The Ancestors Of George & Hazel Mullins

by Philip Mullins

Chapter 22 - George and Hazel Mullins, 1958-1966


Summary: George and his family returned to Florida. He left after three years for a Coast Guard base near Japan leaving the family in Florida. For the next five and a half years he spent most of his time far away from his wife and children. By the time he returned his three older children had all left home.

Irene's Motel

G.N. and Irene Mullins had continued to move frequently from one house to the other as they had done ever since their marriage. However now they bought the places instead of renting them. They would hold a property for six months to a year, fix it up and then sell it for a small profit. At various times they had owned a truck stop on US 90 near Orange, Texas; various farms of different sorts and many, many houses throughout southeastern Louisiana. In the later 1950s, G.N. shot a cow belonging to one of his neighbors while he was living in Louisiana. The cow repeatedly broke through the fence and got into Irene's vegetable garden. G.N. warned the cow's owner to corral the animal but he would not. G.N. shot the cow the next time he found it in the garden. A warrant had been issued for his arrest so he sold the farm and moved to southern Tennessee. This was as far from Louisiana as G.N. cared to go and was out of the jurisdiction of the sheriff in Louisiana.

He bought a motel near Pickwick Dam on the Tennessee River a mile or so north of the Mississippi-Tennessee state line. It was the old fashioned motel with separate cabins facing the manager's residence. The motel catered to fishermen and G.N. kept an album of photographs showing large fish that had been caught at the dam by some of the motel's customers. G.N. and Irene both seemed to enjoy running the motel. They named it Irene's Motel. Junior, Hazel, Hazel's mother and the four children drove up to visit G.N. and Irene in early July 1958. They stayed at the motel for several days, fishing at the dam and touring the Shiloh Battlefield site ten miles to the north.

Junior had written to the Grand Ole' Opre radio show in Nashville, Tennessee, while he was on Guam and they had written him a letter which he could use to get tickets to the show whenever he was back in the states. One Saturday Junior, Hazel, Irene and the two older boys drove up to Nashville to see the show. When they arrived at the parking lot there was already a long line of people waiting to buy tickets. Junior went directly to the ticket office and showed them the letter. They sold him tickets in a reserved area right in front of the stage. The Grand Ole' Opre is a country music show which is broadcast live every Saturday night on the radio station WSM. A man from Osyka was an announcer on the show and Junior, Hazel and Irene had all listened to the broadcasts for many years. It was exciting to see how the show was produced and to see some of the performers whose voices were so familiar from the radio.

After the visit to Junior's parents the family returned to Pike County before leaving for Pensacola. Percy invited his children and their families down to his fish camp on the Tangipahoa River for a day of fishing and swimming. Philip volunteered to cut the grass around the camp and unknowingly walked into poison ivy. He was using a gas-powered mower that slung the juices from the poison ivy all over his bare legs. A few days later, after the family had returned to Pensacola, the rash became infected and he spent the rest of the summer at the US Naval Hospital at the Pensacola Naval Air Station confined to bed.

In September Philip, who could barely walk, was enrolled in the 8th grade at Warrington Junior High School. George enrolled in the new Escambia High School in the 10th grade and Diane went to the Warrington Junior High in the 6th grade. She and Philip rode to school on their bicycles and Jeff and George took the school bus. Jeff was in the 1st grade at Warrington Elementary School. The family started going to the Warrington Baptist Church again and Hazel was delighted to find that many of her old friends were still there. Life in Pensacola and at the Life Boat Station seemed to simply start where it had left off three years before.

Family life in Pensacola

The house at 206 Earl Court Street had been rented out while the family was overseas. Now it was painted and fixed up. Junior installed a new garden gate featuring the brass wheel of a small Navy vessel that had been scrapped. He planted vines that completely covered the arbor over the gate and the white picket fence that surrounded the front yard. A concrete slab was poured near the back door and a brick barbecue pit installed. The next spring Junior decided to pay off the mortgage on the house. After six years of paying $40.11 a month on a $7400. loan, he still owed $6,304.14. It was hard for him to believe that two-thirds of his monthly payments were going to pay the interest on the loan. In March he paid the loan off. The next time he bought a house, he paid cash for it.

The years in Pensacola passed peacefully and uneventfully. The children struggled in school. The years of moving from one school to another had taken their toll. From the 4th to the 8th grades, Philip had attended a different school every year. After the 8th grade, he had to attend summer school to make up work that he had failed during the school year. In 1959 George had to do the same. None of the children did well in school. Hazel had to drill Philip nightly in spelling to keep him from failing that subject again. George showed good aptitude in art but both he and Diane struggled to pass math and science class.

