AN Old ‘Coastie’ Dreams

By Charles L. Umpstead

I awoke this morning believing I had spent the entire night searching for MY locker. Being a CPO on a shore station, I evidently didn't have much use for my locker. Through this ordeal I looked in many buildings and berthing compartments. At one stop in Chief’s berthing, I came across a group of ladies playing cards (I assumed all were CPOs.) Another stop almost got me into a fight when I asked, “Is this the 1st class quarters?” The fight was because when I asked the question, they said, “Why do you ask?” and I told them they LOOKED like E-6 s and not CPOs. I don't even know why this search was so important, but it was sure a different Coast Guard.

Many years ago, around 1952, a few of my fellow 1st class petty officers helped us move from Camden to Paulsboro, NJ. This was the beginning of a friendship with Norman Delany who retired in 1968 as a MMCM. We often visited each other over the years. On one occasion Norman remarked he was upset and that he had been having the same recurring dream—"they" would not let him in his engine room—he had to hang out all day on the upper decks. This really bugged him and he thought it was because they were painting the brass black like someone had done on a previous ship. The black gang didn't appreciate his demand they remove the paint and shine up the brass, however he made many points with the XO. On inspection the XO couldn't believe how improved it looked.

Years later, during one of my stops at his house on the way to Atlantic City, he had a happy face on and told me “they” had let him in his engine room where he found they were growing corn there. Imagine all the dirt they had to haul in. And why corn? Maybe it was because Delany was from Iowa.

Delany mention of wandering the decks all day triggered a memory of an actual event, when I found a 2nd class engineman wandering the decks of the SASSAFRAS. When I challenged him his reply was "Chief, Lonnie fired me."

What! Who ever heard of that? Turns out the EN2's work wasn't up to par that morning and Lonnie Barber, EN1, simply said, “Get out of here, you’re fired!” As the Chief I had to negotiate and keep peace in the engine room. Think about it, being fired from a job aboard a ship. What would you do? I smile every time I think of those two and the bewildered look on the 2nd class’ face, which seemed to say, “What do I do now? I don't have a job.”

Last night’s dream was as strange as the first time I dreamt it. I was a CPO and about to retire but really didn't want to let go. I knew that once I did, nothing would ever be the same. So I kept hanging on to a shore job where I didn't have anything to do except for playing “The Role.” For whatever reason, "they" came to me and suggested strongly I should not return to my office tomorrow.

And so, after 53 years, I must retire . . . IN MY DREAMS!


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