Sunday, November 11, 2007

Step 2 Machinist Mate School

Somewhere in the great bowels of The United States Navy lies The super secrete organization called "Bureau of Naval Personnel". NAVPERS as it is fondly referred to by sailors made our life choices for us prior to leaving Boot camp. Dickson, you are going to be a Machinist Mate and go the the Great Lakes to learn. Dalby [my joining up with buddy] you are going to be an Electrician and stay in San Diego to learn. Anyway that seemed to be the system that was used as we got our orders in boot camp and learned where our next duty stations would be. I headed for South Dakota, via Greyhound, from San Diego where I would get some time with my family before I went on to Chicago and learned to be a machinist mate?? Didn't have a clue what a Machinist Mate was but I was sure they would let me know real soon. Leaving SD, after enjoying Christmas, I boarded an airplane bound for Chicago. My father was a frequent fly-er into Chicago and helped me. He told me after getting on the plane to go right forward towards the front of the plane and right after the bathrooms I would find more seats and to grab one of those. Most people didn't know about them and they were larger and more comfortable than the back seats. He was right and it was a nice trip into Chicago and I usually had a least one stewardess sitting with me and visiting the entire way. I included the photo of the SD plains to show you the airplane prop in the photo. Yup, we were still in the early days of aviation but I will say that I never flew again on a plane with such comfortable seats. My Dad had arranged a room for me at The Sherman House on the loop. I remember fighting the bell boy for my sea bag when I checked in. I really didn't have any money to spend on a tip. Made my own way to my room. Got to watch "The Platters" as they were playing in the hotel bar called "The College Inn". No money but I still had a great time.

I hung out at the Greyhound bus depot because I could afford a hamburger there. I was there having coffee when A light skinned black person struck up a conversation with me and after a while said "want to go over to my place and order a pizza?". He would pay. I thought that would be OK and he got up and went into the bathroom and said we would go when he came out. When he was gone a pretty young waitress, who I had talked with before, came up and laid her hand on my arm and whispered "Don't go honey, he's a queer and your not going to like his pizza". Could have knocked me over with a toothpick as that meant he was a real live homosexual person. They had taught us about them in boot camp and some where along the line one of my "more worldly buddies" had told me to watch out for them but this was the first time I had met a real live one. He had told me "if one tries to pick you up, hit them as hard as you can and then knee them in the nuts as it would be OK to do that and the authorities won't bother you". He said he had done that numerous times himself. I was dumb struck as this was big time stuff when your a kid from South Dakota. The man came out of the restroom and I said "no" to him and he left mad, glaring at the waitress's as he headed for the door. I turned towards my waitress and said "I'm kinda new to all of this big city stuff as I'm from small town out in ......" She held her hands up in the air and said "that's OK honey, we know" as she nodded her head towards the other two girls who were watching all of this with much amusement. I slowly sipped my coffee, running everything through my brain, trying to figure it all out. She came over with the coffee pot and as she poured I said "you know he seemed like a real nice guy" and she laughed as she looked at me and again said "that's OK honey, we know, we really do". Trouble was I didn't.

I arrived at the school the next morning and spent the remainder of the day, after I had checked in and got my bunk, shoveling snow because A pretty good snowfall was occurring. When I was a San Diego I had one blue stripe on my shoulder to let the world know that we were recruits, lower than dirt. As we left Boot Camp we had been awarded seaman apprentice rank patches which meant we had graduated and had increased our pay one step, which was still next to nothing. I also got to put a screw above my SA patch which meant I was a Machinist Mate striker and my stripes and screw were red, which meant I was a snipe. I didn't have the slightest idea as to what a snipe was. All I knew was that it was some kinda bird and if anyone ever tried to get me to go snipe hunting I was to hit them as hard ................ In the next 90 days I was taught everything I would ever want to know; steam, water, valves and pumps plus a whole lot more. One of the tidbits we learned was "nothing sucks, not even the Navy" as they were trying to make us learn how pumps work. The poor quality photo is the steam plant control panel of the system we worked on and I would see a few more of those before I got out of the Navy. We were engineers and our stripes were red. Snipes! If you were involved with airplanes you were called "Air-dales" and your stripes were green. So it goes in the Navy. They worked very hard teaching us to be good steam mechanics and the lessons did stick.
Photo is our Barracks.

