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“Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:30 am
by zzyzzogeton
Back in the summer of 1977, shortly before I was set to graduate from Texas A&M and be commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy, I had a small "problem" :( .

I had to take the last 2 courses for my major during the summer after most everyone else had graduated and been commissioned in May 1977 because right before my Junior year ended, the Navy changed the mandatory “ROTC required classes” to add a History and a Government/Political Science – 1 was offered at only 1 time in the fall and the other only 1 time in the spring. And they happened to fall right on top of 2 Major required classes offered in a similar manner. ::teary_eyes::

My choices were
a) Take one or the other set of classes my Senior year and then take 1 class each in the following Fall and Spring semesters
b) take the ROTC mandatory classes my Senor year and Major classes over the summer in Galveston, graduating only 3 months late

Now I ask you – as a young man on the verge of charging forth into the world of adulthood, would you pick to

A) waste a year in school ::td::
B) spend a summer fishing nearly every day, playing in the surf, chasing girls, drinking beer, and ultimately getting to watch Star Wars (episode 4) THREE times on the first day it was shown since you and your friends were the only 5 people in the theater that day? :mrgreen: ::ds:: :mrgreen:

I chose “B”. I spent the summer of 1977 taking 4 classes, instead of the minimum 2. Why 4?? First, because I could, :mrgreen: and second, the extra 2 classes were field classes where I could go fishing every day. ::ds:: I also had a couple of paid gigs for a couple of professors. ::tu::

That summer there were only 7 students living in THE dormitory on Pelican Island, TAMU-Galveston. Yes, back them the university has exactly 1 dorm with about 20 2-person dorm rooms. We only had two guys and 5 women. We all had individual dorm rooms. The dining facility was 20 yards from the dorm. Three meals a day, except Sundays, when we were on our own for supper. We just had to let the cooks know the day before if we weren’t going to eat the next day. The cooks in the kitchen for the dining hall had it easy with us. Most of the time we told them to not worry about supper for Fridays and Saturdays – that we could just scrounge. So they’d leave us all kinds of sandwich fixings in the Dorm Common Room refrigerator. And get the night off to go home early.

“What Went On – Part 1”.

With 1 of my field classes, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, I supervised a group of students dragging nets through the open surf, between 2 jetties and in the back bay (Galveston Bay). We would start the open beach site at 0730, try to be at the jetties site by 0930 and the back bay by 1130. Then off to class at 1400.

The first net was 450 feet long. We’d walk the net out 150 feet, deploy out in a 150 line parallel to the shore and then walk the end sections to shore.

Then we’d all pull like heck catching every fish that could be caught by 1 inch mesh netting. When we got to the shore, we would sort every fish by species, and weigh and measure every fish, rapidly throwing as many as possible back into the water.

Then we would do a follow up drag using a 50 foot ¼” mesh seine to gather smaller fish. Any fish larger than an inch or so in girth was ignore and thrown back without measurements as they would have been caught in the larger mesh net and counted that way.

For study purposes, we would extrapolate out area strained to try to maintain similarity of areas samples. A 450 foot ¼” mesh seine would have need King Kong and Godzilla both helping us pull.

The purpose of the study was to track fish species and size over time. It was interesting to be catching small baby mullet in the bay and watch how fast they grew and to track when they left the bay and started showing up in the open surf/jetty areas.

The “worst” days during that summer was when the mullet “re-invaded” the shoreline surf when they hit 10”-12” and about 1# each. There was a 2 week period where we would pull in the big net and upwards of 1000 mullet. We would “recruit” anyone that could walk and breath at the same time on the beach to help pull in the net. Those days, we “sampled” the mullet – We counted them into 5 gallon buckets, weighed the buckets and dumped fish back into the surf as quickly as possible. We would individually weigh and measure 50 fish to use as an estimate. Lots of fishermen got free bait those days.

