Just a little trivia. Popeye originally was in the Coast Guard. He didn’t transfer to the Navy until 1941.
When we got to Port Angeles, we moved in with Mom and Dad, temporarily. I found a job at a local Texaco Station. Later I had a call from the Shell representative asking if I would be interested in taking over a Shell station in Forks. But turned him down. We found a cute little house on the corner of 8th and Race and moved in. Mom bought us a Chihuahua we name Pedro Poncho Gonzalez Charlie Brown Towne, Pete for short. We also found a cat, we named Gladys. I got a job at Rainer Pulp Mill and Joyce found one at a local Nursing Home close to where we lived. One problem, if we mentioned we were thinking of buying something, we usually got a call from Mom to come over and there it would be. I know she meant well and trying to help us, but it was kind of frustrating. We stopped talking about anything in front of her. I wasn’t real happy working at Rainer, I ran in to a lot of dangerous situations and there didn’t seem like it would lead to anything in the future. Port Angeles didn’t seem like home anymore. We had friends that we hung out with. One time, late in 1962, we were at a party where a Coast Guard Telephone Technician was, there had been a typhoon go through and he was there replacing telephone wires. We were taking and he was telling me about Electronics Technicians in the Coast Guard and all the extra money, pro pay, they made, plus the re-enlistment bonuses. Joyce and I talked about it for a while and I called the Recruiting office. They told me that if I was really interested to come to Tacoma and see them. We went over on February 4th, 1963. I told them I was interested in Electronic Technician. They gave me the entrance exam and got 98%, qualifying me for anything I wanted and I signed up for Electronics Technician. I would have to go to Alameda California, where they had a training company for prior service. I think they flew me out the next day.
I arrived at the Alameda California Recruit Training Base, expecting to be assigned to a Prior Service Company, but they had just discontinued it and I was assigned to a regular Recruit Company, Mike 39. They informed me that I would be there for six of the eleven weeks of normal Boot Camp. The Company Commander was a First Class Boatswains Mate and he informed us, after he gave me fifty push ups for rolling my eyes, that he hated two things; Air Force and Electronic Technicians. OPPS! I was the only one in the Company that had a rank insignia, Seaman. I ended up getting the haircut, doing daily exercises, marching in formation, everything a new recruit does. At the end of five weeks we received kind of a mid term where we had to do ten pull ups, fifty sit ups, fifty push ups. The next week I was ordered to form up in the morning with the class that would be graduating at the end of the week, Mike 34. We had fire fighting training one day at an old Army Base, where we had to learn how to work together to put out an old building on fire. Then we had the final, where every thing doubled on the test and I passed. By the time I had got my orders, I had lost two inches around my waste and my uniforms were loose. I think I was in the best shape of my life. I received a couple weeks leave and orders to the twenty eight week Electronics School in Groton Connecticut. First I got to fly home, meeting Joyce in Spokane and then on to Port Angeles. It was short but we made the most out of it as we could. It bothered me that I was leaving her for an extended period, she would be staying at my parents. She was pregnant and it would be a while before I would be able to see my child. Chris would be six months old before I got to formally meet her.
The Coast Guard Training Center in Groton was a beautiful base that had once belong to an old sea captain. It was near New London and the Navy Submarine Base. Pretty impressive seeing them leave the river and enter the ocean, just off our base. The large, stone, mansion that house the Base Commander and his family was right across the quadrangle from our room. I had three roommates going to the same class as I was in. We were a pretty close group and all chipped in to buy a savings bond when Chris was born. Electronics School was twenty eight grueling weeks, eight hours a day, learning to install,trouble shoot, tune and maintain a variety of electronic equipment. We had a exciting break one night. The Mansion had a Chapel connected to it and it caught fire. The guys woke me up to see but I went back to bed. I had a suspicion that we would be cleaning things up the next day, and we did. We shovel trash into a dump truck and rode with it to the dump. Where I got burn on the ear from flying embers. The only time I got burn from a fire while in the Coast Guard. In the end I graduated as a Third Class Electronics Technician with orders to the U.S. Coast Guard Base, Group Office, at the foot of Mount Elliot, on the Detroit River, Detroit Michigan. Having a couple weeks leave plus travel time, I flew home to Joyce and to meet my daughter.
