You Raise Me Up

Martin Hurkens is a baker by trade. In 2009 he lost his job in Holland.  Martin had been a baker for 35 years and had no trade outside of tending an oven and creating food delights in a commercial kitchen.

Martin always dreamed of being an opera singer.  When he was a 7-year-old boy he auditioned for the youth choir in his native village Schinveld.  The director was very fond of his vocal talent and took him under his wing as a soloist.  Martin began singing in churches and became very popular.

At 13, Martin received a scholarship to music school in Brunssum, where he studied singing and piano lessons. Funding problems forced him to leave the music school. His dream of becoming a professional singer ended abruptly.

After processing this disappointment Martin made his career with Erkens Bakeries in Brunssum. Martin continued to sing because he was happy. He sang because it made his day at the bakery a pleasure. He sang because it made him feel good. He sang and baked for 35 years.  Then he lost his job.

In order to provide for his family Martin turned to the streets to share his talent with the small crowds that would pass by.   He would lay his hat on the cobblestone street and resonate the joy he felt within.

Later that same year he entered a talent competition called “Holland Has Talent”. Could an aged amateur opera singer overcome the advantages youth had in both energy and a sizable majority of the television demographic that voted on the competition?

The competition was tough, but Martin built a following and he made it to the finals where he made the most of his moment in time. He won “Holland Has Talent” in 2010. He began a recording career and has given countless beautiful performances in the Netherlands, Turkey and even New York City. He also began headlining with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra.

Success has never gone to Martin’s head. He remembers the pain of having lost his scholarship and his job. He humbly accepts success, but has never lost his benchmark. Today Martin can still on occasion be seen laying his hat down on the cobblestone streets of Brunssum.

Strangers and tourists do not recognize him and sometimes give him looks of scorn when he first lays down his hat (see above video).  When his tenor voice begins to sing in perfect pitch to the small crowd a transformation takes place.

Those watching begin to smile as their hearts are touched by his rendition.  Martin is no longer simply a street singer.  Martin is an angelic evangelist of the hope we have in life and the love of God.

When he holds the last note for what seems like eternity his hat holds the worth of the value the crowd sends his way.  He doesn’t need the money, but he wraps himself in the spirit in which it is given.

Martin’s story is inspiring because he made the most of his moment.  Martin reminds us we are raised up so we can stand on mountains.  He also reminds us to remember the cobblestone streets from which we came.

 

Like, Share or Comment below. Thanks, MDW

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Posted in People Who Inspire Me | 22 Comments

The Peppermint Lounge

Editor’s Note:  My friend David Schaub sent me this revealing experience about a nightclub in Pampa, Texas called The Peppermint Lounge. David’s real life experience at the Peppermint Lounge in Pampa will take those who lived in Pampa during that era on a trip down memory lane.  The rest of you will find it a fun article that accurately reveals a legendary place in small town America in 1968.

The Peppermint Lounge

by David Schaub

Pampa, Texas 1968

In the late 1960’s when I was living there, Pampa had a population which consisted of primarily whites with barely a thousand or so blacks. As it had always been up to that time, virtually all of the blacks lived in an area called the Flats. As was then typical in most of the South and Texas, it was located “across the tracks”. Segregated schools had only been abolished a couple of years before and the Flats had lost its binding feature—the schools. One of the most famous places to many people who knew Pampa was the Peppermint Lounge, a black nightclub located in the Flats.

The Peppermint Lounge had a bad reputation. There were always notes of fights with the police being called in the Police Beat in the newspaper. There had been a couple of shootings and stabbings there. I had heard stories about this place for several years from the black guys I played baseball and football with but to myself and most of my friends, it was a place which I would never set foot. It was way too dangerous to even think about. Well, one of the problems of being young is that you are bullet-proof or at least you think you are. I was just bored enough to want to find out what the Peppermint Lounge was all about.

An Idle Mind and Curiosity

I had always had a very good rapport with the black guys with whom I played little league/babe ruth league baseball and high school football. We kidded around a lot with our black buddies and some of us got a real education about how some of the guys lived in the Flats. Things like sex, prostitution, liquor laws, gambling, and the general view of how life is lived was a lot different for most of them. We also found out that some, if not all, of our buddies went to the Peppermint on a regular basis.

The rules were different there. I was very curious. The second semester of my senior year in high school, I was effectively worthless. I had enough credits to graduate, I had been accepted to Tech already, I was just going through the motions. Thus, I didn’t study, did little homework, sports were over for me, and I was only going to 3 classes. The rest of the day, I worked at the Chevy car dealership parts department.

One of the guys I kidded around with at work was a black fellow I will call Swede (not his real name). He was single, probably about 30 years old and drove a cool car. Swede was always good for a laugh and my working partner, Bennie, and I knew where he would hide when he wanted to “rest”. We would find him and hide with him sometimes and talk about all kinds of stuff.

I found out that he went to the Peppermint Lounge on a regular basis. The stories he told us were amazing! One day I was chatting with him about the Peppermint and he asked me if I would like to go with him. He said no one would bother me and I would probably know a bunch of folks there. I told him I would go if my running buddy, Lanny, would go and I would get back to him. No chance I was going there by myself.

The Flats

I excited. That night I tracked Lanny down on the drag. Lanny had not grown up in Pampa. He was already out of high school and was a really cool dude. He was only about a year older than me. He was living with his cousins to let a situation cool off in Arkansas. Lanny had the coolest car — a brand new ‘68 Mustang fastback with a 351 Cleveland engine. It looked good and ran like a bat out of hell! We had been running around together for almost a year and gotten into only minor trouble.

When I explained to him what Swede had offered to do, he said sure let’s go! The weekend was only a couple of days away so I told Swede that we would be at his house at 9pm on Saturday. Swede told me how to find his house. I wanted to go later in the evening so that it was dark to help “hide” us from prying eyes.

On Saturday, Lanny and I met up and I jumped in his car. I directed him over to the Flats and to Swede’s house. We pulled up in front of his house. It was dark but Swede’s car was in the driveway. We went up to the door and it was open, with only a screen door to keep the mosquitoes out. I knocked on the screen door and nothing! I knew he had to be there. His car is there. I banged louder and this time I heard a muffled noise that sounded like, “Come on in.”

Swede Cops Out

We entered the mostly dark house and in the bedroom off the kitchen was Swede sprawled across the bed. He was dead drunk. I helped him sit up on the edge of the bed and he said he had been drinking since that morning. I asked him if he remembered he was going to take us down to the Peppermint Lounge. He said yeah, but he could not go because he was too sick. However he had set it up with the bartender and it would be OK. He told us to Just go on down there and we would see our buddies there. Lanny and I went back to the car to figure out what to do.

When we got outside, we found a young kid standing next to the car admiring it. When he turned around, I recognized the brother of one of my black friends. He said he loved the car and wondered if he could have a ride in it. I looked at Lanny and then I turned to him and told him that Swede was going to take us to the Peppermint but was not in any shape. He said, no problem, I will show you where it is. He said his brother was there and it would be ok if we went in. I turned to Lanny and asked him what he thought. “Let’s do it!” So off we went. Our new guide directed us to a street with a lot of houses.

