Don Edrington
The Senior Computer Tutor
Don Edrington - PC Columnist for The Californian & San Diego's North County Times

Counter-Top Juke Box  Vintage Pop,
 Classical, &
 Country Music

1950 Buick Taxi
A Funny Thing Happened...

WWII  Los Angeles, Hollywood
Pershing Square - Clifton's
 Traveling LA's Old Subway
 Singing in Carmen
 Seductive Divorcee
 Chet Huntley (before TV)
 First Date - First Kiss?
 Love at First Sight
 Blind Date Heartache
 New Thing Called Television
 1st Stereo Radio Broadcast
 Mom Wanted Me to Smoke
 Dropping Out of Hollywood High
 She Had to Sharpen my Pencil
 Ken Murray's Blackouts
       with Marie Wilson

Fort Ord - Fort Belvoir - Korea
Flying with MATS
 Dance Studio Temptress
 Cross-Country Hitchhiking
 No Time for Sergeants
 Havana - Kissed by Celia Cruz
 Buddy to Start his own Church
 Korea - I Turned a POW Loose

Late 20th Cent. Calif. Memories
1st Job & All Those Pretty Girls
 Starlight Ballroom Mystery
 Rollercoaster Romance
 Flirtatious Chicana
 Fired, Rehired, then Quit
 Puerto Rico

My 1st PC, Radio Shack TRS80
 1991 - Started a PC Club
 Eye-Opening 5-Year-Old
 Flying Lessons & Valium
 Teaching at Fallbrook High
 Grandson Found Loaded Gun

Costa Mesa
Cycling in Fairview Park
 More About the Park
 Finding Old Friends Online
       after 50+ Years

Strange Cyber Stuff
Getting Kicked Off AOL
 Broke my Clavicle at the PC
 Secret Online Sweetheart
 Surprise Invitation from
       a Married Woman

Assorted Fun Stuff
Vintage Jokes
 Don's Vintage Cartoons
 Shaved Legs

I Like the Girls Who Do
 Sharing a Springtime Shower

Silly Stuff
I Like to Look at Pictures
 It Was Midnight on the Ocean

Fun Snapshots

1951 - Celia Cruz & One Amazing Night in Havana
Part 1       Go to: Part 2       Go to: Part 3

Palms on a Cuban Beach

Told I Had to Go to Korea

When I got my marching orders for Korea in early 1951, I was told I'd have two weeks to get from Fort Belvoir, Virginia to Camp Stoneman in San Francisco.

Two weeks. What was I going to do with two weeks? I had no family or girlfriend waiting for me — so I decided to go to Cuba. Celia Cruz in 1951

Why Cuba? Well, it's a strange story, much of which I've never really understood about myself. But ever since I can remember, I've been intrigued with Latin American music.

As a child in the early 40s, among my favorite songs were Artie Shaw's Perfidia and Helen O'Connell's Green Eyes, along with ballads such as Yours, You Are Always In My Heart, What A Difference A Day Made and You Belong To My Heart.

I'd always assumed these were "American" songs and didn't learn till some time later that they'd all originated south of the border.

Eventually, when I heard these songs sung in Spanish and saw how they were danced to in those Xavier Cugat movies, I knew I had to learn Spanish and had to learn to do the dances.

World's Worst Spanish Teacher

In junior high school I couldn't wait to sign up for Spanish 1. However, the fact that I did pretty well and got an A was something of a small miracle. If ever a Spanish teacher had been put on earth whose mission it was to discourage kids from wanting to learn the language, it had to be Mrs. Keefauver.

I don't know what part of the deep south she was from, but Mrs. Keefauver had a drawl that made her Spanish sound unlike anything I'd ever heard from the local Chicano population. The kids would spend more time exchanging jokes about her accent than they did studying.

This would invariably result in her shouting in desperation, "Y'all be kwot!" This only made the kids laugh more and look for additional ways to torment the poor woman.

I managed to do well in class mainly because of studying the text book diligently and practicing what I'd learned with a Spanish-speaking neighbor. By the time I dropped out of school in the 10th grade I'd learned enough Spanish to hold an elementary conversation, and have continued studying the language ever since.

Dance Lessons at Arthur Murray

Soldier Dancing with Girl

Moving ahead in time to Fort Belvoir, I decided to take dance lessons at an Arthur Murray studio in Alexandria, Virginia. I had two reasons for doing this: (1) I'd hoped that learning to dance would help get me over my shyness with women, (2) well, I've already described my life-long fascination with Latin American music and dancing.

I Just Had to Go to Cuba

When I was told about the two weeks furlough I'd have, I decided that if I hitchhiked to San Francisco I'd have just about enough money to spend a couple of days in Cuba.

