A Student's REMEMBRANCE Of Groton
It was late 1961.........................................
When reviewed, the battery of tests taken in boot camp showed that I had the potential to become an Electronics Technician (ET). So with boot camp behind me, I found myself with orders to Basic ET School at Training Center, Groton. Getting to Groton was not the easiest of tasks but after 18 hours on a bus I found myself staring at the massive stone and iron front gate of the Training Center and staring back was a BM1. The Boats took my orders, glanced at them, wrote the time on the outside of the manila envelope and gave me directions to the Mansion. The Mansion was where the OOD was to be found. It was located atop the hill overlooking Long Island Sound. It also contained living quarters for the Commanding Officer and the base chapel. The JOOD made short work of my orders and directed me to report to the duty MAA in Student A, the building across the street from the mansion.
Hoisting my sea bag I made the short trip across the street and found the MAA’s office. The BM3 inside, asked my name and the school I was going to and then proceeded to flip thru a clipboard. Looking up at me he said that my class wouldn’t start for a week and until then I would be a day worker. Putting the clipboard down he arose and said to follow him. We went to the linen locker where (after signing my life away,) I took possession of two sheets, a pillowcase and a blanket. We went down a flight of stairs, down the hall to a large room. The MAA told me to take my pick of any bunk without linen.
Rules, Regulations, and Station Geography
I met up with some friends from boot camp and we took off on a hike around our new home. Groton was a mixture of wooden WWII buildings, large brick buildings, and cottage type buildings made of stone, and it was quite impressive. The barracks was shaped like a large square “O”. At one end was the mess hall, the sides and the other end were four stories tall. The basement floor contained awaiting school students, the barber shop, and store rooms. the first floor was where the MAA and chaplains had offices as well Gunner's Mate school students. The 2nd floor housed ET’s. The 3rd floor was for Radiomen students ‘s. The 4th was for advanced ET school and Loran C school students.
The week passed fast and school started. On the first day we learned that the undress uniform, be it whites or blues, was to be worn at all times on base. We had to form up and march to and from school as a class. I recall tghe distance to be all of 200 feet.
We also learned we were not allowed to wear or have in our possession civilian clothes, students who had cars were able to store their civvies there and use the car to change, some of the rest of us used lockers that were available in New London to hold our civvies. Failure to maintain a passing grade meant study hall every week night from 1800 to 2100. Do it for three weeks and you would be rephrased or sent to the galley as determined by the instructors. Class started at 0800, ran to 1130 started once again at 1230 until 1630 with copious amounts of daily homework.
We were told that our six man rooms would be inspected daily by the MAA with a formal inspection held each Friday by the Chief MAA and the school. The rooms contained three sets of steel bunks, six wooden lockers and a large wooden table, the floor was covered with dark red linoleum.
The Gleaming Deck Caper
Keeping that deck shiny caused us some problems, it had to be buffed to really look good if you wanted to have your room pass inspection. I’m not certain just how many buffers were located in the barracks but there never seemed to be one when you needed one. You followed your ears to a buffer and got in line to use it, time consuming but effective. Buffers were not supposed to taken off the floor they were located on, but they were and in the process sometimes dropped down the stairs. There had been a rash of buffer casualties until only one was left working and it was kept under lock and key by the MAA. We were told to use our towels to buff the deck. That fiat might have worked on ignorant Deckies or sub-human Radiomen, but we were ET’s that is Electronic Technicians. There had to be a better idea, we found one. The buffers located in ET school that worked were not under lock and key. That evening when everyone was either at study hall, the Geedunk or the gym we borrowed the buffer from school. We were also smart enough to perform the final buffing using a towel on the buffer. When completed the deck looked good, too good! The next day we were one of the few rooms to pass inspection. In fact the MAA liked the looks of our deck so much that he brought the occupants of the rooms that had failed, to look at our deck, telling all of them “look at the fine job they did with just towels.” Our secret didn’t hold up for too long, after that the buffers in ET school were kept under lock and key. For our efforts as I recall we “volunteered” to wash fire hose one weekend.
