Well, the spring edition of “The Voice” is out and, as always, it’s filled with stories of intrigue, artfully crafted limericks, and detailed introductions to some of our newest residents. With each new release of this quarterly edition of collective works, we are reminded of the endless experiences, memories, unique perspectives, and philosophies that permeate our community. Roughly 1,200 people live at Panorama, with ages ranging from 58 – 101. Imagine the endless variety of personality, knowledge, and talent to be found in a community like ours. “The Voice of Panorama” is one of many ways we get the opportunity to explore the experiences and perspectives of others. Enjoy the following excerpts from the current edition.
Reunion in New Guinea (Part Two)
In late August of 1944, the intrepid crew aboard the “General’s crash boat” had just entered the Woendi Island harbor where a small fleet of naval warships lay at anchor. Our mission was to visit my brother on the submarine tender USS Orion before I returned to the States. Suddenly we were caught in the glare of searchlights from at least six ships. Now go on with the story.
A voice from the nearest ship’s loud-hailer demanded that we stop and identify ourselves and state our business. So here we are at midnight on a dark night being interrogated in the middle of a fleet of warships with at least six searchlights shining on us –and our “business” is to visit my 21 year old brother who hasn’t the remotest idea that I’m anywhere close to him.
So our skipper called out his name and organization. Then he told me to, “Take over!” So I stood out on the bow and said something like, “I’m Lt. S– and I have been ordered to return to the States tomorrow. My brother is assigned to the Orion and I request permission to visit him,”
Then, except for one, the searchlights went dark while the remaining light pointed out the Orion, which happened to be the “cruise ship” nearest us. When we reached the boarding platform of the Orion, I was interrogated again, this time by the ship’s Officer of the Day. Evidently whatever I said was enough so that he gave me permission to board. Our skipper and the others stayed on the crash boat and, presumably, napped or sat around and drank coffee. Once on board a sailor led me down inside the ship to a sleeping compartment with bunks stacked five high. He told me to wait under the dim night light while he told a sleeping body in the top bunk that someone wanted to see him. We both had so much to talk about and hardly knew where to start so we took a tour of the ship. We went up and down ladders and into many of the areas specially equipped to repair most any part of a submarine. we checked out the engine room, a very large (and very CLEAN!) compartment where only the generator for ship’s electrical power was running. The extensive machine shop was most impressive; — if they didn’t have the proper part, they could make it. Orion was really a sleeping giant, except for those few on duty. After the tour we found a little place near the gangway where we could talk — and talk we did.
About 2 a.m., the sailor on watch said that my skipper was ready to leave so he could get back to Owi Island before breakfast. Once I was back on board, the skipper lost no time in heading out of the anchorage area and the channel. About the time we were on a compass course for Owi, I lay down on the deck and slept — awakening just as we were preparing to moor at the Owi dock.
After a quick breakfast, I headed for the airstrip where I was happy (!) to find a twin-engine A-20 attack bomber about to leave for Hollandia. The side gunner’s seat was empty, so I put on a ‘chute and climbed aboard. Takeoff was normal but as soon as we cleared the island, the pilot headed down the coast — about 15 feet above the water and close to the tree-lined shore where A-20 pilots like to fly. And that altitude is where we stayed until time to enter the Hollandia landing pattern. We passed one Japanese soldier wading in knee-deep water about 50 feet from shore, doing his laundry. How did we know he was Japanese? Well, at that altitude the pilot and forward gunner got a good close-up look at one startled Asian male. We must have passed within 30 feet of him.
Back in Hollandia, I learned that the troop ship had arrived so I packed up my gear and went aboard for the trip home.
Sixty years later, my brother told me why the sub-tender was on one side of the bay with the fleet on the other. Orion carried more than a million gallons of fuel for the submarines plus 250 live torpedoes. She was a king-sized floating bomb. I also realized that God did my scheduling because there is no way I could possibly have coordinated the movements of two ships, three airplanes, one motorboat, and five or six jeeps to make my trip possible in the space of twenty four hours.
Inspiration in Different Packages
Teachers can influence us in different ways at different times of our lives. Some know when they connect with us and some don’t have a clue. Katherine Billings at Panorama’s Auditorium was an inspirational mentor to me. She encouraged me to bury my fears and not be terrified to speak in public. While learning to ignore that imaginary angry mob, I also found that my pounding heart quieted down, my throat spasms quit and my sweaty palms ceased. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Mr. Frazier, my high school geometry teacher, never knew that he opened my eyes and caused me to appreciate my true self. Mr. Cruelty had the reputation of causing at least one girl in each of his classes to cry. However, I was not worried that this calamity could happen to me because I was a quiet honor roll student who finished assignments on time and never caused any problems. Boy, was I wrong!
On that first day Mr. Toad explained to the class that females had no right heading to college. All the college openings should be for men who needed the education. And just because you earned A’s and B’s in algebra didn’t mean you would succeed in his geometry class. In order to review our first homework, Mr. Despicable assigned each example to a student to demonstrate at the blackboard. I was the first up and the first to be attacked. I had solved the problem correctly, but I was at a loss to answer the rapid-fire questions he shot at me as he stormed down the aisle. He shouted at me and totally humiliated me. With a dismissive hand wave he allowed me to gratefully crawl back to me seat.
And so it went every morning that week. I was always the chosen target. Friday was a particularly rough go-around because as Mr. Ogre derided me, he was so close to my face that he was spraying spittle on me. Perhaps it was time to see if my father could intervene with the principal to get my class changed. I was beginning to think I couldn’t continue this torment for the rest of the school year.
At the end of class as I skulked out, a fellow student came up to me and said, “I don’t know how you can stand it! If I were getting yelled at like that, I couldn’t be like you. I’d be blushing and…” “You mean I’m not blushing?” I had pictured myself red-in-the-face, dejectedly cowering as each spewed insult rained down on me. “No! You just keep staring at him and don’t show any reaction at all.” Ah ha. I now knew that my emotions were not giving me away. I could appear self-controlled and thick-skinned, and I could do this by myself without parental involvement. Although I might never conquer geometry, Mr. Pond Scum would never see any embarrassment or weakness in me. And he did not succeed in breaking me, even though he continued to select me daily for the homework indignity.
Today I feel a satisfaction in knowing that Mr. Insult-to-Humanity had no inkling that he was inspiring me to appreciate and further strengthen my inner resolve. This was an enormous gift to me from an ignorant, self-important barbarian.