Plebe Summer

                          (Click on images to expand) On July 5, 1960, Naval Academy discipline became my world. My father drove me to the front gate and wished me luck. Following the appointment letter warnings, I brought a shaving kit with toothpaste, comb, and watch. At the front gate a Marine guard let me enter after he saw my authorization letter. Walking toward the largest dormitory in the world in a yellow-brick courtyard, home to nearly four thousand midshipmen, passing cannons that protected the massive stone structure, I climbed the concrete steps to tall doors and entered Bancroft Hall. Awe-struck by the marble floors, arched ceilings, and expansiveness, could I survive this challenge?     A sign directed me to a room where and enlisted man handed me a large canvas bag to carry my new equipment: tee shirts, skivvies, socks, white sailor jumpers, trousers, rain gear, white sailor hats with blue trim, navy blue shorts, Naval Academy shirt, sweatshirt, sweat pants, tennis shoes, drill shoes, leggings, and towels. My first military haircut occurred after I joined the end of a long line of plebes. At my assigned room, I brought my initial issue and met my new roommates for the summer. Tall and husky George Sefcik from New Jersey confessed, “I was lucky the Academy took me, hope to survive the academics, and want to make the boxing team.”Short and scholarly, George Detman from Massachusetts had a strong interest in naval history and was a good bet to graduate. I introduced myself and said, “My Dad and brother graduated from the Academy. I left Duke as a sophomore to come here.”The Academy issued me stencils with my laundry number “4473” that I carefully filled in with indelible black ink on my white sailor jumpers along with my other stencil: “LAVERY, D.C.” that soon appeared on all my tee shirts, clothes, and laundry bag. When the announcement blared over the loudspeaker system: “Plebes assemble in front of Bancroft Hall parade area for the annual swearing-in ceremony,” I hustled to the spot with a new-found pride in the naval uniform my father, brother, and I wore. This was the oath that I had refused two years earlier at Duke. It marked the official turning point for every plebe and first year freshman in any ROTC program when we became wedded to military service for at least eight years. The Naval Academy Band played the Star Spangled Banner and the Commandant of Midshipmen, Admiral Charles Kirkpatrick, gave a patriotic speech. At the end he asserted, “You can do whatever you set your mind to.” Each midshipman with raised right arm recited, “I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” Upon our return to Bancroft Hall, our second class platoon leaders immediately attacked George for the way he wore his uniform, shined his shoes, folded his clothing, and stored it in his locker—he always fell short of the standards they required.                      Our platoon leader was skinny, medium height, and had a German accent. He immaculately squared-away his uniform, spit-shined his shoes with a sparkle, and had a military bearing with an arrogant flare. He usually spoke clearly, but occasionally his accent made it difficult to understand his commands. Our first introduction to him occurred at the noon meal formation. We straggled to the location in front of Bancroft Hall where each platoon commander had a sign indicating the number of his platoon. Midshipman Lindenstruth stood erect at the front of my platoon. I saluted him as Chip had instructed me, “I request permission to speak.” “Speak plebe.” “This is my assigned platoon, sir. Where should I go from here?” “Start a line here, Plebe,” pointing to a spot on the ground next to where he placed his left spit-shined black drill shoe.   Tall George nicknamed our leader “Struts” in conversations between roommates. Struts gave us his introductory speech: “As plebes, you may not speak unless you first ask permission to do so when you want to talk with any upper-classman. Always line up in the same order I assigned you when doing drills or preparing to march into Bancroft Hall to eat at the mess hall. The Academy will indoctrinate you into a naval career that depends on discipline. You must always have an impeccable appearance, and follow orders precisely as given. Some of you won’t complete plebe summer because many plebes are not officer material. Every year plebes that meet the high standards for entrance into the Academy are "bilged" (flunked) for poor discipline, too many absences, or poor performance on tests from academics to physical fitness.”   Our typical day began at 6:15 AM when a bugle sounded reveille on the loudspeaker system throughout Bancroft Hall followed by a series of shrill bells. We immediately arose from our beds, got dressed in the uniform-of-the-day and stood at attention outside our rooms lined up with our backs against the bulkhead (wall). Our platoon commander inspected us and took roll call. If any plebe failed to spit-shine his shoes, “square away” any part of the uniform, or arrived late to the formation, the platoon commander would charge him with five demerits for each offense. Five demerits meant one hour of marching before reveille, or after classes. The platoon commander marched us into the mess hall for breakfast when the inspection concluded. We marched to our assigned table for ten and stood silently at attention behind our seats for a prayer from the Chaplain.                           