Noilly Prattle: Looking Back: 4 – rude awakenings

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Looking Back: 4 – rude awakenings

1957 (Federal troops escorting the Little Rock Nine)
   The Pawcatuck's homeport was in Norfolk, Virginia. Small town hick from the northeast that I was, I had never had any contact with other than white people before joining the Navy. My first contact with Blacks, Asians and Hispanics was at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. This was 1959, before the sit ins, civil rights marches and urban riots of the 1960s. By this time the momentum toward civil rights for Blacks was well underway after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954; Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955-56; Little Rock, Arkansas school integration, 1957.

       But, in 1959 there were still remnants of the old Jim Crow Laws in the South where I saw, for the first time, blatant racism depicted in “white” and “colored” signs in rest rooms, waiting rooms, restaurants, etc. I was growing up in more ways and more quickly than I had ever anticipated back in the old all white home town.

       Norfolk was affectionately, or, more accurately, sarcastically, called Nofuck, Virginia. The nickname referred to the attitude of decent girls who shunned sailors as a general rule and B-girls in the bar strips outside the bases who led us on for overpriced drinks and disappeared when the chips were down. There was another side to the sex scene in Nofuck that I was naïvely unaware of when I first arrived and soon fell into a trap, that is, trapped in a moving car with a huge merchant marine man trying to feel me up while driving.

        Lots of sailors, yours truly included, kept “civvies”, civilian clothes off base in lockers at the YMCA in town. We would leave the base in uniform as required, change to civvies to go on liberty, and change back to go back to the base. There was a bus stop just outside the Y. I had changed back into my uniform, one day, and was waiting for a bus when this car pulls up and a big macho looking and smiling man leans out the window and offers me a ride to the base. So, I thought, hey, a ride, sure, why not, and jumped in.

       We drove along exchanging the usual what's your name and where're you from introductions. Suddenly, there is this hand tentatively brushing my knee, which I moved to the side. But, the hand returned more insistently on the knee and traveling up my thigh. I pointedly removed the hand this time and I realized the man was rather drunk. Meanwhile, we were still on the road to the base and traveling too fast to do anything but tell this insistent gentleman with his hand back on my thigh that I wasn't interested and to let me out of the car. He refused and became more insistent both verbally and with his hands, and I became more angry, unceremoniously throwing his hand off me and demanding that he keep his goddamned hand to himself and stop and let me out of this fucking car. No soap.

       Now I realized that he had no intention of taking me to the base and figured he would turn off the main road at some point and drag me to a remote area and probably beat and rape if not kill me—he was big enough. I was scared. My heart was pounding like a jackhammer and the adrenalin was singing. I managed to keep my wits and decided to watch for my chance and hope that he would have to stop for a traffic light or at least slow down enough for me to jump out of the car when he inevitably, I was sure, would turn onto a road that didn't lead to the base.

        Soon enough, that's exactly what happened. He slowed down to turn without stopping but slow enough for me to take what I calculated was my most likely one and only chance to get away. When I opened the passenger door he tried to grab and stop me but I managed to jump out losing my white hat in the car in the process. To my relief the car kept on going. When I stopped rolling I checked for physical damage. I wasn't seriously injured, just a few cuts and bruises mostly on my hands and knees and tears in my clothes, but I was considerably shaken. I sat down on the curb and pulled myself together. When I had calmed down enough, I started thumbing a ride back to the base. Before too long another sailor picked me up and asked me why I was “out of uniform”. 

       I laughed and said: “I'm lucky that's all I'm out of!”, and told him the story.

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

the cat with 9 lives…geez.

Out of uniform, because you didn't have your hat?

I should tell you about hitchhiking up and down Commonwealth Avenue as a naive college student and the guy who was told to massage himself because he had fallen off a ladder.

We are lucky to have lived through our youth, aren't we?

Noilly Prattle said...

Lucky or quick witted, I dunno which, but it sure as hell wasn't dull. And that makes all the difference!

Yeah, you should, but I don't get the connection between "massage himself" and "fallen off a ladder". My curiosity is aroused (no pun intended. ;-)

Noilly Prattle said...

Oh, I forgot. Any missing item in a military uniform is considered "out of uniform"--like being hatless.

Anonymous said...

the connection is stupidity....or naivete at the time. "Dr. told me to massage it until I got to the office"...oh dear.