Peppermint Lounge Shooting Investigation

Shootings were common at the Peppermint Lounge. This photo came from the front page of the November 29, 1965 edition of The Pampa Daily News.

Making an Impression

He was asking how fast the car was and telling us how neat it was. Then he said, Will this car peal out?”

“You better believe it will”, Lanny responded.

“Well, would you mind going down to that white house and peal out in front of it?”, our young friend asked.

“What for?”, Lanny asked.

“Well, there is a little chick that lives there I want to impress,” he says.

Lanny about fell out of the car laughing. “Are you kidding me? Man, to impress a girl, I would be happy to do that.”

We drive down to the white house and stopped. Our little friend leans over to the window next to me and yells at the girl standing on the porch, “Hey, watch this! OK, hit it, man.”

Lanny lays into it and there are two black stripes and a cloud of smoke when we finally looked back. “Holy Cow, this thing is really something!” our little buddy yells, “This thing will really run!”.

“OK, dude, your all set with your new squeeze, so lets go to the Peppermint,” I told him.

Here We Go

He guides us down and around until we come to a long street with very little on it except this building set back off of the street to our right. There are cars parked everywhere. We drive by and see 5 or 6 dudes standing around outside. I don’t see anyone I know. We go past the club and turn around in the street. Lanny sees that there is a vacant lot across the street and the curb is pretty well beat off. He pulls in and parallels a pickup sitting near the street. We look at each other and I say, “Well, here we go.”

Our little buddy jumps out and is gone into the night. As we walk by the pickup, I look in the bed and there is a dude laying there either passed out or dead. Either way, he did not move. Lanny and I cross the street and head for the door. None of the guys outside say anything to us but look us over really good. I did not know what to expect when we went through that door. This could be the largest mistake of my life or not, but I knew we would soon find out. I lead going in. The music is loud. It is really dark and smoke is everywhere. I cant see anything. I hear someone yelling “Hey, man. Come over here!”

Meeting Up

It is my buddy, Wayne. His brother was our guide. We go over to this table full of guys and I suddenly discover that it is most of my friends and a few more. Besides Wayne, there is Frank, Stanley, and Bobby. He introduces two slightly older guys and we pull up a couple of chairs. There are empties all over the table so they are obviously not just sitting there. Our butts barely hit the bottom of the chair when the largest man I have ever seen in my life comes over and says he wants to see our licenses! Holy cow, we are about to get bounced out of here.

Wayne yells to me—“Give him your license, man”. Lanny and I pull out our licenses and hand them up what seems like 20 feet to his hands. He stands there a second and looks at them, looks at us, and then says, “What will you guys have?”

I must have had my mouth hanging wide open because all I can say is, “ Ah, Ah, Ah!”

Lanny says, “Bring us two Buds and one for each of our buddies!” He disappears. We start talking to the guys and tell them about Swede and the kid. The guys know about Swede being out of commission. Wayne says they had a bet that we would not show up.

My eyes are beginning to adjust to the dark room. The walls are covered with neon beer signs. There is maybe 30 tables in the room and a fair size dance floor filled with people. Along the walls are some chairs with young ladies in them. They all seem to be looking at us. It is loud.

Wayne tells us that the bartender only wanted to see our license so he would know how old we are in case of trouble. He needs to know who to throw out the side door in case the cops come! Well, that makes me feel better!! Geez. About that time, the beer shows up and we all get served. I suck down about half and I noticed Lanny did too. I introduce him around to everyone. He doesn’t know any of the guys but when I tell them he owns the red and black Mustang, they all know him!

The Dance

At this point, we were doing good. I was beginning to get used to this place. Then Wayne said, “Hey man, you want to dance?”

Before I could say anything, this girl appeared and sits down in the empty chair next to me. She had to be about my age or maybe a little younger but I had no idea who she was. I don’t remember seeing her at school, but here she is. I don’t know who I am going to offend if I say no, or what kind of stuff I am going to get into if I say yes. Yes looked like the easiest thing to do, so off we went to the dance floor. I have no clue what song is being played, but it was fast and hot and we danced like crazy. We made it thru the first song and stayed on the dance floor. The next song fires up and we begin dancing again.

The Peppermint Lounge in Pampa was named after the original Peppermint Lounge that opened in 1958 in Manhattan, New York. As the Twist craze hit in 1960-1961, celebrities swarmed into the Peppermint Lounge: Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Liberace, Noel Coward, Frank Sinatra, Norman Mailer, Annette Funicello, even the elusive Greta Garbo, to dance to the house band Joey Dee and the Starliters. Jackie Kennedy was such an enthusiast that she arranged for a temporary ‘Peppermint Lounge’ in the White House.

The Fight

But before this song gets too far, I noticed what looked like a whirling mass of legs, arms and bodies in the middle of the dance floor! At first, I can not quite figure out what is going on. Holy cow, those two dudes are fighting. People start giving them room. It was also getting serious because I thought I saw a knife in one of their hands. This is not good and I headed back to the table and everyone, including my buddies, are beginning to charge toward the door. Someone said the cops are on their way and we got to get out of here. I knew there was one black cop that patrolled the Flats so there had to be one very close by.

Hiding Out

Lanny and I hit the door at about the same time. We got about five steps past the door and I looked up the street and sure enough, there was a car coming with red lights a-blazing! We would probably run right in front of it if we continued. I grabbed Lanny’s arm and we made a sharp right turn into the vacant lot next door with weeds at least as tall as our shoulders. We got in the weeds and crouched down and made it to a large tree in the middle of the lot. Between the weeds and the tree, we could not be seen out there (plus it was dark)! The car stopped and one black cop ran into the Peppermint. We are watching intently as a second car pulls up, this time with two white cops. In what seemed like 30 minutes but probably was closer to 5, out come all three cops with two handcuffed guys in tow and put them in the cars. They milled around for a few minutes and then drive away. We decide to wait a few minutes to be sure they are good and gone. About the time we are about to leave, a couple comes out of the club and they are obviously not happy with each other. He has a hold of her right arm above the elbow and is half dragging her towards the car. She is a long, tall person in a very shapely dress and high heals. He is a handsome man in a very nice tan stripe suit. Lanny and I hold our position to see what is going to happen. They are heading for a car right in front of us and only about 30 yards away. We see and hear everything as it unfolds.

One Tough Woman

“Don’t you ever do that shit again around me!”, she exclaims in a very self righteous voice that only black women can do as he shoves her toward the passenger door. He shoots back, “Don’t you talk to me that way, woman. I will talk to anybody I want to, any time I want to, without asking your permission!” She rips open the car door and wheels around, standing in the opened door, with one arm over the top of the door, and screams at him just three feet away: “I will say any damn thing I want to, any time I want to!” With that he draws back and hits her right between the breasts, really hard. So hard in fact it sounded like the thump of a bat hitting a softball. She is knocked backwards and the open door catches her or else she would probably have been on her back on the ground. With her left arm still over the top of the door to hold herself up, her knees buckled and I thought she was going down. But she kind of bent over with her knees still bent and came up like a coiled spring unwinding with an upper cut that hit him as square on the chin as you could hit someone! I mean he was tagged. We saw the bottom of his shoes as he flew backwards and hit the ground flat on his back. Lanny and I simultaneously said, “Shiiittt!” We were standing there with our mouths agape. He slowly gathers himself up, rolls over onto his knees and manages to get upright. She is still hanging there with her arm across the door. “Git in the damn car, woman, and let’s go! I am tired of messing with you.” She slowly turns around and gets in the car. He grabs the door and slams it shut. He walks around the car mumbling something we could not hear, gets in and tears out of the lot and onto the street. We are standing there with our mouths open. I turned to Lanny and said, “Buddy, that is the toughest woman I have ever seen in my life! The shot he gave her would have killed me!” “Yeah, and then she had the strength to hit him with a punch that literally knocked him off his feet! Wow, what a pair! Hey, lets get out of here while we still can,” Lanny said.

