Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Long Time Ago

London, A Long Time Ago
Seems odd to think that all of those kids in that photo are in their 30s now. Well, except the kid in the green hat with the gold lettering, that's me. While I am a bit of a kid, I am no longer in my 30s. Double that and there ya go, that's where Your Humble Scribe sits. I was in my early 40s then, seems decades ago. Well, it was, two decades and change to be precise.

It was a school field trip for the 5th and 6th grades from Geilenkirchen Elementary. The WSO (yes, she's in the picture) volunteered me to be a chaperone. Wasn't really a problem, I would have volunteered myself if she hadn't beat me to it.

Sweet gig. Five days and four nights in a youth hostel not far from St Paul's Cathedral (I've mentioned that in passing before).

Google Satellite View
The yellow arrow marks the youth hostel, the ginormous building up and to the left right is, of course, St. Paul's Cathedral. We could see the dome from the rec room of the youth hostel. Which is also where the Coca Cola machine was located. And yes, we Yanks have to have our amenities. (Down the lane to the left was the pub we frequented, they had Guinness, on tap. I think we went every night, me and the other dads on the trip.)

Of course, The WSO's class and the 5th grade class had fund raisers and we parents all had to kick in for the children. Yes, for the children. I, and the other chaperones, were going gratis, sort of. As we had all kicked in to get the kids to London, we kind of paid for ourselves as well. But not all the parents went as chaperones. So we felt like we were getting a deal. Which we really were.

The only requirement we had as chaperones is that each of us would have to teach a class to the kids. Well, that and get them all back to Germany alive and well. I taught an hour long class on the history of weapons and war. Wasn't all that in depth, but the kids seemed to like it. The boys did anyway and the girls were polite enough to pay attention and nod in all the right places. I did get to hear "That is so cool!" a few times from the boys. It's in the male's nature to like dangerous things. (I daresay The WSO and a couple of her mates liked the class as well. She did, after all, grow up to be a WSO. That apple did not fall far from the tree. Well, none of 'em did, truth be told.)


So one Monday we were up well before dawn to take buses to the train station where we would hop aboard the train for London. Went through the Chunnel, which was cool going into and coming out of but was rather boring in between, in a terrifying sort of way. After all, we were below ground and underneath the English Channel, any leaks and we would be done for, but there were no leaks, just my overactive imagination.

Going through customs at Dover the nice lady told me that I didn't need a stamp in my passport as I was military.

"Ah, but can you stamp it anyway? A souvenir of my trip to Dear Olde England?"

"Why, certainly luv, seeing as how you put it that way!"

Stamp applied, it was back on the train to London.

Upon arrival the real teachers divvied up the students and chaperones. My lot was five 12 year old boys. We had our own quarters on the bottom floor, sort of a sub-basement room with a window at sidewalk level, two single beds and two bunk beds for the lot of us. I felt like a sergeant with his own squad of young recruits, who were doing their level best to behave, though I did go out for a smoke once upon an evening and came back to discover that the boys had forced the runt of the litter (the smallest lad) in the window and were asking passers-by to "see the runt for just tuppence." (Where they picked up the term "tuppence" still puzzles me. But they were all military brats, who pick things up in their travels. I suspect one of 'em had been in Jolly Olde England before.)

Upon his release, I asked the wee lad if he'd like to, ya know, press charges against the others. Him, being a good lad hisself, said, "No sir, they were just having a bit of fun at my expense. No need to make trouble for anyone." I did give the others my very best "sergeant's look" and said they were to mind their manners the rest of the trip.

Which they did. Admirably.

We had a great time in London. On own evening I was out with the other Dads, there was always someone at the hostel to "mind the store" from our school, so we were alright. Upon returning to the room, the boys all had a chuckle as Your Humble Scribe may have taken aboard one pint too many. As I stumbled into bed, one of 'em said...

"Cool, Mr. Goodrich is drunk!"

"I'm not drunk boy! I'm buzzed, learn your terminology!"

Conspirators we were. Like I said good lads.

I do recall attending the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. I missed the actual change-over as The WSO was sitting on my shoulders and I was holding another of her friends aloft so that they could see the parade. I could hear the music and could see the backs of all the other tourists. Good times.

Anyhoo. Once the Guards were inside, I noted that at the very back of the formation, two radiomen were having a chat! While on parade! I turned to my charges and asked them what they thought of me bellowing out (well, in the UK it's more of a squeal, trust me, I know this, I've marched with the Black Watch) in my best sergeant's voice, "NO TALKING ON PARADE!"

