"As far as I was concerned, World War II was a snap despite blackouts, rationing, and no nylons—just tan leg makeup—”Guaranteed not to come off ” ...the hem of your dress, the chair you sat on, or your date’s trouser legs when dancing. In a burst of patriotism, I joined the WAVES—the Navy’s version of the WAACs (only with cuter uniforms), and met some great new friends including ”Candy”, a movie starlet, and Howard Hughes who I thought was a radio repairman (I didn’t catch his last name.)
The trip from Los Angeles to Hunter College in New York was a revelation; troop trains do not have dining cars—you march to various “mess halls” from wherever the train halts. I also discovered that the subway does not run from Chicago to NYC.!
Candy made boot camp a pleasure. We got to read her fan mail, and her family’s chauffeur delivered weekly goodies from Schraft’s and Bergdorf Goodman’s (her three roommates were the best dressed—lingerie-wise—recruits in the Navy—and the only ones to gain weight inspite of all that marching.) . She also gave me the opportunity of turning down her invitation to have lunch at the Stork club with “little” Gloria Vanderbilt, and see “Carmen Jones”, a big Broadway hit. I chose instead to lead a gaggle of misguided recuits in an almost futile attempt to find the Empire State building.
Finally, the Navy, overlooking my southern accent and a tendency to address pilots as “honey” (“Take a wave- off, honey”), gave me one of their coveted billets as a Control Tower Operator and sent me to Atlanta, Georgia, for further training, There, I learned to drive a jeep, “fly” a plane (courtesy of the Link trainer) and to be careful where I sat on public streetcars —Jim Crow was alive and well!.
Assigned to a small control tower in Corpus Christi, Texas, I met a tall, lanky “radio repairman” who laughed at almost anything I said, and was my good buddy during some dramatic changes in my life. His visits ended when I suddenly marred the “Best pilot” on the base. It was several years before I discovered that my “buddy” had been the elusive Howard Hughes.
During the ‘80s I wrote a weekly column for Roll Call, the Washington, DC newspaper. (“Casandra’s Corner” by Jil Carlson), and loved being with Ford’s Theatre promoting shows, during the 70s.‘The ‘60s were spent doing my own TV show.
“Skirts Of Navy Blue” is pure escapist reading for anyone who has only seen “The War” through John Wayne’s eyes."
About JIL CARLSON
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Published January 13, 2012
Biographies & Memoirs.