NAS Port Lyautey, Kenitra, Morocco

The following photographs, narrative and information for the following (1960—1962) were contributed by PHCS (AC) William M. (Bill) Powers, USN (Ret.). Bill had a 30-month accompanied tour at Port Lyautey, split between the Fleet Intelligence Center Europe (FICEUR) and the NAS photo lab.

When he arrived in Morocco, he brought with him a 1959 Volkswagon Beetle (VW). The VW proved to be the ideal vehicle for Bill and his late first wife, Bonnie Compton Powers, to have in Morocco. They were able to take many day tours, often as part of auto caravans organized by the American Red Cross (ARC) folks in Kenitra.

The Powers visited Rabat fairly often and were at Volubilus perhaps a half-dozen times. The ARC organized tours were great in that those who led them knew the ground they were going to visit and more often than not, spoke French and/or Arabic, as well as English. They also tactfully advised of any protocol, local customs or traditions Americans needed to be aware of thus saving them from either embarrassment or appearing to be Ugly Americans. Bill noted that ARC deserved great credit for helping to make the tours of thousands of Sailors, Marines and Airmen serving in Morocco much more interesting and enjoyable than it otherwise would have been.

The photographs are digital scans made from original prints. As time goes by, Bill hopes to provide this website with additional photographs of Morocco. They were taken at The Hassan Tower, at King Mohammed V’s route to prayer in Rabat, the Roman ruins at Volubilus and in the Great Square of Marrachesh, Djemaa El Fna. The pictures of horsemen, mounted Berbers, were taken at a Fantasia just off the highway to Rabat. Bill also included a photograph he and his wife so that anybody who knew him during his tour can connect his name with a face. Bill and his second wife Sally, presently reside in Tucson, Arizona.

The late Bonnie Compton Powers and then PH1 Bill Powers snapped before leaving for dinner at a restaurant located between Kenitra and Rabat. (Photo by PH1 Calvin Williams).

 

Berber horsemen gathered at a Fantasia between Kenitra and Rabat.

Berber horsemen gathered at a Fantasia between Kenitra and Rabat.

Berber horsemen, armed with muzzle-loading muskets, make a mock charge at a Fantasia between Kenitra and Rabat.

A Berber horseman sits his handsome, well-groomed Arabian steed at a Fantasia between Kenitra and Rabat.

A snake charmer plies his trade in the Great Square, Dhemaa El Fna, of Marrachesh.

Bill recalls what a wonderful opportunity it was to travel and take photographs in such an exotic locale and in a culture so different from our own by means of his VW. Besides Bill and Bonnie, the VW could comfortably carry two other passengers plus a picnic basket, cooler and other odds and ends. They usually tried to take along two photographer mates from the photo lab (for those who wanted to go), otherwise there were usually Sailors, Marines or Airmen waiting at the ARC hoping to catch a ride. Bill and Bonnie made and carried enough sandwiches and drinks to feed the guys who rode with them.

For the more ambitious “solo” trips, the Powers ranged as far south as Marrachesh and as far north as Tangier, where actually they kept right on going, boarding the car ferry to Gibraltar and taking a motor tour through Spain, France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland that lasted 30 days. They spent less than $500 for the whole European trip—but that was the ‘60s when the U.S. Dollar really had great buying power and he could gas-up at American military bases all along the way for $.14 a gallon (read: fourteen cents).

The VW was easy to maintain and Bill learned to do basic maintenance on it—oil changes, tune-ups, tire changes and the like. A local French mechanic easily accomplished some repairs that he could not do, but the official VW garage in town was not very good. As Bill recalled he though he knew more about the car than they did. Two good friends from VR-24, AE1 Alton (“Andy”) Andersen and AE1 Ward Sentiny, were also very generous with their time teaching him something about auto mechanics, something he knew very little aboutbefore arriving in Morocco. (Both Andy and Ward later retired as senior chiefs). Bill remembers the three of them and one other young Sailor from VR-24 taking a day trip to Volubilus and somehow getting stuck in the sand. They couldn’t quite pick the VW completely up, but the four of them “walked” the beetle out of the sand and back onto the road in no time.

