February 6, 2011
In disbelief, classmates Scott Cornell and Bob Kuhn have a chance meeting on a train in Japan while on military duty in 1967
By Scott Cornell '60
Reading John Kinstrey's post on your February 3rd blog brought back vivid memories of a most improbable event that happened while I was on active duty in the Navy. In the spring of 1967, I was stationed at the Naval Security Group Activity in Kamiseya, Japan. The installation was located between Tokyo and Yokohama, several miles from the Atsugi Naval Air Station. Like most of the junior enlisted personnel on the base, I was a “watch stander” working an “eve-day-mid 56 off” schedule – 8 on, 8 off, 8 on, 56 off.
My “off string” time was split between some volunteer work on base and sightseeing - mostly in the Yokohama area, which was easily reached by Navy bus. However, after one of my watch strings, my shift supervisor and I decided to make a rare trip to Tokyo. This involved taking a cab from the base to the rail station near Atsugi, taking a train to a major transfer point (Sagami Ono) and then catching another train to Tokyo.
We left the base shortly after being relieved from the mid-watch. We were dressed in civilian clothes – we were “encouraged” not to wear uniforms while on liberty. We caught our train to Sagami Ono and got off the train to an absolutely jammed platform of Japanese rush hour commuters. After several other trains picked up passengers, our Tokyo-bound express arrived.
In typical fashion, when the doors of the train opened, the crowd surged to board. The platform “pushers” shoved people into the cars until the doors of the train could close. As I entered the car and looked to my left, I saw another non-Asian standing in a corner of the car. The face was strangely familiar.
It didn’t take long for me to recognize my high school classmate, Bob Kuhn. I somehow made my way to him and we exchanged greetings in almost total disbelief. Bob was a captain in the Marine Corps and he was on two weeks of “R & R” in Japan. He, too, had chosen the day for a sightseeing trip to Tokyo.
We talked for the duration of the trip to Tokyo, dwelling mostly on our military experiences. When the train arrived in the city, we said goodbye and went our separate ways. To this day, I count this experience as one of the most improbable chance meetings I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, I have never seen Bob since that day.
About the photo at the top of the page:
Scott Cornell at the Brooklyn Naval Receiving Station - December 1965. Scott commented: "I found that picture among some of my mother’s belongings. It was taken in December 1965 at the Naval Receiving Station in Brooklyn as I began my two-year active duty stint as a Naval Reservist." Scott and his wife Eileen live in West Chester, Pa. and have attended Division Avenue reunions on Long Island last year and this month in Florida.