Arrival and Orientation
This story is a composite of the first few trips down the hill. I don’t have a clear recollection of the chronological order in which they happened, or if certain events happened on the same sked or different ones. This isn’t because I’m getting old, (I am) it’s because we were always hammered. I have clearer recollections of events that happened at work, when we only had a mild buzz on.
I arrived February 21st, 1971. I came in on a Northwest Orient MAC flight with a few other Navy guys and a bunch of Zoomies (Airmen) that filled the bus that picked us up at ShungShan Airport. I recall our Commanding Officer, CMDR Edwin Stein being there to greet us. There was a Zoomie SSGT on the bus that was acting as a tour guide on the way up the hill. He was coming back for his 2nd or 3rd tour, and it was obvious he had run the Taipei clubs. He pointed out a few Clubs on the way up the hill with such passion that I wanted to get off the bus right there. We pulled into Shu Linkou AS in front of the NCO club and another Zoomie SGT got on and gave directions for checking in, finishing his welcome aboard address with directions to stay on the base until we were all checked in which would take a few days. I was bummed. The Zoomies got off, but he told the Navy personnel to stay on. The bus took us around to the Navy Barracks where CT2 Pee Wee got on board. Pee Wee was a tall thin African-American that wore his hair in a huge afro with his hat seemingly pinned to the top of it not coming in contact with his skull. He welcomed us aboard, told us to take our time checking in, and have a good time. When I asked him about being restricted to the base until we got checked in, he said “Shiiiiit No man! That’s for the Zoomies. Go on downtown and get aquantied.” This was my first indication that “NSGA Taiwan” was going to be more like McHale’s Navy than the US Navy.
PeeWee advised going down with someone that could show me around and get me back. I ran into a few guys that I knew from NCTC Pensacola “A” school and tried to find someone to take me downtown. The few guys I knew were either working or broke, so I talked a guy named Gus (real name was Carl but I can’t remember his last name) into showing me around if I bought the beers. The first place he took me was the China Night. I was greeted by the girl sitting on Paul Harbours knee in the picture at the end of this post; “Delta Sked – China Night”. I think her name was Julie. She asked me the usual new guy stuff. “What’s your name, branch of service, and where stationed?” I was awe struck with the mini skirt and those legs, and was half paying attention to the line of questions. When I told her I was at Linkou she said “Oh Really” except, to me, it sounded like “Are you ready?” Maybe that’s what I wanted to hear, but as it turned out she wasn’t.
On my second trip into Taipei I was escorted by my roommate, Gary ‘snake’ Snaith, who I had just met. The liberty bus dropped us off near one of the main intersections of Taipei; Chung-shan North Rd, and Min-chuan Rd. near the Florida Bakery and OK Bar. It was around 7 pm. After crossing to the west side of Chung-Shan North Road from the liberty bus stop Gary stopped in front of a leather goods shop. He was telling me the guys that run this shop make really good quality leather goods, boots, belts, vests, etc. He said he wanted to take a look to see if there was anything new in the window. The shop had a recessed doorway off the main sidewalk giving the shop a lot of display-window space. The recess between the show-windows was wide and there were several bicycles parked there. One of the main modes of transportation in Taiwan was the bicycle. I was minding my business looking at the leather goods on display and converting the price tags to US dollars. It was fairly easy, as the US dollar equaled 40 NT (New Taiwanese) Dollars.
As I was thinking this stuff isn’t that cheap, I don’t anticipate buying any boots in the near future on my E-3 pay, I noticed Gary out of the corner of my eye giving the row of parked bicycles a swift kick knocking them all down like falling dominoes, and then he ran North on Chung-Shan Rd. The falling bikes made a loud clatter which caught the attention of about 4 or 5 Chinese men inside the shop. Of course when they looked out the doorway I was the only one standing there. They came charging out at me yelling in Chinese. My first reaction was to run, as I had no idea if I would be able to explain to them who did the damage. I took off in the same direction Gary had. Once out on the sidewalk and heading north I had already lost sight of Gary and I could hear several sets of footsteps running behind me. Within a few steps there was a narrow street off to my left where I caught site of Gary running like a madman. I made a quick left and sprinted down that street and followed Gary down an even narrower alley. Gary jumped into a darkened doorway that led up a narrow flight of stairs to a landing and dark hallway. It was an old building. There were doorways along the dimly lit hallway and you could hear an occasional voice speaking in Chinese. Gary motioned for me to be quiet. Apparently we were in an apartment building. We didn’t know if we lost our pursuers. Gary pulled open some heavy curtains or drapes that hung along the hallway and discovered a small room, not much bigger than a closet. Inside there was a small bed and someone’s personal belongings. Gary went in and motioned for me to come in also and then closed the drapes. He whispered that we should hide out here for a few minutes to make sure the guys from the leather shop weren’t still looking for us. I looked at him like he was nuts, what if the person that lives here comes in and finds us. I shook my head and quietly left the same way we had come in. I slowly stuck my head out the doorway into the alley and didn’t see anyone. Gary followed me and I asked him what the hell was wrong with him? He just laughed. “Where to now?”, I asked him, not really wanting to go anywhere with him, but I was totally lost in this dark alley.
