Prince and Purple Rain

Prince and Purple Rain

By:  Garland Davis


The news today about the death of entertainer Prince brought memories of a time when Prince and Purple Rain almost got my ass kicked.

I was on my twilight tour completing thirty years in the Navy.  I was assigned as Bachelor Quarters Officer at a base in Hawaii.  A major inspection of the BEQ and BOQ operations and facilities was scheduled for December, a little over thirty days before I retired.  The sweat pumps were running at full capacity because a good grade would put us in competition for the award for best Bachelor Quarters in the Navy. An award similar to the Ney Award.

One afternoon, the Commander comes into my office and asks, “Chief, when did you attend BEQ/BOQ Management School? I don’t have that information in the files.

“I never attended the school sir,” was my reply.

“But, the school is a requirement for your billet.  This is a major discrepancy on the inspection.  Why didn’t you attend?” He asked.

“The command was supposed to get a school quota for me after I reported, but the Commander, at the time, said it wasn’t important.  And besides, we had a couple of major projects with the opening of the new BEQ and later the BOQ Annex.  The school was forgotten and just fell through the cracks.” I said.

The Commander said, “I have to figure out how to fix this.” and left.

About an hour later he called and asked me to come over to the Supply building to his office.  Upon my arrival, he said, “Chief, it is a four-week school.  I have got a quota for you in the class beginning next week.  You will leave here Saturday.”

I protested that it would be a great waste of money since I would retire less than two months after completing the course.  He told me that the Captain was adamant that the discrepancy be corrected and the subject wasn’t open for discussion.  So I went home and packed my bags for the trip to NAS Memphis, Tennessee. I dug out my dress blues and winter working blues. I packed some Levi’s, polo shirts and a jacket.  I didn’t have any long sleeved shirts.  It would be cold in Tennessee.  Something that Hawaii didn’t prepare one for.

Arriving in Millington Sunday morning, I was assigned a room in the CPO quarters.  A number of the other CPO’s were there for the same reason I was. Bachelor Quarters School.  With the exception of two PO1’s the entire class consisted of Chiefs.

Like all Navy schools that I have attended, this course gave you a lot of material in a short time.  After the first two weeks, the pace slackened and the Chiefs in the class relaxed and started talking about a liberty run to the FRA for Friday night.  One of them had driven and had his car there. The problem was, if they were going drinking, they needed a designated driver.  Tennessee was hell on DUI. At the time, I was training for a half marathon and was going through one of my no drinking phases.  I volunteered to drive them.

The FRA Club at Millington was off the beaten track, out in the boonies.  Because of the crackdown on DUI, the club was faring poorly financially.  In an effort to increase revenue, management turned a blind eye to checking the membership credentials of the patrons. So when we arrived the clientele consisted of a mixture of active and retired Navy members as well as a group of locals.

It was typical of Navy bars worldwide, stools at the bar, a few tables, and a jukebox spewing country music.  We went in and found a table. There being no one to wait tables, we trooped to the bar and ordered.  After my fellow Chiefs had their drinks, I told the lady behind the bar that I was driving and would just have a Club Soda. She put a lemon wedge in the Club Soda, she said it looked like I was drinking and would avert questions. She told me it was no cost to the designated driver and I could get a refill anytime I wanted.

As the evening moved on, we mingled with the retirees and locals talking, telling stories, and drinking.  I was at the bar talking with a local fellow and his girlfriend.  They were fascinated that I lived in Hawaii and were asking questions about the place.  I asked the bartender for another drink, she took my glass and returned it with Club Soda and a lemon wedge.

This fellow who had been sitting at the end of the bar drinking alone all evening got up walked over and asked the bartender, “Why don’t he have to pay for his drinks?  I been watching yall and you been giving him free drinks all night long.”

The bartender told him that I was just drinking soda because I was driving and that it was free to designated drivers.  He turned to me and said, “What do you want to drink, I’ll buy you some real likker.”

I said, “I appreciate the offer, but I’m not drinking, I am the driver tonight.”

He said, “That’s what I figured you’d say.  You must be a Yankee. No balls.”

“What makes you say that, sir?” I asked.

“Well, you ain’t drinkin’, you got all that Jewelry on.”  I was wearing a watch, a gold bracelet, my wedding ring and a birthstone ring.  “An’ you’re wearing a short-sleeved shirt and you ain’t got no socks on.  It’s colder than a well diggers ass in Tennessee in December and you ain’t got no goddam socks on.  You must be from up north somewhere.”

I said, “Sir you are right I am from North.”

He asked, “Where up north?”

“North Carolina.”

Everyone in the bar had been listening and burst out laughing when I said, North Carolina.

The local fellow got red in the face and said, “I don’t take to people funning me.  I’m gonna whup your ass.”

