Category Archives: Notes from the Southwest Corner

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Liberty is freedom, especially for an old sailor

 

For the past two days, i have been considering writing my Democrat column for next Tuesday about Pattaya Beach, Thailand. It was a great liberty port with an interesting way to get to shore. I was even going to submit the column two to four days earlier, hopefully pleasing Editor Jared Felkins.

This evening, as i prepared to write and while copying a photo to run with the column, something was nagging me. So i did a search of back columns and found the one below i wrote in 2009. My old memory has some holes but occasionally nagging thoughts serve me well.

Since i can’t use this for The Democrat, i decided you might enjoy reading about our exploits in 1981. It is the cleaned up version.

SAN DIEGO – In the Southwest corner, there is some historic land bordering San Diego Bay.

“Historic” is in the eye of the beholder. Many consider this land historic because it was in several scenes in “Top Gun,” the Tom Cruise blockbuster.

An aside: my cousin Angelyn Jewell, was the inspiration for Kelly McGillis’ character. Angelyn, born to Wesley and Barbara Compton Jewell after they moved from Lebanon to Oroville, CA, received her doctorate in mathematics and flew in F-14s in her work on fire control radars for the Center for Naval Analyses. She and her husband, Scott Berg, now live and work in Washington, D.C.

But from 1923 to 1997, the 361 acres at the base of Point Loma was the Navy Training Center. The Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) decreed its 1997 demise. Now it is called Liberty Station, a hodge podge of housing development, commercial areas, parks, and some Navy historic edifices.

The name could have been derived from “liberty” as in Patrick Henry’s quote, “Give me liberty or give me death!” in his speech to Virginia’s House of Burgesses in 1775.

But I don’t think so. To mariners, Navy “liberty” is getting off the ship in a port without taking leave. My most glorious adventures and craziest moments occurred during such liberty on deployments.

Reduced deployment time and the new Navy with ship crew swaps and heavy operating tempo in the Indian Ocean have greatly decreased port visits. With women now an integral part of Navy ship crews, the wild times of earlier liberty has been greatly tempered.

It ain’t what it used to be and that ain’t necessarily bad.

In my days, sailors would go to extremes to go on liberty and be extreme while there.

In 1981, I had one of my best years on liberty. I spent ten out of 12 months in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean on the staff of Amphibious Squadron Five and later joining the U.S.S. Okinawa as Weapons Officer.

During that summer, the USS Belleau Wood, the squadron’s flag ship went to Pattaya Beach, Thailand. Originally, Pattaya Beach was a small fishing village at the southeastern side of the Bay of Bangkok.

In the 1960s in part due to the U.S. Air Force and the Vietnam conflict, it became a popular location for rest and relaxation (R&R) for U.S. military personnel. It is now a resort destination for that part of the world.

For a large Navy ship, there were some problems going to Pattaya Beach. Due to the shallow gradient, the USS Belleau Wood anchored five miles from the beach. Large pontoon boats loaded about fifty of the liberty party onto each boat and carried them to about a mile from shore.

The pontoon boats would lie to while “longtails” would come alongside for the passengers. The “longtails” were narrow, wooden canoe-like boats which could carry about 15 people. The boats got their name from the shaft of the outboard motor. The shafts were roughly twenty feet long, sticking out astern. This allowed the propellers to be in deep enough water to drive the boats as close to shore as possible before going aground.

With the shallow gradient, even this was not enough to get the “longtails” ashore at low tide, which of course was the condition when I went ashore. Passengers took off their shoes and socks, rolled up their pants to above their knees, stepped over the side and waded about 100 yards to the shore.

I felt like McArthur returning to the Philippines except for the numerous para-sailing tourists zooming over my head.

In 1981, Pattaya Beach surpassed even Subic Bay on Luzon in the Philippines for wild and wooly liberty. Yet it also had high end resort hotels and fine restaurants. Even though I was single, stories of the dangers kept me out of the bars and “off-limit” areas. I had some fine meals with fellow officers, enjoyed the scenery, and shopped for exquisite jewels at ridiculously low prices. I bought my mother a gift.

