by Tom Morrow
This time of year never goes by but what I don’t recall 56 years ago when I graduated from boot camp at Naval Training Center, San Diego. I was in Company 58-296.
Needless to say, it pained me when I saw photos and news stories about the city of San Diego tearing down some of those historic NTC buildings to make way for the modernistic Liberty Station.
I was the brigade bugler for the graduating companies. It was honor, indeed, as 12 other sailors had competed. There was only one bugler, and that day, the assistant secretary of defense (whose name is long forgotten) was the honored guest.
I had joined the Navy and left for San Diego from my hometown in Iowa the day after graduating from high school. The only thing I wanted out of Iowa was me; 24 hours after receiving my diploma, I was headed West on the Santa Fe’s Super Chief with seven other buddies I’d talked into joining with me.
We arrived at the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego on May 30. The next day was Memorial Day, so naturally, we figured the Navy would let us off to see the sights, seeing how it was a holiday and all.
Teenagers can be so naive.
We spent Memorial Day 1958 being fitted for uniforms and learning how to march. The only good thing about the latter was for those of us who had been in marching band. We knew our left from our right.
The eight recruits from Seymour, Iowa had joined the Navy on the “buddy system.” A myth perpetrated by the Navy.
“You’ll be together at least through boot camp, and maybe longer,” Chief Willis Stroud, our recruiter told us.
The first thing that happened when we arrived at NTC was we were split into three separate companies. So much for Navy promises.
The first three weeks were miserable, of course. But, ironically, by week 7, things seemed to be going very well and, by week 10 and our graduation day, many of us, while anxious to get on with “seeing the world,” were sort of sad to be leaving NTC. We’d become accustomed to lining our white hats with toilet paper so we could pass morning inspection.
Over the years I would return for various training schools at NTC, but it was because of those 10 weeks at NTC that I fell in love with San Diego.
So, today, I smile and remember those wonderful days 56 years ago spent at a place today’s generation will never know.
TO PONDER —- Why is it that the man who invests all our money is called a broker?
WEIRD STUFF —- History can be weird, especially for a U.S. President elected in a year ending with “0.” (Note the increments of 20 years): 1840: William Henry Harrison (died in office); 1860: Abraham Lincoln (assassinated); 1880: James A. Garfield (assassinated); 1900: William McKinley (assassinated); 1920: Warren G. Harding (died in office); 1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt (died in office); 1960: John F. Kennedy (assassinated); 1980: Ronald Reagan (survived assassination attempt). Now, have a history teacher explain this: Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846; Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946; Lincoln was elected president in 1860; Kennedy was elected in 1960. Both were particularly concerned with civil rights; both had wives who lost their children while living in the White House, and both were shot on a Friday —- in the head.
KID GEMS —- More from sixth-grade history exams: “Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest Precedent. Lincoln’s mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. They believe the assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposingly insane actor. This ruined Booth’s career.”
GROANER —- Does the name “Pavlov” ring a bell?
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