RETIRED DOCTOR RECOUNTS TIME IN NAVY
Happy Valley resident Ceilous Williams spent 32 years as a doctor in Northwest Portland before retiring in 1990.
Now almost 94, he recounts his time in the Navy immediately after World War II with modesty.
Williams was born in Virginia in 1928, graduating from Petersburg High School in Ettrick, Virginia, in June 1945. At that time, victory had been won, ending a bloody six-year European war. However, the war against Japan would rage in the Pacific for a few months longer.
An only child who excelled at math, Williams entered the University of Virginia after graduation to earn a degree in chemical engineering.
“If I’d known then, I probably would have been a mathematician instead of entering the university for chemical engineering,” Williams said.
“I was only 17 when I graduated from high school and by the time I was 18 would be drafted into the Army, so I enlisted into the Navy because I was interested in electronics. I joined April 22, 1946. While I was in the Navy, I decided I didn’t want to be a chemical engineer.”
Williams would spend eight weeks, which he enjoyed, in boot camp at the Naval Station in Great Lakes, Illinois, followed by electronics training. He received further electronics training at the Naval Research Laboratory at Bellevue, District of Columbia, before his first assignment in July 1947 at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station near Chincoteague Island, Virginia where he maintained radio tubes.
“It was a naval air station, but I wasn’t involved with airplanes. I worked on communications, radio for the base. This is before computer chips, and we had the LORAN radio navigation system. These tubes were six feet tall and wide. They don’t have that anymore, it’s now satellites, but at that time, this was what we used for communication up and down the coast,” he said.
Williams said the time he spent in the post-war military was interesting, and he kept busy with his job on the base. He initially enlisted for two years, and though the draft was still in effect. He was released from his duty after 22 months because the “Navy didn’t need me anymore.” He left as a second-class electronics technician.
“I often say I got more out of the Navy than they got out of me. I spent 14 months in training and seven months working in Virginia. I joined the Navy to see the world and I never even got on a ship and only went as far as Great Lakes near Chicago,” Williams recounted.
“Virginia to Chicago was another world, though, back then. Chicago was memorable when I think back over that time. While stationed in Great lakes, we often went into Chicago, which was a great place for servicemen in uniform. People would meet us on the street and try to buy us a beer. They gave us tickets to things and rode the rail system for free.”
Williams returned to the University of Virginia and decided he would attend medical school instead of chemical engineering.
“Back then, if you had good enough grades, you could get into medical school with only three years of college, so I never graduated from college but went to medical after those three years of college,” he explained.
Williams earned his Doctor of Medicine in 1954 from the University of Virginia and had one year of training in the cardiology field but was an internist spending his medical career mostly in Northwest Portland after following his wife to Oregon.
“While in college history class, the teacher sat us alphabetically, and I sat by this cute girl named Mettie, from Oregon. I accused her of giving me a date because she couldn’t understand what I asked her because of my accent,” he jokes.
“I came out to meet her family and slept outdoors under a blanket and knew it was a place for me. Have you ever been in Virginia in the summer?”
Williams admits the world is vastly different now but remembers his time in the Navy with regard.