Month: November 2005

  • Saturday, 12th November, 2005

    1.31 p.m. N.Z. time


    Hello everybody,


    We’ve just packed everything into a container and shipped it off to California.  I’ll be flying from Auckland to Fresno on the 16th November and it’ll take me a few weeks to get a new office up and running, so please be patient while we make this transition.  There may not be any new blog postings till after Thanksgiving.

    Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.  We certainly have a lot to be thankful for whether we know it or not.



  • Friday, 4 November 2005

    7.39 a.m. NZ time




    In the Navy



    October 1951 I turned sixteen years old. It had been a great summer and I bought my first car, a 1941, two door, Ford sedan. What a dog. The car overheated on the way home from the used car lot. I should have taken it back to the dealer, but I didn’t because I was sixteen, it was my first car, and I loved it. I spent all my money trying to fix it up. I flushed out the engine, got a new radiator, did everything I knew how to do, trying to make it run cool, but it never did, it ran hot until the day it died.


    That year my cousin, Phil, joined the U.S. Navy.  He was driving a brand new metallic green hard top Oldsmobile. He was stationed in San Diego pulling Seaman Guard duty at the Naval Training Centre and he came home every weekend, driving his big beautiful new Olds. I thought, “wow man, I gotta join the Navy.” But I was only sixteen, and it would be another whole year before I would be old enough to enlist.


    So I went to the recruiting office and asked them what I would need to do to join up.   I didn’t tell them I was just sixteen years old, and the recruiting officer told me I would need some kind of proof to show I was seventeen years old. So I jumped in my Ford and drove back up to my old school in Newbury Park. I looked up my friend, Roy, and told him what I needed, a letter written on school stationery saying the school records showed that I was born in 1934, and my age was seventeen years old. And that’s what we did. I drove back to the recruiting office and told the officer I had called the school and they would be mailing him a letter with the proof of my age.


    A few days later my phone rang, it was the recruiting officer saying the letter had arrived, and I could come down and sign my enlistment papers whenever I was ready.   On the day after Christmas, (Boxing Day in the British Commonwealth) 1951, I, along with about thirty other guys, standing right in the middle of the Los Angeles Central Train Terminal, the very terminal my uncle Mark had helped to build back in ’37, took my oath of allegiance to serve faithfully in the United States Navy.


    Boot camp was typical, just like in the movies, with immunization shots, hair cuts, and clothes that didn’t fit. I thought the food was great but most everybody else complained and said it wasn’t fit to eat.


    I really liked all the marching around and learning the different rifle commands. I found the classes interesting and I learned a lot, except for the knot tying class. I got bored and went to sleep. The instructor saw me napping and woke me up with the question, “OK sailor, how do you tie a bowline?  I yawned, picked up my piece of line, and flick, flick, handed him the bowline. He suspiciously checked out the knot and asked, “What did you do before you joined the Navy?” I told him I had been a commercial fisherman, and he told me to go back to sleep. To the rest of the class he said, “If you need any help with your knots, just ask this guy.”


    I met some great guys in boot camp, one guy became a lifelong friend. We wound up being assigned to the same ship, the USS Toledo, a heavy cruiser stationed out of Long Beach, California, my old stomping grounds. He lived in Southern California and he loved cars as much as I did.


    I was dating a girl from El Monte. One day my friend asked me if the girl I was dating had a friend, thinking maybe she could set him up for a blind date, and we could all go out together double dating. I asked her and she said, yes, she did have a friend, and she put it all together. Well, it turned out that I knew her girlfriend from the 8th grade. To cut a very long story short, they fell in love and got married but that’s a whole other story that they would have to tell you.


    It got to where the four of us would go out together every weekend that we pulled a weekend liberty. Then came the news we knew was coming, but had been dreading to hear, our ship was ordered to join up with the Pacific fleet in Korea.


    Before we knew it, it was our last weekend ashore; the Toledo was scheduled to sail at 0800 Monday morning. The deal was we had Friday night ashore, but we had to be back on board Saturday morning at 0800 for morning role call. Then we could go back ashore again for the remainder of the weekend.  Well, it was so tough getting it all together that Saturday morning, and then driving an hour and a half down to Terminal Island, then catch the launch out to where our ship was laying at anchor, don’tcha know, we were late.


    We knew if we went aboard for morning muster, and we got there late, we would be put on report. Then we would be restricted to the ship, which meant we wouldn’t see the girls again ‘til we got back from Korea. We were all moanin’ and groanin’ and the girls were pleading, “Please don’t go back until Monday morning.” My ship mate and I talked it over and decided, because we were late, we were going to pull a Captain’s Mass anyway, so why not wait ‘til we were out at sea and receive our punishment (extra duty) there. So with laughter and cheering we pulled out of the Terminal Island parking lot and headed back home with 48 more hours to say goodbye.


    We piled back into our car at 6:am on Monday morning and once again drove down to Terminal Island. We pulled into the parking lot with thirty minutes to spare and the first thing we noticed was, the Toledo was gone.


    We asked around and found out her orders had been changed; she’d pulled anchor and sailed at 0700. We were an hour late and dead in the water. Missing ship is a whole different ballgame than missing a role call. We were in deep, deep sticky and stinky stuff, right up to our eyeballs.


    We sat in the car for nearly an hour thinking and saying, “What are we gonna do, what are we gonna do?” Finally, I told my friend and the girls, “I’m going back to San Pedro and try and figure out what I’m supposed to do.”  After six or eight days of expecting the Shore Patrol or the F.B.I. to come busting through my door, I came to the conclusion that since I was still only sixteen years old, and under age, I couldn’t be legally held responsible for my actions. So the best thing for me to do would be to get a copy of my birth certificate, and report back to the Terminal Island Navy Base, and confess my age.


    And that’s just what I did, all dressed up in my “Liberty Blues” and ready for inspection, I walked up to the main gate and handed the guard my I.D. and liberty card. First he checked out my I.D. and then took a look at my liberty card. “The Toledo,” he said, “Holy sh–, she sailed more than a week ago. Put this sailor under arrest.” And they did, marching me off to the Officer of the Deck. He examined my I.D. and liberty cards and I handed him my birth certificate. He said “What’s this?”  “My birth certificate, sir.” He gave it a quick read, then looking up at me said, “Why damn son, you’re too young to be in the Navy.” “Yes sir,” I replied. “Take this man to the Base Commander.” “Yes sir,” said the two guards, and off we marched to see the Base Commander. The same scenario, “What’s this?” “My birth certificate sir,” “Damn boy, you’re too young to be in the Navy.” “Yes sir,” I said once again. So they shipped me down to Des Base (Destroyer Base) in San Diego, and there, about six weeks later, I received my discharge from the U.S.Navy. I got all my mustering out pay (that I used to buy a ’32 Ford Roadster). I got all my G.I. benefits, including life insurance and hospitalization, and because I had been on active duty for more than six months I never had to go back into the armed forces again.


    So there I was, a sixteen year old veteran, with a 1932 fire engine red, chopped top, column-shift, red and white tuck and rolled, leather upholstered Ford Roadster, with a ’48 Mercury engine and juice brakes. How good could it get?  I had all my G.I. benefits and I never had to worry about being drafted back into the military. At that moment in my life I thought I had just pulled off the smartest thing I’d ever done, and I knew I’d really had nothing to do with it at all, it just kinda happened by itself.


    Well that’s all for now, next time out, it’s 1952, I’m married at seventeen and working for a living.