“Paul? I anticipate I’ve begin your wallet,” the caller, Bruce McKee, told Grisham.
It took Grisham a minute to allotment things together. “What are the odds?” he said. “It was so out of the blue. I was absolute away.”
He hadn’t apparent his wallet aback 1968.
Grisham’s wallet was begin abaft a locker at McMurdo Abject on Ross Island by a aggregation accomplishing annihilation assignment in 2014. The aggregation gave the wallet to a administrator at the station. It sat about for a while and afflicted hands, until it landed with a above researcher who accomplished out to McKee.
McKee, 58, is the architect and administrator of Indiana Spirit of ’45, an alignment committed to veterans from Apple War II and added wars. His Facebook folio has bags of followers.
McKee agreed to help. He begin Grisham’s name listed on a Naval Acclimate Service blog, and fabricated a few calls and was delighted, he said, to apprentice that Grisham was still animate and active in San Diego.
“It’s not generally that you get to accumulate somebody with their wallet afterwards 53 years,” he said.
Once McKee had absolute that Grisham was the accepted buyer of the wallet, McKee had it mailed to him in California.
The achromatic amber covering billfold accustomed on Jan. 30. Grisham and his wife, Carole Salazar, 82, unwrapped it.
“Looking at aggregate in that wallet brought aback a lot of memories,” he said.
They anxiously inspected the contents:
Grisham’s driver’s authorization and Navy ID card; a beer allowance bite agenda with four holes punched (“I was appealing abundant a martini guy,” said Grisham); a tax statement; an apprenticeship agenda with accomplish to booty in case of an diminutive attack; a compound for bootleg Kahlua; and two money adjustment receipts for the poker accomplishment Grisham had mailed to his wife afterwards charwoman up in agenda amateur at the base.
“My wallet was in absolutely acceptable appearance because how abounding years accept passed,” said Grisham. “And my ID agenda was in admirable condition. You can see that at one time I had aphotic hair.”
Grisham abutting the Navy as a acclimate artisan in 1948, was anon answer to a acclimate diviner position and again became a lieutenant, he said. He spent time at several added Navy bases afore he was beatific to Antarctica in 1967.
“It was alleged Operation Deep Freeze. We were declared to accommodate abutment to noncombatant scientists alive at the base,” he said.
“I accept to say I wasn’t captivated to leave my wife and two kids and get beatific bottomward there,” Grisham said. “I went blame and screaming, in fact, alike admitting the abject is the warmest allotment of Antarctica. We alleged it the Banana Belt because the temperature would get up to 25 in the summer.”
Although he doesn’t bethink accident his wallet, Grisham said he vividly remembers the freezing temperatures and the bareness that sometimes set in during his 13 months at the basal of the world.
“I had account shortwave radio calls home, but otherwise, it was aloof me and 180 men during the winter months,” he said. “Sometimes you aloof capital to clamber beneath your absolute and balloon about it, it was so cold.”
The men kept their sodas and beer in a acrimonious barn so they wouldn’t access in the cold, he said, and during the winter months all aliment came from a can.
To canyon the time, Grisham and his accompany had bowling tournaments in a two-lane alleyway and played a lot of poker, he said.
“I became a absolutely acceptable poker amateur and would accelerate my accomplishment home to Wilma,” he said, apropos to his backward wife.
Perhaps the highlight of his year was aback abundance climber Sir Edmund Hillary — who forth with Sherpa backwoodsman Tenzing Norgay became the aboriginal to ability the acme of Mount Everest — visited the abject for two days, said Grisham.
“He had appear to Antarctica to ascend a mountain, and I was captivated to allocution to him at my station,” he said. “We talked about the weather, of course.”
When his assignment at McMurdo Abject was over, Grisham served for two years aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. He witnessed the abatement of Saigon in 1975, two years afore his retirement, he said.
He met Carole Salazar in a bus to the Paris airport in 2001, one year afterwards his aboriginal wife had died, said Grisham.
“Both of us had absent our mates and were anniversary vacationing in Paris with our sisters,” he said. “Before we boarded our flights, I told her if she anytime got up my way in California, I’d adulation to booty her to dinner.”
Until the coronavirus communicable hit, Grisham volunteered as a adviser on the USS Midway, which is assuredly docked as a building in San Diego Bay.
“Once everything’s over, I intend to go back,” he said. “And I’ll be abiding to booty my wallet.”
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