LIGHT DUTY, ENCHANTING NIGHTLIFE

When the bus pulled into the main gates of Clark Field, the nurses began to get an idea what a large complex they were being assigned to. Their Filipino driver, Angelo, told them that the base was originally called Fort Stotsenburg, named after a US Captain, who was killed in combat in the Philippines in 1899. Angelo called out each area they passed by.

“There are three parade grounds,” Angelo told the nurses, “all on the west end of the base. The telephone exchange building over to our right serves as both a post office and for housing the operators for telephone connections. The railway station, over on the left, is a very important place to know, because that’s how you gonna get to Manila for the nightlife!” Angelo laughed heartily. “Oh, you don’t want to miss out on the night life! It is like something you never see before! Trust me, ladies, I tell you the God’s truth.”

The bus wound throughout the base so the nurses could see important buildings like the base exchange, where they could buy anything from socks to underwear to shampoo to small appliances, and the commissary where groceries, paper goods, and alcoholic beverages could be purchased. Finally, Stotsenburg Station Hospital came into view, and next door was the dormitory where the nurses would live while stationed there. Angelo pulled the bus up close to the front door of the barracks, and several men in US fatigues miraculously appeared to help unload the luggage.

Angelo opened the bus door, produced a dusty and tattered carpet that used to be some shade of red, and with a flourish, he stepped down out of the bus and laid the “red carpet” on the ground for the girls to walk on.

“Only the best for our American nurses,” he said, “for you to walk into your new home getting the ‘Red Carpet Treatment!”

He offered a hand to each of the ladies, and when they had all stepped out of the bus, he gave each one a map of Clark Field, the Hospital, and the surrounding area.

“Where did you find all these nice men to help us with our bags?” cooed one pretty nurse.

“Oh, these are the guy in mechanics where I work part of the time,” Angelo replied.

“You must stay pretty busy working in two different places!” said another nurse.

“Yes, I work one-terd time in Transportation,” Angelo said, holding up one finger, “and one-terd time in mechanics.” He held up another finger. “And one-terd time in Hospital where you nurses will see me bring the very best medical equipment and supplies.” He held up another finger. “And one-terd time in the Base Exchange.” He now had four fingers in the air.

“Wait a minute,” one of the nurses said, “four thirds doesn’t make sense! You can’t work that many places!”

Angelo let out a belly laugh. “I just wanted to see if you were paying attention!” All the nurses and the guys unloading the luggage laughed at that.

“Hey, Angelo,” shouted one of the men, “you don’t do nothin’ at all when you’re in the mechanics department, so you can’t count that one!”

Angelo feigned a heart attack and said, “How can you say that when you know I work twice as hard as you do, Freddy!”

The nurses followed Angelo and the other men carrying all the luggage through the front door and everyone stopped dead in their tracks. Standing inside the doorway was the head nurse and she did not look happy.

***

“Girls,” she said, “this isn’t a cotillion ball. It’s a military installation, and I expect you to regard these quarters with the respect they are due.” She pointed up the stairs behind her. “My assistant is at the top of the stairs with your respective room assignments. Your gentlemen escorts will kindly deposit your bags here in the lobby and they will promptly take their leave. You girls may return for your bags as soon as you receive your room assignments. Supper is at 6:00 p.m. sharp in the dining room behind me, and you are expected to wear your dress whites in the evening. Fort Stotsenburg has been here for four decades, and it has long been a tradition in the Philippines to wear formal attire after 6:00 p.m. We are not about to change it now. There will be a brief orientation following the evening meal, after which you may spend the evening in your rooms unpacking and resting up. More orientation will follow tomorrow morning, including a tour of the two-hundred and seventeen bed Stotsenburg Station Hospital across the parking lot.”

With that, the head nurse saluted the girls who saluted back. Then, she turned on her heel and marched down the hall to her office.

The nurses scurried up the steps, with a few offering a wave and mouthing “thank you” to Angelo and the startled baggage bearers.

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