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A note to my Naval Academy classmates, 23rd Company, recalling events 40+ years ago.
Christmas Leave commenced this past Friday about 1430 or 2:30 Deck 5-3, Bancroft Hall Time as I motored-out of the IBM Main Gate on Davis Drive. Retirees on contract are granted car privileges and a parking spot near the cafeteria. As I’ve been on duty (sales instructor for new MBA hires which recalls that summer of fire-fighting training in Philadelphia where HTC Gruff demonstrated how to apply a gooseneck in order to fight an oil fire in the bilges. As he ranted his words of fire-triangle wisdom, the flames licked-through the deck-plates which did not distract the Chief….until the hem of his kakhi trou began to smoke. We mids were amused as you might imagine and one of them still remembers what is a gooseneck) consistently since August, Friday’s end of day actually felt like the beginning of the Christmas holiday. It’s been an erratic year for the family with a step forward here and a step in retreat there, and kind of like the companies of wavering mids marching onto Worden Field, somehow we found the proper block at year’s end.
Last weekend for the Army-Navy game, our local Alumni Chapter mustered at a brew-pub in Chapel Hill owned by a West Point grad. Our 19th annual party with a near chronic Groundhog Day vibe for the Whoops. It’s fun and a respite to be with such a trustworthy and mixed crew numbering nearly 250. Amidst the beers and the buffet and the tv screens, we passed around a Mark 1, Mod 0 G.I. Ammunition Can, 1 each, at half-time to collect for the USO. Once upon a time we were thrilled to achieve $500 in collections; last week’s take jumped-over $4,200 and the truth must be told that the boozers in gray are the more generous. Maybe they’re making a sacrifice to their gods for a favorable outcome at least once in the 21st century.
“But still when two or three shall meet, and old tales be retold…”, the classes of 1958 through 2010 spun stories about them days of a Real June Week and exams AFTER Christmas Leave (so that you could take home in your B-4 bag and not work on your EN201 Steam Tables project). I remember 2/c Clawson 72 (Hopper, Laughter (pronounced Law-Ter not Laugh-Ter) and Clawson were my 2/c in first set of plebe year. How Sweet It Was!) advising the plebes at chow one evening that two weeks of leave was about right: one week to get away from the Halls leaving a full week for partying. Wisdom!
As I merged onto I-40 from IBM, I plotted my own two weeks of leave (before the next MBA Sales class in January) recalling that commencing leave in those halcyon days was one milestone and getting to where one needed to be was yet another evolution fraught with sand bars and drifting buoys. In my very first leave period after exams, January 1971, I hitched a ride to Friendship Airport (now BWI) with David Treppendahl of Mississippi 74 who was hitching a ride with a firstie in his company, aka BeepSlash 71. We piled into his Datsun 240Z in the Mid Store Parking lot after the Wednesday evening exam (English majors always had exams done by the end of the first week of the exam period) and set sail for Baltimore. Netting this out 12 o’clock report-like, the firstie (I called him the dumb sob for about 35 years) got lost on the way to Friendship so that DT and I missed our 2200ish Delta flight to New Orleans. We racked-out in waiting room chairs at Friendship until the 0830ish flight the next morning. My mother met me at the NOLA end of the trip presuming that my sallow eyes and disheveled appearance were the results of maltreatment at USNA. I told her that ‘Dan Rockwell is my squad leader so that we would be impossible’. She did not catch my drift and suggested that I rest when we returned home.
As I put the helm over 15 degrees starboard to join the Durham Freeway, I remembered those ‘hops’, the free, space-available flights from Andrews Air Force Base to nearly every location in the world except maybe where you lived. Was there ever a more disappointing 1MC announcement then “For the information of all hands, the hop to …..XXXXX…… has been cancelled.” Of course, there are tales of planes loaded with mids headed for Omaha or Los Angeles only to suffer mechanical issues requiring hours of delay or eventual cancellation, but such news via the halls IMC had to rank with going C-A-C on the previously mentioned EN201 course (I know a mid who suffered this. Lt. Prof said that ‘anyone can have a lucky day taking a test.’ I prayed nightly for his orders to include Port Services Officer in Bahrain after a tour as Main Space MPA on a very old CV).
