My girl Brenda

The school year continued in 1971. Just before summer of 1971 I met a girl. Linda is her name. We would hang out at her house, go to school functions and generally enjoyed each others company.

I liked Linda a lot. However she had a sister. Her name is Brenda. She was blond and sweet and easy to talk to and I fell in love at first sight! I broke up with Linda and started going steady with her sister Brenda. Linda was hurt but not surprised. She told me later that this always happened. Every time she landed a boyfriend her sister would steal him away from her. I remained friends with Linda even to this day.

I enjoyed Brenda’s company. We did everything together. School dances. Eating dinner at her house. Or just hanging out with her made for a fine day.

Brenda had siblings. The youngest was Sherry. Then Adam. Then Andrea. Then Michelle. Then Linda. Brenda was the oldest. And of course her parents Benny and Ginney Beck.

A typical landscape plan in Florida

Benny was a salesman and a landscaper. I even worked for him along with Brenda’s aunt Gayle landscaping yards. Here on the west coast of Florida a typical landscaping job would be an island in the middle of the front yard with a huge sago palm tree. Around the tree would various ground cover topped off with a liberal layer of mulch. It was the hardest work I have ever done. After you dig down through the topsoil you hit limestone. You toiled in the hot sun with your pick axe and shovel to make the island and the hole for the tree. Then clear out at least a half foot of sand and limestone to make room for the ground cover and mulch. It was backtracking work.

The Silver Spur Bar

Benny, Brenda’s dad drank. His favorite bar was the silver spur bar located in Port Richey. The bar has been torn down long ago. Benny called the silver spur his office. Many a night he would come home drunk and staggering. He would enter the house, look around and bellow “Someone make me a glass of iced tea!” Most of the time Brenda was in earshot and she would run to get her dad some tea.

Pappas Greek restaurant

Brendas mom Ginny was a hard working waitress. She worked at Pappas Greek restaurant in tarpon springs. Pappas Greek restaurant was at the time a high class restaurant. It catered to the rich and famous. Ginny waited on many celebrities over the years she worked there. She told us a story about one celebrity in particular. Chuck Conners from the TV show Branded. She said that he was the most disgusting the most rude the most obnoxious person she had ever met. Chuck was a drunk. There is no other way to put it. A curb kissing drunk! He would yell at the waiters and waitresses for no reason. He would have them take their order back and demand to see the chief. He would throw dishes and have a general tantrum. Well all of this paid off in the end for Ginny. He would pay for all damages. Then he would give Ginny a $200 dollar tip! The aggravation was well worth it for Ginny!

Christmas ornament danger

One day I was hanging out with Brenda at her house. It was the Christmas season of 1971. All the decorations were on the tree and the house was fixed up very festive. Brenda’s youngest sister was on the floor playing with this and that. I noticed her standing up and looking at the tree. She toddled over to the tree, picked a glass ornament from the tree, and put it in her mouth and bit into it. The ornament broke in her mouth and she screamed! Some blood was coming out of her mouth. Brenda and I had both been attending a health class conducted by Mrs. Parker. She had told us in class the best way to remove something from an infant’s mouth was to invert the child. So I took two steps towards the child, grabbed her by the legs, and tipped her upside down. I ran my fingers in her mouth and removed all the glass shards. All the time Sherry is screaming at the top of her lungs. She went to Brenda and Brenda cleaned her up and settled her down.

Brenda is one year younger than I. She was in 9th grade and me in tenth. I continued to date her through 10th grade and 11th grade. In the beginning of 12th grade we started to make plans to get married.

Brenda had one year to go before we could get married. In the mean time we began to dream. We started looking a apartments. We were in love and excited!

Vermont drive New Port Richey Florida

As I have told you before, my mother loved to move. I had graduated 12th grade and my father decided he wanted to contract his own house. And I could do a lot of the work too. Dad got the contractors lined up and had drawings made. My job was to paint the entire house.

In 1973 I graduated from high school. I got a job putting up guard rails at the new condominium being built at Gulf Harbors in New Port Richey.

In 1974 Brenda graduated from high school, so there was nothing to keep us from getting married, except maybe for our extreme poverty. So we got married and I decided to join the navy to support us. It was the only way. In the navy everything would be taken care of. Food, medical, and housing. So that is what I did. In August of 1974 I reported to the naval training center in Orlando Florida.

After the 9 week training at the Orlando naval Training center I got orders for A school at the Great Lakes naval Training center. We drove there and I checked in. For some unknown reason I was never assigned a billit. I never had to stand a watch at Great Lakes. All I had to do was attend classes.

Brenda and I found an appartment in Zion, a town just north of the training center. It was a small apartment and we had very little furniture. Our bed was cushions on the floor. I had brought my motorcycle with us. I parked it in the living room at night to keep it safe and avoid robbery. We had hardly nothing but we were happy!

After A school at the Great Lakes Training Center I received oil orders to report to NAS Point Magu In California. I first took 1 mouth leave before heading to California.

Port Hueneme

The day came for us to go so we said our goodbyes to our parents and got into the loaded car and headed out on the highway. It was about a 3000 mile drive from Port Richey Florida to Oxnard California. We made the trip with no problems and checked in at my new command. We needed a place to stay so checked into special services and they directed us to a home just off the base at Port Hueneme. It was a small duplex in the back yard of the landlord. It was perfect!

We had neighbors that lived in the other unit of the duplex. Larry and his wife. I can’t recall Larry’s wife name. Well evidently the head of their bed was just opposite of our bed and it rested on the wall next to the bed. One night as Brenda and I had gone to bed we lay there and we head a sound. It was Larry’s bed banging against the wall while they were having “relations” right next door. Brenda and looked at each other and laughed!

One day Brenda told me that she was not feeling well. And as the day progressed she really did not feel good. She could not keep anything down. The nausea was intense. We made an appointment at the doctor office and soon we knew the reason for the nausea. Brenda was pregnant! And on August 23rd 1975 she gave birth to our son Alan. We were so happy. We loved Alan and we loved each other.

USS Cleveland LPD-7

Soon after the birth of Alan I received new orders. I was to report for duty on the USS Cleveland LPD-7. The ship was currently in Okinawa and I was to fly out to meet the ship. So we packed all our belongings and I moved Brenda back to Florida and took one month look leave before meeting my ship in Okinawa.

After my first WestPac cruise, the ship returned to San Diego. I called Brenda and asked her why she was not here to meet me on the dock. She told me she was not coming out and that she wanted a divorce.

I was devastated. However I believe this was largely my fault. I was young and did not have a good sense of responsibility. I would rather hang out with my friends than be with Brenda. I failed in many ways in our relationship.

The divorce was a hard pill to swallow. It took me years to get over Brenda. However we worked together to raise our son Alan and we remain friends to this day.

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