The three hotels that served as our bachelor enlisted quarters (BEQ) complex in Cho Lon were sited such that they formed a courtyard to their rears that was sheltered from the streets.  The Army had built a pretty good-sized basketball court in the area as well as placed the backup electricity generator for the hotels to the side.  Striving to max out the use of limited resources, the Army had also built a large shelter area to cover the generator as well as serve as a movie theater al fresco.

That generator was silent during the day when the city power sources were plentiful and demand in the hotels was low.  At night, however, those three big hotels full of hundreds of GIs with their lights, stereos, TVs, fans and refrigerators were just more than the local power grid could accommodate.  On came the generator.  And it was a big one, probably 6’ x 8’ x 10’.  I have no idea about its wattage production capacity.  As long as that thing had fuel, we had electricity!  But, we also had noise.  Lots of it.

The movies in that shelter were played using a regular blue 16 mm projector, just like we’d used for years while teachers in our schools.  As was available in schools, the sound came from a single speaker mounted in the projector cover that was removed when the machine was in operation.  Our movies were fairly recent.  The images were as steady as you could expect in the room with that huge generator rumbling a few feet away.  As for sound, there was no competition.  Silent movies.  Well, the movies were silent, but the room was far from it.  I tried them once or twice.  Never again.  Some guys were there every single night.  They probably would qualify for some sort of heavy disability compensation now were they to apply to the Veterans Administration.

A few of us took to the court.  In our mid-20s, most of us slept in until 9 or 10 in the morning because we didn’t have to catch the bus for work until 11 or 12.  With almost nothing else to do, playing roundball from 8 to 11 or midnight seemed like kind of a cool thing to do.  We were all friends so the play was competitive, but all done in fun.

Man, did we sweat!  We were soaking wet after just a few minutes of play in the hot and usually humid nights of Saigon.  Yet, at the time, it was so cool!  Looking back it was just totally cool!  Yeah, I get the lexicological paradox.

We all played hard.  We all had fun.  We all sweated.  Thank goodness we had that generator sharing and screening the area with us.  Had that machine not been there, the echoes of the ball pounding on the concrete slab would have ricocheted off all the walls of those hotels.  The GIs inside would have grumbled at us with insults and pummeled us with all kinds of things.  I’ve heard that pounding over the years as our son and neighbors’ kids would dribble on driveways in our and neighbors’ yards.  I don’t know how my mom and dad put up with it while my brother and I did that very thing for years at home.  Oh, yeah, they loved us!

If we’d been bombed by our fellow GIs on that court in Cho Lon, we would have well deserved it.

A bit of vanity here as an aside.  Due to my passing skills (developed because I sure didn’t have much in the way of shooting skills), I picked up the moniker of Rocket Rod.  My buddies were generous, I know.  Not being a jock of any real prowess, it was great to be granted that title.  Loved it, just loved it!

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