Friday, July 23, 2010

CNABATRA and more

A couple of people have written to ask what happened when we got to Pensacola.

Joe's orders directed him to report to CNABATRA during the first week of January, 1968.  We had no idea what CNABATRA meant, and when we got to Pensacola, our first order of business was to find a place to live.  We'd brought with us only a few basic housekeeping possessions -- things that would fit in the trunk and back of the car and in the rented car-top carrier.  The plan was that once I got a job, we'd send home and have everything else moved to us.  If I didn't get a job, I'd return home and Joe would live on the base.

We stayed in a rooming house for a few days and then moved into a half of an unfurnished duplex on "Z" street.  It was a cute enough place, and the rent was $65 per month.  Plus utilities.  We borrowed some furniture from the Navy Relief office until we could manage to send for our own things. 

Joe reported to CNABATRA and we learned that this was Chief of Naval Air Basic Training -- he'd been assigned to a two-star admiral's staff as a member of the drafting shop.  His principal responsibility, as I remember it, had to do with making charts about Naval Air Basic Training.  This was at the height of the Vietnam War and many, many Navy pilots were graduated weekly from the basic school.

Finding a job for me wasn't very easy.  As a Navy wife, I was suspect -- employers weren't confident that I'd be on the job very long before I'd have to move again.  I took the Civil Service examination for stenographer/typist and worked at several short-term places (yes, we did send for our furniture) while I waited for an opportunity to land a job on the base.  We found that the $65 per month (plus utilities) was more than we could afford to pay for rent and applied for base housing.  And waited.  Waited for both housing and a job I could count on. 

It took a while.  But in May everything happened at once.  We were offered a small one-bedroom unit in Moreno Court (I looked for on-line photos, and there aren't any), housing that was built well before World War II for $47 per month with the utilities included.  And the same week, I was requested to come for an interview on the main base.

All of that time, we had a new worry hanging over us.  It had turned out that the draftsman Joe replaced at CNABATRA had been sent to Da Nang, and the sailor that he had replaced he was once again replacing in Da Nang.  It seemed inevitable that Joe was going to 'Nam after our year on Pensacola.  The stress was tremendous.  I began to suffer from tension headaches and digestive disturbances.

The position that I was offered was at CNATRA, Chief of Naval Air Training.  I served on the staff of a three-star admiral, the man that CNABATRA reported to.  I was assigned to the civilian personnel department and my duties included maintaining the personnel and time card records of all CNABATRA employees and working with the statistics involving civilian personnel (there were thousands of them) assigned to all of the bases under CNATRA's command.  I worked hard and learned a little bit about civilian personnel.

Towards the end of the year, the Captain called me into his office.  I could not imagine what I had done wrong, and trembled my way across the hall.  "Do you like working here?" he began.  I assured him that indeed I did, and that I was very happy.  He said that CNATRA was very happy with me, too, and promoted me from a GS-2 to a GS-3.  Then he said, "I understand that your husband is due for orders in January."  I confirmed this.  He told me that CNATRA would like to keep me and with Joe's and my agreement, CNATRA would arrange to have Joe's tour of duty in Pensacola extended for another year!

We agreed!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It brought back memories of that time. My first apartment that I shared with 2 other girls was $75 a month and that included utilities and was furnished.

Nancy said...

You were lucky...I never did find a job the years we were in the service.

I remember we paid $150 with utilities in San Diego and had a one bedroom ...but there was a pool...and I spent a lot of time there...this was in 72

altar ego said...

What a happy conclusion to today's chapter! It's fun learning more about your story. I appreciate that you are sharing so much with us!

Salem Stitcher said...

I am enjoying your story so. I cannot imagine the tension you were under, just waiting to see what happens next.

Lori said...

I love the story!! And you saved Joe from going to Vietnam?! Whew!!

Pat said...

On Nancy, how I am enjoying your story!! Sure hope you are printing it out to save for the grands. This is too valuable to trust to "oral history".

Laurie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie said...

(Okay, let's try this again, but without the typo this time.) :-)

What's funny is that just last week I was thinking of creating a class like, "Using blogs to write your memories" for senior centers. The premise being that writing one memory in a blog is so much less intimidating than sitting down in front of a blank Word document and trying to write an entire life. And this series of posts was EXACTLY the type of thing I was thinking of! If I create my class, can I use you as an example?

Judi said...

I knew some of this story before, because you have mentioned it in previous posts, but I didn't know that you saved your lovely husband from a posting to Vietnam!

So what happened next??

WV is maroan - is that complaining about your mother?