Saturday, February 7, 2009

As My Dad Tells it #3 in the Series

Adventures of a Seabee

As I stated in the first of this series, my dad was a Seabee and was stationed for a time at the training base in Davisville, Rhode Island. Dad's rank was a Seaman 1st. His job at the time was serve as an SP (Shore Patrol) as he awaited his shipping out orders. SP duty was a duty everyone had to do. Dad had drawn the 12:00 am to 8:00 am shift.

Now, the transport trains came right onto the base. The various passenger cars came from all over to bring the service men to Davisville for Military Training. On this particular duty shift, there where 3 Sp's on duty and each was given one of the 3 passenger cars to check in. Dad's assigned car was from the Great Lakes Training Center near Chicago. Each SP had a Muster List which had the Name, Rank & Serial Number of each in coming sailor. The SP's would go aboard the Passenger Car and give directions. "OK, let's line up and go out this door. As you come off the train, I'll check you off against the list." So, dad got off the train first and checked each name against his list. After they where off the train, they lined up in formation and where re-verified against the list.

Dad noticed that they where all wearing their combat boots as they where just out of military training. In those days, the training was only 3 weeks long, where as today it's about 10 weeks.
Also, in those days you where given your rank according to your trade and experience. Where as today, it's given through training and tests. So, most of these guys out ranked my dad, but his rank was not displayed on his pea coat, just his SP band.

As dad went back through his list, he asked each individual his name, rank and serial number. When he got to one individual, the response was "Anthony Krall".

My dad asked "Where do I know you from?" "Don't know sir".
"Where's your home?" "Michigan".
"Where?" "North of Detroit".
"Roseville or Mount Clemens?" "Why did you ask Mount Clemens?"
"Cause I'm from Mount Clemens."
Dad gave him his name, but it didn't mean anything.
So Krall asked "Who's your dad?" "George Pointer" Still didn't recognize.
My dad gave him his mother's maiden name "Charbeneau". Krall happened to live on Rathbone near the Charbeneau's. My dad asked "Do you remember High Speed Gas Station ? Rene Denewith is the owner?" Krall said that he took all his business there. "That's where I know you from. I worked there after school." (You see, dad was 17 and Anthony Krall was about 31.)
Krall said to dad "No one knew this wouldn't be easy." "No it's not, you're here for Military Training."

"OK, let's move down to the Mess Hall." With only 3 weeks training at Great Lakes, some still didn't know their left from their right, so it was not a tight formation. Some complained that it was to early for breakfast. I forgot to mention that the train pulled in at 4:15 am. Dad said they had to eat now because the next meal wasn't until noon.

(What the barracks looked like before the base closed.
When dad was there, the barracks had only 2 floors)
They went to the Mess Hall to eat. Dad couldn't eat until the last guy in line was served. They where told to get food or milk or coffee, something so he could make out his report that they did get chow. After Mess, they went to the barracks where the Chief officer would give them bunk assignments and then later they would get their training assignments.
Training lasted 6 to 8 weeks according to the Battalion. You could be shipped out any day after training.
About 2 weeks went by before Dad saw Anthony (Tony) Krall again.
Tony: Can you get a pass?
Dad: I think so, but you can't. You haven't completed training.
Tony: I know, but I know how I can get out of here.
Dad: How's that?
Tony: Fence Liberty!
Dad: What's Fence Liberty?
Tony: Over by the Motor Pool is where the main road comes by.
That's where the taxi comes If you get a chance, go check it out.
Dad: What do you do, climb the fence?
Tony: Nah, the fence rolls back. You don't notice it unless you look closely.
Taxi driver keeps his mouth shut if you give him a good tip.
So everyone chips in who's going. The taxi takes you into Providence.
Dad had been on the base over 6 weeks and never heard of this.
Tony: All we have to do is make sure you get your pass.
Dad: I'm not going in any taxi, I'm taking the bus to the bus station in Providence.
After Dad got his pass, he told Tony when he was leaving and that it would take 30 minutes to get there. They set up the rendezvous at the bus station. First one there would wait on the bench outside of the Restrooms.
Dad: Tony, you realize what you're doing don't you? You'll be AWOL
Tony: What will they do, put me in jail?
Dad: No, the Brig.
So dad took the bus to Providence and went into the Bus Station. Thinking he was the first one there, he sat on the bench and waited. Not to much later, Tony came strolling out of the Restroom where he had gone in for a shoe shine and to buy a razor for a shave.
Tony: Have you got any money?
Dad: I have $25 dollars, my return bus money and my weekend pass.
Tony: I don't have my dog tags.
Dad: I know! (They take the dog tags & id cards the first couple of weeks of training.
It was how they kept them out of semi-restricted areas on base)
Tony: I have to find a bank. (This was Saturday mind you and almost noon)
Dad: I have no idea where a bank is. Let's ask an SP!
Tony: I don't want to ask them, they'll ask for my id.
Dad: Just kidding. Let's ask a police officer.
They walked a couple of blocks and came upon a police car at a traffic light. They went up to the car.
Tony: We've just come in from Sea Duty and we're looking for a bank.
Officer driving: Not gonna rob it are you?
Tony: No, I just want to cash a payroll check.
The police officers gave them direction to the nearest bank. As they walked along dad asked Tony what he was gonna do. He was just going to cash a Certified Check from home, from a construction job he had done.
Dad: How much is it for?
Tony: $6000
Dad: Tony, you're gonna have trouble trying to cash that.
Tony: Nah, I know what to do.
They went to the bank and asked for the Bank Manager. Tony showed the Manager the check and told him he wanted to cash it. The Manager ask for an id card. Tony told him he didn't have it. The Manager question him about it, thought they where to have it at all times. Tony gave him a song and dance about just coming in from sea duty and didn't have it. Tony told the Manager that he would pay for the phone call to his bank so the check could be verified. The Manager finally relented and called the bank. He came back and said he'd cash it, but suggested that Tony didn't carry all that cash on him. Tony agreed and had a cashiers check made out to his wife for $5000 and had it sent from the bank. Tony kept the balance of $1000 though the Manager felt that that was still to much.
After they left the bank, dad suggested that they go to an Army/Navy store and purchase a money belt. Which they did to keep all of Tony's 100's in.
Tony: How long is your pass?
Dad: I have to be back on base at midnight Sunday.
Tony: Well, we'll need a place to stay.
Dad thought that this was out of the question. It also would be hard to find as Providence was the hub of the general Military Area(Seabees, Naval pilot training, sub base, army bases and the Newport Naval Base). Tony looked around and saw a big sign down the street "Biltmore". He decided to try there first.

