Tuesday, January 31, 2017

You Can't Go Home Again, But You Can Visit




Had the opportunity to visit the gulf coast of Florida this week, which is always enjoyable.  Ever since my time there in the early 90s I’ve loved the Southern hospitality, laid back lifestyle and mild weather, at least in the winter.  Summers?  Not so much, but it’s still nice.  I lived in Pensacola during my training as a Naval Flight Officer and the area really grew on me.  Before I married my beautiful wife, I dated a local girl there who introduced me to some of her close friends who soon became my close friends, and still are.  They grew on me for their own brand of hospitality which involved their boat.  Of course the best boat is the one owned by a friend and theirs was no exception.  At least a couple times a month we’d take it out on the inter-coastal waterway, mainly in Perdido Bay, but sometimes along Old River and Pensacola Beach.  Any waterfront restaurant or bar worth its salt would have a dock, which enabled us partake in one of my favorite activities from my time there- bar-hopping by boat.  Fresh-caught fish, hush-puppies, beer and/or mud-slides was the typical afternoon menu. 

I lived on the beach just below the 'o' in Ono Island

One of my favorite places was a little dive called Pirates Cove, up that finger inlet near Josephine.  It was very much a whole in the wall, with few redeeming qualities other than very cold and very cheap beer.  The food was good, as far as burgers and fried fish go.  Not much else on that menu from what I recall.  Popular joint which attracted all kinds- from the redneck in his muddy jacked-up pickup, to the rich-folk driving their Jags and Beemers.  Didn’t seem to matter what you drove, everyone was welcome and everyone was friendly.



The reason for my trip to Miramar Beach was the annual Mine Warfare Science and Technology conference which I’ve attended and mentioned before.  The audience and briefings are heavy on the science behind the technologies being developed to improve our mine countermeasures capability.  Not having much of an engineering or mathematics background I can only understand half of it, which gave me an opportunity on one of the afternoons to drive over to Pensacola for a quick visit. 

McGuiresIrishPub.com
My favorite spot in Pensacola proper was a great lrish Pub called McGuires.  It was a big hangout for the students and instructors during Flight School.  With an apparent love for all things Notre Dame, it was always heavy on the green and Irish theme, but I wouldn’t vouch for the authenticity.  We loved it all the same.  They always had an Irish singer on the weekends which made the place all the more fun.  Another part of the entertainment was seeing the ladies walk in on the men’s restroom because they didn’t read close enough.
McGuiresirishpub.com
Assuming I didn’t drink too much or wasn’t too full, I would indulge in the best bread pudding I’ve ever had.  I have the recipe around here someplace which includes a whisky butter sauce topping that makes it so good and worth going back for. 
 I wonder if the dollar I put up in 1990 is still there.                              McGuiresirishpub.com

Another fun place was Seville Quarter.  Essentially a series of bars and restaurants under one roof, it had a definite New Orleans feel and a band in every room.  Several dance floors and different levels helped give the place an inviting club feel which attracted a crowd that any aviator would love.   It seemed to fall out of favor with some of us when the place opened up to the 18 and over crowd and their multitudes that took all the parking spots.  

Fineartamerica.com
Well, I didn’t intend for this post to have the alternate title of “All the Places I Used to Drink” so I’ll get on with it.  If I had been on a longer trip to a gulf city closer to my old stomping grounds I might have actually stopped in one or more of those places, but Miramar Beach is almost two hours from my real destination in Pensacola.


It had been eight years since my last visit, which was during a cross country PCS move from Tampa back to San Diego, which was the 11th and last move we’d make.  In that time the place had changed considerably.  The newest edition was Hangar Bay 1 which is a 55,000 sq ft exhibit space for many of the aircraft which were almost withering in the hot Florida sun out on the tarmac. 





It was really good to see Blue Wolf 700 brought indoors.  The only truly famous S-3 Viking, save for the one I flew over Iraq in which is now part of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, Blue Wolf 700 is better known by its redesignation.



With several tires and a strut being underserviced, dying paint, and dried up caulking characterizing the jet the last time I saw her, the new space was needed to better display a significant event in Naval Aviation history.   The fact that the hangar is dedicated to George Bush Senior, and the museum has the NS2 Kaydet he flew in Training probably helped bring her inside and get a little TLC.


Source


I had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of an S-3 again, although I probably wouldn’t fit into my harness anymore.





The hangar also has an F-8 Crusader with markings of a ship and a squadron my father served in back in the 60s.



