From email dated April 10, 2010 (launched from parent page Singing Swabbies):
Just a (very long) note to say how much I have enjoyed reading your stories about boot camp (especially the choir) and RM “A” School. I was in the choir in late January through March of 1970. For the last few weeks I was the Musical RCPO. And Don Lintvet was the Military RCPO.
Believe it or not, Don and I have reconnected again online, over a year ago. He and I had a great time in the Bluejacket Choir at RTC/NTC San Diego. Your journal has rekindled many a fine memory. Most, if not all, of the traditions you relate were going strong during our tenure. We also ran as a self-contained unit with a CC we rarely saw. In fact, the only time I know for certain that I saw him, was the day I was asked to take on the responsibilities of Musical RCPO. Which, by the way, floored me.
Unlike yourself I did not take close enough notice nor keep an ongoing journal of my experiences. So, I must say simply that the then current MuRCPO and I walked to the CC's office in the middle of that beautiful old WWII wooden barrack. I was introduced and my credits listed with the statement that I would make a good MuRCPO. PO1 Donohoe (? I swear it was him) looked at me and asked if I could do the job. To which I, a somewhat reserved twenty-four year old college graduate, replied that I thought I could. That was a mistake. He barked back that he didn't want to know what I “thought”. He wanted to know if I could do the job. Thus understanding the terrain, I immediately and smartly replied, “Yes sir!” And that was it. I was the new MuRCPO. My duties to commence a soon as the current MuRCPO graduated.
The scariest day in choir was the fist time I actually directed a song at a rehearsal. Doc Williams was aware of the “change of command” and asked me to step forward and prove myself as a director. My words, not his. He was always kind. Now, my background included a great deal of choral singing, playing drums in a number of bands, directing plays/musicals, acting etc. And it was the acting which got me through. I truly had no doubt of my ability to direct what was at that time a 125 voice male choral group. But, would I satisfy the man who could nix the whole thing? As I recall (having just finished my second glass of good Irish whiskey this evening) the song was, appropriately enough, the Navy Hymn. I must have passed muster, for I was allowed to assume the musical command of the choir.
I loved being able to carry the “scepter” of office, the pitch pipe, and to sound the proper note and give the order “Ready, Begin.” The coolest times were early in the morning when it was still dark. We marched through a dense San Diego fog, approaching the mess hall. Probably like your own experience, we had it timed perfectly that we could begin the medley of service songs and finish by ending the final note of Anchors Aweigh, just as we came out of the fog and hit the spot where we were to stop. It was way back at the edge of the grinder. But, of course, we had “head of line” privilege. As soon as we stopped singing and halted, our runner would go forward to check us in. Almost always, we were able to move up and start our chowing down within a few minutes.
You mentioned the great fraternal camaraderie within the Bluejacket Choir. Amen to that! I so vividly remember one of those upper deck bunk checks. As mentioned, at twenty-four, I had quite a few years on most of the other recruits and had the dubious “advantage” of a college education. But, there I was one evening caught up and jumping into “the moment”. We had a contraband tape player and were playing some outstanding rock and roll of a slightly earlier and soulful vintage. As solos were performed by the musicians on the tape, one of our cadre would hop upon the wooden table (or was it one of those picnic table-esque centerboards) and play their air whatever. To this day, I find it hard to fathom but I, Mr. Reserved, hopped up (in my uniform of the evening skivvies, tee shirt and shower shoes) and began to wail away on my air tenor sax as the music soared up and out the windows into the beautiful sunset drenched surroundings. As I am a sentimental old so and so, even now, the warmth and happiness of that single experience cause my eyes to become moist and my heart to wander. No doubt the Irish whiskey plays a part in that scenario. But, not much. I do that sort of thing cold stone sober.
Well, Charles, I must make allowances for my maturity and start to move toward my rack; shared the past 38 years with my wonderful wife. Perhaps, if you can stand it, I will ramble on about my own stint in RM “A” School at NTC San Diego. By the way I also tear up when I think of what has been done to that beautiful base.
Anyway, goodnight to you my brother in song.
Former Musical RCPO, Bluejacket Choir
RTC/NTC San Diego
Copyright 2010 Malcolm Johnson