Most Unforgettable Chief I Ever Knew
Mischief was his middle name …..
Laite, now that was a guy to reckon with. I met him first at Headquarters when
we were both RM1’s, and there I observed his keen, sometimes slightly weird,
sense of humour. Steve left mischief behind after you relieved him. As his
relief sat down to begin printing messages on the teletype, Steve would lift up
the cover of the paper tape re-perforator when you weren’t looking and tear
it, then sail out of the communication centre just about the time you noticed
your message had stopped printing because you had run out tape, leaving you to
type in the portion missed during the time it took to refeed the tape. Laite
pulled this on a couple of different watches, but when it started happening to
him, he gave up the game and went on to others.
my second tour of duty at Headquarters in Washington, I made RMCS, obligating me
to serve two years in that rate. My tour of duty ran out when I had about 18
months to go to retire; I asked if I couldn’t finish my career at
Headquarters, but there was a guy rotating back from Alaska who had already been
assigned. I had to go.
next stop was CG Radio Station Long Beach (NMQ) where Steve was an RMC, the
senior RM, and was on the RMCS list but had a couple of numbers to go. Why they
sent me there to join Steve, with him pregnant and near the end of his term for
promotion, I haven’t the vaguest clew; he kept the station patched together
and was often consulted by an ET1 when there was a problem the ETs couldn’t
was important that a fire be reported promptly and the correct fire zone given.
One of Steve’s little mischievous ideas was that he often teased the station
personnel by walking around with a decrepit often-used-for-fire-drills
wastepaper basket crammed with wastepaper while everyone peeped from behind
barracks curtains or other places of concealment and kept their eyes on him the
entire time. Steve was on stage, so to speak, and enjoyed the popularity.
Suddenly Steve would dart into the fire station, the barracks, volleyball court,
or anywhere he thought would be a good place to start the fire without doing
damage. When I arrived there for duty, we would start out together with a
wastepaper basket then suddenly split up to confuse the guys, who tried to
figure which one of us was going to set the wastepaper basket on fire. Everyone
got a laugh out of this, especially Steve and I.
taking over from Steve, I had to page check a number of classified publications
to ensure that all pages were correct. Everything went well except for JANAP
195, a confidential Navy frequency publication—someone had failed to enter a
change page and retained instead the page already in the publication. I told
Steve I would sign off on the letter that said all publications were current and
correct and decided to let it ride since the publication is often changed—an
updated page would eventually come in and all would then be OK. The page was
never replaced while I was there; when Steve relieved me later, he re-inherited
liked to drop anything and everything that would explode/implode off the cliff.
Old televisions especially were wanted. Word would be passed and a crowd would
collect. Steve would roll off a television while we all waited for it to implode
and go flying into a thousand pieces. The bottom of the cliff looked like a
disaster area. A bit of harmless fun kept our morale up.
morning before station inspection, Steve told me he had a sudden brainstorm.
When the CO, CRELE Pat Flynn, came out of his office and walked to my desk,
which sat in an alcove, he saw Steve leaning forward slightly on the near
bulkhead supporting himself with his left hand, while his right hand was in
front of him at zipper level. The captain did a quick take, then exclaimed, What-the-hell
are you doing! It appeared as if he was taking a leak against the bulkhead.
Steve turned around with a sly grin on his face and showed him a piece of paper
in his hand he was ‘reading’. The skipper enjoyed the joke.
Steve made RMCS, he was put in charge of the ETs, but when I was short a watch
supervisor, I had to put him on watch. Steve never complained, thank God, but I
felt terribly guilty about usurping his position at the radio station, then
adding further indignities by temporarily putting him on watch standing duty.
I’m happy to say this situation was rectified in a short while.
had another entertaining source of amusement: He liked to change titles or names
slightly. For instance, Captain of the Port became Captain of the Pot,
motorcycles became mudercycles (which actually seems appropriate), and Public
Health was renamed Pubic Health. That one I liked best of all.
CO liked all of us bigwigs and high muckety-mucks to eat together at noon chow,
CO, XO, Laite, and me. I tried to get by with eating small portions because a
big meal made me feel sleepy, and I certainly couldn’t take a nap. Steve,
however, would load up his plate with triple portions of everything while we
looked at him in amazement, envy, and a little hate that he could gorge himself
in front of us. No matter how much he ate, Steve never gained weight.
finishing off a large meal, he would then fill a bowl with ice cream. The
skipper, XO, and I had to refrain from this gluttony by taking small portions.
