Saturday, July 22, 2006

18 April, 1955

Dear Folks—

Surprise, surprise—two letters from me in one week; aren’t you lucky? Before I forget, if the movie "A Man Called Peter" hasn’t shown up there yet, see it when it does. It’s a good picture, but the reason I want you to see it is for a short scene taken at the church services at Annapolis—they sing that song I like so well—of course, they don’t sing the part about "the men who fly."

For lack of anything better to do, last night I went down to the U.S.O. It is a squat, almost fortress-like building of red brick, one story high. It is on one of the side streets—two blocks in back of the main drag, & situated beside Fire House No 1.

It is a fair-sized building, though by no means large. As you enter through the arcade & come into the main room, there is a sign on the door requesting all girls to kindly register at the information desk, which is just to the left as you enter. To the right is the registration desk for those who want to spend the night in the dormitory. A snack bar leads from the registration desk, where they serve sandwiches, milk, malts & the like (for a profit). Several tables clutter about by the snack bar, & there are no stools at the bar itself. Off to the left of the room are two typewriters, some writing desks, and a pin-ball machine. Leading from the main room are the library & a "recreation room" (TV set).

Also off the main room is the large dance hall, where they occasionally show movies.

In the library, a nice little lady of about fifty-five reads fortunes for whoever wishes it. She is always neatly dressed, wears glasses, & wears a pair of Navy wings. Her voice is soft with a definite but pleasing Southern accent. She is an interesting conversationalist, very interested in Masonry, is a member of the Eastern Star. She was telling me about the pyramids & telling why one dollar bills have so many series of 13—very interesting..

She has been there every time I have; it’s very nice of her to donate all her time like that.
In the main room is a piano—there, too, is a lady who is always there. She, too is in her early fifty’s; she always wears a brown tam far back on her grey hair, & invariably has on a brown tweed jacket. She was once a concert pianist, & can still play beautifully, although she is familiar with only a few of the composers. Her hands now are almost gnarled—not quite like arthritis, but obviously not as they once were. She, too, is very friendly, inviting everyone to come & sing—there is usually a good-sized group around her, singing popular songs & others from mimeographed, tattered copies of songs evidently left from the war (Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, etc.)

When I was there once in November, we were singing Christmas carols ("It’s never too early to sing Christmas carols," she’d say).

Corry Field used to be known as a sort of resort hotel. Recently, the Admiral has decided that we could use a little military instruction to keep us in shape. So now, every Monday, we go out & "march" for the 5:15—only we have quite a bit less discipline. Tonite we were being our own casual selves when we happened to be observed by the Marine major who runs our batts.

I suspect he fancies himself somewhat of a Nero & we NavCads as a mixture of Christians & Praetorian guard. He called all the platoons together, then climbed atop the steps leading to the Batt. I had noticed him in eager conversation with several of his cohorts, in this case playing the role of Cassius. Perhaps I only imagined the beady gleam in his eyes as he said "Well, tonite we’re going to have a little fun." I could imagine who would have the fun & at whose expense.
Benevolently he eyed the huddled populace & said "Who has soloed recently?" Nobody said a word, but several of us flinched. I glanced at the newly opened swimming pool with apprehension. Ours is a land of custom, as I’ve said, & one of those quaint customs is that whoever solos gets thrown in the pool. Until recently it has been drained, & quite a backlog of solo students had been built up. Need I say more? He smiled, & said, gold-leaf crown slightly askew—"Throw them in."

The mob scenes from "The Last Days of Pompeii" have nothing over what happened then—everyone who hadn’t been thrown in broke ranks & began running off in all directions, quickly pursued by those who had already received the water treatment & those who hadn’t soloed yet.
Though I was in one of the outer platoons, I didn’t start running soon or fast enough. All-too-eager hands snatched me up & carried me, like Ophelia’s corpse, to the edge of the pool. They removed my shoes, watch, & wallet.

And then, very unceremoniously, I was flailing my arms & watching the pool come up to meet me. By the time I came to the surface, the water & air all around me were filled with NavCads in various stages of entering the water. Oh, yes—they wait till you’re almost out, & then throw your hat in, as far as they can throw it—you have to swim out & get it, & with full clothes on, this isn’t too easy. Oh, well, it was fun.

Well, more Adventures of Roger in Blunderland later.

Till then, I send

No comments: