Saturday, February 23, 2008

Two Years in Navy – Part Two

My first duty after completing basic training was to be in charge of cleaning the toilets at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. Growing up there was not much maintenance on our toilet, the outhouse. It basically consisted of getting a small branch of a tree which would be used to help me get rid of spiders and the webs they built in the building. When Mother said it was time, Mark and I would dig a new hole using the dirt to fill in the other hole then we would slide the outhouse over to its new location. Inside toilets were relatively new to me; by this time I was use to doing anything that I was told and did not think this was such a bad job. I worked hard and did my best all week. On Friday the commander came to inspect the buildings and grounds. This was my first inspection and it about scared me to death when he came to the main toilet to inspect; I thought it may not be up to his standards and was not in it cleanest and most orderly condition. He came in and looked at everything two or three times. I just knew that I was in big trouble and he had found some things I had not done correctly. He turned to the Leading Chief to find out who was in charge of this place. The Chief identified me and said that I was assigned and fulfilled this task. The Commander looked at me and asked if I had cleaned toilets before this duty post. I told him we never had an inside toilet at home and that I had not seen many before getting in the Navy. I was relieved when he said that the toilet had never been this clean since he had been the Commander. He told the Chief to assign me to a better duty post. Later that same afternoon, I became Leading Chief's Yeoman which was the leading seaman for the whole field.

I was just a few weeks off the farm and I did not know anything about what I was about to do. Chief Flurey was a great guy and told me just keep my eyes open and not to let anyone catch on that I was new to all of this because I would learn quickly and be up to full speed in a couple of days. I did and it was not long before I was the most liked Sailor on the base. I found that through Chief Fluery I was in charge of the watch list and also had to approve all leave and liberty passes. By having this assignment, I did not have to stand any watches which made me a very important person. I witnessed once again how God takes care of his children when they don't know what they are doing. It did not take long for me to learn my way around this station. There were one thousand Sailors, two hundred Marines on guard duty, and five thousand civilians, which ran the commissary. There was an elementary and high school on the base. I was permitted to complete my high schooling in just six months and was able to graduate with my class at Cool Spring High School. Listen to me tell this story.

As time passed I discovered that I had several buddies that lived in the southern part of California which made it possible for me to make quite a few trips around the area. The guys enjoyed showing us the sites. Once we went on a three-day venture into the Mojave Dessert and through Death Valley. We visited several sites within fifty miles of Inyokern and China Lake. These included: Red Rock Canyon, Schoshone, Baker, Barstow, Four Corners, Red Mountain, Ridgecrest and China Lakes. We traveled in a Ford Coupe sleeping at night and driving all day. We ate what we brought with us and anything else we could get along the way! As we were walking around during our travels we would pick up soda pop bottles and throw them in a box in the trunk of the car. They were made of glass and used over and over by the drink companies. After collecting several, we would take them to a grocery store and were paid three cents for every bottle we turned in.

One weekend we made a trip to Lone Pine, CA, a small town about forty miles north of our base. All the nightclubs played country music. One night we had a chance meeting with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, they were in the town making a movie and insisted on us having dinner with them; they made it possible for us to watch them making the movie the next day. I believe he was filming the western, "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Listen to me tell this story.

The Watering Place was about five miles from the base toward Inyokern, CA. Most of the guys went there to drink beers and dance with the local girls. I would drink a Coke while watching the others dance and sometimes I would talk to the girls. One night I left base and started thumbing for a ride. Along came my friend Brian on his motorcycle, he pulled over, off the road in front of me and told me to hop on. I got on and after we got started down the road, I found out that he had already been drinking. As we approached The Watering Hole, he decided to show off. He revved up the motor and reached the speed of ninety miles per hour; you can imagine how fast my heart was beating! Directly in front of the place, the motorcycle went out of control and jumped a six foot fence; both of us went about fifty feet across the dessert. Once again, God was watching out for me again, both of us only got a few scratches. That was the last time I road with someone on a motorcycle. That night, I had a beer and it ended up another fun day in the dessert. Listen to me tell this story.

1 comment:

Betsy Mauney said...

Hi Pawpaw!
Great post, as always! Steven, Isaac and I read it together as a family.
We think it is so cool that you were promoted from cleaning toilets to being the lead seaman on the base. That is definitely an example of how being faithful in the little things leads to opportunities to be faithful in bigger things.
Wow - you met Bogart and Bacall! That's so neat!!!
We love you!
Betsy