I only ran the study for 3-1/2 months, but Dr. Landry kept the study going for another year to get a 15 month picture of fish development rates and species presence/density levels. The study mimicked one done about during the 1950s along Corpus Christi beach/bay habitats.

One of the cool things about the work was if we caught any legal sized Southern Flounder, Atlantic Croaker, Pinfish or Black Drum, we could keep and eat them.

Finally, we get to the knife content of this tale – I would gut the fish on the beach with a plastic handled “fish knife” I bought for $1 at 2nd hand store in back street Galveston and thrown them in an ice chest filled with “free” ice from the kitchen. When I got the fish back to the dorm/kitchen after class, I’d use a couple of the cook’s butcher knives to clean the fish and then put them on ice in the kitchen refrigerators. The cooks would do something with them for supper or lunch the next day.

We had fresh fish for lunch at least 2x/week and sometimes 3x for supper. Fried, grilled, poached, baked, steamed, boiled, broiled - if there is a way to cook a fish, we had it. The kitchen management folks were confused at first because the kitchen wasn’t going through their budget as fast as was expected. Once they figured out what was going on, they got really happy as I was able to save the university kitchen budget $2k - $3K that summer. In 1977 dollars. They used the “unused funds” to buy some needed stuff for kitchen upgrades.

More tales to follow.

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 3:14 pm
by 313 Mike
Cool story, and impressive that you are able to retain all of this memories from 40 years back. Priceless to you and your family I am sure. Might want to think about putting them down on paper for future generations.

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:27 pm
by zzyzzogeton
Thanks, Mike.

Whenever I dredge one of these tales from the La Brea Tar Pit of my mind, I save them as Word Documents, where they reside on my computer, later to be archived with backups (finally remembering NOT to say "tape backups" :wink: , and they also get printed out and put in an old fashioned folder in a real file cabinet.

Yes - I am an OLD SCHOOL computer nerd who used punch cards and learned NOT to trust computer storage long before punch cards became museum history.

For some reason, it is not difficult to remember stuff from any time in the past. Where I run into problem is shopping lists and linking names to faces. When I go shopping, if it isn't on the list I probably won't get it. It only took my sisters and mother a couple of years to understand that when I go shopping it is with a mission - get in, get my stuff and get out. If you don't think that an item is important enough to write it on the list, then it isn't important enough to buy.

I ran into a guy in DFW once while waiting to fly to South Korea for a month long exercise back in August 1993. As we (other reservists traveling to SK) were standing around yacking, this full bird AF type walked up to see what all the Navy folks were doing and I said

"Hey, I know you. Can't remember your name, but weren't you the AF Major who was in a 3 week class on "super-secret burn before reading electronic equipment" at Point Loma back in February 1985?"

He looked at me like I had rocks in my head, then thought a moment and replied

"Oh, Yeah. Hell, I had forgotten about even taking that class, much less when it was."

Sure broke the ice with him, impressed the heck out of my fellow officers, but scared the bejeezus out of the Navy O6s traveling with us.

"Wait a minute. You remember stuff like that?"

"Oh, yeah. I can even remember every bar we went to last year in Seoul." and started naming them off with directions how to get to them.

"I remember conversations almost verbatim as well. I just can't remember people's names very well."

I think that was the beginning of the end of my hanging out with the O6s in the Reserve units. :mrgreen:

My brain is chock full of trivial stuff no one else would care enough to waste cranial storage space remembering.

- all my license plates since 1972,
- the order of port visits for all 5 overseas deployments and my 19 month tour as Ship's Navigator for the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), Seventh Fleet's flagship
-the location of every street in a 120 square mile fire district.

I'm a sad, sick puppy. ::mdm:: :mrgreen:

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 3:33 am
by zzyzzogeton
I mentioned in the first post that I had a couple of paying gigs that summer.

One of them was a little strange. :shock: Knowing what I know now, I should have never taken the job.

