WESLEY L. SWANSON
Bremerton, Washington
German Linguist
May 1956-August 1958

I was born on January 29, 1937, in Crescent City, California, the youngest of five children.  Crescent City is in northern California, about 20 miles south of the Oregon border, right on the coast.  One of the distinct memories I have is, even at only about 5 years of age, standing on a bluff and watching the S.S. Emidio drift into the harbor.  It had been torpedoed by the Japanese right off the coast, just north of Crescent City.  The year would have been 1942.  I also remember the blackouts.  Being on the coast, we had to cover our windows so no light escaped at night.  If anyone went out after dark, the light had to be turned off until the door was closed.  My father also took his turn watching for hostile aircraft, using binoculars from the highest point in town.  There was some concern during the early stages of the war that the Japanese’s next target would be the West Coast.  The sky –watchers used airplane silhouette cards, so they could tell the friendlies from the bad guys.

I had three brothers and a sister.  My oldest brother was nineteen when I was born, so there was a wide spread of our ages.  My oldest brother was 4-F; my next oldest was in the Army Air Corps; and the next oldest was in the Navy—he was stationed on a minesweeper.  My three brother passed away in the ‘90’s.  My sister is nine years older than I and basically raised me from the time she was fifteen and I was six, until I graduated from high school and went ou on my own in 1954.

My father was a linotype operator for the local newspaper.  The linotype had a keyboard much like a typewriter or computer.  Before the advent of the computer, news and “human interest” stories (as they were called back then) were key-stroked in on the linotype.  When a key was hit on the keyboard, a brass “key” with the corresponding letter fell into and was aligned in the tray.  When the phrase or sentence was complete, the tray would be sent into the machine and the words were  cast into a lead slug.  These were then “put to bed” (locked into cases) and put into the press.  The newsprint was fed into the press at one end and over the encased print and came out the other end as folded newspapers.  My father started out as a teacher but wound up in the newspaper business.  He owned his own sops for a while, back when type was set by ahand—he had to pick each letter out of its location in a tray.  Then he placed it in a hand-held tray and eventually transferred that to the bed of the press.  Very time consuming and one reason there were weekly papers.

My mother was a homemaker, who, unfortunately, had a nervous breakdown when I was only three or four.  In those days, they didn’t know much about this condition or how to tread it.  It was necessary for her to spend several years in the hospital (from about ’40 or ’41 to ’45).  She later spent twenty years working at one of the major hotels in Seattle.  But even after her release from the hospital, I stayed with my sister and her family in Bemerton while my parents resided in Seattle.


EDUCATION

With my mother in the hospital and the cost of a housekeeper/babysitter a drain on the already strapped family pocked book, my dad enrolled me in school (first grade) at age five.  They didn’t require a birth certificate in those days, and that’s probably why they do now!  About half way through the first grade, my dad had a disagreement with the owner of the newspaper and wound up having to look for another job.  With that being the only newspaper office in town, it meant moving elsewhere.  My dad got a job with his brother, who was also in the newspaper business and owned a shop in Seattle.  My sister and I moved to Seattle as well.  Unfortunately, because of the housing situation during the war years, we couldn’t find a place for the three of us.  My dad stayed with his brother, my sister and I stayed with cousins across town for the next six months and I finished first grade in Seattle.  The next plan was for my sister and me to move to Ashland, Oregon, to be near our oldest brother.  Then, wouldn’t you know it, he moved shortly after we got there and my sister would up taking care of me.  She was a junior in high school and I entered second grade in Ashland.  We spent two years there where she graduated from high school and I completed third grade.  The year was 1945.  She met her future husband right after graduating and they were married that August (the same month my mother was released from the hospital).  He had recently returned from the Pacific Theater where he had been engaged in combat with Japanese for the previous three or four years.  We then moved to Poulsbo, Washington, where my oldest brother had moved and my brother-in-law got a job at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.  I went to the fourth grade in Poulsbo, then moved to Bremerton so my brother-in-law could be closer to his job.  I finished my schooling in Bremerton, from the fifth grade through high school.

