Friday, February 3, 2017
IT WAS ALL GREEK TO ME
February is a time for romance, though my story took place in early March, 1974.
I joined the Navy at nineteen to see the world. My first duty station (and last as it turned out) was at the Naval Communications Station in Nea Makri, Greece. How exciting, a foreign country with ruins, columns, sheep dawdling in the road, who could ask for more?
My very first day, I was chatting with my sponsor near the front gate. A motorcycle and rider roared onto the base. The man stared at me. He took off his helmet, revealing thick dark brown hair, and large brown eyes.
I asked my sponsor who the man was.
She said, “That’s George Parkinson. He’s trouble, stay away from him.”
Trouble? What more does a California girl growing up in the 60’s have to hear? Plus, there was that motorcycle.
Days later in the Zeus Club, I was among a throng of young men far from home with few American women to date. I was the first radioman female to be stationed at Nea Makri. Only two other single young women lived on the base at this time.
I had Singapore Slings lined up in front of me the moment I sat down.
George Parkinson was there, laughing, talking with everyone. He’d been on base for three years before I’d arrived. Then I heard his horrible secret. He was married.
When I finally got to know him, he said he was legally separated, his wife back in the states. Instead of a dastardly rogue, he was shy and good at heart.
I joined him in his motorcycle group, flying down the road past ancient sites, Mount Olympus, Delphi, Sparta, through fragrant orange blossoms, eating calamari, thick brown bread and tomatoes swimming in olive oil, along with big hunks of creamy feta cheese.
Only two months later, when he asked me to marry him, I said yes.
Then I was called before the Senior Master Chief, the highest enlisted woman stationed there, and told: “You know he’s married, don’t you?” The same with the female ensign, the same dire warning: I was dating a married man.
Finally, George contacted his mother back in Pennsylvania, she obtained a lawyer, and plans were in place for his divorce.
Of course it took a year. George and I did the unthinkable, we’d moved in together. My doctor told me to go off my birth control pills because they suppressed my ovaries, and guess what, soon I had a bundle of love on the way—and still no divorce in sight.
One day driving to the base, a Greek man decided to pass me on his motorcycle and smashed into the back of my little VW. He crashed, broke his leg and since I was American it was automatically my fault. I had to go to court and convince the Greek Judges why I shouldn’t be thrown in jail. My baby would be born in lock-up. Fortunately, they believed my story and the case was dismissed.
Then Turkey and Greece attacked the island of Cypress, both wanting possession. America refused to take sides in the conflict. Greek students rioted over the American military being on their soil. Each morning we had to check under our car’s wheel wells to make certain no bombs had been planted. The US Fleet was ordered to evacuate Athens. I worked in the Message Center, and frightening warnings of attacks on Americans buzzed over the teletypes.
At last everything settled down, George’s divorce came through, and I planned a wedding in three days.
I can’t say my adventure overseas was boring, and George and I will soon celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary.
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