Monday, April 30, 2012

Guantaqnamo Bay, Cuba Housing

Much of the housing for enlisted personnel was of this identical type.  It appears to be, and I believe it was, made of preformed concrete slabs.  The windows were exceptionally large allowing the gentle Caribbean breezes to cool the interior.
The photo of unit 552 was taken during February 1965 on Leeward Point.  Each unit consisted of four family dwellings.  The lower sections on the ends were each three bedroom homes, while the taller section in the middle was two separate family quarters each with two bedrooms.  They were labeled A, B, C, and D from left to right.  We lived in 552 B, or the left hand unit of the two center ones.
The center (B and C) units had the external doors right beside each other making them a mirror image each other.  The stairs to the bedrooms and bathroom was straight ahead from the outside door.  In our unit the living room was to the left as you entered the front door.  The dining area was directly behind that, while a small kitchen area was to the right and behind the stairs from the front door.
Joseph and Bonnie McAllister lived in the A unit, but, after 47 years, I do not recall who resided in the other two.  Google Earth shows that these half dozen units on Leeward Point have all been removed now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Green Hornet

Can you use your imagination a little?  Along about 1944 or so, when I was maybe six years old, my father owned one of these, sort of.  At this point you might recall no automotive products were being manufactured for civilian use as a World War was going on.  Somewhere between its manufacture in or near 1931, or maybe 1932, but somewhere about that time and about 1944, a former owner had needed a truck more than he needed a car, so he converted his Studebaker from one to the other.  My father found it in a junkyard, but thought he could get some more use from it so for the princely sum of $25 he salvaged it.  After some tender loving care, by my very mechanical father, it was rendered fit for road usage again.  He managed to get a special registration for it that allowed him to get license plates, but he could never sell it to anyone else for road usage.  When he was through with it, its fate was to be returned to the junk yard.  The one my father owned was more of an apple green than this one.  I merely have this photo here for reference.  It is not the one my father owned.
As well as a different color, the body of my dad’s had been chopped off just back of the front doors.  A flat metal panel had been installed to keep out the rain mostly, and then the original rear window had been mounted in that.  Behind that a wooden stake rack had been built, and presto it was a truck, kind of.  My father named it The Green Hornet, kind of after the comic book character of that time.  It was a fitting name as the old truck was sort of comical too.
It was my dad’s only transportation for a year or more.  Every day it took him from our dairy farm to his job at the paper mill in town, and returned him to us each evening just in time to help with the evening milking.  It was also used on the farm as a sort of utility vehicle, hauling anything that needed hauling, and a few things that didn’t.  Several of my brothers learned how to drive a vehicle with the use, or misuse, of the old Green Hornet.  I was too little.  They wouldn’t let me have a go at it.
On one particular Sunday my father’s brother, Floyd and his wife Beatrice, came to our home for a visit.  While there my dad mentioned to him that a local farm was for sale at a reasonable price so dad and mom piled into the back seat of Floyd’s car, and off they went to look at the possible purchase.  While they were gone my brother Ron thought it would be a good idea to take the Green Hornet for a spin around and through the meadows.  Ron who was about ten at the time, my brother Dell about eight, and myself climbed into the cab and set out on an excursion.  All was going real well and we were having a nice sight-seeing tour when Ron, who had to stand up to see out the front windshield, shifted gears from first to second.  While in the process of that, he somehow broke the shifting lever completely off.  We made it back to the farmyard and shut it off as closely as possible to its original parking place.  Ron stuck the shifting lever back in the hole in the floor so it appeared normal again and we left it.
The next morning my father had to drive the Green Hornet to work.  He got in, started it, and lo and behold, when he went to shift it, the lever fell right out of the transmission.  With no way to shift it out of first gear which it seemed somehow to be in even though he thought he left it in neutral, he had to shut the engine back off.  He took the day off from work, tore the transmission apart, repaired it in some manner, and drove it for several more months after that.  As far as I know he never found out that we had went for a ride on that beautiful Sunday afternoon, or at least if he did he never said so.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

VF-174 Hell Razors

Fighter Squadron 174 came into existence February 15, 1950, but not just a newcomer on the scene.  It had an illustrious background.  On April 1, 1944, at the height of WW II Bombing Squadron 82 was established.  It was re-designated Attack Squadron 17 A November 15, 1946.  On August 11, 1948 it transformed into Attack Squadron 174.  This was disestablished January 25, 1950.
In the meantime on March 1, 1944 Bombing Squadron 81 was established.  This was re-designated Attack Squadron 13 A on November 15, 1946.  On August 2, 1948 it was once again re-designated, this time to Attack Squadron134.  This same squadron became Fighter Squadron 174 February 15, 1950, and remained such until July 1, 1966.  It was during this period, on April 7, 1960, that I joined the Hell Razors as an Aviation Structural Mechanic First Class Petty Officer (AMS 1).  I remained attached to it through May 29, 1963.

