When I graduated from high school in June of 1959 I had little prospects. My Mother already told me that our family didn't have the money to send me to college. She told me that when I entered 9th grade. That's why I didn't take the academic college preparatory courses. I took the commercial courses. My default career choice.
Since I ran afoul of my bookkeeping teacher who wrongly accused me of helping some of my classmates to cheat, I couldn't transition into an office job in my hometown of Downingtown because I was blackballed for quitting my bookkeeping class in my senior year.
|Me,, far left, with my cousins on graduation day 1959 - no job prospects and ripe for the Service|
I didn't want to be a steel worker like my father, uncles and (eventually) my brothers. I wanted to break out of that mold. What choices did I have left?
I always loved the water. I would join the Navy!
Sure, the uniforms were a bit goofy but at least I wouldn't be shot at. I had several reasons for joining the service right out of high school:
- Not to be drafted
- To get it out of the way
- To "see the world"
Thus I presented myself to the local recruiting office at the U.S. Post Office in Coatesville at 250 East Diamond Street. All the service recruiters were located in the basement of the post office.
|U.S. Post Office Coatesville, PA and service recruiting stating (basement) - very unglamorous|
My Mother was in agreement that I join the Navy. She accompanied me (drove me actually since I still wasn't allowed to drive the family car) to see the Navy recruiter. So on a fine, summer day in June of 1959 I visited the Navy recruiter. He interviewed me, I took tests. I was a candidate! He drew up my papers for me to review and sign. He gave me a date to return to his office with the signed papers once I agreed to join. The tour of duty would be four years.
The next week Mom
|My Mom - 1960|
While I was waiting the Army recruiter, who wasn't interviewing anyone at that time, asked me "Why did you decide to join the Navy?" I answered "Because I want to see the world, and I don't want to get drafted because I don't want to be in the Infantry." He said "Did you know you could join the Army and also see the world and not be in the Infantry?" I answered "No, I didn't know that." Then he added the kicker, he said "And you would only have to serve three years." Now he had my attention.
I got up from the side chair of the Navy recruiter's desk, carefully avoiding eye contact with both the Marine (NO WAY) and the Air Force (didn't appeal to me either) and sat my butt down at the Army recruiter's desk to hear him out.
He told me "You can join the Army Security Agency. We will send you to school for six months and you can see the world and not through a porthole." He said "97% of our graduates travel the world." More on the "travel the world" later but he had me sold.
By the time the Navy recruiter came back from lunch I had already signed my papers to join the Army. Thus, another fateful Life Choice I made. I was about to embark on a life changing course that almost resulted in my premature death at age 17.
|Army physical exams - I didn't pass and; YES, we were naked when they examined us. I ended up on the table to the right - this isn't me in the photo but I still ended up "on the table" for "further" examination.....naked|