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Thursday, December 13, 2012

POST 1020; DECEMBER 13, 2012; HAMILTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.F.(1954)

So it is that I find myself once again in San Francisco.  The train actually stops in Oakland, where a ferry boat takes passengers across San Francisco Bay to the Embarkadero on the San Francisco waterfront.  From there, I catch the Air Force Bus out to Hamilton Air Force Base.

Hamilton AFB is situated in Marin County, reached by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, driving past Sausalito, San Quentin Penitentiary, San Rafael, and another 15 miles to reach Hamilton.  In 1954, Hamilton AFB is manned by F-86E and F-102 Delta Dagger Interceptor Aircraft...all assigned to WADF...Western Air Defense Force.

Also part of WADF is the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate...my new home.

I check in...two weeks early, as I have not taken my two weeks leave upon returning from Korea - I simply did not want to go back to Kennewick; especially with Dad's Cat-O-Nine-Tails still fresh in my memory.

I am assigned to a two-story barracks at the bottom of Cherry Hill...a 10 minute walk to my new job at JAG.  I have a honest to goodness steel cot with springs, soft mattress, sheets, pillow case, and a large foot locker.  The latrine is only a few steps from my cot...and, no KP (Kitchen Police - peeling potatoes or cleaning pots) or latrine duty.   I just work at JAG.

...and at JAG, I am assigned to the Review Board; i.e., reviewing courts martials conducted at the half dozen Air Force Bases on the West Coast of the USA. 

I love my job.  It is here at Hamilton AFB that I begin my life-long routine of rolling out of bed about 5:00 am, arriving at work around 6.  I am always at my desk working hours before anyone else.

...and would you believe...walking to the PX (Post Exchange), whom do I meet but my high school buddy Bruce B.;...yes the same BB with whom I have shared my year in Korea.  Bruce is a jet mechanic, crew chief on one of the high tech F-86E and F-102 aircraft.  Bruce is also  a beer drinker...spending every Friday and Saturday evening out at Black Point Tavern.  I am a teetotaler, so I accompany Bruce only once...not my cup of tea.

Instead, I take myself into San Francisco.  Outside the Main Gate of Hamilton AFB is a "share-the-ride" shelter on Highway 101.  Stand there 10 minutes produces a certain lift to San Francisco.



I quickly find that even on warm days, it becomes bitter cold walking the streets of San Francisco in the evening and into the night.  Thick fog rolls in off the Pacific Ocean through the Golden Gate, often obscuring all but the tip tops of the Golden Gate Bridge Towers...bringing in cold air off the ocean.

I walk the streets of China Town, take the cable cars from Fisherman's Terminal to the top of Knob Hill, stroll down the narrow streets of the Red Light District....and a time or two hike all the way out to the Cliff House and Museum.  My Grandfather, Leo, is a boat builder craftsman...as well as a master ship model maker.  In the Cliff House museum are three or four of Grandpa's models of the Great Northern Liners which before World War II sailed from the USA to the Orient.  The museum, along with G.pa's models and mummies from Egyptian Tombs, burned to the ground;...but, I did get to visit it a number of times first.

San Rafael is an upper crust residential town - my secretary at the JAG and her husband,  Captain of the famous liner, LURLINE - lived in San Rafael.  My favorite was to hitch hike from Hamilton AFB to San Rafael...then walk the three miles to the "Miracle Mile"...a favorite shopping street.  Early on, I came upon the small building housing the dance studio of Arthur Murray.  TV being in it's infancy, The Arthur Murray Party is a popular show...watched by just about everybody in America.

Having been introduced in Wichita Falls, Texas to the world of dance, I walked in and introduced myself...so, you would like to take dancing lessons...yes, please...well, we have three levels:  BRONZE - SILVER - GOLD.  Bronze level teaches Foxtrot, Waltz, Jitterbug, Swing, Mambo, Tango.  The complete course is 1,000 hours.  Total cost is about $2,000.00.

At the end of training, an examination is held in Oakland, where you will demonstrate your dancing skills of all dances, dancing with a number of teachers from the Bay Area.  When you pass, you are invited to an Arthur Murray Party...a very formal affair (tuxedos and evening gowns, TV, etc.), where you and your guests share an evening of dinner and exhibition dancing...exhibitions by newly certified graduates choreographed by the student.

Of course, there is no way I can afford $2,000.00...but, I sign up anyway.  I take three 1-hour classes each week.  My teacher, Miss Barry, is tall, slim, gorgeous, and married to a Marine Sergeant.  My classes are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening.  I am also at the studio Tuesday, Thursday, and nearly all day Saturday.   When not dancing with Miss Barry,  I studiously concentrate on ALL students and  their teachers; then  I step out the back door to the small concrete patio...a 2-foot high retaining wall holding back the hillside.   On the retaining wall...a one gallon of water in each hand...and sometimes another on my head...I practice...and practice...and practice.

There is a 23 year old college student also studying for the Bronze Medal.  She has a male teacher...we often switch off ...she dances with Miss Barry; I dance with her teacher.  We both become quite good at performing both male and female parts.

She and I are very aware that a undeclared competition is underway between us.  We NEVER dance together...not a single time.

As the Summer of 1954 stretches into Fall, she and I both are approaching 100 hours of instruction.   Oakland Arthur Murray has scheduled a testing seminar...we both request to be tested.

Her final test scores are:  97% dancing perfection; 99 total hours instruction.

My final test scores are:  95 % dancing perfection;  94 total hours instruction.

We both pass...apparently with the highest scores / vs / hours of instruction ever at Arthur Murray.

Our Arthur Murray Party is held in the Ballroom of the Mark Hopkins Hotel in midtown San Francisco.  She and I both receive standing ovations for our exhibitions...holding Miss Barry in my arms I float around the floor to the   Blue Danuabe Waltz...

in the presence of my Mother, my Dad, Mother's Mother, and Dad's Dad.

...very possibly the most proud moment of my young life...even Dad gave me a hug...I am proud of you, Bruce...he actually said to me !

Since my return to CONUS (Continental United States), I have religiously wired $50.00 to our joint bank account in Kokura...leaving only $25.00 a month for myself.  The first few months, I receive a letters from Keiko, thanking me for remembering her...then, the letters stop...I never again hear from Keiko...two years later I find out why.

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