The First Time I Went To
By: Don Dickensheet
The first time I went to the PI was in 1972. At the time, I was only 18. I was first on leave in the Los Angeles area, where I was from at the time, and my civilian buddies and I got pretty wasted the night before, so needless to say, my Air America DC10 flight from Travis to Clark was "hung over hell", and after what seemed like forever, we landed in Clark.
It was about 0900 or so and I will never forget getting off the plane and feeling like sombody put a hot wet towel over my face. This place was hell, I was begining to think. Then for the next exciting event, they herded us boots onto an old school bus for our journey to Subic. Hot and dirty is the only way to describe the miserable ride. Well, when we get to Subic, they take us down to the receieving station near shit river. By this time, I was ready to die, carrying around a full sea bag of crap, and don'tcha know some turd tells us, while we are standing on our billet numbers, that this hellhole was full.
So it was back on the bus and they drove us down to the olive drab USS Benwah which was tied up in a shit river tributary. This thing made the receiving station look like a 5 star resort, and as I was cursing the day I ever joined the Navy, a truck pulled up and some Chief got out and asked if any of us were going to the Coral Sea or her airwing.... now what?
Well we got into the truck and away we went. CV43 had tied up at the Alava pier just that morning after an extended line period on yankee station. I never will forget the smell of the roasting hanger bay as I climbed aboard and I thought I was really hosed. Well, after some hemming and hawing around, they rounded up my squadrons duty PN to take us to the duty office to check in. The Lcpo at the time said he didnt have time to fool around with no boots and was on his way to get a beer. The guy was in civvies and told us this ship leaves here in 4 days. Be on it or you'll be sorry and left.
Well, the 3rd class PN then took us to a really foul berthing compartment then left. Now what? All I wanted at the time was a shower. There were no lockers available so I locked my seabag to a post and hit the rain locker in a really foul head. After taking a cold shower I felt a little better and decided it was time to hit the beach and put on my civvies only to discover that, in my drunken departure from the land of the big PX, I had forgot to pack some shoes. Screw it! Low cuts with no socks oughtta do the trick and I was on my way.
Well, one of the guys that was in A school in Memphis with me, had been with me the whole time, so we decided to hit the beach together. After getting on the pier, we kind of drifted along with the cowd and ended up at the Spanish Gate resteraunt. This place was a Zoo, as the Constellation was also in port, and I even saw my boot camp company commander in there since he was a chief. I asked him what the deal was? "Town!" he said. "Best town in the world!"
After about 6 really cheap beers we decided to check it out. Once outside, we asked one salty looking bugger, "how do you get to town?" He had to laugh at us stupid boots and said... "Just follow the crowd". Well, he wasnt lying, and since it was evening time, people were all boogieing for the gate.
We cashed in a 20 each at the little "tap tap" girls in the cubes by the gate and strolled on out to shit river. Remember, all those little shitbirds in their white hats with their name on the front? "Hey Joe, throw coin?" and they actually swam in that sewer. If any of those guys are still alive, they should use them for astronauts. Anyway we made it as far as the Oceans 11 Club, which as I recall, was about the second club on the right, and my buddy who was a bootcamp brown bagger was already out of dough, so I had to loan him some funny money so he could go shortime with his new wife.
I finally picked out one I liked also and took her up to a crappy hotel room to thump her monkey. After the cervezas and the shortimes, we were about broke, so it was back to the boat. But the plan was already forming in my mind, and as I lay there in that stinking berthing compartment sweating my ass off, I could hardly wait until morning when I got all my money and went back to the town that I would love for the next 21 years, and didnt come back to the boat until they were about ready to lift the brow.
Todays Sailors will never know such liberty. One night was enough to convince me. The next day I made it as far as Kongs Club and met a little gal that let me stay at her place the remainder of our inport.