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· *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
19 JUNE 1966…Actor John Wayne, the original “Fighting Seabee”, dropped in for the grand opening of NMCB-11 EM Club, “The Grass (or Green Shack) Shack”. He signed autographs, some of which hung over the main EM Club bar. All hands gratefully appreciated “The Duke’s” quick wit and sense of humor. Also on hand to entertain the men was Miss Shirley Simmons, a singer from Australia who was making her second appearance at Camp Adenir. Capt. W.L. Wilson, CEC, USN, assisted by Shirley Sommons, cut the ribbon to officially open the EM Club.

I've put a request out to see if anyone can provide some photos of the occasion...John Wayne visited the Seabee Base Port Hueneme, California many times following the movie in 1944...Chief

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Have any of you seen the commercial for the History Channel, saying that the Duke might have actually had radiation poisoning?

· *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
22,952 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
You know Carver, I remember something from the SILVER SCREEN magazine a long time ago when Wayne's entourage was filming a western up in Utah. I believe it was mentioned that Susan Hayward died early in her life because of the radiation fallout patterns from open air nuclear testing drifting over the filming site...It might have been SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON when Wayne played the part of a Union solider. Chief

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Of the 220 persons who worked on The Conqueror on location in Utah in 1955, 91 had contracted cancer as of the early 1980s and 46 died of it, including stars John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Experts say under ordinary circumstances only 30 people out of a group of that size should have gotten cancer. The cause? No one can say for sure, but many attribute the cancers to radioactive fallout from U.S. atom bomb tests in nearby Nevada. The whole ghastly story is told in The Hollywood Hall of Shame by Harry and Michael Medved. But let's start at the beginning.

· *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
22,952 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for that 'clear-up' Carver...Actually, I should have remembered because when I was teaching the NBC warfare for the navy, we used radio-active fallout patterns and the danger caused early by prevailing winds from the Utah sites John Wayne movie sites of the 50's in Utah was mentioned. Strontium90 and Cesium 137 are very strong Alpha radiation emitters and portals of entry into the human body are by inhalation or ingestion of food/water/milk....cows eating grass where the isotopes have fallen from rain or natural gravity, and the humans drink the milk, the long life isotopes are deposited on bones and teeth of the human similar to the way calcium is, hence, the half-lives being so very long, the person dies with a significant amount of the alpha emitters on his remains where the linger for hundreds of years...Chief

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20,206 Posts
That was a bad idea to drop these bombs in the west as we have prevailing western winds. I am sure this dust went all the way to the east coast.

· *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
22,952 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Somewhere here on the VMBB, I wrote about having met John Wayne. For you who recall, it's a repeat....the others, here goes again...In August 1954 I was being discharged from the Navy at the end of my minority enlistment. The Seabee base didn't process discharges so I was sent to the naval base at Long Beach, Calif.. Awaiting processing, my duties were standing shore patrol at the Long Beach Pike (amusement park) on the night shift...Days were mine and I lived with friends up in Culver City...My foster mother and I went to lunch at the corner of Washington and Lincoln Blvd. and we noted across the street at the OWEN-KEOWN CHEVROLET dealership there was one of those Hollywood style 'shin-dig' affairs taking place...a lot of noise...C&W band, and come dark, there would be the spotlights and maybe even some dancing gals.. Winnie and I meandered across the Blvd. to watch the goings-on. Dang, he seemed to be a big guy...and he was compared to my 5 ft. 8 in. I was in uniform, ready to head down to Long Beach for the evening watch...I was in whites with the colored Seabee patch on the shoulder of my whites ...Oh yes, the reason for the Chevy dealership being featured was that the new Corvette car was being shown...and John Wayne was there for his new movie release, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY...He spotted the Seabee patch on my uniform was the reason I guess I was singled out for attention.. Plus being big in stature, his voice was booming...I remember him asking where I was from and when I told him Iowa, that really clinched the fact we were kind of like buddies as that was his state of birth...his old buddy, Ward Bond was there...the young blond dude, Martin Milner I think his name was, who would go on and play a character on the TV show, ROUTE 66. Actually, I guess John Wayne had not gained the fame as he would later down the road in his career...I've watched his last movies so many times...THE COWBOYS and then his last, THE SHOOTIST...Chief

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I've never met anyone famous. I'm just a country boy, who likes to stay around the house. When I do leave home for a trip it's to see some other parts of the country that a country boy would like to see. Not many famous folks get to far away from the bright lights, and I don't like crowds. So my chances of meeting anyone famous is kinda small!:D

