I joined the Navy while still in High School when I was 17 years old. That’s not old enough to join, so my dad had to sign for me. I still remember the Officer, taking me home to get my dad’s signature and my dad not hesitating a moment to get me in the Navy. My enlistment contract was for six years and it started on February 11 (My Mom’s birthday) 1964. I was to spent the next 18 or so months in the Navy reserves, go to bootcamp in my summer months, and then go on Active duty in July 1965 after I graduated from High School. 

I think lots of people were glad when it came time for me to leave for lots of reasons, but that’s another story to be shared!  When I got back from bootcamp, Dad made me pose in the living room with my sea bag on my shoulder. That was one pain in the neck. I can’t imagine dragging that thing around with me everywhere I went carrying all my worldly goods. After boot camp I was supposed to go back to weekly reserve meetings with the Navy Reserves on 30th & Laurel, but I just didn’t want to go, so I didn’t. I don’t think I attended more than 3 or 4 meetings after coming back from bootcamp. I received many threatening letters, warning me that Id’ be called to active duty, but I also knew that as long as I was in High School they wouldn’t pull me out. So I took advantage and just didn’t go. I did attend a couple of them. This picture on the right is of me when I was going to one of those meetings, but stopped by my cousin, Shirley Barry’s house on Himebaugh. She and her family moved into the himebaugh house we lived in after we moved to Lake Street. She was always very nice to me and she took this picture of me by the birdbath on one those times I stopped by. I think it’s the only picture I have of my Navy experience while still in high school besides the few bootcamp shots. Well, when I graduated in June 1965, I received my orders to leave on July 2nd, 1965. Since I’d already been to bootcamp, I was sent to Naval Station Treasure Island California for outfitting and for getting my final duty station. It took a couple months to get us all processed and sent to our duty station. I filled in a dream sheet requesting, San Diego or anything on the west coast or western pacific. I really wanted to get in the Vietnam effort, but that wasn’t in the cards for me. It was a whirlwind two months on Treasure Island and I’d gone there with a couple others from Omaha; Tom Meradith and Denny Thomas are two that I remember. I’d even gone on liberty with a couple of them and we’d walk down Market street and see if we could find a bar that would serve us beer. We did find one that was owned and operated by the former Cisco Kid. He let us buy beer there and all over the walls were pictures of him as the TV Star and movie star. It was the Duncan Renaldo Cisco kid, not one of the many others who played the role also. We all remembered him as kids in the early 50’s watching his TV shows. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the “Cisco” kid owning a bar in San Fran “Cisco.”  I also met some other guys while stationed there as well. Leroy Proszkowski is one I remember especially. I was to run into him again and actually hire his wife, Linda, to be our admin support staff at the Officer Programs Recruiting offices in Detroit in 1980. HOw strange is that. I don’t remember the names of the others. Denny Thomas and I along with another guy we met from somewhere else stopped at an arcade of some kind on Market street and jumped into a photo booth. It was fun. I’m the guy in the middle in case you didn’t recognize me. Everyone that came with me from Omaha and everyone I knew got the West Coast. Not me!! No, they sent me all the way to San Francisco, to send me all the way back to Norfolk, Virginia to serve on the USS WRIGHT (CC-2).

The Wright was a communications command ship. She was prepared for the President to come aboard in time of national emergency. It was an old World War II, aircraft carrier that had been converted with antennaes all over it’s flight deck. It was a wierd ship and simply cruised up and down the east coast. It never go to far from home. We did make a stop in San Juan Peurto Rico for a few days and we went to Fort Lauderdale and Miami on a couple of occassions. I looked up the bar “The Black Cat” or “El Gato Negro.” Dad knew it from his days there during the war and it was still there. It was an interesting stop. We also made several stops up and down the East Coast as well. We went to Providence, RI, and Newport, RI, and Bostom, Mass. Butch, my old himebaugh Ave buddy was stationed on board the USS ESSEX in Boston and I reached him and he took me out on the town. We ended up at the EM club which ended up to be a great place. We also stopped in NY, and pulled into port right at 42nd street. There was a guy in my unit from New York and I went home with him. His name was Brindley. Here we are together during that leave in civilian clothes. This was taken at some booth again and we had been moving from bar to bar around the city and just stopped for a moment to snap a picture. Later on we stopped at the same place while we were in uniform and I had one taken as we were getting ready to head back to the ship when our three day pass was over.

