Words of the Heart

Many exercised their creative talents during downtime on patrol by writing poetry or prose. Here's a spot to share yours.
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Posts: 61
Joined: Wed Oct 25, 2006 7:25 pm
First Name: Roy
Last Name: Bowen
Crew?: Both
Which Years on Board: 1967-1971
Special Crew?: Neither
Rate: EM2(SS/DV)

Words of the Heart

Post by rmbowen » Sun Feb 02, 2014 6:27 am

The poem I am posting today needs an introduction. The intro is a love story, so some of you may want to stop right here. If you are comfortable with someone sharing their feelings with you then read on. But a warning is in order for those who served on the Madison with me: I just re-read it and it’s longer than I intended. Get your glasses on, Shipmate. !!

In 1968, we made patrols from Holy Loch, Scotland, but the Madison was ‘home ported’ in Charleston, SC. Both Charleston and the Isle of Palms hold special memories for me because it is where I started falling in love.

I need to say that I struggled with the decision to post this poem because I am bearing my soul. That - as you well know - is a “no-no” on a submarine. But since we are not likely to go on any more patrols, and the wives are probably the only ones interested in a love story anyway, I am going to share both the poem and its story with those of the Madison family who are interested.

However, I will ask Jenny to read (and OK) this before I post it (Yes, I know how to stay married). If she approves, then you can read a true story about the special times and special friends we had while serving on the Madison. The times may be history, but some of the friendships live on.

In 1968, Betsy & Jim Schoelen lived in a little rental on the Isle of Palms. It was very close to the area that is now the public beach. I talked to Jim a day or so ago, and he verified that the little house was still there just a few years ago.

After a ship’s party in the summer of ’68 (was that forty-five years ago???) my girlfriend – later my wife – spent the night with them. For two days we walked the beach. We have pictures in my Navy scrapbook of us and the Schoelen’s dachshund, Schnapsey, frolicking on the beach.

Now I have to be honest here, I resented Schnapsey at first because Jenny seemed more interested in him than me. But if you ever met Schnapsey, then you know he had a way of making friends. I honestly believe he could convert a cat-lover. The island is a special place and we pretty much had the beach to ourselves – well except for Schnapsey. I still don’t know why Betsy insisted on us having a chaperone.???

There was not much on the island in those days, just a few bars, a couple of restaurants and (mostly) simple wood-frame homes. The businesses, with the exception of one or two bars, closed for three or four months during the winter season. Back then, the Snowbirds still flew north.

Jenny went back home after the weekend. Schnapsey “moped” around for days and lost interest in me. I spent a lot of “liberty” time walking alone on that beach trying to decide whether or not to ask Jenny to marry me. To show you how confused I was, I even considered buying a dachshund.

I had heard a lot of stories about failing marriages in the submarine community. As a result, I had reservations about getting married while in the Navy. But, those long walks were the genesis of today’s poem. As you will probably see, I had pushed myself into a place where I was uncomfortable. However, it was a place in my heart and mind that I needed to visit in an effort to clear my head and try to resolve a lot of mixed and conflicting emotions.

On those walks that summer, I jotted down several lines about “lost love”. I knew how I wanted to frame the poem, but I never had the desire (or the courage) to finish it. Jenny and I had discussed marriage, but at that point, we were not engaged and we were free to date others. However, I was concerned about what would happen if I asked her to wait for me until I got out of the Navy.

A solution soon presented itself. Early that next year, after my second patrol, I was selected to go with the Madison to the shipyards in Groton, Connecticut. The 627 was getting an overhaul and a missile conversion. We immediately made plans to marry on April 19, 1969. while in the yards.

I rented an apartment on Thames Street. Betsy, Schnapsey and Jim Schoelen (EM2) were in the apartment above. (Schnapsey visited a lot.) Lynn and Ron Binder (ET3) were married a month or so later and rented an apartment just behind ours. Charlene and Fred Huwe (MM2?), Carolyn and Ron Johnson (MM1), Elise and George Gross (MM2) and several other shipmates and wives were within a block or so down Thames Street. We carpooled to the base.

After the 627’s refit and sea trials, we rented a place back on the Isle of Palms to finish my Navy career. It was a magic time for us. I had one more patrol to do and a job waiting for me in Birmingham.

All these memories came back in a flood (oops! pardon the pun shipmates) during the 2013 Madison reunion in Jacksonville, FL. After the business meeting Jim & Betsy Schoelen asked us and a few others to come to their home on Amelia Island. We talked into the early morning hours. Jenny and I spent the night with them. The next morning, on the drive home, Jenny and I continued to relive old memories from the Isle of Palms, Thames Street and Charleston, SC

It was during that drive back to Birmingham that I remembered the poem I started on the Isle of Palms some forty-odd years earlier. As soon as I got home, I found it and played “what if ” with it. I finished the poem in a couple of weeks.

Although this is a poem about ‘lost love’, I want all to know that those fears I had never materialized. I believe the poem turned out better because I had the advantage of looking back on those days. Jenny and I feel a part of this poem belongs to those whom we have kept in touch with.

In closing, we want to give special thanks to Jim and Betsy, and Ron and Lynn for their friendship and kindness. I have pictures of them on my computer’s screen-saver. Ron is giving Lynn a ride on my bicycle along that beautiful Isle of Palms beach. Betsy is sitting on Jim’s lap on the steps at the entrance to our little apartment on Thames Street. These dear friends kindle the kind of memories that make the Madison reunions so special.

Oh, and I still miss Schnapsey a lot.

Here is the poem:

Words of the Heart

We walked here, a year ago
Where the ocean caresses land.
We held hands and shared our thoughts,
I was the world’s happiest man.
I knelt in the sand and wrote from the heart
Three short words that night.
We lingered there, in quiet thought,
As gentle waves erased them from sight.
Now I’m back, alone this time,
Searching for answers in the sand.
Perhaps that night, I wrote in haste
Or she was considering another man.
Oh, how I wish words of the heart
Could be gently erased
Removed forever by the waves of time,
As easily as three words in the sand.


Copyright # TXu001882466
R.M. Bowen EM2(SS/DV)
1967-1970 blue crew April 1970-1971 gold crew

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