11/22/13

Fifty years ago today

Fifty years ago today I was working in the warehouse at the base exchange on MCAS Cherry Point.

I had been accepted to the naval apprentice program over at what was then called the 'O&R', for 'Overhaul and Repair', the Navy's largest aircraft repair facility on the east coast. At the warehouse, I was making $0.95/hour. Yep. Ninety-five cents. An hour. It was considered pretty good pay for non-skilled labor.

I had pushed out a load of goods to re-stock the men's clothing section. The military uniform store was right next to the double doors for the warehouse. Music had been playing over the PA system in the store; I remember it was the old "She ain't got no yo-yo ...".

The music stopped, and the announcement was made that President Kennedy had been shot, and that he was dead. We all stood there in total silence. You could hear a pin drop in the store. I remember a Marine major gave an audible sigh, and went to the counter in the uniform store and asked if they had any mourning bands. These were black bands worn on a uniform, much as the black bands cops wear over their badges. They didn't.

I looked over at the ladies who worked in the men's clothing department, and they were huddled together sobbing. Then the announcement was made for all military personnel to report immediately to their units - because ... who had killed the president? Why? Was it the prelude to an attack? This was at the height of the Cold War, and the Cuban missile crisis and other Soviet shenanigans were fresh in our minds. TV coverage was non-stop; all three networks held up regular programming to cover the event. I remember the Oswald shooting, too.

"She ain't got no yoyo" was actually quite popular on most Marine bases; the Marines still had a large garrison contingent in Japan. The song was really "Shina no Yoru," or "China Night." It sounded like "She no got no yo-ohyooooh!" It's a Japanese song written in the late 1930's, after Japan had invaded China. Itwas first recorded by a female recording artist named Watanabe Hamako and later by Yamaguchi Yoshiko who recorded under the stage name of Shirley Yamaguchi.

And when I started the apprentice program, my hourly pay went to $1.95/hour, and LBJ started cranking things up in Vietnam, and the Sixties were, like, wow, man ... they were On!

Huh. Here it is: "Shina No Yoru." It was also the title of a Japanese propaganda flick, showing the kindliness of the Japanese occupying forces toward the Chinese.

However, they didn't play that at Kennedy's funeral. They played Chopin's Funeral March: Chopin's Funeral March.