will be going to A schools."

    Finnigan scoffed.

    "I’m off to sea and expect a ship billet. No school for me."

    Just then Boyd and his lackey Brosnahan were buzzing around the barracks. Something about how we were all to meet on the lower deck. We gathered there and up spoke Boyd.

    "We’re to get Chief Williams a present." He tried to continue but was lost in all the affirmative
    chatter from Company 256. When it quelled, Boyd again spoke.

    " Trouble is we don’t know just what to get." The lower deck was again filled with numerous suggestions blending in an incomprehensible babble.
    This time Brosnahan raised his voice .

    "I figure with every man here chipping in one buck we would have enough to get something real good."

    Each of us digested that sentence. It was quiet.
    Then a voice from the back came out with:

    "I saw the Chief looking at watches the other day at the PX."

    That settled it. We all went back to our sea bags and fumbled for the money.
    Brosnahan collected it all. We had over 250 bucks and he was designated to make the purchase. It was too late to get it engraved so a card signed by all of us would have to do.

    08:00 We formed ranks now under a hotter sun. Colors sounded. Chief Williams called the Company to attention and ordered Rifle Salute. Then the glorious sounds of the Star Spangled banner echoed off the barrack walls, the final note drowned out by that blasted locomotive coming by. The Chief about faced, then commanded.

    "Order.. Arms!!"

    Our collective rifles just kissed the ground never making a sound, just like the Chief taught us many weeks ago.

    Chief Williams paused a bit, scanning the ranks.


    Chief Williams tells of today’s activities.

    "Men, we’ve come a long way. I want to thank every man here for your loyalty and teamwork for making me proud to be your Company Commander. Soon you’ll be home, then back at Great Lakes for your post leave assignments. By late this afternoon those placements will be posted on the barracks bulletin board."

    The Chief continued:

    " Today is field day and I want an intensive scrubbing of the barracks for the next company. Tomorrow, Saturday, we’ll lead off in the graduation review, followed by Graduation ceremonies. Afterwards, we’ll march to the armory where you will be turning in your rifles, followed by distribution of your train vouchers for leave home. Sunday will be the usual Holiday routine and Monday I’ll escort the Company to the train station."

    He paused after that mouth full. Many thoughts raced through my mind. I might never again see any of my fellow recruits. The sense of brotherhood gone.
    Reality hit again when the Chief continued.

    "Today at 13:00 it will be off to the infirmary for a routine physical and another shot." The Chief paused, looked us over and ordered:

    "Attention.. Right shoulder... Arms."

    It was a wonderful sound for me, a whole company moving as one much like birds turning in unison. I’d had gotten used to it and thought for a second would the rest of my Naval service give such a sense of unit cohesion ?

    "Recruit Commander Boyd, take over and have the men turn to on the barracks."

    We were down on our hands and knees scrubbing the barracks deck. All of us were buzzing about leave and just where we would be going after boot camp.

    "I can smell the salt air already," exclaimed Finnigan. "Maybe I’ll get assigned to the USS Missouri and see Kinter."

    "Yeah, don’t count on it,"

    replied Kunes, never looking up from the deck as he pushed the scrubbing brush now foaming away with soap suds. Potter and I wielded our swabs wringing them out in a tin bucket now and then. The rest of the company was doing just about the same in the various rooms Company 256 was housed in. Potter changed the tone a bit, preferring to talk about his family and how he was going to impress the girls he knew back home, with his uniform. I thought about the same and about Peggy whom I had a crush on.

    Chow time came and went and so did the inoculations, all of us joking about the shots as we had become used to them by now. Then came a surprise. One medic told us to file alphabetically into one room a dozen at a time.

    "We’re to have a "short arm inspection," he announced. What the hell was he taking about?

    Where was Potter? Surely he would know. I looked at my fellow recruits. They seemed puzzled like me.

    A first class Corpsman came into the room. He was accompanied by a third class man, his single V looking incomplete below the menacing eagle above. He did have a clip board and pen and looked up and checked off the names as we responded to his call.
    Then the senior rated corpsman spoke with a bored attitude,

    "OK, drop ya pants and milk it down."

    Now I knew. This had been done at the initial physical when I first went to the recruiting station, and again coming to Great Lakes. I just never knew what it was called.
    Back in the barracks, Potter roared with laughter when I told him about the term for that exam. Then he added:

    "Yeah, like we had lots of contact with women while we were here," adding, "The Navy doesn’t want ya to come home with a dose to spread around."

    Kunes chimed in. "Some in the Company may have gone to places other then the Rail Road Fair."

    "Ya mean like they could’ve gotten laid ?" Finnigan exclaimed with a look of envy.