ENLISTMENT

I had no particular desire to go on to college after high school (the funds weren’t available anyway), so I figured I might as well enter the military.  I’d started working for my middle brother (of the 3) at his service station between my junior and senior years.  That’s when a service station was still a service station—we pumped gas, cleaned the windows and checked the oil!  Try to get them to do that in this day and age!  I continued working on the weekends during my senior year, commuting by ferry from Bremerton to Seattle.  I then moved to Seattle to work full-time upon graduation (June 1954).  My best friend (from fifth grade through high school) had enlisted in the Army Reserves during our senior year.  He found out about ASA and encouraged me to apply.  He went active right after graduation.  I intended to join as soon as I graduated as well, though I was only seventeen (having started school at the age of five).  However, when I went to my local friendly recruiter and asked about ASA, he said the only openings at that time were for the infantry—forget that!  So I continued working at my brother’s station until March 1955.  Without telling my brother (thinking I’d have time to give him a couple of weeks notice), I once again visited the recruiter and signed on the dotted line.  It seems like within a day or two I’d had my physical, been administered the oath and was on my way to California!  So much for giving my brother two weeks notice!   We flew to some airport near Fort Ord (or Fort Pneumonia, as I later heard it called) and were bussed to the Reception area at the Fort.

After starting this tale, I went looking through some old papers and found my original “Direction for Travel to Fort Ord, Calif.,” dated March 4, 1955.  We left Sea-Tac Airport and flew to San Francisco.  From there, we were bussed to Fort Ord—looks like it took about 3 hours and 40 minutes.  We were dropped off at the 6023 SU Reception Station Ahhh!  Such pleasant memories.  The first thing we learned was to take care of our health.  They did not call it Fort Pneumonia for nothing!  Get sick and miss too many days of basic and you started all over again.  The next thing I learned, the hard way, was what “double time” meant.  The very first morning, one of the guys in the same situation I found myself in and I were retuning from breakfast to the barracks.  It seems everyone else had finished early and was already in formation in front of the barracks.  My newly found friend and I were sauntering toward the group.  The sergeant in charge yelled at us to double-time on down and join the formation.  The two of us looked at each other and I asked “What does double-time mean?”  My buddy said he didn’t know, and we kept sauntering.  I thought the sergeant was going to blow a gasket!  Needless to say, we were on K.P. the next day.  The first breakfast was also my introduction to S.O.S.  For the genteel, that’s “stuff-on-a-shingle (we had a cruder term, as most GI’s know).

Almost 50 years tend to make one’s memory a little foggy, but some things during basic do stand out.  My DD 214 indicated I joined March 4th, 1955.  That’s probably the day I was administered the oath in Seattle.  I’m sure we were in route to Fort Ord within a couple of days.  As I noted above, I actually left Seattle on the 4th and arrived at Fort Ord on the morning of the 5th.  My basic training book (or “annual,” similar to a high school annual), that I received upon completion, states the dates of actual basic training were 21 March to 14 May 1955, so there were a couple of weeks of processing between arrival at Fort Ord and the first day of basic.  I recall drawing uniforms and a lot of paperwork (test, etc); also a couple of details to keep us busy.  On one such detail, three or four of us were trucked out to dig a ditch.  As soon as the NCO was gone, we were “Zzzzzz.”  Fortunately, someone stayed on guard and lobbed a rock from their ditch into mine to awaken me as the sergeant was returning.

Some of the other things I remember are getting shots, learning to field strip an M-1 Garand and put it back together (blindfolded); endless classes on everything from Army etiquette to communications; the obstacle course with live ammo flying overhead; the rifle range, firing a rocket launcher and hitting the target dead-on; using a bayonet to find mine; going into the tear gas chamber and taking off my gas mask and leaving with tears streaming down my face; marching in formation EVERYWHERE; the “Army Daily Dozen” P.E. exercises; getting down in a deep foxhole and having a tank drive over the top; firing a light (.30 cal.) machine gun.  The gave us an opportunity to “John Wayne” it i.e., fire it from the hip and not on it’s tripod stand—it climbed right up into the air.  No way can you hold that down like Hollywood depicted happening in the movies.

My first day in the barracks of the basic training company, I learned very quickly NOT to raise my hand and “volunteer” anything, even information (unless asked directly by the NCO or an officer).  The NCO gathered a group of us around a double bunk and asked who knew how to make “hospital corners” when making their bunks.  Several hands went up.  I don’t know if they actually knew how or were trying to impress the sergeant.  Anyway, he told everyone who held up their hand to report to the mess hall—they were on K.P.!  Lesson learned.