After consuming his meal and the big bowl of ice cream, Steve would push it away
then lean back and say, as cool as you please, punctuated with a satisfied burp,
‘Ah, that will make a nice turd!’
not only was a great electronics technician, he also knew quite a bit about auto
mechanics. We both drove 1965 Fords with the same body colour and about the same
engine size. At quitting time we would race out of the gate and up the highway.
But one day Steve got ahead of me and suddenly I noticed a highway patrolman had
pulled him over. I tried to drive by and not look at the scene but that didn’t
work—the patrol waved me over, too. It seems one of the locals around there
had reported something like drag racing was going on and wanted it stopped.
Steve and I both got a ticket—$18.75, a sum I remember since that was the cost
of a government savings bond. We didn’t race anymore after that, but Steve
never gave out of ideas to have fun.
Steve came to me one day and reported that an ET had found a ‘hippy shack’
at the bottom of the cliff as you come onto the station. Steve fired me up with
enthusiasm as he described how one of the ETs would go around the point at low
tide with a 5-gallon bucket of gasoline and would douse it on the hippy shack
and set it afire.
the tide was out and the ET3 despatched, Steve and I walked down to the edge of
the cliff overlooking the shack and watched as the ET3 doused the shack, then
lighted it up. Most of the enlisted men on the station were there to enjoy the
excitement, but we had passed the word to keep quiet about it because we
didn’t want the skipper to find out, knowing he would not have given
first burst of smoke looked like an atomic mushroom cloud. Soon flames began
eating their way up the cliff, burning everything before it. We sent men to the
fire station to get hoses, which they connected to the nearest hydrant and
turned the water on.
little problem! The pressure on the hose was way down—barely more than a
trickle only—the hose had to be passed down the cliff to the ET3 and several
men scrambled down to help. Right about this time the fire truck from the
station down the road came cruising by; apparently someone had reported a huge,
uncontrolled fire (perhaps the same person who reported drag racing).
Fortunately for us they were not blowing their siren and didn’t come to the
gate to enquire.
casually mentioned—he knew how to get to
me!—that he hoped the fire wouldn’t creep all the way up the cliff and
begin a fire on station property. My overworked imagination kicked in and
provided a picture of the station burning to the ground. Then Steve added that
he hoped the CO wouldn’t find out about firing up the hippy shack.
imagined the star above the crow on my left arm going up in flames—I’m
busted back to RMC! I always thought the damn star was upside down anyway, but I
did badly want to keep it because the money helped on retirement. Now I am
indeed having serious second thoughts about letting Steve talk me into this
pyromaniac caper—especially as the fire continued creeping up the cliff,
consuming everything in its path.
oh, here comes the skipper’, Steve said.
mentally dropped a load in my skivvies. Oh
Lord, let this work out, let the CO not be in a bad mood when he sees what we
are doing to his radio station.
I’m not much of a praying man, but by the time the skipper got within
ass-chewing distance, I must have promised God an awful lot. Flynn always had a
red face and you couldn’t tell if he was PO’d or whether he had done a bit
explained what we had done to the hippy shack. He also pointed out we had
discovered low water pressure on the station and that some of our fire hoses
were leaking, a fact we had not discovered on ‘routine’ fire drills. Now we
knew some of the hoses should be replaced and the water pressure situation could
be serious if a real fire at the station occurred. The skipper agreed, in fact I
think he enjoyed watching our little fire, with all the men pitching in to put a
real instead of make-believe fire out.
kept my mouth shut the whole time except to nod my head if the skipper said
something positive and not court-martial-related.
skipper invited the fire company to the radio station about a week later to
check our hoses and water pressure. They were able to tell us what the water
pressure problem was and which hoses should be replaced immediately. I don’t
remember if anything was ever done about it, the Coast Guard always being on
such a tight budget and never could spend money on things that were really
two RMCS’s at the radio station was overkill in my view, and I mentioned to LT
Valentine Gaida, the district communications officer, that either Steve or I
should go. I reminded him that Steve kept the radio gear patched together, that
the district communications centre did not have an RMCS and I liked that duty.
giving the matter thought for several weeks, Mr Gaida agreed to the transfer to
the district, from where I retired when my obligated two years was up.
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