    It was after 16:00. Brosnahan had gone off to get the next plan of the day and mail for the Company. Returning, he looked excited and made right for the bulletin board and posted the assignments for the company after returning from leave. It was listed alphabetically.
    I couldn’t get near the board as the whole company converged by that board . It looked like a football game where everyone piled on a tackled ball carrier. Eventually I squirmed in as the first viewers moved away. Finnigan looked down cast. Never mind that now. I looked for my name near the top. It said.... John F. Dillon, Jr. Promoted to Airman Apprentice. Assigned to.... NATTC Memphis Tenn. I scampered back. Kunes was still wriggling his way in, so was Potter.
    I went up to our barracks room. Finnigan sat on his bunk. He looked aghast.
    So I said,

    "Where are you going?"

    "Nowhere... I’m to stay right here to do mess cooking duties."

    I felt for him and searched my mind for something consoling. It came to me.

    "Well, you’ll have lots of opportunity to contact that nurse you were taken with, err, what’s her name?"

    Finnigan grinned, like he just got some candy. The prospect fully sunk in. A smile spread over his whole face. "Ya mean Mary Lou ?"

    To be continued

    JD
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  25. #1040
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!



    For those who like a little winter music try this:



    JD
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  26. #1041

    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Merry Christmas JD, enjoy !

  27. #1042
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    06:00. My two hours watch just finished up. The early morning hours were already warm. It was Saturday. Graduation day. Several companies would be leaving boot camp soon but Company 256 would be leading off the ceremonies on the parade grounds in just four hours. In the early light I could see the barracks gleaming. I had plenty of time to think about things. Mixed feelings seemed to dominate. Sadness that Company 256 would dissolve. But the anticipation of a new aspect of Naval life coupled with the prospect of new faces, places and training in the future outweighed the ending of recruit training and the comradery it afforded.


    Finnigan burped. Potter just kept polishing his dress shoes eagerly anticipating leave home in just two days. Kunes and I carefully removed out best dress whites from under the mattress trying to preserve the creases our weight imparted during sleep. The graduation parade would commence in a couple of hours with Chief Williams marching us off to Camp Barry. After today we'd no longer be required to wear our leggings. In theory we were now sailors in the US Navy. Some of us had never even been near salt water. I wondered just when I'd see a ship and foreign ports. I guess Finnigan had a better chance at that once he completed 3 months of mess cooking for a bunch of new recruits. The chatter in the barracks had the air of excitement with so many things reaching a climax at once.


    The Company was just about all ready in our finest brilliant whites and sparkling footwear when Boyd passed the word for all to come to the lower deck as he had good news. He had by now refined his authority and felt comfortable with it.


    "I just got the word that the watch we got for the Chief would be ready for pick up on Monday." A collective groan filled the warming air as we had planned to present the Chief the watch right after the graduation.


    Boyd raised his voice again .


    "The good news is that it will be engraved by then."


    "So what's it gonna say?" erupted from amid the mob clustered around Boyd.
    "Seeing they had no one to contact here and ask, the engraver just wrote out the simple message, "THANKS from Company 256."


    For a second silence reigned. Our minds ranged from, "That's all?... to simply, "Yeah, what do ya want for a last minute deal?" Yet the message was appropriate and to the point. What more could you ask?
    The whole company roared with approval.


    Brosnahan just had to get his two cents in coming up with:


    "We'll present it to him just before Chief Williams marches us off to the train station on Monday morning."


    Well, that seems appropriate, I thought . There was little comment from the recruits Although sooner would be a better idea.


    Boyd again stepped forward,


    "OK men, we have been issued guard belts for all. As leading company in the battalion we are to wear them as a kind of point of honor. Yeah, we don't get to keep em, they stay here along with our rifles."


    09:00 We all gleamed in our sparkling dress whites. Especially Chief Williams. He had given the order "Forward march" and Company 256 moved off bound for Camp Barry and our final parade. The sun cast short shadows on the marching men The Chief, on our flank looked almost beatific, his decorations seemed to pop out, their color a contrast amid gold buttons. His cadence call just a low tone knowing full well the men at his side were now merged into a cohesive unit. Our flags fluttered in a light wind wafting off Lake Michigan as if it was awakening to the occasion that Company 256 was leading off the graduation ceremonies. The Camp Barry marching band drew ahead of us playing "Anchors Aweigh".



    As we passed the reviewing stand Company 256 dipped our (colors) banners.


    The marching stopped and The National Anthem played. Then the whole battalion stood at parade rest as the various speeches commenced. Finnigan farted not as protest but rather a penalty of a big helping of Navy beans that morning I only caught a few words and still overcome by the grandeur of it all.