One other instance stands out, then I’ll quit with the Basic Training reminiscing.  I took a camera with me to record my experiences during those eight weeks.  And packed it with me when we went out in the field on “maneuvers.”  We set up our shelter halves, did some compass and map work, etc., etc.  Then we were involved in some night operations.  I broke out my camera and proceeded to take some flash pictures of my buddies.  I took five or six but learned later the NCO’s were running around all over the place asking people who was taking the flash pictures and ruining their night ops.!  By the way, Fort Ord is now closed, too.  Makes me start feeling the years.

ARMY LANUAGE SCHOOL

After basic training, we got what, two weeks leave?  Anyway, I returned home for a brief visit, then flew to somewhere in Massachusetts (Worcester?) that was close to Fort Devens.  I took a bus ride and reported to the Processing Center.  It seemed like I was there for weeks on end, but it couldn’t have been more than four or five.  I think the reason it seemed so long was because of the endless details.  They had to keep us busy so they’d line us up in the morning and we=d be sent out on various work projects.  Towards the end of my stay, I learned that if you didn’t fall out, you didn’t go on any work detail (they didn’t call out our names).  Then keep a low profile during the day.  That, however, wasn’t until after I spent MANY days on K.P., a couple of days as a prisoner chaser (not a fun detail), as well as guard duty a couple of times.  We did have time to go out on passes a few times.  I remember visiting Worcester a couple times, and, of course, Ayer.  Even took a train ride to Boston one weekend.   Eventually, they loaded us on to planes and we flew to California—landed somewhere near Salinas, as I recall, and were bussed to Monterey.  We were flown on prop jobs, but we wnt by MATS rather than by a Canadian airline.  I began the six-month German Language course some time in mid- to late June.  Of course, from day one we spoke no English in class.  I, however, had a slight advantage, having taken two years of German in high school.  My papers from ALS state that I ranked 10th in a class of 75 with a 93 average on the final.  Some memories of “Club” Monterey include a class “A” pass—no signing in and our (I don’t  remember any guards at the gates!); the daily climb up the hill from the barracks to classrooms (twice a day, if you came down to the mess hall for lunch); and who can forget the smell emanating from “Cannery Row”??  Almost made you want to skip lunch!  Then there were the weekly uniform inspections every Friday afternoon—in formation just to keep us on our toes and remind us that we were in the service.  I remember the barracks cubicles.  I had one to myself although it had three bunks.  That was fine with me except when we had to wax and buff the floor each week.  I didn’t have anyone to help me with the chore.

One weekend, a group of three or four of us hitch-hiked to Big Sur and back.  That is beautiful part of the country.  Then there was my attempt to hitch-hike to San Francisco.  Got off on the wrong highway and there weren’t many cars.  I was finally picked up by a trucker, who took me the rest of the way.  After that, I found it more desirable to catch the bus back to Monterey!  I think that was my last ever attempt at hitch-hiking.  Toward the end of our course, we had our class picnic, at which we had to present a play—all in German, of course.  Don’t remember the content of the play, though we had to make it up as well, but it was a fun time.  The officers (from a colonel on down) and the enlisted personnel mingled together with the instructors.

EUROPEAN ASSIGNMENT

I must have had about one month’s leave over Christmas and New Years, after graduating from ALS on 16 December 1956.  I probably reported to Fort Dix around the 23rd.  I vaguely remember spending one night at a YMCA in New York and then bussed on to Fort Dix for overseas processing transport.  I wasn’t there long, but long enough to stand guard duty one night and have fire guard duty one other night.  I wound up with a group who flew to Europe—took off from Fort Dix, had a brief layover in Gander and landed at Rhein/Main Airport outside of Frankfurt am Main some 8 or 9 hours later.  I recall settling in at Gutleut Kaserne the day before I turned nineteen.  I was assigned to work at the I.G. Farben Building where I spent the next three months doing some transcribing.  Remember the pater noster??—the continuously moving elevator with no doors.  You jumped on and then jumped off at the floor of your choice.  Once in a while, you’d ride it “up-and-over” just for the fun of it!  It didn’t hold very many people, as I recall, about a dozen or so.

