Is there any picture NOT
worth a thousand words?
If so it's the official "Boot
Camp" graduation photo!
While I was in high school at Menlo-Atherton High in Atherton, California, I had dabbled in broadcasting in and around San Francisco during high school, a little acting in local theatre productions, being frequently told I really didn't have the traditional radio voice to be a disc jockey, nor the talent to be an actor. Radio was becoming hot as the disc jockey was the newest rage, and "top 40" radio had taken over the radio bands in cities all over the country. This "new thing" in radio had quickly replaced the "old fashioned" radio consisting of dramatic programs, serials (mostly westerns) and scripted programs. I got a letter suggesting that "all smart high school graduates go on to college," so I decided to look into UCLA thinking that perhaps my desire to get into radio would supercede my average grade point and slide me in. Secondly, I had a reference: Gil Robbins, who was in the UCLA marching band as the marimba player - after he had figured a way to mount one on wheels. His parents had were my parents very best friends during their own Los Angeles upbringings and while at UCLA, Gil was living down on the L.A. coast and said if I got into UCLA I was welcome to stay with he and Mary and to commute to school.
So as soon as graduation was over, I jumped into the 1952 Studebaker and headed south to L.A. Gil showed me all over the UCLA campus and I very much liked the atmosphere, huge lawns with freshly-planted trees, new buildings. Though when it came time to talk to a potential-student-advisor things went downhill quickly. "You must realize," he intoned with a slight British stage accent, "that studying the process of broadcasting requires study in the dramatic arts." He continued intoning, but my brain switched into Top 40 mode, waiting for something he'd say which could be even remotely relevant to the sort of radio that I most certainly knew was was "happening," and was not going in the direction he was describing, which sounded straight out of the 1930s to me. "And then there's the matter of your grades over the past four years, which unfortunately are not quite up to the standards of a university such as ours." (The British accent became more pronounced.) "Rahthuh, I would suggest you might wish to spend some time at a junior college more local to you and then apply later to the California University System."
I thanked Gil and Mary for their hospitality and left for home. As I headed north and the Studebaker droned over The Grapevine toward home, my mind vacillated between "how could they turn me down!" and "What I probably should do is join the military, where I could at least study something I could use later - and they'd pay for it and I'd be accepted...and later I could get onto Radio Free Europe, or the Voice of America. Dream big, Jan.
When I arrived home I got together with my high school buddy, Wil Schutz. We talked about the various military services and how the Korean War was over, World War II was just a memory, and there was little political need for the U.S. to get into a war (at least until the 1970s, right?) We realized the ongoing "cold war" had created a need to expand the US armed forces, therefore we'd be acceptable material. So then it became a matter of choice: Air Force? Not hardly. Army? Too much marching. Marines? Naa. Too much discipline. Coast Guard? Uh...might as well go to junior college. So the U.S. Navy got two stunning high school graduates. On September 4th, after several weeks of wondering whether we did the right thing, Wil (nickname Sonny) and I got on some form of air transportation neither of us remembers and we DO remember arriving at the U.S. Naval Training Center in San Diego in what - to us - was the dead of night, five a.m.
I'm front left, saluting, St. Clair Orvin center, Ricardo Olquin front right playing flag.
All the bootcamp stories begin here and I don't intend to recall the entire aspect of training, but I do remember that largely, the first day consisted of being naked many times, trying on nothing which actually fit a 6'3" guy with a skinny 145-pound frame, and being poked and prodded, going through a hair removal that took all of 30 seconds, and being assigned to Company 547 under the direction of Company Captain -taskmaster - Quartermaster Chief F. D. Wilson who spent most of his time scaring the bejeezus out of everyone in the company. I can say with authority the typical bootcamp treatment by the staff involved far more puffery than our actual days following bootcamp required.
One day, the Recruit Company Yeoman disappeared (reassigned? don't remember), and after he left I was made Recruit Company Yeoman, thereby by default becoming "Captain" Wilson's humble assistant. Our Recruit Company Commander was St. Clair B. Orvin a lifelong resident of Moncks Corner, North Carolina, and our Recruit Assistant Petty Officer was Richard Stark. Our "Guide-on Bearer" (flag carrier) was Ricardo "Rich" Olquin. Our company was about 75% Californians and this caused no end of cultural problems for Chief Wilson. Lets just say, that many Golden Staters together are inventive troublemakers who enjoy subterfuge and practical jokes. We did, however, work well together, and by the end, at graduation, Chief Wilson said goodbye with genuine tears in his eyes, and us -believe it or not - expressing our gratitude for all he taught us.
