My “Military” Faux Pas at the 7th Regiment Armory, 1959
The man on the phone was asking to speak to “Crash” Dean. I had no idea who he was referring to until my husband said, “That’s me...and I’ll bet it’s one of my old National Guard buddies.” Sure enough, it was an army Colonel saying he and General “Somebody” were in town for the night and would we like to join them for dinner and a polo match?
“In town” was New York City, where we lived and where Dick had grown up. I didn’t know until that day that he had been in the NY National Guard and was nicknamed “Crash”. (He was the General’s official photographer and it seems that he wrecked his car while on assignment at Camp Drum...a happening that the men in his group seemed to think was very funny ! )
The year was 1959 and the place was the 7th Regiment Armory on Park Ave in NY City. We had heard that it was impressive & we weren’t disappointed. The polo match, held in the massive drill shed, was first on the agenda and, although I knew nothing of the rules or who was playing, it was thrilling to watch. The aroma of horses was a little overpowering but I tried to ignore it, knowing that we would soon be having dinner far removed from the smell.
At the end of the game a group of about 20 of us, including the General, made our way upstairs to the very elaborate Board of Officer’s room where we were served drinks. I couldn’t believe how ornate it was…with large framed pictures of famous past Commanders on the walls. We must have been directly above the horse stalls because the smell was almost as strong in that room as it had been in the shed. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else, but then they weren’t 5 months pregnant as I was !
The evening, and the drinks, continued and the General, who had been very soft-spoken, was getting more rambunctious with each round that was served. I finally nudged a girl next to me and asked if we could suggest that it was time to eat. She was shocked at the question and stated, in no uncertain terms, that when one was in the presence of a General you had to wait until he gave the “command”.
I sat back and tried to listen to the story-telling but I found myself getting really angry. After all, Dick and I weren’t in the Army...why did we have to wait for the all-mighty OK from the General. Without really thinking about it I gave Dick the eye, rose from my seat and, while patting my stomach, I said, “Thanks a lot, folks. It’s been wonderful but this little one is saying it’s time to go home.”
There was a stunned silence and then, bless his heart, Dick rose too. He gave a farewell salute to the General and we left. “We’ll never get invited again,” he said, “but it was worth it...just to see the look on the old wind-bag’s face.” Then he gave me a big hug.
“Dinner out” became two hot dogs from a street vendor and a long walk home...