While in the Navy
attending Radioman ‘A’ school
I was stationed at NTC Bainbridge in the spring of 1969. I was a member
of the Drill Team. We marched in holiday parades and for other local events
in towns in Delaware, Maryland
, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Northern Virginia. These were small towns, mostly, although we also marched in Newark, Baltimore
, Reading and Arlington. These small towns had names like Littitz, Bird in Hand, Blue Ball, Lewes. They were ‘Middle America’. Every town had a VFW, Lions, Kiwanis etc. When we marched in a parade along with other drill teams, school
bands, fife and drum corps etc., the people lined the parade route
shouting and waving holding banners saying things like ‘We Love You’. There were babies, teenagers, adults, seniors and all were smiling and having a great time. We felt really good being there and performing for them.
There were always one or more sponsors of the parades like the VFW or Kiwanis and they all had dinners or bar-b-q s after the parades. After the parades the Navy
Chief in charge of the drill team would say he would be driving the team bus back to the base at a particular time and anyone not on the bus was on liberty until Monday morning when class started. Besides being set in some of the most beautiful countryside in the world these town had some of the most gracious and caring people I’ve ever met, anywhere. They would come up to us en mass after the parades showering us with invitations to the post parade events
, each group insisting that we stop by to see them even if it was just for a drink or desert. And the girls..the girls were all over us like bees on honey!
We would start at the VFWs. The comrades would welcome us left hand on our shoulder right hand pumping ours in a vigorous welcome. Their wives would come out of the kitchen or from behind the ticket tables and hug us and kiss us on the cheek. They would ask us where we were from, how old we were, if we were going to make the Navy a career and telling us that we should come back to their town to live after we got out because there was no place better on earth. They set us down to dinners of home cooked food
in seemingly endless quantities. In one town one of the men
brought me a beer
and set it down in front of me. I told him I was 19 and not sure if I was legal
in his state. He looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Son, I’m the county sheriff and in my county as long as you’re in that uniform you’re legal’.
During these meals
we would be asked if we had to go back to the base that night. When we told them we didn’t have to be back until Monday morning they invited us to stay at in their homes. Sometimes there were 6 or 8 of us and it didn’t matter. There were more invitations than there were of us. It should be no surprise to you that we always accepted the invitations from the families with college age women in the house. Sometimes we wound march in a parade in April and then in the same town in May. It was the same routine all over again only this time we were like family
The parade season ended with the 4th of July and while it is a blur we marched in 3 parades and the Chief made sure the last one was in a town we had previously performed in and raved about the great treatment we received. It was also the culmination of our training so a week later I stepped off a 707 into the hot sun and humidity of NCS Guam
. The Woodstock Music
and Arts Festival was later that month. We all wished we could have gone but for me it would have been anti-climactic after that parade season. I visited some of those towns over the years that followed and found the people just as friendly. I have attended a series of Watkins Owners Raftups over the past 6 years and although there have been some changes the people and the countryside are like coming home.