After breakfast, our leader marched us to the armory to pick up M-1 rifles for drill practice. Midshipman Lindenstruth made these drills demanding. Extreme heat and high humidity characterized the weather that summer, which added to the difficulty of any prolonged physical activity. After about two hours of drilling the first day, sweat covered my face and rolled into my eyes; but our day had just begun. We also studied naval history, learned sailing, practiced knot tying, endured strenuous physical fitness exercises (PT), and participated in Yard Patrol (YP) boat drills.                     For sailing instruction, they randomly joined us with four plebes. They taught us the Rules of the Road and how to sail with a qualified instructor. Then they left us alone so we could try to develop our skill. They tested any crew that indicated they were ready to qualify. Each plebe had to pass for any crew to check out a sailboat. Unfortunately, two of the plebes in my crew prevented us from qualifying by their lack of skill. The knot tying course introduced us to knots seaman have used for years while also demonstrating contemporary variations.   PT (physical training) involved a number of activities, including a timed obstacle course that we ran until we tested successfully. Our swimming instructor, “Heinz” Lenz, had an Olympic background from Germany. His strong accent rang out as he instructed the backstroke with his words echoing through the Olympic sized pool, “Up, out und togeda.” The command “up” meant to pull your knees and hands up to your chest with your head laid flat and eyes looking to the ceiling of the indoor pool while swimming on your back. “Out” meant to spread your legs and extend your arms straight out wide to the right and left side in a coordinated rhythmical motion. Finally the “together” meant to thrust the legs and arms quickly in the same rhythm to shoot your body swiftly threw the water. “Dis stroke vas the best stroke for survival if stranded at sea. Many people who had fallen or washed overboard successfully reached safety by using dis rhythmical stroke. One could maintain dis stroke longa than any uddah.” Eventually, each midshipman had to swim a mile in a certain time to graduate from the Academy. Failing any of these fitness tests could constitute grounds for dismissal from the Academy. I scored the highest score of 4.0 on the obstacle course that showed my instructors and classmates I could excel in something else besides baseball.   Powerful yard patrol boats, YP’s, or what some midshipman comically referred to as “Yipees,” gave each midshipman an opportunity to learn the art of ship handling. We always marched in formation by our summer plebe platoons to arrive at the dock where four YP’s docked with a naval officer as our instructor for navigation, more Rules of the Road, horn and flag signals, and night lighting for determining direction and general speed of any nearby vessel. Red lights indicated the port (left) side of the vessel while, green lights signified the starboard (right) side. We spent hours reading radar and charting position, learning commands to the helmsman such as “Right full rudder”, “All ahead full”, “All back full,” and other variations, moving the YP where desired. We memorized commands, learned the equipment, and became proficient boat handlers. YP training was no pleasure cruise. The instructors severely criticized many plebes for the slightest error in judgment because a moving vessel on water takes an inordinate amount of time to maneuver in contrast to a vehicle on land. The danger of inaccurately estimating the movement of a vessel at sea can cause extensive damage, as well as injury to passengers. Our intense course qualified as one of the most practical we had given  the profession we would enter upon graduation. I looked forward to the drill away from upper class harassment that showed an investment the Navy made unavailable at any university. The drills stressed me at the beginning until I understood each one. Rifle range was unique. We checked out an M-1 rifle from the armory and got into formation. On our first day for rifle range one of the second classman in charge of another platoon walked up to us, “Mr. Lindenstruth can’t attend today so I’ll take charge of both platoons,” he barked. He showed off his particular penchant for harassment by making plebes run with their rifle at high port. We held the rifle over our head with both arms extended in an awkward position given the weight of the rifle and ran to his designated location. He came up to me and two other plebes from my platoon, “You three plebes run over to that light pole at high port and count the number of flies on it; run back and report that number to me. Don’t speak to each other, shitheads. You better all agree.” The pole stood one hundred and fifty yards away at the end of the parade field. I ran as fast as I could at high port. Exhausted by the time I returned back  first, “There were no flies on the pole, sir, ” I said. The others reported the same shortly. Each of us had difficulty trying to catch our breath and sweat covered our faces in the humid heat. I considered the drill hazing that demonstrated some upper-classmen relished their power to force plebes to do meaningless tasks. My brother warned, “A number of cruel people received appointments to Annapolis. As a plebe  try to avoid them whenever possible.” (Click on photo to zoom)

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Winners Never Quit

