Great times. Think of that time often. I played snare & was Drum Sergeant the last 3 months I was in the Corps. Made my stay at Keesler very enjoyable & memorable.
The night I got to Keesler in late September 1963, there had just been a racial riot so we were met at the Biloxi train station by numerous Air Police to escort us to the base. Got off to a good start.
At that time, basic at Lackland was for 8 weeks. Those 8 could be done in 2 different ways. Not by choice of course. Either all 8 weeks at Lackland or 5 weeks at Lackland and the other 3 weeks at the Tech school that you were sent to. Of course, those last 3 weeks took almost 2 months going half day sessions. I was in school (basic electronics) on A shift then had basic military training in the afternoon. Couldn't get in the Corps until BMT was all complete. Couldn't get in the Corps at Lackland because I was only going to be there for 5 weeks. But that is another whole story.
I remember that we had just formed up to march to BMT from the Triangle when the First Sergeant came out and told us that President Kennedy had been shot. I really don't remember whether or not we went to BMT or not but after we were told that he had died, everything kind of came to a stand still. Classes and just about everything was canceled for the rest of the week. Everyone just kind of sat around the day room quietly watching everything on TV. I almost felt a kind of personal loss because I had played in a kind of thrown together band when JFK came to my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida campaigning. Then my high school band went to DC to march in his Inauguration Parade.
As far as Christmas 1963 goes, it was kind of a lonesome time. I was in the Corps by then. Finished BMT in November and was transfered to the Blue Knights right away. That Christmas was the the first away from home for about all of us I guess. We had a small tree set up in the hallway in the barracks. On Christmas Eve, it started out being kind of rowdy. Someone had brought in some liquid cheer. Then, closer to midnight, someone put some Christmas music on their stereo and that was the end of the party. Everyone in my bay just kind sat down quietly in the hallway, lost in their own thoughts and thinking about where we would have liked to have been. It was kind of weird on Christmas day too. They tried to make the chow hall festive but going around the base and then in town and seeing all of the families together just made you think about home.
And then came New Years Eve. It snowed in Biloxi starting about mid-morning on New Years Eve. It kept on snowing till it had put down maybe 5 or 6 inches. First time it had snowed there in many years everybody said. Anyway, it shut everything down. I was supposed to go with my room mate to play music in Pasgagoula but they weren't letting anyone off base unless they lived off base. So, that night around 11:30, a few of us decided that we would go outside at midnight and use our instruments to ring in the new year. Well, one thing led to another and maybe 6 or 8 of us formed up in the street (uniform was shorts, t-shirt & shower clogs), started playing and ended up marching to the WAF barracks that was several blocks away to serenade them. Everything was going good, the WAF's liked it & we were having fun till the AP's showed up. Probably under normal circumstances, all of us would have just stood there and taken whatever was coming, but as a unit we just kind of scattered. Several were taken into the WAF barracks for protection and the rest, somehow made back to our barracks without getting caught. I don't know what would have happened if they had caught anyone but we all got away. I don't remember if anyone ever mentioned the fiasco but it is a night I will never forget.The snow was pretty much gone by noon on New Year's Day and things were back to normal. I left in July of '64.