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by Willie Lagarde


The place was New Orleans in January 1947. The sky was clear and blue on this day and temperature just cool enough for a light jacket. It was a day to feel good; a day when it was great to be an American, to be outdoors and only good things were anticipated. It was a day when we were at peace; when we loved and trusted our President. The conspiracy crackpots were still under the rocks, unseen and unheard.

Walking down the main drag I thought I recognized a sailor coming toward me and sure enough it was none other than Brady Bradford who was with me when I was in 3rd division aboard Yorktown. He still had a year to go on his six year enlistment. He was now a crewman on ocean tug USS Achomawi and they had a ship’s party planned for the Jung Roof, a popular ballroom of that era. You might call it a farewell party, there was talk of decommissioning Achomawi.

He later sent four invitations for a myself, a friend and two dates.

At the last minute my friend had to cancel out so I called my date at the Charity Hospital Residence for student nurses and told her to round up two girls who never got out, they were going to a party. Some of these nursing students were far away from home. I picked up the three girls and walked the few blocks to the Jung for what turned out to be a first class affair with one of the top New Orleans bands of that time.

It was great to be with that group. Many of them had served on third and fifth fleet ships and we shared many memories. They were elated seeing the extra girls and of course the girls were thrilled with the attention they were getting. My date that night was from Laramie WY and what a great gal she was. I thought all of those girls were attractive and among the nicest most unassuming girls I have ever known, but because the residence rules were so strict they had little opportunity to meet boys. They were absolutely dedicated to preparing for their chosen profession. They could only go out nights on weekends, only if escorted and with a midnight curfew. They regarded me as a chaperone of sorts asking my opinion of different sailors that were hitting on them. The only one I knew was Bradford so just to be on the safe side I told them proceed with caution. I had all three back before the dead line and got a little peck on the cheek from each one plus one from the house mother.

1947 was a good year, an excellent year. Charity Hospital Nurses Residence closed down years ago and the hospital itself is still shut down from hurricane Katrina. That was sixty eight years ago and all of those lovely girls are now retired great grandmothers. C’est la vie, comme le temps vole.

After Bradford was discharged from the Navy he did twenty years in the Air Force retiring as master sergeant.

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