Board Six Tales CommunityOpEd.com Chapter 9 On the Road When I arrived at Board Six (Friday, May 11), it was apparent that Pete Schultz was the resident tour guide. One of the first weekends I was there, he arranged for free dancing lessons at an Arthur Murray Studio. I learned how to Lindy, a basic dance step of mine ever since. I can do the Lindy to virtually anything. While Schultz arranged two memorable trips, Humphrey arranged the Silver Springs trip. I did not do much arranging because I had no car. I was always willing to contribute gas. Silver Springs, Florida Friday, July 27 Tonight Humphrey and I go to Silver Springs, Florida on three-day passes. DA says the only time we can go is 4:00 Friday afternoon or at 7:00 Saturday morning. We take 7:00, hoping to take off early Friday night. Klugh let us go early. We got to Silver Springs at 2:00 Saturday morning - slept in the car „til daybreak. Saturday Silver Springs was a disappointment. Just a boat trip worth 50¢ but costing $2.40. That was all they had to offer. The rest consists of exhibits which cost about a dollar. We couldn‟t see doing any of that. Since we had a room, we couldn‟t leave. We went swimming at the municipal pool - crowded with kids. Nothing to do but sit on the bank. For lunch, one of the few bargains: a place advertised, “All the orange juice you can drink for a dime.” I had 5 glasses and a hot dog. Humphrey had 6 and a hot dog. Dinner was co-op of sandwiches and milk. At night, a beer lounge bartender stroked our egos by asking for IDs – both of us look younger than our age. I gave him my birth certificate. He was surprised how old we actually were. Two beers in the bar accompanied by a TV show closed out the day. Sunday For vacation we were early risers. Our early start and revised itinerary were prompted by Silver Springs‟ boredom. Daytona Beach and St Augustine entered our plans. Arriving in Daytona at 10:00, we drove up and down to see what it was like, before settling down to one spot. First, the sand seems to pack up much like the Utah Salt Flats except it has loose spots where it is as easy to get stuck as on any beach. I imagine they make the speed runs on a place which was covered at high tide and dries to a hard smooth surface at low tide. We spent 4 hours getting headway on a sunburn. The sunburn was not enough to bother us, just about right. Left Daytona at 2:00, reaching Marineland at 3:00 - just in time for feeding. Luckily, as servicemen, we get children‟s admission of $1.00. Although, it was high priced at that. We saw them feed from the top and below. From the top, the porpoises leap for the fish. It is nice but everybody has seen it many times in the movies or TV. From the portholes below we saw them feed the sharks, saw-fish, turtles, porpoises, manta ray, barracuda, etc. This was all of secondary interest. The best part was watching the porpoises perform their tricks. One leaped sixteen and half feet in the air. He also shot a basketball through a basket with his nose. Both regulation. They are smart. Chapter 9 One the Road CommunityOpEd.com 2 The last place would be St. Augustine. It was badly commercialized. To see the fort - 25¢. To see a publically owned museum - $1.00. Everywhere you go they need some money in order to see an exhibit of some kind. We made it within 40 miles of the Okefenokee swamps before night. A sack of oranges and some groceries made dinner. For the $6.00, we figured the motel would be alright without looking before we paid - wrong. No fan. No glasses. No electrical outlet in the bathroom. Not much of anything. They must not be concerned about repeat business. Monday The $1.25 admission at Okefenokee was closer to being worth it than anything else on the trip: Exhibits of birds and animals found in the swamp. A short boat ride and a walk into the swamp were uneventful, but gave a vague impression of what the place was like. Not as full of water as I imagined. Instead, rather marshy ground - impenetrable on foot. The longer tour might have been more interesting, but the extra $2.50 did not agree with us. Leaving at 11:00 got us to Fort Rucker at 4:00. Home sweet home. Hell on earth. New Orleans The New Orleans trip was Schultz‟s finest hour. Could not have been better. Thursday, November 9 Temperature expected to reach 30 degrees at 5:00 tomorrow morning. But, Schultz planned a trip to New Orleans – not just a decision to go, but all the details planned out. We (two car loads I believe) left that night (yes, a few hours early) on our three-day passes and made Mobile on the way to New Orleans, staying at the Seaman‟s Hotel for $1.86 a night - a real nice room considering the price - the only inconvenience being a community shower on each floor. Other than that it was ideal. We had a drink at the hotel