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Life Begins in Beacon
Life Begins in Beacon

Life Begins in Beacon

mehollidayMelvin E. Holliday

Life begins in Beacon.
One of the first things I remember in my life was a big orange six room house that I lived in on Reed St.. We lived next to the R.R. tracks with coal companies on each end of the block where coal was loaded onto the Boxcars left on the tracks. We lived just two blocks from the only school house which educated grades Kinder thru 8th grade. We had a church and two stores one of which had gas pumps and a post office. The population was around 300 and that was the make up of the town where I grew up. Most of the residents worked in Oskaloosa, a town of about 15,000 which was only 2 miles away. There wasn’t much excitement in my little town for an adult but for a kid with an imagination the whole world was just waiting to be explored and conquered. We had a dirty little creek running through the West end of the town on the other side of the R.R. tracks running North and South. Me and one of my friends, Richard Schwab, used to play there and in the city dump just south west of the town next to the creek. We would climb the trees and play Tarzan or we would go to the dump and break bottles. Sometimes we would find soda bottles which we could clean and sell for two cents each to get money for candy or anything our hearts desired. I had a big comic book collection and I used to find lots of old comics at the dump which I took home and added to my growing collection of possibly 300 which we all traded among my group of friends. The town dumping grounds was a wealth of fun for me and my friends for there was not only the creek but a big R.R. trestle running East and West where we used to play follow the leader and chicken. I don’t know how we managed to survive that trestle and the creek but here I still am talking about it as if there was never any danger involved. Those R.R. tracks were a great inspiration to my youth. In the winter we would hunt rabbits with our pesky guns that nearly every one in town had access and no one ever got shot except a whole bunch of rabbits and squirrels. In the fall my mother would go to the tracks with me to hunt blackberries and raspberries, whichever happened to be in season. It always seemed the biggest berries grew where the bank was steep and most inaccessible, but those berries sure tasted good all winter cause my mother would can them and put them away in the cellar to eat later with many other things that were stored away for future use. In the summer it was swimming in the dirty water of the creek or the colored waters of some of the local mine strip pits left open to fill with water. Some of that water had a very bad taste and some of it smelled funny so we didn’t swim there. When we could dig up the money we would go swimming in the pool at Edmundson park but that sixteen cents admission was usually more than many of us kids could afford. I got a fifty cents allowance from my dad every Saturday morning and I had two yards I mowed every couple of weeks. I got a dollar for one that took about 2 hours to cut with a mechanical lawn mower. The other took half a day for $2.and the owner let me use his power mower. We didn’t have Computers nor cell phones while I was growing up so we got plenty of time outdoors burning energy. When I was little most of the people in town didn’t have and couldn’t afford a TV. One of my friends had a 17 inch Emerson which was one of the first on the market and they could only get two or three channels with lots of snow for interference but us kids didn’t mind and we loved watching the black and white pictures on that tv. My family didn’t even have a telephone in the house when I was growing up. My mother had a car but if we wanted to go someplace we had our shoe soles or an old bicycle that my dad bought for me used. When I got bored and didn’t have anything better to do I would go over to the grocery store (Ademitts) and wait for Vern the Sunbeam bread man to make his rounds. He brought bread three or more times a week and stopped at the store in the morning and again in the afternoon. I was sometimes allowed to ride with him and help him make his deliveries. He would let me eat all the day old pastry that I wanted and it was a good deal for both of us. I filled my sweet tooth and he got a little assistance. I used to think that growing up in my small home town was boring and a waste of time but now that I am older and can appreciate it for what it really was. Every day in my life was one big adventure after another. I didn’t miss out on many things because most of the things I know about today didn’t even exist when I was young. What I didn’t have at home was provided for me by someone. Sometimes from places that were unexpected. My good friend Bill Deaver only lived a block from where I lived. He had lots of brothers and sisters and they were all kind to me and treated me like one of the family. Bill’s mother used to bake goodies like cakes and cookies and I always got a good helping just like everyone else in the family. I used to help bill deliver papers as he had the only paper route in the town. Delivering those papers and collecting payment was always an interesting time. Bill and I used to go hunting with my 410 gauge shotgun and Bill had a 12 gauge shotgun. We spent many hours hunting the R.R. tracks on all sides of the town and to give the rabbits a break we would hunt squirrels in the trees around the whole town in one direction or another.Sometimes we would go in the cow pastures and watch the cows eat a big green plant with lots of leaves and seeds. The cows always acted funny when they ate that weed and I only found out years later that it was a hemp plant. They used to cultivate the plant and make rope and clothing out of it until some fool somewhere realized that with a little refining that same plant could be smoked and people could act just like the cows me and my buddy used to laugh at. That was right before Marijuana was made illegal by our government. Companies that depended on hemp processing to make money were closed down and Uncle Sam started telling us all what we could put in our bodies and what we couldn't Since then they have managed to stick their noses under the tent in almost every aspect of our personal lives making my life as an adult much more difficult than it was when I was a simple uneducated innocent boy. There was always something to do and somewhere to go but it usually meant we would walk. You could buy a car for thirty dollars or more when I was a kid and insurance wasn’t mandatory in those days. We just took our chances, unlike mandatory insurance and seat belts today. Cars didn’t have seat belts when I was young and turning signals didn’t even become an option until in the 1950’s. How on earth did we survive and live long enough to grow into adult hood. That was pretty much my life growing up in a small town in Iowa. I never mentioned school because it was a necessity and not an adventure. I lived with my mother and sister growing up and my father visited me on week-ends and took me for rides around the countryside. Except for those interesting trips most of my life was with my mother who drank a lot and spent quite a bit of time in the taverns in town. She had a rough life raising two kids and jobs were few and hard to come by. She used to haul coal in the wintertime. Two dollars a ton and one dollar a load for gas and labor. It was a hard life but we always had food to eat and coal for one of the two stoves in the house. We had to close the upstairs of our house in the winter because we didn’t have any heat for the upstairs. We moved our beds downstairs and the three of us slept by a roaring stove in the living room. It sounds a little harsh but it was still a great and enjoyable life. In the winter when it was freezing cold in the house and the coal had long ago burnt down to almost being gone I would lay in bed until it was time to go to school. I was too lazy to get up and build the fire up because that would take at least a half hour or more. so I would jump out of bed, put my cloths on and run the two blocks to the school house where it was nice and warm. I couldn't even wash my face at home even if I wanted to because the water was froze solid in the water bucket that we had to carry from the neighbors well across the street. On wash day we had to carry that water and put it in big pans that mom put a fire under in the front yard. Then when it got hot she would carry it into the house and put it in the washing machine. That water did the whole wash because it was a big job just getting one change of water from across the street. The clothes were hung on the line to dry but would usually freeze before drying and sometimes mom would have to bring them into the house and rig lines inside to dry the clothes. We didn't have cafeterias in our school so if you ate at school you brought your food with you. It's hard to imagine by today's standards just how we managed to survive. Death was lurking every where and we still managed to survive and grow up. We didn't even have health care. When we got sick we went to the doctor or he came to the house if you were really sick. We paid the doctor what we had and didn't usually have a line of credit to charge up a large bill. We always managed and I don't even think their was such a thing a medical insurance coverage. Heaven forbid. Another death defying act had by people that didn't have and couldn't afford health insurance. That was the first 17 years of my life and it takes me up until I was 17 and joined the navy.

