I was an 18-year-old sailor stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk when we sailed down from Bremerton, Washington and docked in San Diego, California in 1970.
For the next several months we spent most of the weekdays at sea off California, performing sea trials and drills in preparation to our upcoming Western Pacific (WESTPAC) combat cruise, where the carrier would be stationed on “Yankee Station” in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of North Vietnam.
In addition to the long periods off Vietnam, I was told by the older sailors who had made the previous WESTPAC cruise that we would also visit Hawaii, Hong Kong, Sasebo, Japan and Subic Bay, in the Philippines. I looked forward to visiting these ports, as I had, after all, joined the Navy to see the world.
But before shipping out for Southeast Asia, the very first foreign country I visited was Mexico.
After the Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego on Friday afternoons, two out of the three ship’s watch sections had the weekend off, and many of the sailors, me included, often shoved off for Tijuana for the weekend.
Located across the border next to San Diego, Tijuana was then a paradise for American shoppers looking for bargains and cheap goods (This was some years before the violent Mexican drug cartels made Tijuana a dangerous war zone). I wasn’t much of a shopper, but I enjoyed walking along Avenida Revolucion, browsing in the shops, bar hopping and girl watching. I also enjoyed the weekend bull fights.
After the sun went down and the shoppers returned to the U.S. with their shopping bags and boxes, many young people, including the sailors stationed aboard the Kitty Hawk, stayed for Tijuana’s wild night life.
The Tijuana bars offered loud music, beer, Tequila, and young, sexy senoritas. Some bars offered exotic sex shows.
While drinking in one Tijuana bar, I met a beautiful senorita who told me her name was Angelina.
“Do they call you ‘Angel’ for short?” I asked.
“Si,’ she replied. “But not for long.”