Getting ready to drive east, decided the MG was not big enough for a growing family and to pull a trailer across the country. We went down to the local Nash dealer and traded the MG in on a two tone Pink/Mauve Rambler station wagon. Got a deal on a small U-Haul trailer because it was going back to Detroit. Loaded all we had and headed East. We arrived in Detroit late in the evening and pulled off the freeway on to Mount Elliot, turn right and headed to the Coast Guard Station at the foot of Mount Elliot. It was really dark. We were hungry and tired but thought it best to just go straight on to the base, we had pulled off in the black area of Detroit and it didn’t appear too friendly at the time. The watch and the Officer of the Day suggested going back out Mount Elliot to Warren, a suburb of Detroit, where we would find restaurants and a motel to stay in. They told us, when driving on Mount Elliot, to keep our doors locked. We unhitched the trailer and left it at the base and headed to Warren. The next day we started looking for a place to rent and found a trailer park with a trailer available. Drove back to the base, got the trailer, and we moved in. After settling in, I reported in to the base and the Group Electronic Shop. It was our first experience of becoming a part of a base family. I joined a car pool with a couple of the guys that lived out near where we lived. When I wasn’t working on the base, I was traveling all over the area. Belle Isle Station was on Belle Isle, just across the river from the base. We covered all the stations in Group Detroit. Joyce, Chris, and I spent our first Thanksgiving and Christmas in the trailer in Warren. I remember, we bought a bunch of bathtub toys for Chris that first Christmas. We wrapped them in a really shiny paper. She played with the wrapped toys until the paper came off and she had a new toy. On Christmas eve we were invited to the parents house of one of the guys on the station and got included in their gift exchange. We got a wrapped box of chocolates and really was made to feel like a part of their family. We did a lot of socializing on my off time and Chris did a lot of traveling in her car seat and sleeping on someone’s bed with pillows stacked around her. That spring we found a house, behind the 7/11 we shopped at. It had been a farm house. We didn’t realize, until we moved in, that as they added a room to the house, they wired everything in series. In other words, if a light burned out, all the lights went off. Something like old Christmas tree lights. Then you had to go around changing light bulbs until you found the right one. Before we could move in, we needed furniture. There was a local store with such a deal, three rooms of furniture for $300.00. We bought; a bed, dresser, bedside tables, a kitchen table with four chairs, a couch (hardwood covered with material), a couple of easy chairs and two lamps (we still have the lamps around someplace). I was up in the attic one day and found where they had wired the whole house from. There was a splice up there about the size of a football, a big fire hazard. I talked the owner into letting me and a electrician friend from the station rewire the house. It may not have been totally up to code, but it was a lot safer. That same friend was a new Pontiac Catalina Convertible, so we drove him and his wife down to the dealer for him to pick it. While we were there the salesman brought a 1964 Pontiac Tempest 326 into the shop. It was a pretty car, Marimba Red, two door, full bench front seat and four on the floor. It had been a special order for a kid and he got drafted before he could take delivery. The salesman offered to let us try it out but I said we were going to Harsens Island for dinner that evening and he said go ahead and take it. What a car, I burned off the lot, holding the steering wheel for dear life. It was quite a difference from our 59, straight 6, automatic Rambler. I took it back the next day, it was having carburetor problems and they fixed it. I was waiting for our Rambler and the salesman told us to take the Tempest for another day or two. I took it back again and the salesman got pretty irate and I said tuff, I wanted my Rambler. He went out and a few minutes later the head salesman came back wanting to know if I could put anything down. I just wanted my Rambler. He was sorry, the Rambler had been sold and was in Florida. Being half in shock, I said I could probably do $300. Today, I would have said, “Thank you for my new car.” We got back at the Pontiac dealer though. One day I was having the Tempest service and the head salesman came out wanting to know if I had had the engine changed in the Rambler. I hadn’t. Seems when they were checking registration in Florida, the title didn’t match. Seems it was for a sixty Rambler. When I had bought ours there had been a 60 on the lot and I think the Port Angeles Dealer had mixed mine up with it. The base had put together a softball team to play in a summer league on Belle Isle. We were good, but couldn’t always field a full team and had to forfeit a lot and end up playing anyway. We won almost every time. It was that summer that I started a tradition, being catcher. We’ve had a lot of catchers in the family.
That fall, 1964, we got orders to the Coast Guard Cutter Woodbine, a buoy tender/ice breaker out of Grand Haven Michigan. Grand Haven turned out to be friendly little town in west Michigan and is Coast Guard City USA. We found a house, I think it was on Sherman, on top of a hill just a few blocks from where the ship tied up, Escanaba Park. It seemed like a giant house, two bedrooms on the second floor and a living room, sitting room, dining room, eat in kitchen and bath down. Our three rooms of furniture hardly made a dent. We had all kinds of room for the three of us and Joyce found out she expecting our second. The ship was like a big family. It wasn’t uncommon on the weekends for an impromptu gathering to take place at someone’s house and end up a BBQ, potluck and baseball game at a local park. One of the wives, Marylou (Midge) Tomborelo whose husband was a First Class Bosin mate, kind of adopted Joyce. When it was time for Joyce to have the baby, it was Midge who took her to the hospital. In those days the husband was not allowed in the delivery room, at least not in Grand Haven. January 14, 1965 Timothy was born. One time when I went to visit the nurse chased me from the room while Joyce breast fed him.