U.S. Navy Here we Come:

My first day in the navy met with unexpected circumstances. I had never witnessed being homesick and was not even relatively prepared for it. I had been away from home many times and I had little supervision from my family growing up. I pretty well did as I pleased anything and anytime at home. Now I was playing a completely different ball game. New arrivals have rules they have to obey and working parties they have to attend while they are waiting for the next class to form which they will be a small part of and I was totally unprepared. I wasn’t allowed to sit on my bunk during the day. I had to have my teeth cleaned and repaired and we had to march in a formation everywhere we went which was always in groups. The next week was miserable while forming up our class for boot camp training. Then we got our military haircut, we were issued our sea bag and we were assigned our barracks and our bunks. That is when the fun and boot camp really started. Everything had to be properly stenciled, folded and stowed in just a very certain way in our lockers at the foot of our bunks. Then we were issued a non-working rifle that each one of us got to take everywhere except to the chow hall. We all got an endless array of shots and vaccination till I thought my arm would fall off. We were privileged to get the new vaccination without a needle and I assure you I was ready to go back to the needle post haste. Our days were spent on marching in formation, close order drills and the code of arms that make you and your rifle one. Nights were usually spent washing clothes and trying to get them dry in a very crowded steam room before the next day when they had to be folded and put away in a locker and they weren’t always dry. The classes after mine were given washing machines and dryers so I was always either too early or too late for something. Before I joined the navy I served in the Iowa National Guard and I got promoted from Pvt E-1 to E-2 and I was supposed to take the strip to boot camp with me. When you graduate from this hell hole you automatically get a strip. You join as E-1 or recruit and you graduate E-2 or seaman apprentice. Since I was already an E-2 I was supposed to graduate as E-3 or full seaman with three strips. No one explained this to this dumb country boy so I never got the strip and I remained E-2 for over one and a half years. I only mention this because it was an injustice than was never corrected and it had consequences on my promotions for my entire career. Boot Camp was not my favorite thing during my navy career and the fourth week which is rightly called hell week was the worst part of the navy. I got to work in the mess hall helping the cooks but mostly cleaning dirty tin trays and moping the floors for 12 or 14 hours every day. This was a week I want to forget and never again revisit. We finally graduated and were issued our orders to our new duty stations and I got RM “A” school at Bainbridge Md. I have covered school in another portion of my writings so I shall skip that part of my military experience and go on to my assignment out of School which was the USS Paricutin AE-18 out of Port Chicago Calif. It wasn’t the best duty I had in the navy but anything beat the drills and exercises I experienced in Boot training. The navy learning process and things they don’t bother to tell you when you are a new enlistee. The navy gave me two days travel time and the price of an airline ticket to report to my next duty station. I decided to travel by private auto and you are allowed extra travel time and allowances so another rip off because no one told me and I was too dumb to ask. Port Chicago was an ammunition depot and there was nothing for miles around and I was on the ship with no transportation so I had to take the navy bus everywhere and a civilian bus when outside the base on liberty. The closest town was Concord, Ca. An d I mostly just went to the movies and minded my own business. I did make friends with a pretty blonde in a 1958 ford convertible but who is going to believe a story like that because it never went any where because I was a bashful hick from Iowa. I was only on board a little over a month before we left for my first WESTPAC cruise and little did I know about all the worldly things I was about to become anointed with. I had never in my wildest dreams ever imagined there was such a place as I was soon to become acquainted with. I fell in love every time we went into port. Olongapo, Philippines. Yokosuka and Sasebo Japan. Taipai, Taiwan and Hong Kong. I loved them all except for the fact that I was still a SA which only earned me $31. every two week pay day and it didn’t go very far on liberty. Also, I was only allowed Cinderella Liberty which meant I had to be back on board every night before 12:00 PM. All the seamen and above were on the beach having fun while I was stuck back on the ship without decent liberty which would last until my next cruise to WESTPAC. Upon returning to California I got lucky and a set of orders came in to transfer a junior Radioman seaman to a sea going tug in Hawaii and I got the orders. Things were finally starting to look up and my situation had just been upgraded to great. My new duty station was USS TAKELMA ATF-113 and it was great duty towing targets for firing exercises for the regular navy. In no time I made seaman and when I was eligible six months later I took the test for RM3 and passed it. I no longer had to worry about mess cooking or compartment cleaning like I had on my previous duty. We only had three radiomen on board and a second class was in charge. Things were real good and I didn’t mind doing what ever was expected of me because I was happy. The chow was great and life was good unlike the navy I had become accustomed. We made another WESTPAC while I was on the Takelma and life was good once again. I got overnight liberty and was treated like a real person. My faith had been restored and I was really enjoying life. I saved my money because now as an RM3 I got enough to live and put a little aside for a rainy day. These were good times and they were only going to get better from here on out. We towed targets one or two times a week and the rest of the time we stayed in port. I was duty radioman and had to go to the Comm Station every day to pick up our communications which told the officers and Captain when to get underway or stay in port. I was also Guard Mail P.O. so I picked up our mail at the FPO in Oahu. Distributing the mail was like being in charge of every ones cell phone and you told everyone when they had a call. That is what it was like doing the job that I had back then.My time on the Takelma was very happy times. I got to tour the Pineapple fields of Hawaii on Oahu. I got to travel around the Island several times. They even had drive-in movies there. Most of my time off base was spent at the movies or eating my favorite food at a local restaurant. Remember, they didn’t have McDonalds, Hardees, or Taco Bell and the others back in those days. There was a Pizza place called Shakey’s Pizza where you got good been, pizza and a sing along piano for everyone to join in the fun and sing. Two more years passed very quickly and then I was faced with another big decision. I had one more year on my enlistment and if I were willing to extend my enlistment by one year I could go to shore duty in Norfolk, Va at the NAVCOMSTA. I would have stayed on my ship and on sea duty otherwise so I took the shore duty and left my happy home. I had plenty of time off saved so I took 30 days Leave (Vacation) and went home to Iowa before reporting to Norfolk. While on leave in Iowa I purchased my first car a 1956 Ford Victoria with money I had saved in Hawaii but my dad kicked in half of the purchase price because I didn’t have enough saved to pay cash for a really nice car. I never paid my father back and now, in retrospect I wish I had been a better person towards him than I really was. I know he was always proud of me and I never gave him the time he deserved from me but I guess that is part of life. Driving to Norfolk it was sure nice to have my own car but I went to Vermont to see an old girlfriend and I wrecked my pretty almost new Ford. With a little help from friends I was able to drive to my duty station in the car and start having it repaired after I got there. I would have never completed the trip in today’s world because the drivers side windshield was broken and hard to see through. I would have been in big trouble but I made it despite the risk I had to take. In Va. I saw my first McDonalds and that was when the sign was counting 100,000, 200,000 etc. They were just getting started good in 1961 and I could get two burgers, fries and a drink and still have change from a dollar for three Krispy Kreme Donuts. I didn’t like Norfolk that well but the time I spent at Driver was great. I got a new girl friend in Washington D.C.that I really liked. I would have liked to marry her but I thought I was too young and I needed to see more of the world before I got tied down in marriage so I never asked her. It broke my heart because she was a country girl just like I always wanted for this ole country boy but it just wasn’t meant to be and when my time in the military was at an end It was also the end of our one great romance and I was ready to return to Iowa. Sometime during my tour at NAVCOMSTA I traded my beautiful Ford in for my first new car. It was a Blue and White Pontiac Tempest and I really screwed up when I bought it because I got it with an automatic transmission and it didn’t have any power or get good gas milage on its half a v-8 four cylinder engine. I kicked myself for the next two years for not buying it with a four speed transmission.

