Born to a career military father and a German war bride in an Army hospital at Fort Gordon, Georgia in 1950, Phil’s first 13 years were a parade of military bases spread through four countries. A true Army Brat, he went to 14 schools in 12 years while his father, a military prison commander and military policeman alternated between beating inmates and ‘disciplining’ his son.
As it turned out, he was the first male in ten generations on both sides of his family who didn’t serve in the military as a career later in life. While his father was not only a career military man, as was his stepbrother who spent 60 years in military services, Phil’s course in life veered from rejecting his white, Redneck, gung-ho heritage, to a short time in crime and later, great success in the music industry.
The first five years at sweltering Fort Gordon were followed by moves to other bases and finally, a cross-country bus trip to board a military flight to Japan, which landed in Wake Island in the middle of the Pacific when two engines went out. Phi’s mother decided never to fly again. Phil thought being marooned on a tropical island was pretty cool, especially with the rain beating down on the military Quonset hut where they were billeted awaiting new engine parts to arrive from Japan.
Three years in bases at Tokyo, Camp Miho and Kyoto not only fed him with Japanese culture, he learned Japanese as a second language as required for Army brats overseas. He also became a champ at pachinko, the vertical pinball machine, to the point he amazed old men in pachinko parlours with his talents. Winning balls meant prizes and his choice was invariably chocolate bars which he hoarded for a long trip home.
Back to the US by boat, he and his mother rode through a massive typhoon where most of his chocolate earnings ended up as chum over the rails. But he had his first experience with Hawaii and loved it. Waiting there for two weeks while his father followed by plane, he lapped up the culture and food. Then back Stateside in another military boat to begin a round of Army bases for two years before his father was transferred to Germany for a three year tour of duty alternating again between bludgeoning prisoners and belting Phil.
Settling in the military camps of Pirmasens and Kaiserslautern, he also got three years of German language and hung out with some of the tougher local kids, playing with fireworks and stink bombs. He travelled to Hamburg, his mother’s home city where she and his stepbrother George were the only surviving family members in the firebombing of the city towards the end of WWII. He also went to Bavaria several times where he became fascinated with the bizarre castles of Mad King Ludwig, the mountaintop Eagles Nest of Hitler and also started his lifelong love of train travel with trips through Europe.
He was lucky to have his father transferred to France for a further two years and had to take that language as well. Phil excelled at school, due more to his loneliness from continually losing friends whenever he moved and also being a bit of a pudge as a kid without great athletic skills. On his return to the US, his popularity didn’t increase when he was accelerated in class and spoke three languages other than English fluently with a well-travelled life. He was teased and beaten up with regularity.
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