“WASHED OUT;” GOODBYE TO SHIPMATES
At the end of our first semester on active duty, after all the grades had been posted, orders were received by about ten percent of our NROTC class to report to the Naval Training Station in San Diego – the dreaded ‘boot camp.’ Capt. W.C. Barker, our C.O., was very stern and strict, stating such homelies as “survival of the fittest,” “the NROTC only wants the cream of the crop,” etc. That was little consolation to those included in the ‘cut.’ One well-liked classmate, Bob ‘Deutchland Ober Alles’ Lindley, reacted by shutting himself in a garage with the car engine running. He was buried less than a mile away from campus at the Sawtelle Naval Cemetery, and the entire NROTC unit was honor guard for his burial ceremony, complete with rifle volleys. (Chuck Young was one of the ‘volleyers.’)
Pat Doheny was also included in the ‘cut.’ But Pat took it more philosophically, and was actually able to turn it into an advantage. While we were all slaving away at our drills and studies, Pat married Patti Hallbriter, went on a honeymoon, to Boot Camp at San Diego, and then got orders to Officer’s Candidate School at Northwestern University. He received his Ensign stripes before anyone in his NROTC class. Joe McNeill, Howard McCreery and I were ushers at Pat and Patti’s wedding, along with our mutual friend, Dick Elliot. All four ushers received special liberty to attend the wedding and reception. During the reception, when the ushers were given their usher’s gifts from Pat, Dick received a gold watch (I received a gold cigarette lighter, and the others something similar). Dick immediately took off his old watch (which had been a high school graduation gift from his parents), and tossed it out the window. The next morning, while we were all nursing our champagne hangovers, Dick was crawling around on the ground outside the Hallbriter’s window, looking for his ‘old’ watch.
On the Saturday before Pat left for Chicago for his “90 day wonder” course, he invited about six of us to his house for lunch. He sent a driver, in a large black limousine, to pick us up just as we were released for our weekend liberty. Before driving to Pat’s home, we drove to the Eleventh Naval District Regional Office downtown, at 439 So. Hill Street, where Pat was to pick up his orders, before the office closed for the weekend. We were all in our NROTC uniforms, and Pat asked everyone to wait in the limousine at the curb while he, and I, went upstairs to pick up his papers. I don t recall why I went with him, but when we were through and came back down to the sidewalk, we spotted our other classmates, standing beside the opened rear door of the limousine, in two lines, like ‘side boys’ on a ship-of-the-line. As they saw us approaching, Pat leading the way, they all stiffened to a smart salute. A small crowd had gathered on the sidewalk when they saw the limousine and the uniformed ‘side boys,’ probably expecting someone like Admiral Nimitz shortly to appear. Both Pat and I immediately sized up the situation, and not wanting to disappoint the waiting crowd, or our classmates, walked swiftly and erectly to the car, with stern faces, smartly returning the ‘side boy’s’ salutes. The door was promptly closed, and the ‘side boys’ swiftly entered another door at the center of the limousine, and off we sped, the driver cooperating in our little charade. We laughed and talked about it all the way to Doheny’s house. It couldn’t have come off better if we had rehearsed it. I don’t remember Doheny’s lunch. I’m sure it was very nice, but it definitely had been upstaged by our just-completed performance.