Ft. Ord – A Weekend Pass…… ..#79 (the 50’s)


The first conspicuous alteration to an army recruit during basic training is they no longer have a first or middle name.   His surname was Sherman,  and upon approach he ascended to the charge of squad leader.   Private Willson suspected Sherman’s’ prior service may have influenced the platoon sergeant predilection,  as a newly anointed squad leader he named Stewart as assistant,  another name culminating the alphabet which was conventional for a fourth squad.   Gary soon recognized the idiosyncrasies that bestowed those with leadership responsibility,  it was the symbolism use of a clip board.  Lapses in the daily training schedule would find work details sometimes articulated by squad.   Sherman was very adept at securing a clipboard.  and with the squad called to formation.  he would conveniently misinterpret the instruction of the assignment.   The squad leader, clipboard in hand, smartly marching the squad, not to a duty assignment but accessing the PX.   When asked, Sherman rendered,  it was his military experience that no one questioned a clip-board instructed formation about its destination.


Willson having discovering his name was not impugn from appearing on the company duty roster, his first assignment being fire watch, spending two hours perched in a ladder accessible wooden lookout tower, situated in the boondocks of the East Range with a walkie-talkie radio.   The Company was in its fourth week when the epidemic of what was known as The Fourth Week Crud began.  It started with flu-like symptoms, Gary noticing the congestion and somewhat feverish sensation, debating whether to go on sick call, but his name was on the duty roster for morning KP and he reported to the mess hall.  He was stationed at the pots and pans sink feeling terrible when one of the  mess hall staff NCO’s started chewing him out for being so slow.  The soldier explaining that he wasn’t feeling well, the NCO yelling that he should have fallen out for sickcall.   Collaring the recruit,  the two marched out of the kitchen to the administrative office of the Company’s First Sergeant, the mess hall NCO giving an explanation,  but making it sound like this recruit was just trying to get out of KP duty.  The First Sergeant directing a staff member to take Willson to the dispensary, and would later decide on what action to take if necessary.


The recruit waiting his turn in the dispensary with the others on sickcall, not seeing a doctor but a medic and after a brief questioning, a blood pressure and temperature check, the medic concluding he would be transported to the hospital, disclosing that his temperature of one hundred and one point two had meant the temperature criteria for admittance.   gary, besides his physical lapse, had some other concerns about a hospital stay. it was S O P,  if admitted the unit would duffel bag and send all his belongings to the hospital, and if a prolonged admittance caused one to miss a sufficient number of training requirements, they would be held over for the next training battalion.  It was confirmed, he had the crud, medically diagnosed as an upper respiratory infection.  Discovering, it was a inherit training battalion illness,  something experienced after the start of training, much like the childhood illness’s at the start of a school year.


Gary somewhat oblivious to the events of the first night in the hospital, the second night an awareness of the consequences of his stay beginning to set in.  The morning of the third day, his fever having broken the night before, the Doctor asking but a single question, “how do you feel”, the recruit still feeling weak but mustering a bold reply,  “a lot  better” ,  the doctor giving a bland response,   “good, I’m dismissing you, report back to your unit”.  Willson soon found himself outside the hospital, dragging his duffel bag, unable to carry it for any length of time, coming to the conclusion it was a long way to the barracks.  He struggled for about a block when a passing  NCO in a jeep took notice of his dilemma, stopping,  offering to give him a lift.


It was Saturday, the recruit having completed the 6th week noting the sign at Fort Ord’s main gate displaying in bold print,  “Give A Buddy A Ride”.  Gary stationing himself at the side of the road outside the main gate thumb raised,  anticipating a Samaritan stop.  Members of his squad having questioned his reason for the brief overnight venture home on his first weekend leave, turning down an invitation to join them for a night in Carmel,  but in some sense subconsciously, he wanted to impress everyone at home with his new-found confidence, highlighted by a uniform, a visual demonstration of what he perceived as a transformation of maturity, but the real reason remained within,  the family and house on Greenly Drive was home.   Lady luck was smiling, the soldier harnessing a ride, concluding the normal two-hour drive to Oakland in a little over three hours, good time considering he was hitchhiking.



Arriving at home,  the feeling wasn’t what he expected, Sunday morning found him going for a walk, it had only  been little over six weeks since that meaningful day he had departed and  returning, the feeling wasn’t what he expected, everything had a new perspective, he felt more like a visitor in the house that he called home.  The elder Willson mentioning he would drive him back to Fort Ord that afternoon, Gary making it known that he would be returning next weekend with an army buddy that he wanted them to meet.



It was Saturday afternoon, Private Willson and Steward having just completed training week seven,  stationing themselves on Highway one outside the main gate, trusting for conveyance to Oakland.   On this second hitch hiking venture,  the Class A uniform wasn’t the complementing antecedent as assumed, waiting for what seemed an eternity before someone stopped, only to discover he was going to San Francisco, but could drop them off at the junction of the Bay Shore freeway to san francisco and Nimitz to Oakland.  the two being dropped off,  walking to the on ramp entrance of the Nim its in dire need of another advocate.  to their surprise a 10 wheeler semi,  with an attached auto transport trailer pulled onto the shoulder and stopped.  With a questioning expression on both their faces, the two approached the driver who greeted them with an inquiry as to their destination.  Gary immediately replying, thee 98th Avenue exit in Oakland,  the driver motioning for them to get in.   Both soldiers hesitant, there being room for just one in the cab,  and then they observed the driver ambulation’s, he wasn’t directing them to the cab,  but pointing to the auto transport trailer, voicing,   “the cars are unlocked”.




      The two were hesitant, the inventory that pervaded the trailer was an assortment of mostly new cars. the soldiers mounting the top-tier of the emporium, once seated, bathing in the aromatic bouquet only a new car possesses. The keys were in the ignition both looking at the dash, desirable thoughts prevailed, but the young soldiers perceived otherwise,  not turning on the radio.  The journey provided a spectacular delineation from its prodigious elevation, the two able to survey the freeway cartage from a height,  envisioning the perambulators of the highway,  like curios on a game board.  The auto transport trailer halting at the freeways 98th Avenue exit ,  the two uniform soldiers disembarking, setting about to procure a another Samaritan.  This time experiencing the smiles of lady luck, the person stopping,  not only escorting them to Mountain Boulevard, but to the Willson residence on Greenly Drive.



The hitch-hiking journey and their Saturday night arrival at Gary’s home was worth the effort, if nothing else, a removal from the rigors of discipline,  known as basic training.  The Willson family welcoming the travelers.  Gary somewhat concerned about their Sunday afternoon departure, having floated the idea to his Dad about taking the 56 Plymouth back to Fort Ord,  since this would be his final week of basic  his dad wouldn’t have to drivedown to pick him up.  He was still waiting for a answer when his Dad handed him the keys, reminding him to be careful,  and just when the new soldier thought he had gained some newfound respect, as he was leaving,  his Dad casually adding the dreaded high school cruising rule.  “and once you get there,  leave the car parked”.


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