Time to Scatter

So we ran out of the lot and across the street but as we came to that same pickup that was parked there when we went in, the man in the back raised up and said, “Hey, them cops came out here and asked me which way them white boys went, and I told them I don’t know cause I’ve been passed out here since before they came. I think it might be a good idea for you guys to scatter!” With that Lanny had the doors unlocked and we jumped in. He backed up onto the street and let her rip. There were two black stripes and a cloud of smoke in our path. Too bad there was no little teenage girl standing on the porch who would be impressed!

Peppermint Lounge Today

All that remains of the legendary Peppermint Lounge in Pampa, TX today is a vacant lot, the tree David and Lanny hid behind and perhaps a few ghosts.

Posted in Guest Stories | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Pampa High School 1968 Prom NOT! (a guest blog by David Schaub)

Editors Note: The last four weeks have been an incredible experience for me. I am sure some of you have noticed my unusual absence. I apologize for my unexplained disappearance. The explanation will soon be forth coming. I have been on a journey of over 17,000 miles physically. Spiritually I traveled to heaven and back. A part of me refused to return. I have many things to write about so the pages left empty during my absence will not remain empty.

Shortly before I left I received this story from David Schaub, a fellow classmate from Pampa High School . I also consider David a good friend. He emailed it to me wanting to know what I thought.

My stories from the other side of the world may seem mundane after this. Get out your H&H dressing and slick back the hair. Slide a pack of Winston’s up the left sleeve of the tee shirt. This is the Pampa, Texas version of “Grease” and Hollywood could not have scripted this.

By David Schaub Pampa High School Class of 1968

The Junior Senior Prom

The Junior-Senior Prom had been a time honored event at dear old Pampa High School for years and years. Of course, everyone knew that this was for the girls to show off their dresses and lord knows there was only a few times a girl growing up in Pampa, Texas would be able to wear an evening gown. Except for those who belonged to the high school sororities which had a “formal” every year, most girls would be limited to the Prom and getting married to wear that special dress. So it was kind of a big deal to most of the girls.

Personally, I didn’t see much use in the thing. I was not going with anyone at the time who would force me to go. Being a senior and never going to it before, I thought it would not be anything that I would really miss. So, I figured that a bunch of us guys would just hang out at Caldwell’s Drive Inn and maybe get some beer or something. Well, I was wrong.

What I did not count on was that girls can be crafty and sly too. I was known to be buddies with several jjunior class gals that frequented Caldwell’s. They included Jeanie Hunter, Donna Cameron, Marilyn Gregory and Chris Reed. About a week before the Prom, we were in one of their cars at Caldwell’s and just talking when one of the girls asked me if I was going to the Prom.

I said “Hell no.That’s not something I would do.”

I mentioned that I might just go to Liberal, Kansas instead. Liberal was just 105 miles away, across two state lines, but it was just as its name implied—very liberal. And that included the fact that you get served alcohol at 18 years old! I had been 18 since November and I had ventured there with a couple of buddies twice before.

The Plot

The ladies had gotten the story out of me as to the clubs we went to and what it was like on at least one or two occasions. They all wanted to go! The big drawback however was the fact that it took about an hour and a half to get there and it also took an hour and a half to get back. Three hours really cut down on the club time when their parents wanted them home by 11 pm or at the absolute latest, midnight!

If you left at 8 pm, you might have a couple of hours before you had to be home at 12 pm. I had really lenient parents who would let me get in at 1 am and sometimes (I think because they slept so soundly) I could get away with say 2 am.

Now all of this conversation occurred on Friday night just a week before the Prom. I drove up to Caldwell’s on Saturday night, looking for the guys and seeing who was “out”, when I spotted Jeanie’s car with Marilyn and Donna in it.

They all began yelling at me park and come on over “Right Now!”

I obeyed and crawled into the back seat of the car. Immediately, I was informed by all three that, “We’re going to Liberal!”

I said “Wait just a minute, it’s too late to go tonight!”

That’s when I was told it would be next weekend and I would have 2 dates for the Prom! I thought—Oh my, what have I got into? But what the heck, I had little to lose or at least I didn’t think I did!

Then they explained to me how this would work and why it would work. First, Chris could not go because she was supposed to be engaged to this college dude and her parents would not let her out of the house. Marilyn’s parents were going to be out of town that weekend! Aha, the old parents out of town trick. She had arranged to spend the night at Donna’s or at least that is what her parents thought, so she did not have to go with them! Donna and Jeanie had already arranged to stay at Marilyn’s house.

As deep cover for the whole operation, I would have a Prom date with Donna and Jeanie so their parents would really not suspect anything. It gave me an opportunity to pick everyone up because none of them had cars. I would pick up Donna at 7:15pm and then take her to Marilyn’s and then pick up Jeanie at 7:45pm and go over to Marilyn’s where everyone would change clothes. We then would be able to head to Liberal.

I actually had to set the time of return to keep MY parents off MY butt! Wow, it sounded like it would work!

Well, the next week at school went very fast and everything was beginning to fall into place for the Prom. I told my parents I had a Prom date and that it would be late when I got in because there was always a “breakfast” afterward. I said it might be 2:00am or after. They didn’t even blink an eye and I thought, holy cow, this could work!! They asked me who I had a date with and I told them Jeanie since they knew her Mother! This was getting good!

On Friday I heard from my cousin, Shirley Williams, who had been living and going to school in Amarillo. We were both seniors and she was out for spring break and was home to visit her mother and sister. She was bored and called to see if we could go out Friday night. I said sure and went over and picked her up. After we got away from her house and her neat Mom, I told her what was going to happen on Saturday night. She wanted to go. She said her mother gave her lots of freedom and it would be no problem to be out that late.

I said we will see how the other the other ladies feel. We all got together in my car at Caldwell’s. Everyone knew Shirley from many years of going to school in Pampa. They agreed she could go and we went over the plan. Everything was in great shape. Marilyn’s parents were already gone so the clock was already in motion. We all headed home and I dropped Shirley off and said I would pick her up last, sometime before 8 pm on Saturday night.

The Pick Ups

Saturday rolled around and I went to work that morning. I worked in the parts department of Culberson-Stowers Chevrolet, where my dad worked! I decided to tell my cohort, Benny Lash, but threatened to make it a painful death if he spilled the beans. Thankfully, he did not. We only worked until noon but it was a really long day. I did not hear from any of the girls that afternoon so I assumed everything was OK. They said they would call if anything went wrong.

