Knowing I was now Draft Board bait, I happily took my papers to the Blair shipyard in Yonkers, NY and applied for work as a lathe operator. I managed on the little experience I had acquired in high school. My ability was minimal, but skills of any sort were in great demand and I was welcomed without question. Blair built navy tug boats and mounted three inch guns on merchant marine vessels. The company worked on what was called a cost plus basis. The more they paid the employees the more they collected from the government. I would be told not to punch my time card, the manager would do it for me after I went home. Some days I was paid for eighteen or twenty hours. I often wonder how we ever won the war with all the foul activity that took place.
I worked for Blair four months and banked six hundred dollars. An incredible amount of money at that time. Then it happened. A letter from the president of the United States, Greetings!
My first orders were to report to the recruiting station at White Hall Street in New York City. Other than the high school showers, I never paraded naked before a group; especially complete strangers. Some navy petty officer hollered in a loud, demanding, threatening, bass voice, "lineup against the bulkhead you skinheads."
"What the hell are bulkheads and skinheads", I asked aloud?
An army sergeant returned, "Walls! Line up against the wall and keep quiet in the ranks."
This was my first exposure to military brutality. Didn't their mothers bring them up better than that? I had yet to learned there were a lot of mean mothers in service.
"What branch of service do you want", asked a Naval Lieutenant? (Belly button)?
I previously had given this some thought. March in the rain? Sleep in the mud? Eat out of a can?
"The Navy sir", I answered.
I thought the worst that could happen was a cold bath or a shark bite.
"Fine, fine, a sailor you are."
So far this was just the signing up stage. The procedures so far had no impact on my daily outlook. We returned home after we were fingerprinted and sworn to uphold the flag and constitution. One week later we reported to Grand Central Station to board the fire breathing monster for a trip to boot camp; Sampson Naval Training Center on the finger lake Seneca This time my heart and soul was torn from my body. I realized I had seen my wife for the last time for months to come. It seemed the most depressing time of my twenty-three years. I'm sure home sickness equals sea sickness except for upchuck.
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