One of my duties, separate from maintaining the electronic equipment, was as oarsman on one of the lifeboats when it was launched. We were holding a drill one day and when we came in alongside the ship, the Captain ordered us aboard using the Monkey Lines hanging from the davits, before the boat was raised. I was never any good at climbing a rope and as I tried my muscles cramped and had to slide back down. Captain Fugaro climbed down the lines to encourage me but I couldn’t, the muscles would not cooperate. He climbed back aboard, the boat was raised, and I was removed from the small boat crew. August fourth is the anniversary of the Coast Guard and Grand Haven celebrated it with a festival and parade. After marching in the parade the ship would have an open house and have guided tours. I was one of the crew assigned as a guide. Joyce kept me supplied with crisp, white summer uniforms, about three a day, during the festival. Escanaba Park, named after a the Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba that had been stationed in Grand Haven before it was lost with all but two men on board in the North Atlantic during the second world war, was on one of the main streets heading to the lake. So we had to keep the Woodbine looking good for the tourist passing by. We covered Lake Michigan from Chicago up to Green Bay Wisconsin. When we were in Chicago, we normally moored up at Navy Pier. I was working on a piece of equipment one day and flipped hot solder into me eye. They took me to the VA hospital and removed the solder but I had to wear a patch for awhile. Back on the ship, while stand on the buoy deck, a kid walked over and wanted to know why I had a batch on my eye. I told him that we wanted to be a pirate ship and they needed a one eye man with a patch and I lost, and they poked my eye out. Another time, we were escorting a ship through the ice in Green Bay, when it was announced, “Stand by for Collison! This is not a Drill!”. I was down in the hold working and I remembered we were escorting a large tanker filled with fuel. When he hit our stern, I was standing on the mess deck holding on. We had hit a windrow, a very thick area of ice that had stacked up, and the ship behind had lost control and couldn’t reverse. Luckily he glanced off our stern, denting and buckling some of the frames. He got control and we finished taking him in to port. Will always remember Green Bay Wisconsin, home of Schlitz Brewery, and our tour there once. After the walking tour we got to go into their tap room for free beer. I sent a lot of post cards while I was sitting, drinking beer. People who received them could follow how many beers I seemed to be having. The more, the less intelligible the cards.
We got a new Captain and one night, when I had the duty, a program we were watching was interrupted with news that a United 707 had crash in Lake Michigan, close to Chicago. After calling the Captain, we started a crew recall, expecting to get ordered to Chicago and the search. We had enough crew on board and engines running and under way in fifteen minutes after we received the message to proceed to the area. Early the next morning we arrived in the area of the crash but there was a thick fog so we hove to, stood bye, until the fog lifted. We were in the middle of the floating wreckage and the other search boats had to come to us. For a week, we were designated On Scene Commanders of the search area, picking up debris and bodies. Shortly after the ship received a $1500 check from United Airlines for our recreation fund.
The Woodbine was almost lost one time as we were checking our buoys. It was lunch time, we were having liver and onions, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans. A beautiful day with a two foot sea, hardly rocking the ship. I had just finished lunch and was standing against the inside bulkhead drinking a cup of coffee, looking out the porthole. When the OD got the ship in a troth. The ship began to roll, first to starboard and then to port. When it rolled to starboard again, I watch as the portholes went completely under the water. Then the ship snapped back and started a roll to port again but kept going. The farther we rolled, the benches with men sitting on them and the tables came out of their holders on deck and were flying and sliding at me. Liver, onions, gravy, mashed potatoes and men came flying at me, around and in-between my legs. Eventually the ship righted itself and the crew was able to get up, slipping and sliding out of the mess hall, to check the ship. Luckily no one was injured. We later found out that the Enginemen had started holding the engines on line manually as the roll indicator registered 49 degrees. The ship was designed to have the bridge break away at 52 degrees.
1965 and the Coast Guard is forming Squadron One, a squadron of 82 footers, for Vietnam. One of the ensigns on board has received his orders for training in San Diego. Joyce and I are concerned that I could be called up but a message comes in one day from the District Office, “Request one married ET2 for two-year tour to Keflavik Iceland”. I called Joyce and asked her if she wanted to go to Iceland. Where’s Iceland? She looked it up in the almanac and within 30 minutes of receiving the message our answer was returned to District and we got it. Joyce found out she was pregnant with our third child who it seemed would be born in Iceland. Our household goods got packed up for shipment and we loaded up the Pontiac and headed to Washington. Joyce and the kids would be splitting their time between parents while I went to Loran School in Groton, leaving the car in New Jersey to be shipped. It was a fun trip from Michigan to Washington. Chris and Tim stood or sat in the back seat. There wasn’t a law that kids had to be in car seats back then. Tim liked to stand behind me and when he saw something he liked, I got banged on the back of the head and he would yell, “Tee, Tee, Tee!” as loud as he could. One day we pulled off the freeway in North Dakota, looking for a place to eat. It was a small farm town and as we found a little café. I parked across the street and we went in. The kids wanted chocolate milk. We put our order in and the waitress came back to the table wondering how to make chocolate milk. I asked her if she had chocolate she made milkshakes with, just mix that in with milk. She really thought it was a good idea. As we were eating I looked out the window. Where I had parked there were no other cars on the block but a car pulled in front of the Pontiac drove up to the end of the block and backed into our car. I went out and luckily there was no damage. Later, as we were coming down off 4th of July Pass into Idaho, Joyce started having pains. We came down off the pass pretty fast. By the time we reached Coeur d’ Alene the pains had stopped so we went on into Spokane. After getting everyone settled, I headed East.