The WSO said that that would be so cool. One of my roomies (squaddies if you will permit me) just looked at me and said, "I dare you Mr. Goodrich, I double dog dare you."

As I stood up to my full five foot eight inches tall and squared my shoulders, I felt a poke in my back and a female voice hissing, "Don't. You. Dare."

'Twas one of the teachers, she knew me well. I realized that bellowing at a full company of Royal Guardsmen would probably not be the smartest thing to do. So, discretion being the better part of valor, I desisted. Yup, the lads were sorely disappointed, as was The WSO, but they understood. After all, I was supposed to be the adult in the room, so to speak.

Sometimes being a grown-up sucks.

But yeah, good times.

See, those lads have rifles, probably not a good idea to yell at 'em.
And those are the Welsh Guards, ask me how I know.

(No, I didn't get it from the caption. Source)


  1. Ah yes, the female finger poke countermanding the double dog dare. Even with the crappy rifles those Guards had there were still serviceable rifle butts, not good eh? 5th and 6th graders are a good age to "Road Trip"!

    1. That is a good age. Mentally I'm kind of stuck there still.

      On my better days.

  2. You knew they were the Welsh Guards because their buttons are grouped in fives.

  3. Ok, I have no clue, so I will guess (instead of doing the goggle-thingy) it because guarding Buckingham is their "normal" duty station? I think I might have read that someplace...but I like Cpt O's answer.

    Going to London sounds like a very fun 5-6 grade trip!! My 5-6 grade chaperone trip was the winter camping trip of the Scouts...I was basically told either I or my ex had to go as dear son has moderately severe asthma, and the leaders were worried about what could happen. Now, mind you, we were going to a field/forest about a mile up the road from the house, 15 min away from the hospital. The ex- (who didn't like camping in August) said "Yea, not happening". So I packed my woolies, a heavy weight sleeping bag, with extra blanket (fleece is my friend), the small tent, and said "ok". It was -10 that night. The only time I was cold was when I had to get up, and had to pee in the middle of the night. Dear son wouldn't sleep with Mom, he bunked in with a couple of buddies, and did fine. At 11, he knew what he could and couldn't do without setting off his asthma. We both had fun. And learning how to cook over your own little tuna can stove was a kick. I would even do it again.

    1. Guards regiments have been present in many royal, or imperial, armies. Their original function was to act as the sovereign's personal bodyguard. On duty at the palace and with the sovereign in the field. The British have five foot Guards regiments, you can tell who's who by the buttons on their dress uniforms:
      - Grenadier Guards: single buttons evenly spaced
      - Coldstream Guards: buttons in groups of 2
      - Scots Guards: buttons in groups of 3
      - Irish Guards: buttons in groups of 4
      - Welsh Guards: buttons in groups of 5

      Ah, never been camping with the kids. I'm sure it would be interesting. Son was a Boy Scout, he went camping all the time in Germany.

      I've never been a big fan of camping. I understand the attraction, but I've slept outside enough to know that it's not my cup of tea.

    2. I did not know that about the groupings of buttons! It paid to get out of bed tonight! Are the Irish Guards Armoured Division a different bunch of guys, or are the Foot Guards thier infantry?

    3. The Irish Guards were part of the Guards Armored Division in WWII, now they are considered to be Foot Guards (to distinguish them from the Horse Guards) and are part of the Guards Division. There never was an Irish Guards Division.

  4. I doubt that any Swedish bears would approve of those Guardsmen. ( I read somewhere that is where the bearskins come from.)

  5. "And those are the Welsh Guards, ask me how I know." Ok, so how do you know?

    One of your best tales.

    We had multiple school field trips; however, they were all in Italy, where our fathers were stationed.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. See my answer to Suz up above. It's the buttons. The Welsh Guards wear those in groups of five.

      I can think of worse places to go on field trips than Italy!


    2. "I've never been a big fan of camping. I understand the attraction, but I've slept outside enough to know that it's not my cup of tea."

      It's somewhat more fun when you are being paid to do it. Being able to tell officers to police up the area helps a great deal.

      And, no juvat, our paths did not cross.


    3. Being paid, always a plus. My question, no doubt, would be, "How much?"

      Telling officers to police up the area gives me a clue as to the when and where.

    4. "How much?" The princely sum that an E-3 made in the mid to late '60s.


    5. Well, I suppose it's better than nothing. Of course, cost of living was less in those days.

      Still, E-3 pay, no matter the era, has never been "princely." But if one is living in the barracks and eating in the chow hall, one can get into a lot of mischief on that pay, just not every night. I know, I've tried.

