Places I’ve Lived #8 – Millington, Tennessee

Millington Naval Air Station MemphisI would love to say that I had lived in San Diego, but Marine Corps Boot Camp and Marine Corps Combat Training don’t really classify as living – and that was all the experience I had in San Diego and San Onofre.  I’d left Redding by joining the Marines (which again, for the record, was a stupid decision – if I would have had good guidance from the adults around me – I would have gone to college at Stanford or Berkley). The Marines had been impressed by my test scores and promised me a career in aviation. I’d always dreamed of being an astronaut and becoming a pilot seemed like a good step in that direction.

Unfortunately, I’d been misled. You needed to be an officer to become a pilot and after bootcamp, my choices were to either become an enlisted navigator or an air traffic controller. During the flight swim qualification, the beefy monster I was trying to demonstrate rescue technique on decided he should really ham it up as a drowning victim and dragged us both under. That left air traffic control (ATC). ATC school was in Millington, Tennessee – near Memphis. I’d been told that because of my scores, I would be assigned to one of the bases I’d chosen on my ‘dream sheet’ but that was a lie. Instead of being sent to Okinawa, Japan or Kaneohe, Hawaii or even San Onofre, California – the USMC sent me to Millington,Tennessee and Jacksonville, North Carolina. These were the only places I saw during my time in the service and frankly, both of them were cesspools.

I liked Memphis. I loved the blues bars, Beale Street, and the whole black southern vibe of the place. Millington, on the other hand, was a typical military pit filled with strip bars, tattoo shops, pawn shops, and other businesses that appeal to 18-20 year old men who are away from home for the first time – as well as the predators that prey on them. Millington was filled with hustlers, scamsters, sharks, and criminal elements preying on the military. I got my first fake ID in Millington, I was 19 and about 5’7″ – pretty obviously male. The ID said I was 24, female, and 6’3″ – but it worked everywhere I went.

I did what you might expect in Millington. I was robbed once in Millington and I got jumped and beaten by a group of angry guys on a corner in Memphis once. My crime was being an obvious military guy, by himself waiting for friends to show up. Memphis gave me a lifelong love of the blues and a taste for soul food and Southern barbecue. I lived there for a bit over four months.

Millington, Tennessee

Millington Naval Air Station MemphisI can’t really say very much about Millington. The base closure and realignment act of 1993 changed the base and I’m sure the town is different now as well. If I would have enlisted a few years later, my ‘A School’ would have been in Pensacola, Florida – which is a much more desirable location.  It was in Millington that I first learned the term ‘Hobo Jungle’ – it was one of the places forbidden for us military personnel to go – the bushes where the hoboes drank. Millington was a transient camp in the 1930s during the great depression and apparently the hobo jungles never went away.

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