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A Refreshking Knapp – Summer brings two vacations (Aug. 26, 2015, issue)

Having had quite a time at Myrtle Beach, I convinced my wife to take a road trip south to Pensacola Florida where, as being a retired CPO, we could stay at the Navy Lodge on the Base, and within walking distance of the beach and CPO club. That saved some money over comparable local motels and you weren’t crowded for beach space.
The only crowd consisted of a half mile of cars waiting in line to see the Naval Aviation Museum. The traffic snarl was due to a recently enacted “Full Inspection,” which consisted of valid identification for everyone entering the base as well as a vehicle inspection – quite a slow process.
Once on the base visitors had signs directing you to the aviation museum. It consists of 2 large hangars filled with every type of naval aircraft known to man. I wish Ralph Hood – Erwin Record Columnist, and a member of Alabama’s Aviation Hall of Fame, had been there as guide. With his expertise in the aviation field, I’m certain he could have explained the role and capabilities of these aircraft and we wouldn’t have felt so lost in the maize of aircraft that were suspended from the ceiling and covered the floors of the hangers. Viewing this aviation museum is free – probably one of the reasons for the long line.
There was also a section reserved for the Space Program. In the 1960’s NAS Pensacola was home base for the early astronauts. I was stationed at NAS Memphis at that time, as a weather forecaster, and had the privilege of meeting/giving a weather briefing to these early astronauts. Of course, the memorabilia from those early days of space exploration held a keen interest for me. My wife had a time dragging me from it.
Pensacola is home to the famous Blue Angels. NAS Pensacola had signs of them everywhere; some of their older aircraft were housed in the museum looking as sleek and beautiful as they had when I first saw them in 1957.
Back then they flew Grumman F-11-F1 Tigers which look as impressive to me as their current F/A-18 Hornets though I don’t believe they could fly at supersonic speed like the F/A – 18s. I’ll have to check with Ralph Hood on that. All I know they could fly mighty fast back then and do some hair rising maneuvers. They still do, and have added a few new maneuvers that will certainly get your attention. If you want to see them next year, they are scheduled to be at the Mcghee Tyson airport in Knoxville, TN on April 16 and 17, 2016.
I think what surprised me the most about being on a navy base again was the lack of sailors. There just didn’t seem to be any. I didn’t see any white hats, or bell bottom trousers anywhere. I thought the place had been taken over by marines until I noticed the navy rating insignia on the sleeves and collars of the young men and women that I saw here and there around the base.
Sometime in recent years there has been a uniform change without consulting me.
A sailor doesn’t look like a sailor anymore. I guess the old P-Coats and 13 button trousers are hanging in a museum somewhere.
Well, I assured my wife, with this being Saturday; we will hang out at the beach today and go over to the Chief’s Club tonight. They always have the best club on the base and serve the best food.
What a disappointment! The place was closed. “Open Wednesday through Friday,” the sign read. I just don’t know what’s happening to the navy.
I called my daughter, Kim, who along with her husband Garry had just moved to Destin. Come on over Dad, you can be here just in time for supper. I love my daughter and son-in-law, Garry, who treated us to a delicious meal at some locally famous seafood restaurant. I also loved their invitation to “come on down -” anytime you want.
Thanks, Kim and Garry; we will see you shortly after the first snowfall in Erwin. We will be ready for another road trip by then.