For a change, I was a good boy and did not cut a wide swath through Pattaya Beach liberty. However, many friends did, and the stories were astounding but too risqué to relate here.

But when I think of liberty, I think of Pattaya Beach, not a development in downtown San Diego.

 

A long tail boat. This one is in Bangkok, and much nicer than our liberty boats in Pattaya Beach in 1981.
A longtail boat. This one is in Bangkok, and much nicer than our liberty boats in Pattaya Beach in 1981.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Potpourri and the weather

As i noted on FaceBook, i am still working on getting this new website working the way i want it to work. This column was written last Tuesday, October 13, when it should have had a link to the Democrat’s publishing it, not today, as was done a bit earlier.

Oh, this is so confusing. i do plan to get better at it, but sometimes golf gets in the way.

SAN DIEGO  – I spent last week wondering what to write here.
No idea seemed suited for a complete column. When I became The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times sports editor in 1972, I announced there would not be a daily column, as my predecessor, Jack Case (who gave Raymond Robinson his nickname of “Sugar Ray”) had written for more than 40 years).  I believed there would be times (there were) when I would just be making up stuff.

Writing here for eight years has changed my opinion. There is always something to write about. Yet sometimes, there is nothing requiring a full column. If I were in Lebanon, I could certainly pursue a couple of topics included here, but alas, I’m not. So I must channel Fred Russell again and devote this column to potpourri, specifically weather-related potpourri.

Southwest Corner

We really do spend a lot of time talking about the weather.

I have spent the last quarter of a century boasting about Southwest corner weather, and now, I’m going to have to rein in such bragging.

It’s been almost two months of Tennessee August out here. High temperatures have hovered around 90 degrees, and the humidity has been higher than I can remember. Maureen and I are aware of this because we never put air-conditioning in our home of 25 years. Didn’t need it. Oh, there were a couple of days every year or so when a Santa Ana would come rolling through and it was a little bit warm. But the weather patterns have changed, and these past few months are different from the norm.

Surprisingly, we coped, confirming I prefer fresh air if at all possible.

Heights Homecomings

Meanwhile, it appears this weekend’s Castle Heights homecoming weather was like what I remember from mine as a cadet. I wish I could have been there this year. Autumn is only a charade in the Southwest corner. CHMA Homecoming autumn remains a pleasant memory.

The bordering trees on the drive up the hill were splendiferous in rust, red, and yellow. The football field was decked out fully. Cadet dates were splendid in their fall suits with the mums pinned on their jackets. The maroon and gold uniforms matched the autumn colors perfectly. I could smell autumn.

It was a special time in a special place. Sometimes I think my faulty memory has erred. It just couldn’t have been that wonderful.

homecoming 1
Homecoming, Castle Heights Military Academy, 1961: Alan McClellan, Sandy Colley, Sharry Baird, Mary Hugh Evans, and an unidentified cadet and his date. Sandy, from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, was my date for the weekend.

Inchon

During this weekend’s evenings, I watched the PGA President’s Cup golf tournament in Inchon, South Korea. The Americans won a nail biter, 15½ to 14½, great drama. Bill Haas needed to tie the hole for a USA win. If Bae Sang-moon won the hole, the Cup would be shared. Bae, a South Korean, was playing in his last PGA event for two years. The 29-year old will begin his required military service next month. The drama turned to sadness when he chunked his third shot, a chip, assuring the U.S. victory. I wanted the American team to win. I did not want the Internationals to lose…if that makes sense.

Equally impressive was the new Inchon in the backdrop. The last time I was in Inchon was 1975. It was a different place. The city was dirty and, in some places, squalid. I recall lots of small, dark and musty casinos. But of course, sailors migrated toward such environments on overseas liberty. The positive change to an amazingly modern and beautiful city was shocking.

Over the four-day, 30-match tournament when the cameras panned out to the Yellow Sea with commercial ships at anchorage, recollection of South Korea weather came flooding back. The tournament experienced 30-knot wind several days. Rain pelted everyone for almost the entire proceedings on day two. The announcers noted the apparent temperature was hovering around 40 degrees.

I’ve been there. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a colder, windier, wetter place than when entering Korean waters beyond the summer months, even October.

