me on the USS Vulcan

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

This is kind of an odd week for me. In 1969 I was beginning my second full day of boot camp.
We had already been there three days and were now in uniform-all of our civilian clothes were sent off to the Salvation Army or home and this was the first real day we were Navy boots and in uniform.
It was a Sunday-just as it is today,and it was our first glimpse at an actual newspaper. There were newspaper sales boys all around the galley-only on Sundays.
The headlines were stunning-they became the buzz around our barrack and I’m certain all across Camp Moffitt-Sharon Tate and the Folger heiress and Jay Sebring and a young teen were murdered. Sharon Tate was the star of the era…almost everyone knew who she was. Of course-we were getting the news later than the rest of the country…but it is kind of like when Kennedy was shot,you never forget the date or where you were. I know it sticks out in my head because of Jay Sebring,then it seemed odd to me that any other had the name Jay-especially somebody famous…especially somebody found murdered.
I remember it being a lesson of sorts when Charles Manson was arrested along with the girls and the crazy Texan. They all looked like ‘hippies’ and I remember feeling sad about that because the hippie movement was seeming to produce some changes and for the good-talking towards peace and love….and then the vision of ‘hippies’ doing what the Manson crew did,well-it disturbed that thought and also woke up the fact that you are never sure of whom you are with because of the way they look…what is inside some men and woman can not be judged by the out ward appearance.

It was around Thanksgiving that year when they broke the case-one of the girls had bragged about it in a jail she was in,some other girl ratted on her-and before long the whole scene of the run down movie ranch was on every front page,the scene with all of the ‘hippies’ lined up in handcuffs.
I was on the USS Vulcan by then-I can mark it as around the time we saw ‘Alices Restauraunt’ on board ship…I couldn’t believe that was were I was seeing this movie-it’s anti war theme was clear as a bell,burn your draft card was high in the topic and getting high on LSD was too. A strange film to see on board a U.S.Navy ship during the very war the movie was protesting against.
It had not been too many days from when they found out Charles Manson was the leader of this band of hippies and the vision of that in my head in contrast with the vision of Arlo Guthrie singing ‘Alices Restaurant’ was one of confusion.

I don’t know if it just me-or is everybody able to go in time to certain markers and recall such parts of our past with such vivid memory?
On a shelf in my house are trinkets of odds and ends-glass bottles and bric-a-brac that makes sense to me but many others have kind of given me an odd glance when they see my assorted collection.
I have certain rocks that mean something to me-one I found when I was six years old,and I can remember when I found it…clear as a bell. I could not imagine how I’d feel if I lost that rock!

The last day of boot camp we all bought a case-a grip of sorts-and where we purchased them the room was lined up with guys at a table who did fancy lettering on them…they painted on the names of our soon to be ship-adding designs of anchors and eagles. I was really proud of mine-the USS Vulcan AR-5 was lettered on it.
I felt such pride when I reached the Vulcan.

Every sailor has a ‘ditty bag’. It’s what you put your laundry in and send down the chute on your assigned day.
My brother was in charge of the laundry-they must have kept watch for my bag…my shirts came back with the sleeves cut and in large black letters above my pocket was my name and a nick name above it…LIL’Herron
Then our work uniform had no short sleeves-and I became out of uniform and was restricted to certain areas of the ship.
I remember how hurt I was about it-learning my brother played the ‘joke’…and as I pulled my uniforms out of the ditty bag and seeing the way my shirts were vandalized-I must have began to wonder why I asked to be stationed with him.

In my collection of stuff-here on the shelf in my house,there is a small crucifix-it’s made out of wood and bound somehow with metal. They gave it to us at Fort Holibird where I was inducted in the Navy. The Red Cross came around where were standing-it was a long row of steps like on bleachers where we stood-there were hundreds of us-as we were sworn in to serve our country…and the ladies came around and asked our faith-I got the cross,I still have it-it sits on that rock I found when I was six. Like the rock-I’d feel pretty bad if that little crucifix was to get lost. I can look at it and remember so much about that August day-that giant building,like an aircraft hanger that could hold a hundred planes…it was that huge.
I had my draft card for only 11 days! It went into a box-I think the same box the little crucifix came out of….
August 1969

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