Anachnu: Alan Goldenberg

By Donald H. Harrison

Alan Goldenberg
Alan Goldenberg
Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — Alan Goldenberg joined the Navy, served eight years, and he still gets to see the world in various civilian jobs that were an outgrowth of his Navy service.

The skills he learned as an electronics technician led to positions with a variety of land-based companies that specialize in the repair of communication devices and sonar equipment that still are in use on Navy ships and shore installations today.

The Brooklyn-born, Los Angeles-raised Goldenberg—known as “Goldy” to his shipmates—has vivid memories of his time aboard the helicopter carrier USS Iwo Jima.

Shortly after the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and Egypt, the Iwo Jima sailed to Port Said in support of an operation to clear mines from the Suez Canal.  Along with other members of the crew, Goldenberg was given shore leave to see as much of Egypt as possible in a single day.  They took a “raggedy old bus” from Port Said to Cairo, there to visit a King Tut exhibit at the Cairo Museum, as well as the Sphinx and the Pyramids.

“Port Said was bombed out,” Goldenberg recalled.  “There were holes in every building you looked at.” On the way to Cairo, a guide informed the U.S. Navy crew members, somewhat proudly, that there were eight synagogues in Cairo, “which was fascinating to me.” Goldenberg took a camel ride en route to the Pyramids, and when his guide asked if Goldenberg would like him to take a photo with Goldenberg camera, Goldenberg thought the man was simply offering a courtesy.

But after handing the camera back—which he didn’t operate properly—the guide demanded payment, which Goldenberg refused.  Their argument lasted so long, Goldenberg’s shipmates were already leaving the Pyramids by the time he got to them.  The unhappy result: No tour of the Pyramids.

An indelible Navy memory resulted from a time when the Iwo Jima was refueling and re-provisioning at sea.  Another ship, the USS Nashville, was navigating alongside the Iwo Jima.  Suddenly the two ships crashed, destroying on the Iwo Jima the elevator that lifted helicopters and supplies from one deck to another.  This forced the Iwo Jima to put into the U.S. Naval Station at Rota, Spain, for several weeks for repairs.  There was not much for members of Iwo Jima’s crew to do during this period except to “eat and party,” according to Goldenberg.  Crew members irreverently referred to their skipper as “Captain Crunch.”

During Goldenberg’s service, he visited Mediterranean ports on three separate cruises.  He drew “Shore Patrol” duty in Barcelona, Spain, during one visit, and along with a Marine, his job was to keep order. At one bar, a fight broke out between African-American members of the crew and a group of Africans. Goldenberg waded into the mayhem trying to separate the two groups.  Hostilities had broken out after one person asked another for a cigarette and was refused.  “C’mon guys!” Goldenberg pleaded.  “That’s nothing to fight about!”

“C’mon,” he remembers adding, “It’s Christmas!”   Smiling self-consciously as he related the story, he said, “Imagine, me, a Jew, reminding them that it’s Christmas.”

It may have worked for a moment, but before long the two groups were at each other again–the underlying reason for hostility between the two groups still a mystery for Goldenberg.  As chairs were thrown and tables overturned, a squad of other Shore Patrol officers summoned by Goldenberg at last waded in to separate the combatants.  One of Goldenberg’s disappointments was that the Marine Corps MP with whom he was paired stayed in the background, reluctant to get in the middle of the brawl.

Notwithstanding that donnybrook, Goldenberg said he loved being in the Navy, and might have stayed except for a chief who sent him for a haircut not long after he already had one.  Reluctantly, Goldenberg had his head shorn again, and when he came back, the chief said it still wasn’t short enough, sending him back for a third haircut. Goldenberg’s hitch was just about up, and he decided that he had better things to do than to stand for this kind of treatment.  Besides, he was in San Diego, with which he had become enamored eight years earlier during boot camp at the Naval Training Center.  So he figured this was as good a place as any—better than most—to restart life as a civilian.

Using his GI Bill, Goldenberg went first to Southwestern College and later to Mesa College to earn an associate of science degree in electronics, while working meanwhile at Amex Systems, near Old Town San Diego, doing the same kind of work he did in the Navy—overhauling electronics equipment.  During this period also, Goldenberg was married and divorced from Debbie. They had a daughter, Laura, with whom he remains close.  She lives in Virginia with her two children.

