by Bill Owens SM3/c
FROM SEATTLE ON
We all enjoyed our homecoming reception in Seattle. Fire boats sprayed water in the air and we were greeted by a huge welcome home signs. Photographers took pictures of us and the ship loaded with joyful returning troops and of course sailors planning their next foray. The day after we docked these same photo’s were available to us (at a nominal cost) in the crews mess hall.
As if by magic a host of vendors descended on us offering all sorts of services including that of cleaning and pressing clothes. In foreign ports we were always afforded various luxuries even when anchored off shore including as I recall in one port the services of some ladies of the night (and day) who were housed in a “Junk” that tied up at our stern. Getting to and from the Junk was quite hazardous. I think a rope ladder was employed.
Seattle is a dreary place in the winter made even drearier by the wholesale departure of a large contingent of crew who had earned their points and headed for home. Adding to the less than sunny disposition of the remaining crew was the thought of another Christmas on board ship away from home.
Finding female companionship was a very competitive operation in Seattle due primarily to the disportunate number of returning male troops we unloaded compared to the available number of females to choose from. We reckoned ten guys to one gal.
This disgusting phenomena (to us gobs) was solved when we were given seventy two hour liberty and someone came up with the idea of jumping on a bus and traveling to Vancouver Canada B.C. A journey to the Garden of Eden! The odds it seemed had reversed themselves from that of Seattle and we had a time I’m still able to recall. I’m also able to recall I didn’t even have a coin in my pocket when I arrived back at the ship having unloaded my accumulation of six months pay. This condition is covered by an old Navy saying “Easy Come Easy Go”.
One ray of sunshine I have forgotten to mention was the departure of my arch enemy “the boss”. A loss not as dramatic at the time because I had already “discharged myself in my mind and vowed the rest of my voyages to come would be that of doing my duty and marking time knowing there was light at the end of the tunnel and being able to see that light.
Some time in January we hoisted anchor and sailed to Los Angles. (San Pedro)* We had picked up a replacement first class who was a joy to work with. (probably) having adopted the same attitude I had.
Things began to change for the better for me in respect to Navy life for some reason. For one thing much to my surprise I found out some leaves were to be granted, I applied and got a ten day plus four day travel time leave. My first since December 1944 after finishing boot camp.
Getting home however was quite an ordeal. All modes of transportation were jammed as my buddy a radioman and I sought accommodations by air, train or sharing a ride. We finally ended up in an establishment with a network that supposedly set service men up with transportation in private autos nationwide. After putting up deposits with these folks we were told to come back in three hours to start our journey. Off we went to a friendly bar for food and drink and to talk about our good fortune.
Somehow or other we got into a conversation with another sailor in the bar who told us how he had been abandoned halfway across the US in such a deal and never did get his money back. Aggravated and by this time somewhat under the influence we promptly returned to the group with whom we had left our deposit and demanded our money back with no success. One thing led to another and during our altercation someone called the Navy Shore Patrol and we were whisked down to their headquarters to be we suspected incarcerated bundled up and sent back to our ship. Fortune smiled on us. The Chief in charge was also a Signalman and recognizing we had just returned from overseas duty gave us a break, told us to forget about getting our money and let us go.
Off to a bar again to assess our situation in more pleasant surroundings we fell again under the spell of demon rum and in our now worsened condition decided to make one more try for the return of our hard earned cash.
What seemed only moments after walking in the door of the nefarious establishment we were grabbed by the Shore Patrol once again and returned to face the Chief once more. This time around though the kindness had all but disappeared we were given one more chance to forget our loss and make other arrangements to get home and released.
How we managed to get tickets on the City of Los Angles
bound for Chicago I don’t remember but we did and boarded the train the next
morning with seats in the coach section. While we waited that morning to board
we were excited to see Sylvia Sidney the movie star walk her little dog through
the station on her way to her own transportation. I guess I was on a lucky roll
that day for earlier when I lost my wallet in the men’s room I returned later
to find the wallet with all money intact. Continued..
There was a very popular song at that time of our leave with the refrain that went “It was just a ride on a train that’s all that it was, but oh what it seemed to be”. And with that song in my ears came my chance meeting with Ann Borsma a beautiful young thing seventeen or eighteen years old on her way to New York with her mother. We spent the next day and a half inseparable and would have gotten
even closer I think if circumstances permitted.
We arrived in Chicago the next day exchanged all pertinent information to meet once again in L.A. upon my return and I left for a wonderful reunion with parents sisters and friends including the girl next door with whom I had had a real romance going before leaving for Service. It was a glorious time, ten days flew past like lightening and I was once again on my way back to the ship. It seemed funny to feel this way but when the old 38 came into sight where it was moored in the bay I somehow I felt I “had” returned home.
Within a day or so we moved and tied up at the dock in the shipyard. My thoughts were about liberty and Meeting Ann again.
Then my luck ran out. Several of my shipmates suggested we tell the O.D. we wanted to make phone calls home and instead mosey over to the enlisted men’s club and scarf down a few beers. Although we were dressed in dungarees and the uniform for going ashore within the shipyard was undress blues off we went. After a hour or so we thought we ought to head back before we got in trouble and we began to retrace our steps.
On the way back to the ship we spied our Captain coming toward us and crossed the road to avoid him. Unfortunately he also crossed the road and intercepted us. I remember our whole group was so discombobulated and worried about what might be in store for us we forgot to salute him. When asked directly what ship we were from we felt obliged to tell the truth and thus upon returning to our ship we had to put ourselves on report and face a “Captains Mast” the next morning.
These affairs are very brief with little opportunity to plead our case and we were all given the punishment of being restricted to the ship during the rest of the time we were in L.A.
Gone were my plans for a tryst with Ann maybe for ever.
To be continued...