· *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
22,952 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I suppose I'm the opposite, wife of these many years has often pointed out to me that no one remains a stranger to me for very son-in-law went to HOME DEPOT with me very recently and he remarked to me later that everyone working there seems to know me...someone will shout out, "hey John, Ed over in the electrical wants to see you...". I know you've read my story about meeting JFK on the Newport Rhode Island ferry...Glenn Sherwood and I was heading out to retake our battery of general classification tests...the meeting we pledged to keep secret was kept that way...well hell Carver, go down and read the story...And when I was just a kid, meeting Ernest Hemingway pheasant hunting in Iowa...Let's see, I got on visiting terms with you Carver...ordering that USMC walking stick for my old friend, Frank Densmore...I called his wife Fay last evening...I'd mentioned the other day he's in hospice...things are shutting down for him...they have to keep him on morphine constantly now...there's the story down below about SNUFFY (Walter Brennan)...When I was stationed in Morocco in the '50's, the head honcho of the Naval Communications there was F.R.L. TUTTHILL....he used to boast at inspections about being Lawrence of Arabia's radio operator...When he was on board the transmitter site where I was, he'd stop in at the plumbing shop where I worked for coffee...Best regards, Carver....Chief

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33,025 Posts
I hear ya! Thogh I don't like crowds, I am a people person. I'm one of those folks who never meets a stranger.

· *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
22,952 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Forgot about meeting Barry Goldwater...Here's how it happened:


It had started as most service calls do---the customer
needed you an hour before, even though the problem they
you to solve, might have been with them for weeks, maybe
even months.
A stifling August afternoon in Phoenix---the
temperature, the traffic, the tempers, and always the chance
of a
temper-tantrum being thrown by some gun-packing citizen
---the new word being used was ‘road rage’. Those were
just some of the things that did not lend themselves well to
getting to the customers home without a lot of major
The call for service had come from Mr. Harry
Rosenzweig’s nurse-housekeeper, Ms. Hayes. I think Mr. R.
was a
widower because I had always been called by Ms. Hayes. I had
been to the home many times before---an older home
with a lot of old home plumbing ailments. It was one of
the original homes in Central Phoenix and was located
Mr. Rosenzweig’s jewelry store---that particular business
being a landmark in the downtown area for more than five
When I arrived at the residence, I pulled up onto the
driveway and parked. The windows were down on the truck
and when I turned off the engine I could hear the sounds of
water being swept with a broom---that and the sounds of
mumbling---mumbles mixed in with curses. The screen door
was propped back and Ms. Hayes was sweeping water
from the washer machine room---great swooshes of water and
yes, I could distinctly see her lips moving, though I
could’nt determine the words being uttered. She stopped
sweeping when she spotted me and brushed the straggles of
greying hair back out her face. Her face was flushed and
the hospital looking ‘scrubbs’ she was wearing appeared
darkened with perspiration. Ms. Hayes had always reminded
me of how I remembered Ma Kettles (Marjorie Main)
from the movies. I remember also she had a way of saying
those catchy phrases---Texas humor. As I approached the
Grand Lady with the broom, she smiled most graciously and
exclaimed ‘sweeping this cotton-picking soapy water is
like trying to herd cats’! I guffawed like a fool for I’d
never heard that expression before. She looked at me
for a moment and then turned on her heel and went back to
‘herding cats’.
It was abundantly clear that the washer machine had
overflowed---Ms. Hayes was still mumbling to herself as I
her stoop over and pick up a dirty mop rag off the floor.
She wrung it out with strong and dripping hands and
commenced to swab the perspiration off her face and
neck---nothing delicate about this Texas Marm. Now that I
here to solve the flood problem, it was done ‘raining on her
parade’ as far as she was concerned.
I set about doing the work I had come to do. It
involved both working
inside the laundry room as well as the roof top over that
area. When I worked inside I could hear voices from the
living room. One voice I identified immediately as Mr.
Rosenzweig’s but the other voice, though sounding vaguely
familiar, I could not discern who it was. The voices
sounded as if the two were arguing because their talking
like shouting but there was laughter mixed in also. I
thought that maybe the other voice I was hearing was some
customer of mine who’s voice I’d soon recall---like the
I continued to labor ---sweating and fussing---up and
down the ladder---cycling the washer machine, rodding the
drain. I must have suddenly declared out loud, ‘that’s
Senator Barry Goldwater in there talking with Old Harry
R.’! I
had been so deep in concentration that I did’nt realize Ms.
Hayes was standing close enough to me that she had heard
my ‘thinking out loud’ statement for she exclaimed in an
exasperated sounding voice as she rolled her eyes ‘who
Harry and Barry, the vaudville twins, Old Frick and
Frack--- I tell you those two just drive me nuts when they
She had made those remarks so matter-of-factly that it
took me by surprise---I must have chuckled or giggled at
the honest lady’s outburst for I got that vacant looking
‘not amused’ stare from Ms. Hayes once again. Well I’ll be
damned I thought, this Lady is really humorous and does’nt
even know it. Strange stuff, this Texas humor!
‘Well, is it fixed now’, Ms. Hayes asked in a calm,
expectant sounding voice, ‘I got more cotton-pickin’ dirty
clothes to do than Hop Sing’s Hand-Wash Laundry and I
just know the tooth fairy ain’t goin’ help me do it’, she
stated with a completely straight face. ‘I just hope you
don’t have any more bad news for me’ she quipped, ‘like you