 

While stationed in Frankfurt, a group of us went to Heidelberg to tour the famous castle.  We also took a boat tour down the Main to the Rhine and on to the cliff of the “Lorelei” where sailors were supposedly lured to their doom on the rocks by the singing of the damsel “Lorelei.”  I remember doing a lot of walking around Frankfurt to take pictures and also traveling to Munich.  In Munich, I climbed many a step to take pictures from the top of the Frauen Kirche and some other edifices.  One other trip was my first journey to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (went one more time after I was sent to Berlin).  Those Bavarian Alps were GREAT—what a sight!  I also recall going to see the movie depicting Audie Murphy’s life and his was experiences (“To Hell and Back”).  He was the most decorated American soldier to come out of WWII.  In the movie, the voices were “dubbed-in” in German and the majority of the movie covered his experiences on the battlefield where he killed many German soldiers.  It gave me sort of an eerie feeling watching it in a German theater.  I wondered what the Germans sitting next to me were thinking!

THE BERLIN EXPERIENCE

About the first of May 1956, I, along with three or four others, was transferred to Berlin.  This was shortly after the CIA tunnel between West and East Berlin was “discovered” by the East Germans.  It was later learned, of course, that the tunnel had been compromised from the beginning by a British double agent.  Our buddies in Frankfurt wished us well on our new assignment, but commented about our being put to work digging another tunnel.  You know, 10,000 comedians out of work and these guys try to be funny.

When we arrived at Andrews Barracks, we were attached to what was the called “Detachment ‘B’, 8620 DU,” before it became the 280th Company.  I’m not sure if maybe it didn’t have one other designation before it became the 280th.   We were housed in a two story, brick building that looked like it had had one end bombed off.  The building was located behind the Base Chapel and ran parallel to and was part of the compound to the wall.  Our windows faced right out on the street, with the bars, of course.  A lot of times in the evenings, particularly if there was a poker game going on in the Day Room, the local German boys would hang around under the windows.  When we got hungry or thirsty, we’d send them down to the corner gasthaus for some “refreshments.”  I think I liked bratwurst best.  The boys were dutifully tipped, of course.

My duty station was at Tempelhof.  I remember climbing two or three flights of stairs at the very end of that massive building   How I wound up becoming the designated driver for our shift, I’ll never know.  Particularly, since I’d never had a driver’s license before I got there!  I’d done enough “going around the block” in the family car and did some driving while working at my brother’s service station that I was able to pass the test.  We had either a Ford “Taunus” or a 3/4-ton pick-up to drive.  Anyway, I drove the guys on my shift back and forth to work.  Had one accident, though.  I was driving back to the barracks along an unfamiliar route one after noon.  Came to a stop sign, looked both ways and started to pull out.  Someone said, “No, you’re supposed to turn here.”  A quick discussion followed and it was determined I should go straight.  Unfortunately, the car that had been barely visible when I first looked both ways was traveling a little faster than I’d estimated—he hit us broadside.  Fortunately, no one was hurt, just shaken up.  They deducted $20.00 from my next pay to pay for the damage to the other guy’s car.

Once in a while, we’d east lunch at the Air Force’s (or maybe it was the Airport’s) cafeteria.  To get there, you had to wander through this great expanse of the empty Tempelhof building—no offices, nothing.  It had either never been completed or that part had been destroyed during the war.  The first time someone took me on that trip, I wondered if we’d ever find our way back!  I was in the cafeteria the day Sputnik went up.  I remember they broadcast the beep-beep-beep over the radio while we ate lunch.

What can one say about Berlin—what a GREAT duty station.  Of course, you had to not think of the fact that we were 110 miles behind the “Iron Curtain” and surrounded by a couple of Russian Divisions—that took all the fun out of it!  I remember many walks alon the Kudamm and sitting in a sidewalk café, sipping “eine Weisse mit schuss” and watching the girls go by.  One of the first excursions (within a day or two of our arrival) a couple of my buddies went down the Kudamm to the Tiergarten, the Russian War Memorial and the Brandenburg Tor.

I remember other trips to the Tiergarten, climbing to the top of the Siegesauele to take a picture down the 17 Juni Strasse (named for the uprising in East Berlin) towards the Brandenburg Gate.  Visiting the zoo, touring the Charlottenberg Castle grounds (the castle itself was closed for repairs).  Going to a racetrack to watch the cars with a buddy and a couple of girls.  During the race, one of the cars skidded over the top of the banked curve and landed in the parking lot.  Fortunately, the driver wasn’t seriously hurt.  During “Gruene Woche,” in the spring, I went to see the Funkturm and the floral displays in the adjoining exhibition halls.  From the observation platform of the Funkturm, one had a view of a huge mound being built a few miles away.  When I asked what it was, I was informed that the rubble from WWII was being dumped there and it was going to be made into a park.  Little did any of us know that it was soon to be turned into “Teufelsberg” and the Tempelhof station would be shut down.

