August 1972, and I checked in at the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas, Quarterdeck.
I would attend Del Mar College for an Associate Degree at the Navy’s expense, completing four semesters and a summer session of classes. My only military duties were attending classes and maintaining passing grades. I could attend courses in civilian clothes and live off the base. My thoughts were I could get used to this.
I met with a counselor and selected the electronics technical degree as my objective. We work out a schedule, and I collect the materials for the fall semester’s courses.
Each of my technical courses has an associated laboratory session. Theory is taught in morning lectures, and practicals are taught in an afternoon lab.
One of my first courses was an introductory Alternating Current/Direct Current course taught by Professor Halloway. He passed out a syllabus on the first day of class and dismissed the class after telling us he would test on the first day’s material when we next met. Testing on the material before he reviewed it during class was challenging for the recent high school graduates familiar with being taught before testing. We, the sailors in the class, understood how to self-study and secretly enjoyed their chagrin.
The schedule allowed me free evenings, with coursework completed. So, I began spending time at Gulf Bowl, having enjoyed bowling while in Hawaii. Soon, I was asked to substitute for missing bowlers in the evening leagues. Spending most of my free time at the bowling alley, I applied and was hired to work the customer service counter.
I attended classes and worked the lanes through the 1972 fall and 1973 spring semesters. The summer sessions began, and my routine remained constant. Attend class, work at the lanes, and bowl often.
In late June or early July. I was working when two attractive young ladies approached the counter and signed up for the Saturday Gold Stamps lights-out event. I learned their names were Lori and Margaret when they registered. Later in the evening, I chatted with Lori, and she agreed to a date. That date started a whirlwind romance. By September, we were engaged and married in January. January 2024 marks our fiftieth anniversary.
Marriage hardly changed my schedule. I attended classes and worked at the bowling alley. Lori worked at Del Rey Dance Studio during the day and joined me at the lanes while I worked or bowled.
There were two Chief Petty Officers in my classes. Before long, we became good friends, and they invited me to the chief’s club for a beer or two several times. They allowed me to call them by their first names when in civies and “Chief” when in uniform. My classmate CPO Steve Bell was the best man at our wedding.
Though I had spent many afternoons visiting with my father-in-law, it seemed he hadn’t realized I was in the Navy. Lori told me after our wedding that he had told her, “You didn’t tell me he was in the Navy,” as he walked her down the aisle. At another point, he told her I wasn’t taking her away from Corpus Christi. Fortunately, he was wrong.
There weren’t many excess funds as a Petty Officer Second Class, so entertainment was visiting with family, league bowling, and watching favorite television programs. Things are much better now. We often reminisce and laugh at the memory of how often we dined on macaroni and cheese and fish sticks in those days. Mac and cheese is still a favorite side dish.
I received orders to Naval Security Group Activity, Iceland, midway through the 1974 spring semester. I would transfer in June, leaving my bride until I found housing at the command. It was not something we looked forward to, but we soon accepted this might not be the last time the Navy would cause us to be apart. It wasn’t.
I left for Iceland from my parent’s home. I don’t remember who was with Lori and my Mom when I caught the bus for NYC. Mom followed the bus for a distance, wanting my attention but I had settled in my seat and drifted quickly off to sleep. I have no problem sleeping on any form of transportation I am not driving.
I have great memories of attending Del Mar College and my time in Corpus Christi.