    The band struck up again and one by one the whole battalion marched off a company at a time. Only this time our Chief marched us off to the armory to turn in our weapons.


    For me it was a letdown. I had become fond of my rifle and guard belt even with such short acquaintance. The act of rendering them contributed to a sense of...ending. I handed in my rifle. The gunner's mate checked the serial number with my name and waved me on not realizing my secret affair with that piece of steel and wood .

    Finnigan, always buoyant, announced,


    "Hey! We're not boots, we don't have to wear these leggings any more!"


    "Not so fast," Boyd replied. "As long as we're in recruit barracks the leggings stay on."


    The sense of emptiness continued as we marched back to the barracks. Did the loss of a weapon do this? Or was it the overall ending of this aspect of Naval training that I had gotten so enamored with?


    Back in the barracks Potter & Kunes soon set me straight. Not directly, but their talking about leave home and the soon to be further and more intense training made me too now look forward to the future and leave the past.


    Holiday routine for the next two days and then off to home.


    It was Sunday, the last one here at Great Lakes. We had filed back from church where the priest had lectured extensively on the virtues of chastity. Was he talking to us who were about to go home or to the liberty hounds bound for Chicago? Back in the barracks chatter ranged from future assignments and going home for a week. Some even talked about up coming ball games and whether president Truman would be reelected. But all of us were fussing with our uniforms. Dress blues would be the uniform of the day for leave and except for the fitting none of us had previously worn them. The wool had a certain smell which had been contained for so long in my sea bag. Now it seemed to fill our room as Kunes Finnigan & Potter broke out theirs, breaking that crisp fold that encompassed the collar bearing the stars and stripes. It was so different than the whites that just gleamed in sun light with no significant insignia for boots like us. The Dress Blues made more of a statement emphasized by the stars and stripes but more subtly by the 13 buttons we now had to deal with.


    Finnigan was first to bitch.


    "Man you'd a think they would put a zipper fly here?"


    "It's tradition," retorted Potter, adding,


    "You'll get used to it. My brother never complained. It kind of breaks in and ya don't have to undo all the buttons."


    Kunes and I remained silent. Even Finnigan did as he mulled over Potter's words.


    With a smirk Finnigan came out with, "Ya know, one might be in a hurry sometimes."


    Now that has a few implications, I thought, wondering just which ones Finnigan was thinking of. Dominant in my mind was the urge to relieve oneself, followed by undressing for rest, shower, etc. Or, was Finnigan thinking of a hurried sexual encounter ?


    By this time Kunes was working on a spitshine for his dress shoes still hardly broken in. The shine caught the light streaming in through our meager window and the smell of the shoe polish added a sense of Naval life where things must be perfect all the time.


    By this time I had all the buttons fastened, immediately trapping in some body heat. The jumper was next. Turning it right side out. I slipped it on feeling its substantial weight. Things got hotter, but never mind, those Blues made me feel more like a US Navy Sailor.


    I rolled up my neckerchief with Potter's aid, lifted my collar and passed the rolled neckerchief around my neck. Then I tied the square knot making sure the falls were perfectly even. It all was a good feeling but the captured body heat needed an immediate return to undress whites. No time to enjoy our uniform.


    The holiday routine of Sunday slid by and into night time. Brosnahan posted the schedule for Monday as well as the watches for the night on the company bulletin board. I had the front door watch at 22:00 to 24:00 to be relieved buy Finnigan. But the item that we focused on 10:00 when we were to be marched off to the train station by Chief Williams for a week's leave.

    Continued
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  28. #1043
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Uniform of the day: Dress Blues.


    22:00 Taps sounded but the chatter in the barracks hardly subsided. We were through recruit training. A leave home and back to our Naval careers was just ahead. Boyd had briefed us as to just when we were to present Chief Williams with the watch. Fortunately they had time to engrave it but last minute choice was limited to "Thanks from Company 256".


    23:30 A light rain started to fall bringing in cool air as if to drive out the heat still hovering the barracks.
    24:00 Came up fast and so did Finnigan, ready for the mid watch. He was jubilant as usual with the prospect of seeing girl friends at home and one to call on when he got back to Great Lakes.


    He grinned at me saying,


    "Ya know, mess cooking has its virtues . I'll get plenty to eat and even maybe able to cook up something for myself."


    A true chowhound, I thought. I was glad I'd be going down to the sunny south. I'd heard Great Lakes got plenty cold during the winter.


    I turned in. Kunes and Potter snored softly, a content smile on both their faces.


    Monday 07:45 Boyd assembled the company for Colors. The sun shone, air cool and refreshing. We were still in dungarees and boots with a warm feeling in our bellies from our last boot camp meal. Chief Williams not on deck yet.


