By Wayman L. McElhaney
Midway Island, 1951 – 1952
Wayman worked at the Midway Dry-cleaning Plant – PO2
Wayman loved living on Midway, in his little cabin near the sea
2/6/1927 – 9/4/2013 – RIP Wayman
I’m not sure if it was my first or second week-end after arriving on Midway in 1951 that I went to the Enlisted Men’s beach for a swim. It was something I was definitely looking forward to. From the time I stepped off the plane, I was in love with the place, perhaps because I had made up my mind well in advance I was going to like my new assignment. Or it could have been because of the friendliness of all the people I met immediately on arrival. Most likely it was both, plus a lot of other things.
The Navy Exchange was very well stocked with all kinds of goodies including a variety of swimming trunks. I choose a “boxer” style in a dark maroon color. Not having anything like a bathhouse at the beach for changing, we wore our swim suits from barracks to beach and back again. The route we took was on a nice little road passing near a Chief’s Housing area, then further on, the Cable Company compound where the tallest of the ironwood trees were. Of course they were tallest there because that’s where they were first planted shortly after the turn of the century by the first pioneers operating the station. The compound itself was strictly off-limits to all Navy personnel, but we all enjoyed seeing the well-kept area with its very colonial structures and the lovely vines of multi-colored flowers along the fence as we walked by. Now and then one of the residents could be seen tending a small garden some distance from the road. The EM beach was not far away.
Now, I’m just a kid from rural Oklahoma so that magnificent stretch of snow-white sand and the emerald-green lagoon water was one of the most fantastic sights I’d ever seen. That was over half a century ago and the image is still quite vivid in my mind today. I rushed to join a dozen or so other fellows swimming some distance from shore. It was easy to swim out that far, but I soon realized I was nowhere near the swimmer those others were. Some of them were two and three hundred yards out having a grand time.
Only a few yards out into the water was a diving platform that took some effort to climb up onto. But diving from it was a bit risky because of the shallowness of the water. Yes, risky to be sure, but a world of fun.
It was shortly after lunch when I arrived at the beach with a couple of buddies, but as the afternoon wore on, the crown began to dwindle, and in time I realized I was the only person still there. I was enjoying my first dip in the lagoon so much I intended to remain until near chow time. The huge schools of tiny fish swam nearby in a way that was almost mesmerizing, but were of course, impossible to catch. I could feel a bit of current but only slightly. Then I noticed something very interesting. Here and there were small purplish bubbles floating on the surface. A few came quite near. I wondered what they were and though about catching one to examine, but thought better of it. Suddenly, there seemed to be dozens, then hundreds, then maybe thousands of those little things. Seeing so many of them all of a sudden gave me pause, so I thought it prudent to leave. Good thing, too. I later learned they were those dreaded Portuguese Men-O-War. Never did get stung by one during my entire tour there. That’s okay, though. It’s not exactly something to brag about.
Made evening chow. I was sure Midway did have the best cooks in the Navy, and the bakers were truly world class. Had a fantastic meal. After that, it was movie time. We had all the top releases, many before the Stateside (now called mainland) theaters did. What a day that was. And, in the song, Begin the Beguine, there is a line that says, “To live it again is past all endeavor”. How true! But,……….. wouldn’t it be nice?
Midway, 1951 – 1952