Friday, August 18, 2006

25-26 September 1955

Dear Folks

It’s been a long time since I’ve used any of this stationery. I set what was left of the box away with the rest of my NavCad things. I wouldn’t be using it now, except that my other stationery is locked in the office, & I’ve just come back from a most interesting, if not amusing, weekend—which I’m sure you’re dying to hear about (HAH!)

First, though, let me say that after pricing some of those Turret Cameras in downtown stores, I’ve decided that the one I have will do quite nicely. Nowhere did the prices run below $280.

Now—the weekend. Friday afternoon, about five o’clock, I left the ship & took a bus into town. I then proceeded to get a room at the "Y," ate supper (hot dogs & milk) & went to a movie (The McConnell Story). After that, I started strolling down the street looking in store windows at all the things I’d like to buy. I was just about to go into a drugstore & have a coke when I ran into two guys from the ship, who worked with me during my brief stay with Aviation Supply. We got to talking & I asked where they were going. They said nowhere in particular & I said fine, I’d wander that way with them.

That was the wrong thing to say—I should have known that sailors "with no place in particular" to go are invariably drawn to East Main Street like flies to honey.

East Main St. is a unique phenomenon, being six blocks of solid bars--& every single one of them selling nothing but beer. In the course of the evening, we hit every bar on both sides of the street, with the exception of three, which one of the guys had gotten forcibly removed from the week before.

It wasn’t the bars that got me; it what was what we found inside them. At one of the first places we stopped, I got a bag of pretzels to keep my mind off the fact that I don’t care for beer.
Suddenly, there was an arm on my shoulder, & a voice saying "You got a quarter for the juke box honey", I turned around very slowly to see that it was one of the waitresses &, it turned out later, that is what she did want. I said no, I’m sorry, I didn’t (I did), she moved on down the line. I was talking to one of the guys when another voice said "You know, I haven’t had pretzels for a long time." On the heretofore vacant stool beside me sat a small woman with glasses, about mother’s age.

Now, as you may or may not have noticed, I frequently find myself in situations which I cannot comprehend—I just don’t know how to react or what is expected of me. So I said "Here, be my guest" & pushed the pretzels in her direction. She said "Oh, no, thanks—I used to eat them all the time, but I got sick on them one night." She went rambling on in the same general vein, & after awhile I said I had to go to the restroom, got up, & went. The minute after I walked in, someone became very sick behind the door, so I turned around & walked out again. One of the guys I was with had slipped over into my place & was carrying on the conversation where I left off. He offered her a cigarette, & she said "You don’t smoke my brand." "That’s too bad" he answered. "you come to my place & I’ve got some." Fortunately, at about this time we were through with our beers & left. And that’s how it was at every place we went—the waitresses were all obviously engaged in other fields of work after hours—no self-respecting woman could work, let alone just go into one of those places, what with saturated sailors all over the place.
They are continually asking for money for the continually blaring juke-boxes (one asked for a dime & when I said I didn’t have it, emptied my jumper pocket & took one). Others asked for a drink, which is only orange soda pop & costs the "host" from 50 cents to $1.00.

For some reason I kept thinking of mom (not that there was the slightest resemblance) but merely that they could be my mother, or somebody’s mother, & what a terrible waste their lives were & what on earth they had to live for. Night after night to be insulted & pawed-at by drunk slobs (the younger ones make the biggest fuss). God, what a life!

Well, now, that wasn’t exactly pleasant, but then, life isn’t always, either. And as I said, it was most interesting. Sometimes I wish I were just another one of the "common horde", always at home in any situation, able to make idiotic jokes & mix in with everybody at an time. But just think how dull it would be!

I hope you haven’t gotten the idea that I’m in a gloomy mood or anything. On the contrary, I feel fine & am in the best of spirits. I just like to get serious for awhile now & then. Honestly, I am a strange creature!

It is now (& has been for some time) Monday night, & we are steaming our merry way to Jacksonville, Florida.

We’ll be in Mayport (outside Jacksonville) for 17 days, only 3 of those in port, the rest of the time we’ll be at sea. Think about it—I do want to see you before I leave. We’ll be in Norfolk from 12 to 24 October. Well, it’s almost taps, & I’d best get to the rack.

Write soon & often. Till then, I am
Your son

1 comment:

Ken Beemer said...

My best friend John O'Farrell would love to read this letter. He
drove a taxi here in Norfolk on East main st. during it's hayday. He knew most of the old whores and bar hogs you were appaled by back then and he could probably tell you their names and the names of all the bars. He said that "The Red Roostere" was the roughest of them. Those were his favorite memories. He hated when they closed it all down on Jan. 1st, 1060.