And when I think of ‘hops to hometowns at Christmas Leave’, I recall the story of the midshipman, and only he can verify this story as it may be someone else’s story or not even a story at all, whose hop to an Air Base in a remote North Dakota town hung in there/remained on the manifest until the bitter end. As the casualty list of hops to larger and more familiar naval stations and Air Force bases was updated on a daily basis, this one to the south of Canada hung in there like the lone plebe scaling Herndon. Until the afternoon of the day that the Brigade left for Christmas Leave. “For the information of all hands, the hop to Minot, North Dakota has been cancelled.” Certainly, the announcement was repeated, but the damage could not be increased.
It seemed that as soon as the fabled 1MC clicked-off, Midshipman Miller flashed down the hall with B-4 and AWOL bag in tow – it looked as though they were chasing him. Now this is the part that I don’t know, so either I have some of the facts or I invented all of the facts and I’ve told this part of the story for years: that Miller got to the 6th wing parking lot; there sat one of the revered Diamond Cabs from Baltimore trolling for a fare; that said Midshipman tossed gear into back seat; barked that he would pay $20 to get to Friendship by H-Hour (the departure hour of a flight to Minneapolis); relevant to the urgency of the matter was that said flight’s take-off was only an hour away from the moment Miller began to board the Diamond Cab; you may also wish to note that $20 was quite the sum in the pre-inflation 1970s; hearing of such a bounty, the Diamond Cab EOOW hit the gas creating sparks from the midshipman’s Corfam shoes sliding on the gravel as he jumped the brow; word is that he made the flight on time.
I could be misinformed about some or all of this tale; nonetheless I repeat it with confidence whenever opportune, e.g. over beers with the class of 00s at an Army game. The tale or fable is well received by all as it validates a heritage of risk, clear thinking under pressure, elegant resource management and an unquenchable desire to succeed. May we all be cut from the same cloth is the hope. Next time that I tell or make-up this story, I think that I’ll add that most of the hops were props. One has never enjoyed air travel until one knows the experience of sitting in cargo webbing, freezing under a blanket, vibrating one’s way at 400 knots, wondering if that vehicle in the middle of the cargo-hold was tied-down the way it should be by that stoned air crewman sitting across from me.
As I pulled into my driveway on Friday, it occurred to me that I too should have taken a Diamond Cab instead of hopping aboard that firstie’s ‘free ride.’ After all, a day of leave, as Midshipman Clawson would surely have advised, had to be worth $20.
Merry Christmas. Independent muster is granted to all for the worship services of your choice.
Link to First Night Tickets: http://www.firstnightraleigh.com
Sponsored by Fidelity Jobs in North Carolina
Enjoying a consulting contract helping recent MBA graduates enter the realm of enterprise / large corporation sales = selling IT to big companies. The final week-long module of 4 comprises exercises in story-telling both written (proposal) and delivered (presentation). The seemingly innocuous narrative of a barrel, bricks and a rope with perfect pauses and well measured delivery becomes a tale worth repeating 50 years later.
“Steve and I met here, at Stanford, the second week I lived in California. He came here to give a talk, and afterwards we found each other in the parking lot. We talked until four in the morning. He proposed with a fistful of freshly picked wildflowers on a rainy New Year’s Day. I said yes. Of course I said yes. We built our lives together.”
“He shaped how I came to view the world. We were both strong-minded, but he had a fully formed aesthetic and I did not. It is hard enough to see what is already there, to remove the many impediments to a clear view of reality, but Steve’s gift was even greater: he saw clearly what was not there, what could be there, what had to be there. His mind was never a captive of reality. Quite the contrary. He imagined what reality lacked, and he set out to remedy it. His ideas were not arguments but intuitions, born of a true inner freedom. For this reason, he possessed an uncannily large sense of possibility—an epic sense of possibility.
Steve’s love of beauty—and his impatience with ugliness—pervaded our lives. Early on in our marriage we had long dinners with Mona and Richie. I remember a particularly wide-ranging discussion that lasted late into the night. As we were driving home, Steve launched into a devastating critique of the restaurant’s sconces. Mona agreed with his assessment. Richie and I looked at each other, whispering, “Is a sconce a light fixture?” No object was too small or insignificant to be exempt from Steve’s examination of the meaning, and the quality, of its form. He looked at things, and then he created things, from the standpoint of perfection.
That could be an unforgiving standpoint, but over time I came to see its reasons, to understand Steve’s unbelievable rigor, which he imposed first and most strenuously on himself.
