When I grew up I was the fat guy. There wasn't many of us back then and some people really made it a point to make fun of it. I can remember one time in 2nd grade when the teacher left the room and went into the hallway for a moment for some reason and Victor Lavidere said something about me being bigger than the average size person that made the whole class laugh out loud. I was crushed, my feelings were so hurt. I ran out into the hallway and the teacher was there. I told her I could not go back in there ever again. She told me to wait in the hallway while she went in and talked to the class. I don't know what she said and when I went back in there might even had been an apology, but that reaction from the class really effected me.
So anyway, I went to a catholic school, St. Marie's in Cohoes from K to 7th. I was the only person I can remember being bigger than average. I was not greatly overweight, but somewhat chubby or husky as some of the clothing use to call it. I had to have special shoes because my feet were wider than average. They had to be special ordered and cost more. I remember they did not come to a point like the regular kids did, they were more rounded and had the dot imprints that were actually more fancy than average but I just wanted to be normal.
Moving ahead to 12th grade in high shcool (I went to Cohoes High class of '75) I was about 230 or more. Back then you could go to a family doctor and get a prescription for diet pills at pretty much any age. They were a strong amphetamine that had the side effect making a person not want to eat. I called them "black beauties" and "yellow jackets" because of their appearance. I started to take them late in my senior year and I was not eating right. The doctors did not suggest any diet with them, just gave them to you. I was eating a bowel of diet ice cream a day while I was on them. I can remember standing up fast and getting dizzy. One time I got out of the bathtub and passed out into the toilet. My father laughed at me. I don't know what he thought was funny about that. After a while, I could tell when I was getting ready to pass out and I would bend down to stop it. I remember it happening to me crossing the street in Albany going to the federal building where I enlisted into the NAVY. I simply made believe I had to tie my shoe because a car was coming and I did not want to look funny bending over.
So anyway, getting back to when I seen my father care for me in his own way. The way I got interested in going into the military has to do with getting an apartment of my own. When I finished high school, I was not going to turn 18 until the following October 14th. I had been working in the same factory as my mother part time during the school year and full time during the summer since I was 16. That was Barclay Home Products. When I graduated from high school, I had no plans for an education or career. I floated through high school taking general classes and mostly interested in art, science and industrial classes. Once I graduated, I was faced with going to work in the factory for near minimum wages and poor conditions at a job I really did not enjoy. But I did it for lack of anything else. I wanted to get my own apartment. I told my mother I wanted to and all she had to say was,"If you don't make it, you can't come back." I took her serious and with the income I was making, I looked into the military because if I did not make it with an apartment in there, they always had the barracks to sleep in.
So I was still overweight for all the branches of the service except for the NAVY. They allowed a few extra pounds for bigger boned people. They measured my wrist to check me and I was good to go. I took the aptitude test and did well on everything except math. I did not get far in math because when I hit algebra, I had a teacher that couldn't pronounce his words well and all the symbols on the board did not make sense to me, I failed it. I just took the basic math in high school.
So I told the recruiter I did not want to be on a ship all the time -I wanted my own apartment. He introduced me to the Seabees. A construction force of the NAVY that stayed on land. He didn't tell me that most of them are in mobile construction battalions that travel the world deployed for 8 months and then home-ported in the US for 6 months for training to go back out for another deployment overseas. More about that later.
Back to getting into the NAVY. I had to get down to 207 to get in. I was just about there when the time came up. Oh yea, my choice of jobs in the Seabees. The recruiter told me about the different jobs or "ratings" the Seabees have and at first I wanted to be a equipment operator. I remember as a kid seeing a truck driver way up in his truck smoking a cigar all pleased with himself and I thought, "I want to do that someday." I understand now how impressionable children can be and how they can make life choices on these impressions. Well the EO's had a long waiting period and I wanted to get on with it. Utilitiesman or UT's was a short waiting list and that included plumbing, water treatment and heating and air conditioning. My father's brother was a plumber, Uncle Frank. He came over every time we would do some remodel to the row house as we moved from the 1st floor to the 2nd and attic space for housing. More on that later. I remember one time on the first floor, I was under 13 because that is when we moved from the 1st to the 2nd floor (I think), Uncle Frank came over to do something to the bathtub on the first floor. I was sent down to help him in the cellar. I didn't do anything but watch and ask questions. Later in life I wondered why my father wasn't down there helping his own brother who was working and providing materials to him for free. I think it was the "I got 7 kids, you got to help me out" thing. He still could have helped. My mother always cooked for helpers tough, she was well known and is still well known for her cooking and ability to produce a meal for a crowd. So when the choice of UT came up, I picked it and signed up. I had to sign for 5 years to get into the Seabees. I was all excited about it and ready for my adventure.
I was still on the speed. I was only taking one a day although the doctor, Dr. Bania of Cohoes increased me to 2 per day. I was selling the extra one to a coworker for a dollar. This covered the cost of my doctors visit and cost of prescription at the time. I was making the grand amount of $1.85 per hour at the job at that time. A dollar went pretty far.