            (Click on photo images to expand) When I was thirteen, Dad received orders to command the USS Whetstone (LSD- 27) at the Naval Amphibious Base at Coronado, California. He had taken Chip and me on a road trip from Chicago ahead of the family to find a house on the island. By preparing swordfish grilling it with a little butter, pepper and salt, he wowed us with his cooking before his parents and Aunt Jane arrived. A Spanish-styled three-bedroom house surrounded by a white wall walking distance from the Pacific Ocean was our new home. Living on an island a block from one of the five best beaches in America offered us surf, fish, sunsets, sports, music, and many lasting friendships. Chip went out for varsity football at Coronado High School, while I attended Junior High. One day when I had finished gym class, I saw him in his uniform with shoulder pads bulging from a green and white Varsity Football Jersey and yellow pants. I could hardly believe my eyes. It made me proud to know he competed with the school’s best athletes. The sting of taunts and put-downs were lessened by his transformed image. “You look great in your football uniform,” I told him. He shrugged, knowing others players heard my comment and glanced at me, in a moment of acknowledgment before he raced off to practice. Hearing the sound of those cleats clickity clacking on cement was new for me, but one I would hear for many years. Chip raced out the locker room door as I noticed a slogan on the wall: “Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit.” On the spot, I vowed to never quit any sport. The slogan meant quitting is never an option. A winner must never give in to the temptation to quit, even when exhausted, injured, or losing. Neighbors who played on the varsity basketball team allowed me to shoot baskets with them nearby. They helped me polish moves I copied from them. The high school scoring leader, Robin Dean, lived around the corner. He put up a basketball net over a garage in our alley with enough space for a half-court game. Robin had a deadly accurate shot from almost anywhere. Outstanding players joined him, who taught me to shoot a jump shot and my set shot steadily improved. Eventually at these “pick up” games the experienced players selected me on their team, which boosted my spirits. When I finished my paper route, I often played touch or flag football with high school students in my neighborhood including Chip, John Strobane, and others in a neighbor’s large yard covered with ice weed across the street. Competing with high school athletes with my passes, runs, and punts was a new challenge. The ice weed left a stain on my jeans, but it acted like padding, so falling wasn’t dangerous. We lived so close to the Pacific Ocean, Chip and I regularly changed into swimming suits, took our towels, put on swim fins, and walked one-half block to the beach. We swam and body-surfed on the rolling waves that crashed onto the sandy shoreline at regular intervals. Catching a wave and riding it into the shore was another athletic endeavor with the wind whistling, the aroma of salt sea, and the force of the ocean behind our own swift swimming skill adding to the excitement. Sometimes the lifeguards put up a red danger flag to warn us that powerful surf made it too hazardous for swimmers. A rip tide could take a swimmer far out to sea. Swimming parallel to the shoreline allowed a swimmer to progress toward the shore against strong forces. One huge wave approached giving me pause but in no time it broke over me and made me tumble down a mountain of white water until my body hit bottom, knocked the breath out of me, scattered my fins away, and nearly drowned me. I staggered to my towel and rested before dragging my feet home with a new appreciation for the forces of nature.            One sunny Saturday, Chip and I pushed a yellow three man raft we purchased from the Army-Navy surplus store over powerful waves using our swim fins. We jumped into the raft to relax after the struggle to arrive beyond the wave line, reclined, and reveled in our comfort, feeling safe in a calm part of the Pacific Ocean about a hundred feet off shore. Reveling near the coastline, swimmers played in the surf and sunbathers rested on the sandy beach before the rocks separated by the street leading to the Coronado Hotel. This architectural wonder majestically rose into the sky with spires, white walls, red roofs, turrets, large glass windows with green awnings, tennis courts, long pier, patios, walkways, and tourists wandering by shops, outdoor walk-up bar, and marimba bands that sent rhythms of the Beach Boys, Harry Belafonte, and others wafting across offshore winds. Two dark fins cut through the calm water a few feet away bringing me out of my reverie. Sharks are surrounding us I thought. They could tip us over and attack in deep water beyond the waves where we’d drifted in a rip tide. “Chip, sharks have surrounded us,” I said. He scrutinized the danger and laughed, “Those are dolphins, silly.” Having assumed the worst from dark fins slashing through the water, I watched them with amazement as they gracefully moved through the water, traveled up and down in groups of three or more,  cavorted with one another, and swam off gracefully. Dad came home on a Friday night in March, “Boys how would you like to go on a grunion run?” “What’s a grunion run, Dad?”Chip said. “They’re small fish on the coast. March through August, many grunion swim out of the water to spawn in the sand with an incoming wave. The females dig tail first into the sand and deposit their eggs. Males fertilize them spraying semen nearby, then swim back while the females wait for the next wave.” “How big are grunion? I asked. “About five inches long. They “run” three or four nights after the new and full moon between 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.” “What should we bring to catch them?” Chip asked. “A flashlight and a bucket, but you can only use hands to catch them.” “Can you eat them?” I asked. “Yes, by breading and grilling, or frying them. Their bones are so fragile you can eat the whole fish during March, June, July, and August, but not in April and May, which are closed for fishing to allow them to produce enough for next season.”             