We were allowed to go home for a week or so before going to our next station. We could not wait to get out of Fort Benning. A couple of guys were planning to drive to New York City. The guy who had the car said we could be up there in about 10 hours. I doubted that, but I was soon to learn that it is possible. You must remember that there was no route 95 at that time, so we traveled on route 1 until the Jersey Turnpike. I slept some in the back of the car. I could drive, but it wasn’t my car and had no intention of driving at speeds that these other guys did. We drove on route 1 mostly at 90 miles an hour. We traveled mostly at night with our lights off. If I had any brains at all, I would have left the cars at a gas station.
As we got to the Jersey Turnpike, I noticed that the car was weaving. The driver was pretty much out of it. He was sleeping. We were doing 70 at the time. One of the guys in the back seat slapped the driver on the back of his head. We moved to the berm and changed drivers. In another few hours we were in the city. The guys let me off at my home and my mom was happy to see me. Things had not changed in the few months I was gone.
The days I was home, I called some of my friends and went to some movies a couple of parties and a date or two. I wore my dress uniform when going to the movies and I got a reduction in the ticket. Mostly I had a good time.
I actually do not remember going back. I know that I did not fly or take a train. I believe that the same person who drove us to NYC took me to Fort Gordon in Augusta. I had a feeling that the next 16 weeks were going to be a great deal more fun than my basic training experience. The South Eastern Signal School was a much more relaxed place. Tessie (as everyone called it) focused on specific training.
My sixteen weeks at Fort Gordon were somewhat uneventful. I learned to communicate in Morse Code at 35 words per minute, type and use the teletype machine at 60 words per minute and learned all about communications and security. I befriended a couple of guys from NY- Don Mondschein and Jack Behlman (who told us he was from Fargo North Dakota). One day we went to Savannah Beach and the two other guys hooked up with some women and I sunned myself on the beach burning the top of my head off which later on turned into me losing my hair after a few years.
The sixteen weeks went very quickly. Tony Arcoraci, who was with us in basic training, was still with me with the NCO’s still unable to pronounce his name by this time we were used to Southern ways. We kind of accepted the culture and its positives and negatives while we were there. There was really nothing we could do about it. The military was really hard on troublemakers and I had not yet turned into the anti-establishment person that I would someday become. However, its roots were in Georgia.
We had the opportunity to go into town as frequently as we wished. The folks in Augusta were really friendly. We even had a synagogue to go to if we wanted. The first week we were there, Jack, Don and I went into town to go to Friday night services. Friday night was also G.I. party night when we would scrub the barracks for the next day’s inspection. When we came back, we were set upon by our barracks mates as lowlifes who had not helped with the cleanup. In the only conversation that I have ever had with God, I asked, “ Must I go to Friday night services to maintain my Jewish Faith,” God Answered, “ What are you some kind of putz- if you want your ass kicked every Friday night go to shul, if you don’t go, I will understand.” I have not asked anything of God since. I figured that was enough for a lifetime.