NSG Dept, NAVCOMMSTAPHIL, San Miguel, Philippines.
This is where I learned to scrub pots and make coffee. Upon arrival my first assignment was in the galley. When at last the day arrived to go to "Relay" I was put in charge of two huge coffee urns and a "hot box" that I was to keep full of pink, yellow and green paper tape. I also got to do burn alot. Eventually some other low life checked in from First Division and I got to work relay. I found out the pink tape was for relay and yellow was for the service section. If I ever learned what green was for, I forgot...maybe SPO? My supervisors were CTO1 Jack Lyons and CTO1 Don Tayor. Jack and Don taught me alot. Like to stay away from the Ensign. He was a nice guy. Math major. No clue about comms. He got to play with the .45 automatic that was kept at the CWO desk by the door. Jack& Don seemed to run the whole comms operation. The Chief's job was to keep the bullets away from the Ensign and make sure the CTOSN kept the coffee mess up to snuf. One time a couple of Chiefs actually sat down and typed messages. It was a race to see who could poke fastest. It was a big deal, we all sat around and watched the Chiefs work for a short while. That was the old Navy. Sometimes a Chief would help with those cranky KL47s. The Chiefs also made sure you knew where to go on liberty to have a good time. Everyone worked the "receive bank" when they got there. On a normal watch the paper tape was knee deep. We had to throw it over the top of the TTY cabinets to do field day in front. It just piled up in back knee deep. Everyone had nightmares their first week. We all dreamt that we were buried in pink paper tape.
We worked Eve, Day, Mid 56 hours off as I recall. No wonder we all had paper tape nightmares. Somehow we got to go on liberty once in a while. Liberty was by duty section. You picked up your card from the MAA office when authorized and when you came back you had to drop it in a slotted box on the quartdeck by midnight. No card in the box and you were UA. The Liberty card allowed you to approach the gate for abuse by the Marine Guards. We were allowed to wear civies on liberty. That was a big deal in 1969. Guys coming off ships, or even off station at Subic had to be in whites. So the Marines made sure your shoes were shined, shirt tucked in, no jeans, and a proper haircut. If you had a camera or anything else you needed a property pass. Thank God I didn't smoke. I think they even had rules about carrying cigarettes. ANYTHING they didn't like and you stepped off the bus and it went out the gate without you.
If you passed the gauntlet and made it out the gate, "the crossroads" was the nearest stop. This was a short jeepney ride from the gate and literally the crossroad where the road from base hit the main highway, and I use the term "highway" loosely. A string of mom and pop bars were there. Their hours were, whenever there were sailors or marines there to eat or drink. Occassionally they would have "floor shows" which was a couple of Philipino kids with guitars that could play "Yellow Reeeever." Then there would be the "dancer" who would get the boys all riled up.
The bus ride to Subic Bay took liberty to an entirely different level. Olongapo City was just outside the gate across "S... River." Sailors would throw coins into the filthy water and the local kids would dive in to retrive them. Disgusting and cruel. Right after that was Carmen's Money Exchange which no one used. Everyone changed there money on the street corner with a hawker who was shouting the exchange ratio. "6 to 1! " "7 to 1!" (pesos to the dollar). They would compete by changing their rate on the spot. They were bidding for the opportunity to gyp a sailor on the exchange. It was a real circus. You never let go of your dollars before you had a firm grip on the right number of pesos. After the money was exchanged there was a seemingly endless row of bars and bar/restaurants. The day I took these pictures I had to hide my Kodak Instamatic in my shirt so no one would try to steal it. It reminded me of the wild west. Bars, bar girls, too much drinking and sometimes fights. Thank God for the shore patrol. At least there was no shooting that I remember. Don't get me wrong, I tipped my share of San Miguels and took my turn swabing out the liberty bus. After all I was 18 and away from home. Everyone called the Philipines "The P.I." I liked the P.I. so much I volunteered to go to Vietnam to get out of the P.I.
CTOCS Ken Spranza
Photos below are provided by CTR2 Rodger Ludwig.
As a CT (R) Rodger spent the years of 1965-67 at San Miguel in the PI.
The main gate looking all the way down to Relay building. The beach was just beyond.
The plaque that was given to Rodger when he left and a picture of that girl I'm sure we all left behind......