Selection and Jerry Parker
Jerry was a friend
but I never called him Jerry. In the
Navy you addressed shipmates by their last name. Enlisted
up to paygrade E6 got only a last
name. Chiefs were addressed with their
rank. “Chief Lowman”, etc.
To address an officer, it was always
“Mister”, or Captain if appropriate. Parker and I
friends during our first six weeks of classification at Philadelphia
Yards. He taught me to play the card
game Hearts during our long periods of idle time. We
had occasional work parties which were
mostly just busy work. We did everything
from scrubbing the steps in the gym, to cleaning the clerestory windows
ceiling. I was never troubled with
heights so was often selected to climb the 25 foot scaffolding to do
We were given a fun
job once that included using a four inch fire hose to wet down the dust
ball field. Got a real surprise to find
out it took three men to hold the hose due to the high pressure. Some of the sailors assigned to help with the
job were from the brig. I didn’t ask
what they did to be imprisoned but recall one prisoner telling me about
when they were hosed down in their cells. He
lost the only photo he had of his
Jerry and I spent a
time or two in the galley helping to prepare food for a couple thousand
sailors. My most vivid memory was
opening one gallon cans of scallops and pouring them into a 10 gallon
cook-pot. I was not a big seafood fan at
the time but when I found a dead fish in one of the cans, I vowed to
scallops again. (And I haven’t)
After our duty
selection, twenty of us were ushered into a bus for a transfer to NAS
Point in Rhode Island. Jerry and I sat
together and chatted during the five-hour trip, wondering what life
like on active duty. Before we left, a
Navy Chief stepped aboard and began shouting at us about payday. He was holding a handful of checks which got
everybody’s attention. The Chief (Navy
equivalent of an Army sergeant) began shouting at us.
“I HAVE YOUR FIRST PAYCHECKS HERE. I
WILL CALL OUT YOUR NAMES AND YOU WILL REPLY
WITH YOUR SERVICE NUMBER. ANYONE WHO
DOES NOT KNOW HIS SERVICE NUMBER WILL NOT BE PAID”.
I immediately started preparing my response
in my head. “545-76-42,
Jerry and I passed
the test and opened our paychecks as soon as the Chief left. Comparing checks, we both received the same
E2 pay. $68. Sixty
eight dollars was a fair amount in
1961, however this was a whole month’s pay.
I thought it was pretty small but then realized I only had to
things: toothpaste, cigarettes and candy bars.
Uncle Sam would provide everything else.
After a short break
at the rest stop on the Connecticut Turnpike, we arrived well after
enlisted quarters #42 aboard the air station.
Tired and travel weary, we followed directions to the upper
were assigned bunks and lockers. We
quickly made our bunks, stripped to our skivvies and hit the sack. I think it was about midnight by then and I
dozed off almost immediately. Around
3am, all the lights came on, and there seemed to be a lot of commotion
on. We were all ordered to get up, get
dressed (I had my uniform from the
reserves but Jerry was still in civvies), and report to the pier
(I’ll continue this
event in the “Accidents” chapter - For now, let’s go back to Jerry
After several days
of doing nothing at Quonset Point but playing cards and just passing
were ordered to report to Land Plane Hangar number one at 9am the next
day. Getting up at 7am was now easy after
boring days with nothing but Klondike Solitaire to keep us busy. Muster was formal as everybody had their full
uniforms by now and we had all seen what happens to the slackers who
follow the rules. This time there were
significantly higher authority officers in attendance, so we all
from the Chief. Everyone snapped to
attention when called to order, followed by a short speech by the
microphone in photo)
who explained that we were a new Anti-Submarine squadron created in
increased Russian submarine activity at sea.
Our squadron commanding officer would be CDR George Bean (third
from right in photo). Today
the few of us would be considered “Plank
Owners” a Navy term meaning anyone assigned to a ship or squadron the
formalities, each of the department heads gave a short description of
duties and asked for volunteers among the Airmen who did not already
billet (assigned job). The
first department head to speak was AK1
Randy Lowman, a quiet fellow who turned out to be a good-natured petty
officer. (His personality
would change dramatically when he was promoted to Chief - story later.) Without introducing
himself, Loman’s first words, were “Does anybody know how to type?”. Jerry’s hand shot up immediately.
looked over at me, elbowed me in the side and said, “Raise your hand”. I replied, “I don’t know how to type”. “Doesn’t matter” he said, “It’s got to be an
My brain was
clicking. I thought I wanted something
technical. I loved to build things and I
loved airplanes, so I thought something in the airframe department or
electronics would be best. I didn’t
think I’d be happy sitting behind a desk typing or using a calculator
really wanted something more hands-on with the airplanes.
But I raised my
hand as well as one seaman in the back row (Airman Ron Iverson). All three of us were asked (more
precisely told) to report to the
squadron supply office for a meeting with First Class Lowman
immediately. It was an office job and did
interesting. The room was filled with big
grey steel desks with typewriters and manual adding machines. I found out later that one of the daily
duties included driving the department pickup over to Main Supply to
ordered by the mechanics. I had to take
a driver’s test first but passed with flying colors because of all my
experience growing up on the farm.
The duties of an
Aviation Storekeeper turned out to be a fun job. While
the two-mile trips to Main Supply were
routine, I was occasionally asked to make longer trips.
One memory includes a trip from Quonset Pt to
Boston Navy Yards to deliver a needed part to the USS Independence
repaired there. The trip was fun and I
felt important when I was trusted for such a significant trip, but I
enjoy the civilian drivers in Massachusetts.
I think they follow different rules than those taught in
So my year in Rhode
Island turned out better than I thought it would and it had a much
impact on my life than I could ever have imagined.
After my Navy
service I went to work for IBM in Endicott, NY.
After their usual battery of tests, and taking into
Industrial Arts (Shop) education,
they assigned me first to electronics and then to a couple of machining
departments. My daily walk to the
cafeteria took me by a glass walled department called Machine
Accounting. Ah, familiar stuff with
accounting machines and green-bar reports, I felt like I was back at
Supply. After a few months, I was tired
of the cutting oil under my fingernails and changing my clothes twice a
thought I might like working with good old IBM-5081’s
again (80 column data cards). A
trip to HR the next day was
successful. Since I had also scored high
in the logic tests when starting, they agreed that I would be a good
for Data Processing.
Many years later,
decades actually, I realized that Jerry was the one who innocently
path I would take for the rest of my career. Those two years of
documents and the use of data processing equipment had qualified me for
in IBM’s computer room. That beginning
mapped my entire working life and I wished that I could thank him for
me in the ribs.
This story had a
good ending for me and our family but unfortunately not for Jerry I
think. It was only a few years ago that I
connection Jerry had made for me. In
2014 I decided to find Jerry to see if he remembered that first day in
In 1961 I was living in New Milford, Pennsylvania with my parents. Jerry was somewhere in center city
Philadelphia. I was sure that after half a century he would now be
somewhere else. I myself have had nearly a dozen addresses since then.
I had no
idea how to find him. I mentioned my
wish to find my former squadron mate to another Navy veteran who said
access to some records and could likely find him. I really just wanted
Jerry for helping to set my career path.
That path defined where I worked, where we lived, where our
found their spouses, where our grandchildren were raised, and so much
our lives that would have been completely different had I pursued a
career path. When my Navy friend got back to me with the results of his
I was filled with regret for waiting so long to find my friend.
Jerry’s obituary infprmation which had been published ten years prior.
While reading the note, something seemed
familiar. I dug out my 1962 squadron
booklet and confirmed that his obituary address in 2004 was exactly the
he had spent his entire life in the same Philadelphia apartment.