A SURPRISE MEETING

By Jack A. Eckert

An unpleasant surprise in Waikiki leads to......

It was August of 1968 and I was newly assigned to the Western Area Operations Evaluation Division. This was my first trip and it was to Honolulu. The entire team was traveling together. When we arrived at the Airport on Oahu it was early afternoon and an all together beautiful day. In no time we picked up our luggage and were whisked away to our hotel, the Reef Tower on Waikiki, by taxi.

By custom we paired off and roomed together to hold down costs. In those days per diem in Hawaii was $18.00 per day and the room cost $30.00 for the two of us. LT Bill Wilson and I were roommates. Our room was several stories up and overlooked the pool and we could see Mauna Loa in the distance.

After we unpacked we put on our swimming suits and headed for the pool. The rest of the team joined us and we swam and partied until sunset. The Captain told us to meet in the lobby at 0630 for our ride to the ship which was one of the 255's.

When Bill and I got back to the room something was wrong. The room had been accessed by someone and we were cleaned out of wallets, money, airline tickets, etc. Our clothes and uniforms were intact. Between the two of us we had less then five dollars.

We reported it to the hotel and were asked how we expected to pay our bill. Big help these people and their security department was. I called home to California and told her to cancel my credit cards and do whatever else had to be done and while she was at it, wire me a couple of hundred dollars. Bill did the same thing. We contacted the Captain and told him of our plight. His particular concern was the stolen airline tickets which had been issued on a GTR*. YNC Scott had the numbers and it was decided that I would go to the PanAm office in the early afternoon and see if they would issue the two of us new return tickets.

I left the ship about 1330 and got a ride to the PanAm Office. I checked in and was told by the receptionist to have a seat and I would be called.

Sitting next to me was an elderly distinguished looking man and we engaged in an interesting conversation. After about twenty minutes I said, "Sir, I am sorry, I didn't get your name. You look so familiar." He replied, "You should know me. You've seen me for the last thirty years in the movies and on television." I looked at him again, his most distinguishing feature was his well groomed silver gray hair and I was still at a loss. "My name is Larry Fine," he said, "I am Larry of the Three Stooges." We talked a little more and he said they were playing in town and said that if I wanted he could give me tickets for the matinee performance the next day. I had to politely turn him down as we would be underway the next day. What a nice guy. It never dawned on me that he was who he was.

Epilog -- The cat burglar, the money, the wallets, the airline tickets were never found. The airline wouldn't reissue the tickets and my wife was $200 poorer. Credit card bills with forged signatures came to the house for months after that.

 

* Government Transportation Request.

 

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