Archive for December, 2014

Blue Pane Studio Produces App #73 for First Night Raleigh

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

FNR 2015

Info on Festival: http://firstnightraleigh.com

Link to Apple Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/first-night-raleigh-2015/id585627875

Link to Google Marketplace: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bluepane.firstnight

But You Cannot Take the Navy Out of the Man, Part 2 of 2

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

I didn’t have the $600 for our original uniform issue of Naval Academy uniforms: Dress Blues, Overcoat and Reefer (Peacoat). Instead of being measured for my own, I was escorted by a friendly Italian lady to a room in the Academy Tailor Shop filled with racks of these garments. I tried-on several samples and finally found an issue for me. As she measured me for the necessary alterations, I read in the breast pocket the name of its former owner. The seamstress informed me that these uniforms were owned previously by mids who did not graduate from the Academy and sold-back this gear. When my properly fitted items returned to me, my name replaced theirs. As a result and for some reason, I had a special sense of my Dress Blues and winter coats. A kind of a “who ends up with what?” and “where are they now” curiosity.

After my naval service, I worked for a stint at Bath Iron Works in the persistent winter of Maine. Shipyards and winter weather are harsh on clothing so the ‘inside people’ kept shoes and coats in their offices for the trips to production meetings in the Yard. I concluded that my reefer would be a near perfect Yard coat if only I changed the brass buttons to civilian style. Off went the six brass and my wife sewed-on 6 brown replacements. The reefer withstood its consistent use and the rugged climate, ending-up in the back closet of our home in Raleigh, North Carolina when we relocated to warmer mid-Atlantic in 1985. Say ‘Amen.’

Divorced in 1993, I lost track of many items in that process including the twice modified midshipmen reefer.

My older son, Alexander, is a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, stationed in Naples, Italy. We agreed to meet in London for the past Thanksgiving, saying good-bye to the last of my inherited IBM frequent flyer miles. I meet his train from Gatwick Airport at Victoria Station. Arriving at 1130 pm, he strolls down the platform in his hipster travel gear wearing my fourth classman-issue reefer with the brown buttons.

I put it on in our hotel room, laughing and remembering those innumerable trips down Stribling Walk between classes at the Academy in the Maryland snow complete with our regulation trousers that had no front pockets so that we cannot put our hands in them.

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Photo taken in the dining room of the Old Royal Naval College. Admiral Nelson lay in state here after Trafalgar.

You Can Take the Man Out of the Navy….. Part 1 of 2

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

My body clock still on London time after a week in England, looking out of my Durham office window into London-like weather, I consider a drive to NC State University for the Change of Command ceremony of the local Naval ROTC unit. 4pm. Traffic. Not attractive. I persuade myself that I would be better off out of the office. Added benefit is that I would get to see all of the Navy lieutenants in one location. Plus, the incoming commanding officer is a graduate of the Naval Academy, class of 1987, and as VP of the USNA Alumni Association I’d like to begin on his good side.

I arrive as the Star Spangled Banner begins, sit in the back row amidst the young, young officers and younger midshipmen and enjoy the quiet, the trip down memory lane and even a few of the leadership bon mots from the podium.

Staring down a file of heads in the audience. I recognize a face in the VIP section at the front. As I just returned from a trans-Atlantic flight and see plenty of familiar faces at this stage of life, I presumed that I’ve known many and many look alike. This VIP profile resembles Bill Tucker, my Navy, USS Joseph Strauss DDG-16, roommate. Uncanny the resemblance. At the near end of the ceremony, the arriving Commanding Officer in his own remarks of welcome thanks his parents, his family and his dear community and church neighbors, Bill and Martha. It’s them! Bill Tucker and Martha Ratchford. They comprise one of the most remarkable coincidences of my life.

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Newport, Rhode Island June 1972. My third summer at the Naval Academy. The training program for that summer is to spend a couple of weeks each with the destroyer Navy in Newport, Rhode Island; the submarine service in Groton, Connecticut; the Marines in Quantico, Virginia; Navy Air in Pensacola, Florida.