We went grunion hunting that night at 10:00 p.m. in our bathing suits carrying our equipment. The moon shimmered on the incoming waves that drove water to glide rapidly over the gradual sloped sand until only an inch of water covered the wet moonlit sand. The incoming surf slowed and returned to the next wave. We didn’t see any grunion until 11:00 p.m. when we saw a few silvery flashes off their slender sides squirming on the wet sand after the wave receded. “Grunion send scouts to see if predator fish threaten the school. Don’t try to catch those. Wait ‘til the whole school runs or you could scare them from running here,” Dad said. We heard shouts from other hunters who didn’t care whether they caught scouts or not. They grabbed what few they found. We told them, “Those are scouts. Throw them back so the school will come in unaware we’re here.” They ignored us. We decided to go further down the beach. We walked to a quiet, darker, and unpopulated part of the beach. In twenty minutes, we saw grunion in the returning water from every wave in the wet sand flipping, squirming, and flashing. Many of the females had their tail dug into the sand while white semen from the males dotted the surf’s ebb and flow. I screamed with delight, “There’s one. Look at ‘em flipping.” “Grab ‘em and put ‘em in your bucket,” Chip said. When I spotted a group of grunion on outgoing water, I ran to catch them in my hands, but they slithered through my fingers. We counted nearly twenty in each bucket before the run ended. Dad made us throw back half the grunion as we had caught more than we could eat. We went home, washed off the sand, and changed clothes while Dad cooked up a batch. We devoured them, bones and all with a dab of tartar sauce, butter, and a root beer. A baseball coach from Coronado wanted to form a team for boys my age. The thought excited me. I showed up for a tryout with friends at the high school practice field. A tall man with a bag of bats, balls, and catcher’s equipment gathered us on benches at third base. “I’m interested in coaching a team of thirteen year-olds to compete in a league. I own a store in Coronado and plan to sponsor the team. Take positions for fielding and batting practice.” Twenty boys in baseball cleats, jeans, jerseys, caps, with gloves, signed his list and raced out to their favorite position. I took second base. The coach hit balls to each of the players and shouted, “Good throw,” “Nice pick-up,” and “Great catch” when players performed well. When he pitched batting practice to us he said, “Way to smash the ball,” “Good hit,” and “Way to drive the ball to the opposite field,” to our hitters. After two hours he said, “Men, gather on the bench.” That was the first time I heard “men” used by any coach referring to me. After three practices, he scheduled a game the next weekend, placed me at second base, and batted me lead-off. The first pitch I slammed for a triple off the center field fence. As I coasted into third base, the coach smiled, “Super hit, Danny. You missed a homer by a foot.” We took a lead against our opponents through the first three innings. A player hit a hot grounder that skipped up and hit me in my crotch. After I threw him out, I fell to the ground writhing in pain, became nauseous with no place to hide my agony, and heard laughing voices from a group of girls that turned my face into a bright tomato. Coach whispered to me, “Always wear a jock.” The players gathered after school before our next practice. A large athlete from our Boy Scout troop said, “My father wants us to quit the team because our coach is a communist. Some businessmen plan to run him out of town.” “He ran a good practice and would help us win games. We should never quit,” I said. “Communists are evil, won’t salute the flag, and don’t believe in God. Like many he’s also a Jew. My dad says the FBI knows.” I loved Boy Scouts, enjoyed marching with them in formations in a scout uniform, and was patriotic, but I didn’t want to quit a baseball team. To quit because we had what someone thought was a communist and an unpatriotic coach might be right if true, but because he was a Jew was wrong. “Jesus was a Jew. Don’t criticize anyone for their religion,” I said. “You don’t know shit, Lavery. The Jews killed Jesus after Judas betrayed him.” Another player said, “I heard the same thing from another kid.” The Scout said, “Let’s have a show of hands. How many want to quit?” After the leaders shot their hands in the sky, most raised their hands and walked away. Quitting a baseball team because someone suspected the coach was a communist didn’t feel right. They made a special exception when an athlete can quit.