After 11 years with Amex Systems, Goldenberg worked eight years at Raytheon, which sent him to shore-based facilities around the world to overhaul high powered transmitters.  Hawaii, Diego Garcia, Spain, Italy and Scotland were among his ports of call.  “I also did a lot of shipboard work, a lot of repairs, technical assistance and ‘In-Survs’ – Inspection Surveys,” he said.  Additionally, “I spent time on all different kinds of ships from carriers down to destroyers and frigates.”

Once while flying to Diego Garcia, he was routed through the Philippines for which he did not have a visa.  Authorities agreed to let him transit to Diego Garcia after a stay of a few days, but when he landed in the Philippines on the return leg, they were not so forgiving.  He had a choice, be escorted by the Philippine Army to the Manila Airport, at a very high service charge, or be deported via the U.S. run Clark Air Force Base.  To save his money, Goldenberg chose deportation, and later read the riot act to the supervisor who supposedly had made his flight arrangements.  The Philippines in later years approved a visa for Goldenberg

In the ship repair industry, when companies complete their contracts, they lay off their workers, who then (if they are lucky) are picked up by other contractors.  From Raytheon Goldenberg went to Allied Signal, then back to Raytheon for a SPAWAR contract, then to Manufacturing Technology Inc. (MTI) and on to ORI, and finally to Centurum, where he is working currently.

One day, at a job near the shipyards, “this one kid was just wandering in this industrial area, and I’m looking at this little girl, and I thought ‘this looks out of place, what is she doing here?’ She didn’t speak English, only Spanish.  I didn’t know what to do.  It turned out there was a guy in the Chevron building who spoke Spanish.  Apparently her parents had died in Tijuana and her uncle took her to the U.S. and left her in an apartment complex. She was wearing a nice dress, and she apparently was about 8 or 9 years old.  I called CPS and they told me to bring her to the Polinksy Center in Kearny Mesa. She was such a sweet girl; it is just terrible when things like this happen.

Alan Goldenberg and Giela Gray bookend their son Brandon and Alan’s daughter Laura

Alan Goldenberg and Giela Gray bookend their son Brandon and Alan’s daughter Laura

A pick up softball game brought Giela Gray into his life.  After one of the co-ed games, the team had a get-together at Tony Roma’s in Mission Beach, with various players inviting their friends. One of the women on the team invited Giela, next to whom Goldenberg wound up seated. “We hit it off immediately,” he said.  They found in that first conversation that they liked many of the same television shows, including “Married with Children,” “Friends,” and “The Simpsons,” he recalled.

“We met in June of 1990 and we were married in February of 1992,” Goldenberg related.  “We were married in Los Angeles – the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Sherman Oaks – and it was a great wedding.  My family was up there, my daughter Laura joined us, and a lot of Giela’s family from the East Coast also came.”

He and Giela decided they would adopt and approximately 18 ½ years ago Brandon, then 2 ½, came into their lives.  “He came with the first name Brandon and we gave him the middle name Adam, after Giela’s late cousin. His Hebrew name is Baruch Adam.”

When they lived in the College area, Goldenberg and Giela initially affiliated with Congregation Beth Tefilah on 69th Street, but when that congregation merged with Adat Ami Synagogue and eventually relocated to Uptown San Diego, Goldenberg and Giela decided to check out Tifereth Israel because it was geographically closer. “In the summer of 1988, we signed Brandon up for Camp K’Tonton and preschool and we have been at Tifereth ever since. “

Brandon, now 21, has proven himself to be a gourmet.  He studied cooking at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, and likes to whip up culinary delights at home.  His ambition, which Goldenberg believes is likely to be realized, is to be a chef at a fine restaurant and one day have a restaurant of his own.

Giela, who had been a preschool teacher, Hebrew School teacher and administrative assistant at both the Jewish Community Center and at Beth Tefilah, became active at Tifereth Israel Synagogue in such activities as the pre-school, the Sisterhood, and the Religious Life Committee. She and Goldenberg became regular performers in the annual Purimshpiel.  Recently, Goldenberg has become more involved in his own right, winning election to the synagogue’s Board of Directors and serving as Program Chair for the Men’s Club.

*
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected] . Comments intended for publication in the space below must be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the U.S.)

 

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