The COMSTA was big with lots of radiomen and I craved duty in a place outside the city and I found that they had a Transmitter site at Driver, Va. That was just that. It was located near Suffolk Va. And I was able to get sent there for duty. I also was eligible to take the test for RM2 which I took and passed and was promoted up another pay grade. This was to be my last promotion for over 11 years. Driver was a country boys dream for duty. The chow was great, it was remote and there was an unlimited amount of things to do. Portsmouth, Va. Was a short drive and Norfolk was just across the bay. I had a girlfriend that worked in Washington, D.C..This was the girl I wrecked my car while I was visiting Vermont. Washington was only a little over four hours drive from Norfolk so when I got a week-end off I went there. I didn’t get a lot of week-ends though because I worked 4 section duty which was 2-2-2 and 80 which only gave me two weekends every seven weeks. The rest of my 80 hours off were during the week..My two years duty at the COMSTA went fast. I served at Driver, Northwest and the main station on the Fleet Broadcast where all the ships with-in over a thousand miles copied for their orders. When my time was almost up I was offered a chance to take the RM! Test if I would ship over for 4 or 6 years. I wanted to go to Submarine school though so I declined and broke my service for three months taking a vacation. This was a big mistake and a stupid move on my part which I have lived to regret just like getting out of High School to join the navy. So I took my discharge and went back to Iowa for a three month rest before joining back up for submarine duty. Back in Iowa I found a great looking 1956 Indian 650cc motorcycle that I didn’t hesitate to buy and I had just bought my first motorcycle and it was a beauty that I really enjoyed. After a month or so of enjoying my new toy I learned another lesson that life taught me the hard way. In 1955-57 Indian motorcycles were made in England and they didn’t look like Harley motorcycles because they were English styling. Something I Didn’t know at this time was that English motorcycles leaked and used oil. I wasn’t used to checking my oil every time I rode the cycle and this cost me dearly. My Indian ran low and ceased up on me while I was riding it. I found parts to repair it but was never able to find a good mechanic. I had the person that tore it apart to tell me what parts I needed but he didn’t know how to put it back together and he didn’t have the machines and tools to fix it either. So my Indian motorcycle ended up in my mothers garage and I don’t know what ever happened to it. It is long gone and forgotten. My summer in Iowa went fast and soon it was time to visit my Navy Recruiter and see what kind of a deal I could make. I got to keep my RM2 (E-5) stripes and I was sent to Submarine School in New London, Connecticut. This was August 1962 and unbeknownst to me and most of the world we were nearing a conflict with Cuba in what was called the Cuban Missile Crisis. This was on our minds all during the three months I spent in training for my first submarine duty. During school I met lots of great guys. I say guys because women weren’t allowed on submarines and there weren’t many serving on or around the Sub Base. I became friends with a Joseph Barnowski who lived in Blandford, Mass. His father and mother took me in like a lost puppy and I became like another member of the family. Skip and I raised a lot of cain drinking and chasing women and I still wonder to this day how we survived with all the drinking and driving that I did but it seemed I was a very lucky person. We drank our way through Submarine school and upon graduation Skip was sent to an FBM at New Port News, Va., that was under construction. I Got one out of Holy Lock Scotland which kept one crew in New London Connecticut. The USS Sam Houston (SSBN-609 (B) was my new home for the next three years. I remained good friends with the Barnowski’s and became like another son to the family. Most of my spare time was spent in Massachusetts. It was during this time of raising Cain that I became a father. I was not interested in getting married so I never acknowledged this fact and I was able to avoid it without getting married. I was just not the marrying kind and had no interest in settling down to married life so I continued my drinking and chasing women while having a great life. In 1964 I got lthe urge for another car that was better than my Pontiac Tempest so I ordered a 1964 Oldsmobile Cutless 2Dr. Sport coupe with a four speed this time. This was the car of my dreams and I loved it. It was Holiday red inside and out and it not only had my name but it was me. Mrs. Barnowski never liked my new car because she loved my little Tempest. She took care of it for me one time while I was out on my 3 month patrol. It was during this time that my old navy buddy Earl Holland got out of the navy and returned to Vermont this time to live in Jacksonville. I must have drove him and his wife Milly crazy because I had a bad habit of visiting them at some of the craziest times and I know that I had to be a real pain in the rear end but I was still young and I didn’t give it a second thought because I really didn’t know any better at the time. Buddy and Milly were like family to me. I had more homes than I knew what to do with. I now had Buddy and Milly in Jacksonville, Vt., there were the Barnowski’s in Blandford, Ma. And Helen Barnowski had several friends that treated me like family as well so I had several families that made me at home. I guess I am one of the really lucky people in the world. I still had my natural family in Iowa. It was during this time that I became good friends with one of my junior Radioman RMSN Jack Harden. He came aboard the Sam Houston during my second patrol and to this day we are still friends. Going to his home is just like entering my own and this is the way it was with all these great people that I have met. Jack and I only served five patrols together but we also met during one tour of duty in Hawaii and I visited him a few times In Charleston, S.C. where he built a home. I only had a few really good friends in my lifetime and Jack and Joyce were two of them. They were my Buddy and Milly Holland when I was not in close driving range of one or the other. My time on the Big Sam was a great 3 years but it ended on a sour note as life cannot always be a big bowl of cherries. Sometimes you will always bite into a rotten or sour one. I wrecked my beautiful Cutlass about a year after buying it and it was totaled beyond repair. On top of that great incident after my sixth patrol on the Houston I got orders to The Ben Franklin SSBN-640 which was home ported out of Pearl Harbor and Guam. So on my sixth and final Houston patrol they decided to make everyone that was previously qualified, re-Qualify. I was unable to complete this task so I was sent to the USS Hunley (AS-31) which was our submarine tender in Holy Loch. This was great duty but not what I expected and it made me very unhappy at the time. During the end of my tour on the Sam Houston I took a 30 days leave one summer and put on a back pack and went on leave in Europe. I couldn’t afford to pay for transportation everywhere I went so I downed my Dress Blue Uniform and stuck out my thumb. Remember, this was before the terrorist problems and many other things. Today I wouldn’t even consider hitch hiking around Europe by myself but this was an adventure ripe for the plucking and one I just couldn’t resist. It could have been a better leave and it wasn’t all I thought it should have been but I had a great time and it was one more great adventure to put into the dairy I kept in my mind called life. Going around Europe would have been much better had I went with someone but there was no single person on board that wanted that adventure and you just know that my married friends are not going to get permission from their wives to tour around Europe with me alone. That you know and didn’t even have to be asked. So I enjoyed beer drinking in Germany and I enjoyed the pot boutiques in Amsterdam. No I didn’t smoke any pot because I know that with my luck I would get tested when I returned stateside if I even thought about such a thing. I went to Denmark Tivoli Gardens. I visited Sweden and we had a party on the beach after picking up all the wood on the beach for a great big fire. People didn’t drink heavy in Sweden because the taxes on alcohol was very high and most couldn’t afford it. So my European vacation went well. I never got robbed nor molested and I returned to Holy Loch all in one piece for a free flight back to the States.