The Hell Razors Squadron Patch had its own bit of history.  It was designed by none other than Walt Disney (yes, the Walt Disney), and adopted for the squadron by the Chief of Naval Operations on May 23, 1944.  Flying from a yellow background, possibly depicting a full moon, comes a cartoonish bat that is different, but mean as hell.  The body is of dark colors, with dangling legs ending in duck looking feet dropping bombs.  The head is a jagged edged straight razor forming the upper and lower sections of the beak.  From within the maw juts a machine gun belching flame.  Atop this creature’s dome are a set of Devil horns.  This depiction is scanned from a squadron coffee cup yet in my possession.
On July 1, 1966 the Hell Razors once again had their designation changed, this time to Attack Squadron 174, and remained so until June 30, 1988 when it was disestablished.  Since that time the squadron number and name remains dormant, but it may yet arise to its former glory like a Phoenix from the ashes should a need for it appear.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Motorcycle Speeding

I bought a brand new 1981 Suzuki GS450T (traditional) motorcycle.  I was in my forties and had been riding bikes off and on since I was less than twenty, but this was the first new one I could call my own and I was proud of it.  It was midnight black with a bit of medium blue trim, and I thought it was a good looker if ever I saw one.
All bikers will tell you, if they’ve a mind to be truthful, that soon after acquiring a different bike they have to know “what’ll it do?”, and there’s only one way to find out.  So it was that one fine evening I was in a neighboring township where I knew there to be a fairly straight not too busy sort of a country road.  I rode one direction on it uneventfully, found no traffic, and turned for a run in the opposite direction.  I had about a mile of straight deserted road for my use.
I cranked it up through the five gears as rapidly as I knew how and held that throttle wide open.  I watched the MPH jump from nothing to 85 quick enough to make my head spin, but that was all she had.  I thought I might have seen 86-87 once, but the needle was vibrating so it was questionable.  Damn it where did those blinking red lights behind me come from?
I passed an old pickup as I was slowing down, then I pulled over to the side of the road to wait for the inevitable.  The beat up old truck went by me and the driver smiled as he waved.  The young trooper and I had no conversation as he wrote me a citation for 75 MPH.  What was there to discuss?
A couple of weeks later I found myself standing in front of a Justice of the Peace in the adjoining township.  He asked how I plead, and I told him I guessed I was guilty.
He continued on, “Did you get this ticket on the O’burg Road?”
I said, “Yes, I did.”
He said, “About 7 p.m.?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “I didn’t recognize you without a helmet on.”
I said, “You drive an old Chevy pickup, don’t you?”
He said, “Yes, I do.”
It was obvious I was in trouble with this one.  You can’t hardly tell the judge you weren’t going that fast when you had passed him.
The old JP asked me to wait over at one side for a few minutes if I would, and went on to the only remaining case left in the room.  When he had finished with that fellow he removed his black robe and hung it on a tree in the corner.
“You know,” he spoke, “I used to ride a Harley myself, and I always had to know what my current bike would do.  What’d you get out of that pretty little thing you were riding?”
I said, “I could only get about 85, or maybe 86 or 7 out of it.  That’s it.  There wasn’t any more in it.”
He spoke softly, “You were doing more than that when you went by me, but I’ll take your word for it.  You do know that this state has all motorcycle speedometers pegged so they won’t read more than 85 don’t you?”
I said, “No, I did not know that.”
He said, “Look at your speedometer and I think you’ll find a peg in it that won’t allow the speedometer to go past 85 MPH.”
He went on to tell me he thought I ought to plead the charge down to a vehicle infraction as I wouldn’t get any points against my license for that.  I agreed and paid a small fine for a bad tire, and the old JP kindly said as I left, “Please don’t come back to my court for speeding again for a while.”
After I assured him he wouldn’t see me again for a while as this was uncharacteristic of me, he told me he hoped I wouldn’t try it, but he estimated the bike was in excess of 100 when I blew by him.  I never found out because he was correct.  It was my imagination it had registered more than the 85 MPH it was actually pegged at, that I had not previously noticed.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My First Car