I got dressed in my Pampa Texas evening clothes—White coat, tuxedo shirt with black studs, red cumber bun, red bow tie, and black pants. Earlier that afternoon, I had put my clubbing clothes in the trunk of the car. I said goodbye to the folks and drove over to Donna’s house. On the way other there, it finally hit me…”What the hell are you doing? Donna’s dad is the Pastor of The First Baptist Church! He was a college football player! If this goes wrong, you are dead meat!”

I pulled into the circular drive and got out and went to the door. I almost did not ring the doorbell. Donna met me at the door and I said let’s go and she said, “Oh, we can’t go yet, Mother wants to take some pictures!!!” Are you kidding me! I’m cooked!

Fortunately, dad was not home nor her brother Bob who was my age! She even bought a corsage for me to pin on her! This was getting out of hand. About 6 pictures later and we finally are out the door! It was like we had gotten married . . . open the door and get her in the car . . . wave to Mom and sister as we leave . . . AAAHHHHHH!! I started breathing after we got about a quarter of a mile down Duncan Street! I chewed on Donna for the pictures and the corsage—Nobody said there would be PICTURES AND A CORSAGE!! But she calmed me down and my heart stopped trying to come out of my chest!

We made it to Marilyn’s in a flash. I dumped out Donna . . .and her coursage . . . and headed for Jeanie’s. I was slightly behind schedule, but close. I got out of the car at Jeanie’s and the front door opened! I got up to the door and Jeanie said let’s go. Wow, no pictures! I knew her Mom and she came to the door and gave me a hug. Off we go. In the car, I told her what happened at Donna’s. She thought it was funny! My blood pressure was still high but I was past the bad stuff. Shirley’s mother lived just around the corner from Jeanie and we were there in no time. I pulled in the driveway and Shirley ran out and jumped in the car. A wave to her mother and we are gone.

It took only about 5 minutes to get to Marilyn’s house. Jeanie had on a nice formal and like Donna had brought a little bag because I was dropping her off at Marilyn’s after the Prom. Actually, I guess, that part was exactly right. We arrived, jumped out and I got my clothes and ran in. We were changed in no more than 2 minutes. Back in the car and off we go. Hit the Perryton highway and it’s almost a straight shot directly to Liberal. The roads up there are very straight since there is very little reason to add curves.

To get to Liberal, you really only go thru one town, Perryton, Texas. It is about 2-3 miles from the Perryton city limits to the Oklahoma border. You then enter the Oklahoma panhandle and pass through Beaver County, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma panhandle is only 35 miles across so it does not take long to cross. Liberal is a couple of miles across the Oklahoma-Kansas border. This will all become important on the way home!

The Partying

There were a couple of clubs the young adults frequented. They were both named the Tiki Club, Tiki East and Tiki West. I liked the Tiki East and so did most of my friends. We headed for it. I had never seen anyone carded in the clubs but I decided I better ask. In the parking lot, I asked the girls “Who is not already 18?”

Shirley and I plus Jeanie were already 18, Marilyn was 17 and holy cow, Donna was 16!! “Are you kidding me!” I told her. “Stay close to us and don’t go get a drink or beer. Have one of us do it.”

We walk into the club and wow, the music is loud and good, the club is about 2/3 full and I can’t believe it! There are 3 or 4 of my older buddies from the Class of 67! They come over and want to know what I’m doing with 4 girls!! The buddies consist of Billy Scribner, Teddy Bird, and several others I can’t remember. There were a a couple guys I did not know. They are home from college on spring break and decided to come to Liberal to party! What a deal. They snatch up the girls and away we go. We set up a large table and that is base of operations for the evening.

We had a time! I danced with darn near every girl in the place and I had way too much to drink! The fun never stopped all the time we were there. The music was a Rock-Ola and it played non stop with all of our favorites. We had a blast. I noticed that Donna was clinging to me and I got her almost every drink she had. The girls didn’t drink that much but they had fun.

About midnight, I was pretty lit and really hungry. I asked the gals if they wanted to get something to eat! Shirley and some dude I had never seen before said yeah. Donna grabbed me and said she did too. I told the other two girls to be at the Flying A Service Station at 12:30am! No later. They all had hooked up with guys who said they would deliver them.

The Close Call

Off we go to find an all night cafe. I am still a little woozy as we are driving down the road and come to a railroad track that cuts across the main highway. I don’t even look.

Someone shouts “Something’s coming!”

I look right and said “It’s only a motorcycle!” as I continue driving across the track.

A couple of seconds later a freight trains flies by and misses us by about twenty feet! We almost bought the farm right there, but we were too drunk to realize the gravity at the time!!

Fortunately, the food really helped and we all sobered upl. So we headed out to the Flying A Service Station. I decide I needed a six pack for the road and ran into a 7-11. We arrive at the service station at about 12:20am. Jeanie and one of the Pampa dudes soon show up. We are waiting for Marilyn and her guy. We wait and we wait. Finally at about 12:45am they show! Everyone jumps in the car and away we go for the border.

The Police Chase

Within 15 minutes everyone but me is either asleep or about to be. Donna is next to me in the front. Marilyn is shotgun. In the backseat is Jeanie and a lump in the corner is Shirley. I cruise toward Texas doing about 75 mph on the Oklahoma blacktop. I need to make up a little time lost waiting for Marilyn. I am approaching a curve within 3 or 4 miles of the Texas state line when I look in my rear view mirror and see flashing red lights in the distance.

Yikes. I start thinking and realize it is after 1:00am, I am drunk, I have beer in the car, a 17 year old girl in the car and a 16 year old girl in the car and I have crossed two state lines with them. Somehow I rationalize that I am already in so much trouble that a little more troubl isn’t that much more trouble than I am already in. I elbow Donna and ask her to look back and see if she sees what I do. Yep, looks like red lights in the far distance to her. I floor it.

We have to beat this Oklahoma Highway Patrolman to the Texas border. Now my old ’60 Chevy would run pretty good but I knew it could not outrun a patrol car. However, I had at least a mile distance on him, he had started off I think on a dirt road which overlooked the highway, and I was not sure he could catch me before I hit the border or not. I also knew I had to get into Perryton to lose him because of the hot pursuit laws so it was going to be close. I had to cover 4 to six miles before he could cover six to eight.

For whatever reason I don’t understand, I did outrun him. We finally come to the Perryton city limits and I jammed the brakes and made an extremely fast right hand turn into a neighborhood. I kept taking a right then a left until I was pretty sure he could not follow me. In any event, he had lost his line of sight and I felt pretty sure I had won. Needless to say, I was stone cold sober by now and everyone in the car was as well.

We still had 65 miles to go and I was low on fuel. I went back to the highway and pulled into the only all night station. I needed to add about 3 or 4 dollars worth of fuel to get home. After all, gasoline was only 29.9 cents per gallon then!

I walked into the service station and put $3 on the counter and this dude says, “Hey, did you just come from Oklahoma?” I said yeah and the attendant said, “Man, there was one really mad Oklahoma Highway Patrolman in here a minute ago looking for a car like yours!” I asked him which way he went and he said back toward Oklahoma. I ran out and pumped $3 of gas as fast as I could and jumped in and got the heck out of there. We never saw another cop on the way home. I was as nervous as a June bug in a hen house!