Not much to do about it

The unusual heat in the Southwest corner is dissipating. In a week, we should be back to our normal winter averages of mid-70 highs and mid-50 lows. But El Niño is predicted to bring lots of much needed rain soon. There’s not a great deal we can do about the weather.

But it would be nice to be at an October homecoming at Castle Heights.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Barber Shops – The Beginning of a Hairy Tale

i wrote this column in December 2007. i no longer go to a barber shop. There’s no real need. i bought an electric razor, put on a number 2 blade, zip, zap, and Maureen cleans the results as best she can. It’s easier, cheaper, and nothing is really going to make me look better anymore. Still, i miss the camaraderie that exists in a barber shop.

SAN DIEGO, CA – When I started writing for The Democrat, I planned to write from ideas saved over the years with a focus on connecting and comparing my Southwest corner to Middle Tennessee.

Then events seem to keep popping up, demanding I write about them. This week, nothing has interrupted my original intentions.

Barber shops are an interesting study of human nature. I am not referring to the franchise stores but the locally owned shops which have been existence since the barber gave up doing dental work out here when the West was young and dentists were in short supply.

For about a dozen years after I moved to this neck of the woods south of San Diego, I got my hair cut at Alberto’s, located in a strip mall across from Southwest College on a mesa, about four miles from the Mexican border as the crow flies.

In many ways, Alberto’s reminds me of the Modern Barber Shop where I received my first haircut just off the square on West Main Street in Lebanon. Growing up, my haircuts were mostly administered by “Pop” at the Modern Barber Shop and later his own place in the Dick’s Food Mart mall.

As I moved into my teenage years, my father and I went to Edwards Barbershop, located across from the end of University Avenue on South Maple. It was a one-chair shop.

Alberto’s looks very similar to both and even smells the same, a pleasant, somewhat musty aroma. There is a clock running backwards so it will read correctly if you are looking at it through the mirrors back of the chairs. It would have fit in the Modern Barber Shop, Pop’s, or Edward’s.

I first started going to Alberto’s in the mid-1980’s after spotting John Sweatt in a chair. John was commissioned as a Navy officer about three or four years before me. He had been a strong supporter for me on the Castle Heights football team when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. Later, he gave me some hope I might actually complete Navy Officer Candidate School when he visited me in my barracks, resplendent and fearful (to my senior officer candidate tormentors) in his lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) dress blues.

I decided Alberto’s would be good for me as well.

Alberto is a small man with salt and pepper hair and a thin, neatly trimmed mustache. Although his five children are spread from Alaska to San Diego, he still lives in Tijuana and remains a Mexican citizen. His English and my Southern don’t always mix well, but we communicate adequately. He always cuts my hair the way I ask and trims my mustache at no charge.

Alberto reminds me of Pop, although I probably would have been banned from the city limits had I tried to grow a mustache in Lebanon in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The strongest tie is not their barber skills. Alberto’s ethics growing up in a middle class Mexican neighborhood are very much akin to Pop’s. Giving a great service for a reasonable price; they were proud of their work, enjoyed their customers; and in turn, their customers enjoyed them.

Bob is the second in command at Alberto’s. He knows everyone by name. Curiously, Bob always looked like he needs a haircut with a long, untamed mane.

Still he gave me one of my favorite barber shop stories:

A couple of years ago, a recently retired man came into the shop while I was waiting.

Bob stated, rather than asked, “Been retired about six months, haven’t you, George?”

George affirmed and Bob followed, “How’s it going at home with you and the little lady?”

George replied “It’s going great.”

“You and your missus don’t get in each other’s way?” Bob prodded.

George, pleased with himself, turned eloquent, “Nah, she’s very precise and keeps a weekly calendar on the refrigerator.

“So on Sunday, I check her calendar. When she is scheduled to be out, I stay at home and work on my projects.

“Then when she is scheduled to be at home, I go play golf.

“It’s working just fine.”

When this occurred, I thought, “At the core, there is not much difference between barber shops in the Southwest corner and in Middle Tennessee.”

And there is an unlimited supply of barbershop stories in both places.

