Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Boy in the Band

I'm not sure why I find such bittersweet comfort in rereading letters I wrote my parents while I was in the Navy so very long ago. I guess it's the direct-link reminder of who I was, once upon a time. Each letter is a a frame in the movie of my life, and I only wish I was more fully aware of just how amazing it was as I lived it. Even the ordinary, nothing-special days and the letters they produced are like the ghosts of a long ago, favorite aftershave. Here's one.

Monday, November 29, 1954

Dear Folks

I have time (where it comes from or how I don’t know) to dash off a short note, partially to make up for my long silence. Saturday (no, Friday) I went down and helped Eastern Air Lines buy a new DC-6. And it only cost me $112.90—I had to pawn some old family heirlooms to be able to get my ticket. I cashed my last government check ($50.00) and when I came home I had a little over twenty left! $17 for the plane, plus $5 for a new head for my razor.

Saturday night the band played for a football game—did fairly well, even though we had to compete with the drill team and the Pensacola High School Band, which was really terrific. After returning to the base, I was in one of my “moods,” if it could be called that, and felt like taking a walk. It was raining like mad, but I like to walk in the rain. By this time it was 11:40; a bus came by heading for town, so I took it. Oh, well—it’s fun to be different every now and then.

Just think—only about ten or twelve more days in this place—and only seventeen days more till I come home—I’ve been away so long the very thought of home doesn’t even sink in. I’ll have to believe it when I see it.

I’m sorry if every time I write I seem to be in a bad mood, but at the moment, I could cheerfully DOR (Drop On Request) and be done with this ….*@..program. It has been proven that certain people are “accident prone”—well, I am “frustrating situation prone.” Nobody, and I mean NOBODY can get into the trouble I do in as short a time and with as little effort. At the moment I am not sure if I will ever get through this program (and I don’t care---“at the moment”). I am, as usual, on “academic probation” (--not being set back a week). Every night I go to band study hall. Also every night the battalion has its own study hall, for men who are on academic probation. Band study hall is supposed to excuse you from the battalion “stupid study,” as it’s called. The only drawback to this is that no-one bothered to tell the battalion captains; as stupid study is compulsory, and since I was not there, I was put on report, and chewed out by the captain.

After telling appropriate people, I was assured that the captains would be told and demerits canceled, which they were. So tonight, I went to band study hall, to return to the battalion and face another report chit; tomorrow I must see the same captain who chewed me out before and who evidently still hasn’t been told that I’m excused. And Battalion 4 is noted for its sweet and gentle captains.

Well, here I am again, a day later and no wiser. Went to speak to the Captain, forgot to sound off properly, and was given another five and one. If my demerits were Confederate money, the South would rise again.

Another day—by now its Wed. I think I’m in a little better spirits, but I really can’t tell. Only two more finals and I’m through! You know, it’s funny how the band can pick up my “lagging spirits.” Last night at band practice we got a whole bunch of new music—Song from Moulin Rouge, Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” (which is one of my favorites) the Triumphal March from Quo Vadis, which is fabulous, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and some others which we didn’t get a chance to play. Since the band is now officially recognized by the Navy, we get free music every month from Washington.

The Admiral received a letter from NBC saying that Arthur Godfrey wasn’t on that week-end, but asked how we would like to play a half hour show of our own. So that’s the latest. Now, if we play, you’ll be sure to see us (you’d better). It’s only ten days or so away, though, so there’s a possibility we won’t be able to be ready. We also don’t know the date or time yet for sure.

Well, as I’ve said before, the days till I graduate are rushing by (though they can’t rush by fast enough to suit me); and this being one of those days it is also rushing by, I’d better get busy and study if I want to pass those finals.

Hope to have more time to write in the future—I know I will once I get out to Corry Field.

Till then, I remain
Your Prodigal Son

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).


Kage Alan said...

You? Moody? That's just not the Roger we've come to know and love.

Dorien/Roger said...

Nice of you to say, Kage, but I fear that over the years I have morphed from "moody" to "acerbic". Not happy with it, but...

C. Zampa said...

Love the photo. Love your glimpses into the past which are...well...history for all. I so enjoy them.

Dorien/Roger said...

Thanks, Carol. I am so very glad I have these almost-tangible memories to return to from time to time.