Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sea Stories

Well, not exactly sea stories, but a few things about Dad, boats and the US Navy.

Growing up in Dayton doesn’t usually bring boating into a boy’s life, but Dad and some of his friends did use canoes on the nearby Mad River and rowboats fishing in lakes and water-filled gravel-pits.  Dad was fond of boating and, although he didn’t own a boat until after he retired, we often went boating with his friends.

After Dad got out of high school and began working at Delco Moraine the draft was still in effect.  He knew that he would soon have to make a decision about joining or waiting for his draft notice.

One day several of his friends approached him.  They had talked to an Army recruiter who’d promised them that if they all joined up at the same time they could go to boot camp together.  They all thought this would be a grand plan.  Dad did too, with one exception – he wanted to go into the Navy.

The others didn’t really care what branch they joined, so the next day they talked to a Navy recruiter and found that the Navy offered the same scheme.  A few weeks later the gang was off to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago.

USS Lansdowne in Tokyo Bay for Treaty signing

After completing training everyone went off to their respective assignments.  Dad was sent to the Charleston Navy Yard, where he served as a Machinist Mate in the engine rooms and the damage control sections helping to prepare surplus WWII Destroyers for transfer to the Turkish Navy.  Among the ships Dad worked on were the USS Lardner - DD-487, the USS Lansdowne - DD-486, the USS McCalla - DD-488 & the USS Buchanan - DD-484.  Dad went on many day cruises out to sea a number of times, helping to train the Turkish sailors.  He once told me that they never got out of sight of the shore, which was a bit of a disappointment for him.

Dad had an adventure in boot camp that I wrote about before.  He also told me about an incident that he experienced in Charleston.  They were being taught to extinguish onboard fires.  The instructors lit a large amount of fuel.  Dad and two other sailors were to attack the flames with a large hose, probably a 2-1/2” line, and a high volume nozzle.  Dad was second in line. 

Something like this, but with less protective gear and a larger hose.
As they got close to the fire, suddenly the first sailor, the one holding the nozzle, panicked.  He let go of the nozzle and ran.  Dad had three or four feet of hose twisting and whipping around and, since the water curtain was no longer always between him and the fire, it suddenly got very hot.

Dad was tempted to “follow the leader” – drop the hose and run.  But he realized that if he did so the third sailor and others nearby might be hurt.  So he inched his grip forward on the hose until he got control of it.  He and the other sailor successfully extinguished the fire.

Sometime after Mom and Dad had gotten married, but before I was born, the Navy offered Dad a slot at Officer’s Candidate School.  Accepting would mean an additional four years in the Navy.  Dad considered it, but he really didn’t want a career in the Navy, he had a good job waiting for him in Dayton with Delco Moraine and they had me on the way, so he turned it down.

A few months later, not long after I was born, Dad was honorably discharged and they went to Dayton.  A few weeks after arriving home, the Korean War broke out.  Dad said, “I didn’t even have time to unpack my seabag.  Then I figured I might as well not unpack as I was sure I’d be called back up.”

He wasn't though.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Win One For The Gipper?

I had a friend who played football at Notre Dame for Knute Rockne and who was in the locker room for the "Win one for the Gipper" speech.

Manny in 1929
Manny Vezie was the owner of Gold Arrow Camp, a children's summer camp, at Huntington Lake.

We used to go there pretty often to give fire prevention and nature talks and I got to know him pretty well.  He was an entertaining storyteller and loved to talk about his adventures in football and things that had happened at the camp in the past.

Friday, November 16, 2012


One winter when I was teaching skiing at China Peak Ski Area I was car-pooling with a member of the ski patrol.  The patrolmen have to get to the resort a lot earlier than instructors, so I would almost always be the first instructor to arrive.  I’d have time for a cup of coffee and to chat with the lodge staff and other early arrivers, then I’d get into my ski clothes and be one of the first skiers up the lift, with time for several runs before lessons started.

One morning I was eager to get out on the hill.  It was a brilliant, cold morning.  It felt like you could see for miles, not a cloud anywhere and the sky was incredibly sharp blue, it seemed like you could touch it.  A fresh, light dusting of powder snow, probably less than an inch, had fallen over night - the first new snow in quite a while. 