My major was Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Fisheries Ecology. I was on very good terms with all the professors in the Department. When they found out I was going to be in Galveston all summer, a couple of them were ecstatic.

One of them was conducting a study of parasites found in sharks. One of the problems he was encountering was that in order to study shark parasites is that you have to catch sharks to get them. My job that summer was to catch him some sharks and deliver them to College Station.

According to the professor, sharks like to swim along the gulley between the sand bars.

Every Friday evening swim out to the second sand bar, with a pipe strung through one end of a 100 foot gill net. When I got out there with it, I’d drive a pipe into it with a sledge hammer, release the net and let wave action deploy the net towards the shore. I’d then anchor the shoreward end with another pipe and go about my playtime for the evening. Yes, I was "swimming" in 5 to 8 feet of surf dragging a net and carrying a 10 foot 3/4" galvanized pipe and an 8# sledge hammer. ::facepalm::

Then on Saturday morning, I would swim out to the outer bar, pull up the pipe and let the wave action drive the net to shore. As the net moved in, I’d swim in and pull the first bar pipe and drag the net to shore. ::facepalm::

Here comes the knife content for this post. The knife I would use was an Old Hickory boning knife (6” blade) that I bought at the same 2nd hand store in Galveston.

If there were any sharks in the net, I would slit their right sides from gills to the posterior end of the body cavity and throw the sharks into vats of formaldehyde, then drive the vats to College Station in the university truck I was assigned for the project and drop them off at the Nagel Hall loading dock.

For every shark I caught and delivered, I got paid $25. In an era of a $2 minimum wage, the pay was very good. ::ds:: ::ds::

Some Saturdays was a wash out with no sharks in the net. Best morning, I had nine 4 to 5 foot bull sharks. Most mornings, there was 2 or 3 sharks in the net. There would also occasionally be some edible fishes in the net. Those would get cleaned and put in the kitchen freezer back on Pelican Island.

One morning, in addition to 2 sharks, there were 53 Sea Catfish ranging from 8 to 10 pounds. I ended up putting about 50 pounds of fish in the refrigerator and then delivered another 300+ pounds to a couple of nursing homes on the way up to College Station.

In hindsight, what I was doing was pretty stupid. Swimming out amongst a bunch of dead fish in a gill net while uncaught sharks were possibly swimming around was not very wise. A couple of time, just the head and part of the body of large fish caught in the net were there and the last 2/3 had been bitten off.

But, I was young, dumb, broke and willing to help the professor. :mrgreen:

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 1:02 am
Too bad Naval Intelligence never heard about your ability to retain and recall events, details and conversations. No telling what they'd have had you doing and where.

I'm thinking about the baseball player with total recall that went to Japan in the late 30's. Mo something or other.

Charlie Noyes

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 1:37 am
by zzyzzogeton
I was being recruited by one of the alphabets after I got my Computer Science degree after I got off active duty, but then in the middle of the interiew process, my house flooded and I had nearly 11 feet of water in my house, it was still pouring down raining and I was moving every thing I could into the attic before the water reached the upstairs.

When they called while I was in the midst of packing stuff to the rafters in the attic, I was not exactly polite in my answering their questions and I finally told them "I gotta go, the water's getting higher." They never called me back. ::shrug::

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 3:22 am
by zzyzzogeton
Another one of my classes that summer actually turned into an additional paid job for the summer.

I was working a lab-based class identifying the various specimens in jar from collection sites scattered all over Galveston Bay on the back side of the island. These shallow, protected waters act as a massive nursery for juvenile aquatic animals.

The professor I was working under for a grade was tracking fish growth over time in the bay. He was using a small (15 ft) flat bottom john boat, a 10 hp Evinrude and a drag net with ¾” mesh. The collection process was to drag an 8 foot wide benthic (bottom) net, similar to a shrimp net – a net with wings, drag chain, a float line and a collection bag, along a set distance at a specific speed. The ¾” mesh ensured that 99% of the fish caught were large enough to identify by species.