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Pensacola and Jungle Survival

After the discipline and rigors of the Naval Academy, training in jet aircraft gave the word freedom a new dimension: we sped in the air and on highways, trying to catch up with the world we had left behind. A month after graduation from the Academy, I received orders to Pensacola Naval Air Station. Excited about the thought of learning how to fly Navy jet aircraft and Pre-flight school, I eagerly awaited my first assignment on my drive from Fernandina Beach, Florida after a short visit with Mom and Ruthie.   In the muggy heat of July I arrived at the gate in my white Corvette convertible. A marine guard in white gloves, white cap, black visor, light blue trousers with red stripe down the middle, dark blue dress jacket with a white webbed belt, gun in holster, and white leggings leading to spit-shined black shoes asked for my identification. After viewing my I.D., he snapped to attention, clicked his heals and gave me my first salute as a naval officer. Just then a navy jet zoomed overhead with a booming blast of power, turned and sparkled in the sunlight as she sped away on a training mission. A rush of adrenaline filled me with expectation that naval aviation would be thrilling. However, those too often mean personalities at the Naval Academy had worn off much of the Annapolis polish. The harassment I received from an upper classman in revenge for what my brother may have done to him still gnawed at me. He had driven me into the hospital with mono and ruined my chance to start for the Plebe football team at quarterback. The harassment I received from southern upper classmen about my support for civil rights lingered in my mind. But, nothing compared to the sadistic baseball coach I had who deliberately made it his mission to humiliate and frustrate me until I decided to quit. Naval Aviation should have eliminated any malicious personalities from this elite branch of the naval establishment. Entrusting men to multi-million dollar jet aircraft would surely mean they were leaders that would be professional in every sense of the word.           They assigned me a class number, an officer’s barracks, and then, unlike at the Academy, I was free. Training began the next day. Physical fitness, obstacle course, jungle survival, aviation science, navigation, and training flights determined if we had the “right stuff” to fill the shoes of a naval aviator. Flying in a two-seater jet (Northrup T-38 Talon) after first learning in a two-seater prop (T-28 North American Trojan) two months after sitting in training classes, I was a jelly fish turned into a shark. Suddenly zooming in a sleek steel bullet-like airframe, rolling and diving at supersonic speed, the Navy had elevated us to a world we could only imagine. Before takeoff our pilot instructor showed us how to “pre-flight” the plane. We checked all functioning parts to maintain safety. Once he flew the plane with me in the back seat and showed me how to escape from an attack by another aircraft by a tricky aerobatic maneuver that churned my stomach. Diving from high altitude, he did practice bombing runs racing at low altitude at a target then pulling up, teaching me to experience G-force, which increases the weight of one’s head from ten pounds exponentially, depending on the thrust of the aircraft. We felt strong forces; enough for someone to realize a weakness. My pilot did some barrel rolls, and finished with a few landings and takeoffs. Some learned they couldn’t handle jet flight when airsickness was a clue. He was skilled, knowledgeable, an expert, and a leader. The Dilbert Dunker was quite an adventure for those who got disoriented or couldn't swim well. I had been a lifeguard, so I had an advantage. The Dunker is designed like an aircraft on two tracks with an aviator strapped into a mock cockpit with hands on the throttle and stick inside that is lifted in a cart-cockpit a few meters out of the water. The cart would then come crashing into the water, flip up-side-down, and the candidate would have to orient himself with water in his sinuses and escape from the pilot seat. You had to unhook your safety belt, swim down to clear the aircraft, and then swim to safety. A lifeguard was on duty to save those who could not perform. Failure to successfully complete the exercise flunked the student and every class had a few who failed. Many will tell you that, although the experience was a challenge, if they were to go down in an aircraft they would be grateful they had the training.        