    08:00 The flag ran up and the fading notes of our National Anthem was punctuated by that steam locomotive sounding its whistle. We were weapon less, our rifles having been turned in a couple of days ago. I still had mixed feelings. In a few hours we'd all be heading in different directions. It would be the end of Company 256. Some of us would rejoin later in N.A.T.T.C Memphis, Tennessee but the rest would be bound to the fleet or other A schools scattered across the country.

    Then, going home had its joys too.

    Boyd talking broke me out of my spell.

    "Men," he said, "We're to return to our barracks and change into our Dress Blues, pack our sea bags, and be ready for departure for Chicago. A truck will transport our sea bags to the train and we're to march off with Chief Williams leading the way. I got the watch to give to the Chief and as you know it is engraved."

    "Company... Attention....Dismissed"

    For Boyd this was his last command given to Company 256.

    All those tight rolled up uniforms got into our sea bag easily. Some packed in last minute dried laundry items. All were excited as we donned our dress blues shaping our white hats to give them a "salty" look of seasoned sailors.

    09:30 Chief Williams appeared, again resplendent, but this time in his dress blues, those gold hash marks gleaming in the brightening sun. The crossed guns looked almost out of place amid a sea of gold. His decorations stood proud in that dress blue uniform.

    "Fall in" he commanded.

    We took our places all together but this time in our best Navy finery in our last assembly as a company. The Chief looked us over, mixing in the ranks. It was the first time he saw us all decked out in our best. Shoes sparkled and creases sharp. With the glint in his eye one could see he was proud of us as we were of him.

    He finally drew to the head of the Company and was about to open his mouth.

    Boyd came forward. The Chief looked surprised but before he could speak. Boyd saluted and piped up,

    "Chief Williams," he said in a nervous kind of way but clearing his throat continued,

    "On behalf of Company 256 we would like to present you with this gift."

    Boyd motioned to Henry, our flag bearer, who throughout our training carried the Company flag.

    He came forward with the small box holding the engraved watch.

    We all stared studying Chief Williams' face as he returned the salute (not usually done between enlisted men). His face reddened some. It was clear this was something he didn't expect. Henry broke ranks and walked boldly up and handed the box to our Chief . His hand reluctantly reached out and accepted the gift. We all stood still studying the Chief. He opened the box carefully. The stainless band caught the sun flashing like a signal light. He examined it maybe noting the face before turning it over. There was a pause. We all stood silent. Even the trains were too far away to be heard.

    Chief Williams strapped on the watch, came to a stiff attention, took a long glance at the company, and said,

    "Company 256 ...Attention."

    We straightened out and snapped at the command.

    "Right face. Form up in columns of two."

    I figured the whole company felt as I did, kind of bewildered, with nary a thank you from our leader. But then...our Chief probably had something up his sleeve and I think the rest of us harbored that thought too.

    "Forward, march," cried the Chief.



    Out we stepped with a long line of two columns this time bound for a train. Chief Williams was on our flank. As we moved along other boots still in training looked as us, maybe wishing they'd be marching off to home. The gate loomed ahead, the same one that admitted us to training
    those many weeks ago. But as we approached, Chief Williams drew ahead and commanded:

    "Company, halt!"

    He positioned himself at the head of our column. Then motioned to advance one at a time. He then shook our hands and by name thanked us personally and good luck with your Naval career and perhaps we'd meet again afloat or ashore.

    It was a warm feeling we all got, as he looked into the eye of each and every one of us. I imagined many thought of the Chief as either a father, big brother, or uncle.

    We showed our leave papers to the gate sentry, a first class quartermaster. The train station was right there. We broke ranks to wait and discuss recent events




    A whistle sounded, breaking into our chatter. Then a clanging bell . That steam locomotive, a nuisance during training, hove in sight belching smoke and steam. This time that train gave us joy. It was now about to take on US Navy Sailors all... homeward bound.



    That's me waving my white hat


    JD




    **********************************
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

  29. #1044
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    Default

    Jack!
    No adversary is worse than bad advice.

  30. #1045
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    I realize this is a very old thread, but the writing is enthralling. All newbies and dreamers should check it out.

  31. #1046
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Thank you Jack.
    I once thought I was wrong, but I was wrong, I wasn't wrong.

  32. #1047
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    hear hear

  33. #1048
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Superb, just superb.
    Bravo Zulu

  34. #1049
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    Nice to see Jack logging in

  35. #1050
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    Default Re: J. Dillon, 11 years on a 27 footer, WOW!!!

    what? where?

    Hey Jack!
    No adversary is worse than bad advice.

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