23 November 2008

Back when we were old men

School of Music Faculty Lab Band, c. 1979

Dave Jacobson, an old army friend, sent me this photo. It was taken early in my tour as piano instructor at the School of Music. What strikes me about remembering those years is just how old we weren't.


I was a 31-year-old MU2. I felt old, past my prime. And the two CPOS I was the closest to--Roy Mahoney (the leader, standing in front of the drums) and Hank Agnew (baritone sax, next to piano)--were waaay older than me. Roy and Hank were ancient mariners, crotchety old men who, I was convinced, had been in the band that played honors when the floods receded and Noah stepped off the Ark.


Within a year or two of this photo, Roy Mahoney and Hank Agnew celebrated their 40th birthdays.

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You can see this photo with a (sort of) complete roster by going to My Bands and Shipmates, which I've reorganized into separate pages for easier viewing.

15 November 2008

Robert O. Carlson - Bandsman on USS Oklahoma, Dec. 7, 1941

We were both Navy musicians. We both moved to the Fredericksburg, Virginia area after leaving active duty. No doubt, we walked the same streets.

But Robert O. Carlson and I never met. The loss is mine.

According to his recent obituary in the Fredericksburg (Virginia) Free-lance Star,

Bob spent 26 years in the Navy. He began as a musician, playing saxophone in the band on the USS Oklahoma as "The Swede." While stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1941, he had just come on deck to play morning colors when he saw the first Japanese Zeros attacking. When the Oklahoma started to list, Bob jumped off and swam to the USS Maryland, where he stayed for the remainder of the attack. After the attack, he helped to free the trapped sailors in the hull of the Oklahoma. Unfortunately, they could save only 32 men and 429 perished.

The stories of the bandsmen during the attack on Pearl Harbor--those who died and those who acted heroically--are legend to Navy musicians. I would have been honored to meet Bob Carlson, sailor, musician, hero.

But how could I know that we walked the same streets? Veterans of his generation did not wear their decorations on their chests or shout their accomplishments to passers-by.

Heroes leave us to tell their stories for them.

Rest in peace, brother.

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Robert O. Carlson became an aviator later in the war and retired from the Navy in 1964. LCDR Carlson will be inurned with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 21, 2008.

05 November 2008

A reminder from a former president.

From the remarks of President John F. Kennedy to the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy, August 1, 1963:

"Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worth while, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.'"


02 November 2008

Get Well, Arnie

Arnie Carruthers uses a wheelchair and has the use of only one of his hand. If that's all you knew about this member of the Navy Musicians Association, you might not guess he's a talented, progressive jazz pianist.

But if you've played with him at an NMA reunion, or sat in the bar while the band was wailing, you know that Arnie still has a lot to play.

You may know that Arnie was in an automobile accident a while back. He's undergoing rehab in a Spokane, Washington heath care facility. Arnie's shipmate from the Charlestown (Boston) Navy Yard band, Jim La Flame, has given me Arnie's address--you can send an "Ahoy" to Arnie at:

Arnie Carruthers
The Gardens on University
414 S. University, Rm. 12
Spokane, WA 99206.