before going to bed - only one at $1.00 a drink. Schultz, you did good. Friday Left Mobile after breakfast at about 9:00, getting the center of New Orleans by 1:30. Parked the car and, while looking for a place to stay, we met Ollie, Jerry and Connely. After shooting the bull for a while, we decided to stay at the Hotel New Orleans which Lt. Pettit recommended to Rachner. After unpacking and changing clothes we headed for the French Quarter and wandered down Bourbon St. to Pat O‟Brien‟s where we had one of the house specials, a Hurricane. I was able to float a little on that one. We had great Lasagna at an Italian restaurant. Then a few more drinks at the Old Absynthe Bar. We decided on one of the floor shows that are featured in the various bars. Nothing more than strip shows. The admission is free but the drink cost spirals upwards from $1.50. Rachner, Peterson and Connely got stuck for $1.50 at one of the cheaper places. Schultz and I decided that if we were going to get stung we might as well get stung by a good show. We saw Lilly Christine, the Cat Girl. The first drink cost $2.55 and after that $1.55. Schultz and I bought the first one along with Steger and Connely. But Steger and Connely left after the first show. They didn‟t get their money‟s worth - missing part of the show. Schultz and I stayed, sweating out the waiters while they tried to evict us - telling us we would have to buy a second drink to stay and see the show again. Just told them we were not Chapter 9 One the Road CommunityOpEd.com 3 staying that long. Finally, the show started and they left us alone. It was worth sweating out the waiters to see the part we missed. Then to Pat O‟Brien‟s again where the place was packed with people from Tulane‟s homecoming with Alabama that afternoon. Being a college hangout, it was packed – like you could not fight your way to the bar. We left and wandered around until hunger set in. A bowl of soup at Brennan‟s Restaurant sounded good - an expensive place but the soup was good. Actually great: French Onion and well worth 50¢. That killed the day. It was 2:00 in the morning before we got to bed. Saturday Up at 11:00 for lunch and then wandered around until 3:00 when, in accordance with Schultz‟s plan, we went to the Parisian room to listen to Tony Almarico play Dixieland until 6:00. He made one live radio broadcast and two transcribed ones. They put on a real good show. It was very informal. The best dressed one had a shirt and tie, but most of them were in regular sports shirts. No similarity of dress, rather haphazard - could be adequately described as a motley crew. The hall they played in was run down. Plaster coming from the ceilings, bare wood floors and bare windows. Some 12 year old kids came to play, doing a surprising job. One fifteen year old played as well as any of the old ones. In fact he was accepted as one of the band. After that Schultz and I had spaghetti dinner before taking in a three and a half hour movie: Giant. Sunday Up at 9:00 to spend our last day in New Orleans. After coffee and doughnuts (and they are quite good) at the Original French Restaurant, we wandered through a wine shop and bought wine. Then into another French shop where Schultz bought scarves. Schultz and I also bought shoes. Left at 1:00, getting back to Rucker at 10:30. Schultz‟s car didn‟t run right on the way back. Backfiring and missing on hills. We were worried because it kept getting worse - but lugged its way back into camp. On the Road Again This trip deserves mention as a tribute to Humphrey‟s endurance as well as his careful car maintenance. He kept that car in tip-top shape. The two of us got a Christmas furlough – probably 14 days. We leave Fort Rucker. The car stops only for gas and maybe munchies. One drives and the other sleeps in the back seat. Humphrey drops me off at my home in Salt Lake and he heads for San Francisco. I doubt that he stopped for anything other than gas and munchies. There were not a lot of freeways in those days so it probably took him around 14 hours to make San Francisco. On the way back, he drives straight through to Salt Lake and picks me up around 9:00 at night and there is a light snow falling. I hop into the driver‟s seat and he crawls into the back seat and goes to sleep – men of few words. Same routine: stop only for gas and munchies. I think we got back to Fort Rucker just as the next night was falling. From the light snow falling in Salt Lake, we transitioned to heat and humidity. Chapter 9 One the Road CommunityOpEd.com 4 Cuba on a Three Day Pass? For this one as well as the Christmas furlough, I have to rely on my memory because I stopped the diary in December before the furlough. The Cuba trip happened after the transfer to Fort Benning. I am pretty sure there were only