Mess Hall to “Dance Hall” My first duty assignment was an overseas tour with the 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW) at Futema, Okinawa. To get there, I hopped across the US on military aircraft to the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro, California. Once there, I was assigned to mess duty for about a month while I waited to be shipped out to Okinawa. Marine air bases always have had the reputation of serving the best chow in the Corps. El Toro was no exception. The food would have rated four stars by most food critics.
I worked in just about every capacity except cook in that mess hall, and again saw the almost fanatical way in which a Marine Corps mess hall was run. Cleanliness and sanitation were taken to new levels. Everything was scrubbed and cleaned, daily. Condiments like salt, pepper, sugar, mustard and ketchup were emp- tied each day. The shakers and bottles were sent through the dish- washers, and eventually refilled. When returned to the long rows of tables, each bottle on a table in one row was aligned with every other bottle on the rest of the tables in that row. A string stretched from one end of the mess hall to the other was used as a guide to insure perfect alignment. Nothing was out of place. Nothing was overlooked. My month at El Toro would have been an uneventful note in my Marine memoirs if it had not been for Linda T. While in high school, I had dated a beautiful young lady who I took to the prom. She had moved with her family from Niagara Falls to Anaheim, California. I never thought I would see her again until I discovered that Anaheim was only 15 miles from El Toro. It did not take long to make arrangements with Linda’s father to pick me up at the base for weekend visits. The “dates” were short and uniquely different. Linda was in California recovered from a bout with tuberculosis. She lived in the guest house, isolated from her family and situated among beautiful gardens and trees behind the main house. It was under these circumstances that I was allowed short visits with Linda. We talked and danced in the moonlight and dreamed about her successful recovery and a full and beautiful future. No Hollywood script could have been written better. The too few “dates” were short-lived and before I knew it, I was on a troop transport headed for Hawaii. Linda eventually met someone else and moved on with her life. I hope she has lived a full and beautiful life. A footnote to this story occurred months later when I was given a routine TB test. The positive results warranted further exams and chest x-rays. Nothing was ever found and the doctors concluded that I had developed a strong reaction to the TB bug. Se la vie!
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