Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I was in the military -- U.S. Navy -- from 1962 to 1968. It was a great experience. Yes, there was an element of patriotism in my joining, but it was also because I was seeking adventure. And I had a lot of adventures, some of them sillier than others. Sometimes I think I should write a book. Like about the times when I’d become temporarily “engaged” to a sailor so I could go on a Dependents’ Day Cruise on one of the four aircraft carriers home ported at Alameda Naval Air Station, where I was stationed. I just love aircraft carriers! They are so immense it’s hard to believe they are floating on the water. The flight decks are complex, dangerous, noisy places. The sailors wear different colored shirts so you can tell at a glance what their job is: red shirts are weapons and fuel, yellow shirts launch the planes, green shirts bring them back aboard safely, brown shirts are each responsible for a particular plane, making sure it’s where it’s supposed to be and properly prepared for flight. I still have the bosun’s whistle I got from a bosun’s mate aboard the USS Ranger, but somewhere down the years I lost the yellow sweat shirt that had Air Boss printed on it.

I also spent two years in London, working just off Grosvenor Square for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe. At that time he was Admiral John S. McCain, Sr. (Yes, that’s the Senator’s father.) This was back in the days of pounds, shillings and pence; it took me a long time to figure out the money (“florin,” anyone?) but I have never forgotten that there are twelve pence in a shilling, and twenty shillings in a pound. I have a pair of earrings made from two farthings (a quarter of a penny) minted the year I was born. I remember there were often a lot of anti-war demonstrators in front of the U.S. Embassy, located on the square. The public feeling seemed to be sympathetic toward them -- until some of them got the less-than-brilliant idea of bringing pockets full of big ball bearings to roll under the hooves of the horses the police were using for crowd control. One horse slipped, fell, and was injured. The English are hugely fond of animals, and there was a decided chill in the attitude toward the demonstrators for a long time after. I used to go horseback riding in Epping Forest and was so often assigned this one mare that we became friends. In the middle of the wilderness of the forest was a tea kiosk where we’d stop for refreshments. I was fond of Kit-Kat Bars back then and one day gave my mare a piece of one. She liked it so much that thereafter if I bought one she wouldn’t let me climb back on her -- and she was a very tall horse, so she could enforce her new rule easily by sidling in a circle while I hopped on one foot, the other caught in a stirrup -- until I gave her a piece.

I came home from London a civilian, with some furniture and a cat named Lady Felicity. But that’s another story.


Rebecca said...

What a word picture! I remember visiting the USS COnstellation in Pensacola as a child--probably about 1960. My father flew off the BonHomme Richard in the South Pacific during WWII, at some point under hte command of Senator MCain's grandfather.

and for your future adventure plans, the quilt festivalin Rosemont is in the middle of April, so don't come here in February to freeze.
Becky Preston

Mason Canyon said...

Such an interesting post. My all the things you done and been a part of. I love the part about the horse and the Kit-Kat, so cute. Looking forward to hearing about the cat next.

Betty Hechtman said...

What an interesting post! The whole idea of aircraft carriers is fascinating - a ship so big it can take off and land planes.

The closes I've come to actually seeing one is an attraction at Disneyland called Soaring Over California where you are dangled over an Imax screen so you have he illusion of flying over different places. One section takes you over an aircraft carrier in San Diego harbor as a plane is tacking off.

signlady217 said...

Thank you for serving our country in this way. I appreciate your willingness to possibly give your life to protect our freedoms.

My husband also served in the US Navy, 1982-1988. After boot camp, he served eight months on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga CV60. We had a friend that was stationed on the same carrier at one point and we were once able to go with him on a Dependents' Day cruise as his guests. That was very cool. "Super Sara" has since then been decomissioned and scrapped. My husband has some neat stories, too, of his Med cruise and the different ports of call.

My dad was in the army for a short time, and my mom's father and oldest brother both were army during WWII. And we have a number of other friends who are vets, also. That's one of the highest honors a person could have, in my opinion. Thanks again.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Yes, Monica, you should write a book and make use of those priceless memories!