It seems there was a never-ending list of things to do.  I remember visiting the botanical gardens more that once.  And Wannsee—the beach was fantastic!  Of course, the quickest way to get there was the S-Bahn (forbidden transportation for the likes of us because it went into East Germany.  In fact, if I recall correctly, the next stop after Wannsee was in East Berlin—one didn’t dare fall asleep!!  Took a boat tour of Wannsee one time with my friend.  She also introduced me to the garden plots.  People could rent small plots of land, behind wooden fences, where they could plant small vegetable gardens—ideal for those in apartments with no place to grow things.

And then there was the nightlife.  I’m afraid I must confess I spent my share of evenings in the Rex Casino and the Resi.  The Resi with its pneumatic tubes to each table was the most memorable.  We could write a note to someone at the other table, put it in a cylinder (much like making a bank deposit from the drive-in) and send it to people at the other table.  Then there was the dance floor.  I don’t dance, but you didn’t need to—it was so crowded you just got out and sort of moved around.  And the fountains on the stage in the background had colored lights shining on them as they “danced” to the music.

Being in Berlin had one downside.  Being 110 miles behind the “Iron Curtain” one could not go sightseeing around the country on a three-day pass.  Thus, I only made three or fourexcursions around Europe.  I made a repeat trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps.  Made it to the top of the Zugespitze—what a view!  Tallest mountain in the Bavarian Alps, as I recall.  On that same trip I took a bus to Innsbruck, Austria, and did the tourist thing in that area.

I made it to Amsterdam twice.  The first time included a trip to Copenhagen.  I’ll never forget how they put the whole train on the ferry to Denmark.  And the smorgasbord!!  You’d never go hungry there.  The second trip included a trip to Brussels to see the World’s Fair (another story).

I was due to be discharged in March 1958, but the World’s Fair in Brussels beckoned but it didn’t open until May.  I really wanted to go, so badly in fact, that I extended my tour of duty by six months.  I signed the extension in November of ’57, shortly after being promoted to Spec. 5 and made an “Acting” Sergeant in the Company.  My duties included making the monthly duty roster—seeing that all shifts were properly covered, particularly when someone went on leave.  I also wrapped our “product” for shipment and couriered (if that is a word?) it to the train station (with a .45 as a companion).  Got stopped by the M.P.’s one time for speeding.  When I jumped out with that .45 and told them I was a courier, they couldn’t get me back on my way soon enough.

The tour of Brussels and the World’s Fair was worth the six-month extension.  I stayed in the spare room of a Belgian family and made three or four trips to the fair to see all of the exhibits of the various countries.  Some them were very elaborate—I remember, of course, the Atomium,” the U.S. “building” with its various globes connected by stairways and elevators to the exhibition rooms.

I’ve prattled on long enough about my Berlin experience—about tapped out my memory banks anyway.  Except, I had my first car there—a ’39 Cadillac.  What a beast!  It had belonged to one or two other members of the company—they passed it on down as each one ended their tour.  It got me around town in style for the last seven or eight months I was there.  Unfortunately, one evening a tree jumped out into the road, right in front if me—couldn’t avoid it.  It would have cost too much to have it repaired and I was too close to coming home, so I sold it to the owner of the garage where I’d taken it for servicing.