The three older children finally joined the Scouts. George was a Boy Scout, Philip a Cub Scout and Diane a Brownie. George had started taking piano lessons when he was in the 6th grade in 1954. In Guam Philip started taking lessons on the Hawaiian steel guitar and Diane started on the piano. Diane kept begging to quit so after a year she stopped taking the lessons. Jeff didn't seem interested either so his parents didn't push him into them. He saaid that taught himself how to play the radio at an early age. George continued his piano lessons until he graduated from high school and Philip went as far as his teacher could take him on the guitar. Junior and Hazel had been paying for a piano while they were in Guam and, upon their return to Pensacola, Zellner's Piano Store in Warrington delivered a new piano to the house. All the children enjoyed banging on it and Philip and Diane learned to play some of George's sheet music.

The whole family was active in the Warrington Baptist Church. Hazel taught children's Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and worked in the church library. Junior was on the maintenance committee and he and the boys could be counted on to turn up at every church work-day. The three older children sang with the youth choir and, beginning in the 10th grade, with the adult choir as well.

In the summer of 1960 Junior decided to add a carport and a utility room to the house. Junior had been slowly training George and Philip in carpentry. He began to do roofing jobs on the weekends and he asked the boys to carry shingles up to the roof and taught them how to lay the shingles. However he realized that he needed some skilled help with the carport. When G.N. offered to help with the addition, Junior readily accepted. In 1960. G.N. was living on the height of land in the East Fork community about a mile and a half from Osyka in Louisiana. Junior drove the family over there for a visit. G.N. came back to Pensacola while Diane and Philip stayed with their grandma Irene. Philip, who was 16, was Irene's driver. Irene had never learned to drive so Philip's job was to drive her to and from the stores in Kentwood. The work in Pensacola got off to a bad start when G.N. and Junior had a big argument on the first day. G.N. would have walked off the job if he hadn't been 400 miles from home and without a car. The second day was better and the two men and their teenage helper finished the job before two weeks were over. G.N. complained about everything but Hazel bite her tongue and there were no other confrontations.

The three carpenters were all named George Mullins. The grandfather was usually called G.N. or George, the father usually Junior or Moon and the son George or George Morris. As G.N.'s generation died off, fewer people used the name Junior for his son and by 1984 practically no one knew my father as Junior. Junior's other nickname, Moon, was limited to his acquaintances in the US Coast Guard. This name came from a comic strip character called Moon Mullins. Since his retirement from the Coast Guard and G. N's death, Junior is now universally called simply George or, in family circles, grandpa. One of the grandchildren is also named George Mullins but everyone calls him Andrew.

In April 1960 Percy Strickland, Hazel's father, passed away in his sleep. The family had driven to Pike County to spend Easter with Hazel's parents. Percy appeared to be in perfect health when they left to return to Pensacola. As soon as Hazel walked in the door of 206 Earl Court after the trip back on Easter Monday, the telephone rang. It was Percy Junior with the news of their father's death. After a quick lunch the family headed back to Pike County. Percy was buried at the Bluff Springs Baptist Church about 100 yards from his garage. This was the first time that death had touched the children and they found it hard to accept. Grandpa Percy's farm in Pike County had always been an important part of their lives. Parts of most summer vacations were spent there and they felt at home there. Even though the house has since burned down, the garage and all the outbuildings demolished and the pond filled it, I think that grandpa Percy is still there. He is probably peering under the hood of some one's car, his hands and his coveralls are stained with grease and he has a smile on his face.

That winter marked the end of Junior's second tour of duty at the Santa Rosa Life Boat Station. He was offered an assignment on a small island near Guam. The family could go if they wanted. He and Hazel discussed this new assignment and decided that it was better for her and the children to stay in Pensacola. George and Philip both objected to this. They didn't mind Pensacola but it could not compare favorably to a tropical island. However their opinions didn't carry much weight and Junior asked to be reassigned to a more isolated station. The family stayed in Pensacola until all the children had graduated from high school.

