Skedding in Keelung
Our trips to Keelung always started at the Ships Movement Board in traffic analysis space on base. I think checking the Ships Movement Board was the Red Header’s, i.e., Rich Cincotta’s idea but whoever came up with it, it was a good idea. On the ships movement board the USS Pueblo was always shown to be in port in North Korea. The important thing from our standpoint, however, whether there were any American ships due into Keelung. You always planned Keelung skeds when there were no ships in. There was nothing better than running bars in Keelung when you were the only Americans in town. There might be a few merchant seamen in but those crews were so small that they didn’t create much competition.
I don’t remember how many Keeling trips I took—they all run together so this is not a story about one trip. I know I went several times because I remember making trips back to see the same girl (don’t remember the name but she is featured in a ‘before’ picture on this website). I do remember that my roomies; the Red Header and Glen, ‘Radar’ Nelson; were usually, maybe always along. From what was written on the back of one of the photos, a guy named George Kingston (I think he was day puke friend of Radar but I don’t really remember) went along at least once.
A Yu-long (i.e., a Datsun assembled in Taiwan) taxi would deliver you directly to the docks in Keelung. There was a small pier directly across what I remember as a very wide street from what was to become my favorite Keelung bar. I don’t remember the name but it was the one in which my ‘before’ picture on this website was taken. We usually shopped around and hit most of the bars, promising in every bar that we would come back when our friends found girls they liked and, being the honest type that I was, I always told the truth to one of the girls—whichever one took me to the Pacific Hotel. They always seemed to know her (whoever ‘her’ was) and the service was great. I never wanted to leave the Pacific.
Radar, on the other hand, says that he once made the mistake of going out late at night by himself in Keelung. He was stopped by a ROC soldier with an M16 who was asking him questions in broken English. Radar was drunk (that’s how we all remember him) and not the Chinese language scholar that the Red Header and I were. He studied Chinese at the China Night Club after his orientation at the OK Bar, instead of at Taipei American School (Taipei Mei-gwo Sywei-syau) like Rich and me. All he really understood was that the M16 was in the hands of a soldier who was becoming increasingly frustrated as he tried to talk to him. Radar eventually figured out, when the soldier pointed to his wallet, that he was asking for a passport. Radar showed him his military ID and the guy didn’t shoot him—being a pervert was not a crime.
On the return trips—this was also the Red Header’s idea—we took the regular Chinese bus. I think we coughed up a couple of NT$ (New Taiwan dollars) more and rode the express bus. The local made numerous stops between Keelung and Taipei. It was a lot cheaper than the taxi either way. I never rode it going to Keelung—I was usually in a hurry and I probably wouldn’t have known where to catch it anyway. In Keelung the bus station was, I think, by the docks. When we got back into Taipei, we still needed a taxi because we didn’t really know where we were.
After I was sent to the fleet, abroad the USS Orleck (DD-886), I was on a WestPac where the ship (built in 1945) was scheduled to go into Kaoshuing for minor repairs, go out on exercises in the Taiwan Straits for a week or so, and then put into Keelung. I imagined my triumphant return when I put in a chit to go on leave as soon as we hit Kaoshuing, to check in from leave and stand a day of duty in Keelung and then go back out on liberty for a couple of days. Everybody kept trying to talk me out of it by telling me stuff like I needed a passport (I didn’t—your military ID was good enough for the ROC) and that I’d be the last one to go on leave when we got to the States. I was due to get out shortly after we got back and anyway I never had as much fun in the States. When we did get back to San Diego, Cincotta was standing on the dock with a “Price is Short” sign—a double entente if there ever was one, some might argue a triple entente but I it wasn’t that short—I loved the navy so much that I started counting days in boot camp. They broke down and okayed my leave.
Halfway between Hong Kong and Kaoshuing the damn ship broke down and we limped into Subic for a three-week stay. Damn piece of junk is a floating museum in Orange, Texas (27 miles from where I now live–it was the last ship out of the Orange shipyard in WWII) but after what it did to my plans, I’ll be damned if I’m going to help them restore it.