13 september 2020



The move was made from boot camp and recruit, to Sea School and Marine in a matter of minutes. We had packed our seabags that morning and following inspection we returned to our tent area, where I received my first set of transfer orders. I was to proceed from Recruit Training Center to Sea School, MCRD San Diego, for training and further assignment with the fleet. No travel time, no delay in route, no expense to the government was authorized. I shouldered my seabag and as part of a detail of six men, marched the 200 yards from our platoon area to the barracks housing Sea School. We were greeted by our instructor, Sergeant Jim Roddenberry, assigned bunks in a squad room, told to square away our gear and get ready for LIBERTY.

A great cheer went up from our little group, as we had been anxiously awaiting the moment when we could actually go to the beautiful city, which up until then we had only been able to contemplate from afar. Liberty, how sweet the word. By this time my select group had been narrowed down to Merrifield, Dunn, Dunn and Musa. Off we went to make the big splash. San Diego was our oyster, we were going to set the place on fire. We forgot to take matches.

We had money, we had uniforms, we had charm. What we didn't have was good sense. San Diego was a Navy town, they had seen everything, and we were just four very obvious BOOTS in town for the first time. Our uniforms shouted it, as did our haircuts, but most of all our demeanor spelled out BOOT just as if we had worn a neon sign. We checked in at the Army Navy YMCA and we registered for a bunk that night. San Diego was indeed a pretty place. We walked Broadway looking for girls, and all we saw were Sailors, Soldiers and Marines. All were in the same boat, lonely, far from home, and seeking a friendly word. We went to a restaurant and ordered T-bone steaks with all the trimmings, too young to drink, we made do with Coke. Price for the whole works was less than a dollar. We walked some more. Four friends on liberty, and we found Market Street. Market Street, the street of dreams, the street of romance, the street where you could get the friendly word, and the warm embrace, providing you had the price. Market Street, “Chula Puta Linda.”

In 1941, you could get laid for two dollars, around the world for three, and the ladies of the night were young, and for the most part considerate. It was as if they too were seeking the friendly word and gentle caress. I had my libido activated at a very early age, and my idea of Nirvana was the act of intercourse, and Market Street provided the outlet. All my life I had correlated screwing with love, and the girls I frequented on Market Street found in me a young, caring, somewhat clumsy, but yet gentle patron, and I get ahead of my story. The four of us wound up in a whorehouse, and after 2 months of abstention (in a two-man tent you don't get much opportunity for what the British refer to as wanking), to say it was an evening of seminal excesses would be an understatement. I spent $6 on three girls and had I been a rich man I would have bought the place. I remember Merryfield saying we had to conserve and think ahead to our next liberty. He was right, of course.

Our training began in earnest. We were issued dress blue uniforms and taught how to handle the brass work which adorned them, we went into Naval History and tradition, learned the role of a Marine in the fleet, and what our duties and life would be like aboard ship. We formed into crews and practiced oaring a whale boat, where again my size dictated me to be assigned as stroke oarsmen, and again I failed miserably. I was still the boy in the man's body and muscular coordination I had none. Clumsy was the word for me. We learned trick, or as it was referred to “Monkey Drill.” We were up every morning at five a.m. for a mile run on the parade ground. We learned to read signal flags and tried our hand at semaphore. We practiced on loading machines simulating the three inch 50, the five inch 51, and five inch 25 Naval guns. On Wednesday nights we were allowed liberty call from 1600 hours until 2400 hours. And on weekends we were free from 1200 Saturday until 2400 Sunday night.

Week nights we would still do our laundry, and by this time I learned the art of starching and ironing my khaki shirts and trousers. The base laundry was available to us, but the expense was prohibited. I recall it was something like 8 cents a shirt and 12 cents for a pair of trousers, but we would sometimes use two shirts a day and the cost would soon add up. The four of us would congregate at the Slop Chute of an evening and drink nickel beer. We would speculate on what our assignments would be. Would it be a battle wagon or a cruiser, or perhaps an aircraft carrier. We were all pretty much in agreement that we would like to stay together, but also realized our chances of doing so were pretty slim. My hopes were for a cruiser and I wanted the Asiatic Fleet, I had visions of China, and other exotic far off places. My mind's eye was filled with brown skin girls naked from the waist up who were just waiting for someone like me to come make their lives complete. Illusions, made all the better by listening to sea stories told by our instructors, all of whom had spent time at sea and in the case of a couple of them in China. I was filled with the adventure of it all. A couple of beers, and we would be half high, and a feeling of brotherhood would cause us to swear undying loyalty and friendship to one another. We sang the Marines Hymn, and other raunchy and bawdy songs we knew, and for me, life was good.

Every Wednesday night I would wind up with Lois on Market Street. Every Saturday night, I would wind up with Lois and sometimes if the budget was right I would also have Lois on Sunday. All of this was a real strain on the budget. I was making the total of $21 per month plus $3 shooting money. We paid the Navy 20 cents a month for medical care. My static expenses for laundry supplies and personal care was in the range of a dollar a week, I was a hooked smoker by then, and tailor-made cigarettes were a dollar a carton, and I was going through about three cartons a month. I was paid twice a month and each time I would draw about $11.40. I would immediately go to the Post Exchange and purchase the necessary items to keep myself and my uniforms clean, and then budget $2 for the evening penny ante poker games, and our Slop Chute sessions. I would usually have five to six dollars left for my romantic endeavors. If I was lucky in the games I might pick up an entire extra few dollars, but if I had lost the two bucks, I was finished until the next payday. Nothing was going to cause me to risk my whorehouse money. There were times when I was stone broke on a liberty night, and I would still manage to get to town, and after a couple of hours of roaming the streets, I would wind up at the Rex Rooms, and Lois would greet me, and I would hem and haw, and finally say I was broke, and she would say “No Mon, No Fun, Hun,” and I would hang around the parlor talking to other people, and visiting with the girls between their tricks, and finally Lois would come over and say “Okay, just this once, and remember you owe me.” And take me back to her room for what we refered to as getting laid for love. I honestly think she liked me. I was always telling her I was going to take her away from there, and she would laugh, and say “With what?” She was probably in her late twenties, and humoring a 17 year old boy may have been good for her ego. To this day, I sometimes think of her and hope her life turned out better than it was in those days at the Rex Rooms.