29 July 2010

Ft. Monroe Officer's Club - The Deep End

My 14th Summer was hot. Hampton, VA was spared by a breeze or two off the Chesapeake Bay but the place to be, for me, was the pool at the Ft. Monroe Officer's Club. There was an ocean beach but the water was always infested with jelly fish and the officer's wives preferred the sandless concrete deck of the pool.

I watched as formulas of baby oil & iodine were massaged by hands with long pink nails. Swimming towards the deep end in a slow breast stroke - I couldn't take my eyes off them. Not for the nine year olds playing Marco Polo. Not for the F-15 flying over from Langley. Certainly not for girls my age. Not for anyone who wasn't north of field grade and spritzing her hair with hydrogen peroxide. Lighting another Virginia Slim. Rooting through a purse for sunglasses.

When Major Frampton's wife stood up in her white bikini, strode to the edge of the deep end and slowly slid her baby oiled body into the water... I wanted to be the water. I poked my head under and watched her glide inches above the bottom of the pool as sunlight bounced off long frog-kicking legs.

Later, in wet trunks and a towel, I stood shivering in the cold air conditioned bar while my father and 30 other men like him sat at their martini lunches. 30 backs in military creased khaki shirts and black web belts leaned forward on bar stools. Packs of cigarettes and Zippo lighters engraved with 'Fuck Communism' littered the bar while huge Army issue glass ashtrays smelled like chlorine from the pool.

My father reached into his elephant hide wallet, handed me a dollar for the Fanta machine and I watched him sneak a look at the deep end of the pool. That was the first time I ever told him a joke. "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln -- How did you enjoy the play?" He laughed and so did the officer next to him. I couldn't wait to wear khaki.

18 comments:

Brummagem Joe said...

Sounds like you have a Betty Draper complex Tintin.

james at 10engines said...

"off the coke bottles" as they used to say at fenway. brilliant.

M.Lane said...

Just a great post. Perfect.

ML
mlanesepic.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, baby. Beautiful. I totally get the picture. The deep end, indeed. That photo is wonderful. But how come the 4th woman from the right reminds me of the Queen? Just sayin.'

I'm so sick of giant baggy swim shorts, I wish those closer-fitting shorts like that guy (okay, officer, probably) is wearing would make a come-back.

My wife's family was stationed at Ft. Monroe 3 or 4 years after your time there. She was about 8.

-DB

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Lovely. I remember the jelly fish too.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Splendidly captures a moment of youthful Summer...

Belle de Ville said...

Change your description to an R&R resort near Pattaya Beach on the Gulf of Siam in 1968 and one of those bikini clad babes would have been my mother smoking her menthol cigarettes and reading a Cosmopolitan magazine. I would have been the totally sunburned little blond girl playing with the other kids.

Anonymous said...

Paging Dr. Freud...Paging Dr. Sigmund Freud...

Patient exhibits severe Oedipal phase entrapment of the libidinal and ego development. Multiple posts on maternal end elderly figures exhibited. Could be described as "mommy fixated". Could be super-ego trying to internalize and identify with strong but distant father figure.

Harmless diagnosis really. Enjoyable post.

Anonymous said...

I grew up around the corner from the Hampton Yacht Club. I remember visiting Fort Monroe. This really jogged some memories. Thank you.

If you ever find yourself in the NOVA/DC area please look me up as I owe you a drink.

~Hilton

those tricks said...

"like"

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a line from a James Salter short story: ""She was a woman who lived a certain life. She knew how to give dinner parties, take care of dogs, enter restaurants . . . . She was a woman who had read books, played golf, gone to weddings, whose legs were good, who had weathered storms, a fine woman whom no one now wanted."

TRAWETS NILTGEOV said...

Other than the "everyone looks Italian when they're dead" bit, this is my fave.

Chico said...

Ft. Monroe is about to be turned over to the city of Hampton. I got married at the Chamberlain. It's now a retirement complex. Life marches on.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Chico - thanks for the info. That's where I'm headed fo sho.

skorpeo said...

i remember the id tags we had to wear with our membership numbers...i think. they had the black strap for our wrists that turned white by the end of the summer because of all the chlorine in the pool.

oh yes, and burying jellyfish alive in the hot sand.

@chico- i don't think the old fort is being turned over to the city of Hampton, just the outlying areas such as the old PX, commissary, helipad, and motorpool...and the quarters where my family lived. :( i read the Chamberlain Hotel had to shut down because no one could get to it after 9/11 and the base was no longer an open access military establishment.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Funny, I had an O Club flashback just yesterday when I caught some vibraphone jazz on the radio. Same idea, only Germany and the wives were shimmying on the postage sized dance floor after a few bloodies. It was brunch after all.

CJ in NY said...

Good stuff. AF brat myself. Grew up in the 70's. Your post was a nice little slice of nostalgia. Now that I'm an FGO raising a couple of kids I wonder what memories will stick with them.
- CJ

tintin said...

CJ - Congrats on making field grade. I remember being allowed a small glass of red wine when the old man made major. He was still in Vietnam and my mother and I sat at the kitchen table with the Army Times and the old man's name underlined on the promotion list. A big memory that will last forever.