A Tale of the Sea and Me (For Sam) – Installment 10

This is out of sequence. If i ever get through all of my sea stories and make it a book, this post will be toward the later part of that book.

It seems nowadays, everyone wishes to knock what used to be, failing to recognize the progress we have had is rooted in what was in those days. To fail to recognize the goodness of what was, and deride the bad is a negation of that progress.

To me this is sad. Yesterday, i found myself in the midst of some great men whose institutions are now subject to a lot of rebuke…and misunderstanding of what was. Selective memory is bad, creating only divisiveness and disrupting if not stopping progress. Sad.


It was after our usual Friday morning golf round, a ritual begun in May 1991. In the past, we have had as many as four foursomes included. For the past number of years, we have been down to two groups. Now, it seems the number is growing again. Yesterday, we filled up the two foursomes. Eight of us sat on the patio of the Sea ‘n Air Golf Club on the Naval Air Station, North Island, located on the northwest end of what is now part of Coronado — Sometime after the big war, they filled in the “Spanish Bight.” It was a spit of water and sand almost totally separating the two islands connected by a causeway.

That golf dining patio, and the one at the Admiral Baker Golf courses, North and South, are part and parcel of the tradition. It is where we gather at the end of the round with our usual pitcher (or two) of beer. That’s where sea tales and war stories abound.

As i sat listening yesterday, several thoughts bounded from the past into my head.

i also thought of the folks who have played with us and been an integral part of our group who have passed on. They are missed, and we continue to try to recapture them in our stories.

Another thought: in 1964 in “Maple Manor,” a 1920’s relic of a house near Vanderbilt housed four Vanderbilt students and me, a former Vanderbilt student and office boy/cub reporter for Fred Russell’s sports department of The Nashville Banner. Think of the movie “Animal House” and you should have a good idea of what “Maple Manor was like. Cy Fraser, also a former Vandy student and close friend from Old Hickory, frequently spent the night. One morning while fixing the coffee, i remarked to Cyril that i apparently was going to be someone who recorded life and people and not be an earth shaker. This is why i am writing this post.

Another thought, frequently uttered by yours truly, also bounced into my head: “i am one lucky man. i have met some incredible people passing through life, amazing folks who consider me a friend.

Friday was a good example of that. It is not a place for thin skin. Each of us is roasted for past antics. We delight when a new golfer joins our mix. We can tell our phalanx of stories all over again. Some we just repeat because we think they are hilarious. The Friday session is what we politely call sea stories and war stories. There are a whole bunch of other kind of stories in the mix. It is really a bullshit (B/S) session. And it is great fun. Many of the stories cannot be told anywhere else. Politicians, many flag officers (we have had a couple of admirals that enjoyed our sessions), the politically correct, do-gooders, and single-cause focused folks would gasp at some of those stories, maybe even faint. We love them. It is a relief from the daily grind and awful news of today. It is the past, which will never be repeated. It is at the root of esprit de corps.

Our Friday group was composed of five Navy SEALS, all of whom made Captain; one army artillery major who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Vietnam; one nuclear power submarine maintenance Commander; and me, a ship driving Commander that was euphemistically changed to “Surface Warfare Officer” in 1969. All but two of us were in action in Vietnam although mine was only slight compared to the others.

We are laughingly referred to as curmudgeons by the golf staff. It is an appropriate name we have adopted for our group. Our laughter is a mainstay on the patio, and several folks have told us they really enjoy listening to us have so much fun. Yes, there have been a few who have been shocked by our language. Profanity was part of the art of being in the army and navy back then as was drinking a bit more than we should and antics on liberty that would get us hoisted on our own petards in today’s military. We revel in it.

i will not take a stance on today’s military here. It is what it is today and not what it was then. i am too old to disparage our forces today, at least not here.

But we represent a living that no longer exists and, in our own way, are proud of it.

i will not name names here. i will send a link to this post to all of those who golfed Friday, thanking them for allowing me to be a a part of this group of not just good, but great men.

As i said, i am a lucky man.

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