my watch in the shop today. You know,
the blue-faced Seiko that I always wear. I
didn’t intend to put it in the shop but my wife was
with her watch. It kept stopping, even
with a new battery, so we drove to Valdosta to see Mr. Colyer.
Mr. Colyer only a few minutes to figure out that the battery contact on
watch wasn’t tight. When he finished I
asked him if he kept records of when his customers had their watches
cleaned. He shook his head slowly and
said, “No.” I then said that I had had
my watch cleaned about three or four years ago and that it probably
laughed out loud. “What is so funny?,” I
asked. “You put your watch in to be
cleaned when Patrick was four years old,” she said. “No way,” was
my reply. “That couldn’t be possible.” You see, Patrick is
now eighteen years old
now. That would have been fourteen years
ago. My wife replied, “I remember coming
here to pick it up because you were at work.”
Could it have been that long ago?
I left the watch to have it cleaned.
doesn’t seem possible that time has passed so quickly. Thinking
back, I have had that watch a long
time. I wore that watch for most of that
cruise in the South China Seas when we were still at war with
In fact, come to think about it, how I got
that watch was a bit of an embarrassment.
Let me go back to the beginning.
graduated from college in April of 1967. I
was living with my grandmother and her sister in
Tallahassee at the
time. I had spent some of my college
years living with college friends, but that last year I had needed a
place to live and study. Grandmother’s
place was quiet and close to campus.
parents were living in California. My
dad was stationed at a Marine Corps base in Oceanside. He said he
would fly to Florida for my
graduation. The day before graduation I
got a phone call from my dad. He was in
Pensacola and would fly into Tallahassee that afternoon at 3:00 PM.
arrived at the airport about a half hour early and went to the airline
desk. At that time there was only one
airline flying into Tallahassee. The
people at the airline desk said that there wasn’t a flight due in from
Pensacola until later that evening.
puzzled, but I went outside and stood there. There
isn’t much traffic coming in and out of the
today. Thirty five years ago the place
was deserted. There was just me standing
next to the terminal without another living soul in sight.
minutes to three I heard the roar of a huge piston engine and looked
runway towards the west....... and Pensacola.
There, coming in low over the trees was a huge H34 helicopter painted
Marine Corps green. Dad had talked some
pilots into giving him a ride all the way from Pensacola, about 200
is one of my favorite TV shows today. It
is about a navy pilot who makes a career change and becomes an attorney
the Judge Advocate General’s Office, JAG.
My dad could have been the model for that TV show. He was a
fighter pilot in the Pacific during World
War II then went to law school and became a JAG officer with the
Marines. Real JAG officers don’t do all those action things
you see on TV. I still like the show.
drive back to grandmother’s house, dad gave me a brand new watch, a
Seiko. It was a really nice watch and I
was proud to wear it. I is about the
only thing I remember about my graduation.
I used to go through watches frequently.
Most of them didn’t last very long.
I am hard on watches.
nine months the watch, with me wearing it, was far up the Mekong River
middle of the Vietnam war. Navy ships
are hard on watches. Everything you
touch is steel. Watches get banged up a
lot. It was very hot and humid and it
rained constantly during the monsoon season.
That white-faced Seiko held up well.
I wore it all the time during that first tour in the Navy.
got out of the Navy I got a chance to go to Europe for a few
I spent part of that time hitch hiking around
parts of Europe, all the time wearing that watch. I mention this
because it occurred to me that
it had lasted longer than any other watch I had previously owned.
found me back in the Navy and a year later I was back in the Vietnam
time cruising up and down the coastline refueling ships from a huge
oiler. We were a floating gas station. We just weren’t as
clean as most Navy
ships. With all that wire rigging from
our overhead booms the place was dripping grease constantly. My
khaki uniforms were spotted with grease
chance came to order something from the base exchange in Yokosuka,
Japan. We could each order one item. I figured that my
white-faced Seiko was
probably close to being worn out so I looked in the catalog and ordered
looking square-faced Seiko. After all,
my Seiko had served me well.
never ordered from Yokosuka before and the supply officer said that it
a sure thing, but he hoped that they would fill our order. It
would probably be a month or more before
we heard anything from them.
April of 1972 we put into Singapore for a two week stay in the naval
there. I spent a lot of time walking
through the city. It was one of the
cleanest cities I had ever been in. Everywhere
you looked someone was cleaning the streets. It
was during this time that I found a
jewelry shop in one of the hotels downtown. I
remember it well because there was an ominous looking
character in a black
Hindu outfit, studded with silver, standing outside.
He was some kind of doorman.
this shop I found watches for sale. Now,
I had just ordered a new watch from Japan only a few weeks before, but
heard any word of our order. Right there
in front of me was a beautiful blue-faced Seiko watch. It was
only $32. While I was in Mr. Colyer’s shop today I
noticed that Seiko watches are closer to $200....... and up. They
are still very good watches. I bought the blue-faced watch.
white-faced Seiko hadn’t failed on me yet, but I decided that the
watch was a nice change. Shortly after that
I got the square-faced watch from Japan.
I then had three Seiko watches.
What was I to do with them? I
decided that the square-faced watch was a dressier watch and I would
until later. In the meantime I would
wear the other two, off and on.
last ten years I have worked in a place that is very hard on
They get banged up pretty good and the crystals
get scratched up. I decided that I was
only going to beat up only one watch. After
years at sea, and miles in between, the blue-faced watch had seen
better days. It was scratched up and the crystal could not
be replaced. They didn’t make them
anymore. So, it was going to be the
blue-faced watch that was going to suffer....... until today.
I am at
work tonight. I do have to have a watch
at work, so what do you suppose I am wearing?
I am wearing the white-faced watch, the one my dad gave me 35 years ago.
Sparkman August 21, 2002