Tuesday, June 13, 2006

18 August, 1954

Dear Mom & Dad

Well, here I am, as I said in the post card. I would appreciate it, mom, if you would type these letters up or keep them so I can have a record of them when I get out.

My watch is broken—I sweat so much the crystal fogged up & the watch stopped. It started again today, but when I went to wind it, the knob just turned, but it didn’t wind. I’ll see if there’s someplace around here I can have it fixed. (It’s on now, Wednesday night)

So far, I’ve spent $2.90 for 4 towels (white) & two laundry bags, & 55 cents for a haircut. You should see; everyone looks like they’ve gone through the Ford Dearborn massacre & came out second-best. My eyelashes are longer than the hair left on the top of my head.

I’ve been told that, while in training, we only get off once a year--& that’s at Christmas. I think you should come down here & spend Christmas. Although from all I’ve seen of this balmy Florida weather, they can have it. It gets so hot—not really much hotter than Rockford, I suppose, but it’s so humid that the sweat just pours off everyone. Fortunately, I don’t sweat much, but it’s mighty uncomfortable just the same.

We’re right on the Gulf of Mexico, or awfully close to it. From my window I can see it, if it is the Gulf. In fact, it’s only about a block away. It must be a bay or something, because there is land on the other side.

A bunch of advanced NavCads are marching by my window with rifles. They wear khaki shorts & blue T-shirts. Evidently a new group comes in every week—mine is 33-54. Did I tell you about the buildings? If not, I will—they’re two story, red brick, Southern Colonial with huge, screened-in white porches. I’m in Building 624, which is used for inductions. In a week or two, we’ll move to other barracks. We have the corner room—one side is a porch-side, the other an outside. This gives us plenty of ventilation & its wonderful sleeping, what little sleeping we do.

Someone around here has a distorted sense of humor. Reveille is at 5:30, & by 5:32 you’ve got to be up, dressed, washed, have your bed made, & be standing in formation in the "quarterdeck" (main lobby of the building). You figure it out! The answer is rather apparent—it can’t be done. So we get up at 5:00. And if I hear dad laughing, I’ll kill him! By the time I come home, I’ll be 21 & if I want to sleep till 4:00 p.m. I will & just try to get me up before that.

My legs are killing me! I can’t even keep my balance when I first get up from a chair; stairways ("ladders") are almost impossible. After meals, you are given fifteen minutes or so to "rest"—but you can’t lay down. "PROCEDURE FOR CARE OF YOUR ROOM…..7: Cadets are not allowed to lay on bunks between the hours of 0530 and 2115 (9:15 p.m.). After 2115 cadets may get into their bunks."

So far today we’ve mopped, swept & dusted the entire barracks twice. Oh for some more procedure—you want to go someplace (the only place we can go is to the P.X., & then only between 4:00 & 5:00 ). You go to the MOD’s (Master of the Deck) office, which is down the passageway & in the main section of the building. You stand at attention in the doorway & knock three times with your right hand, which is at your side while knocking. The MOD says "come in" (it’s an open doorway & he’s seen you all the time, but that’s the way it goes). You walk in, keeping your eyes on the wall to the right & above the MOD’s head, & stop one step from the desk. You say "Cadet Margason, F R., 33-54 requesting permission to go tot he P.X." He says "Permission granted" & you step forward with your right foot, keeping your left in place. You sign out with your right hand, leaving your left at your side. Then you say "Thank you, sir," take one step backward, do an about face, & leave. (You’ve got to sign in, too.). Well, enough Navy life for now. Write soon.


P.S. I haven’t saluted anybody yet! My address is:
NavCad F. R. Margason U.S.N.R.
Class 33-54
U.S. Naval School, Pre-Flight
NAS, Pensacola, Fla.


Eric said...

A question unanswered - you mention you hoped to become a pilot; were there other reasons for joining the Navy for four years?

Dorien/Roger said...

I joined the Navy when I did for several reasons, not the least of which was that they were planning to end the G.I. Bill--which provided a ton of benefits to military personnel--as of January, 1955. I was in my sophomore year of college and decided that if I went at the end of that school year, I would get in before the cut-off (which I did). The Bill helped pay my last two years of college after I got out.

Besides, I always liked sailors, and had always wanted to fly. Fortunately for me, when I joined the Naval Aviation Cadets their program was set up so that, if you completed the program and got your wings, you were required to serve a full four-year stint. However, if for some reason you did not complete the program Iwhich I did not, as is outlined in my letters), then you only had to serve two years from the date you joined...and you still got all the G.I. Bill benefits!

I have always been totally awed by the fact that, when one looks at a letter or reads a book, at one time the page was blank, and the words were put down, one at a time, as the writer actually lived that moment. And once down on paper, those moments are preserved forever. That is why I am a writer.

So I will be delighted to have you in effect looking over my shoulder as I put down each word in each letter, and accompany me on this trip through time.