My service in the navy started in October of 1953 and lasted for only two short years, but it was very educational. In Great Lakes boot camp I actually enjoyed marching in company competitions, fire fighting and mess cooking. I was good in swimming but could not climb a rope. It was scary to patrol on watch, the south end of the training area was closed and it was very dark at night. There was a station there that had to be checked into at the right time.
On my first liberty, going with another company guy, we went to the Loop and entered Walgreen's on State Street. There we found young girls, ready to be picked up, be taken to the movies where they comfort us with necking. Yup!, that's where I kissed a girl for the very 1st time. On many occasions I went to the State Street and Chicago theaters. One time I went to the USO and met Betty Grable. There were three long tables for the service men and women to sit at and I'll be darn if she and her husband Harry James didn't sit directly across the table and talk to me. On my first liberty home to Fennville, I stopped at a tattoo shop and had my 1st and only tattoo cut into my right forearm. Dam that hurt and mom was not impressed. After boot camp I served three more months on the main side, working in the spud locker. I think we made 500,000 individual salads during that time.
I was next shipped by train to Norfolk. The engine on the train was one of the last streamlined steam engines. Norfolk was just a stopping point where several guys came in, day by day, until we had a load to be transported to Little Creek. While in Norfolk I was able to visit a home town school friend who was serving on the USS Missouri BB-63. I walked on the wooden deck and sat on that long plank in the head where my dump was washed away in a long tray with water running full time. This also where I bought my Argus C-3 camera. Many photos on this web site were taken with it.
The U.S. Navy Harbor Defense Base at Little Creek, Virginia was a small complex within the Amphibious Base. The Chesapeake Bay Ferry dock was right next door, (no longer in service). Most of the guys on this bus had no desire to be mess cooks again so they were put to work repairing Anti-Submarine Nets that were still guarding the bay after WWII. The base controlled these nets and also mines that rested on the bottom of the bay. I was trained to handle gun powder bags for a 5 inch gun at Dam Neck, south of Virginia Beach.
Liberty in this area was a little different than in Chicago. Finding a date was difficult. Virginia Beach was dominated by mid-shipmen from Annapolis. One time I took a bus to Raleigh, NC. and went to the YMCA where I met a girl who took me home where her family put me up for the night. The next morning I had my first taste of grits. This was real southern hospitality. The hospitality in down town Norfolk was a little different. On my first city bus ride, there was a lot of room in the back so there I sat. The bus stopped, the driver came back and ordered me to ride in front. The back area was reserved for Negro's. On another liberty week end I took a hop from Norfolk Air Station to Washington, D.C. ; where I stayed in less expensive hotel and visited several museums.
Little Creek is where I started to learn about homosexuality. There were more guys here that had been around, older that is. A couple of them bragged, on their return from a liberty trip, that they came back with more cash than they left with and it wasn't due to gambling. Their trip was made by hitch hiking and truckers would pay them to let them do their sex thing.
In the spring of 1955, one of those battleship gray navy buses came and a group of use were on our way to Philadelphia. One was a friend of mine right from the start in my boot camp company, Jim Brown. Another was a wise guy from South Chicago, Jack Bauer from another company in the same boot camp. Actually Jack was a cool character. This is when we were put aboard the USS Kawishiwi AO-146 at Pier 1 of the navy yard. In May I took some photos from the ships fantail of planes flying over. It was Armed Forces Day, May 1955. The ships commissioning was on July 6th. My mom, dad and sister drove from Michigan to attend.
I was assigned to be part of the 1st Division which worked on deck duties of the forward area of the ship. My records weren't updated to "SK" until June. One fun duty was to hang over the side on a boatswain's chair and paint the huge numbers on the starboard bow, "o 146". I had to swing in and out from the ship until I could hook up to an eye that existed in the hull. Then I painted. I made a big mistake here; my billfold was still in my back pocket and it fell into the water and is probably still deep in the mud of the Delaware River. That means my I.D. card was gone. I believe my Division lead was BMC G. Torbich and he just gave me a new card, no restriction.
My liberty in Phily was focused on the YMCA. This is where I learned to play hearts. There were church services but the event was the dances. Local girls volunteered here and some times they would let we sailors take them on a date. One Personnel Man "PN" from the base was an excellent dancer and I loved to watch him and this girl dance together.
Kawishiwi had a sea trial after the commissioning where it sailed down the Delaware and out into the Atlantic maybe 100 miles then proceeded to sail in a circle all night. I stood watch on the 03 deck, port side, outside the pilot house. I will never forget that beautiful night.