When there isn’t any new snow for a long time all the snow in the ungroomed areas settles and compacts.  It can get relatively hard, but not icy.  The snow “off-piste” (the areas not normally skied) becomes firm and smooth, making for excellent “tree skiing.”  Those were the conditions we had and I knew that this dusting of snow would make for excellent skiing just about anywhere on the mountain.

As soon as the lift crew would let me, I got onto Chair 3, which was the closest to the instructors’ room.  I was by myself and eager with anticipation to make some turns.

The light dusting of snow allowed you to see the tracks animals had left overnight.  There were a lot of these tracks, mostly mice or other small rodents, rabbits, weasels, some bigger ones that I thought were left by a raccoon.

Chair 3 climbs pretty steeply until it tops Waterfall run, then it passes over a long, open flat before getting to Academy run.  From high up in the chair I could see the entire expanse of this flat.  I saw a rabbit’s track going upslope, but the tracks just ended out in the middle of this open area.  This looked odd to me, as I could not understand why the tracks ended there.  There were no nearby trees or bushes that the rabbit could have ducked under.

I wondered if maybe there was hole leading to a den, but that didn’t seem possible as I’d passed over this very spot hundreds of times and never seen anything like that.  Finally the chair took me close enough to see the end of the track.

As I looked down from my lofty perch, here’s what I saw:

What do you think happened here?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Veterans' Day Tribute

On this Veteran's Day I think about the many people in my life who have served our country.  I am grateful for their sacrifice and willingness to serve.  For some of these people their military service was just a minor detour in life and maybe even a bit of an adventure.  Some found years of discomfort, fear and drudgery and others gave that “last full measure of devotion.”

My apologies to anyone I may miss.

Of course the first person I think of is my Dad, William Locker Jr., who served in the US Navy from 1947 to 1950.  This was very fortunate for me since he met Mom in Charleston, South Carolina where he was stationed.  It’s hard for me to imagine how they would have ever met if Dad hadn’t joined the Navy.

81st Division Emblem
Both my Grandfathers served.  Grandpa William Locker Sr. in the US Navy in the 1920’s and Daddy Con, Cornelius Callahan, with the 81st Division in WWI.

My best childhood friend David Bryant served in the US Army in Vietnam in 1967 & 1968.  He died there on February 8, 1968.

My good friend George Youngerman was an artilleryman in the US Army in Vietnam.  He was killed on April 1, 1971.

My cousin Daniel Meade, a Corporal in the US Army in Vietnam was from New York.  I barely knew him as he was quite a bit older than me.  He was killed the same day as David, February 8, 1968.

My Uncle Johnny Cranford, husband of my Mom’s sister Jo, served as a rifleman in the 45th Division in Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany from ‘42 to ‘45.  No US unit spent more time in combat than the 45th Division.

45th Division Emblem
My Uncle Bob Coehick, husband of my Dad’s sister Norma, served as an Army combat engineer in Korea in ‘52 and ‘53.

30th Division Emblem
My cousin Roland “Jack” Hale was fatally wounded fighting the Nazis in February of ‘45 while serving with the 30th Infantry Division.

Hawaiian Division Emblem
My cousin Vernon “Bud” Hale (Jack’s brother) served with the US Army’s Hawaiian Division.  He was at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii on December 7th, 1941.

James Tipton was the older brother of one of Dad’s best friends from his youth.  He was the older brother of one of Dad’s best friends from his youth.  Jim joined the US Armed Forces in the late 30’s while he was still in his teens.  After finishing his training, Jim had the misfortune to be assigned to the Philippines Division.
Philliipines Division Emblem
His unit fought in the Battle of Bataan.  He survived the battle and then endured the Bataan Death March.  When he was liberated after the war he weighed less than 80 pounds.

 My nephew Mason Maxwell served in the US Army in Korea and Indonesia.  He suffered a permanent disability from injuries suffered during rescue efforts in the aftermath of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami.

US Marine Corps Emblem

My Uncle Tom Callahan served in the US Army from 1946 to 1948 in the Aleutian Islands.

My cousins Bobby, Mark & Craig Cox all served.  Bobby & Mark in the US Marine Corps in California during and just after the Vietnam era.  Craig was in the US Army sometime later.

I also wanted to mention my Uncle Reggie Whitby.  He did not serve in the US Armed Forces, but he contributed to the cause of freedom as a member of the Royal Air Force.

To each and every one of these fine men I offer my sincerest gratitude.