He never explained why he did it, just that it was one hell of an adrenalin rush, which I didn’t care for all that much. When we got back to the narrow street that runs off Chung-Shan North Rd. he turned left instead of heading back to the main drag. There were a few smaller clubs on this street and we went in one, I think it was the Queen’s Club. We ordered a mixed drink. Each club in Taipei had rock glasses with the club logo on them. Before we had finished our drinks Gary suggested we leave. He said to take the glasses, they’re souvenirs.
When we got back out on the side street Gary said he was trying to collect a rock glass from every club in Taipei and he didn’t have this one yet. At about that point the military PMO squad was walking up the street. The PMO is like the Navy Shore Patrol, but here it was a four man crew, one US Sailor, one US Airman, one US Soldier, and one Chinese Military Policeman. They were approaching us from the direction of the leather goods store; probably called by the proprietor to complain about us. They stopped us because of the glasses. You’re not supposed to be drinking on the street, and you’re not supposed to be “stealing” them from the clubs. They made us dump the drinks and took the glasses from us. I was grateful that they let it go at that. I wasn’t back in town for half an hour and this snake I was with had put me at risk of getting “run-in” with the local authorities twice. We took another narrow side street heading south that led to Min-chuan West Rd.
The next stop was the Kings Club, which was probably a different night because everyone was there, so it must have been after payday. The Kings Club girls were different as it was about the only club where you weren’t greeted as a valued customer. In fact you could usually count on being insulted. I was given the usual new guy 3rd degree but with far less tact. She wasn’t at all interested in my name so she didn’t ask. It was a simple “You’re new, Are you Navy?” I said yes. She looked at who I came in with and asked “Are you Linkou Navy?”. With pride I said yes, to which she responded “Linkou Navy sucks!” and walked away.
Delta Section was celebrating the departure of CT1 ‘Wally’ Wallace, one of Fatman’s buddies. A former Linkou Navy named Tom Cribbs was back on the ROC visiting his former Bravo Section buddies including Larry Johnson and Steve Carpener at the Kings Club that night. For some reason Fatman felt that the Bravo Section reunion for Tom Cribbs was interfering with Wally’s farewell ‘sked’. Words were exchanged and Fatman decided to get into it with Cribbs. Gary was at the end of the bar closest to the door and Cribbs was up toward the unisex bathroom. Sitting between them at the bar were a mixed bunch of Linkou Navy. One of them, Steve Carpenter I think, had the enviable talent of being able to puke any time he felt like it. It really impressed the girls. As Fatman was charging up the aisle to crack Cribbs, Carpenter upchucked on the floor just ahead of him. Fatman had his fist cocked and was just letting loose with a viscious right cross when he slipped on the barf and went down smashing his knuckles on the floor. I think he broke it, his hand, not the floor. All the Kings Club girls seemed to be having a great time and enjoying the show. I was thinking this is nuts, I’ve got to get out of here. I had gotten in a little AWOL trouble at Pensacola (another story), stood a mast, and didn’t want to risk any more problems. As I was about to leave one of the girls told me I was a chicken shit. So I stuck around. Next thing I know someone yells out “Anyone that can’t tap dance on the bar is queer.” I’m not the quickest guy after a few beers, so before I had a chance to get clarification on that last announcement I realized I was the only one on the floor. Everyone else was tap dancing on the bar, so up I went, wondering why Papa San Johnny wan’t mad. I guess it wasn’t his bar. Man, what a three ring circus we could create.
Afterwards Larry Tinker asked Fatman why he went after Cribbs. Gary said “Cribbs had his time (on the ROC), and his time was gone.” Our time on the ROC was sacred.
Linkou Navy Delta Sked in front of the China Night.