Well, a combination of different rides got me to the Miami airport. I'd done a little research and found the name of a small hotel in downtown Havana whose rates were much lower than the fancy ones that catered to the regular tourist trade. I was hoping to find a bus that would take me there (it would be cheaper than a cab).

Urgently Needed a Restroom

Cuban Taxi Driver

But I didn't know which bus went where — and now I needed to use the bathroom. I should have walked back to the terminal, but I thought that if a taxi could get me to the hotel right away, I'd be able to hold out till I found a restroom there.

A cab driver who seemed amused by my high school Spanish told me he'd have me at the hotel in about 15 minutes.

Oh, oh — that would be too long. So I decided to ask the driver if he knew of a restroom we could stop at along the way. But I wasn't sure of the word for "restroom." A literal translation would have been "room for resting" and I was sure that wasn't right. So I asked if he knew where there was a "men's room" (which I literally translated to "un cuarto para hombres").

Taxista Would Show Me Where to Find Some Action

His face lit up as he said, "Ah, un cuarto para los hombres — con las mujeres. Sí, sí. ¡Vámanos!"

Well, this was no good — I needed a bathroom and he thought I was looking for a brothel. And I was getting more uncomfortable by the minute. I thought of trying some sign language, but if I pointed to the part of my anatomy that was bothering me, he'd be even more convinced that I was looking for some "action."

Then I decided to try saying "bath" room instead of "men's" room. Well, "baño" he understood immediately — but he seemed disappointed that all I wanted was a toilet. Anyway, he stopped in front of a cantina, and pointed me toward the men's room.

Couldn't Wait to See Havana

It was late afternoon when we arrived at the hotel, and all I wanted to do was take a shower and hit the town. Heading out onto the street that night was something I'd been anxiously looking forward to. And I wasn't disappointed.

Pre-Castro Havana

This was pre-Castro Havana, and it was a whole other world. Being February, it got dark early, but lights and music and throbbing activity were everywhere. Most of the stores, cantinas and restaurants had open fronts, with high retractable iron gates. No heating systems were needed, and only the luxury hotels had air conditioning. Most other places depended on the open architecture and ocean breezes for whatever cooling they could get. Couple Dancing in Street

Havana Had it All!

Music could be heard coming from inside every restaurant and cantina — and small bands would be playing on the street corners and the little plazas that were here and there. I saw couples on their way to somewhere stop and dance for a while, and then move on.

The music, of course, was the popular Cuban dance music of the day, which encompassed the varied rhythms of the rumba, the bolero, the guaracha, the danzón and the guajira. I'm sure this music must have sounded foreign and exotic to my fellow Americans back at the hotel, but this was the music I'd come to hear and, hopefully, to dance to.

No Minimum Drinking Age

Judging from what I could see of the patrons in the various cantinas, there was no minimum drinking age.

So I decided to stop and have a Cuba Libre (rum and Coca Cola). It was a little sweeter than I would have liked, but it was cold — and a shot of rum might help loosen up my inhibitions about asking one of the natives to dance — which I hoped to be doing real soon.

In the cantina I noticed a gentleman at the other end of the bar looking my way. He smiled and waved and then started to walk toward me. He appeared to be an American, and was nicely dressed in a suit and tie and a Panama hat. He appeared to be in his middle sixties. I could tell he was a tourist — but something seemed different about him. Fred - Retired Gent in a Panama Hat

Adventurous Old Guy

"Hi," he said. "I couldn't help but notice you because you don't see any other Americans in here. As you can probably tell, this is strictly a native hang-out."

"Right," I agreed. "That's why I stopped here. I want to get to know the natives."

He told me his name was Fred and that his wife had passed away a year earlier and that he had always wanted to come to Cuba. He went on to say he'd come with a tour group — but that he really didn't enjoy being herded around with a bunch of old fuddy-duddies by a tour guide. So he'd decided to just go out on his own and take a walk — and this is where he ended up.

When he asked what I was doing in Havana, I said pretty much the same thing he was. And when I told him I spoke a little Spanish and was hoping to find a place where singles went to dance, he asked if he could tag along.

"Sure," I said. "Let's go."

Of course I didn't know where I was going — but with all this music and dancing in the streets, I had no doubt that we'd soon find a place where unattached women were just waiting to be asked to dance. hooker

Well, we quickly found some waiting women — but dancing wasn't what they had in mind. We happened to round this one corner, and before we had taken two steps a tough-looking tomato in a tight blouse and slit skirt stepped out of a doorway and grabbed Fred by the elbow.

She only said three words. The first was the four-letter F word, and the other two were "five" and "dollars." Suddenly another woman appeared at her side and said the same thing to me. I backed away before she could grab my elbow and said, "Fred, I think we're on the wrong street."

Continued (Part 2)

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