In earlier Tidbits, I wrote about features of places I have lived as a result of my military assignments. This one is about being assigned to DLI – the Defense Language Institute – at the Presidio of Monterey, California. Run by the U.S. Army, it is located on a very high promontory overlooking Monterey Bay and is surrounded by the cities of Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Pebble Beach.
I was stationed there in 1970, for a year to attend the inaugural Intermediate Korean Language class after being overseas for six years. It was a shock to be back in the States after such a long absence, and the changes during the height of the protests against the Vietnam War were quite noticeable. My observation at the time was that a significant number of the locals did not like the military. Well, surprise surprise! I quickly learned to dislike them back.
Language classes consisted of hours of instruction with periods of what in high school would be called Study Hall. However, nobody wants to read about that, so let’s move on to the interesting stuff.
As a seasoned non-commissioned officer in the Air Force who had supervised a section of people overseas, I felt insulted by Army policy of having to show up for military formations early in the morning to make sure that I was presentable and ready for class. Evidently Army NCOs weren’t professional enough to be trusted to do that on their own and needed a lot of supervision. Add in the Army requirement that everyone had to salute the post general’s car – even when no one was in it! – and I began to understand a common phrase of the time: “FTA!”
One strange thing about being in California was that houses were built on slabs with no basements, not even crawl-spaces. I was told that this was because of the earthquakes. Well, years later when I lived in Greece, another earthquake-prone area, a contractor told me that having basements or crawl-spaces actually helped buildings survive earthquakes. You can make up your own minds on this.
Another feature of the area was Monterey Bay, home to dozens and dozens of sea lions. Often these grumpy critters would get on docks and would threaten anyone who would approach. I didn’t think they were terribly fast but they looked like their bites would be horrible. And their barking at night could clearly be heard for great distances.
The wooded areas of the Presidio (fortified military establishment in Spanish) were home to raccoons, bunches of them. You wouldn’t see them during the day, but at night you could hear their chirps and chatters as they foraged. And when the males fought for mating rights, the sound was like human babies crying at the tops of the lungs – scared the devil out of me the first time I heard that!
The only other item that sticks in my mind about the area is Franklin Street (thanks to an alert reader who provided the correct name) which ran up the hill to the Presidio. It was STEEP! Going up was a challenge for just about any car, but going down was a white-knuckle ride – I was afraid that if I had to brake for anything, the car would just nose over on me to slide the rest of the way down on its roof. Glad I’m done with that!