Not that we'd ever use most of it again.
Due to some written test results, I had lucked out and missed the joy of carrying a rifle the entire time we were "on the grinders" (marching practice). Evidently I didn't know enough about mechanical operation of anything bearing a trigger. Instead, as the Company Yeoman, I wore a canvas belt with a small knife in a sheath. All for show, and I don't remember ever removing it from the sheath except to re-shine it for inspections. I cannot, yet today, think of any reason for carrying that knife. In fact, I think I was made company yeoman because I was six foot three and had the longest legs in the company so it made sense to have me march up front with the tall guys. You see, companies are organized with the tallest tallest in front, shortest in back, (except for 5 foot something Orvin, who ran through most of bootcamp.
It seemed that just about when it dawned on me that boot camp was all about marching, things changed and it became time for the week of Kitchen Police. Again fortunate, I wound up on the serving line and doing cleanup instead of the truly gritty kitchen drudgery. My toughest work was cleaning the copper steam table pipes with tabasco sauce! (it works. Wonder what it does to your personal interior plumbing?) (Read the History of "U.S. Naval Training Center San Diego")
I graduated from Boot Camp in November, 1958 and then was allowed to go home (San Francisco) on leave for a couple of weeks, and on December 6, 1958 I boarded a propeller-driven TWA flight to Chicago and then on to Washington D.C. because I was on my way to Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Maryland for "Yeoman School" Through no fault of mine, the Training Center closed shortly after I served there and today is a vine and weed covered property lying alongside the Susquehanna River just south of Conowingo Dam before the river becomes part of Chesapeake Bay. On the flight, I met a fellow sailor in uniform who lived north of Washington in Pikesville, Maryland and since I didn't have to be in Bainbridge until the following Monday, he invited me to stay the weekend with he and his mother in Pikesville, then they'd drive me up to meet the bus from Havre de Gras, MD to Bainbridge. They knew the area well, and after a great weekend I found myself at the bus station, and soon was on a bus headed Bainbridge Naval Station. (A book on the history of "Bainbridge, Maryland Naval Training Center").
The bus let me off right at the Naval Station gate, where I showed my papers and was assigned a barracks. I was pleasantly surprised to run into a few guys from my Boot Camp company, so I at least had friends there. After getting settled and having a few weeks to being training as a Yeoman (aide), I received a letter from a family friend, saying she had been "interviewed" by Naval Security officers for a clearance. She worked for the military in the town we had lived in before moving to Menlo Park/Atherton. The friend wanted to know what was going on. Several relatives also contacted me. Heck! I didn't even know! But I asked one of my instructors who ushered me into a commander's office. "Claire here, says his relatives are being contacted and questioned about him..." he began. "Sit down, Claire," said the Commander and he waved the instructor away.
As it turned out, those damned test results again indicated that I had the aptitude to become a Communications Technician - A-Brancher. Same job as a yeoman/aide, but a differnt different title, and one other small difference: those interviews were required to assure I was fit for a military security clearance. Finally, something about the Navy made sense!
I had a great time going through school, meeting new buddys, and getting those first blushes of being an adult and on my own. I seem to remember doing well in school, and have very positive memories of the experience...and made a lot of friends. Several of us even "escaped" for a weekend, taking a three hour bus trip up to New York City. There were three of us guys and three WAVE friends - and there were no arrests!
I had double classes, most in the carrying out of office techniques, the Naval filing systems, structure of office duties and the like. Then after those classes, I would leave and walk across the base to Turkish language school whose building was a physical part of the WAVE bootcamp (WAVE's acronym is "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service" a World War II way of accepting women into the U.S. Navy and, apparently women are still called WAVES today.) This allowed me to meet several wonderful women while at Bainbridge including the three who went to New York City with us.