Every Saturday, the professor was dragging the net at 20 different locations in the bay. He would line up the net with a pair of buoys he had set out at the various locations, then set the throttle to a speed where he had paint lines on the throttle and motor steering handle to get the same speed over water, and go for 2 minutes. Then he’d pull up the net, pick out the fish and dump them into a location marked 5 gallon bucket or formaldehyde, throw back the other critters and head off to the next spot. When he was done, he drop off the buckets at my lab and starting Sunday, I’d do my identification thing.

Well, about 3 weeks into the summer, the professor slipped on a wet boat ramp ad broke his leg. To keep his project going, he asked me to start doing his drag runs. He offered to pay me $50 bucks a day. He allowed me to do the work on Sundays since I was delivering sharks to College Station on Saturdays.

Every Sunday morning, I’d take one of the University pickups with the boat/trailer to the back bay, launch it, do the net dragging / fish catching. Iwould have to come back a couple of times to trade filled buckets for empty ones.

After getting everything back to the lab area, I’d clean and freeze any shrimp I had caught, then go out for lunch. After lunch, I’d start digging through buckets of dead fish, separating them by genus and species. The next step was to weight and measure each fish, recording the information on log sheets. After that, I’d punch the log sheet information into IBM punch cards – 1 card for each fish.

About the middle of July, the shrimp got numerous enough and large enough to eat. For 3 weeks, I was collecting 15 gallons of shrimp per week. I would clean them up and freeze them into half gallon blocks of ice. We ate a lot of them in the cafeteria and I took a few blocks over to one of the local nursing homes.

Got another “A” for that class.

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:44 am
by zzyzzogeton
Time for another episode...

After I was commissioned and finally made it to my first ship (different story), the USS DENVER (LPD-9), part of the Gator Navy, we deployed 4 days after I reported aboard, headed for the western Pacific. After nearly 6 weeks of transiting and exercises (another story as well), we made it to Subic Bay, RP. After a few days in port, we got underway for a joint exercise with the Philippine Navy/Marine Corps and sure enough I got assigned as Boat Officer for the Medical Safety boat.

We manned the boats before dawn. I decided to wear my Kabar 1219C2 for my first Boat Officer gig. After all, Navy Regs said a boat crew member should carry either a USN MK1 or a USN MK2, and a 1219C2 was just the Marine version of the MK2. What better knife to use than one that was heavily used in the retaking of the Philippines from the Japanese?? In the dark, no one saw it on my hip, and with all the commotion on deck, no one noticed it when I returned for our lunch/head break.

When we finished for the day, we were hoisted aboard. As I left the boat as it swung from the davits, the XO happened to be standing there where I removed the kapok life vest were wore while in the boats. He saw my Kabar and said

“Z – what the hell is that thing?”

“What thing, sir?”

“That sword on your hip.”

“Sword, Sir?? It’s not a sword, it’s a USMC 1219C2, the same thing as a USN MK2. You know, what every boat crew member is supposed to carry. Well, this or a USN MK1.”

“What do you mean, every boat crew member is to carry one? No one has one.”

“Well, I read it in the regs about the duties of a boat officer, so I bought 1 of each.”

Well, the “conversation” moved to his stateroom where he pointed at a complete set on Navy Regs in a book case and said “Show me.”

After about 10 minutes of looking at indexes I found the requirement.

He stared at it for a bit and then called the Supply Officer to his stateroom and asked him how many MK1s and MK2s we had on board. The SUPO shrugged and called his SKC over the XOs bitchbox (intercom system) who said

“Oh, none. Every ship turned them in a few years ago as surplus. Everyone buys their own folding knives now if they need a knife.”

It appeared that while the Supply system removed the MK1 and MK2 from stores, someone forgot to change the Regulations, ::doh:: at least in that one section that I had found because I was bored enough and conscientious enough to read ALL the Navy Regs. :wink:

The XO then said
“Well, I don’t see why anyone would need a knife that big anyway.”

