I just happened across this site. When I saw the 12th Naval District Band I was pulled in as if in a whirlpool. Could not believe what I was reading with Mike Beegle’s description. He stated everything as I always remembered and brought back so many good memories.
My tour with the band was from August 1957 to late September 1959. CWO Huddleston was in charge. I would switch between tenor, baritone sax, clarinet & oboe depending on what chart we were playing.
And this part I always have to mention. When we were approaching the end of our required music training at the US Navy School of Music in Washington DC, we were offered a choice of 3 places where we would like to be stationed next. I chose Hawaii, Germany and Italy. They told me I was going to Treasure Island! I had no clue – never heard of the place. BUT, as soon as some of the instructors heard that, they enthusiastically told me it is the best duty you could draw. The trip to California was an adventure in itself. The Navy sent me by train and the legendary California Zephyr, with the dome cars, from Chicago to Oakland. Never forget that beautiful trip. From the train depot I had to find the trolley station and took the rail system that was on the lower level of the SF-Oak. Bay Bridge. When I got off at Yerba Buena Island the view just ‘blew me away.’ I checked in around 2-3 PM (OK, 1400-1500 hrs.), the guys in the band got me settled in and by 1700 hrs. I was going with them to San Francisco to one of their favorite haunts for a steak dinner with all the trimmings for $1.09.
Mike Beegle’s description of the barracks was exactly as I remember it right down to the two pool tables and TV lounge. There were just two of us in a private room (en suite as they say these days). We received a little extra in our pay as a daily allotment for meals since we were rarely around when the chow hall was serving. We played for more civilian gigs than we did militarily. Basically, a public relations thing. And it wasn’t just around the Bay area. We did Monterey, the State Fair in Sacramento, and Officer’s Clubs on various installations. We were flown to Oregon, Northern California, Palm Springs, and then there was Nevada a few times. Ah yes, Winnemucca. Imagine standing out in the middle of a rodeo arena in your ‘whites’ with 200 horses, chuck wagons, stage coaches, whatever racing around you. But I digress.
And yes, the Marine Band was right next door. There just was no comparison! They could march and they did look sharp. We weren’t too keen on the marching aspect – someone tagged us as the ‘12 Naval District Walkers’! When we paraded on Market Street I think they purposely kept our two bands far apart so the crowd would have less chance to compare. But, unashamedly, we could play! Most of what we played was the big band swing and we had some top-notch soloists. Almost to a man, we all came from backgrounds of playing in civilian big bands; a couple had played with big-name bands. We would play Glen Miller while marching down Market Street, with a little swing in our step (thus the “Walkers”). We helped welcomed the NY Giants to SF. And on numerous occasions, marines and sailors transferring through the Receiving Station would come up to us and say we were the best band they ever heard. One time when we were performing in Union Square, Arthur Fielder came strolling along. Our CWO handed him the baton and we never played the Stars & Stripes as well as we did that day.
On two occasions when the 7th fleet came in under the Golden Gate, we were taken out, boarded a stationary Cruiser on the Bay side of the Bridge and played as the fleet sailed by. That was another unforgettable memory. Of course on the second trip, we boarded the Captains Gig, the Cruiser sailed off and the engine died on the Gig. We sat in the Bay for about two hours before they came back with another boat and pulled us to shore.
Then there was San Fran – and Mike stated it so well. We too did the jazz scenes as often as we could. We saw Dave Brubeck, the MJQ (Modern Jazz Quartet) and sat and talked with Gene Krupa and heard so many other excellent musicians. The City had so much to offer. Who expresses that better than Tony Bennett?
So I feel exceptionally fortunate to have spent two years on Treasure Island. To sit along its shores at night and be awed by The City by the Bay was one of my greatest enjoyments. I’ve never regretted the Navy ignoring my 3 choices.
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