Jungle survival training in Pre-flight school ranked high on “unique adventures.” We wore tall waterproofed jungle boots heavily covered with polish and Marine green fatigues made of a strong fabric. We had a backpack, first aid kit, water purifying iodine mixture, canteen, hunting knife, rifle, helmet, contour maps, a compass, and poncho. They bused us to the Okefenokee Swamp between Southwestern Georgia and Northwestern Florida. Marine guides counseled us on survival during a trek on a god-awful hot muggy day. The sweat poured off my face, thirst nearly overwhelmed me, as I followed our trainer into a dense jungle with about twenty-five classmates. He pointed out what to avoid for our safety and identified poisonous leaves and wildlife. We stumbled onto a number of coral snakes during the arduous excursion. “Avoid any contact with that critter as it ranks as the most poisonous snake in the United States.” When we reached a point of extreme thirst, he stopped at a muddy creek. The water resembled slimy brown soup. “Fill up your canteens, pour the water through a denim cloth to filter it, and remove any impurities. Add iodine tablets using one per quart of relatively clear water. Use two tablets in cloudy water. You can survive on it.” As bad as it tasted, my mouth was so dry, I longed for anything wet. Still I thought I might throw up from the smell and texture. I used the process a few more times when my thirst grew unbearable in the one hundred degree temperature and murky humidity.               Soon we noticed a clearing where squirrels scampered in the trees branches and wild pigs with horns raced ahead of us. The trainer said, “You couldn’t run fast enough to catch wild pigs but you could capture squirrels.” Some of the students bagged squirrels. When they removed the hair and tried to cut the meat from the bones, hardly anything remained to eat. The trainer showed us how to make a fire and wrap the small amount of meat on a stick to cook it over flames. Successful jungle survival also required us to learn where to find edible berries and fruits. I decided to test my speed to prove the trainer wrong and lit out after a wild pig chasing him for at least a hundred yards. Through the dense humid jungle dodging trees and rocks, I raced and then dove a few times barely missing him each time and came back to the group exhausted from the chase. The trainer laughed, “Look how much energy one man expended trying to do the impossible. If you have a gun with ammunition, you have a chance to get a wild pig. But then you just might have given away your position to the enemy. You need a thoughtful plan so the group survives with as much safety and edible food as possible without allowing the enemy to discover your location. Knowledgeable natives have no problem surviving in the jungle. It provides anyone with plenty of edible food if you take the time to study the subject. Natives make slender spears, rock slings, or blow guns with poison darts to catch game. Each makeshift weapon has the virtue of being silent.” After sixteen hours buses took us back to our bachelor barracks where we fell asleep exhausted from one of the most practical training missions the Navy offered.

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Kamakura 1955

Kamakura was a natural fortress surrounded to the north, east, and west by mountains and to the south by Sagami Bay and in AD 1192 became the political center of Japan. When it was the fourth largest city in the world, bloody Samurai clans battled to forge Japan’s first military government. Since AD 1252 the Great Buddha (Diabutsu) perched here in eternal meditation. In this ancient city, I learned to shed prejudice and appreciate Japanese culture.  Dad found us a four-bedroom three-story house we entered from a narrow alley. When he arrived he gathered us outside and counseled, “In Japan we remove our shoes at the genkan (entryway), step up to the raised floor, place them in the getabako (cabinet), and put on slippers.” Our bedroom floors were made of tatami, a woven soft rush straw, with padding underneath. Rooms were separated by portable sliding doors made from wood and opaque paper that allowed outside light to pass through. Individually-sized mats fit each bedroom that was bordered by plain green cloth. Our beds had thick silk covers, called futons, decorated with golden dragons and other Japanese symbols. Mine was a brilliant blue one and Chip chose bright red. Wooden hallways ran beyond the bedrooms. Portable wooden boards on the exterior sealed the house at night. Extended roofs protected the partitions from getting wet when it rained. Wood and clay shingles coated the roof. We immersed ourselves in a traditional wooden high-sided soaking tub (ofuro) containing steaming hot water up to the chin, located in a large tiled shower that contained a mosaic of Japanese symbols: Mount Fuji, a geisha in traditional kimono, cranes, cherry trees, and bamboo.                            