By Tom Watson

This morning as I stood in our modern tile shower with its sliding glass doors, I remembered an incident that embarrassed me greatly. In the summer of 1950 my first girlfriend Joan Perry’s father was transferred from Tyndall Air Force Base, FL to the Pentagon in Washington, DC. At first Joan was very unhappy there, because she knew no-one, and she had nothing to do. Mrs. Perry invited me to spend a week with Joan and the Perry family at their new home in Falls Church, VA.

I rode up to Falls Church on the Trailways bus, and the Perrys picked me up at the bus station. They drove me to their home in Falls Church and told me about the plans for my week with them. I was the small town boy, gone to the big city. As the plan unfolded Joan and I spent a day at the Smithsonian, took an evening cruise on the Potomac River to Glen Echo Amusement Park (my first roller-coaster ride) went to a night club, The Lotus Club, and to the Officer’s Club at Andrews AFB. We had a wonderful time.

The embarrassing incident requires some explaining. In the houses that I had lived in, there was always a bath tub, but never a shower. The first time I went into the Perry’s bathroom to take a bath, I saw the first tub shower in my life. I didn’t know what to do with the shower curtain. I thought, “Should I put it inside the tub and protect the tile bathroom floor?” Or, “Should I put it outside the tub and keep the fancy curtain dry?” I chose the second alternative, and you can imagine the flooding that resulted. After I dried myself, I used my towel to clean up as much as I could, but there were wet spots all over the floor when I left.

Even in an upscale house in the 1940’s and early 1950’s there was usually only one bathroom, and the next visitor was Col. Perry. He roared, “Tommy, get your butt in here, right now!” He handed me a mop and told me to clean up the mess I had made, and then he lectured me on the use of a shower tub curtain. I am now pretty good at it.

After I returned home to Panama City, Joan and I wrote frequent letters, but when school started our romance cooled. However, my time with Joan and the exposure to Col. Perry had long lasting effects. Taking the Colonel’s advice, I joined the Air Force ROTC at the University of Florida. I was commissioned a 2nd Lt in July of 1956, and was sent to Florida State University for meteorology. I was then assigned to three years in England as a Weather Forecaster supporting fighter aircraft. My Air Force experience was worth the embarrassment.

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