So not only did I learn how the Navy operated it's administrative offices passing most of my exams with flying colors (like I worked in the high school library so I had memorized the Dewey Decimal System then, which saved some stress once I learned the Navy administrators had to know it.)
Just before Graduation, in late February, our next duty stations were announced. All my friends got the duty stations they applied for on their "suggestion sheets." Me? TURKEY! Why else would they have put me in Turkish classes? The one country on earth I knew less than zero about originally, though now spoke a few second-grade-level words of, and suddenly everyone I knew was gobbling in my presence, or talking about me having to ride camels to work. I was teased mercilessly because I believe I was the only one in the school going to Turkey, and very soon after landing in Turkey I realized they had all been victims of severe stupidity.
After our class graduation ceremony, March 7, 1959, I flew home to San Francisco for some more leave then had to fly TWA from San Francisco to New York City, where several of us were met by a military bus and transported to the Brooklyn Naval Yard for overnight "processing". I remember it was very hot in the barracks (due to the radiators, not the outside weather). After a few days we were then were bused down to McGuire Air Force Base in Trenton, New Jersey to await a flight to Turkey and the few stops in between. A 'hop skip and a jump' as far as this ignorant soul knew.
ON TO TURKEY!
We left McGuire AFB on April 6th, my orders showing I had to appear not later than 12 April, 1959 at Tuslog Det 28, Karamursel, Turkey. There is a special terror in going to a place that far away, and not even knowing where it is located. My orders didn't help either, so the only hope I had was that someone
Excelsior Hotel, Rome
at the airport in Istanbul would be able to direct me to an American Military person. My only hope. And I had several days of travel in which to worry about it. So I made a choice: I wouldn't worry in the slightest.
I was pleased to join a group in which a several of us were Navy guys headed for Turkey, and the rest were Air Force guys going to various duty stations throughout Turkey as well, so we all engaged in "traumatic bonding" similar to the Stockholm Syndrome, and during the lengthy overnight flight from McGuire to the Azores, and then on to Rome where we had an overnight at the Excelsior Hotel downtown, we bonded quite well and learned who was going where. That morning we all checked in and took to our beds to get some much needed sleep after talking all night long on a MATS flight from New Jersey.
Unfortunately we Navy guys didn't allow for Rome's traffic and the extreme distance to the airport the next morning. Our cab finally pulled up to the airport a half hour after our flight had taken off. Seriously! Honest, we didn't mean to! So we "had" to stay two whole days in Rome in order to be transferred to the next British European Airways flight out of Fiumicino Airport (a brand new 707 Jet, by the way!). This allowed us a great educational experience. One of our group, Angelo, spoke some Italian! We decided to take advantage of what Rome was famous for: the...uh...special type of films involving large-breasted Italian women minimally acting, while minimally dressed! Our Italian speaker tried asking a policeman where a movie theatre might be which showed those...uh...special films. The cop gave specific directions which we followed to the letter. So, naturally, we found ourselves sitting in a theatre showing "Come September" with Bobby Darin, Sandra Dee and Gina Lollobrigida in her most G-rated role ever! Aside from learning never to ask a policeman for directions to a racy movie, we did manage to see a good bit of Rome on foot that evening and over the next two "gift days."We enjoyed an incredible Italian dinner alongside the Roman Forum, a guided tour the next day of the Vatican, the Castel Sant'Angelo (Hadrian's Palace), the Spanish Steps, the Trevi fountain, and a whole lot more. It was April and the city was a-bloom giving us its springtime show. Name a better time to be in "Roma!"
Finally, the military desk at the Excelsior hotel got us booked on a commercial flight - British European Airways and a Boeing 707 jet - and on to Athens for a short layover, then to Istanbul. We never got into trouble for missing the flight as we ultimately arrived in Istanbul a few days earlier than the required date in our orders.
Yesilkoy Airport, when we arrived well after 9:00 at night, was the definition of uncontrolled bedlam! Crowded, loud, the locals somehow knowing - from our Navy Uniforms that we were Americans and, therefore, easy touches. We felt under siege and were thankful to board the bus to central Istanbul, and to the Kahan Building where we'd spend the night, have a little briefing on the country, its people, customs, much more realistic and valuable than the book speeches given to me at Bainbridge.