Junior goes to sea


In the early spring of 1961 Junior was assigned to a LORAN station at a place called Miyako Jima in the Ryukyu Islands. The Ryukyu Islands are a chain of islands lying southwest of Japan and northeast of Taiwan in the East China Sea. The most famous of the chain is Okinawa. The islands had been captured by the Americans during World War Two. In 1961 the entire chain was still under the control of the US military. Miyako Jima was run by a US Army colonel with a couple of clerks. In addition to the colonel and his small staff, the other Americans on the island was the 18-man crew of the LORAN station and 80 or so US servicemen at a US Air Force radar station nearby.

Miyako Jima is some 16 miles long. The principal town had a population of 2,000 to 3,000 people and there were several farming villages, one of which was located near the Coast Guard station. There was also a leper colony on the island. There was no industry on the island and most of the people were either farmers or fishermen and were extremely poor. Previously the island had been covered with pine forests but now only isolated trees remained. The Japanese people living there gathered tiny twigs and dead branches to use for kitchen fuel. Miyako Jima is a coral island with no mountains or high hills. The points of highest elevation were the cliffs on which sat the Air Force and Coast Guard stations. The island's two sugar mills were both cooperatives with fairly modern two-story buildings. The sugar was not refined there but was shipped as molasses or as raw sugar to Japan. The fish catch, packed in ice, was likewise shipped to Japan. The weather is subtropical because of warm ocean currents and the farmers grow sweet potatoes and small quantities of oats and Soya beans in addition to the sugar cane. There were few cows or chickens but there were a number of horses which were used as draught and pack animals.

The farming people lived in villages of stone houses thatched with long grass. One such village was about 100 yards from the Coast Guard station. Most of the villagers were farmers but six of them worked on the station. The sailors chipped in and hired two women to do the laundry and a man to clean the barracks. The Coast Guard hired two men to maintain the grounds and Junior had a mess boy to help him in the galley. The men of the Coast Guard station and the villagers were on good terms. The hospital corpsman at the LORAN station treated the villagers for minor medical emergencies and the villagers had a standing invitation to watch the movies at the station. The movies were screened on the side of a building and a number of the villagers would come to see them. The films were in English but the Japanese clapped at the good parts and seemed to enjoy themselves. Junior prepared popcorn for everyone and they enjoyed this too.

The antennas of the LORAN station were in an open field next to the station. The antenna consisted of three 100-foot poles with a copper cable suspended between them. Each pole had pulleys on the top that were used to hoist new cable in the event that it was damaged. The Coast Guard allowed the villagers to cut grass on this small field for their horses. One day, two boys from the village stole the hoisting ropes and sold them to a fishing boat. The island police were notified and nine men from the 20-man police force came to investigate. The police came in a group several times during the investigation. Each time they came just before noon and each time the skipper invited them to stay for lunch. They did not speak English but they indicated their acceptance with a bow. The stolen rope was easy to identify because it had a numbered ribbon woven into it. The rope was recovered quickly but the investigation dragged on for several weeks. Finally the boys were convicted and sentenced to several years in prison. The villagers did not blame the Coast Guard for the boy's troubles. Thief was punished severely on Miyako Jima and there was little property crime there.

The Japanese police, riding bicycles, regularly patrolled the island's dirt and coral roads. Junior saw them regularly. They would pedal from town and sit on the cliffs near the station and watch the fishing boats. The fishermen sometimes placed dynamite in glass bottles and dropped them into deep water just off the reef. The stunned fish would rise to the surface and be scooped up by the fishermen. This practice damaged the coral reefs and so was illegal. When the policeman saw a violation he would pedal the 10 miles to town and arrest the fishermen as they tied up at the harbor.

Most of the Coast Guard personnel spent their time off drinking beer at the station but some of them preferred to go to a brothel in town. On his first night as the duty officer, Junior had to drive the truck into town at 10 PM to pick up the off-duty sailors. He drove around for a while but was unable to locate them. He returned to base without them. The men eventually woke the Army colonel to use his telephone to call the USCG station. After this, the men explained to Junior where they could be found. Most of them hung around inside a clapboard building that was supposed to be a hotel. When they entered the hotel, they always left their shoes at the door. The truck driver simply had to look inside the door for their shoes to know whether or not they were inside. The hotel was also the brothel and Junior would sometimes have to wait for the men to get dressed before they could stumble out to the street. The bar sold quarts of Japanese beer for one dollar. The men sat on the floor around a table drinking or went into one of the rooms on either side of the bar where the prostitutes were.