want to meet the Senator and talk a lot of political
nonsense so I can’t get my work done’!
I just knew the lady was joshing me for a tell-tale
smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she was waited
my reply---that reply being a vigorous nodding of my head in
the affirmative, as I had already concurred that this labor
would be almost free just for the chance to meet Barry
I had already put all my tools and equipment away so I
was ready to meet Mr. Republician, and I must have
appeared anxious for Ms. Hayes quiried in an almost serious
sounding voice ‘well, are you ready to be thrown into the
lions den?’ I followed close onto her heels into the living
room where the lively and noisy conversation had been
coming from.
Mr. Rosenzweig was sitting in his big old ‘Archie
Bunker’ looking wing back chair and Senator Goldwater
straddled a wooden straighback kitchen chair, his arms
resting across the back of the chair top. They both looked
toward us as we entered their ‘lions den’---waiting.
Ms. Hayes made the introductions quickly---I was
simply, John the Plumber but she added in a gratuitous
voice that I sure had saved her bacon as she turned and left
the room. Sounded like a compliment to me----kinda------.
Mr. R. extended his thin and liver-spotted hand and
croaked in a wavering sounding voice that he was sure glad I

could come because he was running out of clean socks. I
could’nt tell for sure but I think the noise he made then
was a
chuckle---the running out of socks must have been a shared
joke because there was no doubt about Mr.
Goldwater---he guffawed loudly from down deep in his wiry
looking body.
He was clad in faded and thread bare Levi’s and wore a
Levi looking denim shirt. His boots were worn and scuffed
so completely that their color was only bare leather. His
sweat stained cowboy hat lay on the floor near his
could tell he had been wearing the hat for there was the
tell-tale dimpling made by the hat brim on the skin on his
colored forehead.
‘Excuse me for not getting up John, but I’m so damn
lame it’s like I got run over with a Mack truck’ he declared
a true Barry Goldwater sounding voice, as he thrust out his
hand---my own work-hardened had met all the strength
and firmness of a much younger man.
‘I’m pleased to meet you John’ he remarked, ‘pull over
a chair John the Plumber and tell me and Harry how good
the plumbers are these days---that is if you’re off the
clock,’ he added emphatically, grinning that Barry Goldwater

grin. I assured him that I was off the clock and would’nt
be charging for the conversation, as they both continued to
grin at me. I seated myself on the straightback chair I
had been offered and waited. Did’nt seem appropriate for me

to start talking first for they both were much older than I
was. Maybe I was even feeling overwhelmed too---.
I was taken aback at how frail Mr. Rosenzweig had
become. He slouched, stoop-shouldered and fragile looking
the old wing back chair but his eyes were still bright
and alert and they seldom ever left his old friends face.
I was to
learn they had been life long friends--- sons of Jewish
immigrants, born and raised in the wild west town of
Barry in the retail clothing sales and Harry a jeweler. As
I look back now on the two men, I would bet one was of a
rowdy nature while the other was much more restrained---I’ll
bet you can guess the one of a rowdy nature----did’nt
have to be Nick the Greek to win that kind of bet.
The Senator was a gifted conversationlist, after all he
had been a politician all those years. A ‘mover and shaker’
much renoun and it did’nt take long for history and facts
and stories to begin. Damn, he was a good storyteller too.
Ms. Hayes had been right--- we were going to talk a lot of
nonsense and waste a lot of time but it was’nt the least bit

