We sailed on INGHAM out of Norfolk on a cold, blustery winter’s day in the winter of 1967, headed for Ocean Station Charlie. Charlie is located just about in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Old Salts will recognize that the North Atlantic in the winter can be ‘difficult’. The wind blows constantly and the ocean never calms down. We had been on Charlie for 23 days and nights after steaming hard up the US east coast to Argentia, Newfoundland for fuel, then out to the Station for our weather patrol. We had already endured three “Nor’easters” …winter storms just under hurricane force, and were preparing for the fourth.
We had not seen the sun for 32 consecutive days (counting the last three days in port in Chesapeake, Virginia. Add to that, the USCGC MENDOTA, a rust bucket out of Wilmington, North Carolina, was three days late in relieving us. She had some kind of feeble excuse that a Machinist Mate had dropped a large adjustable wrench in the engine room and it had gone straight through the hull while they were still moored to the dock…and they thought it best to repair the hole and plug the leak before heading out to Charlie. They ignored the time tested rule that you ALWAYS relieved an Ocean Station on time. And the sad part is they just didn’t care.
Never the less, I had the Four to Eight watch in CIC and it was a very slow night, aircraft wise. We had only worked a couple dozen flights and at the moment there was only one aircraft on our AN/SPS 29 air search radar and it was almost 180 miles west of us headed east.
The airline crews generally flew together as a team. The team would take the plane from, say, JFK to London, spend two days and a night and fly another plane back to the states. They did that pretty regularly so that after several weeks they might be able to recognize the voice of a Radarman they had been communicating with, back and forth, for almost a month. Add to that I had been a radio announcer for a year before joining the Coast Guard and, by definition, had what could be described as a ‘distinctive’ voice.
All the radios in CIC were silent when all of a sudden this voice came out of the speaker on 126.7 Megacycles. The voice was female and she said very slowly, “Hiya Charlie, how are you?” Imagine (if you are old enough) Marylyn Monroe, Gina Lolabrigida, Carol Baker, Audrey Hepburn, Brigit Bardot, Anne Margaret and all the Bond Girls rolled up into one voice. It absolutely took our breath away, given we had not heard a female voice in well over a month. I spilled a half cup of coffee trying to get my headset on and probably sounded like a 11 year old boy who had just seen a pair of Mammary Glands for the first time when I squeaked out, “Th…Th…This is Ocean Station Charlie”. Shit! I sounded like an idiot and I could almost hear the flight crew up there laughing.
The Voice proceeded to transmit all the pertinent information about the flight. Last known position, estimated next position, flight level, point of origin, destination and the estimated time of arrival. All of this done at an excruciatingly slow, but extraordinarily sexy voice, which, frankly, left all three of us on watch simply babbling fools. After a moment to regain my composure, I cleared my throat and dropped my voice down several octaves to The Radio Voice and asked, “Well now young lady, where are you from?” That’s when we heard more than one voice in the background, “We’re all from Norfolk, Virginia.” There were four or five girls up there in the cockpit giggling…my imagination immediately pictured a beautiful blonde sitting in the pilots lap doing God knows what. One has to remember that back in the Sixties, all flight attendants had to be beautiful and they all had to be tall and they all had to be thin. It was the law!
Anyway, I took a deep breath and said, “Well ladies, it just so happens we will be back in Norfolk as well in just about eight days. What say you all meet us at the Golden Triangle hotel for drinks, dinner and dancing? We’ll all have a pocket full of money and can’t wait to meet you.” A very long pause……
“There are six of us” the Voice said.
“Perfect!” said I almost jumping out of my skin. I would get to pick which of my shipmates would go on this incredible date.
“My name is Josh and I’ll be wearing a white dinner jacket. Let’s meet in the lobby. What’s your name?”
“Bunny” (of course it was) she replied. “I’m the tallest. Don’t you guys stand us up now.”
Ha! Like THAT was going to happen.
I think it prudent not to go into too many details of that night in Norfolk. Suffice it to say we were gentlemen through dinner, drinks and dancing………
Josh Humphreys RD 3
New Bern, North Carolina