Junior and the two dogs from the station spent a lot of time on the cliff behind the station or on the beach below. The cliffs were 40 or 50 feet high. At their base was a sand beach and, about 300 feet out to sea, the coral reef. During the year that he was on Miyako Jima Junior collected a large box full of seashells from the reef and dozens of glass balls that were used as fish net floats by the Japanese. The balls of glass ranged in size from three inches to 24 inches in diameter. Many of them were still covered by the woven rope covering used to attach them to the fishing nets. When he returned to Pensacola he took a lot of these glass balls to Pensacola Beach and sold them to souvenir shops.

Junior spoke no Japanese but his mess boy spoke some English. The mess boy kept Junior informed about events on the island and in the village. Junior knew the family of the mess boy and was recognized by many of the villagers. This was the first time he had been in a foreign country and he took a genuine interest in the lives of the people around him. He took note of their funeral customs, their construction methods, their farming techniques and many other details that he related to his wife and children upon his return to the United States.

Junior stayed on Miyako Jima for a year. While there the time came for him to re-enlist in the Coast Guard. Every three years enlisted men in the Coast Guard either reenlisted or left the service. The re enlistment routine required a medical checkup. In January 1962 Junior went to Okinawa for a physical examination. The airplane from Miyako Jima arrived at Okinawa in the middle of a typhoon. As soon as the airplane rolled to a halt it was tied down. The wind was so strong that it was impossible for the men to get to the mess hall. Each of the buildings were isolated from the others. For the next three days the men ate K rations from stores in their living quarters. When the storm had passed it took two or three days to restore electrical power to the island. What was supposed to be an overnight trip lasted a week. The Coast Guard skipper from Miyako Jima called to say that he wanted Junior back at the station as soon as possible because the men were starving.

In April 1962 Junior was reassigned to a buoy tender that operated out of Portsmouth, Virginia. He left Miyako Jima without regret. He boarded an Air Force plane to Okinawa and then another to Tachakauwa Air Force Base near Tokyo, Japan. From there Junior flew to Anchorage, Alaska and then to Oakland, California. He took a shuttle flight to Los Angeles and then another military flight to New Orleans. He took a one-month leave to visit his family in Pensacola and then drove the old 1949 Ford up to Virginia where he boarded the 180-foot cutter, the Conifer. The Conifer was a buoy tender similar to the Rambler upon which he had worked for three years in the late 1940s. The Conifer had been built during World War II and displaced 935 tons. Unlike the Rambler it was built for war and had one 3-inch gun and four 40-mm anti-aircraft guns mounted on its deck. It was larger than the Rambler and newer. The Conifer serviced buoys and broke ice on the Potomac and Chesapeake Rivers. Junior worked on the Conifer through the summer and fall of 1962 and into the early winter months of 1963.

Junior spent some of his off-duty time with his half-brother, Julio Mullins, who lived near Washington, DC. Junior had several Coast Guard friends living in the area. These were native "tar-heels" who were now back in their home state. He went fishing and crabbing with these friends and with other men on the Conifer. The ship's officer in charge of recreation had complimentary tickets to semi-professional baseball games and Junior went to these whenever he could. While purchasing food from the Conifer's galley, he stumbled onto a criminal operation involving the Mafia. The FBI asked him to help entrap a key crime figure in Baltimore but Junior refused out of fear for his family in Pensacola. The FBI offered him and his family protection but he scoffed at the idea that the FBI could protect his school age children from professional hoods during a long trial and for years afterward.

After about eight months on the Conifer, Junior paid $300 to a sailor on the USCG Cutter Nike to swap duty stations with him. The Nike was stationed at Gulfport, Mississippi and that was a lot closed to Junior's home than was Portsmouth, Virginia. However the man had a reputation was a drunk so it took a while to convince the skipper of the Conifer to agree to the swap. Out of respect for "Moon", the skipper reluctantly agreed and in January 1963 Junior headed back to the deep South.

Junior had been away from Pensacola since the early spring of 1961. During those two years Hazel had been alone in Pensacola with the children. Ever since 1947 Junior and Hazel had managed to stay together partly because this was important to them and partly because of good fortune. Once the decision had been made to keep the children in Pensacola until they finished school, this was no longer possible. During the last five and a half years of Junior's career with the Coast Guard he was able to get assigned to Pensacola for two more years by pulling strings. For the remaining three years he was gone. Of the five different stations or ships to which he was assigned during this period only the cutter Nike was close enough to Pensacola for him to stay in week-to-week contact with his family.