Being a young and dumb Ensign who didn’t know any better, I contradicted him (an O5) and said

“Fixed blades are better than pocket knives in an emergency.”

“Oh How?”

“s...! SUPO’s leg is caught in a bite and he’s getting pulled under.”

(For landlubbers, Line is the Navy term for “rope” and a bite is a loop in a line. It’s is NOT a good idea to have your foot in a loop if the line starts running out. It’ll drag you right through where ever the line runs, including through a bitt. Rope is the Navy term for steel cables on winches.)

And commenced to pull my Buck 110 out of my pocket, struggled a bit getting my hand out of my pocket, open the knife (2 handed of course) and “reached” to start cutting the imaginary line.

“Oooppsss! SUPO’s already gone over the side. Too bad. Well, there’s more supply officers out there.” Nasty look from the SUPO. :roll:

I closed the 110, stuck it in my pocket and said

“Second demo – back up a little, sirs.

s...! SUPO’s leg’s in a bite.”

And pulled the Kabar out and slashed down as if I were chopping at the non-existent line and slid the knife into my sheath.

“That’s why a fixed blade is better. It’s faster to get out in an emergency, capable of cutting a 1” line faster than trying to use a 3” folding knife and quicker to put up.”

The XO said I could leave.

“Does that mean I’m not to wear the Kabar for boat ops?” ::pray::

With a grin he said

“No. Go ahead and wear it. Obviously, you know what you’re doing with it and besides, you’re not in violation of Navy Regs.” ::ds:: ::groove::

I was the only person on board with a fixed blade, well, except for the cooks, and the only one wearing one on boat ops, obviously. When I left the DENVER a couple of years later, I was transferred to a carrier, where I was assigned to the Engineering dept, and Engineering officers never serve as boat officers, and after the carrier, I was always a Department Head, and only Division Officers are boat officers. :(

Eventually a change came out removing the MK1/MK2 reference in boat crew equipment.

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:17 am
by Paladin
zzyzzogeton wrote:Time for another episode...............
Another fun chapter in the saga! ::tu::


Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 2:20 am
by zzyzzogeton
The previous tale about what happened about 6 weeks after I arrived at my first active duty command. The following tale is about my trip to San Diego to report aboard.

This happened in September 1977 - I first wrote this in response to a question about "fastest trips". Me in my 1970 Ford Torino GT while being escorted across the state by a Texas DPS Trooper from near Van Horn to the NM state line, then by a of New Mexico State Trooper across to Arizona, and then by an Arizona Trooper from Tucson to Gila Bend AZ.

When graduation and commissioning rolled around in August of 1977, the other 27 summer commissionees had orders, but I didn't. No one could explain why. The PTB said "Go home, Ensign Z. Call us every morning to see if we have your orders." So I did.

3 weeks later, about 14:30, as I was driving down the road in Austin in my father's pick-up with a water heater and 4 bundles of shingles in the back, all of a sudden I was being chased by flashing red and blue lights. Now I knew I was NOT speeding and couldn't figure out why I was being pulled over. The cop walked up and asked "Are you Ensign Z#%&$$&, uh, Ensign *&%%$), Ensign @#%^$&?" "UH, do mean "Zieschang? UH, yes."

"You need to call this number." I recognized the number immediately. It was the same one I'd called every work day for 3 weeks. When my orders came finally came in, the ROTC office called my home number, found out from my mother where I was and what I was driving and then called the Austin PD to track me down.

I pulled into a McDonald's, broke a $5 for some change and called A&M on a pay phone and started dumping quarters into the phone. They told me my orders were in and come get them. I said "I'll be there in about 3 or 4 hours."

"WHAT!!!!!" (The O3 was not happy.) "Where are you?" "At home, west of Austin. Where y'all told me to go. I gotta go home, drop off this 12 year old pickup and get my car and then drive the 136 miles to College Station."