We showered before entering the bath using a flexible hose and a wooden stool to sit on and let the ofuro water clean the next person. The expansive “bathroom” contained no toilet but a tiled floor with a drain to catch the runoff from the tub and the waste water from the shower. Taki, our stocky maid and cook, started a fire in charcoal underneath the house to heat the ofuro. Females went first. We knew they had finished when Nicky, and her two daughters, Valerie Lee, fourteen, and Paige, thirteen, appeared in multi-colored yukatas (kimonos). We males wore white kimonos with black or blue pattern. Taki cooked most meals on a hibachi BBQ and placed the pan in the middle of our carved wooden dining table that stood a few feet high. She made sukiyaki by adding sake (rice wine), oil, and soy, or other sauces to a large pan of Kobe beef filet mignon (Dad’s favorite), adding onions, leeks, carrots, tofu, and bamboo shoots.                                  Dad served Chip and me a small amount of heated sake, while he and Nicky drank generous portions from a heated porcelain container, and we all took hot green tea. She served us in separate gray porcelain dinner bowls decorated with red dragons.                           We ate in the dining room on a tatami matted floor with red, black, or blue silk pillows and sat in yoga position. We quickly learned to use dark wooden chop sticks and sipped miso soup from a smaller bowl without a spoon. An observation room appeared at the top of the house with waist high windows. I tooted my trumpet there while Chip wailed on his saxophone. Paul Mayerson, our high school musical director, chose a variety of music we sent wafting through the neighborhood. Paul loved original arrangements of classical, pop, and Japanese tunes we played enjoying a panoramic view of Kamakura’s narrow alleys, and a landscape that reached out to a train station with oak, pine, and maple trees scattered on green hills. Often the most prominent feature came into view covered with snow half way up the slope—the active volcano shaped like a perfect cone more than 12,000 feet, Mount Fuji with a sky of Forget-Me-Not Blue.

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Boy Scouts 1952

My cousins Lew and Phil Groebe invited Chip and me to join their Boy Scout troop, which met in a local gym in Morgan Park. We wore Boy Scout uniforms for our weekly meetings and looked forward to the campouts in the wilderness. The troop informed us they had arranged a three day canoe trip for us as the first long camping outing. When the day for the canoe trip arrived a torrential rain came down and plummeted the area making a roaring noise from the powerful wind driving it. This worried me as I was the youngest, had never been in a canoe before, and was new to Boy Scouts. The scout leader drove us to a location that had a number of steel canoes that seated two scouts with their equipment. Since Lew was the oldest and very muscular and I was the youngest, we decided that Phil and Chip should select one canoe, while Lew and I would choose another. We loaded our back packs, tents, and sleeping bags in the canoe in a driving rain storm as the winds blew furiously. The downpour completely soaked us and our equipment before we ever put our canoes in the water. What was promised to be an exciting adventure had me shivering and fearful from the start.           The river our troop selected for the canoe trip contained many large rocks in it and an incredible number of tree blockages along the way. Lew explained we had to “portage” each time the canoe could not continue while the pelting rain blasted us. We had to lift our canoe out of the water and carry it with all our equipment to a place where the river continued unblocked.
By the time we had finished, we had portaged seventeen times during this wet, cold, and strenuous outing. The scout leader brought food for us at a campsite set up along the route each night for our three-day ordeal. Totally exhausted by the time we took the canoes to the truck, I was relieved we finally entered the large van and drove to Morgan Park stopping the constant drenching we had experienced. My first major test of endurance of such magnitude was a lesson that taught us never to quit a difficult task and how to bond as a group. We were proud to have survived a true test of our determination, skill, and strength. Believe it or not, despite the struggle we had many jovial moments, laughing and shouting with glee when we glided in our canoes and raced each other stroking our oars as fast as we could under a canopy of forest trees in the wilderness oblivious to the cold wet rain. During the summer we enjoyed a week at a Boy Scout camp in Michigan called Camp Owassippi. We had assigned tents with four of us to a tent that came with mosquito netting for each of us. Hikes, star watching, knot tying, campfires, singing, and Indian tales kept us busy and made the week enjoyable. After the first night however, I awakened to a mosquito net full of spiders and screamed fearing they had entered inside where I slept. Lew, Phil, and Chip laughed as they had planned this hazing by moving hundreds of daddy-long-legged spiders from their netting to mine before I awoke. The joke was on me making me laugh realizing it was all in fun with nothing to fear. We were comrades in the Boy Scouts and joyful cousins.

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