So now I have orders to report to the USS Hunley to begin another adventure in my life. This is the time I bought my first brand new motorcycle. I purchased a new 1966 Triumph Bonneville and while it was a lot of fun it was also a big mistake. I became a paying member of the single crowd in the Radioshack and we rented a Snake Ranch (apartment) on the beach. Little did I know that the police watched our place like we were criminals. We always had girls over for the night and parties were on the menu quite often. The girls were always happy to have a place to drink for free and a place to crash when they couldn’t get a place in town to stay. This was a very successful enterprise for the happy Radiomen of the Hunley. I screw up my part big time though with my motorcycle. The police in Dunoon Scotland didn’t care too much about drinking and driving in their country and they patiently waited for me to screw up. It didn’t take long and I wasn’t familiar with their tactics, They waited outside the local pub. I had my cycle outside and when I walked out with alcohol on my breath they arrested me. In Scotland if you have the keys in your possession you can be charged with drunk driving even if you never drive at all. That cost me a night in Jail and a big fine and suspension of my driving privileges. They didn’t take my license because it was from Iowa. . That was strike one and I didn’t learn a lesson. I later got caught a second time and this got me restricted to the Ship for the rest of the time I was in the country. I was lucky I didn’t lose a strip and I was forced to be with the bed that I had made for myself. It was a bitter pill to swallow but one I had became accustomed to the task through my own stupidity and learning the lessons of life experiences. That ended up being about two months because it was the same time the Hunley was due to rotate back to Charleston and trade places with the submarine Tender the USS Holland. I was able to ship my motorcycle on the Hunley and after a pleasant stop in Lisbon Portugal where I once again got Liberty it was then time to return to Charleston, S.C. where I had been several times before during my navy career. What a wonderful beach they had in Portugal and that beautiful white sand with all those well filled bikini’s. Charleston was a great place to be for a single guy like me with a new motorcycle and plenty of time off from my naval duties to look for something exciting to do. During this time period I had purchased another car to replace the broken Olds Cutlass but my insurance would only buy me three quarters of a car and not a whole car so I had to settle for a 1962 T-Bird. It was a good car and I got pretty good at painting cars during this time so I changed colors quite often. Once again I was living like there was no tomorrow. My time on the Hunley was passing by fast and soon it was time for the last two years of my present enlistment and time to rotate back to shore duty. I received orders for NAVCOMSTA Wahiawa Hawaii and was soon on my way with my T-Bird and Triump in tow along with a pit stop in Iowa along the way. I spent lots of vacations in Iowa during my 20 years in the navy and had many memorable times but most of them included old girl friends and lots of ten cent beer at the bars downtown. All those bars are gone now and my memories of Oskaloosa are now relegated to just memories. The town was gutted and a big shopping center was installed right in the center of the town. It has since died as well and the place I used to call home has changed so much that I never even recognized it the last time I visited there. My immediate family have all died of moved on and I have nothing left there but a couple of first cousins that I stay in touch with but this is the town that died. It died in my heart because my family is mostly all gone and it died in my mind because all the places that I once called home are gone forever. Oskaloosa still remains as a spot on the map and probably still has the same or larger of a population than it did when it was dear to my heart but a big spot on the map is all that is left in my mind. My times with my mother and my grandma were dear times to me but just like the passing of time they are all dead and gone just like those happy times I remember about my life so I leave Iowa for another adventure and shore duty in Hawaii. These two years were so full of adventures that it is not possible for me to write about them all here on these pages. My life has been so full and enjoyable that many people will never believe half of what I write any way no matter that it is truth or fiction.