As the time approached for me to leave, I could tell my mother wasn't herself. She was never much on talking about her feelings. If she cried, you had to guess why and there usually would be some guilt involved somewhere. I would say about 3 days before I left, my mother wouldn't come out of her bedroom. I was OK with it and the hour I was to leave, I went into her room to say good-by to her. She just kept me at a distance and said something about don't come near her or something,. My father and my sister Holly drove me to the train station in Rensallear to pick up a west bound train that was picking up recruits all the way from Boston and west to Chicago. My father was emotionless but Holly was crying. I began to feel hurt between my mother and sister's reactions. I brought the prescription of speed with me but I had an idea they would not let me take it once I was in.
Once on the train, I got a sleeper unit. It was a days trip. I was dressed for the trip, not the destination. That is something else the recruiter could have advised me on is comfortable shoes for the first few days in boot camp when they march you everywhere and before you get issued you boots. The recruiter did tell me that being in the NAVY would not be like boot camp. He told me to just do as I was told and it would be different when I got out of boot camp. I made the mistake of wearing a pair of platform shoes to bootcamp. When I finally got my boots and uniforms about day 3, they had us place everything in a box and mail it home. I was told when the box was opened the house did not smell right for a while.
So anyway, I cried a lot in my sleeper unit on the way to boot camp. I felt like I was hurting my mother and sister and the 8 months of being on speed did not help my emotional well being or maturity.
When I was getting processed through intake into boot camp, we got to a station that had some garbage cans. We were told if we had anything we were not suppose to have that it could be thrown out with no questions asked. I threw my prescription out and went cold turkey instead of reporting my drug use/dependence. I became very depressed very quickly after that. The feelings of hurting my mother and sister were amplified and I was regretting my decision to join the NAVY. My mother made it worse by sending me letter saying how I should be home where I belong and things of that nature. I felt terrible because I had signed a 5 year contract and I couldn't get out of it that I knew of. I thought everything about being in the military was impersonal, that if you had a personal problem you were weak and out of luck. The days were long and hard going through boot camp like that but the worse was yet to come. Midway, about a month into boot camp came service week. Service week could last a week or many weeks depending on how many recruits are in Great Lakes Training Station at the time. It is a time when you take off from the regular NAVY training and do the work of operating the base, the nuts and bolts. I happen to catch mess duty, that is working in the galley. That is doing 3 meals a day, 7 days a week for 2 weeks. I caught schullery duty. That is where all the utensils and trays are cleaned and made ready for the next meal. There was 2 schulleries in the galley and I was in one of them. There was 5 of us on the team and we had to clean 5000 trays per meal. The day started at 5:30am and worked non stop except for meals to eat until 6:30pm. I never seen cockroaches before then and when I came in in the morning, I would see them. They also had fruit flies in the bathroom stalls, I did not mind them so much, I stayed in the stalls as long as I dare when I went to the bathroom. I could not eat a thing when I was on service week. Everything had a certain chemical taste that I could smell strongly in the dock area of the back of the galley near the dumpsters. I even tried eating the crackers that came sealed in plastic and they still had that taste to them. I make it through though. One more thing on boot camp, I had the crapyest company commander I think one could get -well, that I know of. He was short, wore a big mustache and it was his last company he had to put through. I don't think he liked it at all. He did not take pride in his company, he was not interested in our troop carrying flags that we earned, he did not give us regular PT to get us ready for the PT test we had to take during boot camp. He made a comment to me,"I wonder how fat people fuck." He was just a angry little man. I am going to include a couple of shots of boot camp photo's of him and me at the end of this section. So anyway, I was writing a lot of letters to everyone when I was in boot camp. By the time I got to service week, I was getting a lot of mail and on top of my long hours of work, I was writing letters when I was off duty and taking care of everything else. When the time approached to graduate from boot camp, I knew I would be going to "A" school for my Seabee training in Port Hueneme, CA or Gulfport, MS. I was also going to take some leave before I went so I could be near my mother for a little while. I was looking forward to going out on liberty after graduation from boot camp, we were not allowed any liberty or any free time the whole time we were in boot camp. I just wanted to be with a hooker. I wanted the company and affection more than anything else. What I did not know is my Dad and sister was flying out to see me graduate and take me to 6 flags amusement park. I will include some pictures of that at the end of this section too. The last picture is of my Mom and me meeting at the Albany Airport. We were both sad and smoking. The only time my father showed he cared about me is by flying out to my boot camp graduation and when my mother would send me letters, he would make a head and hands look like it was peeking out of the flap of the envelope. He did take me hunting with me, but he would do things like rip me off on bets. One time there was a tree about 1 1/2" in diameter and I was pretty good at throwing a knife at the time. He bet me $5.00 I couldn't stick it in the tree. I did and he never paid til I brought it up decades later when the bet was nearly worthless and he paid up. His father was a very mean man who died of lung cancer when I was about 8. He was miserable. He did not have much of a role model.