Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Durango Colorado, the right knee-pit of Colorado
The Girls of Massachusetts.
While I was still in MOS training at Ft. Devans; many of the guys had been going to the USO dances that were held every Saturday night. They were held in an old Lodge hall in the small town of Ayr, next to the post.
Every now and again I would walk into town with the guys, but, I never went in.
Sometimes because I was working on the OPFOR team, and sometimes just because….
Well just because.
Friends don’t know how to dance you know.
There was “Georges Pizza Parlor”…that was a hangout most of us would stop at, mostly because it was halfway between the post and the town and the pizza was good…….and cheap!! “George’s” stayed open till midnight and sometimes we would pool our meager coins and send a couple of the guys on a pizza run. I remember one run I went on, during the middle of a blinding snow storm!!!! Across the street from it was a Frappe Shop. A Frappe is a sort of malt milk shake, without the malt in it. A limp-wristed Dairy Queen. It had very little flavor.
In town, there was a sort of “Teen-Club”, which, at that time was more like a “Juice-Bar”. No booze.
The local bar, was on the corner across from it, but Massachusetts had a “must be 21” law.
Massachusetts is a weird state (and from what I hear, it hasn’t changed much) , you can’t buy a drink until you are 21, but you can walk into any liquor store in town and by hard stuff but not beer. So I would go over there and buy a small bottle of “Old Mr. Boston” blackberry brandy. Which I kept in my shaving kit. The mornings up here get really frikkin’ cold you know.
Over the next few weeks, some of the guys had hooked up with girls.
Girls they had met at these dances.
Two of the girls lived about thirty miles away, and the guys would drive up there every chance they got; mostly on the weekends.
I was always asked to go along, and I did.
I had become friends with the two girls.
Joanne & Paula. Joanne was studying to become a nurse, and I don’t remember what Paula was doing…. I think she was still in high school.
Soon, this little group of guys became maybe four couples, with me as the odd-man-out, the fifth-wheel. I had not found a girl to date.
However, the bunch of us would take little side trips…. Like going into Boston for the day to wander around on the Boston Commons area. It was still a Beatnik place and hadn’t developed the “Hippie” genre just yet; you know, Peter Paul and Mary stuff… and the Beatles were not popular there just yet. Or, if they were, it wasn’t evident with all the coffee shops that abounded on the Commons.
Once we took a trip down to Cape Cod which turned out to be VERY expensive.
But the one place our group use to go that was the most fun, was going up to Hampton Bay in New Hampshire…. where there was a sea-side carnival ground.
That………..was great fun.
There were public and private beaches to stay on…. And sometimes we did, building a fire and roasting hot dogs and stuff….…. But remember, it was wintertime and the sea temperature was way too cold for swimming much. Of course a few of the guys tried it, trying to be ‘macho’ to impress the girls….and the wind would sometimes get too cold to stay exposed for any length of time even before getting wet.
Besides the beaches, there was a lot to do and it was cheap!!. We didn’t make much money in the Army you know. (I remember that my “take-home-pay” in basic was $72.00 a month and my pay as a PFC at Devans brought me up to a whole $84.50 a month………….big pay HUH??????)
There was all the typical carnival stuff… the booths were you lost your money trying to win stuffed animals and such…. Carnies hawking their booths and the constant carnival music in the background. There was a dance hall that always had some band playing for the day and sometimes into the evening. A roller rink, and ice rink, dozens of carnival food booths, some good, some bad… some terrible; with one or two sit-down indoor restaurants. I remember that one of them had a large outdoors area….and our group would sit out there and eat….. it faced the sea so the wind sometimes would drive us indoors in short order.
The Ring Toss booth, the ping-pong ball in the shot glass booth, the basket ball toss booth, the milk-bottle booth and so on. Very typical carnival stuff. But, it didn’t cost but a dime to play any given thing, so…. It was the place to go for fun.
My favorite booth was the shooting booth. You know, one that had a small pump 22 long rifle that looked to be made in 1910 or earlier, some without front sights and was chained to the counter; five or six rows of moving ducks & rabbits, fall-down targets plates on the left & right, several swinging targets some to the left and right and some up and down.