Two of my new navy buddies and myself were tired of living in the barracks on the naval base so we found a house on the North shore in Haliewa, Hi. This was a little town about 15 miles from the base where we worked and right on the Pacific Ocean. It was a site to behold. I think the rent on our new Snake Ranch was eighty dollars each or $240 for everything. That place would cost about $1500 a month in today’s prices. The TV reception was lousey and the invention of VHS was non-existent. I do remember a Beta program at the time but it was really expensive so our entertainment turned to Riding Motorcycle and drinking at the local watering holes. Those were some great times we had in those days and they will never be forgotten by me or anyone that lived them with me. We used to drink a lot of Primo beer which was the local Hawaiian drink and we saved the bottles. You could return several cases of bottles and get back one case of full beers. Everyone on the island drank Primo for that reason and life was good. I got bored with my T-Bird after painting it three times and changing colors so I sold it to Leonard Lewis who was one of my room mates for $500. That money later put new rims and new tires on a 1954 Mercury that I had bought and restored with new carpet and lots of body work and a new paint job. It was a beautiful car with that new red paint and those new Firestone whitewall tires and Crager rims. I never owned a car that I didn’t like and this was no exception. My two years of shore duty were very memorable and there was a lot of fun had by all. I made many great friends and many I wish I could get in touch with today to thank them for the part they had taken in my life. I long for the return of those wonderful days, times and the story of my life which was anything but lacking in excitement or content.

Deciding my Future:

After 11 years and two enlistments I still haven’t decided what I want to do with the rest of my life. Since I am still an RM2 (SS) and have no Idea where my life is going I decide to get out and try to make it on the outside. I go back to Iowa and get a Job working for The Rock Island Rail Road. This is a great job with all kinds of opportunities for advancement and retirement. At my young age of 29 I’m not really looking at this kind of security though. I end up in Fairfield Ia. Which just happens to be a small college town.While working, with lots of opportunities for a single guy like me. My job entails switching tracks with big out dated levers that are all on timers to stop crossing trains from colliding. This is not a bad job but I have lots of trouble with the timers on those big levers. I don’t know how anyone could mess up a simple job like this one but I managed to do just that. I somehow managed to get the switches stuck in the wrong direction when a train was waiting to go through. This was about the end of my future with this Rock Island Line as Johnny Cash once sang about. I can’t clearly remember if I was fired, asked to quite or what happened but needless to say I no longer work for the Rail Road anymore. So I pack my bags and hit the trail to try my luck in New England. With plenty of friends I have no trouble finding someone willing to let me crash at their place so rent is not a problem. I do odd jobs for my friends and they help me find work but I am still running around raising cain so I’m not hungry enough to get a real Job. This is a time when there was something happening up in New York State called Wood Stock so a couple of friends and I decide to check it out. When we get almost there on the Interstate the traffic is backed up for miles in both directions and there is no one going anywhere. We finally get off the Interstate and say to hell with this, the traffic is only going to get worse so we go back home to Blandford. That was my big near miss at the Woodstock Music Festival. I finally end up back in Jacksonville, Vt. At Bud and MIlliy’s house. They give me a place to crash and food to eat. I will forever be indebted to them for everything they did for me. This is the time in my life that I have already written about with getting the job for New England Power and this is when I got back together with my other ole hitch hiking friend John Wellman. He has gotten out of the army and now works for the post office and has a good job a post master in Readsboro. He is the reason I got the job at the power company and he is the one who vouched for me to buy a 27 foot Yellowstone trailer to live in. This is a big commitment for me and something I didn’t think about very much because there are no trailers in Vermont. At least people just don’t live in them in the winter time because of the cold. With no trailer parking places anywhere close I am forced to park my trailer in an open pasture with no power hook-ups and no septic disposal. This was also a mistake and a receipt for disaster. My drinking buddy John and I enjoy the convenience of my new toy while the weather is still good and we terrorize the local establishments with our Happy Hour drinking and doing all kinds of crazy things. Another small thing I haven’t mentioned is John has a wife and two kids so all this hell raising doesn’t set to well with her but he pays her no mind and goes about his drinking with me with great gusto. After the weather changes and every thing freezes with three feet of snow everywhere. My water lines and everything with liquid freezes up in the trailer along with my car being frozen and unable to start I am up the proverbial creek without a paddle. I am unable to pay for the trailer for I no longer have a job, I have no car and now I have no place to sleep so my friend John comes to my rescue and lets me crash on his couch. I know this can’t work out well so we make plans for me to move to a warmer climate. John finds the ad in the paper for the guy driving the Firebird to Denver and that was just the remedy I needed. Taking whatever I could carry and leaving everything else I owned behind I leave for greener pastures once again. This is where I go to Holbrook, Az. And Hawaii. Then rejoin the navy for six more years for duty on the USS Swordfish SS-579. The year I served on the Swordfish had many adventures as well. There were also several lessons in learning how to survive and life during that time. The events that put me back on surface ships instead of submarines were all great life stories but some of them were learning experiences that aren’t always so enjoyable. My submarine training with all its schools really paid off for me in the skimmer navy. They even sent me to a crypto repair school in Mare Island, Ca. It was six weeks for drinking and partying and doing what I have grown to do best. This school got me a crypto repair designation and I was able to draw pro-pay which took the place of my sub pay so being a Skimmer just got better. Along with my new stripes to RM1 (SS) which was a promotion and a pay raise both at the same time. I was now making more money than I did as an RM2 while serving on the Submarines. I also had this girlfriend Peggy that I had met in Hawaii. She played pool like a pro and enjoyed drinking pitchers of beer and wine coolers with me. She even visited me in Long Beach when she was going to Mountain Home Hospital In Idaho to work there. We had many great adventures together and I visited her twice in Idaho. In those days it was pretty cheap to fly military standby and there was usually always a seat open on most fights. That was the days before flying became a pain to be reckoned with and the pain was right where most of us sit. I even flew to Nogales, Az. To visit Peggy while she was there visiting a good friend of hers. Peggy and I were a real thing and she showed signs of being serious and I couldn’t bring myself to wake up and smell the roses and give up my hell raising so I never got serious with her. I often wonder where my life would have gone if I had married Peggy but it seems to be doing fine with the path I chose so I have nothing to complain about. With that tidbit of information I am now out of Crypto school that ended up with three female friends I met in Hawaii. We end up at Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco and it is a great spot to visit or at least it was when I went there. I still have my WESTPAC cruise on the USS Eversole DD-789 and then into the yards at Long Beach and this isn’t fun anymore. The yards are dirty places with sand blasting and painting going on everywhere and I don’t recommend it for any body unless you are job hunting and then it is a good job with good pay but it just isn’t for a navy man. My drinking once again rears its ugly head and gets me into trouble and I am sent to GLakes, Il. Where I went to Boot Camp. Only this time I am in Alcohol Rehabilitation School for six weeks of training on how not to be an Alcoholic. I never thought much about this School one way or another but now, in retrospect, I believe that being in my service record was one of the big reasons that I never got a chance to take the exam for CPO E-7. That was a goal I never set for myself and one I never attained. No wonder with all the hell I had been raising my entire navy