He felt deeply that California was the only place he could live. It’s the slanting evening light on the hills, the palette, the fundamental beauty. In his very soul, Steve was a Californian. He required the liberty it afforded, the clean slate. He worked under the influence, and the inspiration, of the sublimity of the place. He needed to be refreshed by the primal rhythms of the natural world—the land, the hills, the oaks, the orchards. California’s spirit of newness invigorated him, and ratified his own spirit. Its scale is contagious: such natural grandeur is the perfect setting for thinking big. And he did think big. He was the most unfettered thinker I have ever known. It was a deep pleasure, and a lot of fun, to think alongside him.
Like my children, I lost my father when I was young. It was not what I wanted for myself; it is not what I wanted for them. But the sun will set and the sun will rise, and it will shine upon us tomorrow in our grief and our gratitude, and we will continue to live with purpose, memory, passion, and love.”
Excerpt From: Brent Schlender & Rick Tetzeli. “Becoming Steve Jobs.” Crown Business, 2015-03-24. iBooks.
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I received my acceptance to USNA via a yellow telegram on 16 June 1970 at 11:55am. “pleased to announce that you are fully qualified for my principal appointment to the Naval Academy.” Russell B. Long US Senator. Quite the achievement considering it was nearly the height of avoiding the draft where nearly no one volunteered for a billet in the military.
I informed my supervisor at the Pelican Ice House that I would no longer be the carpenter’s helper, thinking to myself that some other fool desperate for $50 a week could go up and down those ladders in the haze of ammonia vapors from 730am to 4pm. Of course, 50 simoleons weekly seemed large when my first year pay as a midshipman reduced my walking-around cabbage to $50 per month. The carpenter, a retired Army sergeant, was incredulous upon hearing my story of an appointment to an Academy, thinking that I was ducking-out of hard work. I brought him my telegram to prove my assertion. There were a few times that I considered immediate alternatives to the likes of tyrannical upperclassmen, YP training, P-rades, EE anything and Brigade Seats when I would then consider the worse of the two evils beingthe heat, tedium and bone-tired exhaustion of those few weeks in the Pelican Ice House. Of course, until I qualified as EOOW.
After my Western Union missive, my first thought was “how should I pack?” How much underwear does one need for four years away from home?! Fortunately, I went to camp for a few weeks one summer to learn that two pair is all that one needs for a journey of every duration. Steve Frick’s brother was home from West Point and advised me that you will need nothing as they “issue it all to you.” Issue seemed like a weird description, but I figured it had something to do with being in the Army. So, I packed a small suitcase.
My less than two weeks remaining at home were carefree (home of record for 18 years; dissolved in less than two weeks). Don’t get me wrong. I never believed that I’d last more than 6 months at the United States Naval Academy, home of scholars, athletes, future war heroes and Roger Staubach. I did figure that a few months there was better than my immediate prospects of no other college acceptance (my plan was to enroll at LSU later in the summer, although Tulane University offered me an NROTC scholarship……in late August of plebe summer (college began after Labor Day in those days). I was sort of getting the drift that I being invited to join things after every other possible candidate had either said ‘no, thanks’ or had died unexpectedly. The only other tales that compare to mine are Jimmy Schreiber who had a four year NROTC scholarship to Stanford, then the hippies burned-down the NROTC building in protest over Vietnam which suspended the ROTC program and retracted Jimmy’s offer. He graduated 56th in our class, P-3 NFO, Harvard Law School and now a senior IBM patent attorney. A level headed chap, for sure, unless he dives into that second martini where tales of opportunity missed and what could have been a la Stanford surface to the level of that olive. The other late to the party mid was Robert McCabe who joined our plebe class in late August after enough had mustered out to make room for him. He became commanding officer of at least 3 ships.
My high school friends had a surprise party for me. The ruse was that we were off to see the Woodstock movie but forgot the tickets. We returned to my home to be greeted by more than I imagined who I suppose were curious what a future dead person would look like (Vietnam, right?!). My girlfriend’s father was even more nice to me and eased-up on the curfew and the instant greeting at her front door after a date. I still want to see that Woodstock movie.
On Sunday 28 June, we had an afternoon dinner at my girlfriend’s home; they were Italian and this is what they did after church every Sunday. I tried to find this house about 8 years ago. Gone due to Hurricane Katrina. After dinner, we drove around, bemoaning our impending separation and promising to write every day. Letters, remember those!?
