About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Monday, October 31, 2016

Chapter 35

University of Washington

1943 – 1945

It is not necessary for me to put the reader to sleep with boring academic details of my nearly two years at the UW.  I will but summarize only the development that I remember as significant to my young life.

During those long months, I was constantly nagged by the regret that the war was passing me by.  The tide had turned and the Allies were winning in both the Pacific and the Allies were winning in both the Pacific and the European Theater of Operations.  Previously unknown went dow2n in history as battle after battle was won—Guadalcanal, Makin, Betio, Tarawa, Guam, Siapan, “the Mariannas Tukey Shoot”, then Okinawa and the kamikazes as the expanding U.S. invasion feets and the aircraft carriers closed in on the Inland Sea of Japan.

It was the same in Europe as the Axis forces were steadily beaten back after Rommel was swept from North Africa.  I followed reports of the invasion of Sicily, the invasion of Italy, Anzio, and Monte Cassino as the Allies doomed Mussolini and moved north toward the “soft underbelly of Hitler’s “Fortress Europa”.  Then came June 1944 and D-Day for the invasion of Europe in Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge”, and the crossing of the Rhine into Germany at a town called Remagen.

In Seattle Late in 1943, I saw one of the mighty new Boeing B-29s fly overhead during the flight test program out fo Boeing Field.  More and more I felt that I belonged out there behind a thudding 5—caliber machine gun instead of enjoying the luxury of a free college education and safe, comfortable quarters.  It would be my desire to get back out there before the end that would eventually result in my leaving the UW at the end of my junior year for midshipman’s school and a commission.

When I reported in at the UW V-12 unit, I found that the quarters assigned me were a fraternity house leased by the Navy.  Mine was the Beta House on a corner of “Greek Row”.  Not only would I be living in the comparative luxury of a fraternity house, I was assigned to the little first-floor suite that was normally the fraternity president’s quarters.  With three other men, I shared a spacious bedroom (now with four bunks), a lving room in which we each had a desk, and a bathroom just for the four of us.  It, like the Notre Dame dormitory, was a world away from Ile Nou!

My roommates at the Beta house were Bob Brosy from Portland, Cliff Cason fro Montana, and another Montanan naed Cramer (I do not recall Cramer’s first name).  Bob Brosy and I were to become fast friends because we both had ties to the south, me with my engagement to Shirley in Vancouver and Bob with a fiancée in Portland.  Her name was Jean.

Our supervision at the Beta house was a chief petty officer (athletic specialist) who, with his wife, occupied the housemother’s quarter at the rear of the large grey stone building.  The Beta house was a four-story structure with a stone terrace at one side.  (It was later expanded and re-modeled so the terrace is no longer there.)

Inside the main entrance to Beta house, our dandy quarters were to the right and to the left was a large dining room used also as a frat lounge and equipped with a piano.  A broad stairway led upward from the large entry hall to the sleeping quarters and communal bathrooms on each of the three upper floors.  We did not use the dining room except as a lounge.  All our V-12 meals were taken at the Commons down off the main university quadrangle.

Outside the Beta house, 45th Street which led to one of the campus main entries was a wide boulevard with a grass median.  It became very familiar to us because not only was it our daily route to and from classes, the grassy median was where we fell out before breakfast every day for morning calisthenics.  Other than the calisthenics and sometimes dress parades in the quadrangle on Saturday or infrequent admiral’s reviews in Husky stadium and the fact that we wore our apprentice seaman’s uniforms, we lived no differently than the rest of the college students.  All our bills, including books and such items as slide rules for engineering students, were paid for by the Navy.  It was truly a free college education.  Our only responsibility, other than observing taps at ten and attendance at morning house muster, was to keep our grade point averages above 2.5 else we would be mustered out and sent back to sea.

Elaine Eberle was no longer at the UW.  I do not think our relationship would have been much different had I not gotten engaged to Shirley; however, during the time I was at NATTC and Notre Dame, Elaine had married a newly commissioned Naval officer and was now Mrs. Jim Thompkins.  (Elaine’s mother told me in confidence many years later that when Elaine came home from the UW and heard the news of my engagement to Shirley, Elaine paced the floor and let go a tirade.  I do not know if she was angry because I had gotten engaged or if it was because I did not tell her personally.  Fifty years later it does not matter.  Elaine found a good mate and, in the end, I found the perfect mate for me.)

Patty Cross was in one of the sororities at the UW, but I did not see much of her.  She was going with, and eventually became engaged to and later married, one of my VHS classmates, Colin Dykeman.  Colin was in pre-dental and after the war became a dentist in Vancouver.  It was not surprising to me as once, long before, Patty had told me that she intended to marry a dentist because they made lots of money and had nice houses.  Later, after Cason and Kramer were sent to sea on destroyers for going AWOL (a story that I shall relate later). Dykeman became one of my roommates at Beta House.

It quickly became obvious that my infatuation with Shirley was not going to do my grades any good.  On weekends (except for dress parades and inspections) we had liberty from Saturday morning muster until taps on Sunday.  Instead of studying, I moved heaven and earth to get to Vancouver.  I tried hitch-hiking (good in those days, but not a speedy or reliable way to travel) but most times I rode the train out of the King Street Station.  Evening when I should have been hitting the books, too often I was writing letters to my fiancée.

We were required to carry full loads of seventeen academic hours, three semesters a year (no extended summer vacation) to obtain a bachelor’s degree in two and a half yetars instead of four.  From nearly a 4.0 my grades in tough courses such as Advanced Geometry, Calculus, Chemistry, Thermodynamics, Aerodynamics, etc. I quickly dropped below a 3.0.

The problem, especially after sex became a factor in our relationship, was that I had become what was known in the Navy by a crude term that translates “woman-whipped”.  One entry in my little diary states that during the previous semester I had gone to Vancouver fourteen out of sixteen weekends.  The reason I did not go the other two was that Shirley came to Seattle for a house dance once and I had the duty the other.  It was not something of which to be proud, just a fact.  It was very fortunate for me that at least half of my courses such as Machine Shop and Foundry, Engineering Drawing and Design, and the like came easily to me and through them I kept my grade point average above the dismissal line.  I am ashamed to say that on one occasion I came near to flunking Quantitative Chemistry and one flunk meant back to the fleet.  It was the only “D” grade I ever received in my life and should never have happened.  I nearly sweated blood until the examination scores were posted.  I got a D minus.

My roommate, Bob Brosy, was in the same boat in his relationship with Jean in Portland.  We often contrived together to get to Vancouver and Portland on weekends.  Sometimes we could pool our few gasoline ration stamps with someone having a car and drive down.  If we had the money, we rode the train.

On our apprentice seaman’s pay, money was the problem.  I had quickly exhausted my small savings account.  We needed some extra money and, together we came up with an idea that caused further inroads into our study time.  We decided to go into the bootlegging business.