There’s a nice exhibit commemorating US Coast Guard Aviation as well, which just had its 100th Anniversary last year.  One interesting tidbit which I got from a retired Coastie here at work is that before Top Gun, not all caps, indicating the movie, the guard didn’t actually have rescue swimmers.  They were just aircrewmen who would be lowered down in a basket to make the rescue.  The producers asked them to take part in that famous scene rescuing Maverick and dragging Goose’s body out of the water, which included a diver jumping out of the helo to do so.  The Coast Guard Commandant was embarrassed by the fact that they had to go to the USAF for a couple Para-Rescue guys to act as Sailors that he ordered the establishment of their school, later famously portrayed in “The Guardian.”



I also got a perfectly patronizing partial picture of a fine looking Phantom that they had there.

There was an aircraft outside that I can’t remember ever seeing, even in some of the fine history Sarge has posted about.   If there was an emergency the pilot and intercept officer had to slide down a chute behind the cockpit in order to bail out. 
FD3 Skyknight
Grumman F9F-2 Panther

I’ve only been retired from the Navy for less than 7 years, but I was surprised by how sentimental I’ve gotten in that time, and how much I loved some of the more simple exhibits there.  The ones depicting a modern Aircraft Carrier really took me back and almost made me miss it.




I was a decent modeler when I was a kid and would sometimes try to put together a diorama for the plane so this exhibit was interesting to me.



Being a place for all things Naval Aviation, they also have a very fine exhibit of art which I've always loved.



Even though I never flew in the A-4, they got rid of the TA-4J version for NFOs just before I began Advanced Training, but this is still my all-time favorite painting in the genre.  It's not titled, but "A Gathering Storm," which is how it's described on the placard beside the picture is so fitting in more ways than one.





The Cubi Point O'Club exhibit is excellent and depicts history all on its own through the many squadron plaques that are its heart and soul. 






Of course I paid special attention to the ones from my first fleet squadron.  I wasn't there in 91, but shortly thereafter so I know many of the names on this plaque and others.  I got to the museum at around 3 PM and it closed at 5 so I couldn't get too many more pictures to share.  However, I still have one that is special to me.



These two little cuties are the daughters of those folks with the boat.  This was during an Air Show on the base back in 1990 and my squadron put those signs on the jets for photo ops.  Those girls have moved up to Jax and Orlando, all grown up now with their own families, but we still keep in touch.  And both of them keep this picture up in their homes.  So besides some great memories of Pensacola, I've still have some good friends from there as well.

Well, thanks for coming along on my "visit" back home.


I apologize for the different font sizes if that shows up in the version you see. I've checked and double checked the settings, trying different fonts, but blogger can be a temperamental SOB sometimes. 


31 comments:

  1. That FM Wildcat is ratty looking, as a front line fighter in the Pacific should. Perfectly maintained ratty is hard to do. There is a whole lot of GM in that photo. P&W could not make engines fast enough, so Chevrolet also made P&W radials, so you have an Eastern Aircraft Wildcat, with a Chevy engine, and armed with Inland Steering Division built M-2 .50 cal. guns. Dare I mention that the electrical system was DELCO, and the gyros were made by the what was then Sperry Division of GMC? Those bombs would have been hauled out to the planes by Chevrolet Bomb Trucks, a single axle variant of the GMC 2 1/2 ton truck. GMC used to be quite large. The metal cases for 250 and 500 pound bombs came from A.O. Smith, in Milwaukee, so Badgers were involved, too.

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  2. Great post Tuna. I need to get back down to P-Cola, loved visiting when The WSO was there.

    The atrium with the Blue Angels is where she received her wings.

    And yes, Blogger can be cranky at times. It seems to be barely on speaking terms with Firefox on some days and it even gets cranky with Chrome from time to time, and that's another Google product!

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    1. I think they've been winging NFOs in that atrium since it was built. Mine was there as well.

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  3. I will have to check out the museum if we are in the area.
    My Med cruises on Forrestal would technically qualify as bar hopping by boat!

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    1. And I did a lot of that too so I guess P'cola was more than just flight training!

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    2. John, my Mom visited the museum last year with her friend. A Christmas present for me was a framed photo of the steel plates from the stern with "FORRESTAL" painted on them--the rest of the ship, of course, has been scrapped (alas!).
      I did the FID's last Med cruise in '91. FW&FS to you, shipmate,
      --Tennessee Budd

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  4. Another wonderful post, thanks! The history tidbit about the Coast Guard having to go to the USAF for some PJ's was funny. Kevin Costner should send some royalties from that film to the PJ's. ;)

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  5. I've visited McGuires a few years ago on our way to Disney World. Nice place, Decent Food, Excellent Selection of Adult Recreational Beverages. As I understand it, the money display is rumored to be insured for $1 Million alone.

