The day before on the 25th I was on my way to the Boston Army Pier for my Draft Physical with my Buddy Tommy Dwyer, after classification we were both classified 1-A (Translates to YOUR NEXT) So I said to Tommy, hell I’m just going to join and have some small say in where I go. The Army Recruiter asked me what I wanted to do, without a moment’s thought I blurted out; “I want to drive a tank!” “Do you have another choice four eyes? Asked; Mr. Army man.
There listening was the quintessential Navy Chief, in khakis with the never ending cup of coffee in his hand, and he said; “Son, how would you like to drive a SHIP?” He had me on that as I loved piloting my Dad’s boat.
Where do you want to do your boot camp, Great Lakes Illinois or San Diego California” Two very important facts aided me in that decision. First was WINTER was coming, and I wanted to try a warm one. (First of many) The second fact was you rode a train to Great Lakes, and you flew on air-o-planes to San Diego. No WINTER and my first plane ride? Go Navy, and where the hell does one affix their name?
With the Navy, there is always a hitch, this one was: San Diego, the next morning, Great lakes in two days. What time do you need me here? (OH Tommy ran away, and was called to the Army three months later, guess where he went?)
Mom was mad, Dad was proud (Chief Petty Officer USN from the Big One WW-II) My Dad drove me to the Recruiter the next morning. Maybe he was just happy he wasn’t paying for my collage?
Boot camp in San Diego was mostly a blur, but the first day there I noticed two things, the weather was wonderful and the other people were speaking a form of English that this young boy from the Dorchester section of Boston had only heard in the movies and thought only actors spoke that way.
The one guy Petty Officer First Class (BT-1) John Bullock (There are something’s in your life you’ll never forget.) who wore his white hat cocked to the side of his head and walked the way a sailor is supposed to walk. Within a week, 90 young men in Company 628 walked and wore our hats that very same way.
Shock number one, CHIEF’s can’t type, on my enlistment contract I had signed into the Navy on 4 October 1965 for 26 years. My (I owned it by then) Navy fixed it for me and I only had to do four years. (Had I only known then)
Now the Navy was sending me to a school to be a radioman, I didn’t want to be whatever the hell that was. But the Navy stepped in again, as there was a Company mate who had orders to a squat fat fleet oiler in FLORIDA (Warm again) so they switched us.
During the first two years I tried to buck the Navy, and had to keep my rating badge on my uniform using Velcro. But I was a proficient boat coxswain and loved driving all the ship’s boats, so when “The Chief threatened to take that away, I shaped up Ricky Tick. (Quickly)
The years went by and in 1976 I became “The Chief” never in my life would I have dreamed of that, the greatest thing in my life that had ever happened to me. And three years later I was advanced to Senior Chief, which was nice, but making Chief, was the “Cat’s Ass” for me.
During my 22 years the Navy saw fit to introduce me to the Philippines, and having sailed and worked side by side with Filipinos, I found it wonderful. Or as explained to me by saltier crustier sailors; “It’s like an E-ticker ride at Disneyworld, and I was tall enough to ride all the rides.” (And if anyone is too young to understand what an E-Ticket was, please stop reading now. (Just kidding)
I retired in 1986 and stayed in Puerto Rico, and opened two nightclubs, please don’t misunderstand I loved Puerto Rico and the people, but when talking to shipmates about the Philippines I knew I was in the wrong part of the world. Then came Hurricane Hugo and sent me from hero to zero in 24 hours, I knew it was time for a change.
I got my Merchant Marine Documents (Z-Card) and started sailing Asia, and at the end of every cruise I’d have a two month vacation and enough money to go anywhere in the world and stay at Five Star Resorts with money left over at the end. I lived nowhere but I had a storage unit in Florida that I paid ten tears in advance. Or as my Dad would refer to me, “Paul, the richest homeless person he’d ever met.”
Then when visiting a friend in Olongapo, while at his house his wife introduced me to Mayang in 1993, and the rest is a love story that is still being written
. We all take a different path to the Philippines, I can’t speak to yours, but I’m glad I took that first step on 26 October 1965 low those 48 years ago. Oh and “GO NAVY!”