When Junior left for Miyako Jima, his oldest son was in the final year of high school. The next fall George Morris went to Atlanta to study electronics on a scholarship. He was there in April when Junior stopped by on his way to Portsmouth to board the cutter Conifer. George Morris worked his way through trade school and got a job with a defense contractor in the summer of 1962. He worked for a year maintaining radar equipment at an Air Force base near Crystal Springs, Mississippi, and at Eglin Air Force Base near Pensacola. In the summer of 1963, George Morris moved back home to Pensacola and, in the fall, he and his younger brother Philip enrolled in Pensacola Junior College to study engineering.

Junior and Hazel's only daughter, Diane, was two grades behind Philip. She did better in school and had a more active social life than her brothers. None of her brothers dated in high school but Diane joined the Civil Air Patrol and dated a couple of the boys in her squadron. Once she was given a snake by a friend and kept it in her bedroom until it died several months later. She was the only one of the children to enter a project in the annual science fair at the high school. She decided to mount a skeleton as her project and her teacher suggested that she mount that of a dog. Hazel drove her to the Humane Society dog pound and Diane was given a dead dog. She skinned and cleaned the dog, boiled it on the stove until the bones separated from the flesh, painstakingly cleaned the bones and bleached them to make them white. The whole operation sickened her brothers. They had been squeamish from the moment that she had first mentioned the subject and they kept their distance until the bones were dry. She put the skull in the backyard near an ant hill so the ants would clean out the brain. Unfortunately some dogs jumped the fence that surrounded the yard and cracked the skull. Undaunted, Diane returned to the pound for another dog and began again. As soon as the skeleton was assembled and mounted, it was rushed to the school where it was to be entered into the science fair. It was not judged because it was late but the science teacher asked to keep it for their display in the science room. Diane was the only child to even attempt a science project and she was a source of pride for the whole family.

There were no real behavioral problems with the children during their father's absence. Sometime problems developed that Junior would have taken care of if he been in town. When Junior was on Miyako Jima, Philip took a driver's education course but, without his father's signature on a permission form, he could not drive the school's cars. He was left to sit under a tree while the coach took the other students out for a drive. Every week, the coach would ask, "Mullins, do you want to pass this course?" It took six weeks for the signature to arrive. By that time the course was nearly over and Philip got to drive the car one time. Just before Junior left the Conifer to return to the Gulf Coast, a grease fire damaged the kitchen cabinets over the stove. Hazel and the boys made some faulty repairs that Junior later had to redo. Hazel did not realize that the damage was covered by insurance and that she could have had the repairs done by professionals at the insurance company's expense.

Junior drove down to Pensacola from Portsmouth and Hazel drove him to Gulfport, Mississippi, where the Nike was berthed. Whenever Junior came home on leave during the eight months he was on the Nike, he would take a bus to Mobile and Hazel would pick him up there. George Morris had taken the old Ford to Hazelhurst, Mississippi, where he was working. He didn't know that the radiator leaked water and that the temperature gauge didn't work. The engine ran low on water and the block cracked from overheating. The car was finally sold for $100. This left Junior without a car. The Nike was a 165-foot cutter which, like much of the Coast Guard's fleet, predated World War Two. It was built in 1934 as a submarine chaser. It was fitted with two 3-inch gun and two 20-mm anti-aircraft guns. The ship had a crew of about 50 men and was rusty and in poor condition. Its job was to patrol off the Yucatan peninsula to help US shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico. It was at sea for a month and then in Gulfport for two or three weeks. While the Nike was in port Junior could get weekend passes and so spend a few days at home.

While on patrol the liberty port was the Mexican town of Progresso on the Yucatan peninsula. The Nike tied up on along pier that was used to load sisal onto ocean going vessels. The pier had a narrow gauge railroad that ran its length. Junior and the other cook, a Simoan, and a third man left the ship one evening to see the town. As they strolled down the long pier, they were met by a group of sailors returning to the ship. These men gave the cooks what Mexican money they had left over and told them where the downtown was. Once into town the trio were met by a Mexican policeman who probably mistook Junior and the Simoan for Chicanos who had forgotten how to speak Spanish. He bought them all a beer at a local bar.

