How is going to Yeoman “A” School Training.
I came to Meridian, Mississippi, for the Yeoman “A” school training, they called him. It was supposed to be a couple of months’ school, where they taught you all the proper ways to type Navy correspondence and other paperwork.
I arrived in the middle of the night at my new destination. The way the bedrooms were arranged, there were 3 guys in one room and 4 rooms per common area, with tables to sit, TV and things like that, that was like our living room. I remember a really big fat guy, yelling at the top of his lungs, “fresh meat”, he was screaming. Fortunately for me, that idiot was about to leave, and I didn’t have to put up with him for long.
I remember going to school the first day. First, you had to be in line with everyone else. The whole school marched from the barracks, to the school, in military order. At school, they were going to teach us to type to begin with. I had had a typing class in high school, but I never really learned how to type a word on the typewriter. The teacher was nice to me and gave me a D-, just so I could pass the class. But this was the Navy, and I’m sure they expected me to learn to type. There was no way to avoid learning to type, she had to. I learned to write the right way and at a certain speed in about 2 weeks.
The way the Navy teaches you to type is that they show you a movie in the dark and hide the keyboard from your eyes. They turn off the lights and show you these Navy movies, which are about two weeks long. Every couple of hours movie shows you how to write different words and before you know it the movie is ready and you know how to write while you sleep. You do so much repetitive typing that you seem to end up doing it in your sleep, and you have to be able to type a certain number of words, per minute, in order to graduate from class and move on to your next duty station.
As well as daily learning in school, about how to do paperwork the right way and things like that. Yeoman school was almost like any other school, where you would learn things. Except here, you wore a uniform and you had to train every morning and listen to what they said to you.
You could do pretty much whatever you wanted, after school every day. He was allowed to do practically what he wanted, but he was not allowed to leave the base and go to the city. I was in Meridian for about two months, but I didn’t have many opportunities to see many different parts of the city, only a few times, when they let us go free.
At school, most people come and go, preparing to embark, to new destinations. People were assigned orders of all kinds of exotic sounds in some places. They have a thing in the Marina, which they call the “dream sheet”, where you choose three places where you would like your next new duty station to be. The Navy says they will try to get you one of the destination locations of your dreams, or as close to one of them as possible.
I chose Australia, the Philippines, and Hawaii. The Navy ended up giving me orders to a ship that was stationed in Guam. I had never heard of Guam before. I had to go find it on the map. I was smack bang in the middle of my duty station’s three picks, but not one of them. But to go to my new ship, it would still come later. I still had to finish high school and graduate from it first. Some people never got used to typing at a certain speed. They ended up having to drop out of school and choose another job to train.
School was still a new place for most people. We had just finished training camp and we were learning to have more freedom and a lot less yelling, like training camp. Some of the characters, in the units that we were tethered to, were just insane.
The unit of the building we all lived in was three stories high and there were several people living in it. Some of the people who lived in our unit were waiting to be discharged from the Navy, for various reasons. In one of the rooms directly below us, there lived some quirky gay men. They were as outrageously cheerful and outlandish, just like Liberace. A black and white guy.
The Navy fired them both for being openly gay. They were the gayest guys I’d ever seen, and I think they might have been the first guys I’ve ever seen, in real life, other than on TV. I was from a small town, they could have been doing the best act, to get out of the Navy, but I don’t think so, no guy would go throw that away.
One of the days that my first shift was assigned to me, it was to be with a partner. We would be a roving patrol around the school grounds for four hours. When I appeared by my watch, I was associated with a girl, who was also going to be a farmer.
As we walked through our 4 hour viewing time, we did the usual. Just walking around and making sure nothing happened. My new partner that I had just met asked me what kind of drugs I liked to take. I told her about my experiences with drugs, and it was limited, and then she told me hers. I had never heard of some of the drugs he was talking about, back then anyway. Nowadays, the things she said are everywhere, but she was from the city and she said she loved it, and she did it all the time, and I didn’t even know what she was talking about. That was really the first girl I spoke to, who wore a uniform like mine, and I wondered what kind of girls join the Navy.
While he was still stationed at the yeoman training school, we got another paycheck. Suddenly he had a lot of extra money and he didn’t owe it to anyone. I was looking at a bulletin board somewhere and realized that this motorcycle was for sale, for $ 500. It was one of the staff who was stationed on the base, and he also lived on the base, but he just worked somewhere else.
The students were not allowed to leave the base, unless they were at large. I bought and paid for the motorcycle, with almost all the money, with the salary that I had just received. The guy I bought the bike from also gave me a lot of extra parts, like an extra tank of gas, a can of gas, oil, that sort of thing, that you get with a bike when you buy it sometimes. I parked the motorcycle in the barracks parking lot. I was going to keep the motorcycle, just so I could ride it, on base, while I was at school, and then get rid of it. I put all the extra parts, gasoline, oil, etc. in my storage locker that stands up like a little standing closet, in which you are supposed to store your dress uniforms.
One day, the staff said, they were going to have a surprise inspection to see how things were going. We had never had inspections at the school before, so this was news to me again.
When they come in to inspect, they get “attention on deck”, and you’re supposed to stop what you’re doing and hold your ground until someone yells “go on.” They got us all lined up in front of our lockers, at attention, and they were opening each locker and watching the boys’ clothes get put away, and then they came to mine.
When they came to my clothing locker to inspect and I opened it for them, they first saw all these gasoline cans, oil cans, motorcycle parts, and more, they didn’t know what to think. They had to call special people to see the fire danger. They told me to take everything out of my locker, and they told me that I was not allowed to have a motorcycle on the base. I ended up taking it from another staff member for $ 50, who I knew was in a bind.
I was able to mount it around the base, and it was missing the muffler, and it was loud, it wasn’t a Harley, but you could hear me coming. When other kids were in the common area, just sitting, watching TV, I had been out after school, riding my motorcycle, checking the base, on my motorcycle that I was not supposed to have.
At the end of the school graduation, they let the students go out into town. Before you are allowed to go out into town, on the freedom call, you are told what to expect and what to do, and not do, so as not to get into trouble. They said city people don’t like Navy people very much, so be careful while in town to avoid fights.
We all went to one of the most common brand name bars in town, where almost all of them were boys and girls from the base, there weren’t many locals hanging out. It was going to become a giant meat market. Everyone could finally live with whoever they wanted at school, which you couldn’t do at school or at the barracks. Any man or woman, trapped in each other’s rooms at school, was called fraternization, it was very serious and could get you kicked out of the Navy. In the city, everyone broke up with someone and everyone rented rooms for the night.
School was over, and it was time to join the “regular navy”, as they called it, and the regular navy, which meant ships and sea, and go to other countries.
I took my first leave of absence from the Navy, before going to my first ship and reporting for duty. I was wearing my dress uniform, as I was asked to do, and I was riding a greyhound bus from Meridian, Mississippi, to Detroit, Michigan. It was one of the longest trips I had ever taken by bus. Must have stopped at every chicken farm ranch, along the way. When I finally got back to Michigan, I was dead tired from the bus. I stayed at my sister’s house for about 10 days.
It was time to go to my first “real” duty station. My first real duty station was a submarine, called USS PROTEUS (AS-19) that had a little over 1,300 people in it. 6 of the crew members were ladies, all officers ladies. Half of them would work in my department.