The other guys would maybe hit five or six then miss ten…. They turned out to be terrible shots and never won anything at that booth. To brag a bit, I always won something at that booth and the girls always got the items (just what the hell was I going to do with giant pink stuffed elephants, large purple dogs and six foot plaid pythons??). It did get to a point where this one guy who ran the booth, would shut it down when he saw me coming; especially after he handed me one that had no sights at all and I cleared the entire first and second row with it…...I will never forget the disgusted look on his face…..I think I won four pink elephants that time.
Many times, the guys would take off and go drinking somewhere and since I wasn’t much of a drinker (then anyway), I would stay behind….and talk to the girls…..and give them the toys and other loot. After a while, the girls were getting tired of their boyfriends abandoning them for booze.
Now that I look back on it…. The guys just had not grown up yet and the girls had “outgrown” them.
Soon, the girls & I were inseparable and they drifted away from their boyfriends. But instead of it becoming awkward, it morphed into a real three-way relationship. I WAS the brother the girls didn’t have and they became the sisters I never had.
I do remember that the guys took it well and just latched onto some more girls at the USO dance.
At that time, I didn’t have a car but Joanne did and she & Paula would drive down to the post and pick me up on the weekend, if I wasn’t out on an OPFOR mission..
Things, having become different than before, were settling into hanging out with them at their homes, going shopping with them, listening to them complain about the new guy they just went out with, bar-b-cueing in the backyard with the family. (actually, running inside and out trying to keep the grill going in the wintertime) Typical sibling stuff. Paula was an only child but Joanne had a younger sister, about seven or eight I think. She became our mascot. I don’t remember her name just now. Now, I had another girl to give the stuffed animals to.
It became very evident to me, that the three of us were very, very different. Joanne was a very stable person, well rooted in her family and background. Paula was moody, but more positive than negative. I was still wild and discovering new things in the world, I had a serious wander-lust in those days.
If you are the kind of person that believes in a persons “Aura” then Joanne’s was green & brown (Earth & Grass), Paula’s was Blue & white (Sea & White Sea Foam) and mine was blue & black (Sky & Space). OR… so the girls decided. Since they believed so much in it, When I left for my next duty station, I had three patches made up to remind them of………us……..
We saw each other a lot during that winter, and as spring came we had become a troop of our own, going places and doing things.
They each had met new guys and dropped them some four or five times in that period. It seems that they just couldn’t find a guy that was stable enough for them (of course, even I thought that some of the guys they picked up were scum… even if they were soldiers, but that was just my opinion) . But I believe that Paula would not have found anyone anyway, because she was still “growing –up” and Joanne….well……Joanne was picky!!
That spring ended with me finishing school/AIT and being assigned to Vint Hill Farms Station down in Virginia.
During those months at Vint Hill, the three of us wrote to one-another and I made several trips back up to Ayr to see them. The trip during the 4th of July was the most memorable because Joanne introduced me to a friend she had met at the hospital she was now working at. YUP!!!… Joanne had become a full-fledged Nurse!! And the girl she introduced me to, was a child-like Nurse…small, petite………….but… that’s another story…..
Over time, the letters that we wrote to each other became fewer and fewer.
Paula drifted off first, I stopped hearing from her while I was down in Panama.
When I got my orders for VN, I didn’t go straight home, I flew up to see the girls, well, actually just Joanne as Paula had gone off to college somewhere in up-state New York; and to spend two or three days there before going home, and on to VN.
When I came to visit, I told Joanne where I was going and she didn’t react very well…..she broke down and started to cry….even her mother couldn’t console her. I was stunned, I didn’t know why she had reacted that way, then her mother took me aside and told me…. Joanne had been working in the wing of the hospital that received guys just back from VN……
I think you get the picture…..
I stayed three days and then went home to spend time with my Grandmother before going on to VN.
Joanne wrote me up until 1969. By that time, she had met the man she would marry.
Then…the letters stopped.
Time………..is a funny thing……….
It can be linier, or parallel….it can soften with time….or harden with time……
It can strip pieces from a memory and make it bland…..or it can make that particular memory bright and sharp………….
The girls are still sharp in my mind…..
Well………….that is the story of the Girls of Massachusetts…………
I still miss them…….
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