You did time in the Navy?»During the war – that’s WWII – the one that would supposedly end all wars, I was stationed with a Naval Air Station in the Canal Zone. I trained as an aviation radioman gunner in SBD dive-bombers. There were California “ab” and “bug” divers in my squadron. We had acquired the new fins, masks and snorkels along with pole guns for spear fishing. The whole sport was so new that I actually corresponded with Owen Churchill. The year was 1943. He had invented the first fins for market in the U.S. They were called “frog feet”. With an order that he sent he pitched in a cork-handled knife in a wooden scabbard and asked for an opinion on its use. I can’t recall what I wrote to him. The knife was entirely ridiculous. But I made common cause with the California divers. We had a couple of motorcycles with sidecars and snuck off base to dive from isolated parts of the shore and spear anything that moved. We bartered the fish at the Ships Service. The local girls who worked there were delighted to take the fish home. We were delighted with free shakes and burgers.
After the war, a grateful government put me through college on the G.I. Bill of Rights. The gratitude was top-heavy on my side. I had never fired a shot in anger or faced an enemy during my four years in service. I had as fine a liberal arts education as one may have in this country. At Dartmouth I majored in English, focusing on Shakespeare. I studied with Robert Frost. I was a big enough athletic cheese (two mile and cross-country) to enjoy status. I started wooing my present wife of 58 years, a summer romance aided and abetted by her wonderful family taking me in. Both my mother and father had died early during the war. The only home I had when I emerged from college was the summer house in Maine. I wanted to live there. I married Susy two weeks after graduation. We took up residence in Maine, winterizing a part of the old house and I went to work as a blueberry farmer. Three economies dominate Maine (aside from tourism): lobstering, lumbering and blueberries.
What was your first scuba gear?»During the second year the Aqua-lung arrived in the U.S. Two Frenchmen, Rene Bussoz and Paul Arnold had the foresighted enterprise to buy the U.S. marketing rights for the Aqua- Lung from Cousteau for $10,000. I heard that Cousteau quickly realized his mistake and bought the company – called U.S. Divers – back, supposedly for a cool million dollars. I have always thought there was considerable hyperbole in that story. Whatever, I purchased my first Aqua-Lung from the first U.S. Divers Co. Cornelius made the only portable compressor available then and suitable for high-pressure breathing air. They made compressors for filling airplane tires. I acquired the 25th. The Aqua-Lung was probably the first in the state of Maine. Bill Barrada, of Skin Diver magazine, marketed a latex rubber, back or neck entry dry suit to be worn over heavy underwear for Maine waters. It was never dry. The crotch squeeze was excruciating; but I could take to the water with it. I charged $25 for my services, recovered scallop drags and moorings, unfouled propellers and for the grand sum of $125, threaded cables under the hull of a big work tug that had gone down in 70 feet of water within sight of our house. I even dove from the pontoon of a seaplane that flew me into a Maine lake to search for and recover a half dozen expensive rifles that had been lost when the hunters capsized their canoe. The adventure was supreme. My system was the only game in town. I eventually hooked up with a wholesaler in Ardmore, PA. who marketed Healthways line of equipment along with U.S. Divers scuba gear. I retailed a half doze full sets of equipment to adventurous friends in the area. None of them stayed with us but they all avoided death. In hindsight I realize how lucky that was.