We picked up my mother and drove to Moisant Airport in New Orleans. Two memories are vivid: my mother gave Gerry and I a few minutes alone, then misunderstood the actual departure time of the flight. We never said goodbye in a traditional way, which was fine, and maybe lots of deep-seated meaning could be assigned to this twist of fate and my resultant shortcomings as an adult. The other memory is that I had $20 in my wallet.
Arrived at Friendship Airport around 2200. Me and my suitcase packed with underwear; soon to be replaced by a B-4 bag. I find a Blue Diamond cab at the curb. Ask for the fare. Am told $20. I say that all I have is $20. He agrees to $12.
We get to USNA at the old main gate. Mr. Jimmy Legs directs me to the Field House as I am in search of my overnight accommodations. I was supposed to find a rack in Rickets Hall I later learned. I never saw Rickets Hall except through the eyes of a sleep deprived plebe-to-be. Here’s why. No one, and there was only one or two people around the Field House, knew what to do with me. There were no rooms, no racks, no reception area, no sign-in; just me asking where to go to join the Naval Academy. Others had passed through earlier in the day, yet this gent had no idea what became of them. Somehow, somewhere he found a room or a waiting area where I was welcomed to stay for the night. Seemed odd to me, but then again, I was from New Orleans. Odd is normal there. So, I slept on a two person couch as best as I could.
In the morning, very early, I was roused by an official looking guy in a kakhi uniform who checked my name on some list on his clipboard, commenting that ‘they had been wondering about me.” This was to be the theme of the day.
I recall the breakfast in the mess hall. Lots of chatter and talking and camaraderie, even with this guy who was a senior or first-class as he put it. Cracked me up. 1st class. Like some cabin on an ocean liner.
I’m not sure of the order of the day but the (mis)adventure began for me at the issue of our gear in the serpentine corridor below Bancroft Hall outside the Midshipman Store. Two moments of that afternoon are emblazoned in my mind’s autobiographical movie. One, I stood in line behind a future Federal prison inmate who regaled me with stories of his impending success due to his family’s military heritage (his dad was a commander, as if I knew what that was). He enjoyed a sterling career from beginning at USNA until his crash-landing as commanding officer 20 years later for falsifying travel documents and misspending ship’s funds in order to routinely visit his GS-15 paramour.
The second vivid memory of that day, and it had to be a living dream, was that I could not find my way from the Midshipman Store along the tunnel, up a ladder to our rooms in the 6th Wing. I dragged my issue up and down that tunnel for several hours. I kept getting referred to a ladder up to the a placed called the Rotunda (RowTundra?) which would lead me through a series of passageways, to a wing and up a ladder to my deck. I was bewildered. I transversed the same ground dozens of times, dragging my seabag and laundry bag of issue, sweating in discomfort, strung-out from the near all-nighter at the Field House and delirious with frustration that no matter how many times different people told me a different way to get from here to there, I couldn’t figure it out. I’m sure that I spent, at minimum, 2 hours trying to just get where I was supposed to be. Irony Alert, indeed!
Maybe the universe was trying to tell me something? Somehow, I found the rabbit hole or the Stargate to the 6th Wing. I believe that someone led a couple of us there. Upon arrival, many members of Hotel Company were in the ‘passageway’ standing outside of the doors to their rooms. I and we were greeted, actually reamed-out, for being late and making my new classmates suffer due to our /my tardiness on station.
I am not clear about how I got into my new white-works uniform; when was the oath-taking ceremony; or much else beyond finding room 6332. The Pelican Ice house, Gerry Rotonti, Woodstock all seemed so very, very far away.
Disclaimer: contains references to time and jargon long past.
We just elected our board of directors for the local alumni chapter with representation ranging from the classes of 1974 to 2010 (I can hear the the clacking footsteps of the Grim Reaper chopping down the passageway near the mate’s desk) including grads from 80, 81, 87, 93, 08. Such a gathering divides the brigade into interesting demographics such as all-male Academy or the University of Navy; summer cruise destinations; mile run or not; steam vs gas turbine; Isherwood and Melville Halls; June Week or Commissioning Week.
Do you recall that as President Richard Nixon delivered our diplomas on that stage in the stadium and that the custom at the time was for each acknowledged company to offer a worthy collective comment. I remember that one company threw cassette tapes into the air. When 23rd was announced, only soon to be Ensign David Sharpe arose and clapped insincerely.