The next day: a lofty goal called "getting to Karamursel". After a fitful, but much needed, night's sleep halfway around the world from where we had departed, a now-smaller group of us were taken by U.S. Army servicemen to Galata Bridge in Istanbul where we were given passes and were pointed to a ferry to transport us across the Marmara Sea to the small town of Yalova. There was an interim stop at Byukada [Big Island] in the Princes Islands where, when Trotsky was asked to leave Russia, he had exiled himself for a time, according to one of my new friends also traveling to Yalova. In addition Byukada had been one of the homes of the "Father of Modern Turkey," Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. (ata means father) I remember that sailing into Yalova wasn't all that different than my frequent childhood experiences arriving in San Francisco by ferry from Oakland or Vallejo. The weather in Turkey was remarkably mild and very San Francisco-like. The spring flowers were blooming, and the Turks were curious, helpful and wonderfully friendly. I had listened well enough in my Turkish language classes back at Bainbridge that a few Turks even commented that they understood some of my Turkish! Off the ferry in Yalova, a bustling travel center, and onto another bus headed due east on the dirt road along the Marmara to Karamursel Air Station, a road which has long since been paved, and is, today, a four lane divided freeway!
Only the driver on that bus knew what to expect. We did realize that being driven this far into the "outback" would mean we'd be quite isolated.
The bus didn't take us onto the base, but dropped us off - seabags and all - just outside the main gate. I'm sure we all felt like Neil Armstrong did ten years later when he took "man's first steps" on the moon. On the north side of the road was the base, mostly grey steel buildings with few windows, and to the left, a barracks compound dotted with darker grey concrete buildings. I was assigned to the Navy administration office, a long walk from those barracks down a road which had once served as an Air Force runway in World War II but which had been built by the German Luftwaffe during World War II. There was a base shuttle bus, but everyone seemed to enjoy walking in the nice sea air rather than waiting for the next bus. It was less than a mile to the operations buildings.
Karamursel and I got along very well. I helped in the founding of the Navy radio station on base, WUSN, and later was asked by the Air Force contingent to become program director of KTUS, as well. It was the Air Force operated radio station. Serving as an announcer gave me the opportunity to practice skills that would serve me later (without UCLA's help!)
Life at "Mainsite" or in the winter, "Mudsite", was a pleasure for me. I worked with great people, the socializing between the Navy, including Marines, and the Air Force guys bordered on that human "pack-animal" thing in which we all considered ourselves in it together, so lets make the best of our time here. The base had many recreational options, there were clubs, good food, and charming Turkish citizens who worked everything from the telephone system to the stores and "dorms" which we found was the Air Force word for "barracks."
At the KARAMURSEL office, I was assigned to the administrative office, serving the always jolly Captain James H. Fortune, and Commander Rodney Potolicchio, the Executive Officer. I worked with Stephen (Shannon)Janes, the late Brooks Loomis, and Ken Cadran and one could never beg for a better crew and their supervising officers.
I'll tell you something about Captain Fortune which I remember utmost in our relationship, and is actually quite rare among the personalities of officers in charge: he had no patience with, and saw no sense in, adding to the stress level of people serving under him, and who were 10,000 miles away from their homes. He was an advanced realist, an affable sort, who never asked anyone to work harder or longer than he did. His model was one of enlightened, good-humored, authority, and he insisted that his fellow officers follow his lead. Consequently, working on his staff was a marvelous experience, he was a sterling example for his men, and as things turned out I would wind up in nearly identical surroundings at the Pentagon. I just plain lucked out: all my Navy experiences were smooth.
Captain Fortune passed away at the age of 94, on May 28 2005 at his long time home in Bristol, Rhode Island and his wonderful wife, Caroline passed away the following December, also at the age of 94. One of Captain Fortune's daughters, Dorothy still lives back east, and their other daughter, Delia lives - by coincidence - in my hometown of Menlo Park, California.
After two great years in Karamursel, I was sent to work in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon, handling communications between Admiral Arleigh Burke's headquarters and the State Department, the White House and other locations.
But, in what seemed a snap of a finger, time progressed so rapidly that suddenly I was facing the big decision: Remain in the Navy and make it a career, or get out and take my chances. Suddenly it was September, 1962 and Navy life was over if I didn't renew the contract. Taking chances won!
