In March, 1968 the convergence of several different factors provides the basis for my tale. We had completed our courses in electrical engineering (which gave me just enough knowledge to be dangerous); Service Selection was history; Brigade Boxing was over; and I a lot of time to my hands to think deep thoughts and watch “Mission Impossible” (which becomes very important to my tale)
I was living on the fourth deck, eighth wing with Walt Peterson and Jim Hammonds. And right outside our room, just across the passageway was the Speaker. You know, the kind that would blare out at all times of the day and night with important information such as the uniform for noon meal (WUBA) or the time and place for a meeting of the Masqueraders or a surprise, no-notice muster of the Restriction Squad. The kind you could come to absolutely hate.
I developed a deep dislike for that Speaker- as it intruded on some really serious deep thoughts, not to mention, rack time. I began to wonder if I could take control of that Speaker. First, I had to see how that Speaker was wired. Being on the fourth deck, above our rooms was the “attic” with access only through a locked door. Thanks to knowledge gained from watching “Mission Impossible” every Sunday night, I knew how to open a locked door with a piece of plastic consisting of just the right balance of flexibility and stiffness. A credit card would have been just right- but they hadn’t been invented yet. However, it turns out our clear, plastic desk blotters filled the bill. After I defeated the door lock, gained access, crawled along the roof supports – careful not to fall through the ceiling tiles into someone else’s room- I made it to that Speaker and found the hookup to be no more complicated than hooking up a couple of Pioneer speakers.
Now to figure out how to take command of that Speaker. As luck would have it, my Dad had recently returned from being stationed in Guam and sent me a small, portable, battery-powered cassette tape recorder, cutting edge technology for the time. So, I drilled a hole through the top of my locker, through the ceiling tiles, and into the attic. I then ran speaker wires from the locker into the attic and across the attic to that Speaker, carefully camouflaging the wires as I went - just in case (another tip from “Mission Impossible”). Using the skills I had developed from Second Class Wires lab, the hook up was a piece of the proverbial cake. Now I was ready. I placed a cassette with the soundtrack from the classic “The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly” on to the recorder, pushed the PLAY button, and ran outside. To my amazement Hugo Montenegro was lit off not only on that Speaker but every speaker on the fourth deck. I ran down to the third deck and it was playing there, too! That little recorder was pumping out some serious ‘trons! I cannot express adequately the sense of power I was feeling. (Remember I’m just a Midshipman- it didn’t take much.)
I was soon playing all my favorites to the enjoyment of the fourth and third deck denizens – whether they liked it or not. A couple of favorite albums were Sonny and Cher (“I Got You Babe”) and April Stevens with the ever popular, “Teach Me, Tiger”. One of my company mates had an album of “Sound Affects From Aircraft Carrier Operations” complete with Bosun Piped Calls, 1MC announcements, Cat launches, and Traps. That also made the hit list.
The results were insidious. As you walked along the passage way you would hear music, as was typical, emanating from a Mid’s room. Then, as you traveled through the company area you would suddenly realize you’re still hearing the same music.
Of course I realized that great power such as this would not go unnoticed by the front office and soon there would be a search underway to root out this flaunting of good order and discipline. So, I would set the recorder on a locker shelf, carefully camouflaged behind sets of skivvies, locker door shut, and have something else playing on my roomy’s record player.
One evening as my two roomies and I were relaxing and the rest of 8 / 3,4 were enjoying some select passage way music, our door burst open and there was the OOD in full battle regalia (SDB, sword and Loop) on a search and capture mission. We of course came to immediate attention. He looked around the room, saw and heard the record player playing, gave us a quick lookover, and called, “Carry On” over his shoulder, on the way to the next room. Thus began a search worthy of a Javert.
The source of the phantom music was never discovered. So, if you’re ever in 8434 and see a hole in the top of the left-hand locker, well, now you know the rest of the story.