The drive across the United States by yourself is not fun and I did it in three days. Got stopped in Iowa for failure, or confusion, about dimming lights for on-coming cars. Showed them my military ID, orders to Iceland, my Michigan registration and my Washington drivers license. The policemen suggested I stop and rest at the next rest stop and they wouldn’t arrest me. I did. My next stop was in Hersey Pennselvania, at my Uncle Gene’s. He wasn’t there but his Ward was and I got to sleep on a bed. Then on to Groton for six weeks of Loran C Receiver School. One thing about having a car at Groton this time, I was able to do some sightseeing on weekends; Mystic Seaport, Cape Cod and some of the surrounding area. While I was at school, I found out that Joyce and the kids would not be joining me in New York to fly to Iceland. It seems the Coast Guard was closing their Office in Copenhagen and transferring the crew there to Iceland. A Lieutenant JG’s wife was expecting so they were getting the apartment reserved for us. When school was over, I drove to New York at the Coast Guard Station Stanton Island. I took the car to Bayonne New Jersey to be ship to Iceland. I flew Pan Am to Keflavik Iceland and had to live in the barracks for a few month. I finally got word that our car had arrived in Reykjavik but had been damaged, when off loading they had dragged straps over the top scratching it. After it was repair I went to Reykjavik to pick it up. Between there and Keflavik was thirty miles of paved road. I opened it up to blow out the carbon. I eventually put some hot plugs in because the only gas sold off base was 82 octane. One of the guys I was stationed with was friends with a rock band, The Icelandic Beetles. When we were visiting them in town one time, one of the band really wanted to buy my 326 and offered me $8000, which I couldn’t take because of Icelandic Import Laws. My family was to be arriving soon, I had found an apartment in downtown Keflavik and wanted to have some supplies. I had gone to the commissary, planning to take them off with the family. At the station, I was asked to pick up someone at the Reykjavik airport. Forgetting I had the groceries in the back seat of the car. As I was passing through the gate, the Icelandic guard stopped me and confiscated the groceries and gave me a ticket. Luckily he didn’t find the bottle of booze I had stashed. I stopped at the apartment, 30 Suddergata if memory serves me, and called Lieutent Harrison, our Commanding Officer, and told him what had happened. When I got back to the base, he had it all settled. I would pay a ten Kroner ($10) fine and loss of the groceries.
It was five months before I got to meet my daughter, Kelly. They arrived Thanksgiving 1966. After picking them up we went to the apartment and everyone got some rest, we were invited back to base to have Thanksgiving dinner. We were there a few days, when there was a knock on the door. When I answered there was a little girl, about Chris’s age, standing there. She looked up at me and said very slowly, “Will – You – Play – With – Me”. “Chris!!” Before long she was just one of the kids on the block, speaking Icelandic. The Icelandic people were very friendly, if you showed a genuine interest in their country. They were not friendly if you played the roll of “The Ugly American”. One day Joyce went to a bakery we used and when she walked in and the girl behind the counter was making a very obnoxious woman really work for her order. The girl just couldn’t understand the woman. She finally got frustrated, purchased something and left. The girl turn to Joyce, greeted her with a pleasant, “How are you today?” They learn a number of languages in school because they deal with a number of countries. Almost all they get has to be shipped in. Iceland is where my Mom and Dad told me that they had their name legally change to Towne. Guess they had added the “e” sometime without making it legal and they figured it would be less confusing in the future in case anything came up. Mine was already with an “e” on my birth certificate.
We lived off base for about six months, while they were building officer’s housing. About the time we were to move on base, we found out that Chris had a medical problem that required she be flown to Germany. They scheduled her and Joyce to fly out on one of the weekly MAC flights. And it was arranged that I and the other kids would escort them. When I went to check in I heard one of the Navy guys at check in telling someone on the phone that he could bump three people off the flight and get them on. We were the three. When I checked in he informed me of the bump and said if I didn’t like it to take it to the base commander. I contacted my commanding Officer, who went to the Navy Base Commander. We were put back on the flight. When flying on a military plane back then the seats faced the back of the plane. As we were landing in Germany I mentioned to Joyce that there seemed to be something wrong. Three weeks later we were on the same plane to fly back to Iceland and I asked one of the crew. It seems we had had an engine of fire when we were landing. While we were gone the station crew moved our stuff from downtown. Finally we got to move into our apartment on base. And when you move into a new house, you have to have a house warming party. I was just getting over the mumps when we had ours. So Joyce went to the base liquor store for supplies. When she went to pay, she had over our monthly allotment of six hundred ounces, they had to call our Commanding Officer. He surprised them by sending someone over to help Joyce load the car. It was a good party. All the parties were good and fun during our stay.