Liberty, Such as it Was.
Liberty was only granted on weekends if you had passed the weekly test. Fail the test and you stayed on board unless you had submitted a special request. A student was permitted to submit a special request from for a 12-hour liberty on either Saturday or Sunday if they failed the test, the only stipulation was you had to submit the request on Wednesday; the test was on Friday.
Groton for its size lacked a place to wash clothes, if you made enough, which we didn’t, you could have your clothes washed at the dry cleaners. Most students however took laundry into the town of Groton to a coin operated Laundromat. The local bus ran out to the Training Center hourly and cost a quarter for a ride to Groton and 26 Cents to New London (the extra penny for the bridge toll.) The six of us would pile our laundry into two or three ditty bags, and then depending on the schedule we had made, the student who had the wash duty went into town to do the laundry for all six of us. More often than not the bus was either not running or had just went thru, rather than wait an hour we would walk the three miles into Groton where we could do the laundry. There was a dry cleaners located in the Laundromat and the grandmotherly type manager would sometimes watch our laundry while we went over the bridge into New London. Again, we walked as it was easier than trying to get to the closest bus stop, that bridge was cold and windy, sometimes we would luck out and get a ride over it. In later years when I was stationed at CCGD3(eee) and would cross that bridge going to Station New London I found it incredible that we used to walk it.
The Tale Of The Shark
ET School consisted of several phases, each five weeks in length. The first three phases were general electronics, followed by a phase dedicated to transmitters, then one on Loran A and sonar systems with the final phase dedicated to Radar/IFF.
The Sonar classroom had a tank about six feet in diameter and three ft deep for a transducer, the tank had to be filled with water in order to operate the sonar. Several of us thought that the tank lacked something: A fish! In our class there was a seaman who had been stationed at the Moorings New London before school. He made a phone call and started the ball rolling. The following weekend a 3 to 4 foot long sand shark took up residence in the tank, details of the logistics involved were highly secret, none of us were told. How we managed to control ourselves is still a mystery, but we did. The instructor however, was not able to control himself. When he saw the shark he went ballistic. The section chief had more control and the warrant officer in charge of the phase also maintained control.
That afternoon we were informed that we had “volunteered” to drain and clean the tank, and so as not to interfere with studies we would do it the following weekend. That Saturday we were given some buckets and told to empty the tank, that got to be old very fast as the nearest deep sink was on the 2nd floor and we were on the 3rd. The gardener had hose stored on hose racks outside each building for use to water the lawns, the nearest hose made its way to the tank, was filled with water and then lowered out the window, the tank was siphoned empty in no time, the hose returned to it's rack, and we reported back to the MAA that the “volunteer assignment was completed." To say the least he thought that we had finished the task just a little too fast. He went over to check and found the tank empty. We had it made until he looked out the window and saw the flooded lawn. Our protest that we hadn’t been given any directions other than to empty the tank didn’t hold water. Our punishment was to fill the tank by hand using the buckets. As a reward for filling the tank we also got to field day the hallway because of all the water we had spilled.
Standing the Duty.
While attending school we also were required to stand duty. Typically this meant for ET students either a 2-hour watch in the student car lot or a 2-hour watch on one of two stations. The parking lot was about a quarter mile down from the main gate off the main training dstation grounds. The watch had a little white building to stay in. When you relieved the watch you took possession of the log book and the guard belt. The guard belt had a holster for the nightstick. For some reason the nightstick was sewed into the holster thus preventing it from being drawn. I guess if you needed it you were expected to take the belt off and swing the whole thing.
The stomper watches were either through the various floors of the barracks with at least two punches on each floor or the outside post.
The outside post started at the barracks went over into the basement of the mansion, then out to the end of the point, around the sewage plant, and around the exterior of several other buildings. In summer it was nice, but let it rain or snow and the fun disappeared real fast, especially that punch out on the point.
Groton was unique, it was able to turn out good product in part because it had total control over the student. You either paid attention, played the game, studied or you didn’t get liberty. I realize that a system such as that doesn’t hold much credit today but back then it really worked.
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