Notes from the Southwest Corner (Archive 12/03/07): Barber Shops – The Beginning of a Hairy Tale

SAN DIEGO, CA – When I started writing for The Democrat, I planned to write from ideas saved over the years with a focus on connecting and comparing my Southwest corner to Middle Tennessee.

Then events seem to keep popping up, demanding I write about them. This week, nothing has interrupted my original intentions.

Barber shops are an interesting study of human nature. I am not referring to the franchise stores but the locally owned shops which have been existence since the barber gave up doing dental work out here when the West was young and dentists were in short supply.

For about a dozen years after I moved to this neck of the woods south of San Diego, I got my hair cut at Alberto’s, located in a strip mall across from Southwest College on a mesa, about four miles from the Mexican border as the crow flies.

In many ways, Alberto’s reminds me of the Modern Barber Shop where I received my first haircut just off the square on West Main Street in Lebanon. Growing up, my haircuts were mostly administered by “Pop” at the Modern Barber Shop and later his own place in the Dick’s Food Mart mall.

As I moved into my teenage years, my father and I went to Edwards Barbershop, located across from the end of University Avenue on South Maple. It was a one-chair shop.

Alberto’s looks very similar to both and even smells the same, a pleasant, somewhat musty aroma. There is a clock running backwards so it will read correctly if you are looking at it through the mirrors back of the chairs. It would have fit in the Modern Barber Shop, Pop’s, or Edward’s.

I first started going to Alberto’s in the mid-1980’s after spotting John Sweatt in a chair. John was commissioned as a Navy officer about three or four years before me. He had been a strong supporter for me on the Castle Heights football team when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. Later, he gave me some hope I might actually complete Navy Officer Candidate School when he visited me in my barracks, resplendent and fearful (to my senior officer candidate tormentors) in his lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) dress blues.

I decided Alberto’s would be good for me as well.

Alberto is a small man with salt and pepper hair and a thin, neatly trimmed mustache. Although his five children are spread from Alaska to San Diego, he still lives in Tijuana and remains a Mexican citizen. His English and my Southern don’t always mix well, but we communicate adequately. He always cuts my hair the way I ask and trims my mustache at no charge.

Alberto reminds me of Pop, although I probably would have been banned from the city limits had I tried to grow a mustache in Lebanon in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The strongest tie is not their barber skills. Alberto’s ethics growing up in a middle class Mexican neighborhood are very much akin to Pop’s. Giving a great service for a reasonable price; they were proud of their work, enjoyed their customers; and in turn, their customers enjoyed them.

Bob is the second in command at Alberto’s. He knows everyone by name. Curiously, Bob always looked like he needs a haircut with a long, untamed mane.

Still he gave me one of my favorite barber shop stories:

A couple of years ago, a recently retired man came into the shop while I was waiting.

Bob stated, rather than asked, “Been retired about six months, haven’t you, George?”

George affirmed and Bob followed, “How’s it going at home with you and the little lady?”

George replied “It’s going great.”

“You and your missus don’t get in each other’s way?” Bob prodded.

George, pleased with himself, turned eloquent, “Nah, she’s very precise and keeps a weekly calendar on the refrigerator.

“So on Sunday, I check her calendar. When she is scheduled to be out, I stay at home and work on my projects.

“Then when she is scheduled to be at home, I go play golf.

“It’s working just fine.”

When this occurred, I thought, “At the core, there is not much difference between barber shops in the Southwest corner and in Middle Tennessee.”

And there is an unlimited supply of barbershop stories in both places.

Notes from the Southwest Corner (archives): Good Things Happen to Those Who Wait

i began writing a weekly column for The Lebanon Democrat in October 2007. Except for a few hiccups when i missed a deadline, it has appeared in the paper, initially on Thursday and now on Tuesdays.

With my superb sense and lousy execution of organization abetted by an unhealthy dose of procrastination and some degree of adult attention deficit disorder as well as a significant problem with CRS, i am struggling with archiving all of my columns, primarily for my grandson, and have decided to use this site as an excuse to actually get some organization accomplished. So in addition to linking you to my column on the newspaper’s website and archiving the current columns, i will be posting old ones here. In my first search, the earliest column i found was this one, the sixth “Notes…” column that was published in November 2007.