The other locals in the bar grabbed him and settled him down. He went back to his position at the bar.  I kept a wary eye on him.  He seemed to be paying a lot of attention to me.  I had grown up among rednecks and knew how they felt about being belittled and having people laugh at them.

I walked over to the jukebox dropped some coins in and looked over the music selections.  The first thing that caught my eye was “Purple Rain” by Prince.  I played it and a couple by Willie.  As I walked back to the bar, the song Purple Rain began.  That redneck yelled, “I knowed you was a goddam Yankee, and that Yankee song proves it.”

Suddenly, I was ducking and blocking punches until his friends grabbed him and hustled him out of the place.  We figured it was time to go also.  My passengers were hungry and wanted to go find Wendy’s.

And that is my greatest memory of Prince.


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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.


Pearl City Tavern

Pearl City Tavern

By John Wallace
Capt. U.S. Navy 1955 – 1989

In the summer of 1962, as USS Polk County made preparations for deployment from homeport San Diego to Pearl Harbor, old timers were looking forward to the chance to sip a few cool ones at the legendary “Monkey Bar” in the Pearl City Tavern (PCT). Making my first visit to the islands as a fresh-caught Ensign, I was intrigued by the idea of live monkeys in the bar and I put it high on my list of things to see and do in Hawaii. Little did I suspect that the PCT was going to leave an indelible mark on my career in the Navy – an innocent led astray by a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Lt. Nelson B., USMC, when sober and at sea, flew helicopters off USS Iwo Jima. When ashore, “Nels” was a party guy. For some reason which escapes me to this day, I found myself beach crawling with old Nels, finishing up an extended evening at the Monkey Bar; and there indeed were live monkeys behind the bar (not tending bar, just doing monkey things behind the glass enclosure), providing the live entertainment for this popular watering hole. With the proper blood alcohol level, one could while away many hours observing the social interaction of these sometimes shameless primates (this may be where Jane Goodall got her inspiration).

On this particular evening (probably early morning by then), having finally tired of the simian follies, Nels went off to call us a cab to return to Pearl Harbor. After an extended wait, I suspected he had run into problems and went off to track him down, arriving just in time to see him rip the last of three pay phones from the wall of the PCT lobby (Marines define “fun” differently than the rest of us). My arrival coincided with that of the HASP (Hawaiian Armed Services Police), summoned by the manager after phone number one bit the dust. The HASP, a select group of military police established specifically to deal with miscreant military service members, were all big, no-nonsense, intimidating guys, selected primarily for their size and inability to smile.

“They did it,” yelled the manager, pointing at a grinning Nels and an innocent me. A short walk later, encouraged along the way by our stone-faced escorts, we found ourselves at HASP Headquarters being fingerprinted and photographed. We barely escaped an overnighter when Nels arranged to reimburse the phone company and wrote a check on the spot.

That brush with the law had a permanent and not necessarily negative impact on the rest of my naval career, although from that day forward, whenever I was required to answer the question “Have you ever been arrested?”, I had to check the “yes” box and attempt to explain away in great detail my association with fun-loving Nels and the Monkey Bar incident. On the positive side, I think the experience made me more understanding and receptive to “extenuating and mitigating circumstances” when I was later in a position to pass judgement on sailors accused of disciplinary infractions or violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As a Commanding Officer with Article 15 authority and authority to refer cases to courts martial, I think having been on the wrong side of the system, however briefly, stimulated a compassion that might not otherwise have been there.

As for Nels, we never crossed paths again; and after only a few years I was able to say “Marine” without adding any colorful adjectives. The Monkey Bar is long gone, replaced by a Japanese restaurant, then a used car lot and more recently bulldozed to make way for some other more mundane enterprise. I think the monkeys were moved to a small island in Kaneohe Bay (oddly enough named Monkey Island) and are the subjects of behavioral research by the University of Hawaii.

The HASP still strikes fear into the hearts of military members gone astray in Hawaii but their image and tactics have softened over the years. Some say former HASP members have been spotted on Monkey Island trying to intimidate the inhabitants into more acceptable behavior.



Entered the Naval Air Reserve out of high school in 1955, serving with VF-782 as an AT striker at Los Alamitos NAS, CA.
After graduation from college, attended OCS and was commissioned in March 1961. His duty assignments included USS Polk County (LST 1084)as Deck and Gunnery Officer; Navy Language School in Anacostia, MD, studying the Russian language; ACNSG Fort Meade, MD. as a submarine rider; NSGA Bremerhaven, Germany as Communications Officer; Vietnam as OIC of Special Support Group to MACV SOG; NSG HQ in Washington, DC; Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA; NCS Rota, Spain as Operations Officer; NSG HQ; ACNSG at Fort Meade; CINCUSNAVEUR London, UK as Deputy DNSGEur; NSGA Puerto Rico as Commanding Officer; NSA Fort Meade; NCPAC Hawaii as Deputy NCPAC.
Retired in January 1989 and remains in Hawaii.