Received From: Chuck Mason 63-65
There was a time when
everything you owned had to fit in your seabag. Remember those
nasty rascals? Fully packed, one of the suckers weighed more
than the poor devil hauling
The damn things weighed a
ton and some idiot with an off-center sense of humor sewed a
carry handle on it to help you haul it. Hell, you could bolt
a handle on a Greyhound bus
but it wouldn't make the damn thing portable.
The Army, Marines and Air
Force got footlockers and we got a big ole'canvas bag.
After you warped your spine
jackassing the goofy thing through a bus or train station, sat
on it waiting for connecting transportation and made
folks mad because it was
too damn big to fit in any overhead rack on any bus, train and
airplane ever made, the contents looked like hell. All your
gear appeared to have come
from bums who slept on park benches.
Traveling with a seabag was
something left over from the "Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum"
sailing ship days. Sailors used to sleep in hammocks. So you
stowed your issue in a big canvas bag and lashed your hammock to
it, hoisted it on your shoulder and in effect moved your entire
complete inventory of
earthly possessions from ship to ship. I wouldn't say you
traveled light because with one strap it was a one-shoulder load
that could torque your skeletal frame and bust your ankles. It
was like hauling
a dead linebacker.
They wasted a lot of time
in boot camp telling you how to pack one of the suckers. There
was an officially sanctioned method of organization that you
forgot after ten minutes on the other side of the gate at
Great Lakes or San Diego. You got
rid of a lot of issue gear when you went to the SHIP..
Did you ever know a tin-can
sailor who had a raincoat? A flat hat? One of those nut hugger
knit swimsuits? How bout those roll your own neckerchiefs... The
ones the girls in a good Naval tailor shop would cut down and
sew into a 'greasy snake' for two bucks?
Within six months, every
fleet sailor was down to one set of dress blues, port and
starboard undress blues and whites, a couple of whitehats,
shoes, assorted skivvies a
peacoat and three sets of bleeched out dungarees. The rest of
your original issue was either in the pea coat locker, lucky bag
or had been reduced to wipe down rags in the engineroom.
Underway ships were not ships that allowed vast accumulation of
Hobos who lived in
discarded refrigerator crates could amass greater loads of pack
rat crap than fleetsailors. The confines of a canvas back rack,
side locker and a couple of
bunk bags did not allow one to live a Donald Trump existence.
Space and the going pay scale combined to make us envy the
lifestyle of a mud hut Ethiopian. We were the global equivalents
of nomadic Monguls without ponies to haul our stuff.
And after the rigid routine
of boot camp we learned the skill of random compression
packing... Known by mother's world-wide as 'cramming'. It is
amazing what you can jam
into a space no bigger than a breadbox if you pull a watch cap
over a boot and push it in with your foot. Of course it looks
kinda weird when you pull it out but they never hold fashion
shows at sea and wrinkles added character to a salty appearance.
There was a
four-hundred mile gap
between the images on recruiting posters and the actual
appearance of sailors at sea. It was not without justifiable
reason that we were called the tin-can Navy.
We operated on the premise
that if 'Cleanliness was next to Godliness', we must be next to
the other end of that spectrum... We looked like our
clothing had been pressed
with a waffle iron and packed by a bulldozer.
But what in the hell did
they expect from a bunch of jerks that lived in the crews hole
of a 2250 Gearing/Fletcher can. After a while you got used
to it... You got used to
everything you owned picking up and retraining that distinctive
aroma... You got used to old ladies on busses taking a couple of
wrinkled nose sniffs of your peacoat then getting up and finding
Do they still issue seabags?
Can you still make five bucks sitting up half the night drawing
a ships picture on the side of one of the damn things with black
and white marking pens that drive old master-at-arms into a 'rig
for heart attack' frenzy? Make their faces red... The veins on
their neck bulge out... And yell,"Jeezus H. Christ! What in
god's name is that all
over your seabag?"
"Artwork, Chief... It's like the work of Michelangelo...My
ship... Great huh?" "Looks like some damn comic book..."