It was in the summer of 1957, and I had recently turned 19 years old.  One part of the universal Great American Dream, at least for young men, was to own an automobile.  With this coveted purchase one could be free to roam our great country with absolute ease.  It could be used as a tool for meeting those of the opposite sex in the same age group.  It was a status symbol announcing you had arrived among those of suitable income to afford this luxury.
With the above in mind I found a 1948 Chevy sedan that I thought would suit my purpose as a traveling sex trap that I could be proud of.  It was owned by an older gentleman somewhere out on Gulf Beach Highway west of the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.  My belief was that anyone of an older age was more likely to be more honest than those who were younger.  Although that may not always be true it has seemed to hold up throughout my life actually.
I didn’t really believe that the dirty grey color was exactly what I wanted, but it seemed that a coat of paint could rectify that in the future so I made the huge $200 purchase on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon.  The previous owner assured me I would have no problems with the ownership of this fine automobile.  After all it was a mere nine years old and as sound as a dollar.  How unsound a dollar can sometimes be I just didn’t know.
After two or three weeks of ownership I was well satisfied with my purchase, and although I had met no females with the use of this irresistible piece of machinery, it seemed to be only a matter of time until it had to happen.  After all I had the greatest thing ever devised for the purpose.
Other than that lack things went along well.  I enjoyed my experiment as an automobile owner.  I found it was great to be able to jump in my car and make a quick run to the local White Castle, or a little further away was that place where the waitresses wore roller skates as they took and delivered your order.  It was here that I found myself on a beautiful Sunday afternoon about the third week I owned my car.  I was just finishing my hamburger and fries when I spotted Dave Smith passing by on his way back from the beach.  I hurried to back out of my parking place to catch him to chat for a while.  Maybe I’d go out to the beach if anything was going on there.
In my haste I backed up rather blindly as the small high rear window made it difficult to see in that direction.  Yes, I backed right into Steve Vigh’s nearly new 1955 Ford pink and white convertible that was passing directly behind me.  I wrecked his left front fender, but did no discernible damage to my older Chevy.  I had no insurance yet, so I felt obligated to pay for the damage to Steve’s car.  In order to raise the money to pay his repair bill I sold my Chevy back to the gentleman I bought it from.  He was an honest man after all.  I told him I would buy it again as soon as I could raise the money, but soon thereafter I received orders to a duty station in Rhode Island before I ever rounded up money enough to do so.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Another Day At The Beaver Pond

Spring has arrived at the beaver pond.  A while ago the snow melt increased the water level to the point the beavers opened an outlet to lower it back down.  They allowed a goodly stream to flow for three days before deciding it was to a point that they desired.  The water level had dropped about 14” in the meantime.  Bucky came out to say hello a couple of times so far.
About the same time I spied a couple of slow-moving common frogs that had obviously just arose from a winter of hibernation.  On one occasion I also spotted a garter snake swimming across the pond apparently in search of a meal hopefully supplied by an unwary frog.  If you didn’t know a snake could swim, let me assure you they are very adept at it.  When I was a teenager I threw one in a pond believing I was destroying it, only, to my consternation, to watch it swim gracefully away.  As the weather gets progressively warmer the bullfrogs are beginning to sing in hopes of finding a mating opportunity.
As I have approached the pond on some of my excursions I have spotted as many as three pairs of ducks apparently daydreaming of beginning families soon.  Upon sighting me they will lower their heads close to the water to lower their silhouettes as they slowly paddle off into some brush patches in the shallow waters.  It also appears there is a possibility of a pair of geese nesting for the season.  I’ve seen a pair several times.  Each time they fly a short distance to where they are out of my sight before re-landing, but the next time I return they are still there.
A small group of five deer hang out in the area too.  I believe it is a doe, her pair of two-year-old fawns, and a pair of yearlings.  Soon they will separate as the pregnant does find a secluded area for the birth of a newer set of twins.
A flock of turkeys is in the area too.  I’ve spotted them several times, but mostly at a distance.  They have extremely good eyesight, and it is difficult to approach anywhere near them.  The whitetail deer is a wary animal, but nowhere near as fearful as a turkey.  With a flock of 16 birds ever-watching it is unlikely anyone will get any closer than they care to let them.  You just don’t sneak up on a flock of turkeys in open terrain.  Any photography comes with the aid of a telephoto lens.

