Saturday, July 24, 2010

Anchors Aweigh!

We spent a total of a year and three-quarters in Pensacola, living most of that time in Navy housing.  Most of our neighbors were families of enlisted men assigned to the aircraft training carrier Lexington, which went out of port for sometimes several weeks at a time.  We were fortunate enough to be able to afford a telephone, which several nearby families used as their emergency number for families to contact them.  We got into the habit of checking the recorded line on the base to find out when the Lex was due back in port, and writing the information on a chalkboard that we kept on our front porch.

We were learning to be married and Joe was spending a lot of time at the on-base yacht club where he learned to sail a Daysailer and I spent a great deal of time with the new Kenmore sewing maching we'd bought on time as a first stab at establishing credit.

Nearing the end of the year of extension in Pensacola, I approached the Captain.  "I'm still really happy here, sir," I told him.  He invited me to sit down for a chat.  On learning that there were two years remaining on Joe's enlistment, he told me that he was scheduled for two years of sea duty.  It would be possible to extend the time in Pensacola for one more year, but at the end of that time Joe would have only one year left and since sea duty came in two-year chunks, he'd for sure be off to spend that last year in Vietnam.  Very generously, he told me to call Joe and have him come over to his office.  When Joe arrived, he re-explained the options, and then offered to call BUPERS (Bureau of Personnel) in D.C. to arrange for an appealing stint of sea duty.  This was a very, very unusual thing to do.

The options for an illustrator-draftsman included a billet on a ship based in Groton and another in Norfolk.  Norfolk was relatively close to home and the description of the sea duty was attractive:  The USS Orion (AS 18) was a submarine tender and as such spent most of its time in port.  Every three months it would go out for a few days and then return to port.

We moved to Virginia and rented a little house and I rather easily found a job at Old Dominion University working with the M.B.A. program.  Meanwhile, Joe reported to the ship and learned that incoming sailors didn't go directly to their assignment, but had to spend a certain amount of time working as mess cooks.  The mess officer looked at Joe's records and determined that since he had spent four years in college, his job would be to type the menu each day.  What the officer didn't know was that I'd typed Joe's papers for him, and my husband wasn't a typist.  With the whole day to type a menu, though, it didn't seem as though it was going to be a terrible hardship and it beat slinging hash.  After just a couple of days, the paperwork verifying the promotion he'd earned from E-2 to E-3 arrived, and the mess officer was required to release him to the drafting shop.

It was about that time that we also learned that the Orion would not be in Norfolk for two years; in fact, after one year, she was scheduled to move to Charleston, South Carolina.


Anonymous said...

Oh Nancy, I continue to be amazed at the parallel paths our lives have taken. I was a teacher in Va.Beach in the fall of 1967, dating my navy man and taking my first sewing class at ODU in the evening. When his ship was sent to Viet Nam in the spring of 1968, he managed a change in duty to Brunswick, GA and we married so I could go with him. Can't wait to hear the rest of your story.

altar ego said...

I am loving this unfolding story. Eager for more!

Sweet P said...

I'm enjoying your story. I was a Navy wife in the late 80's, early 90's. We were stationed in Norfolk and I attended ODU for a year. I hope you keep sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

I too am loving this story. Not that I was a Navy wife, but my brother was in the Navy during that time and it brings back memories of where and what he was doing. He served in the Navy for over 22 years and retired to outside Charleston SC.

Judi said...

Nancy, I only have two words for you - more please!