By Don Gardner
Why I don't give advice about Hollywood anymore........
1952 I was in radio class 67 and the senior of four section leaders—the only
seaman who had served a three-year tour and reenlisted.
person in my section was Nicholas Adamshock. Nick had been a movie extra in
Hollywood until joining the Coast Guard. Nick kept our class entertained with
the usual imitations of Cagney, Grant, Bogart, and Edgar G Robinson. Everyone
liked his impersonations and personality. His stage name was Nick Adams, the
name of a character in one of Hemmingway’s stories.
night outside our barracks, Nick and I talked about Hollywood. Like so many
others during this period, Nick had joined the Coast Guard to put in his
military time during the Korean War. Drafting men into the Army or Marines was
law then, and recruiting was no problem for the Coast Guard, for many young men
thought the Coast Guard was a better choice.
wondered what I thought of his chances in Hollywood after his enlistment
expired. His only on-screen role had been as a Western Union messenger boy who
delivered a telegram. His one line had been, “Telegram, M’am.” He may have
hoped I could provide sagacious advice—I told him to forget a career in
Hollywood because his chances of breaking into the acting business were
few years later my wife and I were watching No
Time for Sergeants, starring Andy Griffith, when Nick’s face popped up on
the screen as Andy’s sidekick. Nick made quite a few movies in minor roles. He
was in Mister Roberts and had a
starring role as Johnny Yuma in the TV series The Rebel. I don’t give advice anymore about Hollywood.
of our instructors, and most interesting, was Chief Roach, a strange personality
who smoked a corn-cob pipe a là General
MacArthur. Oddly enough, he also looked like MacArthur. During the first week of
RM school, I noticed Chief Roach had a distinct limp in his left leg. The next
day, the limp was in his right leg. When I asked one of the instructors about
this, he diplomatically advised me that Chief Roach was ‘different’ and I
should ‘continue copying code because it won’t affect you like that.’
Well, I did and it did.
Roach regaled us several times with his code-copying ability. He could send the
code characters backward, and at the same time go from Z to A in the alphabet.
For example, Z is ‘dah dah di dit’, backward it is ‘di di dah dah’.
Combine backward Morse with going through the alphabet backwards and you have
something only someone who is ‘different’ could do—or want to do, for that
even though Chief Roach dwelt in the outer limits, his enthusiasm for Morse code
made itself felt among us lowly students. His advice was to read signs aloud and
spell them out in Morse. On the liberty bus into New London on Friday afternoon,
one could tell the RM school students by the sounds they made while reading the
advertisements aloud in code.
the end of our training, Chief Roach gave a remarkable demonstration of his
code-copying ability. We had heard that he once held the world record for
copying code and asked him to demonstrate. Roach mounted a tape in the keyer,
set the speed to 45 or 50 wpm and began copying, but not until thirty seconds or
so had passed. Several of us had been copying in the 30-somethings, but not
solid. Occasionally, I could pick up a long character, usually a number, as
Roach punched away at the telegraphic typewriter. It dumbfounded me how he could
copy so far behind hearing the actual character and carry on a conversation with
us at the same time.
enough, when the tape stopped, Chief Roach continued typing. When we looked at
the paper in the typewriter, it was perfect copy. A classmate, Bill Heidig, who
was a ‘ham’ operator (W2HUK) and could copy faster than anyone in our class,
verified the speed as 45 plus.
that time, I learned to copy somewhat behind the actual character as it was
transmitted. You can ‘replay’ in your mind the code you heard, but it
requires many hours of copying to do this. Chief Roach had spent years in order to display that ability in radio school.
An Aside -- I spent several years at Groton as an Engineman School Instructor and heard tales about some Chief RM who was so looney that he walked down the street reading code into flashing advertising signs. I never believed the story but there must have been some truth in it. - Jack