The Stranger

I was just outside of Perryton about 20 minutes when a head appears at the back of the front seat. I see this guy in the rear view mirror.

I said, “Who are you?”

“Oh, my name is Jim Ridley”, he said drowsily.

“Where did you come from?”

“The floor board.”

“Where do you live?”

“Chicago, Illinois”

“We are not going to Chicago tonight!”

“No, no. I go to school at Tech in Lubbock.”

“Well, we are definitely not going to Lubbock tonight either!”

“Oh, that’s OK, I’m staying with Teddy Bird in Pampa,” he says.

“All right. I can drop you off there”, I replied as he slides back onto the floor.

Now I am worried. I got all these girls to get home, I have this dude to drop off at Teddy’s house and I don’t even know where that is! And I have to get home and sneak in because it is already 2:00am and I am late!

About 2:30am I dropped off three of the girls at Marilyn’s house. I ran Shirley to her house and it becomes very evident from the good night kiss that she is the one that found Ripley in Liberal. This guy knows exactly where Teddy’s house is and guides me right to it. The house is dark. I said good luck and never looked back after he got out.

The Last Obstacle

I have to use my best stealth approach to get into my house and to my room without waking anyone. I turn off the key before I hit the driveway and coast. I don’t even shut the door on the car. I just push it until the light goes out. I go to the front door and YES, it is unlocked. I turn the knob and ease open the door and go in. I go past my parent’s bedroom and I hear my father snoring. I have just about made it when my mother says, “David, is that you? What time is it?”

“It’s me. It must be about 2.” I whispered, lying and hoping she does not look at the alarm clock.

“OK”, she says.

My dad is still snoring!! I have made it. I go to my room and suddenly realize I left all the Prom clothes in the trunk. Oh, well, I thought. I will get them tomorrow and sneak them in.

I wake up about noon on Sunday. Just in time for dinner. My Mom wants to know if I had a good time. I reply that I did. No mention of the time I got in or anything. But, I am still not out of the woods. If the girls did not get caught or anything, then we are all home free.

That afternoon, I decided to go out for a while. There is no one down at Caldwell’s. I run the drag and no one is out. I come by the Pizza Hut and see Teddy Bird’s T-bird. I go in and there are the remnants of the gang we ran into in Liberal the night before. Even Ripley’s with them. But they had a tail of woe on getting home also. I told them of our adventure with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and then they told me what happened to them.

The Others

One of the two cars they were in took off and headed for Pampa and got turned around in Perryton and got on the wrong highway and ended up in Oklahoma and finally found a familiar road and made it to Pampa about 5am. They went to Teddy’s house and found Ripley asleep on the porch and almost frozen to death. Teddy’s parents were not home this weekend and they all came in to party over spring break but Teddy and Billy had not shown up yet with the key.

Apparently, Teddy and Billy had gotten lost coming out of Liberal and headed west instead of south. They ended up in Colorado with almost no gas, no cash and one credit card between them. They finally found a service station that was open but it would not take their credit card. They had to wait for a station to open that would take the card. It was 3:30am and the station opened at 5:30am. They finally got gas and headed for Texas.

At about 8am, they were stopped by a Texas Highway Patrolman between Dalhart and Amarillo and given a ticket for doing 85 mph. Fortunately, the booze had all worn off by then and he did not check the trunk. About 10:30am, they arrived in Pampa to find the rest of their party asleep in their car in the driveway at Teddy’s house. They were at the Pizza Hut having pizza for breakfast because no one could cook!

The girls had fooled their parents, I had gotten by with doing something really stupid without going to jail, and we had one Hell of a Prom night! I bet it would not have been that exciting if we had actually gone to the Prom! I wonder if Donna still has those pictures. There are a lot of memories in that corsage.

The Prologue

The next year, I went to Texas Tech in Lubbock and Jeanie was going to school there. She had managed to find Jim Ripley. We laughed about the Liberal trip and everything that happened. He turned out to be the dude with cousin Shirley in my car when we were almost hit by the train. We partied together for a couple of years. Later, my future wife introduced him to his future wife. He actually was going to Tech while he was an air traffic controller for the Air Force at Reese AFB. We used to go to the NCO club on the base,….but that’s another story. I have since lost track of him completely but I think I will try to find him someday.

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The Phillip Long Story: Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do


Sometimes words can serve me well and sometimes words can go to hell,
for all they do.
For every dream that took me high there’s been a dream that passed me by.
I know that’s so true.
– Harry Chapin “Story of a Life”

It was the second day of May 1970.  We were parked at Caldwell’s and Phillip was in the back seat spreading his smile and charisma  through the car where LaWanda Frost, and me (and maybe Susan Smith . . . I can’t remember) were all talking about LaWanda and me getting married  the next night. Phillip was my best man. All of us were members of the PHS Class of 1969 and we had been laughing and having a great time remembering the days at PHS while Phillip and I had revealed a few tales from the Navy, but we kept most of our tales to ourselves because they weren’t really sharable (as you now know).

LaWanda and I had only been dating two weeks and Phillip couldn’t believe I was getting married.  Earlier that day in private he had confronted me “Webster, what is wrong with you?  You have no business getting married.”

I had tried to explain to him how I had to leave town in two days to take my next radio gig in Dimmitt, TX. and I didn’t want to go without her.  He argued how there were plenty of women in Dimmitt, TX.

I finally said, “Phillip, It’s like this.  I finally found the promised land . . . and so did she.  We found it together, and I am not leaving here without her.  He looked at me and had the biggest grin I think I ever saw him smile and said (you guessed it) . . .

“Webster, your crazy”

So that night at Caldwell’s I found it really funny when suddenly LaWanda looked at Phillip and said, “Phillip, When are you and Susan going to get married?”

Phillip moved his head from side to side and said, “Oh, man. I can’t get married.  I’ve got too much living to do.”

Four weeks later he was killed in a tragic automobile accident on Pampa High School graduation night 1970.  Phillip was picked up by some graduates as he was standing in front of the Capri Theater.  Two blocks later the car hit a dip and crashed into a tree at Pampa’s Central Park.  Phillip died at the scene.

The morning after Phillip’s death my parents did not want to call and tell me on the phone.  They were on their way to Dimmit to tell me in person and were only about 15 miles away when I pulled some news copy off the radio wire to prepare for the noon news.  In front of me were the details of Phillip’s death, delivered by the Associated Press, not my parents.  In many ways I think I preferred it this way.

I delivered the news.  I did not include the story of Phillip’s death.  There are some limits where you just don’t test yourself.  I felt I could hold my composure and deliver the newscast, but not that story.

Phillip was buried in a grave almost as close to Pampa High School as you could be buried, maybe 50 feet from the fence on Duncan street. At the funeral his brother Paul and I hugged each other and as a condolence I said to Paul “He was my best friend”.

Paul acted like that offended him and replied, “He was my best brother.”

I didn’t know what to think of that so I let it pass and never had a chance to discuss it with Paul.  I did not mean it to offend him.

Not too many years later Paul’s bullet riddled body was found buried under some galvanized tin in a remote part of south Texas.

Paul had a son named Justin who was the spitting image of Phillip.  He was the same age of my now deceased daughter and when they were both 17 my daughter was living with me and for a time they went together.  She moved back to Aledo to be with LaWanda before her senior year.