"Oh. Someone will be here."

About 1815 I pulled into the Trigon (the three sided building that houses A&M ROTC offices on campus), and went in to get my orders. I asked where they found my orders. Turns out someone in the Navy personnel command managed to drop my nearly empty service record jacket on a stack of "Dead People Service Records". Took nearly a month to find them.

So the Navy ROTC office at the Trigon finally got my orders to me on a Tuesday evening and I was supposed to report to my ship (USS Denver (LPD-9)) NLT 0800 Friday morning. So off I drove into the sunset, heading home to pack up. Got home, threw my sea bags and scuba gear into the Torino and headed west again.

I was driving 85 mph (Limit 55) when a DPS Trooper pulled me over just east of Van Horn. "You do know that the limit is 55, don't you?"

I explained why I was driving so fast. Turned out he was a Marine who had been on the Denver during Viet Nam. "Damn squids. Can't get anything right. Just a minute." and went back to his car.

When he came back with my license, he just asked "You got enough gas to get to El Paso or do we need to stop in Van Horn?"

When I said I had enough to get to El Paso, he said, "Let's go." About an hour and a half later, we pulled into a gas station on the east side of El Paso.

While en route to El Paso, he managed to get dispatch to contact NM State Police dispatch and get an NM Trooper staged, because after filling up, we went on to the state line. We stopped and he said, "Just mosey on up to the first road side park and wait."

A NM Trooper pulled in and asked "You that Ensign? Let's go." He escorted me to the NM/AZ line at about 90 mph. He apologized that his dispatch had been unable to line up an AZ escort and said keep it under 70.

I filled up in Tucson and shortly after I left the truck stop there. I was stopped by an AZ Trooper. (I was doing about 70.) After he confirmed that I was the brand spanking new Ensign escorted across NM by Trooper "X", he said "Follow me." and we took off.

That Trooper got me to Gila Bend, where he apologized that there wasn't a trooper on duty between Gila Bend and Yuma to escort me, so I could just slow down for the towns and that there was no one to escort me through California.

Apparently, there was some kind of former USMC/State Trooper network. The fact that I was going to a Gator probably helped.

I only drove about 80 mph for the rest of the way across Arizona.

It had taken me nearly 9 hours to go from College Station to Van Horn (averaging about 70) and only 7.5 hours from Van Horn to Yuma. (About 90 MPH average.)

With about 3 hours at 55 mph across California, I arrived in San Diego less than 20 hours after I left College Station. I ended up being able to get a motel room get a good night's sleep and a shower and still check in before the dead line.

A little side note - most seasoned military people are familiar with the tradition that a freshly minted O1 is supposed to present a silver dollar to the first enlisted man to render him a salute. As it turned out for me, since it was a summer commissioning, there were very few enlisted personnel running around in College Station. My first salute was by the USMC E2 gate guard at 32nd St Naval Station in San Diego.

When I pulled up to the gate in my Trop White Long (the ice cream suit - white shirt, pants combo cover and shoes), the young man saluted and asked for my ID. I gave him my ID card along with a silver dollar.

He asked "What's this?"

I said "That's for you." "Just a minute." and went into the guard shack. An E4 popped out and asked "Why are you trying to bribe Private "X"?" He had never heard of the tradition. I explained it to him. He said "OH, can we help you with anything else?"

"How do I get to the pier where the DENVER is tied up?" He gave me directions, I thanked him and he saluted me. I held out a silver dollar and said "Thank you." I had had 10 with me just in case I got saluted by a gaggle at one time. He saluted again and I took off for my next adventure.

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 2:44 am
by jerryd6818
Great story. You should have started it with "This is no shirt." :lol: :lol:

Re: “Tales From The Summer of ‘77”.

Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 2:50 am
by Paladin
Another good story, Z! ::tu:: 8)