We Were Still Boys Back Then

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Neubarth, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. Neubarth
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    Neubarth At the Ballpark July 30th

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    We Were Still Boys Back Then




    In June of 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War, I graduated from a small town high school in sunny southern California. Our community was strongly conservative. My classmates and I grew up in the Fifties and Sixties. We were not as liberated or affluent as subsequent generations. That probably was because we were raised by parents who experienced The Great Depression. Many of our parents were happy to have a steady job and exhibited more loyalty to their employers than is customary now. Patriotism was still strong in the land and we supported our country in our foreign obligations; yet, change was beginning to alter the standard and traditional values of America. In the coming years the most consistent thing was the wave of continuing change that swept the nation.

    My values were as conservative as the region that I grew up in. I supported my country and knew that we were right in what we were doing in Vietnam. That was not from any intellectual insight. I just blindly accepted that our country was always right in our goals and actions.

    I decided in high school to join the Navy and contribute to the war effort. Having just graduated without a real job, I had little money. Subsequently, my future expectations were simple. I had only two goals for the next few years of my life:

    1. I was going to use the Navy to go out and see and feel the world. I was going to experience monsoon rains, eat different foods, live in different cultures, sleep in bamboo huts, listen to different music and learn world history by actually going to the great historical sites of the world.

    2. I was going to have some adventures. Beyond that conviction, I could not even begin to guess what the adventures were to be, but I knew I was going to have them.

    I was a kid of German ancestry and culture and this desire to travel and seek adventure was an expression of the German need for “Wanderlust.” Nobody can really explain it, but it is a cultural value that has been present in the Germanic countries for hundreds of years.

    The day I graduated I attended an all night graduation party at Disneyland. A few hours after the sun came up and with almost no sleep in the preceding twenty four hours; I set out on the road to find summer work in Chicago, that toddling town where I lived from age five to age ten. I wanted to see old friends, relatives and visit all the places that would bring memories back to me.

    After spending the summer working in Chicago I entered Navy boot camp back in San Diego on September 11th 1967, as many of my long time friends were starting college and becoming antiwar activists as they became more politically aware.

    My intentions were to see the world, have that “adventure” and then return to civilian life, go through college and commit matrimony. Eventually, I could see myself doing the family thing and working a nine to five job, but first I had to go out and see the world. I was convinced that world travel was the key to a good education.

    While most guys do not have fond memories of their boot camp military experiences, I really liked Navy boot camp. Perhaps, that was because I was a Recruit Chief Petty Officer. That roughly translates into the fact that I was a recruit who had special privileges and benefits.

    While in boot camp, I agreed to extend my enlistment from four years to six years so I could go through Nuclear Power School as well as a host of other schools. If you were willing, the Navy would educate you. You just had to agree to serve additional time to compensate the Navy for all the schools they sent you to. For a young man just starting out in life, it is time well invested because it adds tremendously to the maturation process.

    After Navy boot camp, I went through a host of schools, starting with Basic Electricity and Electronics (BEEP School, or so we called it). Motion Picture Operator School, and Electrician Mate A (EM-A School), where I learned how to be a Naval Electrician. There was lots of stuff to learn. We learned how to build and repair motors and generators, how to troubleshoot and repair controller boxes for large motors, how to repair battle damage without getting ourselves electrocuted, and how to change light bulbs and replace fuses.

    It was fun, but not necessarily an adventure. There is a strong benefit to learning any skill and that is the better sense of self worth and ability that the individual acquires. The Navy is restocked annually with new recruits who are young and essentially lost in the world. They eventually find that they have value and can be strong contributors to society after they have learned a few job skills.

    There is something that needs to be said about going to school in the military. They teach you how to study. For me that was an extremely important thing. I had lived by myself during my four years of high school and never developed any decent study skills. I simply did not know how to make myself study. Though somewhat intelligent, I was, at best, an average student.

    In the Navy, way back then, you HAD to learn the material. If you did not show a high proficiency in the material studied, you were sent (ordered) to mandatory evening study in the classroom where an instructor would monitor you and ensure that you were actually spending your time purposefully. They would ask you questions about the material you had studied and would answer any questions that you had. To avoid mandatory study, I went back to the classrooms on my own to take advantage of the atmosphere and the assistance of the duty instructor. My key learning from attending Navy schools was that you have to have the proper atmosphere for learning. Set that up and the learning comes easy.

    While in that school and with four other young men who were going on to Nuclear Power School with me, our class was asked to fill out our “Dream Sheets.” These were requests for your next duty station after you graduated from school. You could ask for a specific location and an individual ship or station preference. Well, I and the four other Nukes (As we were called) in that class knew that we were going to Mare Island, Vallejo, California to attend six months of Nuke School. After that we were slated to go on to six months of prototype school way out in the sticks of Idaho far from civilization, where we would actually qualify on and learn how to operate several nuclear power plants.