Crows announce my arrival in the area as they raucously caw their displeasure at my interrupting their feeding on left behind stray kernels of corn from last fall’s harvest of cattle fodder.  From time to time I spot a lazy vulture wheeling through the skies smelling its way to cleaning up the results of an animal expiration.  As they drop lower, indicating an increasing odor, others will join the aerial display of flight with hardly a wing movement.  Ungainly on the ground, they are breathtaking in their ability to make use of air currents to remain aloft in graceful flight with hardly any expended energy.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Ghost Dance

It was New Year’s Day, and the year happened to be 1889.  To usher in the year properly there was a total solar eclipse across a part of the western United States as the moon crossed the line of sight between the earth and the sun.
Wovoka, a man of the Paiute Tribe in the Carson City, Nevada area, believed he had seen a vision during the eclipse.  In the future he envisioned all former dead Paiute warriors were rising from the ground to take up arms and return the Paiutes to their former glory days.  For this to happen all Paiutes had to live exemplary lives, and all had to learn a new dance.  He had envisioned the dance during the eclipse, and it was his mission to teach it to all other Paiutes, as well as any who might want to learn it from any other tribe.
As Wovoka’s vision portrayed it, all Ghost Dancers would wear shirts with magic symbols.  By leading good lives, dancing, and wearing the magic shirts all Indians would live as all white men would perish.  At the same time as the passing of the white men huge herds of game animals would arrive, and it would be for them as it was before the coming of the white men.
Word of the Ghost Dance spread among all tribes and representatives came from hundreds of miles away to learn the new dance.  Two of these were Kicking Bear and Short Bull of the Minneconjou branch of the Sioux Tribe.  After listening to the teachings of Wovoka they met with Sitting Bull of the Lakota Sioux who had them teach his band the new dance.
United States Army personnel were becoming fearful of thousands of Indians dancing through the nights while they beat drums.  It was decided to arrest Sitting Bull.  Sitting Bull was killed in the attempt.  Many of the leaderless Lakotas joined up with other Sioux bands including the Minneconjous led by Big Foot.  In December 1890 the Minneconjous were camped along a creek named Wounded Knee.  There were 120 men as well as 230 women and children in the encampment.  Some of these men had fought at the Battle of the Little Big Horn 14 years previously where Custer’s men were annihilated.
There the United States Army confronted Big Foot to place him under arrest.  A one-sided battle broke out in which about 300 Indians were killed, men, women, and children.  The promise of the safety brought about by the Ghost Dance had proven to be a false prophesy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bullie's Tombstone

Charles Bourne Lawton was born in 1771.  Upon the death of his elder brother William in 1831 he became head of the Lawton Estate in Church Lawton, Cheshire, England, and thus was known as Squire Lawton.  About 1800 Charles wed Anne Featherstonehaugh who died in 1814.  Charles had become quite infatuated with a young lady named Mariana Belcombe that he married in 1816 while Anne was yet alive.  Mariana was born in 1790, so was some 19 years younger than her husband.
Previous to, and after, her marriage, Mariana engaged in a lesbian affair with another female named Lady Anne Lister.  Her husband ultimately became aware of this relationship, and as a result they led a strained life.  Squire Lawton would sometimes take extended trips to France and other destinations leaving Mariana alone in the huge mansion of the Lawton estate, other than for servants and other employees.
In her solitude Mariana spent countless hours training a bullfinch to sing “God Save the Queen” on request.  Upon the ultimate death of the learned bird Mariana had it buried in front of the Lawton home, and on its grave was placed a tombstone, said to be the only stone in the town at the time.  Mariana wrote a quite lengthy poem in honor of her bird which was copied to the stone.
The tombstone remained in front of the home for longer than a century.  The Lawton family moved from the home in the first half of the 1900s, and after that the ancestral home began to deteriorate.  By the 1990s the home was in sad shape having had several fires with no repairs.  Frank Byatt wanted to preserve the ancient stone so he removed it to his garage for safekeeping.  After the fairly recent renovation of the Lawton Manor the stone was replaced with proper festivities on December 14, 2007.