Monday, April 21, 2008

Army Life (2)

Ft. Eustis, Virginia, is located on the James River about five miles from historic Williamsburg. It is close to Yorktown, Jamestown, Ft. Monroe, Ft. Lee, Newport News, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. I had been a history major in college, and being assigned to a post in historic Virginia was a stroke of luck. As I arrived at Ft. Eustis in April of 1971, I was determined to make the most of being thrust into the highly historical area.

I was going to Ft. Eustis to complete the Army's 9-week basic Transportation Corps Officer's course. I lived in a BOQ (Bachelor's Officer Quarters) that was something like a glorified college dorm, only there weren't as many restrictions. The other guys in my class all lived in that same BOQ. Those who were married left their wives at home during the training.

I rembember that I had two good friends in that class, Ron (?) from Cannonapolis, NC (where they made Cannon towels) and Joe Spagna who was from Delaware or Rhode Island or one of the smaller northeastern states. The three of us found a roadside dive that had really good food, and we would drive out there most nights and chow down on the house special. The spaghetti was a particular favorite of ours. We also did a few weekend trips to Virginia Beach.

The Officer's Club was a new experience for me. We would sit around one of the bars on weekends and drink beer and watch TV. I remember sitting in that bar with a group of friends watching the Tricia Nixon and Edward Cox get married on the White House lawn. That wedding had a lot of history in attendance: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy's daughter, was there, as was Martha Mitchell who was soon to be famous during the Watergate Era. Mrs. Mitchell, the wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, had an alcohol issue that eventually was a factor in ending the presidency of Richard Nixon. She showed up in a flamboyant dress and hat (orange, if memory serves) that one TV announcer jokingly said made her a frontrunner for best costume.

The queen of the Officer's Club was an oriental lady named Peaches. She ran the place, and was always there to commisserate with any young man who wanted to share his troubles.

Ft. Eustis was, and still is, the Army's transportation center. It is located on the James River. The 558th Transportation Company (of which I would become executive officer three years later) has a floating machine shop whose mission was to make marine repairs on the water. The post also had its own small railroad called the MGB (Main Gate and Back). Our classes also had a strong emphasis on map reading, convoys, and truck transportation - skills that would serve me well at my first actual duty station.

1 comment:

donnacello said...

Peaches is still bartending part-time at the Officers' Club. She enjoys working, but is now considering retirement after 40 years of service.