Pacific Reserve Fleet Hunters Point, California
February 1959 to October 1959
This was sort of a holding tour for the remaining nine months of my enlistment. It was where mothballed ships were kept and the mission of the command was to take care of the ships in mothball storage. Each week one ship would be opened up and we would go aboard and clean the spaces assigned to whichever Division we were in. That would occupy us for maybe half a day. Then, for the remainder of the week we had to be out of sight or appear to be busy. It was awful duty! Doing nothing was horrible! I would get home more worn out than if I had done a full day of hard physical labor.
Our watches consisted of Sounding and Security watches over the ships under our care. We would walk the piers checking the draft marks on each ship to make sure none had sprung a leak and was sinking. There was a real possibility of that happening but it was dull duty to the max.
There was a little repair work available in the form of TV or radio repairs for Officers and Enlisted members of the base crew. In desperation I took up the study of Navigation for something challenging to do to combat the lack of anything to do. I learned a lot about costal navigation and some about open ocean navigation. That knowledge came in handy years later after I was commissioned and aboard the USS Everglades AD-24.
One of the real pleasures Carolyn and I could
engage in was a bus ride to downtown San Francisco and a long visit to Holm's
Used Book Store. We could lose ourselves in those musty shelves for hours
at a time. The downside of those trips was that they involved a trip by the
slaughter house which involved holding our breath for longer than seemed possible.
At some point I bought a used car. A friend took me to the car lot on the far side of San Francisco from Hunter's Point. I made my selection and arranged the payments... then I was ready to drive the car home. Well, I had just returned from Guam and a couple of years driving no faster than 25 MPH and never in heavy traffic. I had never driven on a freeway, never driven at 70 MPH or faster and never, ever driven in such heavy and chaotic traffic! My friend said he would take care of getting the car home for me but I thanked him and told him that "If I didn't drive it home, I would never drive it in those traffic conditions."
The new vehicle was a second hand Ford Ranchwagon. I was proud as can be of that old Ford. We enjoyed sightseeing all around the Bay area and across into Marin County. The Golden Gate Park was one of our favorite places to go and enjoy being out in something close to Nature.
I was off to my next tour of duty back on Treasure Island half way across the Oakland Bay Bridge for one of the most difficult assignments of my career at...
Carolyn was pregnant with our second daughter, Kay, and experienced difficulties with her pregnancy. Her mother came to spend a month with us to help take care of Vickie and the house for what should have been the next to last month of her pregnancy. Then my mother came out to cover the last month.
She wanted to cash a check on her bank in Columbus, Ga. I took her to the bank I used so I could vouch for her. We were waiting in line behind a little old lady who was having difficulties with the teller. The poor teller was trying to explain to her that she couldn't just keep writing checks when she didn't have any more money in her account. The little old lady kept asking, "Then why did you give me all those checks?" I don't recall the outcome but she finally finished with that customer and took care of mom's check.
We took mom all around the Bay area to see all the sights. Once, as I reached the crest of a hill and started down the other side I heard mom, who was in the back seat, draw in her breath in the belief that we were going off a cliff or something. The hills of San Francisco are awesome and I love that area.
Carolyn ended up going several weeks past her due date and Kay finally got up the courage to come out and make her way in the outside world.
I had a real scare one evening as I was enjoying time with Carolyn, Vickie and Kay in our little apartment in what used to be barracks. There was a knock at the door and there were two Shore Patrolmen there to arrest me. They claimed I was due to be on watch according to the watch bill. When we got to the office and I was confronted by the Officer of the Deck I told them that I had initialed the watch list as required and copied my watch schedule at that time. I was not due to be on watch. It turned out that a change had been made to the watch bill and I had not initialed the changed bill. I was not in trouble after all. Whew!!! That was a real scare! That could have put a crimp in the rest of my Navy Career before it even got a good start.
Before my time at Hunter's Point came to an end we moved to a low rent apartment in East Oakland. The move was accomplished with the Station Wagon until the appliances had to be moved as the last trip. For that I checked out a small trailer from Special Services.
There was a young couple living in the apartment building with an infant. I think he was a Seaman and they were having a really tough time financially. He helped me load the appliances and before I left asked if I could help them with a little money for formula for the baby. I kept a quarter for the toll on the Oakland Bay Bridge and gave them all that I had. I drove all the way across the bridge in rush hour traffic to the toll plaza on the Oakland side only to find that because of the trailer I owed fifty cents! At that time traffic was both ways on the upper level of the bridge. They held traffic up and had me turn around and head back to San Francisco.
When I got back to Hunter's Point they had just gotten back from the commissary with the formula and had spent the money I had given them. They searched their apartment and found twenty pennies and one bent nickle to go with my quarter for the toll. I headed back and finally got to the toll plaza. I went through the same gate I had used earlier and dumped the hand full of coins into his hand. He didn't even look to see that it was the right amount, he waved me through.
One of the unique experiences of my tour at
Hunter's Point was processing the USS Uvalde AKA-88 for storage in the Reserve
Fleet. This involved removal of some equipment and treating that equipment
to remain aboard so that it would not be damaged by long storage. My comment
at the time was... "I would hate to be the one to put this ship back
in service!" ... and I meant it. We had to take electric generators apart,
spray the insides with a protective covering and put it back together again.
Such things as bushings are designed to fit closely. When sprayed with a protective
coating they no longer fit. Our solution was to hit the bushing with spurt
of CO2 from a fire extinguisher to shrink it then quickly put it in place
where it would warm and expand. Heaven help the poor soul that had to take
it apart and clean the protective coating off of it!
When doing that with one bushing the burst from the fire extinguisher was too long and the bushing burst causing ball bearings to ricochet all over the compartment. Fortunately nobody was hit and killed or hurt.
Another memorable incident involved removing large transmitters. They were awkward to handle and as we moved one up one level we dropped it and it broke in half! Soon after that unfortunate incident we were removing a Model 19 Teletype printer. The ladders were removed from on location leaving a hole from the top of the ship all the way to the bilges. We would take the wire from the crane down to the level the equipment as located and attach it to the equipment to be hoisted out. It would be swung out into the shaft and lifted up by the crane. As it reached the top level of the ship, 13 levels above the bilges, one of our group grabbed the line secured around the equipment to pull it over the deck. He gripped the knot itself and when he pulled the knot came loose and the TTY printer fell back into the shaft bouncing from one side to the other on the way down. Someone shouted "Heads up!" which caused one of our crew to stick his head into the shaft to see what was happening! He almost lost his head but the printer barely missed him. We went to the bilges to clean up the mess and brought the TTY printer up in cardboard boxes in a million small pieces.
From then on we had a Boatswains Mate assigned to our group to supervise moving the equipment.
While removing transmitters I found an old log from WWII. There was an entry noting the death of President Roosevelt. I should have saved that log but not sensing the historic value of it I threw it in the trash.
Eventually the Uvalde was completed and joined the other ships at Hunter's Point for possible future re-commissioning and use or to remain in permanent storage. That was not the last of my experience with the USS Uvalde AKA-88!
As the end of my enlistment neared I asked if I could re-enlist for Advanced Electronics school. They told me that I was too late requesting the school to have it guaranteed but they would process it just the same if I wished and hope it would be approved. I wished and it was.