In Newport, my Academy friend, Yorke Warden, and I head to the Officer’s Club for a Thursday night mixer of some sort. Not really for midshipmen and there are girls (older) and the drinks are inexpensive. The band plays Dixie. Why, I do not remember. Three people in the crowd stand from their tables to cheer the anthem of the Old South: me, Yorke and a slightly built guy at the adjacent table. Rallying the minority, we sit together to discuss our common bond. I’m from New Orleans and Mr. 3, introduced as Tommy Ratchford, is from Pensacola, Florida.

Tommy is a lot of fun; in Newport to qualify as a Navy legal officer (JAG Corps); and generously invites Yorke and me to have dinner with his family when our training takes us to Pensacola. In between, he helped us to call a list of local girls who are invited to US Coast Guard Academy dances in hopes that we might find a date or two. I remember that Charlie Cannon and I got dates from this list. The parents went along; the girls were sisters and pretty. Very cordial. Fun. Nothing happened. Not what we were looking for.

Yorke and I contact Mrs. Ratchford as we arrive in Pensacola. Invited to a restaurant dinner including her daughter, Martha, and family friends, we have a memorable time. Lots of laughing and friendly discussion. I did not meet Mr. Ratchford and learned that he was the PT Boat Squadron Corpsman who treated John Kennedy after his PT-109 collided with a Japanese destroyer.

I graduate from Annapolis in June 1974. Assigned to a destroyer in San Francisco, I spend 12 months in the Bay Area. In early December of 1975, I am assigned to the Joseph Strauss, DDG 16, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii just as the ship prepared to deploy for 6 months to the South China Sea. My quarters were above one of the two boiler rooms and outfitted with 6 bunks or racks in the space known as the Junior Officer Locker. Hot, crowded and a zoo of constant activity around the clock. In late December, another junior officer reports aboard, Bill Tucker of Pensacola, Florida. He tried to qualify as a pilot and despite his exceptional balance and inner ear equilibrium, he opted-out of the training and was sent to the fleet to join the Strauss as the Main Propulsion Assistant, MPA.

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Bill and I hung-out both on the ship and ashore. One evening, I learned that he opted for a ship far from the East Coast Fleet so that he could have some time and distance from a relationship that wasn’t working out. Then or later and not much later, I mentioned to Bill that I knew one family in Pensacola who had been so kind to me during a midshipman visit, the Ratchfords. He stared at me and replied, ‘that’s the family of the girl which didn’t work-out.’ Oh!

Bill and I had many personal and Navy adventures over two years before I transferred from the Strauss to my final assignment in Washington, DC. We played golf in Taiwan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Hawaii. We roomed together once that we were allowed to break-out of that ever-warm JO Locker. He drove me around in his Datsun 240Z. We played on the ship’s softball team. We tried to date every bar-girl in every bar in every port from South Korea to Hong Kong to Subic Bay to Taiwan to Yokosuka. We patrolled the beaches of Honolulu on our free days.

The Strauss was in terrible material condition due to its overuse on the gun-line of Vietnam; her engineering plant was based on a complex system of 1200 pounds of steam pressure. Powerful and difficult to maintain. On one cruise, we hobbled overseas, only to break-down in Subic Bay. The repairs required 100+ days in port, much too long for a crew of 300 young men. But our wardroom softball team got so good that we won the Naval Base championship, including a defeat of the traveling Army team of semi-pro players.

Bill and I had one last dose of liberty in Tokyo with Miki Marubayashi and Ako Shimomoto. I departed the Strauss in Tokyo Harbor in February of 1978. As Ship’s Admin Officer, Bill signs my orders.

I suppose that Bill and I exchanged a few letters and not much more. My belief is that we all wanted to put all of that DDG-16, Pearl Harbor, mysteries of Asia well behind us.

Our paths continued to divert. Divorced, living in an 800 sq ft apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina in the winter of 1994, I received a call from Bill. He was thrilled to inform me that he and Martha Ratchford of Pensacola, Florida found one another one again. They planned to marry nearly 20 years after our introduction in the JO Locker aboard the Strauss. Life is strangely wonderful, indeed.

I never heard from nor communicated with Bill and Martha since that telephone call until last night when I looked down the aisle and across the room to see someone who looked like him.