    6. Of course, if one is stationed just outside of Reno, NV, one can have a fair amount of fun even on that pay.

      Paul L. Quandt

    7. Sounds like you've "been there, done that." ;)

  6. Camping is fun. But of course when Mrs. Andrew and I went 'camping' it was more like going on safari. No measly backpack tents, nosiree. Full cabin tent with a bed (futon matress) and a mobile closet, three large footlockers, two tables and a chair (just in the tent.) Outside under the screen room was another 6' long table and two chairs. A kitchen box (think chuck wagon) on one end, holding all the dry goods. A camp stove or portable electric eye if electricity was available. Not to mention 1 large cooler for drinks, 1 for food, 1 for misc stuff.

    See? Not so much camping as safari-ing, or expeditioning.

    Variations included much the same out of a full-sized Ford sex-offender van, or a medieval tent (with mosquito netting over the bed, not completely stupid.)

    As to Londonium, glad you got to go before the recent troubles. And losing the opportunity to get whacked by some Welshers, man, missed opportunities...

    1. Yeah, that's a good form of camping. Worst form, which I've done, was with a single woolen blanket with only a James 6-pounder cannon for an overhead. Yes, I've done that. Only one night, praise the Lord, but that was enough.

      With the Welsh Guards, I just didn't want to get hit with a leek. But yes, that would've been epic.

  7. Beans: I will have to remember the term "safari-ing" the next time Hubbie and I go to the Old Engine Show at Buckley MI next August. Two years ago we took the (nicely stocked) motor home. This year, it wouldn't start, much to Hubbie's dis-satisfaction. So, when faced with either trying to get a hotel room in Traverse City at the height of the season, or camping in a tent...he agreed to use my 4 man tent. And I packed all the rest of the "necessary" supplies into 2 large Rubbermaid boxes, and put them, a cooler, a sun-shade/tent, the tent, the tractor, etc onto the trailor or in the back of the compact truck. He gave me all kinds of grief about taking everything including the kitchen sink, and told me he was going to take me "Caribou Hunting" out in the back 4o like he used to do while living in Alaska. I told him, "well, we have everything you will want or need for the next 4 days, so I am good." And we did. The bottom line was when caribou hunting, you have to fly in, so you can only take enough equipment that allows for your weight, and the weight of returning with the typically a max of 80#'s of stuff (sleeping bag, clothes, food, kitchen kit, etc) We still haven't gone yet. Told him I have backpacked, which is a quick way to figure out what you really only want instead of
    And yes, car camping is more fun, as you can take more stuff!

    1. I think I'll pass on the "fly out to the middle of nowhere with minimal gear to hunt caribou" experience. Primarily because of the other creatures who hunt caribou. Bear, wolves, other humans. It all sounds rather dangerous.

      But like Paul said the other day, "To each his/her own." Freedom!

    2. What I used to do was the modern wheeled equivalent of doing outfitting camping, instead of using horses and packsaddles, I originally had:

      A Volvo 760 - sucked as a prime mover, but I could pack a lot of stuff into a small space.

      A Ford Aerostar - could pack all sorts of stuff, just was... cramped. But it had a roof-rack.

      A GM grey small mouse car - Two large people, a large dog, armor, etc. Stick your head out the window to breath.

      A Ford E-150 sexual predator work van - Oh, yeah. The bed frame fit inside the van, so storage under and on top of the bed, and a roof-top carrier for other stuff. Put tents and hard stuff under bed, unload and set up tent, move other stuff inside so as to have surfaces to put things on, disassemble bed (wingnuts are wonderful things) and reassemble in tent. Poof. After 2 hours a fully equipped portable lodge. For smaller trips not during mosquito season just the bed. A fan with extension cord is a nice addition even during winter.

      A GMC Safari - almost as good as the Ford White Whale, but not as much room for insta use.

      Now I don't camp. But still have a van.

      As to the whole caribou hunt thingy, they make some really neat folding wheeled game carts that weigh small amounts. Never understood why more hunters didn't use one of those game carts to tote stuff in and then, of course, tote stuff out. As long as the terrain isn't too broken or too steep, and then you just move along the flatter sections with the cart and then go up and down. I mean, except for Native Americans, most other cultures discovered the wheel like, oh about the time of the pre-Egyptians. So it's not like using wheels is new or innovative or something.

      I've also seen people take thinner sheets of UHMW plastic and make drag litters out of them. Weight? 5lbs-10lbs, practically indestructible over a 2 month period of dragging over rocks and trees and such.