After leaving the bar they toured the cathedral, which occupied an entire city block, and the stores around the central plaza. They entered a souvenir shop and the Simoan told the owner that he wanted to buy a couple of jackets for his sons. The storekeeper didn't have any jackets but he said that he could get them. He asked, "Could the gentlemen return in a couple of hours?" A few hours later the three of them went back to the store and the shopkeeper had the jackets. Junior was impressed by the little town, the huge church and the fast delivery of the jackets. He also noticed that many of the local men looked a lot like him. He assumed that it was because his mother was of Mexican descent. The next day most of the sailors went on a bus tour of the town of Merida and of the Mayan ruins at Chichan Itza. Junior could not go on the tour. He had to cook for a Mexican Naval Commander and his driver. They had come for a courtesy visit to the Coast Guard cutter. The Mexican officer was in command of the Mexican Navy in the Yucatan region.

During one of its voyages the Nike was detailed to search for a missing American shrimp boat. They found a 30 or 40-foot long wooden boat floating upside down but could tell immediately that the boat was Mexican. Its hull was painted in a half dozen different colors. They never located the missing shrimp boat nor did they find a fisherman who had fallen overboard from another boat. They presumed that he had been eaten by sharks. On another voyage the patrol started by checking the yellow caution lights on the hundred of oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The wells were eight or ten miles off the coast and were spaced every 300 or 400 yards in a checkerboard pattern. On this cruise, the Nike was called upon to assist a Swedish sailor who had suffered a minor cut that became infected. The corpsman boarded the Swedish vessel and realized that the man needed surgery. The two ships made for the nearest port and obtained permission for the man to be taken to a hospital in Progresso. The Nike anchored at a sea buoy off Progresso and waited for the Swedish sailor to be taken to a hospital.

Once the sailor was safely off the ship, the Nike resumed its patrol. That night, around dark, thousands of parakeets landed on the Nike. Some of the men caught 200 or 300 of them and put them in the ship's pilot house as a joke. Then they lost their nerve and spent the next few hours trying to get the birds out before the skipper found out what they had done. One of the sailors caught some of the birds and put them in a cardboard box on the ship's fantail. Everyday he would open the box to look inside and several of the birds would escape. Finally there were only three left in the box. He let them go. By then the ship was in the middle of the Gulf and the birds probably perished.

All of the time that Junior was on the Nike, he was looking for a way to get assigned to something closer to Pensacola. Finally he arranged with the lieutenant on the Nike to recommend him for the Santa Rosa Life Boat Station. For another two years, from the fall of 1963 until September 1965, he was assigned to the Life Boat Station with the duties of a boatswain mate. This was to be his last duty at Pensacola. During these two years the two oldest boys were attending junior college and living at home. Diane was in her final years of high school and Jeff was in the 7th and 8th grades at Warrington Junior High School. George Morris had purchased radio equipment and liked to stay up all night listening to radio stations from around the world and practicing his Morse code. Jeff had gotten a paper route when he was 13 which he kept until he graduated from high school. The family continued to be active in the Warrington Baptist Church. Hazel taught Sunday School and had charge of repairing books for the library. Philip continued to sing in the choirs and Diane was in the Girl's Auxiliary. Everyone was doing better in school now. Philip was hired by his math teacher to tutor high school students in math and both he and George Morris worked part-time.

In September 1965 Junior received his last overseas assignment. He was to return to Guam and run the galley at a LORAN station on a small island about a mile from the coast of Guam. He flew to San Francisco and then to Hawaii. He stayed in Hawaii a few days to visit friends. He and eight other Coast Guardsmen flew to Guam in a Super Constellation with 142 Navy personnel. The Navy personnel were the relief crew of a submarine that was tied up at Apra Harbor on Guam. The airplane landed at the Naval Air Station and Junior was met by a van and carried to the small town of Maritzo. From Maritzo he went by boat to Cocas Island.

There were 15 men assigned to the Cocas Island LORAN station. The commanding officer was a good man and was respected by his men. The station had a volleyball court and a beach house attached to it. Junior cooked only breakfast and dinner. He laid out a supper of cold cuts such as a ham or a roast and the men served themselves. Most evenings he and the station's two dogs walked around the island, a distance of one mile. On Saturdays he and the chief boatswain mate went to Maritzo and helped in a restaurant belonging to the chief's sister-in-law.

The station on Cocas Island was a typical LORAN station. It had the usual three-poled antennae, a diesel generator and concrete buildings for the radio transmitter, a galley, living quarters for the men, a workshop and some offices. The island was accessible only by water and it was rarely visited by civilians. Junior enjoyed his time on the island and was able to make weekly visits to Guam. The war in Vietnam was becoming more and more evident both on Guam and in the United States. Squadrons of 10 or 12 B-52 bombers with wingspans of 200 feet passed low over the LORAN station on their way to land at Anderson Air Force Base on Guam. They came over about 250 feet above the water, moving at what seemed an impossibly slow speed for such a large object. They were returning from the bombing of Vietnam some 2,000 miles to the west. Junior visited the Naval Hospital on Guam where Marine casualties too wounded to be flown to the US were cared for. He realized that most of these men, now missing arms or legs or blind or disfigured, were the same age as his older sons. Junior stayed at the LORAN station on Cocas Island until it was decommissioned on February 15, 1966.