POST MILITARY/WORK EXPERIENCE

With six months tacked on to my enlistment.  I was due for a discharge in September.  About mid-August, I caught my last train out of Berlin and wound up at Rhein/Main Airport once again for my flight back home.  After a couple of layovers and a bus ride, I landed at Fort Lewis, WA.  I was discharged on September 3rd, 1958, and was faced with “What do I do NOW?”  I didn’t want to go back to pumping gas.  I’d missed he Korean GI Bill when I didn’t enlist in 1954 and there weren’t enough funds for a college education with out it.  My Army language training might have suited me for NSA, but “No Such Agency” was hard to contact, unless they wanted you.  Fortunately, at that time, the Boeing Airplane Company was hiring and I was able to get a job there within a few days of my discharge.  It was rumored that at one time one out of four families in Seattle and its environs had someone employed at Boeing.  My job was to assist with the electrical cable installation on ht eKC-135 jet tankers.  Within six months of my being hired, however, the contract for the KC-135’s ran out and I was laid off.  From March until abut September, I drank a lot of coffee as I daily worked my way from one café to another looking at help wanted ads and working crossword puzzles.  During that summer, my family and I did have a wonderful trip.  My sister, brother-in-law and their three children, and my parents and I piled into a station wagon and for two weeks drove through Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and back.  We visited relatives that some of us hadn’t seen for years, if at all, and did a lot of sightseeing, from Mt.  Rushmore to Wall’s Drugs, the S.D. Badlands and Yellowstone National Part.  It was a trip to remember.

In September, or early October, they got tired of giving me “rocking chair” wages at the Employment Office and found me another job.  This one lasted only three months, but in the meantime Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in my (what I considered) old hometown of Bremerton, put out a call for apprentices.  I took the exam in November and was hired in January of 1960.

PUGET SOUND NAVAL SHIPYARD (PSNS)

So it was back to work for DOD, only this time for the Navy.  The Navy Yard is the primary employer in Bremerton, though there is also the Torpedo Station in Keyport and later Sub Base Bangor.  When I took the apprentice exam, only about six or seven trades were hiring apprentices.  I signed up for the Shipfitter program, though I didn’t know for sure what a shipfitter was at the time—my brother-in-law informed me it was the best choice of the lot.  Turned out a shipfitter was involved in steel construction—anything made of 1/8”-thick steel plate up to 4’-5”thick armor plate is assembled and installed by a shipfitter.  The apprentice program was four years long.  We attended classes one week a month and then worked in various sections of the shop the rest of the time to gain on-the-job experience.  ‘Course we got paid to go to school—that made it worthwhile!  Classes ranged from English to basic math through a smattering of Physics and Trade Theory to Descriptive Geometry (which is basically drafting).  Shop experience included time on new construction, ship overhauls, in the mold loft making templates and drawings from blueprints to be laid out on steel plates.  Also, in the planning department, writing up job orders for the mechanics and on the machines that sheared and shaped the steel.  During those four years, we served in all areas of the shop.  In 1964, I graduated as a Shipfitter Mechanic.

From the time I entered my apprenticeship until the late ‘60’s, we worked a lot of new construction—right up a shipfitter’s alley.  I “hung” shell plating, installed foundations, assembled 40- to 60-ton sub-assemblies to the main ship’s structure that was already in place on keel blocks, set deck and bulkhead assemblies, etc., etc.  Then the government saw fit to turn over all new construction to private yards.  We had always done some overhauls and conversions of surface ships.  We now made the transition to nuclear submarine overhauls as well.  One of my last surface ship conversions was the U.S.S. Pueblo—currently residing in North Korea.  I rebuilt the pilot house—extending the sides, installing new watertight doors, deck plating and foundations.  I also installed the structural ventilation, foundations and removable deck plates in the “crypto” room.  One last job I had was to “set” the mast.  It’s tradition to put money under the mast for “good luck.”  The riggers and I ponied up some loose change to put under the mast before dropping it into place.  The North Koreans owe us (my contribution was about 50 cents) and so much for “good luck.”

I worked in the Shipfitter Shop for ten years after completing my apprenticeship in 1964.  That included two years total (off and on) “on loan” to the Design Department where I worked as a draftsman (before the advent of C.A.D.)  Most of my involved incorporating revisions into the drawings before they were republished as blueprints for the worker “bees”.  Once in a while, they’d give me a job to design and draft my own.

Working on nuclear submarines meant more training.  After some classes, I spent time in and out of the reactor compartment as well as working on nuclear systems outside the R.C.  Working on nuclear meant working to more exacting specifications and standards.

In 1974, I was promoted to Ship Scheduler (Shipfitter).  This meant a welcomed raise in pay and the opportunity to work in an office.  We received the same pay as a foreman in the shop and our responsibilities were commensurate with the pay.  A nuclear submarine overhaul required approximately 3,000 job orders to do everything from removing, repairing, reinstalling and testing one valve to overhauling a major piece of machinery.  As a Lead Scheduler, I oversaw the work of other schedulers who diagrammed these 3,000 job orders (by hand—still no diagramming computers) in a process called the Critical Path Method.  The data was inputted into a mainframe computer and when done correctly, i.e., got all the “bugs” worked out, we could tell shipyard management and shop managers what the “critical paths” were going to be in the overhaul, i.e., which systems needed more manpower and more attention.