Related to 1971 graduation, I remember the stern warning issued to the Brigade by Admiral Coogan, Commandant, that ‘if you did not like the cut of a man’s jib, then you are obligated to tell him so in person.’ He referred to the standing-boo that Rolio Golez, 23rd company, received from the Brigade at his graduation in June 1970. Mr. Golez, Brigade Boxing Champion for 4 years, heads the PI Alumni Association Chapter. From the self-promotion at his Wikipedia site, I’m trusting the wisdom of the Brigade.
As our alumni chapter alums relayed vague memories of the final days on Severn River, I mentioned the good deal / red ass of completing exams then heading home for leave…then heading back for June Week. The collective response was, “we didn’t have leave after exams, we had Dead Week.” D E A D W E E K !!!! I exclaimed. I had not thought of or heard of that term in ding ding ding 46 years. Hell on the Hudson! D E A D W E E K !!!! Then the untagged valve of related memories, which hadn’t seen a PMS check in 4.5+ decades, unwound and out drained recollections of Drag Houses, June Week rentals, girls from Hood College, ladies from New Jersey, Wagon Wheel Restaurant, a locker somewhere in some wing of Bancroft Hall where we were supposed to stow our gear for the summer, the smell of starched TWLs, the eyeball liberty in T-Court of the drags dressed for spring near the cannons behind the Brigade Staff at formation, the p-rades for the tax-payers, the Ring Dance and the incremental, nearly contrary to every theory of relativity, the seemingly reverse passage of time. June Week was like the First Circle of Hell. Get me out of here. D E A D W E E K !!!!
BTW, Yorke Warden, at the end of Youngster Year, tried to fake-out the ‘stow your gear for summer movement order’ and sent all of his clothing and uniforms to the laundry & TSP on the final day in the halls. This is not an HO. His laundry bag occupied nearly the entire two man desk. Clever was he until the return of the Brigade in September, his gear was nowhere to be found nor delivered. He had to submit a long, lost laundry chit where he was invited to the laundry facility outside of the Yard where he was able to introduce himself to the OiC at the Laundry who wanted to meet this wise-ass. Yorke got all of his gear back.
I’m still talking about D E A D W E E K: Mary Nadolski set me up with Betsy Walters of Hood College during this June Week just before second class summer. She was great and we had a great time at some drag house on the other side of town, Eastport or such, which was like a set of islands that one only heard about but never actually saw because the only transportation we had was on foot and usually up and down West Street.
Unfortunately, town libs ended at midnight for Youngsters and we were on the other side of town at about 11:45. Making muster looked highly improbable. Plus, we were drunk. I also recall that Bob Fretz was one of my running mates for this escapade which is odd because Bob and I never hung-out. We got to the center of town near the sailboats and before that market was built, realizing that All Head 2/3 was insufficient and that more steam was needed. We still weren’t going to make it back to the third wing in time. A green, Oldsmobile 442 pulled up with an upperclass mid at the helm offering our crew a ride back to the halls. Piling into his car, he navigated around State Circle, down Maryland Avenue to King George’s Street. As we turned right on King George’s Street, the road was a sea of red tail-lights making little headway. We’re were definitely not going to make it back to the Halls in time. Editor’s note: I had just been fried 50 and served my 10 tours for returning late from DC one Saturday evening. ’50 more’ I thought and suddenly dear Betsy didn’t seem as attractive as she did about 3 beers ago.
We tacked down King George Street only fast enough to maintain headway. We were going to be fried. Without encouragement or question, our upperclass helmsman/OOD, executed a sudden left rudder, right rudder maneuver that put the Oldsmobile 442 in the opposite lane of traffic, heading down the up lane or driving on the side of the road that would have seemed familiar to every British driver. Then he punched it i.e. all ahead full; the four barrels of the 400 jumped on-line and we began to pass the other vehicles in their stationery queue. We could not believe his audacity; we were thrilled; we were wide-eyed as we arrived at the head of the line. The Jimmy Legs waved us in; we motored to the entrance near the Mid-Store and scrambled up the ladders to the company area in time for John Goodrich or George Fessler or other naval hero to mark us present for muster. I don’t know how Betsy got home, although we did continue to date so she didn’t run-off with the knight in the 442.
To this day, when I think of bold action, taking a risk, the foolish courage of youth and He Who Will Not Risk, Shall Not Win, I smile in the fondest recollection of that unknown, unmasked man flying down King George Street.
Best for Memorial Day. Let’s remember all of those who’ve gone before us who, in little and large ways, helped us get to where we all needed to be.