Pay Day

Monday, April 1, 1968

Top Culverhouse posted a staggered list of names in alphabetical order on the Exec Pit.  Each group would report to the Paymaster at a designated time.  The only exceptions were those taking the convoy to Da Nang . . . they were paid first.

The Paymaster (a second Lieutenant) asked me how I had come to have so much MPC, when I only received $20 per month (the remainder of my pay went to Jenny in an allotment check).  I told him I had sold my camera.  He commented, “Must have been a nice camera.”  I answered, “Yes Sir, but it had more to do with supply and demand” (good cameras were in short supply).  He exchanged the $100 MPC and paid me my regular $20 monthly pay.

The convoy to Da Nang was uneventful, and after dropping Marines off at Headquarters, we drove to FLC.  The first stop was the dock with surplus (unwanted) items.  There was a pallet marked “Short Ribs” so I took a case into the truck and cut it open.  It looked good, but I had never cooked short ribs . . . I took a chance and loaded three more cases.

At the bakery there was no extra bread (day old) available; I went in and found the chief baker.  I explained about our little bakery on Hill 65 and asked where I could get specialized utensils and tools for baking.  He gave me a copy of the bakery order guide and described how long it took to receive anything through normal channels.  I thanked him and started to leave; then he asked “What do you need?”  I stated, “dough cutters, cookie cutters, etc.”  He said, “Follow me,” and we walked through the warehouse-like facility.  In a small storeroom there were boxes of miscellaneous junk.  He declared, “You’re welcome to it.”  I started to sort through a box, and he told me, “No, take the whole box.”

I took three boxes of assorted bakery odds and ends . . . what we couldn’t use would go to the dump on Hill 65.  There was one box full of rusty metal cooling racks, and I thought they could be cleaned up.  Reb would figure it out.

We picked up the mailbag at Headquarters, along with some Marines heading our way, and took off to Convoy Road.  Back at Hill 65 we unloaded the truck, and mail call came shortly thereafter.  I received a letter from Jenny, confirming she would be free to meet in Hawaii in May for five days of R&R.  The new R&R roster was in the Admin bag, and there was one opening for Hawaii . . . I claimed it.  Top Culverhouse said I would receive an itinerary by mid-month to send to Jenny.

Mama-San was waiting by our hooch with my camera, and I bought it back for $100.  She tried to give me some money for doing her this favor, but I refused it.  She was upset because this is not how transactions worked in the Vietnamese system . . . she needed to give me something in return to square the deal.  Finally, with the help of Hua, we settled on Easter baskets from the marketplace.  I told her we planned to fill them with colored eggs as centerpieces on Easter Sunday.  This resolved our issue of the “give and take” underground market.

Somehow Mama-San had traded all of her old MPC for the new currency, and her life was back to normal.  I was never comfortable with this economic system.

Next Edition:  “Hot Pot”

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