Basic Electronics School (ET A School)
Treasure Island
San Francisco, CA

September 1954 to April 1955

The class of Basic Electronics School in which I was a student also had Jack Frazier (from my class at High School) and Fred Doty (future Best Man at my weding to Carolyn Waldrop). It was at the US Naval Station, Treasure Island halfway between San Francisco and Oakland. Years later I would return for Advanced Electronics School followed by a short walk down the street to the pier and duty on the USS Teaberry AN-34... but all of that was in the future.

Treasure Island was built with imported fill on shoals on the north side of Yerba Buena Island for the Expo in 1939. My Grandmother Hunt attended that Expo. Built by the federal government, Treasure Island was planned for use as an airport for the Pan American's China Clipper. After the World's Fair 1939-1940 exhibition, the island was scheduled for use as an airport when the Navy offered Mills Field on the San Francisco Peninsula near the city of Millbrae for the island and the swap was approved.
During WWII Treasure Island became the US Navy Base, Treasure Island where it served largely as an electronics and radio communications training school and the major Navy departure point for sailors active in the Pacific theater of the war. The Administration Building, a streamline-modern style remnant of that World's Fair, is one of the few buildings remaining from the exposition.

While waiting for our class starting date we were assigned to work details. The work was generally lawn and street cleanup. Jack Frazier and I were not much interested in whacking weeds or sweeping streets so we would hang back as the group ambled to the shed to draw tools. We would ‘tie our shoes' until they went around a corner then split. We spent our time at the gym swimming pool, an activity much more to our liking. Somehow we avoided getting into trouble
The school was intense. We raced through theory and some practical work building superhet receivers. The practical work helped lock in the theory as well as teaching us to solder properly and identify parts. In those days, all electronics equipment was made with individual capacitors, resistors, coils, vacuum tubes and transformers. Being able to read the color bands and codes indicating the values associated with a given part was essential, therefore, color blindness would disqualify one from the school. I believe that building circuits with the basic components is the best way to learn the theory of electronics. I don't know how they do it now with printed circuits and chips which contain whole circuits. Oh well... I was fortunate to get into the field early in it's history. However, we did learn Basic electronics as I was to learn when I returned for Advanced Electronics School.

Part way through the school I had a toothache. The offending tooth was promptly pulled and he went ahead and pulled all four of my wisdom teeth... smashing one to break it up so it could be extracted. Following that ordeal I was back in my seat in class still full of Novocain... and missing the wisdom which had been pulled out with my wisdom teeth! I don't believe I got much from the classes that day.

We were housed in barracks broken up into cubicles with two bunks per cubicle. Jack bunked on a top bunk and one evening as a number of us were studying and visiting. After hours of reading a book he put it down and said, "This is a good book but the stories are short and don't have much plot.". The book... a dictionary! He spent hours setting up that line.

As we worked in the lab building equipment it was a given that everyone would ‘get across' the 300 volt main voltage in the set, most many times. This usually resulted in a reflex action that sent the tool flying across the lab. It was amazing that no injuries resulted from all the flying screw drivers and needle nose plyers. Looking back on that I am surprised we were not required to wear helmets.

The basic portion of the school was followed by specialized training in Radar, Radio or Sonar. I was sent to the Sonar school which was at the edge of Treasure Island on the San Francisco side so the Sonar transducers could be in the water. I loved that location and often would walk back to the pier where our underwater equipment was located after dark and admire the skyline of San Francisco.

Fred Doty and I joined the US Navy Judo Team. We participated in Judo competition with Judo clubs in the area. We were not supposed to stand military watches since we were on the Judo Team but somehow we continued to stand watches. These watches were patrols around blocks of barracks or other buildings. One night I was awakened way before time to go on my assigned watch. It turned out that the man on that patrol before me had been attacked by two Marines and was in the hospital. He was also on the Judo team and better than me.

As I took up the patrol all I could think of was that they had put him into the hospital and he was better at Judo than me, what would they do to me if they attacked me? As I continued on my patrol through the wee hours of the morning a transformer on a power pole gave out a loud noise just as I was passing it... I think I set some sort of record for a standing broad jump! Except for that scare, the watch was uneventful.

When school was over we had leave before reporting to our first duty stations. There was another man heading along the same route I would take to cross the country along the route that eventually would become I-10 and we decided to hitch hike together. That was 1955 and hitch hiking was much safer than it is today. It still was not a totally safe thing to do... either to hitch hike or to pick up hitch hikers. I was amazed by some of the rides we were able to get. A little old lady driving by herself stopped for us. A honeymooning couple did as well. One man picked us up at the western edge of Texas late in the day and drove us almost all the way across Texas through the night.
When we reached Louisiana I called what passed for an airport in a little town and found that there was a small plane ready to take off that could get me to Columbus, GA if I could get to the airport right away. I got a ride to the airport and cashed the Traveler's Checks to pay the fare, ran out to the plane already run up for take off, my duffle bag on my shoulder. Everyone had patiently waited for me to get there as they sat waiting to take off. I know I saved more than a day travel time taking the plane. Time was golden on short leave at home with Carolyn and Mom and Dad.
Following that leave I was off to my first real duty station and new adventures at...

Harbor Defense, Port Townsend, WA