Fittingly, this one was about my mother and Lebanon High School, two forces that have had a powerful impact on my life and remain such even though i did not attend the latter.

Estelle Prichard Jewell, 1944, a photo she sent to her husband at war in the South Pacific. It was nine years after her basketball career at LHS.
Estelle Prichard Jewell, 1944, a photo she sent to her husband at war in the South Pacific. It was nine years after her basketball career at LHS.

SAN DIEGO, CA – Last Monday, Ms Denise Joyner, the Lebanon High School Athletic Director called and announced Estelle Prichard Jewell had been selected as an inaugural member of the Blue Devil Athletic Hall of Fame.

Estelle Jewell is my mother.

About a year ago, J.B. Leftwich, a weekly columnist for this paper, a close family friend, and my mentor in journalism (which I have noted frequently), wrote a tribute to Estelle and suggested she might have been the best women’s basketball player in the history of Blue Devil Sports. For her size, his suggestion just might be a slam dunk.

In a 1935 district tournament semi-final, Estelle scored 33 points for the Blue Devilettes girls basketball team and was named to the all-tournament team. For the 1934-35 season, she scored 283 points in 19-games. This was during an era when most games were low-scoring affairs, rarely exceeding 30 points total. Her single game and season scoring records stood for a quarter of a century.

She will be inducted during a half time ceremony during LHS basketball games, December 14

I am elated. LHS’ Hall of Fame is honoring her just after she turned 90 in July.

I am anxious to learn of other inductees. Clifton Tribble, Don Franklin, David Robinson, Ann Lucas. Louis Thompson, David Grandstaff, Hal Greer, and many others immediately come to mind as probable selections. It bemuses me to think of my mother standing next to these heroes of mine and receiving her plaque.

Estelle Jewell today does not come across as a hall of fame athlete. Being 90 certainly belies her earlier skills. She also tops out at five feet tall. I saw her take a shot once. It was a two-handed push. She jumped and spread her legs when she shot. From fifteen feet, it hit nothing but net. I don’t think she could do that now.

In reflection, she laughs about her play. “I got 33 in the semi-finals,” she says, “but I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn the next night, and we lost.” I have never heard her brag about her accomplishments.

In her recollection of a game at Mount Juliet, she recalled how she would try not to drive for a lay-up on one end of the court because she might run into the Ben Franklin stove underneath the basket. The stove heated the entire gym.

Not considering the stove, it was a different game then with three zones with two guards on the defensive end, two forwards on the offensive end, and two centers in the middle who passed the ball from defense to offense. One dribble was all that was allowed.

Still, Estelle’s accomplishments remain exceptional.

Her shooting skills were probably enhanced by chores. Her grandfather, Joseph Webster, the retired Methodist circuit rider, would give her a penny for each fly she swatted and killed inside the farmhouse on Hunter’s Point Pike.

Her endurance and strength were likely abetted by other chores she and her two sisters and brother undertook while her mother was a care-giver, working day and night (Her father, Joe Blythe Prichard, died young and the family lived with their grandfather).

When her hall of fame career in sports was concluded, Estelle quickly put it aside and went to work. She learned secretarial skills at the County Court Clerk’s office in the old courthouse on the square. She worked for the Commerce Union Bank on the north side of the corner of the square and East Main Street. She married my father, Jimmy Jewell, in 1938, three years after she had graduated from LHS.

She is a reflection of all of the women of that generation whom I have known: practically feminine with a firm grasp of reality; frugal but willing to lavish gifts and love on her family and friends. She is a product of hard times (the depression), frightening times of sacrifice and victory (World War II), security produced by hard and loyal work, and change without end. They are strong, balanced, and loving women.

But every once in a while, basketball will come up in a conversation, and you can still see the sparkle in Estelle’s eyes.

When I called my mother for congratulations, her and my father’s excitement made it an unforgettable phone call. She was thrilled. The news was something to feel good about.

Thank you, Blue Devils for proving in a good place like Lebanon, good things do happen, especially for those who wait.

