My Naval Duty
When . . . Before TV
Welcome to the winter issue of the Newsletter dedicated to the alumni (students, teachers, and administrators) of Waterford and Fort LeBoeuf High Schools. This newsletter will be issued quarterly. New issues will be posted for viewing on the Web site on, or about January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.
The Bisonalities, Again Web site may be viewed by going to:
The success of this newsletter will depend on you. I need contributors. Do you have an interesting article, a nostalgia item, a real life story, or a picture you would like to share with other alumni? Do you have a snail-mail or an e-mail address of one of your former classmates? If you do, please send it to me at the following e-mail address:
or at my snail-mail address:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Please, NO handwritten submissions.
The Bisonalities, Again Newsletter is available to any and all alumni, teachers, and administrators of Waterford High School or FLBHS on the Web site, free.
If you know an alumnus, teacher, or administrator who would be interested, tell them about the Web site. None of the material in this newsletter has a copyright unless otherwise noted. If you wish to make copies of this newsletter and distribute it to other Alumni or friends, please feel free to do so.
If you are reading this newsletter on-line and would like a printable version of it, a PDF version is available on the web site. That is, a file that can be read and displayed by the FREE Adobe File Reader. This will allow you to print the newsletter exactly as if you had received it by snail-mail. If you would like a PDF copy of the newsletter, it is located on the Main Menu under as "Past Issues Bisonalities Again."
Well here it is again, winter. Here in Southern Maryland we have been as many as 32 degrees warmer than our normal winter temperatures. We have had days as high as 75 and as low as 38 but on average it has been 3 degrees warmer than our normal average.
In the last couple issues I have mentioned the Fort LeBoeuf School District Foundation. In this issue you will find an article about the Foundation and the outstanding work they are doing for all the students of the Fort LeBoeuf School District.
The one-liners found in this issue were received from Lillian Barnes, Class of 1956. Thanks, Lillian!
By Bob Catlin, Class of 1956
In "Cat's Corner" I mentioned the FLBSD Foundation. I have been a member of this organization for several years now. For those of you who are not familiar with the Foundation, I would like to enlighten you.
The Foundation is a registered non-profit corporation comprised of school district officials and community members with a wide range of expertise, in education, finance, industry, business, and marketing. A number of working committees study questions and advise the Board of Directors. Board Members, Officers and Committee Members all volunteer their time and services from a desire to provide each student in the Fort LeBoeuf School District with the resources to succeed in life.
The Foundation was designed to help our students succeed in life by providing a wider range of educational opportunities for our students and strengthening students' chances for post-secondary success. Foundation funds are available for:
· Students scholarships
By meeting these goals, we will prepare our students for personal growth, community awareness and civic responsibility. We will prepare them for SUCCESS.
The Foundation achieves these goals - - -
Early Waterford pioneers believed in the importance of education, establishing the first school in Erie County at the turn of the 19th century. As a symbol of our ongoing commitment to education, the Foundation has adopted as its logo the entry arch of historic Waterford Academy, which served the education needs of Waterford, Mill Village, Summit and the surrounding area continuously between 1826 and 1955, when it was demolished to make way for a new elementary school. In the spirit of our ancestors, we are committed to educating our young men and women, and to strengthening the sense of community throughout the Fort LeBoeuf School District.
The Fort LeBoeuf School District Foundation was formed in order to assist the community in developing the full potential of each student in our schools. We care because the young people of the Fort LeBoeuf School District are our children, grandchildren and friends; they are our legacy to the community; they are our best investment in the future of our country. For our educational program to be most effective, we must build a team in which each member of the community has a role in defining the quality of education for our students.
There are many ways you can enhance the education of our young people through the work of the Foundation, including:
If you are interested in helping us in this important endeavor, as a committee member, or by giving a donation, we can be reached through our web site, www.flbsdfoundation.com or by calling, Kathy Proctor at (814) 796-6253 or writing to the Foundation at:
Fort LeBoeuf School District Foundation
By Dave Belt (Class of 1956)
Joe Leech asked in the Spring Issue 2006 of the Bisonalities, Again, "Who were the other guys that enlisted together?" The answer is John Bainbridge and Dave Belt.