(The Providence Biltmore Hotel)

They went in and up to the Desk. The Lobby was full of Military people, mostly officers and all different branches of the service.
(Providence Biltimore Hotel Lobby)
Tony: We'd like a room for 2.
Desk Clerk: I'm sorry Sir, we're booked solid.
Tony: You can't be booked solid, this is a big Hotel.
Clerk: Sir, this is the hub. All kinds of Military come from all over.
Tony: (Raising his voice) That's a fine kettle of fish. We've just come off of
14 months at sea and this is the way you treat us!
The Manager now enters the scene because of Tony's raised voice.
Manager: What's the problem? And Sir, can you please keep your voice down?
Clerk to Manager: These 2 have came in wanting a room. I told them we're booked.
Manager: Are you sure we don't have anything?
Clerk: (Looking back through the book) No Sir, we have nothing.
Manager: You might try a little later this afternoon for a possible cancellation.
Tony quited down and they agreed to come back. They where almost to the Lobby door, when the Bellhop caught up with them, telling them that the Manager wanted to talk with them. So, they went back to the Desk.
Manager: We do have one room left if you are interested, but it will be costly.
Tony: What are you talking about, we got a lot of money when we got off the ship.
Manager: The Bridal Suite has not been taken.
Tony: Where's that?
Manager: Top floor, over looking the city.
Tony: How much?
Manager: $100, but for you, I'll cut it to $75 (Still a lot of money at the time)
Tony: (Reaching into his money belt and taking out his cash) We'll take it.
Clerk: The Bell Hop will take you to the room (They had no baggage to take up)
Dad said the Bridal Suite was very elaborate. Before the Bell Hop left, Tony asked him
Tony: Send up some beer and a couple of ham sandwiches.
Bell hop: How much beer?
Tony: A few.
Bell Hop: You have a fridge.
Tony: Send up a case.
Bell hop: They wont put that on your tab, you'll have to pay up front.
So it went, 2 sailors on a weekend leave and staying at the finest hotel. Dad said they didn't do much sightseeing. They just kind of went from bar to bar. Dad returned to base at the proper time, leaving Tony back in Providence. Dad didn't see Tony until Tuesday or Wednesday of the next week. Apparently Tony didn't get back to base until Monday at 4:00am, entering the base the same way he had left....Fence Liberty. He got into trouble with the Barracks Chief , but to what extent, dad didn't know.
Some time later, dad shipped out. Before he left, Tony was on the obstacle course. He went up this big wall. Not seeing the rope on the opposite side, he jumped down an broke his ankle. Apparently they where not told that there was a rope on the other side to lower themselves down with. It was something they where suppose to figure out. Tony returned home to Mount Clemens on a Medical Discharge. He walked with a limp from that time on.
Dad went to Hawaii from Rhode Island and then onto the Marshall Islands.

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