It wasn't until a decade later that I had my first chat with myself about my future. Admiral Burke had allowed me to adjust my working shifts so I could attend night classes at Alice Keith's National Academy of Broadcasting and this included an internship at WTOP, the CBS powerhouse radio station in Washington, D.C. Having worked at both radio stations on our base at KARAMURSEL, as well as a childhood spent around radio stations in San Francisco, I was convinced that was my post-naval career. In a quirk of timing, I graduated from the National Academy mere days after officially leaving the Navy. So I stayed in a hotel on Dupont Circle and walked to my few remaining classes. It gave me time to think about how I would greatly miss the courier missions to the White House, meeting with sweet Evelyn Lincoln, President Kennedy's private secretary, and occasionally running into Mister President himself. I enjoyed the people at the Executive Office building, the Chief of Naval Operations office, the Joint Chiefs of Staff offices, and even the janitors of the Pentagon who cleaned our offices at night - friendly relief on those long night shifts. It was - and remains - the most difficult decision of my life to leave the comfort of the Navy. But I wanted a broadcasting career. It was all I thought about.
Well not so much radio. I thought about music. It was organic with me. I was singing popular songs before I could really form sentences, I played piano by ear and at age 5 was telling my 10-years-older sister where she was hitting sour notes and what the proper ones were, deeply frustrating her, and deeply pleasing myself. While in the Navy, I realized that in the "new radio" it wasn't about dramas and comedy programs any longer, it was about hit recordings and playing the music people wanted to hear and I wanted to be in that mix. And that's what came to pass. I spent 25 years in broadcasting starting just days after I returned back home to California wearing civilian clothes and letting my hair grow out.
There is one thing I drag with me from my Navy days. And if you ever get to Turkey you will be infected by it: Just continue reading.
TUSLOG DET 28, KARAMURSEL, TURKEY
PHOTOS TAKEN 1959 - 1960
By Jan Claire, US Navy
I consider my times in Turkey to be the most positive influences of my life. The friends I made there were and, in many cases, are among the best I have ever had, many of whom I'm still in touch with on a regular basis. Kenn "Mickey" Martin, Chris Coburn, Dick Mills, are on my Facebook page today, along with others who served at KARAMURSEL and other bases in Turkey. We still joke around and half a century later we're still enjoying wry conversations. It is wonderful to be in touch with many of these pals to this day. It was also at Karamursel, while serving as an aide to the administrative assistants (Yeomen) of the commanding officer and executive officer, that I had an opportunity to edit the Navy's newspaper and to participate in some wonderful adventures, getting to know many people in the bargain. And the radio stations provided my advance work experience, setting me up for my quarter century in broadcasting.
My immediate superior in the executive office, was Stephen Shannon Janes, a brilliant, low key sort of guy whose idea of fun was taking virtually every correspondence course the Navy offered and acing every test, something I emulated to a great degree. It only stands to reason that Shannon is a lawyer, and recently retired from his job as Associate Vice President of University of Texas in Austin in Student Affairs ("Hook 'em Horns!").
Unfortunately, there are many good friends I have been unable to re-establish contact with. Most are shown in the pictures below, and any help with names, locations, or hints as to how to find them, would be appreciated.
A decade ago, I became absorbed into the Karamursel Air Station '60-'61 group which is making a concerted effort to locate existing members of the Air Force, Navy, Marines and even Army who served at Karamursel either during these years, or thereabouts. They're not picky. If you're reading this and aren't tuned into the KAS 60-61 group,
and get tuned in....there's going to be a reunion of all of us in October, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and you should definitely be there!
And one other thing: I've changed my mind. Now that I'm over 70, I realize it was probably not smart to get out of the Navy after four years. I should have stayed and made a career of it. I really accomplished nothing substantial that couldn't have waited another 16 years, and I thoroughly enjoyed my Naval experience. Of course, it's only when you look back that 16 years fly by almost unnoticed. Oh well.
OK Now on to the photos..."(NF)" Indicates someone I've not found.
If you know anything about these people, be sure to let me know.
Click on any photo to Enlarge