As part of our responsibilities, we also produced a list of “Principle and Key Events” with corresponding dates which needed to be met in order for the overhaul to be completed on time.  We also prepared “Removal Schedules,”  “Repair Schedules,” and “Reinstallation Schedules” for the shops as a guide to get the equipment back in place and on line to meet the over completion date by NAVSEA—to get a vessel “back on line.”  I’ve had a hard time explaining what I did as a Scheduler to someone not associated with the Navy Yard, or even in regular construction, the foregoing is about the crux of it.  I worked in that position for nineteen years, including about two years (off and on) as a supervisor.  I retired on May 1, 1993, and haven’t looked back!  Working for the government, one can retire at age 55 with 20 years of service.  I was 56 and, with my Army time, have almost
37 years of Civil Service.

FAMILY

After beginning my apprenticeship at P.S.N.S. and moving back to Bremerton in January of 1960, I looked up my old school chum who had told me about ASA (he’d spent his tour in Heilbron—we were never able to get together while in Germany.  Once I returned to Bremerton, we would get together to go camping, hiking, etc.  Now that I had a job with a future, my thoughts turned to starting a family.  I didn’t want to go “bar-hopping” to seek someone with whom to spend the rest of my life.  And there weren’t any girls working my trade in the shipfitter shop, so what to do?  I asked my buddy where we might meet some girls.  He told me about an interdenominational college-age youth group that met every Sunday evening in a church across town.  Now I hadn’t darkened the doors of a church in several years—wasn’t sure if maybe the roof might fall if I went back.  Joining that youth group was one of the bst decisions I ever made!  I had made commitment to Christ many years before, having gone forward at a revival meeting when I was about twelve.  My mother was the devout member of my family.  She saw to it that I attended Sunday School and church each Sunday that I visited my parents in Seattle.  I resented it at the time, but now I’m glad I got that training.  There was a period of time, particularly in the Army, when I turned my back on God—not intentionally.  He just didn’t fit into my plans.  But he welcomed me back!

I attended the youth group meetings every Sunday evening, eventually becoming the president for a couple of terms.  We went on outings once a month and had Bible studies on Friday nights, after which we’d go bowling.  It was during this time that I realized the distance I’d put between myself and God.  Deciding to close the gap, I joined a church (First Baptist) and was baptized.  Without belief, baptism is just a church bath.  Even though I continue to make bad decisions, when I don’t take time to listen, I know God will pick me up and set me straight again.

My future bride was from Colorado, but she had an aunt who lived in Bremerton.  The aunt’s husband died in the spring of 1969.  Elinor (my wife) came to Bremerton to spend some time with her during her bereavement.  And, Lo and Behold, she began attending the youth group.  She had been attending college in her hometown (Gunnison, CO) to become a grade school teacher and had completed two years of course work before coming to visit her aunt.  Her intention was to return to Gunnison in the fall of 1960 to continue her studies.  Her plans were interrupted, however, when her aunt had a nervous breakdown in late summer from the strain of losing her husband and continuing work.  Elinor stayed on until her aunt was out of the hospital and back on her feet.  We became better acquainted and began dating.

What had begun as a short stay to comfort a sorrowing aunt turned into several months.  She didn’t return to Colorado until late spring/early summer 1961 to attend her grandparents’ Golden Wedding anniversary—and, of course, to continue her college education.  By then, I’d concluded I wanted to marry her, but I was too slow on the draw—I didn’t propose before she left!  What to do now, with 1,300 miles separating us?  It came to me—I had some leave time on the books.  I asked my parents to go with me, so they could meet her parents, and we took off for Colorado.  Our visit came as somewhat of a surprise (she almost collapsed when she answered my knock on the door).  Long story short, she came back to Bremerton with us for a brief visit before school started and I presented her with an engagement ring.

We were engaged for almost two years (I don’t recomment that!) while she completed her schooling in Colorado and received her teaching degree.  She went to summer school in 1962, so she could graduate early and returned to Bremerton in May 1963.  We were married June 8, 1963.  She began teaching in the fall of 1963 while I completed my apprenticeship.

