November 14 - 25 1954
Though I really can’t afford the time, I can’t let such an “important occasion” as my twenty-first birthday go by without any comment.
I don’t know what I expected—what sort of metamorphosis or symbiosis would take place—perhaps I didn’t at all. The day passed, as do most days around here, frantically & without distinction--I took in a movie (White Christmas—Bing Crosby, Rosemary Cloony, etc.) which was very good & proceeded to make me briefly very homesick. Homesickness is something that does me no good, so I never let it bother me (with exceptions such as the above).
Your caterpillar son is still a caterpillar—but I’m still hoping.
Tomorrow the First Lord of the British Admiralty is arriving—perhaps with the Queen Mother, which is just scuttlebutt so far, but it is possible.
Enough for now—I’ll write more when I get the chance—I just had to say something on my 21st birthday—Goodnight, sweet Prince—may flights of angles guide thee to thy rest….
This letter was begun, obviously, on November 14. It is now November 24—Thanksgiving. I’ve never eaten Thanksgiving dinner off a metal tray before, & I can’t say as I would care to make it a regular holiday habit. I’ve got the menu, which I’ll bring home with me—we had shrimp cocktail, ham, turkey, potatoes, fruit cake, mince meat pie, etc. It was quite good, considering.
Well, as of today, my military career has lasted exactly three months, one week, & four days.
By changing civilians into soldiers, sailors, & NavCads, they have been very effective & methodical to try & root out any traces of individuality one may have, the end result being a well oiled machine that has all the freedom of a Mark VIII computer, if not the intelligence.
Ann Zubas said to me before I left “Don’t let them change you” & I assured her no-one could. However, they’re trying their best. I must say I don’t care for it—at all. I may not have been perfect, but darn it, I liked me that way. Now I don’t know what I am. I only hope you can recognize me.
Well, it won’t be long now—only three weeks or so. And I don’t mind saying I’ll be mighty glad to get home. Only two more finals to take—I’m right on the borderline in one of them (Principles of Flight); I hope I pass it.
Florida weather isn’t bad, but I have nothing to compare it with, so I can’t tell if it’s warm or not. Usually in the morning it is cool enough for a jacket, but it warms up in the afternoon so that you can run around in shirt sleeves (though it isn’t hot by a long shot).
Did I ever tell you our daily routine? Probably, but I’ll tell you again. Reveille is at 0530; everyone hops out of bed the minute it sounds,. Because you can never tell when the RDO (Regimental Duty Officer—a Captain (marine) or Lieutenant (Navy usually) may come around, & if he catches anyone in bed, they go on report; which means twenty demerits and four hours on the grinder. Up, wash, & get dressed in P.T. outfits (khaki shorts, blue & gold reversible shirt; sweat gear is of thick grey cotton material (I think it’s cotton)—this is worn over the shorts & shirt, naturally). Beds have to be made by 0600—as I seldom sleep under my sheets anyway this doesn’t take me too long. The room has to be cleaned every day before morning formation (0630); swept, dusted, brass polished, sink & mirrors cleaned, waste basket emptied, etc. You can see why I haven’t eaten breakfast since I moved into the Fourth Battalion. At 0625 the five minute warning for formation goes down, & we all muster on the grinder. Two days a week they hold inspections, where you must stand like automatons while class & regimental student officers go up & down each rank, straightening hats (the caps must not have “dips” in them, but must be highly starched so that they don’t sag) & putting various people on report for not having brass polished, shoe laces dirty, shoes not shined, collar anchors on upside down (the loops on the anchors must be pointed up), etc.
After formation we “run the gauntlet” as I call it. Only the Fourth Battalion does it, & it is really pointless. Each section marches between two rows of the class officers, while said officers yell at everyone (“Straighten up there;” “Leshock, get in step;” “Crummy looking section;” “Third man second rank wipe that grin off your face.”). Since 34 is now the senior class, we stop after running the gauntlet & help jeer at the other sections. Then the class officers come & join the ranks & we march to P.T., which is about four blocks away. Sometimes we walk along the edge of the bay, in back of the hangers. After P.T., at about 0840, we go to the Regimental Armory & draw swords, to practice for our graduation. When we get our swords, we march all the way back to the Batt, & after practice we march back to the Armory (which is in Batt I), put away our swords, & march back to the Batt. By now it’s 0940. We go in, take off our clothes (in the hall so that we don’t get lint all over our floor), take a shower, get into the ‘uniform of the day’ (”Clean starched khakis, low cut brown shoes, field scarves (ties)…”) & are allowed to study until 1030, when we march to chow. This is when we get our mail; by the way, I’m now 34H’s mailman.
At 1120, we muster outside Batt I, across the street from the mess hall, & march to classes, which start at 1130. Whenever an instructor enters the room, everyone must snap to attention & remain there until told to be seated by the instructor.
Classes are over at 1600 (4:00—just subtract 12 from any hour over 12 & you’ve got the right time). Then, at 1615 we have band practice. This lasts until 1800; we eat supper, back to the Batt or to band study hall & study till 2115. Taps at 2200.
Well, enough for now—I’ll write tomorrow or so (can’t remember what I haven’t told dad—next time).