John and I generally rode together to the drills at the Training Center on State Street. We too stopped regularly at Parenti's on the way home. We also reported to active duty together on June 13th, the day after graduation.
Because of the late start of school that year, due to construction, Fort LeBoeuf graduation was a bit later than other schools in the area. We graduated on the evening of June 12th.
At 4:30 a.m., June 13th, John and I boarded a Buffalo bound Greyhound bus. We were sworn into active duty at the old Buffalo Post Office (now the downtown campus of Erie Community College), watched a movie in a downtown theatre, took a taxi to the train station, and rode on the Pennsylvania Railroad overnight to Baltimore, Maryland.
A Navy bus took us to the "Bainbridge Naval Training Center," just east of the Susquehanna River and well South of Harrisburg. When we got to the base, John was driven to the front gate and his picture was taken next to the "Bainbridge Naval Training Center" sign. I think the picture made it to the front page of the base newspaper. I also believe that that was the end of John's celebrity status at Bainbridge.
John and I went through the "Processing Day" together and were then sent to different companies for our training. I don't recall seeing John again until we finished Boot Camp and were home on leave in September of 1956.
Boot Camp was rigorous! We were promptly taken to a large drill hall that had lines painted on the floor, creating squares about five feet on each side. At the corner of each square was a brown paper bag with a mailing label. Everyone undressed to Nada, placed every item of civilian clothes in the bag, addressed the label to Momma, and was paraded, very exposed and very embarrassed (talk about tan lines . . .) to the "Regulation Clothing" building. Regulation clothing came in two sizes, too big and too small.
We were given a bunch of shots and then marched to the "Barber" building. Since there was only one style of recruit haircut, the barbering was finished in about forty-five seconds. The floor had inches of hair covering it (talk about tan lines . . .)
Bainbridge, Maryland is very hot in July and August. Very few places had air conditioning, the asphalt drill fields were brutally hot, and I got the Mother of all sunburns on my head.
We scrubbed our clothes, by hand, and tied them on lines to dry, scrubbed the barracks floor on our hands and knees with brushes, stood four hour watches at many stupid locations, including the clotheslines and next to the dumpsters.
For punishment some recruits had to do their "Dumpster" watch inside the dumpster.
There were no fans in the barracks and I would feel the sweat popping out as I tried to go to sleep. Hearing sobs and outright crying during the night was not unusual.
Since John and I went "active" together, we had leave after Boot Camp at the same time in September. One day we dressed in our "whites," John borrowed his Dad's blue and cream Chevy Bel Air Hardtop and we went "cruising." We stopped at a drive-in restaurant on Peninsula Drive, near Sixth Street. A very attractive "car hop" came to take our order. She went to the driver's side first. John said many complimentary things. The girl took his order. As she walked to my side of the car, I said, "Hi, Peggy." She replied, "Hi, Dave." I continued, "I would like to apologize for the night of the hay ride." Peggy grinned and said, "That's Okay," and then took my order and left. John wanted more information about the hay ride. I offered none.
When I was 15, and attending school at Edinboro, my older sister had heard me talking about a hay ride. She also heard comments from a pretty sister of one of my Edinboro friends, who lived near St. Vincent's Hospital. My sister brought Peggy from Erie, on the evening of the hay ride, thinking that I had planned to ride solo. I hadn't told her that I was to be the tractor driver.
After leave, John completed his Active Duty in Washington, D.C.
I extended my enlistment a year so that I could participate in a 33 week Fire Control Technician school (torpedo and ship's guns). The school was at the Bainbridge Naval Training Center and was a very different experience from Boot Camp. The classrooms were air conditioned and the barracks had many fans.
After training I reported to the USS Orion, a submarine tender based at Norfolk, and worked on torpedo firing systems.
I thoroughly enjoyed my post Boot Camp Navy experience.
