My Reflections on Sydney
by Paul Trombetta
AX3 and AX2 and almost AX3 again (HS-8)
The discussions about Australia have triggered some fond memories.
I'd like to offer some of my reflections on that trip, especially seeing that you used my photograph of the Benny in Sydney harbor.
By the way, that other carrier in the foreground of the picture was the Melbourne or Canberra, I don't recall which.
I do remember some people being invited to the ship for a cocktail party- imagine- booze on a Navy vessel.
I remember that around the second trip into Subic, there was some kind of vote that was taken. The skipper wanted to know how many of the crew would like to go to Australia (since it was going to be after our normal cruise and would add time to the deployment).
If I remember correctly, the single guys outnumbered the married guys and Australia won the day.
I'll never forget the many "flight deck evolutions" that we had, practicing making a picture of Snoopy and a Kangaroo shaking hands for the aerial photographers. We also practiced singing Waltzing Matilda. The singing was recorded and played over the 5MC (is that right?) as we pulled into port.
A little side note on that singing practice- a couple of us were pretty close to the microphone so we used a bit of profanity (while all the while keeping the beat). When it was played back, if you listened real close, you could hear the refrain, ".........your'll come a waltzin' matilda with me (bum f....). It seemed funny at the time.
I remember that phone center was set up on the flight deck, and a message board had all kinds of invitations on it- people inviting us into their homes, etc. Most of my friends and I had liberty that first day (Henry Kaufmann, Jerry Moore, John Jepson, and a few others). WE bypassed the invitation board and hit the beach.
First thing we did was get a room in a hotel at the top of Kings Cross (good move). The next thing we did was change into civvies (bad move- not to mention illegal).
We went to a restaurant and drank what seemed to be gallons and gallons of fresh milk. On the radio was an announcer who was saying that he never saw Sydney sidewalks so full of people on a Sunday. He said that it must be because there are 10,000 American sailors in town- go get 'em girls.
After we wised up and changed back into dress blues, I was amazed. We got picked up by women on the street and they really showed us a great time. We went to places like the Latin Quarter, Les Girls, and many other night spots.
One of my favorite places was the Motor Club. Reception on the ground floor, Night club with a show on the second floor, mens bar on the third floor, and a casino on the fourth floor.
I met an Australian sailor who lived in Sydney. He had a car. One night he and I double-dated a couple of school teachers and went to the Saint Georges League Rugby Club.
He got so drunk that he couldn't drive. The girls didn't drive either.
Guess what. I had to learn how to drive a right hand drive, shifting with my left hand and driving on the right hand side of the road. Nearly got us all killed.
I'll never forget the Repatriation General Hospital in Concord. We called the nurses quarters and told them to wait by the curb- some Americans were coming by who needed a date. We got a cab and cruised in front of that place and took our pick of the lovelies. Then we went to Coogie Beach- the sportsmans club and had another great time.
Sydney was a place that welcomed us and after a long westpac cruise, we really felt at home.
To this day I clearly recall departing Garden Island Pier- the hundreds of white hats lofted gracefully to the shore and the tears of sorrow flowing from hundreds of womens eyes as we slowly sailed away.