This marina walk project starts at Western Flyer’s last US port, Fiddlers Cove, Coronado Island. Fiddlers cove is a part of the Navy’s MWR division and for anyone, anyhow connected with our military, no explanation is needed but, for the civilians here is my version.
To train, equip, deploy or maintain every soldier, sailor, airman or marine in the service of our country a huge investment is made by the American public. Part of this investment includes quality of life issues such as morale, welfare and recreation, i.e. MWR.
When I first entered the military MWR did not exist but, SS (Special Services) did whose job it was to run and maintain the gyms, pool, racquet ball courts, arts and crafts, hobby shop and other recreational needs.
Those pennies allocated per soldier add up over time and are wisely invested over time for recreational equipment such as camping gear, snowmobiles or sailboats depending on the location; SUPs and a myriad of other equipment available for rental (for a free).
So there I was, back in the 1970’s living the life of Riley in the barracks at Fairchild AFB, just outside of Spokane, Washington, with a bunch of other eighteen and nineteen year olds from around the country waiting for the start of our Survival training phase. This is the time that one of our own stumbles onto Special Services.
It was now about the start of the 1974 Christmas holiday season and most of us from the southern states had never even seen snow. The ones that could afford it already went home for the holiday – the rest of us decided to do a little exploring.
One upcoming cold weekend we decide to rent some equipment. The cost of snow skis or snowmobiles also available to us, for a rental fee was more than anyone of us could afford but, an inflatable raft was well within our means, if split four ways.
Five of us drove down to the river, on a cold, snowy Sunday to launch ourselves into the Spokane river, just down from the Spokane dam. In addition to the survival gear that naturally came along; a cooler full of beer and snacks. Our mismatched assortment of survival gear included an ice ax, flint, steel, poncho, flashlight, etc.
No cell phones, cameras, go-pros or other self-serving recording gear to document this expedition into the unknown. Not even a map of what lay down river. All we knew is that the river was dammed and we would start right after the dam, so what could possibly go wrong.
If I recall correctly we immediately got swamped, paddled towards shore to save our lives, lit a fire to keep from freezing, drank some beer, then jumped back in the raft and hooped and hollered our way downstream. At about the time we see a bridge up ahead, we also notice several rather large boulders sticking up (known as the bowl & pitcher) just about this time we paddled like crazy and even though swamped, we make it through.
Just downstream and before running into the next dam we exit the river, deflate the raft and find our way to the road to hitch hike back to our pick up truck.
Words of our river exploits quickly circulate. The following weekend two Airmen rent a canoe and attempt the same course. Just about the time they hit the bowl and pitcher the canoe someone goes abeam of the rather large boulder (either the bowl or the pitcher rock formation) and plasters itself across the rock. The young Airmen are now stuck right smack in the middle of the river, high and dry and up on this rock. It requires a rescue helicopter to take them off the rock. Naturally the uniform code of military justice kicks in and rather than receiving a medal or pat on the back for their stupidity they are restricted to the barracks with some additional labor to make them see the error in their ways. And that is how I first learned about the forerunner of Morale, Welfare, and Recreation.