An early Christmas on the left coast

Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, December 16, 2014. Only the photo of the puppet theater was included with the column. The others were added for this post, although my editing skills with the Mac are still being tested and two photos are small. The one of Kinsley hardly captures what a beautiful, fun, and behaved young girl she really is: a true delight, and i am looking forward to spending more time with her and her wondeful mother, Renee, in the coming year. Cousin Nancy, i wish you were here.

SAN DIEGO — Our weekend included packing for our Christmas trip, but Sunday, we had a Christmas treat of our own in the Southwest corner.

Late Sunday morning, we drove to Balboa Park. While most people associate Balboa Park with the San Diego Zoo, there are many other facets to the park, which was established in 1892 and blossomed in 1915 when the Panama-California Exposition was held in the city. The park has a working theater, a replica of Shakespeare’s Old Globe along with too many museums to count, hiking trails, gardens, and restaurants.

The view from our table at El Prado
The view from our table at El Prado

We ran some Christmas errands before lunch at El Prado, a wonderful restaurant housed in one of the exposition buildings with a courtyard in front and outdoor dining in back, which overlooks a pool, fountain, and garden. We had lunch outside and could have spent several hours there, but we were on a Christmas mission.

There was a Lebanon connection, or at least, a Cumberland connection.

We were on our way to meet Kinsley, the great, great granddaughter of my Aunt Evelyn Orr, who was mentioned in an earlier column about Thanksgiving and the road to Chattanooga. Evelyn’s daughter, Nancy moved to Florida where she still resides in Cape Canaveral. Nancy’s daughter, Kathy, moved to Michigan. Her daughter, Renee Hoskins became a Marine, got out and had Kinsley. They live in Oceanside. Just before Kinsley turned two this summer, we connected at, where else, the San Diego Zoo.

This lineage dissection proves there are many ways to land in the Southwest corner.

Our mission was to meet Renee and Kinsley at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater in Balboa Park. The puppeteers were putting on a Christmas program. We thought that would be something Kinsley would enjoy.

puppets3We drove to Balboa Park early, stopping at the zoo to pick up a few Christmas presents for our trip east, and then to lunch. I had the rock shrimp chile relleno while thinking it was not likely a menu item anywhere else except the Southwest corner. We sauntered past the Mingei International Museum where Maureen found a couple of gifts for friends, and I took note of some articles she liked but wouldn’t purchase for herself.

kinsley-puppets-2Finally we made it to the Palisades area of the park where Kinsley and Renee were waiting for us. The theater is a full-blown auditorium in the Spanish Mission style architecture which dominates the park structures. The staff/cast/puppeteers put on five shows a week, changing programs weekly. This is year round.kinsley-puppets – 2I wish every child under five could attend such a show. Kinsley was enthralled. She rocked and clapped with enthusiasm with every new Christmas song as mice, cats, jacks-in-the-box, and a snowman pranced around the puppet stage. I felt about five years old myself (Of course, Maureen often accuses me of acting like a five-year old).

As I tried simultaneously to watch Kinsley and the puppets, my mind wandered to the upcoming Christmas. We will be going straight, or as straight as we can on plane connections and tree-top airlines to Chattanooga tomorrow. Since 1992, Signal Mountain and Lebanon have been Christmas for Sarah, our twenty-five year old daughter. We wish to capture at least part of that this year. The special part of that is our grand niece, Allie Duff, another two-year old, will be the focus of attention. Allie is my sister’s granddaughter.

From there, we head to Austin for our first Christmas with our grandson Sam. We have wanted to be with him for this special time since he was born seven plus years ago, but we had to make choices.

You should note there is no Lebanon on that itinerary. Lebanon has been part of my Christmas holidays for about 50 of my nearly 71 years. I will miss James Cason making me a martini, a dinner with Mike and Gloria Dixon, spending time with Eddie and Brenda Callis and sitting next to them at the Sunday church service. I will miss Bill and Kathy Denny who took special care of my parents, and Charlotte and Kristy Johnson whom my parents considered family. And of course, I will miss Henry and Brenda Harding.

Obviously, the biggest missing will be my mother and father. However, our Christmas this year is focused on children. I am sure my parents think this is the way it should be.