One day our Warrant Officer, another ET and I were sent to Reykjavik to trouble shoot a Loran Receiver on a French Navel Ship. As I was driving toward the main gate I saw a guy approaching an intersection just ahead of us. At the time Iceland was right hand drive. He was going pretty fast and for some reason I suspected he was not going to stop and to turn into our lane. He did. I swerved the International Carryall I was driving to the right. Looking down I saw his VW heading toward our back wheel. I cranked the wheel left, and down shifted. The truck went up on its right front wheel and the VW passed below us. I cranked the wheel right and landed on all for wheels, in my lane and facing the same way I had been going. I stopped and the Warrant Officer went over to the Navy Petty officer and told him to report to his commanding officer, that he would be making a report of the incident. We then proceeded on into Reykjavik. On the French ship we began to check for problems. We knew their receiver was ok, we had had it at the station for a few days. It took us about an hour to find they had a bad cable, fix it and depart. As we were leaving we passed our Commanding Officer and his wife heading to the ship for lunch and gave him a thumps up. Later my Warrant Officer called me to his officer and asked how I missed that accident that morning. I told him that I had an out of body experience, standing on the corner watching it happen, and I told him the maneuvers I had taken. He didn’t say much about the out of body but figured the maneuvers.
We spent two and a half years in Iceland. It was a great experience and I would gladly return. But it was time to leave. I had been promoted to First Class and reenlisted, getting a really great bonus, to be payed annually for the next four years. We landed back in Seattle and with our bonus in hand Pop, Joyce and I went car shopping and found another family car, a used Mercury station wagon. Loading everyone in the car we headed to Port Angeles and my new station, the Group Electronics Shop, on the Coast Guard Air Station. We found a house, close to Lincoln school. It was the school I had gone to the fourth grade at. With what was left of that years bonus we bought some new furniture, the three rooms we had bought in Detroit just wouldn’t due now. We even bought a used boat that need some minor repair. For me being at the Port Angeles Air Station was one of the best family times we had while I was in the Coast Guard. There were no extended travel times so I was home pretty much every night. Along with the boat, we bought camping equipment. It wasn’t uncommon for us to load everything in the boat and tow it to some park and spend the weekend boating and camping. There were a couple of stations I service, especially Port Townsend, where I could take the whole family and stay in one of their empty family units. For a work car, I got my 49 Hudson back. Getting a bug in my bonnet one day, I made it into a pick up, cutting the top off from behind the front seat, back. Guess it was kind of a Towne thing. Pop and I cut twenty two inches out of the body and frame of a 42 Hudson he had.
We bought our first house in Port Angeles, 423 South Cedar. It was a little bungalow style built around 1920 for someone’s Mother-in-Law. The man that had owned it before was an elderly widower that didn’t really take care of it, repair or clean. Before we move in we had to clean, at least, a quarter inch of grease from the inside of the kitchen cabinets. But after we were done, it was a house that everyone like to come and visit and party. It had a huge fireplace in the living room. One big enough that I could put the whole Christmas tree in to. Our next door neighbor came running over after I had set the tree on fire, we had a ten foot flame shoot out the chimney. One of my fondest memories there was when we would go to Dairy Queen for ice cream cones. Chris, Tim and Kelly would play a game on the way home. Who could make their ice cream cone last the longest. I made a rule, that if there was ice cream when we got home, I got to eat it. I did it one time, from then on as we pulled up to the house, the last bite went into their mouth. It was great fun. Shortly after moving in, I was transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter Winona that was home ported at the Air Station. Joyce became kind of a house mother when the ship was out. A lot of the younger wives would bring their sleepy bags over and camp out in our living room while the ship was out.
I made Chief while on the Winona. It is a big thing, with an initiation and party. It so happened that I was the only one that made Chief between the Air Station and the Ship this particular time. It was quite a blow out and since I had to drink when ordered by other Chiefs, I got pretty smashed. It was great fun pouring beer over my head, if I didn’t answer a question right. The bad part was, no one saw me leave the party to go home. I remember, I had to stop every now and then driving down the spit and allow me to focus the road back to one lane. I made it through the Pulp Mill and up the hill to home. When I got there, I smelled so bad, Joyce made me take my uniform off outside the back porch before letting me in.