Editor's note: The U.S. Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, where Dave and John took their "Boot Camp" training, served the United States Navy for 34 years from its beginning as a recruit training command in 1942 to its closing on March 31, 1976. During that period of time it also served as, among other functions, a mustering-out facility, the home for the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS), the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), the Naval Reserve Manpower Center, and various specialized training schools. The Navy announced its intention to close the base in 1971.
By Sandi Clark (Class of 1972)
Do you remember how you made it through the summer and those long winter nights without TV or computers? Of course, I grew up in a family of eight siblings. We had built in babysitters and playmates. During the summer it wasn't too hard to find something to do. We lived on farms most of our lives.
When we lived in Ohio we had vineyards around us and would be out helping with the grapes. Otherwise, we would just be running around the fields and woods. Like I said, we had our own playmates!
When we moved to Greene Township we had a barn or two down the road that we would explore as well as the woods and we also had a small cement pond in our backyard. Mom was scared to death with that pond but none of us died. We all fell into it one time or another but we could swim. It became mucky with debris and leaves so Dad drained it. That gave us even more fun because then we would slide down into and try to climb back out. If we couldn't get out on our own we would help each other or improvise a rope (out of clothes, towels, almost anything that would hold). That made Mom angry because we were ruining our pants and getting all scratched up from brush burns on the cement.
When we lived on Stone Quarry Road we would go to the area farms and play with their children or go to our friends by riding bikes. I knew the Melnicks and Gocals. I know my brothers had friends on Wheelertown Road. If we decided to stay closer to home we had the cow pasture, the woods and the barn. The woods were a favorite because of the creek. We could go crawdad fishing, hunt for frogs or snakes (always a good way to scare your Mom without intending to - just leave them in your pockets for bath time). There was also a tree by the creek that had a branch that looked like a window seat or a bench type swing. We would go there if we wanted to be alone to read. We were avid readers before we ever went to school. Moving into Mill Village just gave us more options. We had more friends that we could easily walk to see even if they lived outside the village boundaries. We had the junkyard, the culvert for swimming, two ball fields and numerous other places that only kids would enjoy. We also could run over to the schoolyard and play on the equipment there. It was just around the block for us.
During the winter was another story. With the snows we used to get then, there were times when we would be snowed in and unable to play outside for long, although sledding was plentiful on Stone Quarry. We had some really nice hills. In Mill Village we would go out to Brown Hill or one of the other steep hills between Mill Village and Cambridge Springs. Of course that meant adults had to supervise but we usually had a few who were willing to take us. Otherwise, we had to entertain ourselves. We were well equipped to do so, too.
There are five girls in our family and we each took turns making paper dolls. Paper dolls on cardboard were really plentiful then and if we couldn't afford to buy the clothes to go with them we made our own. We could have entire lives planned out in a single day playing with those dolls. Dressing up was just as much fun. Otherwise, we girls would torture our three brothers. Duane, the youngest, though was more of a "living doll" for us. We all took turns taking care of him until we got tired of playing house and decided just to read.
We had all sorts of community activities, church activities, and school activities winter and summer that we attended all the time. Mom had to choose the most important activity of each one of us and attend as many as she could manage. Otherwise we had to find our own transportation to our activities, which turned out to be easy through either the church or school. We also dragged friends home on a daily basis even in the summer. As we grew up though chores and extra-curricular school activities took time out of our dolls and eventually we put them aside. We eventually got a TV when I was about 12 but Mom made sure we went outside during the summer rather than sitting in front of the tube. Before TV we did listen to the radio a lot in the evenings and especially during the winter before going to bed.
These days when the family gets together we remember always having extra mouths to feed and even having to set up extra tables because of the friends we took home. Mom didn't mind though because she could send us to someone else's house just as easily. We were our own entertainment then and all of us can still remember some of the dolls we had and some of the stories we got caught up in while playing house. Those were the days and sometimes I wish I were still there even with some of the "cat fights" my sisters and I got into with each other.
See you next issue!