career. I am now presently at the 15 year mark and I have three more years on my present enlistment. I have just finished my obligation for sea duty and it is time for me to be transferred back to Shore Duty. After graduating with honors from REHAB I get orders to Naval Weapons Lab at Dahlgren. Va. I was expecting a set of crap orders and would have never envisioned going to a place like this which ended up being a Navy Country Club and the Best duty I had in my entire 20 years. We were just a little over an hour drive from Washington D.C. and we were in the country with this being a dream come true for this old country boy. I was presently driving a 1956 ford Victoria that I had bought while stationed on the Eversole in California. I will soon acquire a 1955 Chevy 2-DR HT that I have always wanted and since I have sold my motorcycle that I bought new in Scotland it is time for another new one. So after reporting into my new duty station I go to the nearest Triump dealership and purchase another new Triump Bonneville motorcycle. About the only difference from my last one is this one is a 750 where the other was a 650cc., and this one has a six speed transmission where my other only had a 5-Speed. One year after I buy this cycle I again feel I have been too early or too late. The Triump celebrates the 50th anniversary and call it the Queen Elizabeth Silver Edition. I missed owning one of those beauties by a year but the one I got works just fine for me. While at Dahlgren my friend John has moved to a job in New Jersey and it is only a skip and a hop for me so I spend many of my week-ends at his house, swimming in his swimming pool and drinking and raising more hell with him. I don’t even remember where I slept because I was usually to drunk to care. During this time John gets transferred to Hartford, Vt. And I have two many cars as I have just purchased the 55 Chevy I mentioned earlier. So I decide to do a big favor to someone to try to give them a direction in life that I never had. I give my 56 Ford to John’s son, Charlie. I never saw the car again after that but I know that Charlie took Automotive in High School and he did a lot of work on it. It had a good rebuilt 292 engine in it because I put that in in after blowing a rod in it while on a trip to Shelby Ohio where I attended Pin Setter school. That was a second job I took while I was stationed at Dahlgren. During my time at this duty station I was in contact with a girl that I had met in Hong Kong and she had expressed a desire to come to the states. The easiest visa to get at this time was a marriage visa so I had agreed to marry her if she wanted to come. I bought her air fare and then when I went to the airport to pick her up, she wasn’t there. She had gotten cold feed or her parents had talked her out of the trip. I never saw or heard from that young lady again and it was probably a blessing she decided not to show. Either for her or for me, one or the other. Then I get a call from my girlfriend Peggy that she is coming to Washington, D.C. for a conference so we agree to meet. I was really happy to see Peggy once again but it became a sad occasion. She had came to tell me she was getting married. I hated to see that happen but I knew I still wasn’t ready to settle down so I gave her my blessings. I have since tried to get in contact with her to see how her life has been but when she left me in Washington I was never able to find her again. While I was stationed in Dahlgren I was also not too far from the family of a previous girl friend in Washington that I really had affection for but didn’t marry. Her name was also Peggy and she lived in McGackeysville, Va. Which I couldn’t find on the map but it is there now. I boldly went to that town and looked up her father and mother and became good friends with them. Peggy had married a Sailor who was now a preacher and they had a whole bunch of kids which I think were mostly adopted. I got to see Peggy again but it was after I retired and moved to Florida. She was nearly as I remembered her and she looked just like her mother. I never kept in contact with the family after leaving the navy except for one time stopping by on a trip to Mass from Florida. My time at Dahlgren came and went in record time. I wanted to return to Submarines when I went back to sea again so low and behold I got orders to the USS Sam Rayburn out of Holy Lock and New London. I had to extend my enlistment once again but this time it was to take me into retirement. I reported for duty aboard the Rayburn and immediately went on patrol of which I was going to make five more before we had to go into the yards at Portsmouth, N.H. and Kittery Maine. I made a trip to Iowa and purchased a really nice black Ford truck. It was previously owned by Dick Thomas who ended up being the garbage king of Beacon and Oskaloosa. He really took good care of his things and I know that this truck was just like new in every respect. When I got back to the east coast I also purchased another new 34 ft. Travel trailer and that was going to be where I was going to live until my retirement date. My plans got put on hold though because this is when I met my first wife Lucille Symonds. She owned a house just outside of Colchester, Ct., which was about 15 miles from the base and where I reported for duty when I wasn’t on patrol out ot Scotland. My whole family showed up for my wedding. My old hitch hiking buddies Earl and John, My mother, my sister, my favorite two aunts aunt Cat and Bert and this was to be the last time we would ever be together again. I have a box full of pictures of the wedding and everything is well documented. I don’t know what happened to that marriage but after as year or so Lucy wasn’t ever happy anymore. We stayed together but didn’t do many things together as we grew farther apart. She stayed with me until I retired and could move my trailer and belongings out of her house and when that happened it was over with me and Lucy. She filed for divorce a short time later and I signed the papers and that was the end of my first try at marriage. During those last few months I was introduced to another girl named Peggy. There just had to be something about that name?? So Peggy was a wondering soul just like me so I hooked my Ford up to my Trailer and it was time to go back to Iowa for a visit. My friend John came along with Peggy and me and we were off to Iowa. There are lots of little stories to tell about all the time that I don’t talk about everything that happened in my life but it would be too long and a lot of it boring for me to mention every little detail of my life. I am trying to keep everything plain and simple while omitting many things and many that have long ago been forgotten by me. Which is the reason I am writing all these words in the first place so there will be a record of my life even after I am gone and maybe someone will benefit from some of the wisdom that I had to learn the hard way but that I doubt because I never listened to advice anytime in my life which was the reason I was always getting into trouble when I was younger. My life and times during this next period has already been explained so I will skip over this part so this would put Peggy and me at the Holiday Inn Travel Trailer park on Hwy 192 a few miles from the entrance to Orlando, Florida’s Disney.