One day another Chief Electronics Technician showed up to the ship. He had been stationed in Rhodes Greece and while his wife was home in the states had been killed in a auto accident. I was thinking that I might be taking his place in Rhodes, a station I had requested a number of times. But my orders came in and they were for Loran Station Cape Christian on Baffin Island, Northwest Territory, Canada. Joyce found out she was pregnant. And here I was leaving, again, for a year. It put quite a strain on our marriage. November of 1971, I reported to the First District Office in Boston. They were concerned about what they were hearing concerning the officer commanding the station that they made arrangement to send me up quick. Also, the aids to navigation Captain wanted to know what other problems faced the station. They usually sent personnel up through Winnipeg Canada to pick up artic gear. Instead, I flew out of Boston in a snow storm, without artic gear. I had forgot my overcoat in Seattle and all I had was my winter uniform and a rain coat. As we were making our approach into Montreal, I was looking out the left window and could see the glow of the runway lights way off to the left. About that time, the piolet applied power and we raised back into the air. The piolet came on the intercom and announced that ground control approach was going to have to realign. So we circle a few minutes and then landed. I checked in with the airline, Nordair, that would be flying to the city Frobisher on Baffin Island. I had excess luggage and had to pay, then find a hotel, due to the snow storm. Next day we landed in Frobisher but weather was too bad to go on. So I stayed in a hotel in Frobisher. The next day, weather was still bad and I was pretty low on funds so I put on long under ware. And I had a fur hat I had picked up when we were in Iceland and transferred my hat emblem from my Coast Guard hat to it. Then stayed at the terminal to wait. Periodically the Royal Canadian Mounty would stop in and check me out and finally inquired as to why was there. Next day we were delayed again, I was going to try and use my gas card to get cash, ATM’s weren’t around yet. But Nordair put me up in there facility until weather broke and we flew out. We puddle jumped up Baffin Island in a Twin Otter, that was not sealed very well and not the warmest plane, and first landed at Clyde, a little town near Cape Christian. There was a Mounty there from Cape Christian, he saw me and asked if that was all I was wearing. I assured him that they were flying me directly to the station. It was going to be an interesting year. I checked in with the CO and was up front with him about the concern at the District Office. Then I did make a few changes that weren’t popular. But, I could cook and since they didn’t have a cook there at the time I filled in part time. Cape Christian turned out to be an interesting year. One of the first things we tried to order were a couple of snowmobiles. District turned us down because they thought we would go out and get lost in the tundra. Almost everyone on the station learned to run our D6 Caterpillars, you needed something so you could get away by yourself, and with the D6 you could slam into and level snow drifts on the landing strip. We had one man scare us by threatening to commit suicide with our station shot gun. I think he was faking but you can’t take a chance. Another cut off the fingers of his right hand on the station table saw when he was trying to make his going home box. Both took some arranging but we got them flown back to Boston. We would get in new movies every time a resupply plane came in, as well as fresh eggs and bread and other commissary supplies. We basically ran an open house for visitors, Canadian and Eskimo from Clyde. The Eskimos always stocked up drinking our cool aid so if they had a carburetor freeze up on the way home, they could defrost it by peeing on it. The Canadians, we shared some fresh eggs and bread. We got a lot almost every week and their supply came in about once a year. The station had a beer supply and honor refrigerator where purchased beer on our off times. The Canadians weren’t allow to buy beer directly. they could buy some through one of the guys on the station but couldn’t leave the station with it. We had a lot of parties with and without guests from Clyde. There was an annual Christmas Party for the Eskimo families and kids. The District would send up a lot of toys for Santa to give away and we would make a ton of sandwiches, have potato chips and pop. The Eskimo brought large boxes and when they took their coats off would put them in their box. Smart idea but when the food was put out, the coats came out of the boxes and food went in to take home for later. In the spring we were able to get outside more. On my birthday, July 26, I had left the window open in my room and the next morning had about a half an on the floor when I woke up. On 9 January, I telegraph message was forwarded to me through the District Office, “Jan 8, received via Western Union. Quote, Arrived 730, Mom fine Love Mike, Unquote.” I looked at it and asked, “Who the hell is Mike?” The guys standing in the radio room laughed and told me it was my son.
As the year was coming to an end, I found out we were going to be station at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington DC. I wrote Joyce to tell her and told her I thought she should buy a new car. One with air conditioning because of the humidity there. I placed the letter in the mail bag for the next plane out. When I got my mail from that plane, there was a letter from Joyce telling me about the new car she had just bought, a new 1972 Mercury Colony Park station wagon. It had all the bells and whistles, we would be driving to DC in style. In October 1972, I flew out of Clyde. As I was walking through the terminal in Montreal I noticed beautiful lady seating there. As I got closer, I realized it was my wife, Joyce. We got to spend a couple of days in Montreal and then flew to Boston. I checked in at the District Office and made my report to the head of Aids to Navigation as he wanted, blaming a lot of the problems on the District Office. Joyce and I spent a couple of days in Boston then flew to Washington DC to look for a house. I did a quick stop by the Loran Office I would be working at to get some ideas of where we should look. The next day we saw a real estate agent in Woodbridge Virginia and she started showing us some houses. For October it was un-seasonally warm and really hot to me, coming from the Artic. She refused to turn on her air conditioner because it was October. We found a house to rent and made arrangement with a friend, Marylou Dills, who’s husband I had been stationed with on the Winona, to supervise the unloading of our household goods when they arrived. Having sixty, plus, days leave we flew home to Washington.
