Old Cape May

Remembering Boot Camp………

By Bob Reding




It must have been a childish whim,

That caught me unaware.

I’d join the Coast Guard, leave my home,

Now folks; please don’t despair.


I’m eighteen now, almost a man,

It’s time I made my mark.

September fifth of ’55,

For boot camp I’ll embark.


They put me on an eastbound train,

Mom cried, and Dad’s eyes glistened.

He had really tried to reason,

But me, I wouldn’t listen.


I needed to cut those apron strings,

See all that life’s about;

Until I met my drill instructor,

All he could do, was shout.


Do this, do that, desist, belay,

It was hard those first few days,

We’d barely get a grasp on things,

Here’d come a whole new phase.


“FAIR? That’s what the county holds once a year.”

Quotes? He had a vast array,

“TEXAS? Nothing but steers and queers in Texas,

Don’t see no horns on you”, he’d say.


He shaved our heads, took our pride,

Treated us like dirt.

No matter what he did to us,

We dare not show it hurt.


Hut, two, three, four,

Pushing us to the limit,

Not one of us, would give in,

“There’s the pool, you boots, now swim it!”


“Yes sir! No sir!” On and on,

The days dragged into weeks,

We drilled and studied, drilled some more,

He made us feel like freaks.


The first few weeks went by so slow,

How long could we hold out,

But soon we started noticing,

Our hair began to sprout.


We looked around, saw new recruits,

Heads shaven, slick as glass,

Six weeks gone by; we’re halfway through,

And soon we’ll see the last.


‘Twas now apparent, what had escaped,

Our attention until then,

So obvious, this bullying,

To turn boys, into men.


It didn’t make it easier,

Now, that we understood,

The drill instructor, kept up the pace,

Even harder if he could.


The weeks began to pass us by,

A little faster then,

Even more determined, we became,

To see it to the end.


Finally the day arrived,

The finish was at hand,

We marched with pride, our chests swelled up,

To the leading of the band.


We all survived, those hectic days,

The “twilight” of our youth.

Becoming men, as men become,

Rough; at times uncouth.


I think I am a better man,

Even to this day.

For having spent, those twelve odd weeks,

At a place called “Old Cape May.”