27 September 2007

I Really Left My Heart, In...

Savannah Georgia.

Spring of 1968-

Ole Prairie Dog, another classmate, Jim, and yours truly were about to graduate from Primary Flight School at Ft. Wolters, Texas.
Our leaders informed us we had a choice to make:
The Viet Nam war was chewing up helicopter pilots at a pretty rapid rate. The ARMY realized a need to expand their training facilities and in addition to their Advanced Flight Training School at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, had just opened a facility at Savannah, Georgia to increase the output of pilots. Those of us that thought we might like to train at Savannah rather than "Mother Rucker" were told we should submit a letter stating why it would benefit the ARMY for us to get orders for Savannah. The whole idea of training in Savannah... heart of the
Old South and near the beach... fascinated me. I had to stretch pretty far to come up with a reason that might seem logical to my ARMY leaders... after finishing Flight School I had applied to go to Cobra School, which was located at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah.
I suggested that if I was already at Savannah, the ARMY wouldn't have to cut new orders and bear the expense to send me there.
I don't know if my letter was convincing or if there were so few classmates asking to go to Savannah that all those requesting to go got their wish, but OPD, Jim, and I all ended up there.
I'll always be glad I made that decision. I loved the town.

We moved into a 200+ year-old townhouse in a part of town being gentrified.

We were all single. We knew at the close of training we were going to Viet Nam. We were in a town with a great history, a bustling economy, and great restaurants...
(we lived two blocks from the famous
Mrs. Wilkes boarding house.)
As you might guess, we tried to pack a lot of living into the four months we spent in Savannah!

We loved to eat at a restaurant called "The Boar's Head", located on River Street. There was one thing that kept us from going there as often as we would have liked...
River Street was paved with cobblestones, and driving to the restaurant rattled the fillings outta your teeth. I hated those stones!
That is, I hated them until I got the history lesson:
Ships from England would dock on the river to pick up mostly cotton, some tobacco, and other goods "the colonies" could offer. These ships came to Savannah empty, and were loaded with the stones as ballast for stability. Deckhands would throw the stones overboard to make room for the cargo headed back to England, so those stones were used to pave River Street. When I realized the cobblestones had all made the long trip from England on sailing ships, I had a different attitude about driving on them.

I looked for a photo to give you a look at the stones and found the one below.
If you've never been to Savannah I recommend you go.

But ladies... if you're gonna walk around River Street, wear flats!


OlePrairiedog said...

You didn't mention the beach parties, daquiries, custom made coffee table or the BAR. But the memories make it one of the best villages in the country. Thanks for the recall.

The Joker said...

I know you were busy with bars, beach parties, drinking and "women!", but did you ever go to any haunted places there?
I've heard it's one of the most "haunted" cities in the US.

I bet your 200+ yr old townhouse was haunted.

Greybeard said...

I thoroughly believe in spirits, Joker, so you'd think we would have noticed "things" happening in that old house, wouldn't you? But I didn't.
OPD, do you remember anything odd happening?

We had four busy months in Savannah during our training. The workday, followed by the playday, stayed pretty full, so we didn't get around to do much "tourista" stuff at that time. OPD referred to the "custom made coffee table"...
We threw a party for classmates and informed all that the price of admission was an item to help fill the old house with furniture and accessories. Two imaginative couples built a coffee table that appeared to have an on-going game of poker taking place on it...
cards displayed, ashtrays, and even cigarettes that looked, for all intents, like everyone had just gotten up from the table to take a potty break. It was AMAZING!

I returned to Savannah post-Viet Nam to teach Vietnamese Air Cadets to fly Hueys, and was there for 30 months. I lived outside the city then and didn't get into the older part of town often at night. Obviously this was all pre-release of "The Garden of Good and Evil"... actually much of what happens in the book was probably goin' on while I was there.

Its a wonderful, beautiful town.

Andrea Shea King said...

I've been to Savannah and it is charming. The cobblestoned streets are a feature of my home town -- Salem MA, a seaport with a fascinating maritime history. (and you thought it was just about haunted happenings and witches!)

I did a pictorial essay about the city on my blogsite -- cobblestones and all.


Di said...

Great post...I didn't know the story behind the cobblestone streets (ha, if I did, I forgot..'of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most')...thanks for enlightening/reminding me!!

You KNOW how I feel about this great lil city!! Seems like a long time ago when I reflected on some of my experiences (http://grneyedgrl.blogspot.com/2006/01/stroll-down-memory-lane.html)...I'd love to go back!!

Thanks for sharing!!!