Life at Disney and the Beginning of Retirement:

Is it really retirement when you leave the military. I have retired in principal but I still must work because my military pension will pay my rent and buy me food and that is about the extent of being Retired. The Trailer that I chose to park my 32 ft Traveler is quite a place. It has a real nice swimming pool and to my way of thinking, I am living pretty high off the Hog. Not much time passes until my girlfriend Peggy gets pregnant but not to worry because the Orlando Naval Training Center is just a few miles away from where I live and My military benefits pay for most of having a baby. Peggy has a Job at Denny’s in Disney’s Chula Vista area and her tips are really good. I go to work as a night watchman at a tourist resort where people stay instead of in a Motel. We have a good life but we will never be rich or own our own home in this situation. Time passes and Peggy finally has our Baby Boy and we name him Shane. Not long after Shane is born I get a job offer from RCA at the Kennedy Space Center. I filled out job applications and sent resumes to several places when I retired and this was a pay off for me. I was presently working for less than minimum wage and this job paid nearly nine dollars an hour in 1979 dollars that was a pretty nice chunk of change. I immediately took the job and we moved the trailer to a place on A1A just a couple of blocks south of the causeway to the Space Center. We had a great life living in that trailer and things were really going well. We had both quit our jobs and I was now making more than those two jobs combined and I had lots of medical and other types of benefits. This trailer park didn’t have a pool like the last one and we lived there about a year until I found a house I could afford and we moved out of the trailer and into a real house. I bought the house while Peggy was up north with Shane and what a mistake that was. Another learning lesson of life. Don’t ever do something stupid like buy a house without your wife there to tell you she likes it because she won’t. Peggy came back from her visit and she didn’t like the house but we were obligated and had to move in regardless of her feelings. Another year or so passes in the house on Pineridge Dr. And finally Peggy decides she wants to take Shane and move back north where she was born. I didn’t have a whole lot of choice so now I have this big house and am all alone to do as I please. I buy another new car. An all black Toyota Celica GTS and it turns out to be the best car I ever have or will own. I had to get rid of a Datsun and a Triump TR-4 that I presently had. My Triump motorcycle will no longer run and I am told it has carbuerator problems but I am never able to get them fixed or hear it run again for the rest of the years that I own it. I also buy a new Kawasaki 454 motorcycle and it is a sweet bike. Less than 500 cc and it runs as good as my old 750 Triump ever ran. I am making real good money at the Space Center so I also decide to try my hand at boat ownership. I buy an 18 ft Sea Ray Cuddy Cabin so I can party and sleep in the boat and it gives me many happy times and adventures. I learn to water ski and get very good at it. Most of my boating is in the St. John’s river where there is a large population of Alligators. I think back on those days and I know I was pushing the envelope but no one ever got hurt by one of those gators and I wasn’t the only one swimming around in the river with them. When you own a boat you have to split your fun with the cost of owning the Boat. Someone once told me that a boat was a hole in the water that you threw your money into and they were right. It was a real expensive pass time but another lesson in life to be earned and this one was even fun even after considering how expensive it was. Several years of Boat ownership and several years of time made my $12,000 investment new into a $4,000 boat as the head cracked and after replacing the whole thing did it a second time and I had to sell it for that because a boat without a motor isn’t worth much. I also used the money to go to Honduras but that is getting ahead of myself. After paying off my boat and selling it and paying off my Celica I decided to buy an new car. This was to be the last new car I would own in my lifetime and it was another Toyota but this one was a 4-Runner SR5. It had the same engine as my Celica which was still running strong. During this time Peggy got a divorce and I married an English woman by the name of Barbara. I have nothing good to say about Barbara so that will be a dark spot in my history. Each of my first three marriages only lasted about 2 years and I was beginning to think I was cursed. During all this excitement and confusion I was having regular visits during the summer of my son Shane. I even got a phone call one night from some girl named Heidi that said she was my daughter. Here it was, 18 years later and my little girl that I had deserted to pursue my own life was calling me and wanting to meet her real dad. I didn’t mind and it was like having your cake and eating it too. Heidi and I became good friends and I never was sorry she contacted me. Somehow her grandmother who was friends with my good friend Helen Barnowski had found out where I was living and Heidi had tracked me down. She even came to visit and go for a ride on my boat while I still owned it. I even met Heidi’s mother again and convinced her that there was a good life waiting for her in Florida so on one of my many trips North Heidi’s mother Darlene came to Florida and took up residence in one of my bedrooms in the big house I was living. Darlene and I became good friends after that but I could never get serious because she liked to drink a lot and even for me I didn’t like being around her when she was drunk. This arrangement until I married Barbara and after Barbara was finished with me I gave her my equity in my house. My wife Peggy signed over her equity to me because of another agreement we had previously made and Barbara somehow came up with $5,000 to pay me for ownership of the house. This was the money I needed to move to “The Great Outdoors” and buy a beautiful lot and park a 40 ft 12 ft Trailer with a 12 X 30’ screen room built on. There were lots of things going on during this ten year time period that I haven’t talked about or mentioned but my sole purpose in these writings is to give a high lite of my life from the time I was a boy in Beacon until after I moved to Honduras. In 1983 I gave up drinking and would only very occasionally have a drink of something. Today I don’t drink at all and have been dry for at least ten years. I still enjoy a good smoke but this place doesn’t know when good stuff is like and everything here is crap. Getting back to my Trailer at the Great Outdoors. This was another great adventure and learning adventure in my life. I was living in a trailer that originally had license plates on it and I had to renew them yearly. The place I lived wanted the Trailers to be called Condominium Units. This meant I had to forego buying Plates for around 50 dollars a year and I then had to pay property tax which started out costing me over $400. per year. I fought it but ended up losing just as anyone does that tries to change the mind of government beaurocrats. The Great Outdoors had two swimming pools a restaurant and a golf course. It was essentially country club living and I didn’t get along too well with some of the snobs that resided there. There were a few people like me that lived there but most of them were filthy rich and I now suspect most were Liberals.

In Retrospect, I guess I could divide my life up into four large segments with many mini-segments in between.

1940-1957 Those were the years of my youth while growing up and going to school. This was my learning and experimenting years. All of which were indestructibly unexplainable which only added to the excitement of this thing called life.

1957-1978 Those were the years I spent in the Military which offered me a multitude of Adventure and excitement which in some case was beyond comprehension or belief. How I got through those years I will never know but I survived to talk about it which brings me to my next years.

1978-1999 Those were my years in Florida working at the Kennedy Space Center in support of the Space Shuttle. A great job with a bright future and the kind that makes you want to get up in the morning and go to work. Every day was an adventure and only added to a life of unlimited opportunities at work and at home.

1999-Present Those foregone years following retirement from two of the greatest jobs America has to offer. A Career in the Navy. A career in the exploration of Space. What more in life could anyone ask for and yet my life just seems to continue to get better as the hair turns white and disappears except from all the wrong places while the body redistributes itself so you can rest comfortably in the casket.

Author Notes: This is a story about a small boy growing up in Beacon Iowa and some of the events that made him into a decent human being during his life then and afterwards until after retirement.

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About The Author
Melvin E. Holliday
About This Story
26 Jul, 2020
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57 mins
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