      Then there's the acknowledgement of Native American culture and doing a travois litter using 2 long poles, 2 short cross pieces, a hunk of rope and maybe some sort of cloth or net webbing.

      But, nooooo. Backpackers gotta be all tough and backpack. Er… No. Sorry. I come from Western European stock, which means I am genetically programmed to find a better, lazier way of doing things.

      Heck, if you wanted to walk, you could always make a blimp lifter and just tow the darned thing. But that's pushing over the edge of 'better, lazier' right into 'engineering nighmare much like the fuel systems on Tiger tanks.' Might also suck in high winds, so go wheeled or dragged.

      Hmmm. Get one of those Boston Dynamic mechanical mules the Marines were looking into a few years ago. Designed for rough surfaces, carrying up to 200lbs or more. Hmmmm.. Nah.. Yeah.. Naaaahhhhh.. Hmmmm, yeahhhhhh…

      Or just, well, get a surplus Firescout drone helo to airlift your stuff in. Hmmmm. 4 firescouts, a large blimp, et voila, an Aerostat. Oh, wait, there's that pesky wind thingy again...

      No, I have never wondered what I could do with lots of cash and mil-surplus... Though there's an Atlas E missile site for sale in Texas, the nice one with the horizontal to vertical launch bay so the central 'missile' building has a big-arsed opening roof. And hardened quarters just around the corner to live in. Nah, never thought of anything like that....

    3. Well, you have to know what you would do with your mega-millions winnings...after all, 1.6 billion is still a chunk of $$$ even after Uncle Sam takes his cut...other than buying a new car, paying off bills, etc that everyone says they will do. I do like OAFS's idea of a film company tho'.

      I would only want the horizontal to vertical launch site as long as I didn't have to crank it upright by hand!

    4. Beans - Going for the mil-tech solution, nice.

    5. Suz - that's a LOT of money. Even after Uncle Sam's cut.

    6. But once all the soooper secret missile stuff is gone it leave a huge big building to fill with wonderful things, like an indoor gun range, a huge workshop, and one heck of a garage. On nice days open the top for fresh air. On bad days like when you accidentally explode a hammer (ummm, yeah, I blew up a hammer) you can crank the roof open for lots of fresh air. And, of course, for all your evil overlord needs...

    7. That would be cool in many ways.

  8. 1965 stayed in a British Army hotel near the Waterloo Station. A small step up from a barracks, barely, but the price was right.

    While eating at a diner, shocked the waitress by asking for coffee with no milk. She muttered under her breath, "barbarian".

    Watched the guard change and was impressed with their mad marching skills. Nice people then and a pleasant change from Deutschland.

  9. Good times, good memories.

    My buddy and I took a five day R&R trip to London in the fall of '76 (rode with a group on a chartered bus). We were both Sp/4's at the time. I still have some photos that I took with a Kodak 110. We saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The weather was gray, and so were the Guard's uniforms.

    Also went to the Imperial War Museum. I have photo of me at the tender age of 23 standing next to the 15-inch guns out front.

    No Chunnel in those days, so over and back from (West) Germany by ferry, the big ones where a lot of cars, semi-trucks, and buses drive onto the main deck. Dover to Ostend as I recall. The return trip was at night, pitch black, and in the kind of weather that almost ended D-day. I went down a few decks to where they had bunks where you could sack out. As I lay there being gently rocked fore and aft, I could hear the ship's rpm's rise and fall as the props came out of the water after the crest of each wave. Once again, I knew that the Army had been the right choice.

  10. Sounds like an excellent time was had by one and all. I envy you your time in Europe. My oldest son lives there and I get to see lots of pics and hear his stories but that's about the closest I'll ever come. My Missus has an irrational fear of flying so I'm limited to only the places we can drive to.

    1. Europe was awesome back in the day. Aspects of it scare me now, but friends who have been there recently didn't see any problems. The Meejah blows a lot of things out of proportion, but there are neighborhoods in Paris one dioes not go.

  11. Before you mentioned "back to Germany" I was amazed that a school would have a 5th grade trip across the pond! Then again, my daughter's Girl Scout troop saved all their cookie funds from 4th grade up until her Sophomore year in High School to visit London, Paris and Rome. My wife drew the lucky straw and chaperoned. Actually we were the only ones who could afford it so luck had nothing to do with it.

    1. Well, it was cheaper to cross the Ditch than it is to cross the Pond. :)

  12. “up and to the left“?

    Is this some Air Force definition of “left” that I’m not familar with?

    1. D'oh!

      Fixed that. I've been rather dyslexic as of late.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.