Here was a man with cobras
tattooed on his arms... A skull with a dagger through one eye
and a ribbon reading 'DEATH BEFORE SHORE DUTY' on his
shoulder... Crossed anchors
Bay 1945' on the other shoulder...An
eagle on his chest and a full blown Chinese dragon peeking out
the cheeks of his butt. If
anyone was an authority on stuff that looked like a comic book,
it had to be this E-7 sucker.
Sometimes I look at all the
crap stacked in my garage, close my eyes and smile, remembering
a time when everything I owned could be crammed into a canvas
bag. Maturity is hell.
====== Editor's Note =========
This article really dredged up some old memories. I wonder how
many people still have that stupid #%&$ thing today?
I Do !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Received From: Keith Knowlton
--- Thanks for our photos of some of the crew in Naples Italy
(Seaman's Club). --- as seen at http://www.Howard5052@Charter.Net/Photos1960s.htm
Good looking crew.
Also I want to thank my old buddy Sam Meilke and tell you
a short story about Sam.
We were at sea and Sam wanted a new cigarette lighter, with the
Ships picture on the lighter. So he purchased a new lighter at
the Ships store. We walked out side to the railing and Sam took
the lighter out of the box, looked at the box and lighter and
then threw the lighter overboard. I wonder if he
still has the box.
Howard I really like the web Site and the nice job that your
doing to keep our ship alive. Good job.
Keith Knowlton 58-60
====== Editor's Note =========
I too purchased a Zippo cigarette lighter with the ship's
emblem, and I believe if I really hunted around this house, I
could probably find it, but I must ask!! --- What possessed you
to deep-six it? --- and do you still have the box that it
came in? I think it only fair that you relieve Keith
Knowlton's mind as well as our's.
These are the type of incidences or stories that provoke
thoughts, memories, and humor. I hope this may prompt others to
send similar tales.
Incidentally, does anyone have a photo of that little
Haynsworth Ship's Store that was no bigger than a broom closet,
back in the after passageway? If so, please share it with
Re the deep sixed Haynsworth lighter.
Why did I throw the lighter overboard and keep the box? Don't
ask. After almost 45 years the story still lives. I bought the
lighter, walked outside to the raid, removed the lighter from the
box, held the
lighter in one hand, the box in the other, and looking at each of them,
threw the lighter overboard and held onto the box. I guess the
hand/eye coordination wasn't that great.
There are so many stories
that come to mind. I remember reading stories in the newsletter about the Haynsworth
"Can With A Band". We didn't have a band when I
was aboard, but we did have
"Sam" Cook. Sam played guitar and idolized Elvis Presley. He had the the
voice and mannerisms down pat. When we re-fueled off the Forrestal,
they always serenaded us with their band in dress blues, etc. But, like
I said, we had "Sam" Cook. After the Forrestal had
"serenade", Sam stood at the midships "b---h box"
(you may edit), with all the
speakers blaring doing his rendition of Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel, and other Presley
hits. He always got a rousing ovation from the carrier crew.
I'll bet there aren't many crewmembers who got to ride the hi line
between ships. I had expressed a desire to make this trip and
somehow RMC Huey George wangled the okay. I'm really not sure
what the reason was, whether to pick up some missing msgs, visit
sick bay, or what. Anyhow, they strapped me in the bo'sn
chair and I began the journey across the narrow channel of water
between the Haynsworth and the Forrestal. Let me tell you,
Disneyland, Disney World, 7 Flags, nor any other amusement park
has a ride quite like that one. One minute, as the lines
go slack, you're plummeting toward the water. The next, as the
lines go taut, you're bouncing like a rubber band, hoping that
the strain on the lines don't break them. With all the
bouncing, rolling, and underwater exploits of the Haynsworth, I
never got sick. I was on the Forrestal for a week, and I
was sick for 7 days. I had just managed to remember my way
from the mess deck to my berthing area when
the Forrestal anchored at whatever port, and I caught a liberty
shore and back to the Happy H. Again, no amusement park
has a ride quite like the one I took between the Haynsworth and
Howard, there are so many stories that bring back fond memories
of the Happy H. Some of them may not have any
significance to anyone but me, but I'll always treasure them.
Thanks for the outlet