When the station on Cocas Island was decommissioned, Junior was reassigned to another LORAN station on the island of Saipan. Saipan is only 60 miles north of Guam but, unlike Guam, it had never been a US possession. After World War One, it and the rest of the Marianas chain ended up in Japanese hands. In 1966, Saipan and the remainder of the Marianas Islands were part of the United States Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The Trust Territory was run by American bureaucrats and civil servants who were appointed by the President of the United States. They, in turn, were supervised by a United Nations Commissioner. The headquarters of the Trust Territory was at the village of Garapan, Saipan in a large complex of buildings which included a country club and a golf course. The other Americans on the island consisted of school teachers, the US Navy personnel at a supply depot and the men of the Coast Guard LORAN station.

The native people were similar to those of Guam. They spoke both English and Chamorro. Many of them worked for either the US military or the Trust Territory. Most of the others were fishermen. The land was good for farming but very few people farmed or had gardens. On Guam snails introduced by the Japanese made farming unprofitable and Junior assumed that this was true on Saipan as well. Compared to the people of the United States the people of Saipan were poor. They had electricity in their houses but no appliances or even refrigerators. They could travel freely to Guam and many women went to Guam to give birth to their children. The hospital was on Guam and the people knew that being born on Guam gave their children some claim to US citizenship. Like the people of Guam, many Saipanese were keenly interested in life in the United States, which they imagined to be just beyond the horizon.

Without a language barrier Junior's involvement with the native people was much greater than it had been in Miyako Jima. The Coast Guard station was located on the north side of Saipan near the beach and on the outskirts of the island's main village. Each village had girl's and boy's baseball teams for youngsters from 12 to 16 years old. The weekly baseball games drew big crowds of spectators and involved a large proportion of the young people. Junior and the two other non-drinking men at the LORAN station began to go to the practice games with five gallons of fruit drink and cups for the players. A seaman volunteered to drive the teams to and from games on the Coast Guard bus. The skipper didn't encourage this activity but the men talked their way around this problem. Junior wrote to the warrant officer in charge of the Guam Supply Depot asking for some used baseball equipment for the team. In return he receive a case of new balls and enough gloves and bats to equip an entire team. Thereafter the Coast Guard was considered to be the village team's unofficial sponsor. The girl's team was even referred to as the Coast Guard team. It bothered the station's skipper that Junior had more influence with the Guam Depot that he did and he pointedly ignored the baseball team.

The skipper or commanding officer of the LORAN station was a recent graduate of the Coast Guard academy. This was his first command and he didn't get along well with his men. In Junior's opinion he drank too much. None of the men liked him and they often ignored his commands. He was occasionally invited to attend functions at the Trust Territory headquarters but he preferred to stay at the station and drink beer. In fact all but three of the 17 men on the station drank to excess. Every night after supper the men began their "beer party". They purchased 30 to 40 cases of 24-bottles each every month through the station's commissary. Junior kept the records and made the arrangements to buy the beer from the supply depot on Guam. He was supposed to be paid $10 every month for handling the beer concession. If the skipper refused to pay him, he sold enough of the beer on the side to get his ten dollars. Junior could not specify a brand of beer but the beer was always from Japan and cost 30 cents a bottle. This was roughly half the price of civilian beer. This cost the men from $150 to $200 per month. Once the Guam depot sent a load of Michalob beer and the men drank most of it before discovering that it cost 60 cents a bottle. The skipper drank but he was not the worst of the drunks. The chief boatswain mate wrecked the station's jeep while he was driving drunk. He injured himself so badly that he was on the disabled list for six months. Drinking was common, if not usual, on all of these isolated stations. However the situation at Saipan was the worst that Junior had ever seen.