A DAY IN LATE SUMMER:
One day in August, EM3 J.T. Gray asked if I would care to come to the canvas shop, an out of the way place in the bow of the ship, to watch some movies he had brought back from Europe. That sounded cool so I went. Well of course these kind of movies can get a guy aroused. He was watching for me to get an erection and when it happened, he says "this is a great time for us each to masturbate", which I thought was kind of private. I then thanked him for the movies, left and really forgot about it. It just didn't seem like a good thing to do.
Near the end of September, my division commander came to me and said I was to follow him off the ship to a office where there was a base chaplain. On the way he described what he found out about this event and said this was a case where it would be best if I just admitted it or get ready to spend time in the brig. So with the chaplain I admitted it. In todays world, There was a quick captain's mast and I was was told to pack my belongings and get to the gangway. In my berthing area there were a couple guys there whom I gave my p-coat and some other things, then off I was taken to a base office where papers were to be prepared for discharge.
After many years of thinking about this event, even after two discharge reviews, this was a really dumb happening. I was an idiot. I was not given my rights for a hearing. My division chief was a bully and had no idea what type of person I was. He did not know about a single day of how I treated myself or other persons at any time before this event. He had to have been very prejudice about homosexuals, which I can understand.
In the base office where the papers were being prepared, a wonder appeared. The PN working my papers was the same sailor I knew and had fun with at the YMCA. He actually had me located in an out of the way holding barracks to stay, plus fixing it so I could have liberty. But on that fateful day, two armed Shore Patrol guys came abruptly to me, took me by the arms and marched me out the gate. That was the most humiliating thing that has ever happened to me in all my life. I had to find my own way home which was by train to Indiana and a bus up to a point 5 miles from my home where my parents picked me up.
Upon returning back to Fennville, Jim Van Hartesveldt give me my old job back as meat cutter, chicken killer and ham maker. However another previous employer, John Case - manager of the Lumber Company remembered I had training in architectural drafting and arranged for an interview with Ed Daverman in Grand Rapids where I was hired as a trainee. My 1st duty was an aide to surveying the new airport in Grand Rapids (The old one can't even be found, here in 2009). This is the only job I regret leaving.
My history with Daverman's and Telephone plant engineering can be read on my page "MY REGRETS". While I was never without a job and have always had a good reputation, I was weak in handling confrontations with my employers. I wrote a book about "TELEPHONE PLANT RECORDS" and it is why we moved to the Northwest. I was hired by WBAI in Seattle to do record work for their clients.
Working in the Northwest has been a blessing for our family. At Wesley Bull and Associates (WBAI), I was assigned to six Navy Projects. The WBAI link displays these projects. Through out the years after my Navy discharge, I was highly concerned about having the need for a security clearance to work on a project. I have lost many hours of sleep over this. Working on these navy projects knocked that sense out of me. I could have been a bad boy on so many of these projects. I actually learned where very important communication cables could be easily tampered with. In a meeting in Adak, I mentioned the sensitive undersea cables coming into a certain building - the meeting stopped, how did I know this? Well they are shown on the plans I was on base to update. DAH!
I retired from the Boeing Company in the year 2000 and after some health problems, was called back to update the Telecommunications Engineering Standards that I had helped to maintain previously. Just before 9/11, while searching the web I came across the ship I helped commission and had been rudely kicked off of. I didn't have many things to occupy my time so I started a web page about the ship. I wanted to see what I missed after my dream of sailing the seas was smashed. Then I wrote the book "Navy Super Tankers". I have gained many friends through this webbing venture. I had learned to create web sites while working at Boeing.
While I am not on a expert on how each person reacts to each encounter in their life, I have these thoughts:
....1. You have to learn early how to stand up to your rights.
....2. Know your sexual thoughts are your own, it's private, don't let others sway you beliefs.
....3. Homosexuality is as different in humans as race and religion.
....4. Sex between persons is a private thing, it needs to be kept that way.
....5. It is the responsibility of parents to instill children about their sexuality.
....6. If two persons of the same sex want to be married - let it be so, anywhere.
....7. Any couple that has problems in their marriage can get a divorce.
View Vern's page: "Loving People is hard Work"
I know that millions of people are worse off than me.
I can't hold the Navy responsible for my problems!
America must work on keeping employment up!
Let's help keeping America Free!
Hope the homosexuals will quit having parades!
I think we are stuck with the word "GAY", several countries use it.
I hate the Queer - that is very disrespectful to happy homosexuals.