In the 1990’s I became close to Twyla, Phillip and Paul’s mother.  She would come by my office in downtown Pampa and sometimes sit and talk for 30 minutes or more.  She had endured a lot of tragedy and Owen, her husband, was failing in health and she worried a lot about the future.  She came to me to talk.  I listened.

Twyla, had raised Paul, Phillip, Pam, and then Justin.   Paul and Justin were in constant trouble.  She had buried two sons and worried she would have to bury Justin or watch him go to prison.  The idea of either brought her to tears and she was almost out of those.  Before Twyla passed away she told me Justin had straightened out and become a good young man and she was really proud of him

Knowing how much he looked like Phillip I couldn’t help but think how wonderful that was.

If Phillip Long had lived and made the most out of the gifts he was given he could have been anything he wanted to be.  He could have achieved anything he wanted to achieve.  To use the word Buzzy Green recently used, Phillip Long had a magical quality about him that would have opened doors the rest of us would have had to open for ourselves.  The pathway for Phillip’s future success was to give the US government four years of active service and then get a higher education Owen and Twyla could not give him.

If Phillip had taken that path he could have become President of the United States, not just our senior class.

With an undesirable discharge on his record and no higher education . . . even with all his charisma he would have some big obstacles to overcome.

About 3 months after his death LaWanda and I had just packed and moved from Dimmitt to Plainview where I had been hired for a mid-morning gig with  a substantial raise at a larger station as I was working my way up on my dream of making it into big time radio.  We had not even been there a week.

I am on the air when I got a call for “David Webster”.  Since I used an air name “Robert Day” I knew the call had to be personal. I put on a record and said “Hello”.

“David Webster. Johnny Dark, K-O-M-A  I have your air check.  I like your sound.  I’ll pay you $125 a week.  Can you be here tonight?”

My heart skipped a beat.  “I need to give notice.”

“I’m not looking for applications.  I have a drawer full of those” and he hung up without saying another word.

I was immediately taken back to the night Phillip and I had gone to Oklahoma City and how as we left KOMA that night I had told myself I would work there someday.  Well, maybe not, now, but at least I had the chance.

“What do you think, Phillip?” I reached out to his spirit.  “You were there.  Should I have just walked out of here and headed for Oklahoma City?”

I heard a little voice from heaven say “Webster, you’re crazy.”

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The Phillip Long Story: Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster

There is a ship and she sails the sea.
She’s loaded deep, as deep can be.

After I told Phillip what had happened we were both fairly certain our trip to Mexico factored in somehow, but where?  Everything appeared to be going so smooth.

On the day of the proceeding  I put on my blue uniform and polished my shoes.  Phillip walked with me to the end of the dormitory hall and we stood at the door and talked for a few minutes. I turned and started walking to the location where the captain’s mast was being held . . . a full court gymnasium which struck me as an odd place for the mast to be held, but it was only a short walk, about three blocks, from the dormitory so I was grateful it was nearby and not a mile or more away.

I walked inside a few minutes early and the gymnasium was empty except for three officers making conversation behind two 4 X 8 tables set end to end on the far side of the gym.  I walked over to them, saluted, was put at ease and told to have a seat in a single folding chair facing the tables about ten feet out.  A fourth officer soon enters to join the other three.

They continue to make conversation between themselves and shuffle some papers between them for another 5 minutes or so when one of the officers orders me to stand. He then asks me if I knew what a captain’s mast was and I explained “kind of” and he said something about it being a  non-judiciary investigation and that as long as I answered all questions truthfully I probably had nothing to worry about.  He then explained  the scope of authority to me and it was actually less than I thought.

They could give me as much as 60 days military jail time, reduce my rank by one stripe and take away one half month’s pay.

“However, that is not our purpose in your case”, he explained.  “This is an investigation to determine why you didn’t tell the Navy during your recruitment process about your asthma attacks as a child.”

I don’t say a word, but I am thinking “What! This isn’t about Mexico?”

I am told I can sit down and the questioning begins. For the next 30 minutes I answer the same questions just worded differently over and over again.

Each of the officers had a copy of the medical records from the day I befriended the black cat and had the slight allergy attack.  The reports showed I was wheezing and the diagnosis was not listed on the medical records as allergy.  It had been clearly marked asthma and it had also been noted I had told them I had some problems with asthma as a child.

“We want to know why you did not disclose this before you came into the Navy.  You were required to sign documents at least twice stating you had not had asthma in your past.”

I sat silently and said nothing.  I really didn’t have a clue what to say.

The officer in charge presses a little harder to get me to say something, but I continue my silence.  The entire setting has been designed to intimidate.  The extra large building, the solitary folding chair in front of four officers seated in a row .  It had certainly intimidated me and I had no intention of talking about anything for fear I would be incriminating myself. I didn’t see the captain’s mast sending me to jail from not reporting asthma as a child on my enlistment forms.  Then the other officers began asking the same questions.  Finally I made a statement.

“First, because I had a recruiter telling me to sign here and not worry about a thing” I said  “and also because I just didn’t think about it.”  I was counting on the fact they had nothing more than the records from NTC.  I doubted they had researched my medical records from Pampa that might show indications of asthma at older ages.

The officer in charge asked me to stand again.

“Seaman Apprentice Webster.  After taking everything into consideration we have decided we are going to offer you two choices.”

“It is our determination you lied to the US Military upon enlistment about your physical condition and we do not want the liability of a seaman aboard ship who could potentially have an asthma attack at sea.”

“If you sign these forms releasing the United States Navy from responsibility for your asthma and forfeit your veterans benefits we will give you an honorable discharge from the United States Navy and you will be home for Christmas.”

“If you refuse then you face a court marshal on charges of fraudulent enlistment.”

Given the extremes in the two choices I didn’t have to give a whole lot of thought to which choice I would make.  All I had to consider was  “Christmas at home” vs “court marshall”.

It was only after I had already signed the papers I realized I was getting ready to leave Phillip out here by himself with 3.5 years of active duty (and two years of reserve) to face alone.  There would be no more buddies.  The final abandonment was now certain and only days away.

I was dismissed and started the walk back to the dormitory.  I dreaded telling Phillip I was going home.  I respected Phillip as a leader in high school, as an athlete, as a lady charmer and all the things he was, and for all the potential he had, but I had gotten to know him really well and inside I could almost guarantee at that moment . . . Phillip would never finish radio school.

He didn’t.

By March his attitude toward the military had become so bad he was sent home with an undesirable discharge because as Phillip told me himself “The Navy no longer wanted me.”

Two months later on Pampa High School graduation night 1970 Phillip had just gotten into the front passenger seat of an automobile with some 1970 graduates.  Two blocks later the car hit a bump and went airborne striking a tree.  Phillip was killed instantly.

I have one more chapter before this work is complete.

I want to share with you the last time I saw Phillip in May 1970 and what he said.  There were two other former Harvesters in the car with us that night, LaWanda Frost and I believe Susan Smith (not sure about Susan).

I also want to tell you about conversations I had with Twyla, Phillip’s mother, and the tragedy she endured.