We landed in Seattle where I was finally able to meet Mike, face to face, after nine months. We picked up the other kids and headed to Port Angeles. It was kind of a whirlwind period. It takes time to integrate back into a family, when you’ve been away a year. Then there was the house to sell, packers to arrange and moving trucks to get loaded. When December arrived we were ready and headed over to Seattle to say good bye to mine and Joyce’s folks. At Joyce’s Mom and Dad’s, Mike came down with pneumonia. We spent a few days there, until the Doctor said it was ok for Mike to travel and we were on our way. We arrived on Christmas Eve. The house had boxes everywhere and that is pretty mush where they stayed. We found a Chinese restaurant and had dinner. Went back to the house, found some of the Christmas decorations and some of the presents and had our first Christmas in Woodbridge. next day we joined Marylou and her family for Christmas Dinner and then went home and started the process of settling in to our new home. As a family, we visited a lot of the tourist sights in and around Washington DC. We didn’t get to a lot of places because the of the expense to live in the DC area. The Smithsonian was one our favorites. When we had visitors we usually always hit the museum of flight and then some we hadn’t seen before. I remember one time, when it was raining, there was a river running down the street by our house. The kids went out and water sledded down the gutter.
After the New Year, I signed in to Headquarters and started working. When I had visited in October, I had a beard. I had actually grown it shortly after I made Chief. The Commanding Officer of my office was expecting me to come back clean shaven. I didn’t. The Navy Times just run a cartoon of a Captain and his Bos’n on the deck of a sailing ship. The Bos’n was holding the arm of a sailor with half his beard shaved off. The caption read, “Good job Bos’n, if you let one do it, they all will.” I posted it on our information board and no one ever mentioned my beard again. I was called up to the Captain of Aids to Navigation Office about my recommendation for new communication equipment for Cape Christian. they were hesident to spend money for new equipment because the station would be closing soon. I pointed out the accidents that required emergency communication. They approved and sent new equipment. I had an opportunity to talk to the Commanding Officer that was in charge when I left. He told me, he didn’t know what I had said to the District Office in Boston, but they were getting planes in almost every day for a couple of weeks with supplies that had been on order for years. Because parking was a premium in DC we were required to car pool. I joined one that was made up of three officers, who enjoyed leaving early to have a late lunch and cocktails at the Officers Club. We always ran late heading home, an interesting drive. Luckily, we never had an accident. It was the fifth year after the founding of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association and the National Headquarters was in DC. I became the National Special Projects Officer. One of my jobs became looking for office space we could rent, which I found. While waiting to move in, I drew and painted a three foot copy of the CPOA patch that would hang there. I also participated in the fifth Annual CPOA conference. The Washington DC Chapter held a lunch for some of the Admirals. I and another Chief escorted a couple to the lunch in our Mercury. Listening to them in the back seat, I almost laughed, they were discussing how it was a Chief could afford a car like that.
I was encouraged to test for a two year advanced training school. I passed and chose DeVry Institute in Phoenix Arizona. So, May of 1974 we packed up everything and was ready to head West. Because we didn’t know what we were going to be running into or how long it would take to find a house, we flew Chris, Tim and Kelly out to Washington State and my folks house. Joyce, Mike and I headed West, towing the Vega I had bought while in the car pool. We actually headed Southwest, stopping in New Orleans at a couple’s house we had been stationed with on the Winona and spending a night. I think it was somewhere in Texas, I was getting pretty low on fuel and it was find a station or motel. I pulled in to a little town late at night and happened to see a policeman. I stopped and asked him if there was a gas station and if not a motel. He sent me to a station that was closed but said to knock on the door and tell them he had sent us. We did and we got our tank filled. I doubt you could do that mush today. When we got to Phoenix we decided to stay at a KOA camp ground and live out of the back of our station wagon. Our household goods were scheduled to arrive any day and we figured we would be able to get our camping gear. I had checked with the District Office in Long Beach to see if they had housing available because they had been arranging housing for the incoming students. They didn’t have another house available, so we started looking for one to rent. There weren’t a lot of houses that would facilitate our family for rent so we decided to buy. When we found one, I needed some help with down payment and I went to Coast Guard Assistance. In the mean time mom and Dad arrived with the kids in their motorhome. It was 115 degrees during the day and I wanted to get into our home. There was a Captain in the District office that needed to approve loans and he didn’t want to. I called him one day and wanted to know why. He thought we would be taking to much on. I explained that we would actually be paying less buying than renting. He persisted and said his officer in charge of arranging housing said there was housing available. I told him he was being told what he wanted to hear, I had already checked. But if, in fact, housing was available, I wanted a house by that afternoon. It’s 115 degrees and I had four kids, living out of a tent and the back of a station wagon. Mom was standing close to me and couldn’t believe I was talking to a Captain like that. We got the loan to purchase the house. Now we had to wait for closing. After our second week in the camp ground, Mom and Dad thought it was too hot and left. We packed up our gear and moved out to one of the local rivers and camped for a week, swimming and tubing a lot. One more week to go before we could close, we packed up everything. Located a Motel, checked in, got our room, and turned on the air conditioner and TV and vegged out for a week till we moved in to our home.
