The Way It Was ...
by Joe Morgan


Redheads and Sol Don't Mix

I have fair skin ... and had red hair, all of the qualifications for NOT being a golden tanned beach boy. Since I can first remember it was burn, peel, burn, peel ... with an occasional blister to keep me in the shade for awhile.

Youth tends to bruise (or burn) easily, but heal quick. Between zinc oxide on my nose and vinegar, lard, Unguentine and all popular brands of salve on my hot "bod", I somehow made it early to manhood without third degree burns.

Of the few occasions that I managed a gradual burn, my idea of a tan was when freckles ran together. Very chic!

Skipping over a great deal more burn, peel, burn, peel, we'll move right along to my sojourn at St. Mary's pre-flight school at Morega, California. Located just over the Morega foothills about 40 miles from San Francisco, the locale offered a happy blend of sunshine and a reasonably cool climate.

There I suddenly developed my idea of a tan. I sent home several snapshots and was rewarded with return comments indicating how tanned and fit I looked. How come one has to be tanned to look fit?

I basked in my tan, flexed my golden muscles in the mirror and began to have the confident feeling those lifeguards at Lake Maurer must have had. Then a roommate burst my golden bubble.

St. Mary's was a boy's school suddenly greatly swollen in population by six battalions of aviation cadets. The Navy in its infinite wisdom (and its shortage of bathing suits) decreed that we swim in the buff. Hence, my golden glory was complete ... from head to toe.

My major sport was swimming so I spent two hours a day in the pool deepening this tan of tans.

My comeuppance came rather suddenly when one of my roommates who was a footballer on the field above the pool casually remarked, "We always can pick you out Joe. You're the whitest one!"

Crushed, my next stop was back to fish-belly white wintering at Olathe. Upon graduation from Corpus Christi in May, I headed for Jacksonville, Florida, for operational training.

This was surely suntan land, but because of a silly technicality (war i.e.), we were on a tough no tan training program.

Finally we were allowed a weekend off and the wife and I headed for Jacksonville Beach for our first dip in the Atlantic Ocean. Being aware of my limitations I was greatly (if stupidly) relieved that it was a gray overcast day. I was in and out of the surf all afternoon. Whow! By 6 p.m. I had passed red in color and was working on deep maroon. By the time we reached our pad I was bent over and had maybe a thousand blisters. The wife applied lots of grease and salve but to no avail.

When I headed for the flight line Monday morning the blisters had all broken and I was well on my way to being one giant scab.

The instructor took one look and sent me off to the flight surgeon. This gentleman was very considerate. He'd be happy to check me into the hospital but ... but there was one slight hitch. It would be misconduct, meaning no pay.

Well, together, we started a naval first. I couldn't afford the no-loot bit and the Doc had a sense of humor. He gave a chit (a letter from the teacher) which told one and all that I could walk around the base and flight line with no cap (my forehead was solid blisters) and no shirt (the back was all scabs).

I hid out the first night, but since the wife and I ate free at the officer's mess, economics dictated that we started eating there again.

To shorten this up a bit, I may have ruined some appetites, but I made all meals, had my nightly brews at the Junior Officers Club and in general became the local shirtless, capless character.

I was stopped by the Marine guards and base patrol on several occasions, but my note from "teacher" just left them befuddled.

I did dive bombing runs with no chute, had my blind flying hood draped over me to keep the sun off, but I never missed a flight ... and more importantly, a day of pay.

But you have my word: for the last 35 years all of my tans have been from neon lights. I'm letting my freckles grow together very gradually.

The "Instant" Officer's Club
The Gourmet ...
The Pink Belt ...
Hair -- as worm by the old publisher