A Tale of the Sea and Me – Mystery Solved

The Hawkins (DD 873) returned to Mayport in mid-Spring 1969. My short lived and ill-thought out marriage, mea culpa, was officially over when i received the court filing. i was single again with a wonderful second floor apartment that looked directly across Easton Bay at The Breakers in glorious Newport.

Andrew Nemethy, Rob Dewitt and i went to many of the high points of the wonderful seaport town. Frequently, they were The Tavern, now gone, the space now occupied by a real estate office (sad), and The Black Pearl, which has grown and changed from its original purpose to serve as a pub for the guy who owned the two-masted schooner with that name docked on Bannister’s Wharf . And Mac’s Clam Shack on Thames next to a sailboat yard, which could deposit grit from the sandblasting into your stuffed quahogs, a most wonderful delight, before you played on one the first pong video machines.

But i was ready to meet someone that didn’t look like a sailor or Naval officer. i remembered the Salve Regina coed, my OCS roommate, Doc Jarden had invited to the dinner at my apartment before he went back to Norfolk and i went to Yorktown. But i could not remember her name. i just remembered what a delightful young woman she was and what a great laugh she had. i did recall the funny nickname given to her by Doc: “Kathy the Drunk.”

i looked up the phone numbers of each floor of the dorms at Salve Regina. i called two of them and asked if there was anyone there with the nickname of Kathy the Drunk. Neither produced any positive results. On the third call i made to a dorm floor phone and asked again, the young woman who answered gasped, laughed out loud, and shouted, “Kathy, someone on the phone wants to talk to Kathy the Drunk.

Kathy McMahon on the balcony of my snake ranch on Tuckerman Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island, techincally Middletown. The building in the background is the Newport Clambake Club.

Mystery solved. Her name is Kathy McMahon from Providence, Rhode Island. And thus began a marvelous relationship that continues today. Although there were a couple of times she had just a bit too much to drink, she definitely wasn’t a drunk but a serious student and delightful.

Kathy was a waitress at the Black Pearl, which meant i would go there even more. There, i once very quickly met and said hello to Frank Sinatra, who had gone a day sail with the owner of the two-masted schooner and the restaurant. i listened to Jody who dressed in a black and white sailor’s shirt, sang folk songs and was accompanied by the resident parrot. i also saw Count Basie’s drummer, who played solo gigs there for a week after the Newport Jazz Festival.

It was a glorious spring and summer while it lasted.

Another sea story was included. i was one of the four command duty officers on the Hawkins. The other three were department heads. Every fourth day, i stood the 24-hour duty with my section. We came up a neat plan, i thought. We asked Kathy, Irene and one or two other Salve Regina coeds to have dinner on board in the wardroom. Since i could not leave the ship, being responsible to the CO and XO for what happened while they were ashore, Ensign Chuck Miller and one of our other officers drove across town, picked them up, and brought them back to the Naval Station.

i was in the wardroom waiting, unaware i was about to be fooled. The quarterdeck Officer of the Deck, Miller, and i’m pretty sure LTJG’s Nemethy and Dewitt had something to do with the scheme. i was unaware the OOD turned off all of the outside speakers, something that is just not done. But that was part of the plan. As the party walked over the brow, the quarterdeck watch rang the ship’s bell two times and announced, “Kathy the Drunk, arriving” — The president and top two admiral ranks get 8 bells rung when coming on board a Navy ship; the lower admiral ranks, 07-8, get six bells; Navy captains and commanders get four bells; and officers lieutenant commander and below get two bells rung.

Not knowing the exterior speakers had been turned off, i went into panic. My Navy career was about to be shorter, and i could not imagine how many admirals and captains were going to chew my ass on my way out. The entourage came into the wardroom just as i was about to head to the quarterdeck. They all laughed and explained what they had one.

Then i laughed.

Much to my regret, as well as every officer and sailor on board, Hawkins changed homeport to Norfolk in July. My last six months aboard had sea stories of their own. Yet, there will always be a part of me in Newport.

Andrew Nemethy and i drove up to Boston that autumn to see Kathy and Irene (i think), who had a flat while attending Boston University. It was a wonderful weekend and i remember sitting on the stoop on a Sunday morning listening to the stereo someone had put on their window sill. Creedence Clearwater Revival was blasting “Willie and the Poor Boys” all over the block.

Kathy obtained her doctorate and is now Professor Emerita at the University of Miami, Ohio. She remains an incredible woman and she still has that laugh.

It was good to be alive.

2 thoughts on “A Tale of the Sea and Me – Mystery Solved

  1. This would make a great book considering it’s dibbled and dabbed with several belly laughs. It would be a hilarious read.

    1. Thanks, Patsy. i wish you could experience Newport, Rhode Island. It is flat magical, better back then, but still wonderful.

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