UCLA ACADEMICS; DATING; BATTALION LIFE
Academically speaking, my first semester at UCLA was similar to my first semester at San Diego State, in that, again, I bit off more than I could chew. I went down several grade points, which had to be made up as soon as possible. I had received a ‘D’ in Astronomy 12, although I was interested in the course, studied hard, and thought I had done well. The problem was that the class consisted mostly of NROTC students who previously had taken a similar NROTC Navigation course and were taking this almost duplicate course to improve their grade point average. Since our professor, Dr. Samuel Herrick, graded “on the curve,” I, and a few others who were new to the subject, ended up on the wrong end of the curve.
Where San Diego State had been a bit more difficult than San Bernardino JC, UCLA was more difficult than San Diego State. Also, the Naval Science and Tactics courses, while mostly only counting for one or two grade units, took as much time to prepare for as the three and five unit courses on the ‘hill.’ We referred to the ‘hill,’ since all of the NROTC courses were held in a section of the Men’s Gymnasium Building at the bottom of Janss steps (about 100 steps), and the University courses were taken in Royce Hall, the Physics, Chemistry, Education and other buildings at the top of Janss steps.
The first real date I had with Barbara Parmelee (my future wife, called ”Parm” by her friends, was on a Monday night, April 26, 1943, her 21st birthday. It was customary to go to a local ‘watering hole’ called the Glen. The Glen was a small bar, located on Beverly Glen Boulevard, exactly 1.1 miles from campus. At that time it was illegal to sell liquor within a mile of a state university, hence there were a number of such spots located just outside a one mile diameter circle around the campus. (Another favorite spot was Pete’s, on Pico boulevard.) Bill Irish, the owner and manager of the Glen, knew most of his customers by name, we were there so frequently. Someone was always celebrating a birthday, a ‘pinning’ or something.
On several occasions, Parm and I took the Wilshire bus to the Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel, to dance to Freddie Martin’s band. (I didn’t have a car.) To avoid the cover charge, since I was on a very tight budget, we ‘bar danced.’ We had a drink in the bar, and then went through the respective rest rooms to the dance floor. After dancing, we again returned to the bar through the rest rooms. Once we were surprised to see Parm’s parents there. They asked us to join their table. We did, and had such a wonderful time that we later decided that we would have our children while young enough to enjoy doing things together with them.
Parm’s brother Peter, who was two years younger than she, was also attending UCLA at this time. Pete had signed up with the Army’s Enlisted Reserve Corps (ERC), along with a lot of other students, expecting they would be allowed to continue their studies at UCLA. They were all greatly surprised when only a month or so after signing up, they received orders to report for active duty at Camp Roberts, further up the California coast, at Paso Robles. They were scheduled to leave by Army buses on a Saturday morning, less than a week from then. There was a lot of griping and moaning about this, as well as concern on the part of those of us in Navy programs, that the same thing might happen to us. But it was for real, and trying to make the best of it, a ‘Kiss the Boys Goodbye’ dance was held in Kerchoff Hall, the Student Union Building, the night before they left. On Saturday morning, as they boarded the buses, the Bruin band played, and fraternity sections cheered on their departing brothers. Parm and I were there saying “bon voyage” to Pete, and others, including my fraternity brothers Kirk Sinclair and Lee Karpe. Pete finally returned, but Kirk and Lee, and a lot of others, never did.
I was technically an Apprentice Seaman in the USNR since October 11, 1942, when I officially joined the NROTC unit. Since we were not on active duty, I was for all practical purposes still a civilian. We had been issued officer-type uniforms similar to those worn at the U.S. Naval Academy, but were required to wear them only one day a week, when we had marching drills. At all other times we could wear civilian clothes. Our uniforms were issued to us by Navy Chief Samuel Landy, who entered the U.S. Navy in 1905, the same year that our Commanding Officer, Capt. W.C. Barker, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1943 there was a popular song, Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long. When I found that my uniform didn’t fit me very well, and went back to Chief Landy to get it exchanged, I couldn’t resist singing out the song title to the hoary old salt. Actually, the pants were too short, but I still couldn’t resist the clowning, which brought laughs from the other NROTC cadets also waiting for uniform exchanges. Sam didn’t appear to get the joke, but got his revenge by giving me an even shorter pair of pants. I had to wait until everyone else was fitted before Sam finally got around to getting me a uniform that I could get into. I decided I didn’t like old Chiefs, ready to retire and with no sense of humor. And Chief Landy probably long ago had decided that he didn’t like disrespectful, runny-nosed kids, one-third his age, in officer-type uniforms, that he would soon have to salute.
In order to provide a corps of reserve Naval officers that could be utilized in times of national emergencies, Congress had, in 1926, authorized a maximum of six (later increased to nine), training units to be set up at various major universities around the United States. They were to be staffed by qualified and experienced regular, or retired, U.S. Navy officers, who for one reason or the other, were available for such duty. Some had been retired due to age, or other technical reasons, yet were fully qualified to fulfill key Navy assignments. Shortly before the war, Congress authorized an increase to fifty Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps unite. NROTC units located on the West Coast were: the University of Washington, the University of California, the University of Southern California (USC), and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). A maximum of 200 cadets could be trained at any one time in one NROTC unit, with an average of 50 cadets in each class, requiring four years to complete the program.
Each cadet would take his normal university classes, but supplement them with the Naval Science and Tactics courses provided by the NROTC unlit. Theoretically, a cadet could graduate in four years, receiving his normal degree from the University, and his officer’s commission from the NROTC unit at the same time. NROTC graduation had the option of being commissioned as an Ensign, USNR, or 2nd lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, the same options allowed at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Since the United States was now at war, a greater demand existed for Naval officers, so both the Naval Academy and the NROTC units had accelerated their programs to allow completion in three instead of four years. Everyone had to work and study harder and faster. Also, schools went from two semesters per year to three, further shortening the time required to complete the programs. To further expedite the program, and to give to give the Navy greater control and direction of the NROTC students, who were already Apprentice Seamen in the USNR, we were all ordered to active duty on June 12, 1943.