Liberty was very good in the Chicago area and about half of the time I went to Milwaukee. In Milwaukee we would take the train or hitchhike and head for the USO as there was always a dance there on the weekend complete with girls, coffee, and cookies. It was from there to the Eagles Ballroom, I believe it was called, as we could usually find someone to get us a bottle to mix with our punch or coke. Chicago trips were more of a cultural thing as I would head for the Museum of Science and Industry as they had a captured German U-Boat there that you could walk through. I probably spent 6 days in that museum and never saw it all. If I went back to Chicago for some reason, my spare time would be spent in that museum again. What a great place. To prove to you that I even had some class I have included a photograph from the World Flower and Garden Show at the McCormick place. I have a couple of rolls of film from that show, as it was impressive.

A High School classmate of mine, Norman, was stationed in Chicago somewhere going to Army drafting school. I would hop the train and end up at the base for the weekend. I would sleep in their barracks and they would obtain a mess pass for me so I could eat. We hung out at their enlisted persons club drinking cheap beer then heading downtown afterwords to frolic as befit youth of our age. It was always a cheap weekend for me, as they all were, because we Machinist Mate apprentices didn't make much money. This last photo is me in Downtown Chicago.


Anonymous said...

I have to say that I am speechless.


Cookie..... said...

Great read mate. Haven't been over here for awhile and just now happened to see this article.

Yupper...I spent most of my time in Milwaukee as well...had a couple a girls there...and up in Waukegan as well...and yup...I remember "the Eagles"...been there many times...

Ted said...

Thanks for the post Cookie.
Had to really stretch my memory banks for this one as I couldn't remember the name "Eagles". Glad you remembered it also.

GG I can't believe that you are really speechless but I will except that and be glad for it.

Anonymous said...

I am really NOT speechless...just cafeful.Great Thanksgiving dinner!! Thanks for having me.


MM2 Dalton said...

I stumbled upon your blog looking looking for a picture of MM A School. Your post brought back a lot of great memories. When I was in school there all of us snipes when to a little bar called Tops, it was one of the best times in my life. You really made me smile. Thanks.

Ted said...

mm2 Dalton
Thanks for the post. Ithink I have a few more photos. I can post them if you want or email them. My buddies and I were babies [18-19] when we were there and got kicked out of most of the bars close to the base. I think we tried them all.

MM2 Dickson

Anonymous said...

My son graduates boot camp on 6/27/08 and we will travel to Great Lakes for that weekend. He has been assigned Machinists Mate Submarine and will have a phase of training in Great Lakes before heading out to Groton, CT. They were all told the 2nd day of basic, that they will be headed for Iraq or Afghanistan in 2 years. I keep trying to picture a sub over there. I suppose we will set up base.

I enjoyed these musings that I stumbled upon from the internet. My email is

Yesterday was Fathers Day and hubby & I listened to some more of his dad's WWII Navy stories. I love them.

Thank you for sharing this. I am starved for photos of what boot camp is like. Our son has a girlfriend and I think he writes more about the details to her.
Thanks again!!

John said...

I stumbled on this page while looking for a copy of the old MM 3&2 book.

I went to MM "A" school in the winter of 67-68. Graduated in March then on to Nuke school in Bainbridge.

Thanks for the reminiscences.

John Henry

Steven said...

It was great to find this I left MM school in Jan 1972,Man that was a very cold year.
Me and my buddies loved the girls in Milwaukee spent a lot of time at the Sheraton Hotel(now the Hilton).
Chicago was ok ,we stopped in Lake Forrest on one trip and was told to leave we were not welcome .
Went on to Sub school and then SSN 584 Seadragon out of Pearl Harbor.
I would love to hear from some of my old classmates.

Steve Daubert