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Updated on January 8, 2011

Sometimes real life can be incredible

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, long, long ago and far, far away…well, actually it was 1955 and aboard the USS Iowa at Norfolk, Virginia, and I was a petty officer in the Navy.

At the time, I believe there were about 600,000 men an women in the Navy. There must have been hundreds of Navy ships in the fleet. The Iowa, a battleship, had, as I recall, a complement of over 3,000 men. Each compartment housed 25 - 40 men. So, the odds were you could spend a year on the ship and never even run into someone from your hometown if he had different watch hours and lived at a different end of the ship.

I was in my compartment when a sailor I had been stationed with a couple of years ago came down the ladder into my compartment. What a surprise! What were the odds of him coming not only to my ship, out of all the ships in the Navy, but coming into my particular compartment?

So, while we were exchanging surprised and happy greetings, out of sight of the ladder, I hear a friend from high school, Jack Gibb, call my name. He had not yet seen me but he recognized my voice. And I recognized his. So what were the odds of two guys coming to my ship and my compartment that I had previously known. Talk about coincidences!

That was the biggest coincidence of my life, but not the only one while I was in the Navy. There were a few others.

The first one was while I was still in boot camp in San Diego. Duke Reeves had been my closest friend from first grade through tenth grade, but we had drifted apart in the last couple of years of high school because he stayed at Miami’s Tech High while I transferred to Miami High. So neither of us knew the other had joined the Navy. Then one day, while marching with my company on the “grinder” I saw another company go by, and out front leading them was the “Recruit CPO” , none other than Duke Reeves. I spied the company banner and when I finally got a free moment went and found him. But the story doesn’t end there. We both got stationed in Pensacola after boot camp and, although we were at different airfields, found time to pull liberty together and even to travel to Miami on weekend liberties together a few times.

While I was stationed in Pensacola I made friends with a guy named Donald Barrett who was from Washington, Pennsylvania. Years later, walking down the street in Newport News, Virginia, I saw a sailor about 40 yards ahead. I could not see his face or profile, only his back. But something about him made me think of Barrett. I hurried my walk to catch up, and sure enough, it was him. Again, with 600,000 men in the Navy, what were the odds? But coincidences do happen.

The third time was in Norfolk. I was getting off a plane from - a “hop“ from Miami. As I came down the ramp, I looked over at a nearby plane where they were boarding and spied a guy I knew from Miami High, Alan Hermann, who was going up the ramp. I hollered his name and he waved back - two ships passing in the night.

Another time, while working in Montebello, California, I went to lunch with a colleague, where a lady he had known years ago in Ohio was having lunch.

Someone has come up with the theory that there are only “six degrees of separation“ - that we are all only six steps away from everyone else on earth. I don‘t buy into that, but I do find coincidences fascinating.

So, here‘s what you can do: The next time you are playing a parlor game - wait a minute, what‘s a “parlor“? Talk about an anachronism. But that‘s a subject for another hub. Okay, the next time you have a party, get everyone to sit quietly and go around the room asking each person to tell about the most unforgettable character they ever knew, or about their most remarkable coincidences. I’ll wager you will hear some incredible stories.


If you enjoy nostagia, and if you like motorcycles, you would probaby enjoy my book, OVER THE HANDLEBARS, First published in 1975, then updated and enlarged in 2006, it is a collection of short stories and articles about all aspects of motorcycling. It is available from I also have written two other books about motorcycling availalbe from  You can read all 3 of them on your computer for just $2.99 each. Go to


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    • dongately profile image

      dongately 7 years ago from Sana Clarita, California

      Thanks for checking it out.

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      I agree! Great job!