Wednesday, July 05, 2006

(Probably December 13, 1955, returning from a band trip to New York)

Dear Folks:

I am writing this at about three o’clock in the morning while stranded at the Pautuxant River Naval Air Station. The forty or so other band members sharing my involuntary exile are sprawled in various attitudes over the floors, tables and chairs of this, the Administration Building, or terminal.

At approximately 12:50 while flying at an altitude of three to four thousand feet, the plane began to vibrate and the number two (left wing inboard) started coughing blue smoke. It became increasingly obvious that we had three choices open to us; four really—we were closer to New York than to any other landing field, but we did not turn around and go back, mainly because of the Navy tradition of "never turn back." Therefore, we had three alternate choices—to land at Pauxtant River, Maryland; go on sixty miles farther and land at Washington, DC, or land somewhere between Washington & Pensacola in some choice swamp or on a forest-covered mountain. We could have made it to Washington quite safely without the wing falling off, but the pilot preferred to land at Pauxtant River, uttering the memorable words "service would be too slow in Washington.": That was at 1:00 (1300)—at 1330 we set down at Pax. River, a service spot, 59.5 miles from anywhere. It is now 0320 and they still don’t know what is wrong. By a process of elimination, testing each little part individually, they should be through with their diagnosis by Friday.

0415 And still nothing. NavCads under, over, and on everything—a few valiant souls still awake, but look like leftovers from a zombie convention.

It snowed earlier tonight—the first real snow I’ve seen this winter. If this letter seems a bit incoherent at times, you must take the time into consideration.

Would you like to hear of my trip to New York? No? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. By the way, before I forget, did I tell you I am the official journalist for the band? I keep the log and write up accounts of our trips for the Commanders and Captains and such.

Well, onward—the trip from Pensacola took about five or six hours. We left Florida at eight and were in New York by two (three Pensacola time).

We landed at Floyd Bennett Field, on the outskirts of Brooklyn. From there busses took us to the Brooklyn Navy Yards, where we stayed at the Receiving Station. It took us exactly one half hour to unload the busses, stow our gear, draw linen, make our bunks, wash, and change clothes, and sign out for liberty.

I naturally rushed to Times Square (via a 40 minute subway ride) and headed for the nearest theatre. "The Boy Friend" was sold out, as was "Fanny," "Victor Borge" (in his second year as a one-man show), and almost everything else. I did get a last minute ticket to "The Solid Gold Cadillac", which was quite good and very funny.

After the theatre, I roamed down to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas Tree. It was beautiful beyond words—by far the largest tree I’d ever seen (five stories high, four feet around the base) and it was decorated with foot-round lighted ornaments.


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