Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Promised someone months ago that I'd post something on the Wagon Wheel. The Wagon Wheel was probably the most popular night spot off of Ft. Devens.

There were some options. For example, there was the Mohawk Club, which required a cover charge and featured head banging music at a decibel level which could induce convulsions. First time I was there a fight broke out behind me and I ended up combing glass out of my hair. There was also the Rotary Club, which I initially avoided because the name conjured up images of blue haired Rotarians drinking coffee at 10:00 at night. Finally learned it was called “rotary” because it was located just off a rotary (roundabout or traffic circle) so I gave it a shot. Guess what—blue hair and coffee. Downtown Ayre boasted a piano bar of all things, but the clientele consisted of guys with oversize gold rings, cigarette permeated blazers and slacks, too much cologne and the sort of women who are interested in said men. 'Nuff said. There was a Shirley Club if I recall, but it apparently left little impression on me. I'd occasionally hit places in Boston or Fitchburg (Black Horse Inn?), but they were too far away to make a practice of.

So, the Wagon Wheel it was. As the name implies, it was a haven for country music and the people who listen to it. Lots of tight jeans, snake skin boots, vests, cowboy hats and huge belt buckles (tombstones for dead dicks, someone called them). I used to watch and wonder to myself how many of these guys had ever such much as gotten to within 50 feet of a bovine. But generally speaking it was a friendly crowd and reasonably accepting of country-impaired patrons. Got to know one of the waitresses. She eventually relocated to San Diego and is presumably working her way through the Pacific Fleet.

Fortunately, on the way back to post there was an old-fashioned silver diner where one could stop and grab something absorbent to put in your stomach before proceeding through the gates. A prudent stop since rumor had it the garrison commander had charged the MPs with pulling over guys from Group and citing them as often as possible. Not a problem as often the socializing from the bar carried over to the diner.

On post options were the enlisted and officers' clubs. The post wasn't big enough to boast a separate NCO club at the time. The original enlisted club was a nasty pit, on a par with a Soviet Army recreation facility I once visited. Fortunately they broke ground for a new club soon after I arrived. The new club was between the old one and my barracks and shortly after they dug the hole I recall waking up in my barracks room with a pile of muddy clothes on the floor and little recollection of what had transpired on the walk home other than that I had been on a construction site or two before and wasn't going to let this hole redirect my usual path home. The officers' club was an older building, but it retained an elegance. I had occasion to go to the officers' club at least twice, once unfortunately for a wake. I don't remember what took me there the other time, but I met a very interesting CT National Guard lieutenant. She apparently felt the beret made up for the difference in rank.

The biggest sweep of women ever to occur in that club, though, was pulled off by Canadian paratroopers. They came down to train with us for a few weeks, during which time my blood alcohol content spiked frequently but never succeeded in zeroing out. For their last night on post they were hosted at the officers club, for which event they wore their dress uniform—kilts. They kept their promise to meet us in the enlisted club after they had completed their obligation at the officers' club. What had to have been every last woman in that club followed them out the door and down to the enlisted club.

A singular event, to be sure.

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