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The Phillip Long Story: Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing

Hallelujah – As I wrote this chapter I reflected not only on Thanksgiving Day in 1969, but my entire life.  At the moment Bon Jovi seems appropriate.

Perhaps it was because he was in such great physical condition, but Philip began recovering quickly and within a couple of days he is watching television at the dormitory while I am off to wax and buff floors.  He razzes me about that in a “Phillip Long” kind of way that even makes me laugh.  I am just glad he is getting up and around.

The one thing that isn’t recovering is his spirit about the Navy.  When we went in Phillip’s attitude was a 10.  When we were first called “maggots” I think it dropped to about an 8 where it stayed throughout basic.  Now it was down to no more than a 7 and while mine wasn’t a whole lot higher, I dared not show it because I knew if I did his would plummet.  I felt if we could just get through this school and headed to sea it would be “Anchors Away” and all would be well, but the stress of sitting at a manual typewriter with a set of headphones plugged into a socket porting Morse code into your ears for eight hours a day is enough to depress anyone after four weeks.  This setback meant Phillip would be looking at least one more week of copying code before testing and maybe two.  I am hoping he can get it done in one for purely selfish reasons.  I am sick of buffing floors and want to move on to the more advanced textbook training.

Phillip had taken almost his entire check with him to Mexico so we were also facing a month of extreme financial hardship and that didn’t help his attitude either.  He refused to call Owen or Twyla, his parents, because they were already under a great burden dealing with problems back home with Paul, his brother, and it didn’t matter if he was on his death-bed he would not ask them for help.  I was not so proud.  I got on the phone and called my Mom.  I told her pretty much the truth about what had happened except my story was closer to what I had told the school commanding office.  She would have been worried sick if I had told her we had been in Mexico.  Within a few days $100 arrives.  Combined with the $40 I still had Phillip and me could make it the rest of the month.  He was grateful.

Not one time did he ever blame me for leaving him.  We actually argued one time about it being the other way around.  He said it was his fault for not leaving when I wanted to.  I said I shouldn’t have left.  We ended up laughing.  We took some of the money that had just come in and went off base for Thanksgiving. He really didn’t want to.  They would have a great meal on base for free, but I wanted to get him away from anything “Navy” for a few hours.  It had nothing to do with food.  It had to do with trying to help his spirit heal.  Maybe getting away from anything military for an afternoon would be good for him and by Thanksgiving day Phillip had recovered to the point the only way you would know he had been seriously injured a week and a half before were the blue bruises that remained on parts of his face, but he was walking without pain and otherwise seemed fine.

I talked him into leaving the base.  He wanted to know where we were going.  I asked him if he was paying.  He said he couldn’t (which I knew) and I said “Then just enjoy.  It’s on me.”  We got in the taxi.  I told the driver “Sea World.”

Instead of boring old turkey and dressing with giblet gravy and cranberry sauce at the base we had a much better Thanksgiving feast . . . hot dogs with mustard and relish while watching the killer whale and dolphins perform.  It was a great afternoon and it served it’s purpose.  Phillip never had a clue what was going on in my mind, but I saw his attitude improve a little and any improvement at all was vital at this critical point in our careers.

That night as Thanksgiving day came to an end I realized Phillip and I were starting to love each other more and more.  I guess that is what buddies do.  I was thankful we had each other.  I know he was too.

I talked Phillip into making a voluntary appearance at school roll call the following morning even though he wasn’t scheduled  for his next appearance until Monday.  My logic was that if he went in Friday it would look good to the school commander.  He also might be able to request a “mulligan” opportunity to take the test on Tuesday and if he happened to pass I would be able to “stop buffing floors.”  He nearly rolled in the floor when I said that and every laugh I got out of him about anything Navy was golden at this point.

He worked all day Friday and all day Monday copying code at 30 words per minute in practice, but when Tuesday came he had too many errors and failed.  He came close which gave us both confidence he would pass the following week.  He was as discouraged about having to listen to code and type for another week as I was . . . knowing I was going to spend another week buffing floors, but the end was in sight and we would soon be getting down to textbook study where we could work better together in the dorm.

Later that week as I was taking a smoke break (a habit I had picked up since joining the Navy) I am sitting on a bench outside one of the buildings M Division (M stands for maintenance) had assigned me to when a beautiful long-haired black cat comes up to me and starts purring and rubbing up against my leg.  Stray animals were very uncommon on NTC so I knew this animal belonged to someone . . . probably someone important.  I soon made a friend and we spent about 15 minutes enjoying each others company before I had to say goodbye and get back to work.

Within minutes of returning to work I am sneezing, my eyes are watering, and it is apparent I am having an allergic reaction to the cat.  I didn’t consider it a big deal, but in order to get some relief and also in order to get away from buffing floors for a little while I reported to the petty officer in charge of maintenance I need to go to sick call and get some medicine.

I made it over to the infirmary and after about a thirty minute wait they ask me a lot of questions that almost had me wishing I hadn’t gone in.  I didn’t know it was going to take 12 pages of paperwork to get two allergy pills.  They listened to my chest and told me I had some wheezing and asked if I had ever had asthma.  I told them when I was really young I was supposed to have had, but I didn’t really remember it.  There actually had been a couple of episodes later on in life, but after what I had just been through with the paperwork I just wanted to get out of there and didn’t bring it up.  They gave me the medication I wanted and an inhaler and I was released to go back to work.

When I got back to the building I looked for the cat to give him a playful talking to about what he had just put me through, but I didn’t see him.  The day ended and I got back to the dorm to hear Phillip relate how some guy at school had gotten a “Dear John” letter that day at mail call and took a leap off the smoke deck on the third floor.

I told Phillip about the black cat and how I would have to be on a gurney before I ever went to sick call again.  He said he would have to remember that.  I reminded him he was on a gurney the last time he went to the base medical facility. He laughed.  That’s what I wanted.

The following week he passes his test.  I still have to report to M Division Wednesday because someone is slow in getting my transfer processed, but by Thursday I am ready to start technical training.  Phillip seems in much better spirits.  Getting the code portion of the school behind him was a major accomplishment.  There had been a time I don’t think he believed he would ever be able to do it.

We go downtown that weekend and Phillip is considering getting his first tattoo.  We are looking at the designs in the window and he picks out one of a Navy anchor.  Above the anchor it says U.S.N. and then below it says “Never Again”

“Come on Long. The last thing you want when you get on ship is a tattoo like that.”

He laughed.  He knew I was right.

Christmas is now only two and a half weeks away.  I feel like things are going better than they ever have since we came in. Nothing is going to stop us now.

Then, I get called to the school commander’s office where I am handed a formal military document.

I have been ordered to appear under the authority of Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in dress uniform for a Captain’s Mast to take place on approximately the 15th of Dec.  (The paper did not say to be there approximately.  I just don’t remember the exact date)  I am then informed that until the outcome of my Captain’s Mast is known I am being temporarily suspended from school and reassigned to M Division.

Think of a Captain’s Mast as the military equivalent of a Grand Jury with the power to sentence.  They can either elevate a charge to a Court Marshall or sentence up to certain level’s themselves without elevating to a Court Marshall.  It is normally presided over by the commanding officer of a ship or base and in the case of NTC that would be a Rear Admiral.

Suddenly going to military jail is my biggest worry, not buffing floors in M Division.

