MEMORIES OF ARGENTIA
1968 - 1970 
by
Bob Hickman

Your site is wonderful and sure does bring back a lot of memories. My name is Bob Hickman. I was a watch officer (Ensign, then LTJG) at the NAVFAC from 12/68 thru 06/70. Those were interesting and turbulent times. I haven't noticed too many names on your site that correspond to my tour of duty nestled in the Bosom of Mae West.  There seem to be a lot from the 40's, 50's, and early 60's - and then a lot from mid 70's and beyond (when the NAVFAC was the only thing left).

 As someone else has already pointed out, the BOQ (the Argentia Hilton) dates from 1957, when it was home to all of the "zoomies" (a term of endearment to me, not derision) flying the early warning radar flights over the deep blue Atlantic. When I arrived (12/68, after a brief stay at Fleet SONAR  School in Key West) the BOQ was largely empty! There were only a few dozen bachelor officers, representing the NAVFAC, the Naval Station, the NAVCOMSTA, and a VP detachment (VP-8 or VP-11 if memory serves).  The bachelor officers occupied levels 3 and 4 of the building, with the upper levels (5 thru 10) being mostly empty.

 In spite of our low numbers we had a good time at the BOQ. The BOQ Bar (on the 2nd level) was a favorite hangout, run by Mr. Tommy Griffin (aka "Professor Tommy"). George (who has been mentioned by several others) was also a favorite barkeep, but at the time he usually worked at the O-Club down at the bottom of the hill (which apparently became the O and Chief's Club later, after 6/70).  The 2nd level of the BOQ also housed the closed officers mess, which served some really good food (especially a big breakfast after a long mid-watch at the NAVFAC).

 During the Spring of 1970 (after a major base reduction announcement) big changes were in the works. The Enlisted bachelors moved from the Atlantic Charter Barracks to the BOQ (now the BQ and everything else building). The closed officers mess became the chow hall for all hands, and the infirmary moved to the BQ building from the North Side. The bachelor officers who remained moved up to the 10th floor at that time, and (sadly) Tommy's BOQ bar became history - but not before we had a proper Irish Wake for the facility.

 Some of my contemporaries at the NAVFAC included:

CO - CDR Earl J. Eckert
OPS, then XO - John T. McMahon
Research Officer - Mike Stoddard, then Gary Christ
Electronics Officer - Mike Taylor
Other OWO's and CDO's - Emmett P. Bonner, David M. Parish, William T. Pool, J.J. (Bud) Ohara, Mike Basedow, Bris Rogers, Mike Kinney, Roy Ryan

 The "Pro's from Dover" in my watch section included - OT1 Frank Harwood, OT2 Phil Blauvelt, OT2 Lou Haskins, OT3 Winfred Ross, and others whose names escape me. I saw Phil & Lou at the IUSSCAA 50th anniversary celebration (for "The System") in Norfolk in September of 2004 - what a hoot!

 The CO of the Naval Station (the guy who signed my Argentia Foreign Legion Certificate) was Captain Cornelius McCarthy.

 Some of the real old timers (40's and 50's) may not have a clue what a NAVFAC is. Suffice it to  say that our mission was similar to that of the VW Squadrons, but the medium was different (and quite classified up until the early 90's). I'd like to invite those folks (and NAVFAC veterans who are unaware of the site) to go visit ( www.iusscaa.org ) and learn about what was going on (see the history link at that site).  There are also lots of pictures at the site, including some Argentia contributions from me. I'll never forget when the access road to the TCH was finally paved (summer of 1969)!

 My family has a bit of history relative to Argentia (and Newfoundland). My Dad (Russel R. Hickman) retired as a CWO3 from the USCG in 1966. He made a few calls at Argentia during and after WW2, serving on (amongst others) USS Millidgeville (PF-94), USCGC Tampa (WPG-48), and USCGC Travis (WPC-153). From what Dad tells me, I'm part Newfoundlander - apparently his Grandfather (or Great Grandfather) emigrated to Maine from Newfoundland. I guess that explains all the Hickman's in the Newfoundland phone book, and the Hickman Motors Chevy dealer in St. Johns).

 I hope someday to visit the rock again, but fully realizing that going back (in space) doesn't take you back in time. As others have said, the implosion of the "Q" was a sad event!

 Bob Hickman ( rhickman1@earthlink.net )