From LCDR Kevin "Proton" McLaughlin coordinator of the Colorado Ready Room Strike Force...
"... Sure to stir some memories for those of you who "did time" at the Fallon O'Club during Ruthie's reign..."
of a Legend
Warhol’s famous quote states that in the future, everyone will have their
fifteen minutes of fame. Some people are
lucky enough to have extra moments and even fewer are fortunate enough to
become a legend in their own time. Last
week NAS Fallon and Naval Aviation said good bye to one such legend with the
passing of Ruth Heim.
spent twenty four years in service to the Navy at NAS Fallon, first as a
waitress at the enlisted club and then as the long-time bartender at the Silver
State Officer’s Club. Her name was
familiar to “sailors” and “CinCs” and by holders of every rank in between. Valentine flowers from Lieutenants, Christmas
Cards from Captains and annual “Happy Birthday” wishes from Vice Admirals and
the Chief of Naval Operations himself were testaments to her living legacy.
the aviators whom she considered to be one of “Ruthie’s Boys” she was more than
a bartender. The terms “social
director”, “events coordinator”, “confidant” and “disciplinarian” come to
mind. Aviation personnel deploying to
Fallon and gathering at the O’Club Bar known throughout Naval Aviation as
“Ruthie’s Ready Room” or just plain “Ruthie's”, commonly witnessed a display
all of those traits in one single evening.
a day of flying, pilots and flight officers would filter into Ruthie’s to
discuss the events of the day, those of the previous night or just to figure
out who had “wheels” and could drive to town for dinner. Voices and laughter were loud and
many-a-watch was shot down by the always lethal, “nine G hand”!
Ruthie would pause and listen in on a conversation happening on the other side
of the bar, only to turn away mid-sentence, displaying the wry, knowing smile
of someone who had just heard another “sea story”. No one ever got twelve consecutive bulls-eyes
on Bravo-17 or took money off the Nugget’s crap table three nights in a row! Of course she knew it, but at Ruthie’s, no
one called “sea stories” lies, leaving the door open for the legends of naval
aviation to be created and sustained.
when the youthful exuberance of “Ruthie’s Boys” approached the threshold of
social unacceptability, a firm slap of her hand on the counter followed by a
loud “Knock it off!” was sufficient to restore a semblance of decorum within
the room. Compliance wasn’t based on the
fact that she had the keys to the coolers and could shut the place down. It was based on respect for the fact Ruthie
knew when her “boys” needed to be protected from themselves and the boundaries
of “having fun” needed to be reestablished.
has it that in more than twenty years of minding the store, there was only one
occasion in which Ruthie felt that it might be necessary to seek the assistance
of Security to restore order in the establishment. As the story goes, there was an incident
during which an overzealous piano playing aviator decided to bang out his
rendition of “Blue Moon” on the old eighty-eights after lowering his flight
suit to half mast, displaying one of his own. His refusal to immediately re-don his coverall resulted in the phone
being taken off the cradle. Whether or
not the call was ever made can no longer be established. In fact, it’s entirely possible this rumor is
in and of itself a “sea story”. But it’s
the stuff from which legends are made. No harm, no foul, story stands, the legend lives, “nuff” said!
the mid-nineties, most of the original group of “Ruthie’s Boys” had left the
Navy for second careers or retired from the Service. As always the old guard was replaced by a new
group of exuberant lieutenants ready to create their own traditions and
legends. While the Silver State O’Club
is still going strong, the legends of Ruthie’s Ready Room, her boys and of the
Matriarch herself have passed into history, alive only in the memories of those
who were part of them.
I suspect that one day, when her boys check out of “Squadron Earth” and report to the big “Air Station in the Sky”, there will be an O’Club Bar where new arrivals can gather and greet old shipmates. Behind the bar there will most likely be a petit, strawberry blond bartender who will greet new arrivals with a smile and the line with which we were all familiar. That line was “What can I get for you fellahs tonight”? We’ll miss you, Ruthie.