The Phillip Long Story: Buddies Until Abandoned

  1. The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!
  2. In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit
  3. Basic Training – First Abandonment
  4. To the Girl Who Loved Me
  5. A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment
  6. Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic
  7. Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth
  8. Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing  <- You are Here
  9. The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
  10. Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do
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The Phillip Long Story: Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth

He Ain’t Heavy.  He’s My Brother.

I sleep with one ear listening for Phillip to come through the door at any time.  Saturday morning comes and not a word.  With every passing hour I am more and more concerned.

There is not a word the entire day on Saturday and other than going for meals I had not left the room.  I went to bed Saturday night nearly out of my mind between worry for Phillip and fear of the court martial coming if his body is found in Mexico somewhere.  I just keep asking myself how I allowed myself to let this happen and keep remembering that bus ride back from the submarine base and my little temper outburst that was at the bottom of all this.

I awoke Sunday morning and I guess I thought it was time to try and make a deal with God.  I had not been to church since I had left Pampa, Tx where I had apparently left a lot of the values I was brought up with and now with Thanksgiving only 12 days away I decided to make my way about a block down to a little Episcopal chapel on base and try a little prayer.  I even put a token in the offering plate.  That is about all it was . . . a token.

I left the church and went to eat and returned to the dormitory to find Phillip laying on his bed and moaning in severe pain.  I had never been so glad to see someone hurting in my life.  He was at least alive.

I went and got some warm towels and tried to be a nurse the best I could, but I wasn’t really sure what to do.  He was covered with dirt and grime and some blood although he wasn’t bleeding from any noticeable deep lacerations . . . just badly bruised.  His face looked like it had been pounded on and both eyes were nearly swollen shut.

“Damn it Phillip.  What the hell happened to you”

He starts mumbling something about his watch, but I can’t understand what he is talking about.

One of our roommates comes through the door and was an eagle scout back home.  He knew a little more about first aid than me.  He thinks Phillip should be taken to the base clinic for emergency treatment, but he knew where we had been and how if we did that there was going to be a lot of explaining to do.  Finally we all agreed to just keep a close watch on him overnight.

I started working on a plan to talk our way out of what was going to be a really big mess.  I didn’t see Phillip returning to school for at least a week or more and he had a major test coming up Tuesday that our Naval careers depended on.  Plus, just the fact he wasn’t going to make muster in the morning was not going to be explainable. Overnight the plan came together.  I wasn’t sure if we could pull it off, but we had no choice but to try.

At 7:00 AM I was at morning roll call at the advanced training school.  When they called “Long” I reported he was very ill.  When we were dismissed I requested a meeting with the school’s commanding officer to not only explain Phillip’s illness and absence, but discuss an extension on the test the next day.   I had to wait about 15 minutes, but the meeting was granted.

I had never even seen the school commanding officer so I had no idea what to expect.  For some reason the only benchmark of any type of authority figure I could come up with was RDC King.  When I entered he wasn’t nearly as hard as King . . . at least the word maggot was never used and I had made up what I was hoping would be a believable story.

I told him Phillip and I had gone downtown and gotten separated and when I arrived at the bus stop to return I thought he was ahead of me so I caught the next bus.  He was actually behind me and when he arrived at the bus stop got into a conversation with a group of Marines and that one of the Marines made an insulting remark about the Navy and that Phillip made one back and before he knew it that had beat the crap out of him and now he was in our dormitory needing medical attention.  I explained he had a very important test the next day which I didn’t see how he could take and how we were in on the buddy plan and looking forward to serving together.

I expected little empathy from him, but instead of being a jerk like King would have been he asked me a few questions about Phillip’s condition and next thing I know he is on the phone ordering medical division to send some corpsmen over to our dormitory to evaluate Phillip, provide treatment and report back to him.  He agrees to extend the deadline for the test until a date to be determined after he has received the report.  He tells me I can be dismissed from class that morning to return to the dorm and assist.  As I am getting ready to turn and leave as soon as he tells me I am dismissed, he looked me in the eye and said,

“They spend weeks convincing those Marines they are killing machines in preparation for going to Nam and then when they get off base they don’t know how to control it.”   He continues to look me in the eye.

I get the impression this may be a test to see if he can get a clue to help him see if I am making this story up.  I do not say anything.  I figure it is better to remain silent and be thought a liar, than to open my mouth and remove any doubt.  I was dismissed.

When I get back to the dormitory the corpsmen have already arrived and were treating Phillip. One of them suddenly suggests to the other he thinks Phillip should be taken to Balboa, which is a Naval hospital.  I am not exactly sure where it is, but I am guessing 10 or 15 miles away and that would be devastating.  If we are separated it will be practically impossible to coordinate our story and after the lie I had just told the radio school commanding officer a court martial is on the horizon unless we make this work.  Fortunately, the other corpsman thinks Phillip should be x-rayed  at NTC for broken bones and hemoraging of the brain but unless they find something doesn’t believe he should be transported to Balboa.

Phillip is taken to the base medical facility. He doesn’t have any broken bones or life threatening trauma.

A report  is sent back to the school commanding officer advising it will take 2-4 weeks for full recovery.

The school commanding officer gave a two week extention on Phillip’s test and said he would consider an additional extention if it was needed.  In order for my training schedule to not get any further ahead of Phillip’s he assigned me temporarily to M-division where I spent the next 2 weeks mopping floors and buffing them with an electric buffer  because he wasn’t going to have me sitting on my “duffus” while I waited for Phillip to get back on his feet.  I guess every crime gets punished one way or the other.

Meanwhile, Phillip relates the story of how he had left the cantina about an hour after I had and looked for me about an hour.  When he didn’t find me he decided I must have gone back to NTC without him and started walking back toward the border alone.  For some reason he decided to take a “short cut” and followed some railroad tracks where he was jumped by a gang who took his money and the thing he was most upset about . . . a watch that once belonged to his grandfather.  He had laid by those railroad tracks from Friday night until Sunday morning, although he never really comprehended the time.   Fortunately his wallet and military ID were nearby, but he was penniless. Some workers had gotten him to the border and a trucker brought him from the border to NTC where a civilian who worked on base had brought him from the front gate to the dormitory and helped him to the room while I was in church on Sunday morning.

We now knew why Mexico was off limits to US military. It wasn’t about enforcing rules and regulations. It was simply a matter of protecting us and trying to keep us from getting hurt or killed.  I promised myself I would never make Phillip feel guilty again just because he was a ladies man.  The only reason we went down there in the first place was Phillip trying to do me a favor.

Thanksgiving was only a few days away and I was truly thankful this had ended as it had.  Phillip was going to recover.  We both had avoided a court martial.  Phillip’s test date had been put off and we were still buddies.  What more could I ask?

Dead dogs, women like Mable and cities like Tijuana had made me forget about pleasures of the flesh. Maybe by Christmas I would be back to normal . . . and finished buffing floors.

The Phillip Long Story: Buddies Until Abandoned

  1. The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!
  2. In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit
  3. Basic Training – First Abandonment
  4. To the Girl Who Loved Me
  5. A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment
  6. Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic 
  7. Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth  <- You are Here
  8. Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing
  9. The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
  10. Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do
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