political. Sometime later, after I had seen her depart the
living room, she had returned and closed the door ---Harry
and Barry and John the Plumber talked into the fading
When I told Mr. Goldwater I was a retired militaryman
having spent 20 years in the NAVY SEABEES, it was all
uphill from there as we exchanged military stories. He
jokingly remarked to his friend Harry R. , ‘damn Seabees,
trust ‘em, steal anything not nailed down’! Harry cackled
heartily and Barry guffawed from down deep in his gut at his

own joke. I knew Senator Goldwater was Air Force, in fact
I think he was a Brig. General. The Senator motioned
with his hands a lot and I noticed his fingers being blunt
and strong looking---that and the ever so square jaw the
cartoonists always depicted so well. Mr. Rosenzweig sat
huddled in his chair, his mottled and liver-spotted hands
together in his lap---I think back and recall the old fellow
was wearing bedroom slippers with no socks---his bony
ankles as pale as alabaster stone.
If I smelled like a sewer rat or appeared dirty and
unkempt that afternoon those two fine old gentleman never
a hint. Their language was earthy---not foul or nasty, but
two old friends and a visitor parrying, thrusting, and
conversing in a manner one would expect in a gentlemans
smoking room over brandy.
I told them of my extensive military experiences---my
specility of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC)
warfare---of my two tours of duty in Viet Nam---of military
construction projects around the world that I had worked
on such as the Cubi Point Philippine Island airfield the
Seabees built during the Korean War---I boasted quite
but so did he----!
The Senator spoke of his Army Air Corps days in World
War Two and I still recall a heartwrenching story he told
of a test pilot named Joe. After the war the BELL X-Series
of rocket-jet airplanes were being developed and tested
over in the deserts of California. His friend Joe had flown
many missions with the Senator during the war and it must
have been one of those ‘like a brother to me’ things. Joe
was killed testing the X-1 and as the ‘old warhorse’ related

those events for me, massive sobs and the flailing of his
arms drove home the fact that there had never been closure.
When he could continue the story no longer, he laid his head
across his arms on the back of the old kitchen chair and
breathed deeply, trying to gain composure. So very tenderly
his old friend Harry reached across and gently patted the
back of Mr. Goldwater’s head---his thin and spidery hand now
appearing that it had the strength of Samson. So very
touching----I shall never forget----.
Yes, we talked into the failing light of the early
evening---I never felt that day like I imposed---I never
felt any caste
system develope from either age or station in life. The
bantering conversation as well as the serious remarks fit
comfortable old slippers.
Mr. Rosenzweig has since passed away and I pray Mr.
Goldwater is well and content. I have retired from the
cleaning business and my grandson Travis is now operating
the service. I work in my woodshop these days ---my days
are spent making John’s Angels’ named in memory of our son
John Jr. who passed away in July 1996. Hospice of the
Valley in Phoenix has the original John’s Angel on perpetual
display ---they took such good care of Johnny until he
succomed to the terrible ravages of AIDS. Mr. Goldwater’s
wife Susan is Hospice of the Valley’s Executive Director.
How can we ever know how lives touch in the scheme of
A final remembrance of that day long ago at Mr.
Rosenzweig’s home--as I got up to leave, the Senator and I
insisted that Harry stay seated, and as I reached over to
clasp the old fellows hand, I noticed his eyes---they were
humorous eyes, just like I had noticed about the Senator.
Sure could’nt describe them any other way than ‘laughing
eyes’---I turned and had the Barry Goldwater paw thrust out
toward me in the best political stance of the day. ‘Damn
John the Plumber, sure good to visit with you---don’t take
offense at my Seabee remarks---but you know, us
politicians gott'a tell the truth’, he declared caustically.
Thank goodness, he still had that smile in his eyes and
the broad grin on his face I glanced down toward Old Harry
R. and he was grinning just as broadly at his friends
I felt there had to be a closing this day on something
frivolous so I told them the drain cleaners motto.
The timing could’nt have been more perfect. Those two
old men with the laughing eyes exploded in gales of
glee---Harry clapped his frail and wrinkled hands loudly
together and Barry stomped his scuffed and worn cowboy
boots on the carpeted floor. The rucus was still going on in
the living room when Ms. Hayes let me out of the washer
room door.

John H. Wilborn Sr.

27 March 1998
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