Lorraine and Anita wrote to their fellow orphans about times in the Buckner Orphan's Home in Dallas during the sixties:
- Thanx Anita, something light is always good to start the day on., hope you are well and things are good for you. You always make my day brighter.Wish we could have known each other at BOH, but better late than never, and like I have said so many times before, we all know each other by heart.......
.Your friend and sister, Lorraine
- Anytime, me too I wished I'd have known you too back then too, when ya'll are talking I try to imagine the time frame you were in and how it must've been stricter times than ours and I respect all of you so much for making it through it and braving that path for us younger ones and also some of the same stuff we went through, that's why I really enjoy hearing your stories and looking at pictures.Sometimes it feels like when your talking like your still the ages you were then-and it's like you don't even have to say anything and you understand each other-even us! It's a bond and love, so unexplainable, so innocent and pure! Innocent Hearts. Glad to know all of you, late than never! Love Anita
Dear Anita and Lorraine:
Regarding your nostalgia about Buckner’s Orphans Home in
My three youngest siblings (Norman, Debbie, and Claudia) lived at Buckner while I lived alone or with a friend in
Because of that, I might have difficulty dredging up an emotional experience like the one you shared when you recounted your nostalgia over your childhood at Buckner’s.
Except for one.
After high school, I joined the Navy, went to Boot Camp in San Diego, Submarine School in New London, Connecticut, and then my first submarine assignment in Key West (see Web Cams), the USS Quillback (SS 424). Once assigned to the sub, I settled into whatever chores they assigned me, including learning enough about the “boat” to qualify “SS” Submarine Service sailor. After nearly a year, the Navy assigned me to another
Several submarines sat in side the quay walls at the west edge of the small Navy Base on
I did make friends on boats aboard which I served, the USS Quillback and USS Threadfin, people I remember today with fond affection, like brothers.
Some of my ship mates had wives, but most enjoyed bachelor life the best they could. Because we could not all sleep in the boat’s bunking quarters at the same time, the salty sailors who had been in the Navy some years lived in barracks quarters while the boat sat in port. When we put out to sea the junior sailors “hot-bunked.” That is, we shared the same bunks. When one would be on watch, another would sleep in the bunk.
While at sea, we sealed the topside hatches, and the engine exhaust and diesel fumes unavoidably permeated the boat. All of us and our clothing smelled like diesel fumes because of the nature of the submarine environment. We did not notice the smell ourselves, but we heard remarks from others when we dressed in our white sailor suits and ventured into town for some excitement. Several of my shipmates grew fond of Canoe cologne because it covered up the subtle stink while making them smell like tropical flowers.
The SS qualified sailors whiled away their time on watch playing Acey-Deucy (backgammon) or cribbage. The unqualified spent all their spare time studying, learning about the boat’s propulsion, buoyancy, weapons, steering, oil, water, electrical, and other critical systems. We went through frequent drills to make sure we could handle emergencies like fire, flooding, or explosive that might arise. We got to know one another’s fortes, foibles, humors, moods, and sometimes secret yearnings.
During my first few months aboard the Quillback I worked as a messcook – a server in the mess hall and dishwasher in the galley (kitchen). I rather enjoyed the job, even though I had gone through school to learn how to set up, operate, and service the computers and other equipment used to aim and shoot guns, torpedos, and missiles (Fire Control Technician). I got to meet and interact with all my shipmates.
And sometimes for entertainment, I’d go topside while in port after taking out the garbage from the mess hall, and hook a piece of fat on a fishing line, toss scraps along with the baited hook into the water, and try to lure one of the flock of hungry seagulls to snag the bait. Inevitably, I’d catch one and reel it in dazed, confused, and squawking, to release it and try for another. One day when dropping the cylindrical stainless steel garbage cans down the hatch to my fellow messcook Swartwood, I failed to notice he had bent over to pick up the pen that had fallen out of his pocket, and the can bonked him on the head with a loud clang, putting a blood-spurting gash in his scalp. I felt so horrible about that because I loved Swartwood as I did nearly all of my shipmates.
We all lived a fairly confined, circumscribed life in a special community on the submarine, just as you did at Buckners. Our captain and officers regulated our schedules, chores, and group leisure and recreation activities, just as the adults regulated yours at Buckners. And I earned a whopping $80 or $90 per month, some of which I sent home to my mother.
We did take the boat to
When at sea, I loved standing watch on the top of the sail as the boat seem to cut a swath through the sea with its pointy bow and porpoises (called dolphins) raced the boat and leaped across the bow wake. I loved the storms at sea, with the puffy gray clouds showering rain in the distance against a bright blue sky. I loved scanning the beautiful horizon with binoculars and talking with my fellow watch and the Officer of the Deck. I loved diving into the rich blue water of the
And I remember the day of the assassination of JFK. The topside watch informed me about it as he and I saluted one another when I walked aboard after a sunny afternoon adventure in town on a day in late November, in 1963. I lived in
In 1998, after not having seen Key west since leaving in the fall of 1964 for Polaris missile fire control school in Dam Neck Virginia, I returned with my wife to Key West. How the town had changed. The salty feel of a navy village had transformed by some magic into a teeming tourist trap visited every day by pleasure cruise ships that had ignored it earlier. Sloppy Joe’s bar had no more of its Hemmingway atmosphere, and had converted much of its space to retail store selling
We visited the remains of the Navy Base, called the “Truman Annex.” The CIA listening station at the south end of the base still bristled with antennas, and cars in the parking lot hinted that the CIA personnel were still tuned in to radio signals sneaking out of
I stood there on the concrete mole overlooking the submarine basin and let the waves of nostalgia flood my thoughts and sense of existence. This tiny Navy base had served as home to many submarine sailors, including me. All had lusted, loved, and indulged the obligations and benefits of life there. Now, nothing remained but the memories.
And those memories, while not real, surely seemed so intensely true. But only the tidy little white buildings and manicured lawn stood behind as a hint to the work and play of so many years ago.
Norman and Debbie visited the remains of Buckners a few years back, and mentioned that little remained there but rubble and memories. I know they felt the same nostalgia I felt in