    Well, I looked at the other four and realized that Nuke Power School for a whole year right after half a year of Navy schools and boot camp was not going to be my adventure. Gosh, I had just finished high school. All I had experienced in life was school, school and more school.

    I wrote on the dream sheet, “Send me to Vietnam.” The other guys thought it was funny, and they did the same thing. They were all certain that their education would not be interrupted for a war.

    Well, when graduation day came, we five were delayed for a while and when we were handed our orders, we were not going to Nuke School. We had orders to the USS Paricutin, AE-18, a World War Two style ammunition ship. We all had specific orders to fly from Travis Air Force Base in California to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines where we would be bused to Subic Bay Naval Base where our ship would pick us up. We were going to see some of the “old Navy.”

    Because we were being ordered to the War Zone, we were given the opportunity to take a full thirty days of advance leave. Since it was a War Zone, there was always the possibility that we would not come back alive, so the Navy made certain that the young people who were sent there could attend to personal business before leaving. I had some of that business to attend to, so I took the full month of leave. The other guys took less time and flew to Southeast Asia before me.

    As a boy from the age of ten to eleven, (1958 – 1959) I had lived down in central coastal Mexico on a coconut plantation ten miles north of the port of Manzanillo in the tropical state of Colima. I took advantage of the leave opportunity and headed down to see the little primitive village that stood near our plantation. When I left, I had a crush on a girl by the name of Maria Guadalupe, or just “Lupe” for short. Unlike most of the dark brown kids of the village who were mainly of Indian ancestry, she had light olive skin, hazel eyes and light brown hair and was very pretty in my eyes. Her mother was an actress in the principal Mexican city of Guadalajara and could not raise her daughter alone so had sent Lupe to live with her sister, the wife of a cantina (tavern) owner in the village. The cantina served the village and the hundreds of ranches to the east where there were lots of vaqueros (cowboys) who wanted to come into town and drink a little and spend their money on the ladies who sold their charms in the cantina. This was much like the old American West, as the cowboys often rode their horses into the village every Friday or Saturday.

    Well, I found Lupe. It had been nine years since I had last seen her. She was the mother of five children. Three of them had been born to a somewhat incestuous relationship with her Aunt’s husband who got her pregnant for the first time when she was only thirteen. She had two more children by him when she was fifteen and sixteen. She then moved in with a successful store owner and had two children with him, but was now with her third husband.

    Well, if I had any dreams of a future with her when I headed down to Mexico, they were shattered. I visited with other old friends. These were former playmates that I used to ride horses with and help them with their work in their communal fields. When I look back at that time in my life, it was a fantastic education. Time was running out on my thirty days, and I returned in steps, moving to Guadalajara and then Mazatlan where I read the headlines on the local newspapers that said Bobby Kennedy had been shot. I was heading north. About the time I reached the port city of Guymas, the newspapers read that Bobby had died. Mexicans by the dozen extended their sympathy to me and to my country over our great loss. It was obvious to me that many of them followed the Amerian political scene and had seen Bobby as a shining light for the future of America.

    I continued on my journey of learning and headed back to California, Travis Air Force Base and a long flight across the Pacific.

    I was eager and was very glad to arrive at Subic Bay and my first ship assignment, only to be greeted by those four guys I knew in school who could only say one thing, “You and your damned great ideas! Joe! We’ve been screwed.” They were not enthralled with their situation. Hey, they did not have to fill out their dream sheets requesting to go to Vietnam That was my desire and I got my request. I didn’t really expect to get it, but I did, and was happy.

    To me, it was an adventure. I would be able to participate in the war. We believed that we were going to save the southern part of Vietna.....

    _________________
    OOPS, TOO LONG! CLINK ON THE LINK TO READ THE REST.

    We Were Still Boys Back Then
     
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  2. Mr. H.
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    Mr. H. Diamond Member

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    I admit I skimmed a lot of the story, but there's some good stuff here.

    My favorite: There is a strong benefit to learning any skill and that is the better sense of self worth and ability that the individual acquires.

    Nice job. :thup:
     
  3. waltky
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    waltky Wise ol' monkey Supporting Member

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    Ah yes, I remember the good ol' days...

    ... when we'd drive down the road...

    ... an' Uncle Ferd would get drunk an' moon people...

    ... whist he was drivin'...

    ... on the way to the fishin' creek...

    ... those were the days, my friend...

    ... we thought dey'd never end.
    :redface:
    5 Old-School Things Kids Made Hip Again
    01/20/12 - "I just don't get these kids and their ..."
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2012
  4. uscitizen
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    uscitizen Senior Member

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    Young whipper snappers!

    :D
     
  5. Mad Scientist
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    Mad Scientist Deplorable Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Great story Neubarth. Nothing better than a few days R&R in the Philippines!
     

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