And Bill noted that in their leisure time Andy, his wife Joanne, Bonnie and he held the world’s record of playing 4,216,207 games of 4-handed, double-deck pinochle together during the 2½ year tour. WEB-EDITORS NOTE! This is not true! While pinochle was an extremely popular game at Port Lyautey and played by everyone, four Seabees, Walt Owsiany, Tom Kramer, John Skoglund and yours truly, assigned to the Seabee detachment at Public Works between 1957 to 1959 actually own the record of most games played :-)!

The Roman ruins at Volubilus

The Roman ruins at Volubilus

A mosaic floor, still retaining its colors vividly after almost 2,000 years, within the Roman ruins at Volubilus

A Moroccan man dressed in a traditional djellaba earns a few dirham posing for visitors at The Hassan Tower in Rabat.

His Majesty King Mohammed V rides to prayer in Rabat in an ornate carriage given as a gift to an earlier Sultan by Queen Victoria.


For those visitors to this webpage who are, or have been photo enthusiasts, Bill has noted some of the technical details of this particular group of pictures and has related the following:

They were all taken on a then brand-new Rollieflex 3.5F, a medium format camera which I special ordered out of the Navy Exchange for about $110 (a hell of a bargain compared to stateside prices). The film stock was Agfacolor Negative (ASA, or now ISO, 40) that I bought while on R&R in Weisbaden, Germany, along with the compatible chemistry and paper necessary to make prints. I continued to have these photo materials, as well as certain other items of photo equipment, shipped from Germany to me via FPO/APO throughout my tour. I also purchased Ektachrome processing kits from the Kodak-Pathe operation in Casablanca.

Even though I was already a pretty well trained Photographers Mate (completing both Navy photo A and B schools) and was working in my rate every day, I had a passion—if not an obsession—to do my own personal photo work at home in the evening and on weekends. And I did. Not only was I processing color negative film and making color prints, I was also processing and printing my own black-and-white film and processing and mounting 35mm and 120 Ektachrome. All this in a tiny darkroom that I had set up in my apartment in Kenitra that measured only about 3 x 6-feet!

Ward Sentiny, the AE1 friend of mine from VR-24 mentioned above, knew I needed something to monitor the AC current in my darkroom so I could achieve some consistency in my color printing work (this can get complicated, so please just take my word about what follows).

When I described the problem to him he thought for a minute, told me to sit back and have a cup of coffee and he went out to the line where the squadron R-5s were sitting. A few minutes later he came back with a 110V AC voltmeter he had torn out of a panel on one of the R-5s. By the next morning he had mounted the voltmeter in line with a rheostat and a duplex outlet into a nice little Plexiglas case.

Problem solved—not only for my personal use, but I also eventually used the device to do some color printing when I set that operation up in the NAS photo lab. I used the gadget for quite a number of years and still have it. It did make me wonder, however, if R-5s ever really needed an AC voltmeter in the first place, but I thought it better not to ask.

The lesson learned: the Seabees, God bless their muscular hearts, are not the only ones with a “Can Do” attitude.

Ward, incidentally, survived uninjured when a squadron R-5 on which he was aircrew crashed on takeoff from NAS. I don’t remember if there were any serious injuries in that crash. Maybe somebody from VR-24 can fill in the blanks. The aircraft was a scratch.

At the time, it was a relative rarity for anyone to be doing their own color printing. There was literally nobody in Kenitra, as far as I know, doing any color processing of any kind at the time. The locals had to send their color film either to France, or a little later in my tour, to Casablanca for processing.

While the lens on the Rollieflex was (and is, since I still own the camera) superb, I found the lens that came with the Federal enlarger I had brought with me to Morocco had all the optical quality of a Coke bottle. Consequently, the print images posted above are not as precisely sharp as I would have liked them to be, but I hope they’re interesting, nonetheless.

The negatives have faded with the passage of time, but some of the color prints, 47 years later, are still in pretty good shape as far as color saturation is concerned.

These are digital scans made from the original prints and I am amazed at what can be done digitally on a garden-variety Canon scanner to enhance the images and reduce fading.