    On the official Juvat "Will Visit Again" list.

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    1. Oh, and the "I’ve only been retired from the Navy for less than 7 years"? I've been out coming up on 19. Hasn't gotten any easier.

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    2. My parents brought me a T-shirt from McGuires about twenty five years when they were vacationing and condo shopping down there. They both put up a signed dollar bill as well. It's on my wish list to visit some day.

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  6. Even the canopy shot of the Phantom exudes beauty!

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    1. I have a photo somewhere of myself (in mufti) standing next to that lovely bird. Though, IIRC, the canopies were closed. I'll have to dig that out.

      And yes, everything about the Phantom is beautiful and awe inspiring. :)

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    2. The canopies were open this time because Murph had just passed through and opened them. Just sayin'.

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    3. I was thinking that as well. Can't tell if the boarding ladder is down.

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  7. Out-loving-standing post juvat. Most enjoyable.

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Sorry 'bout that Tuna. Had a brain inversion. You know, of the cranial/rectal type.

      Paul

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    2. Still, it was an outstanding post.

      PLQ

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    3. Had to scratch my head on that one! I did wonder what part of this post made you think USAF. Haha.

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    4. I suppose it had to do with not reading the " posted by " line.

      Paul

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    5. P.S.

      I tried to post this response three times several hours ago, no joy. Finally got it to stick.

      PLQ

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  8. The Hancock and F-8s dredges up some memories of the '60s for me.
    Watched a few traps from plane guard and I'm sure I wore out a few grease pencils in airplot tracking those birds.

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  9. Good post regarding a great and historical area, Tuna, although you could have slipped in "it was a dark and stormy night" to give Juvat's "greenish gray mist" a run. The NAM in P'cola was always one of my favorite go to spots as far back as the early 70's during numerous TDYs back to Mother (FT.) Rucker. Wasn't a Trader Vic's kind of a naval aviation institution is downtown Pensacola at one time? regards, Alemaster

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    1. Trader Joe's. It pretty much died when he died. Some aviators tried to resurrect it a couple times, buying the memorabilia off his widow, but I don't think they were able to capture the spirit.

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  10. I looked at that picture of McGuire's for the longest time, trying figure out what was wrong. Then it hit me. I've never seen the place in the daylight! I wonder if my dollar is still there? Seems like there were only a thousand, 1,500 tops back in '82.

    Like the way you framed the service banners with in the F-4 pic. Also a great picture of the Drut! I'm old enough to have seen a few on the ramp!

    The mud ducks had SAR baskets instead of swimmers. I always wondered why that was. Their aircrewmen went to NACCS, but none of them went to swimmer school. Also always wondered why they used the mud ducks rather than Navy SAR in Short Gun The Moovie. Helos must've been at North Island or something.

    Anyway, great post!

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  11. Thanks for the tour, Tuna!. Wouldn't you say that Pensacola is one of the top 10 aviation museums in the country? Your post jogged my memory - some months ago we had heard that they were going to put a Hornet in the exhibit and I wrote the museum head suggesting that they put Lex's name on it - Of course I never heard back. Just wondering if you saw a Hornet there yet.

    About going back - I have done that to a few places in my life - UVA 20 years after I graduated, Germany 20 years after I left (same trip) and the feeling I got was a bit eerie. Particularly with UVA the buildings were the same (some hadn't changed in 173 years (then) but I had. I felt like a bit that I was in a foreign land. The river never stays the same, etc.

    Finally - you know a subtle hint that you are getting older - when you see all of your equipment in a museum ;-)

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    1. Would I say that? Most definitely. Soon we'll all belong in a museum! Went to a Viking reunion a short time ago and we'll all old now- no young'ins in the group anymore, even the last to fly it was almost a decade ago.

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  12. P'cola does hold a special place for all of us Naval Aviators and NFOs. I'm glad to see they finally got the Hangar bay done! TA-4s were a blast! 720 degree roll rate and just flat fun to fly! Thanks for the pics and the update!

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    1. I had fun thinking about the post while taking the pictures! You're quite welcome.

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  13. My condo is only 5 miles from the museum. I have over 1000 pics of the place and displays. As a small note the statues in the main entrance were sort of duplicated (same artist and firm) for the display/dedication area at NAS Glenview IL. I love it down there.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)