From Boston to Bennington, and Back

OK, Here's my story:

My Navy career started on a rainy night in Boston in 1963. Recently out of high school and longing for some adventure 2 of my friends and I decided to join the Navy. We planned to go down to the Navy base on a wed night and sign up. Problem was, I was still going to night school, so my friends said we'll go down Wed. and you go down the next night. I did, I went down the very next night and joined the Navy. I got back up the corner and saw the guys and said I did it! They said good, oh Kevin did tell you we changed our mind and joined the Air Force, right? The uniforms are nicer.

#*#!!% I said.

A few weeks later, the submarine USS Thresher sank off of Boston, losing all hands, and I left for Boot Camp at Great Lakes. When I got there, I had no idea what I wanted to do in the Navy, they asked for volunteers for submarine duty.......yeah, right no one volunteered. The chief got p--sed (upset) and then asked for volunteers for Aviation duty. I figured it's probably not a good idea to keep p--sing off (upsetting) the chief, so I raised my hand. That was a smart move on my part. After Boot Camp, they found out I didn't know ANYTHING about aviation, so they sent me to Airman School at NAS JAX. This was quite an eye opener, going down south in the 60's seeing the remnants of segregation, etc.. After I finished school I filled out my "dream sheet" for orders and requested NAS New York, NAS South Weymouth (Boston) and NAS, Brunswick, Maine. (No, I wasn't homesick!) Naturally, in Navy tradition, my orders came in...... to the USS Bennington CVS-20 in Long Beach, California. So much for being near home.

This turned out to be the finest 3 years of my life. I worked on the flight deck refueling aircraft, and traveled the world. (My buddies who joined the Air Force got stationed in the Maine woods for 3 years! I made a point to always send them postcards from Hawaii, Hong Kong and other exotic places we visited!)

After 3 years on the Bennington I got out and returned back to Boston, and immediately went to work for a new company, the Polaroid Corporation. I had a great 33 years there, working on all the major Polaroid cameras, the SX 70, the One Step, etc.. Ironically, my last 4 years I worked on conventional 35mm cameras. (Jim Brusa worked at Kodak on Instant cameras, and I worked at Polaroid on 35mm cameras!) I recently took an early retirement package (in Feb. 99) and am ENJOYING every minute of it!

Going back a little bit, after I returned from the Navy, I went back to "hanging on the corner" in South Boston, where I met Dotty and fell in love! We now live in Maynard, Mass. A small suburb of Boston northwest of Boston, and have 3 grown kids, a dog and 2 convertibles. Also, I am getting ready for the "Wedding of the Millennium" or so it seems. My oldest daughter is getting married one week AFTER the Phoenix reunion, and Dotty has me going crazy painting and wallpapering. (I have no idea what this has to do with a wedding!)

I have a hundred more stories, but I will save them for another time.

As a former shipmate of ours, Jerry Clower used to say "Ain't life good?"

Bill Copeland


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