Our first “home” was a rental—a 60’ trailer in a trailer park.  We stayed there for a year, then rented my parent’s home (which they had purchased in Bremerton in anticipation of retiring here from Seattle).  In 1965, we bought our own home.  It wasn’t much to look at and, in fact, was torn down by the new owner after we sold it.  It did, however, have a FANTASTIC view out over the water and Bainbridge Island.  We could watch the ferries come and go, as well as the ships heading into and out of the Navy Yard.  In 1977, we sold that place and moved into our current home (between Christmas and New Years—I wouldn’t recommend that either).

We wanted children, but it was not to be for eight years, during which time Elinor (Ellie) continued to teach.  Our first son (Andrew) was born May 4, 1971.  Our second son, Matthew, arrived 3 ½ years later (to the day) on November 4, 1974, Andrew, at 31, just got married on March 24th of this year in Reno.  He and his wife are living in Medford, Oregon.  He is a cook at an Italian restaurant (has been a cook since shortly after graduating from high school, but plans to start college next fall).  Mathew is engaged and will be married in August of this year (they both informed us, separately, that they became engaged on Valentine’s Day of this year).  Matt currently lives in Columbus, Ohio, having taken a job there and transferred in January.  His fiancée lives in southern California (just north of LA)—where Matt had resided for the last three years.  It’s NOT EASY planning for a wedding when you’re almost 2, 000 miles apart!  I have every confidence they’ll work things out.  Matt is a CAD operator and does some design work.

SCOUTING EXPERIENCE

I’ve been affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America since Andrew came home from first grade proclaiming he just had to join the Cub Scouts (in the Fall of 1979).  I’d always wanted to be in the Boy Scouts as a youth—envied those guys doing camping and hiking, but my home situation didn’t allow it (getting transportation to meetings, buying equipment, etc.)  When Andrew joined, Ellie and I both got involved.  She became a Den Leader and I became the Pack treasurer.  Later, when Andrew joined a troop at age eleven, Matt was ready for Cub Scouts.  I became the Cubmaster for three years and Ellie continued as Matt’s Den Leader.  I also went on some of the outings (camping, hiking, and backpacking trips) with Andrew’s troop.  Matt joined the troop and a few months later I became the Committee Chairman.  Andrew stayed active and earned his Eagle rank just before his 18th birthday in 1989.  Matt decided Scouting wasn’t for him about the same time and dropped out.  I stayed active as Troop Committee Chairman until 1992 when I was asked top volunteer for a District job, that of Advancement Chairman.  My responsibilities included the review of all Eagle Scout service projects, charing Eagle Scout boards-of-review, maintaining a current Merit Badge Counselor list, providing training for merit badge counselors, seeing that adult volunteers were properly recognized, organizing an annual dinner at which these volunteers would receive their awards, etc., etc.  I held that position from June 1992 until December 1998.  In the meantime, of course, I had retired.  With a little more time to spare.  I answered the call of my sons’ old troop when they went looking for a Scoutmaster in 1994.  I’ve held this position ever since, organizing monthly outings, annual summer camp trips, 50-mile backpacking excursions, all the while preparing the Scouts in the troop to find their potential as leaders.

One of the really FUN things (for me) was to attend two national Jamborees in Fort A.P. Hill Virginia, in 1993 and 1997.  This is a gathering of 30,000 plus Scouts from all over the United States and some foreign countries.  There are all kinds of activities for the Scouts to keep them busy, from Motocross bike riding, a rappelling wall, to archery, air rifle and shotgun ranges.  Then, there are water sports (canoeing and rafting), a stocked fishing lake, a snorkeling tank, and the list goes on and on.  I helped staff the air rifle range both years.

I’ll continue as a Scoutmaster as long as health permits.  We’re planning another 50-mile canoe/backpack trip this summer.  I have a little problem with one knee, however.  On our last trip we went exploring the longest lava tubes in the continental U.S. (known as Ape Cave) on the south flanks of Mt. St. Helens.  In the process of climbing over LARGE piles of rock and up an 80foot rock wall in this cove, I did something to my knee.  It’s on the mend, however, and should be ready for our 2 ½-mile backpack trip to the hot springs this month.  And so it goes—staying active in retirement!

 

Swanson Pics Button
BI 170 000 000