REBEL YELL--NAVCAD LIBERTY
I had read about the North versus the South but had never been south of Springfield, Missouri when in June 1954 I arrived at Pensacola, Florida from California for flight training. Being schooled in the west and mid-west, I was not acquainted with life in the southern United States. I had never experienced dozens of colorful sounding and unique tasting southern food staples. Grits started each day and I soon acquired a craving for the salty dish. One quick clue to my ignorance of social rules came on my first trip off base when the bus from NAS Pensacola into downtown stopped and the driver firmly advised me that I was not allowed to sit in my time ingrained favorite position on the back seat of the bus. I am certain that those persons who desired to sit in the front half of the bus, and couldn't, felt far worse than me.Following graduation from Naval School Pre-Flight we were sent to NAAS Whiting Field located just outside Milton, Florida. Whiting Field was a lousy liberty base for cadets bent upon distributing their pent up emotions among the plentiful lovely southern belles. Few cadets had cars due to the restrictions imposed by the Naval Air Training Command during pre-flight and pre-solo training. While visiting my mother during the 1954 Christmas Holidays, I bought a Navy blue 1949 Chevrolet two door sedan for the princely amount of $375.00. Following our first solo flight in the SNJ, students without security duties were granted liberty from Friday afternoon after training until Sunday night at Taps. 'OooooohRAH!'
Pat O'Brien's Bar, One of the oldest bars in New Orleans, was a famous place for tourists to visit. Initially located on St. Peter Street, the bar was thought to have been built for a well-known planter, Etienne Marie de Flechier just after a 1794 fire . Pat O'Briens moved to Bourbon Street in 1942 and occupies the pictured building and rear courtyard. Pat O'Briens is known for creating the "Hurricane" rum drink.
Cadets Contratto and Botens were both killed in a car accident returning from another liberty run to New Orleans a couple of months after our Mardi Gras trip. Cadet Contratto's grandmother gave him her huge 1937 four door Pontiac and that car became their liberty machine during their time in Basic Flight Training. The car had one fault. The hood on the car would occasionally come unlatched and raise up in front blocking the driver's view until the car was stopped and the hood could be reseated and latched. One rainy night when returning to Whiting and while crossing the long bridge spanning the Blackwater River area, the hood unlatched and blew up covering the windshield. The sudden black out of the highway did not give Contratto enough time to safely stop the Car. Both Cadets were killed in the accident.
I have always suspected that Botens and Contratto were the culprits who at least twice took paint up to the cemetery park on the hill at the top of Palafox Street in Pensacola, Florida where a Civil War Monument still commemorates the Southern past. A youthful Confederate soldier stands atop the 30 foot high marble spire that has the following inscription chiseled into its base, " A Memorial to Our Confederate Dead." The pranksters boldly painted over those gentle words the phrase "A Tribute to Yankee Marksmanship." The elderly of the local population had demanded the immediate arrest of the vandals who desecrated their monument. No one was ever caught.