When I checked on board the Waller I was an E-2. I had two stripes. I had one in my bootcamp picture that you might have remembered, but after bootcamp, I was promoted from Seaman Recruit to Seaman Apprentive. I failed the SN test onboard the ship the first time because I didn’t know my seamanship.  I was immediately assigned to mess cooking duties as was most other recruits. I was assigned to the skullery. That’s where the dishes, trays, silverware, pots, pans, etc were taken to be cleaned out and washed, dried and hustled back out to the chow line for the next group of hungry sailors. I was such a senior Eaman Apprentice (SA) that I was made the Honcho of the skullery. That meant that when the Master at ARms didn’t like the quality or cleanliness of the space or the speed at which we accomplished the job, I was the one he chewed out. There were six of us assigned to the Skullery. We cleaned up after 2000 men, three times a day! It was a huge job. During those couple of months, I saved all my money. I had almost no time to go ashore and spend anything. I made 42$ a payday and it all ended up in cash in my locker drawer. We did make it to the EM Club once or twice. Here’s a picture of me with a couple other mess cooks that happened to get a brief liberty. We usually ate before the rest of the crew so we could serve them without interruptions. Once, after I’d been a mess cook (that’s what they called us all even when we washed dishes) for about 3 months, we were eating and the First Class Personnelman came down from the Ship’s office and asked if anyone knew how to type. I couldn’t get myhand up fast enough. I was never as thankful that I took Typing I at Holy Name High School as I was at that moment.  I was eventually moved to the ship’s office and took over my new duties of typing leave papers, liberty cards, letters and anything else the chief wanted me to do. I did it with great enthusiasm. I finally passed the seaman exam and had my portrait taken at the Residential YMCA in Norfolk, Virginia so I could send it home and show everyone what a success I’d become.

I study and finally passed it. It took me to three stripes.

When I was aboard the Wright I became friends with the Radio Disc Jockey. The Ship had four radio channels that it broadcast throughout the ship through wired speakers and the crew could choose between classical, country western, rock & roll, or news. Every week the ship recieved an Armed forces Radio 33lp with all the top songs of the week. That made it easy to play. I used to help and would often find myself in the studio alone. I learned how to record the music off the records onto my little portable tape recorder. It was an old little reel to reel. It was very expensive. I bought it at an electronic store in Norfolk and I had to make payments on it. This isn’t it, but it looked a lot like it and it operated similarly. It was during that time that I began to get interested in music. To this day, I collect the old tunes from the 50’s & 60’s. If you look at “My Interests” link I’ll have one for my music collection, but it started on board the Wright. I always listend to KOIL in Omaha, the rock station when I was a kid and in High School. My sister was always a fan of Elvis, Ricky Nelson, The Crickets, and all the others of the era. She got me listening, but it wasn’t until I had lots of time at sea with nothing to do that I got interested in collecting the music.

In the Summer of 1966 the Wright went into dry dock in Portsmouth Navy Shipyards and we had the whole summer there.  I bought a 1961 renault daughine from a guy who was getting out and heading home to the west coast and I drove it to death. There were a bunch of us that got an apartment in Virginia Beach and we’d drive back and forth as much as we could. I wish I had some pictures of those days or of that car, but I don’t. I didn’t care too much about pictures in those days. I’m suprised I have what I have. Well, I just got into trouble on the Wright, it was boring and I really wanted to get to where the action was and I put in a request to go to Vietnam. I wanted to be stationed in Country. I had a friend at Danang and thought they’d let me join him there, but they said I was too valuable as a personnelman where I was to leave (bunch of bunk!) I even offered to extend my tour of duty on active duty to get the transfer. The Comanding Officer of the Wright approved it, but he put that little comment that a “relief was required” in the endorsement and that killed it from what I understand. I think my boss, the 1st class Personnelman was anxious to get rid of me (what’s new!) and he wanted to help me get the excitment I was looking for also. He made arrangements for me to transfer to a Destroyer that was heading to the Mediterannean for a six months cruise. I was glad to have that happen. Something good happend before I got transferred that set the stage for my job on the new ship. I had taken the exam to become a third class petty officer. I didn’t get promoted, but I passed the test well enough to get designated as a PNSN (Personnelman Seaman). The designation ensured that my new assignment would find me working in the ships office again, rather than on the mess decks. The symbol for a personnelman at that time in the navy was a book and quill.  You would wear you designation above your stripes. Later it would be part of my rank as I was promoted further up the ranks.

In October of 1966 I got in my 1961 renault with a friend and headed north. I was going to drop him off in Pennsylvania and then I was going to head west to Omaha. I knew the USS WALLER (DD-466) was departing for a Med cruise as soon as I returned from leave so I was planning on leaving the car in Omaha. It didn’t make it. It broke down in Seaford, Delaware and I left there at a gas station to be repaired, along with the title and registration in the glove compartment and never saw it again. When I got back from leave the Waller departed within a week and I never got a chance to go get it. I often wonder whatever happened to that little car.