Rotten-Groton-by-the-Thames

by Don Gardner

Thousands of Coasties went through "Rotten Groton" over the years. Most of the "A" Schools were located there as well as AtoN School and the Coast Guard Institute. In the mid-1960's the schools were moved to Governors Island and Yorktown. This memoir is only one of the thousands of them, mostly unwritten. Most often the students were fresh out of Cape May or Alameda, and Groton was an extension of those Boot Camps with academic requirements.

Radio school in late 1952 was a blast. In the evening, George Richards and I hung out at the gedunk eyeing the pretty waitresses and drinking gallons of coffee. We would often use our coffee spoons, hold one end down with the fingers of our left hand and pump the handle as if it was a radiotelegraph key, pretending to send Morse. We weren't the only crazies, though, for other radio school classmates would be doing the same thing at other tables.

One night, George and I were sitting in the gedunk downing cups of coffee when we decided to see the movie on base, "High Noon," with Gary Cooper. The base movies were inexpensive and recently released. But, once in your seat, you couldn't leave until the movie was over. A burly Bosun's Mate stationed near the door saw to that. This never bothered us before, but, after consuming all that coffee, I felt a sudden urge, and the movie had barely started. I was able to suppress my need for a while, but it became more and more urgent that I relieve myself. Only thoughts of the embarrassment that would ensue if I wet my pants kept me from losing control. "High Noon" was an exciting, well-made movie with a marvelous plot, well-deserving of its nomination for the Academy Award. Under normal circumstances, I would have greatly enjoyed the movie and its theme music, but tonight, the movie seemed to go on interminably.

"George, when the movie lets out, let's hang back a little bit. I don't want anyone to jostle me or I'll wet my pants." At the end of the movie, when the lights came up, the crowd rushed for the door. When it seemed safe, George and I followed. I walked like a pregnant woman near the end of her term as I finally made it to the nearest barracks to use the head, afraid someone would jostle me enough to make me loose control. Fortunately, I made it without incident and found a urinal not in use.

Minutes of blissful relief followed. George reported in amazement to a sailor at the urinal next to me, "Hey, you're the third guy that's peed beside Don and he's still going at it!" A fourth sailor relieved himself and left before my job was completed. What ecstasy that pee was.

I've seen "High Noon" several times on television since then, and each time I remember George shaking his head and laughing at the long, seemingly endless stream. Relief is an appropriate name for that particular function.

Radio School Barracks MAA

The MAA of our barracks was a Bosun's Mate first class whose given name will not be divulged. We called him "Porky." Porky would report anyone for the slightest infraction, and the culprit would be called up to the Mansion and given extra duty. Someone told me Porky couldn't read; when he caught me one day (probably for sleeping in late), he asked for my name.

"Gardner," I replied.

"How do you spell it?"

"Capital G, u-l-l-i-b-l-e."

Porky wrote it all down in his little book. "OK, I got it. You go on to class now. See you at Captain's Mast," Porkly replied smugly, his porcine eyes glowing with happiness, knowing I would soon be taught a lesson and given a few hours of extra duty under his command.

For some reason, I was never called to Captain's Mast.

George and I managed to survive radio school. The RM designator was happily and thankfully sewn on our left shoulder above our seaman stripes. Each class was allowed to print a graduation paper as a memento. On the cover of our paper was a drawing of a pig, and most of it was dedicated to poking fun at Porky Sanderlin, our happy-to-put-you-on-report MAA. The class paper announced our class motto was "Three dits, four dits, two dits, dah. Radio, radio, rah rah rah."

 

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