three of us: At least Schultz, Humphrey and me another Schultz arranged tour. There is another minor detail. We were taking an extraordinarily long three day pass (actually three and a half days, maybe more) and there is small print we could claim not to have known about. We were not supposed to leave the country. I don‟t know how we did it, but they left Fort Rucker sometime on Friday and picked me up late afternoon in Fort Benning (about 130 miles). Someone signed out for me Saturday morning. They must have had a similar deal. We covered a lot of ground because we got to Miami late in the evening and stayed there overnight. As Schultz recalls, that night we bought a large can of Planters Peanuts to save the cost of a meal. While satisfying our hunger, it would be some time before a peanut looked attractive. In Miami, we got up somewhat early and drove to the bottom of the Florida Keys and caught a boat to Cuba. I don‟t know who started the fad, but most of us had those golf caps. As you can see, I had not adopted the California look: shoes and knee socks definitely not part of the Bermuda shorts ensemble. When I got to Los Angeles in September, my roomates at UCLA almost laughed themselves silly when they saw me in bermudas, long socks and shoes. After a month, I appreciated their amusement. On the boat we signed up for a guided tour: good idea. We got to a hotel (maybe the tour guide recommended it) and settled in. The cab drivers do not pay attention to stop lights or stop signs – that is, if there are any. They drive with their horn and some unwritten rules of the road that may take a lifetime to learn. It was driving by intimidation and a few hand, arm and finger signals. At the hotel we got a double bed for the three of us (Humphrey in the middle. I clearly remember hanging on the edge of the bed). Schultz remembers our douche bowl discovery. We got our key and started checking out the room and that strange looking toilet with a pedal on the floor next to it. What was this thing? Yeah, we sort of knew, but had no first hand experience. Schulz stepped on the pedal while looking down at the toilet. He got squirted in the face. We all laughed and now had first hand experience. A little naive for college grads, but that was not our greatest concern in those days. That night we had pizza – a deep dish type I had never had. Mario Da Re (Aldo Ray‟s brother and All-American football player from University of Southern California) told me that it was the traditional form of italian pizza – unlike our thin crusted ones. Later, we go to to a burlesque show (Shanghai Theatre??). I had never been to one. Later at a reunion, Schultz commented, “When that woman stripped down to the bare nothings, I didn‟t Chapter 9 One the Road know where to look first.” They also had a short pornographic film and the usual comedians. We were getting a real education. The tour guide took us around the next day: cigar factory, rum factory, the Morro Castle (an old Spanish Fort guarding Havana Bay) and the Trocadero night club patterned after Las Vegas night clubs: lavish dinner shows, bar shows and gambling. No small wonder because the same mafiosos had their hands in both. Havana was known as the “Latin Las Vegas.” CommunityOpEd.com 5 While wandering the streets, Schultz tried to use his high school Spanish on some girls. They laughed. Apparently, his Spanish was a little rusty. Strange The next day we went down to the beach and were just laying in the sun when this guy comes up and starts a conversation – spoke reasonably good English and well manicured. Most of his questions were directed at what we were doing in Havana. There was no indication that he was making a pass. However, on reflection years later, I believe the guy was from Bautista‟s intelligence. Bautista was the dictator that Castro chased out. The guy was just checking on our intentions – I guess our crew cuts gave away our military association. People are surprised when I tell them I went to Cuba. I have to explain that it was pre-Castro. Thought you did After arriving back at Key West in the late afternoon, we headed for the parking lot and prepared for the long trip back (particularly long for Schultz and Humphrey). About twenty miles down the road, someone asked, “Did you put the rum in the trunk?” Schultz and Humphrey had each bought two bottles of rum at the rum factory - two paper sacks, each with two bottles of rum. I had not purchased any. When we were packing the trunk they had set their sacks on the ground (just below the bumper). Schultz thought Humphrey put them in and Humphrey thought Schultz put them in. The car pulled out forward and left four bottles of rum for someone else to enjoy. It was not worth turning back and the rum was unlikely to be there if we returned.