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January 19, 1998


I'd sooner be incarcerated

  by Oscar Roloff
   A few years back the VA arranged for the University of Washington cancer clinic to watch over me for five years. I'd come in for observation and treatment. A safe parking spot was close by. All was well until they took my parking spot away and put me further out. Made my ambulatory progress more difficult. One day I parked as required. Two weeks later an official letter arrived from the president, no, the head official of the UW parking section. I'd been cited for parking in the wrong place and would be called in for a citation.
   I wrote that I had no money. For 41 years since 1957 the Navy refused to pay my retirement pay. Thus, I wrote, I'd accept a spot behind bars. Let me know, I asked and I would have my toilet articles packed. I already have my Navy Sewing Kit ready. When given to me 60 years ago at my Naval Training Base (1938) I was warned never to lose it. It contains one needle, one scissor, 10 buttons and a few other small hard-to-see items.
   Thus, wherever I go I carry that KIT, day and night. It is similar to the Rock of Gibraltor run by England. I've been there and searched for those elusive apes hidden in the rock's caves. They are valued same as the USN Sailor's Sewing Kits. When I wrote I'd take the brig, I'd have my precious KIT to be photographed by my photo press friends, because it is more rare than my incarceration. "Let me know and I'll show up," I wrote.
   Meanwhile --
   One day my wife drove and parked where ordered. Two weeks later she got a summons for illegal parking. Quickly she wrote out a check. Not me. I'm too stubborn. From then on, we rode the bus. I already wrote to the U. of Washington Hospital telling them of my incarceration plan. Same letter to their Cancer Clinic. No comment.
   Oh yes! Fifty six years ago during WW II when my ship sank, the only thing I got off the ship with was my Navy Sewing Kit. Plus the pair of old shorts I had on. I was deadly wary that the Navy might find out if I'd lost my old Sewing Kit and get court marshaled. One day months later a letter arrived from a high police official. It read something like this, "What say we forget about the whole damn thing?" I hesitated because I wanted the world to see what in the heck a Navy Sewing Kit looks like. There aren't many around. I'll bet the Navy still issues them with a dire warning to never lose it They look at the KIT as more important than a ship's propulsion means.
   A Little More - Be Patient --
   I still have my Sewing KIT (always in caps). Its color is black. I'll bet since the Revolutionary War they've issued millions of them and probably not one sailor ever used one.
   When Charles Lindberg planned his flight across the Atlantic, the Navy offered him a Sewing KIT lest his plane needed sewing. When he saw the 'thing,' he reportedly laughed. The last time I saw his plane at the Smithsonian, I looked up at the dangling thing above to see if by chance the Navy had hung one of 'em on the plane. None in sight.
   I put a price tag of $5,001 on my rare KIT. May be the last one aboard. Who knows? They may have ceased putting them out. Too embarrassing to have the relics of yesteryear still in use. I don't know of any old Navy salt who ever used one. They'd be too embarrassed to be seen using one. Mine is still intact, untouched. I admit I have pride. Not much though when it comes to an emergency.