An departing American school teacher gave the Coast Guard station a catamaran that he had built while living on Saipan. Two of the seamen took it out and sailed it down the coast. They realized that they didn't know how to control the boat so they beached it. The next day, two others, professing some knowledge of sailing, went to retrieve it. They took it outside the reef and turned it towards the station. However they could not turn it towards land and sailed past the station and past the island of Saipan altogether. They continued across the strait to the uninhabited island of Tinian, some two miles south of Saipan. They abandoned the boat at the base of the cliffs and climbed to safety. The Coast Guard personnel at the LORAN station followed all this with field glasses and finally called for a rescue plane from Guam. In the meantime the men disappeared into the jungles of Tinian and could not be found. That night they slept on an abandoned runway and the next day a Navy demolition squad working on the island found them. The men returned to Saipan but the catamaran was lost. It was sunk by the waves beating it against the cliff.

While Junior was on Saipan the Coast Guard was building new housing for dependent families. When the septic system was being installed the workmen found the bones of some Japanese soldiers buried during the US invasion of Saipan in 1944. During the invasion in 1944, American Marines landed on the beach at Garapan and captured the village. The surviving Japanese staged a counterattack and overran the village. In the course of this attack, many of the Japanese troops were killed. They were buried in shallow trenches near the village by the US Navy and forgotten. Now they were disinterred. Junior helped clean the bones and to put them in a box to be sent to Japan. The Japanese are intensely interested in recovering the bones of their war dead and each year teams of volunteers leave Japan to search for bones on dozens of South Pacific islands.

Junior's daily routine began with breakfast at 7:30 AM. He and his civilian assistant worked all morning preparing the noon and evening meals for the 16 or 17 men living at the station. By 6 PM he was finished for the day. He was off all day on Sundays and the men ate cold cuts or leftovers. As was his custom Junior spent many hours on the beach, walking or skin diving inside the reef. He collected seashells from the reef. He would bury most of the shells in a hole outside of the galley door and the ants would eat the shell's inhabitants. To get the larger sea urchins out of the spider shells, Junior would wait quietly until the animal extended his foot. Junior would quickly grab the foot and tie a string to it. Next he would tie the other end of the string to a door handle. Eventually the shell's inhabitant would become tired and drop the shell. Junior purchased souvenirs such as a mounted sea turtle and coconut crabs. From men who had been to more isolated stations, he bought wooden monkey men and, from Japan, china sets for Hazel and Diane. He had kept the anvil from the Cocas Island station and he took it back to the states when he left Saipan. When he left Saipan he shipped over 800 pounds of shells, China, tools and souvenirs to Pensacola.

He left Saipan on August 31, 1966. The villagers presented him with a knife in recognition of his help with the baseball teams. They also intended to see him off at the airport but Junior had grown attached to these people and he wanted to avoid an emotional farewell. He boarded a airplane that left sooner than scheduled and the villagers could not be notified in time. He flew back to the States via Alaska. It was time for him to re-enlist again and he had been promised another three years at the Santa Rosa Life Boat Station if he did so. However he had been in the Coast Guard for 22 years and was eligible for retirement. He decided to retire. In October he and Hazel went to New Orleans for a mustering-out ceremony. He and several other enlisted men were mustered out at the same time. Each man and his wife posed for a photograph with the Admiral. A copy of the photo was supposed to be send to each retiree but Junior's copy never arrived. He retired with 65% of his base pay or about $300 a month.

In the years since 1961 Hazel had gotten used to being a single parent. She had learned to handle the daily routine as well as the emergencies by herself. While her husband was in Miyako Jima she had gone regularly to talk to a psychiatrist who had helped her adjust to life without her husband. When Junior finally came home again and retired, she was apprehensive about having him around the house all the time. She worried about whether or not he would insist on doing everything his way as his father had done. But he didn't try to take over and he already had a job waiting for him.

In June 1966 about two months before Junior retired from the Coast Guard and returned to Pensacola, Diane married a Navy officer at the Warrington Baptist Church. Philip and Jeff were ushers and George Morris stood in for his father to give the bride away. Diane planned the wedding herself and handled all the arrangements. To her mother's relief she kept the price within reason. She and her husband went to Galveston for a honeymoon and then to Maryland where her husband was stationed. A year earlier, Philip had left Pensacola to attend the University of Florida at Gainesville. George Morris stayed in Pensacola until the summer of 1966. In September he too left Pensacola for Florida State University in Tallahassee. When Junior retired from the Coast Guard in September 1966 he returned to find only Hazel and Jeff still at home. The three older children were grown and gone.

Back to Table of Contents | Chapter 23

Copyright © 1994-2005 by Philip Mullins. Permission is granted to reproduce and transmit contents for not-for-profit purposes.