DeVry was going to be my station for two years. When people found out I was in the Coast Guard and stationed in Phoenix, they always asked, “What’s the Coast Guard doing in Phoenix?” My reply, “Well, the Coast Guards motto is Semper Paratus, Always Ready. With California expected to fall off, we are going up and down the new proposed coast line, building new stations.” Sometimes I would clarify that I was going to school and sometimes I would just walk away. School was five days a week, eight to four, so had a lot of time to be with the family. We traded in the Mercury and Vega for a nineteen foot Travel Queen Motorhome and a Toyota Corolla. I drove the Toyota to school, which left Joyce driving the motorhome to work at the Highway Patrol business office. Weekends were spent camping, fishing, swimming and touring all around Arizona. Even up to Flagstaff in the winter to do some sledding. I think one of our favorite trips was down in to the Grand Canyon. Of course we picked the hardest trail to go down. We all had backpacks and water canteens, even Mike with his pack carrying our lunch and some of his toys. One of the canteens got knocked over the side and I was getting blisters on my feet. I had to hold back because Mike was having a hard time. Close to the bottom Chris and Mike took off and beat us down, and I limped in the rest of the way. We spent the first night in the bottom of the Canyon and next day headed to Indian Gardens, about half way up. On the way we were running out of water so I went ahead and found water and refilled the canteen. I was pretty pooped and asked one of the day hikers going down if they could take the canteen to my wife and kids and they did. We met up at Indian Gardens and set up camp. It was a beautiful spot. At night the cactus on top looked like giants with the moon shining behind them. The next day we lay on our sleeping bags and watched it rain on top, evaporating before it got to us. The next afternoon, we were sitting at our picnic table and this guy came over and sat down. We didn’t say much, thinking it was a friend of the people next to us. Turned out, he was from New Zealand and that was how he met people, by just being obnoxious. He had an orange that he peeled and asked the kids if they would like some biscuits. We explained they were cookies and they took some. The next day we headed up. Chris, Tim and Mike took off. Joyce, Kelly and I took our time. The other kids had gotten to the top and met some people, we had met in Indian Gardens, and they stored their packs and bought them some drinks. As we were coming to the top, the kids placed a drink on the trail and encouraged Kelly to keep coming, “Come on Kelly”, and out of the crowd standing about we heard. “Kelly, a grand name, may you be blessed with many children.” What can I say. We went to our room at the hotel where every one took showers and cleaned up before we went out for dinner. At dinner we all chowed down; salad, steak, baked potato with all the trimmings, and apple pie alamode. That evening, we all got sick. You should never eat a lot of rich food after having been on a bland diet for a few days. It was a great trip. Heat was a big problem. It was so hot during the summer, we usually had our air conditioner set at 80-85 degrees. One week Joe, Joyce’s brother, and a friend of his, Mick, came to visit. It was funny watching these two big guys, over six feet tall, come unwinding out of a VW Super Beetle. We didn’t have our pool yet but the neighbor next door told us we could use theirs. Mick was sitting in the pool one day, with a glass of wine, saying, “I can’t believe, they have their air conditioner set at 80 degrees.” over and over.
Before graduation, I found out we would be getting orders to Coast Guard Loran Station Point Arguello, California as Officer-in-Charge. So one week we packed up the motorhome and drove over to check out the station. To get to the station, you have to drive through south Vandenberg Air Force Base. Port Arguello was a very picturesque station, setting on a bluff looking out over the Pacific. It had an unmanned light house on a hill, above a where the fog horn was on the point. There were two duplexes, a garage and the Loran building. My first feelings were I would be taking on a lot of trouble. You could almost cut the tension with a knife. We didn’t stay long. Instead we headed for Disney Land and parked in their camp ground. We got some really good tickets, one of Joyce’s cousins, Monica, worked there. After spending all day in the park, we decided to go out for dinner. We were walking to the restaurant and Mike, three or four at the time, could hardly walk, he was tired and hungry and just plain in a bad mood. On the way back to the camp grounds, with his mouse ears on, he kept singing, “M-I-C-K-E-Y, Mickey Mouse” over and over, all the way back.