Then and Now

Posted: November 10, 2015 in Random Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

CA San Diego 1979

So, this was me, back in 1979.  I was 17 years old, having just finished Navy boot camp and started my basic electronics training.  I spent my first four months in the Navy on the Naval Training Center base.

The last two days, I’ve returned to the former base (yes, it was shut down during the post cold-war military drawdown).  All but for the medical clinic, which still belongs to the Navy.  Yesterday I’ve been working at the medical clinic.  In the middle of the building is a courtyard.  Yesterday, walking across the courtyard, I seemed to have this foggy recollection of standing in the courtyard once upon a time, as a member of a recruit training company.

The former Naval Training Center has been turned into a community called Liberty station.  There are many new houses designed to look like the historic buildings of the original base.  And, those old Navy training facilities and buildings are also there.  When I was in boot camp, there was this mock ship, USS Recruit, nicknamed USS Neversail, where we recruits learned Navy skills like line handling and seamanship.  Unfortunately for me, I went to boot camp at the end of the 1970’s.  Anyone who was around back then might remember the military was always short of money.  Actual ships and equipment needed for the national defence were often in a state of disrepair.  Even more so for the Naval Training Center.  I remember the day my company was to have gas mask training — the tear gas trainer was out of order.  Darn!  I never got to take my mask off in a tear gas-filled room and breath in ’til my heart was content.  Well, when my company was supposed to play on USS Neversail, we couldn’t because it was falling apart and was deemed unsafe.  Then, the 1980’s and President Reagan came along.  Apparently USS Recruit benefitted from bigger military budgets like the rest of the Navy.  It was repaired, and even though the base was shut down in the 1990’s, USS Recruit is still around, looking good.  yesterday I took a few pictures.  Here’s one:

CA Liberty Station (3)

USS Recruit sits on the edge of a cul-de-sac with several hotels, a bunch of restaurants and a community center that looks like it might have been the Naval Training Center’s chapel.

Today during lunch, I decided to drive around Liberty Station and see the sites.  I saw the grounds where we endured our physical training sessions.  I drove by the old open bay barracks I stayed in just after boot camp graduation (which my stepmom’s dad also stayed in during World War 2).  I drove by the old headquarters building, which seems to be an office building now.  I drove by the former mess hall (or galley) where my first store-bought combination cap was stolen by some other sailor.  I drove by the building where I learned electronics, now a charter school.  I drove by the old Navy Exchange building, which is now a mixed-use retail and office plaza.  I decided I’d come back after work and walk around that area.  This turned out to be one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited.

The plaza consists of individual buildings connected by outdoor walkways.  The plaza has a Trader Joes and a Von’s supermarket.  The Von’s is the most awesome grocery store I’ve ever seen.  The store appropriated two of the old Navy buildings and the courtyard between them.  One building was for produce and cooked foods.  the other building was for non-perishables and liquors.  The courtyard was for flowers and a coffee shop.  Along the various walkways in the plaza, I saw restaurants, nail salons, insurance agencies, travel agencies, banks, fountains, offices.  A high school jazz band was giving a concert in another courtyard.  Again, I had the foggy recollection of walking the corridors in another time.  The surreal feeling I had was accentuated by the fact my blood sugar was getting very low and I was getting light-headed.  I found a nice restaurant and had dinner.

CA Liberty Station (5)

Then I left, driving to my hotel.  This will probably be the last time I’ll be in San Diego.  So, I started my adult life and electronics career here.  My electronics career is ending here — I’ll be starting a new job on Monday dispatching field technicians, no longer doing electronics work myself.  I will no longer be traveling for work anymore, either.  I’ll be going back to Kansas in a couple of days, probably never to return.  I like Liberty Station.  If there were a job in San Diego for me and I could live and eventually die in Liberty Station, I’d be a happy(er) fellow.  My adult life could have bookends!


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