Time at the Yard
1952 we were at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore where CG-83312 was
undergoing an extensive overhaul, which consisted of removing the Sterling
Viking gasoline engines and replacing them with diesels.
Duty at the Yard was quite good; there were recreational facilities (pool room) and showers. The 312 was uninhabitable at this time and we slept in barracks at the Yard on comfortable single-bunks. Lockers were provided to keep our clothing in. On the 312 we were piled three-high on a pitching, rolling boat, where we had an AM radio, no showers, and had to hand pump the heads to remove waste material
Yard chow was outstandingly good; we had frog legs once and I thoroughly enjoyed
their chicken-like taste. I never ate a poor meal the whole time I was there.
But there was one drawback however—the three of us Seamen had to rotate mess
cook duty. But this wasn’t too bad.
my first assignment to the mess hall, I noticed Baltimore policemen eating in
the galley and asked a cook what they were doing there sponging food. ‘We keep
a good relationships with the cops. If they pick you up for drinking and find
out you are a ‘Coastie’, they will bring you back to the base and let you
go,’ he replied with a knowing expression on his face. That sounded like a
good deal to me, although I never had to use this service.
boat went to Curtis Bay while I was a patient at the USPHS hospital in Norfolk
recovering from tonsillitis and upon my discharge, I was directed to wait three
months, then have them removed. I rejoined the CG-83312 in Curtis
Bay and when the three months was up, reported to the USPHS hospital in
Baltimore for the operation. I vividly remember the doctor used a three foot
needle to inject the pain killing medicine. I lived through the operation and
after a brief period of recuperation, was granted ten days sick leave and went
home. My throat was sore for another week or so and I had to eat soft food, but
Mom took good care of me.
While home, I had to give my future quite a lot of thought. My enlistment was due to expire in May and I tried to make up my mind whether to ship over or come back home. Employment for a high school dropout with no special skills was a chancy proposition—I knew I could find a job in the furniture industry but didn’t look forward to doing this sort of work for the rest of my life. On the other hand, if I remained in the Coast Guard, heaven knows where I would wind up. Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays would probably be spent many miles from home, and numerous weddings and other family celebrations would be missed. I really wanted to go home, but my future there seemed bleak at best.
When I returned to the boat I discussed shipping over with several shipmates. I had been attached to the boat for almost three years by now and felt at home. If I shipped over, I would soon be transferred because of the length of time on the boat. My only path to promotion was to be a Boatswains Mate, and this did not appeal to me.
Gradually, I began leaning toward shipping over but decided that it would only be for three years in case I decided I didn’t want to make a career of it.
early May I was sent down to Norfolk to reenlist.
I stayed two nights at my Aunt Barbara’s while the papers were being
processed, then I went home again on ten days reenlistment leave. It was
difficult to explain to Mom that I had decided to stay in the Coast Guard for
three more years, for I was afraid that she would feel I was rejecting my
family, but I carefully explained to her that High Point didn’t offer a
future. Mom tried to understand and never attempted to change my mind.
After returning to duty again, life settled back to normal for a while. A shipmate, SN Vester Barber, mentioned one day that while I was on reenlistment leave, a message to all units had been received that ordered each unit to notify them of which schools their non-rated men would like to attend. Ves explained that the O-in-C, BMC Bill Twiford, put me down for radio school because I liked radio. At first I was upset because I didn’t want to leave the boat.
enough, several weeks later we received a message ordering me to radio school.
During the interim period that Ves told me about the message and the receipt of
orders, I had been giving radio school a lot of thought and was now anxious and
excited about the prospect of becoming a Radioman. Although I did not have a
high school education or know Morse code, I did have three years experience in
voice communications, which helped once I was in school.
farewell to shipmates I had served with for quite a long while is a sad time.
During the three years on CG-83312 I had enjoyed some wonderful times and
companionship. The boat was home to me, like my parent’s home in many ways. At
the same time, I was excited about travelling up North, to see new sights, to
meet new shipmates, and to learn the exciting profession of a radio operator.
never forgets their first ship (or boat, in my case). Now almost 50 years later,
I can still remember every detail of CG-83312.
To Coast Guard Stories
The Yard was a headquarters unit and did not handle 5th District