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Bob Stockton

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The First Snowflake
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You Can't Make This Stuff Up!
By Bob Stockton
Monday, January 02, 2012

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Remembering my 1960s Navy days at the Naval Air Station Sanford, Florida.

©2010 Bob Stockton. Excerpted from 'Listening To Ghosts,'  Xlibris Press, by CPO (ret.) Bob Stockton. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

When our Tactical Intelligence Training Center didn’t have a class in session our time was mostly spent rewriting training manuals and updating our data bases of orders of battle. The Data Systems Techs spent much of that time performing maintenance on their various mag tape drives and peripheral equipment. During these “down” periods in between classes we would generally knock off for lunch from 1130 to 1300. A few of us would take our lunch at the Base Acey-Deucy Club, the service club for Second and First Class  Petty Officers. Lunch would generally consist of a grilled cheese sandwich or whatever the special of the day was offering, washed down with three or four beers while trying to guess the questions that Art Fleming was posing on Jeopardy. Occasionally a beer salesman would be visiting the club and would stand the patrons a round or two of whatever beer he was drumming. One of those salesmen was Johnny Vandermeer, the old Cincinnati Reds pitcher who had gained baseball notoriety by pitching back to back no-hitters many years before. Vandermeer worked for a beer distributor in Lakeland and his visit to the club at lunch times always included a Q & A session about baseball and free Schlitz beer the whole time he was on the premises. It was a great promotion as most everyone drank Schlitz most of the time when he wasn’t there.

The Acey-Deucy Club had a real cast of characters that gathered around the watering hole for lunch. A Second Class Aircraft Mechanic  named Beaver had lost all of his teeth and hair and when he removed his false teeth, put a corncorb pipe in his mouth and donned a pilot’s crash helmet looked exactly like Popeye in flight gear. Beaver had more than twenty years service and had no chance of ever being promoted.

 “Squirrel” Freeman, another old timer who had given up the thought of advancement was a lunchtime regular at the club whose lunch breaks often consumed the entire afternoon.  “Squirrel” was a nervous man, small in stature and light in weight whose wife “Big” Estelle was about two and one-half times his size. They were constantly arguing, with Estelle usually cold-cocking the Squirrel at the apex of the disagreement. Once, in the height of an argument Estelle left the Club with promises to continue the process at home. Having fortified himself with plenty of Mr. Vandermeer’s product, the Squirrel followed her out to their car where he stuck his head through the passenger side window and continued the altercation. Big mistake. Estelle promptly rolled up the window on his neck and used his head for a punching bag. Tiring of this, she just slid over into the driver's seat and drove away with the Squirrel flailing wildly about, his head inside the car and the rest of him trying to keep pace with the accelerating vehicle. Estelle proceeded for about a block, stopped the car, pulled the Squirrel inside and headed for home. The Squirrel looked considerably the worse for wear several days later when he rejoined the lunch crowd to play Jeopardy.

Theodore Dropchuck, or “Dropcheck” as he was known around the club was another piece of work that spent most of his time at the Club in a well oiled state. “Drop” achieved a small level of notoriety when he got up from his bar stool and announced  one evening that he was going to the Club pay phone booth to call his mother to inform her that he was going to “study medicine” after he retired. Somehow or another Drop got tangled up in the shielded cord of the receiver and nearly choked to death. One of the bar patrons noticed this and ran to the booth, forcing the door open and untangling Drop from the cord. Unencumbered, Drop took a swing at his rescuer for “interrupting his call to his mother.”

Ed King, a First Class Aviation Communications Specialist who had twenty four years of Naval service, mostly in the old seaplane squadrons serving as an aircrewman in the  Martin Marlin P5Ms, would regale us with stories of those seaplane days. If the galley crew on the plane had a junior officer navigator on board that no one liked they’d fry his eggs in hydraulic fluid. Flying back over the
Coronado, California beaches after an extended patrol the crew would dump their sanitary tanks over the beach. King called it “force feeding the sand crabs.”

Those great stories were halted one morning when Mrs. King, bringing Ed to work on the Base while in the midst of a world-class argument dropped Ed off in front of the gated security compound where he worked,  parked her car and marched directly into the Squadron Commander’s building, past his secretary, walked into the Skipper's office and confronted the Squadron Commander about the fact that her husband, Petty Officer King, didn’t have a job , was at the club all afternoon every afternoon from lunch until 1600 and sometimes beyond, was drunk all the time and just what was he going to do about it? What he did about it was to issue a directive that the Club remain closed until 1600 each day. This lasted for several months until a new Captain took command and allowed the club to reopen for lunch.

As for Ed King...Ed was seen moving into the enlisted barracks shortly after his wife's meeting with the Squadron Commander.

Like I said...you can't make this stuff up!

 

 

       Web Site: Navy Publishing

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