BOB'S SEA TALES
Fresh out of Navy Music School, (located then in Washington DC) I flew to Illinois and made my way to the Freeport High School. I arrived just as the graduation began for Betty. I dashed in and found a seat right down front. The rest of the family had saved a place for me, but I didn't see them. We prepared for our departure to Norfolk and our life together. We bought a 1949 Pontiac from brother-in-law, Dick. He was in the process of reconditioning it, so all the chrome was striped off and it had been painted a gray undercoating. At least there were bumpers to hold the stone which was carried to place against the wheel when parked!
Our First Adventure
As we headed out across country, it is time to note that Betty's mother accompanied us. Not much remains in my memory of the journey. We arrived in Norfolk and took Mom to visit with Bud and Alice, (long time friends of Mom). Betty and I located a nice 2nd floor apartment near the Naval Base, where I was to check in to join the band I had been assigned to. On that fateful day, I was informed that the band had just left on an aircraft carrier for the Northern Atlantic, (England, etc.). When I asked for some additional time the kind officer (another musician, of all things) told this seaman that he was giving me a break by allowing us until midnight the next night to get to Jacksonville Florida. We threw everything back into the car, left a note for the landlady, couldn't find Betty's mother and headed south.
Somewhere in Georgia a state trooper pulled us over. His concern was centered on the fact we didn't have license plates. I showed him my orders and the plates applied for sticker. He had been in the Marines and understood, so sent us on our way. When I checked in at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, I learned that the band could do without me so I would spend the summer there. We set out to find a place to live. A kindly real estate lady talked us into a comfortable apartment south of the base. On our trip to the store to purchase food and other necessities, a sheriff car pulled us over. He was concerned about not having plates, and would not accept my explanation. Taking my driver's license, I was forced to follow him. We drove and drove and drove. Coming upon an old building back in the sticks, we were told this was the county court house! They took us inside and detained us for some time. It was long enough to cause Betty to question out loud, "How do we know they are cops?". She was right, as it was a backwoods hillbilly sort of operation. They let us know that they had considered us run-a-ways and were checking things out. Finally a court date was set they took $35 bond and they released us. I remember the jail yard behind a chicken wire fence that apparently was used for family visiting.
We spent some time at the apartment trying to clean up the tub that was stained black and smelled of rotten eggs. The water ran black also. Going back to the realtor, we were informed that the water contained sulfur and was known to be healthful. We told her no way and she released us from the lease. We went back to Jacksonville and located a nice room over a garage. No stove, but had a hot plate. I think the first meal included a ham slice.
Court date came in several weeks. The license plates were on the car and the judge looked everything over and asked for my plea. After going in circles with him about how things were done in Illinois and my military presence covered in the soldiers and sailors relief act, (home laws apply), I finally agreed to plead guilty to the Florida law. The judge dismissed the case and let us go. They gave me a check for the $35 which I had them cash before leaving that place.
We enjoyed the summer of working half days a lot, which left us free time to make trips to Jacksonville Beach several times a week. There you drive right onto the beach at low tide and park. Always good to keep an eye on the tide so not to get marooned. Other trips included St. Augustine, alligator farms, and the Okefenokee swamp over the border in Georgia. We picked up a sprig of Spanish moss and hung it on the compass mounted on the front windshield. Had the neatest spider living in the compass, who would come out and climb around on the moss. Our favorite meals included shrimp in the basket alternating with pizza. We attended the Methodist church.
The band returned and as we were scheduled to board the Forrestal aircraft carrier, Betty and I packed the car and headed north to Freeport, where she would spend the winter. The trip offered many sight seeing opportunities. We picked up a hitch-hiker and took him to his hometown, which was probably going out of our way, but I guess we had the time. The car began acting up in the Smokies. When we arrived in Freeport I said good-by to Betty and returned to the ship. The first letter I received informed me that the car was scrapped. Seems it was out of transmission fluid and the gears were ruined. The fill cap was only accessible under the floor mat! Never heard of such a thing! End of summer.
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