Galleria Umberto

It was Jack’s first duty station. Sent overseas to Italy and the only destination was the mysterious, Comservron 6. It was exciting and only the third plane ride for Jack. First one was a DC3 out to Michigan to set up a curtain display. Second one was boot camp in San Diego and now international!

Naples, Italy sounded official and perhaps some sort of embassy duty! A few weeks leave to remember where home was and it was off to the airport to fly overseas. Jack was just barely 21 and away he went. Jack was just getting used to Camp Nimitz in San Diego. Teaching Morse code to other Sailors in A school It was rather pleasant after boot camp actually. Jack had a sister in Laguna too. She had a red Corvette and let Jack drive it now and then to Las Angelis.

Instead of some villa with radios and communication for an embassy, Jack found the duty station was aboard an old WWII fleet oiler. His first duty on board was back in the mess decks, peeling potatoes as finally the ship left port and steamed off to the east Mediterranean sea. The ship anchored out (she always did because no one trusted a ship filled with millions of gallons of fuels. Oil, gasoline, JP4 and kerosene. None of this bunch had ever exploded but you can’t be too careful with floating bombs.

The landing craft was launched and Jack actually set foot on yet another foreign country, first one was Tijuana after boot camp. Now Turkey. Exotic and quite a bit like movies that feature bazaars with people jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Exciting to Jack and still so foreign. The street vendors closed in on Jack and began offering to buy his dress blue pants. Jack thought about Dr. Suez and the story of the green pants with nobody in them. Jack got back to fleet landing and was glad to get aboard. So much for Izmir. Jack’s pants still had somebody in them and he quickly changed into his utilities.

Being home ported in Naples, Jack was entitled to have a room in town. What a surprise when Jack heard this! There was an advisory contact to obtain a room or apartment and Jack chose this room on the seventh floor of a galleria. There was a balcony leading to the room and at the middle of it where the elevator came up, a view of the building unfolded. Stupendous falls short. It was about eight stories down to the interior which was laid out in a cross. At Jacks floor, the glass dome covering the galleria was right above him. As the development in Jack’s home town began to take off, the concept of an interior shopping ‘mall’ which began in Europe, was very attractive. Jack could see the shoppers way down there and he could see right to the north of the Galleria to the Napoli Opera house.

Jack set out to get some ‘civvies’ and chose wool Harris tweeds and the accouterments that went with that style of perhaps an English professor on holiday. Jack met a British art student at a local cafe’, and over small demitasses of espresso, Jack invited her to take a train to Pompeii. A delightful excursion until they arrived and the ruined city was very pornographic in it’s statuary and frescoes. That was the end of that and she left for London and Jack went back to the Galleria. The elevators all ran on 10 lire coins and once Jack came up to his floor, he realized the gate to his room was closed for the night. Jack tried not to look down as he climbed the railing and swung around the gate. Oh well, the room was a refrigerator in construction. Marble floors that would not warm anything. Jack had a little sunflower propane heater and it kept his bedside table a bit warm.

Foolishly leaving the beauty of Galleria Umberto for a seedy apartment rented by his new friend Chuck. Was a dip into the seedy side of Naples. The elevator up to Tonino’s apartment also ran on 10 Lire coins and if you hit the call button just as it was getting the bottom and climbed in the open door, it would go down a few feet and go up to your floor. It was that kind of alleyway apartment area. Trouble was brewing for Jack with the local pharmacy at the end of the alley that legally sold methadrine over the counter. Chuck called them ‘pep pills’ for the mid-watch. This adventure, Escape and Capture I and II was in the Leader last year. (Drop me an email and I can forward them to you) It’s all pretty good. Jack Gator

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