Navy Service Memories (part two)

NEWS FROM THE HUT by John Hamilton

The readers of these articles may remember the last thrill-packed episode of sailing the ocean blue when I finally caught up with my ship in Philadelphia and we finally left Philadelphia and steamed south to our new homeport in Norfolk, VA.  We were not in Norfolk for very long before we set sail for Bermuda before heading south to Cuba. We moored in the bay of the capital city of Hamilton, Bermuda and we noticed all the houses had white roofs with funny ridges about six inches to a foot apart. It turned out that these roofs were designed this way to harvest the rainfall in Bermuda. The ridges or steps are designed to slow down the heavy rainfall helping the gutters collect the water and store it in tanks under the house. The roofs are still white because this reflects the ultraviolet light from the sun, which also helps to purify the water. In my first “Thrill packed episode” I mentioned the ride on a Greyhound bus from San Diego to Philadelphia, and that that ride had stories of its own. One of those stories involved meeting a very pretty girl that had boarded the bus in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We became friendly, but just enough to get her address so I could write to her after I reported aboard. We weren’t together on the bus very long before she had to leave. After a couple of letters exchanged, she told me that she was engaged to a Marine. That did it!

USS Furse

After I finally arrived in Philadelphia at the local Greyhound Bus Station it took a little time to order a cab for the ride to the shipyard where my ship, US Furse, DD 882 which is a Gering Class Destroyer that was undergoing a Frame Job that basically removes the superstructure down to the main deck and rebuilds it. There was a lot of welding and banging, metal on metal, going on all night long. I no sooner become accustomed to that, and we got underway, steaming south to our new homeport in Norfolk, VA. My first duty station aboard the ship was on the mess deck that is located forward of midships. While assigned to the mess deck I functioned in several capacities including a term in the scullery, which is where all the food trays, pots, and pans are scrubbed and sterilized. While working in the scullery I made the mistake of trying to activate the food grinder, more commonly referred to as a garbage disposal, using the metal emergency on the switch with my bare hand and I was hit with the full force of 440 volts and it literally through me the length of the scullery, right into the bulkhead (wall to civilians). But I’m getting ahead of myself. Prior to all that I was assigned to the mess deck before we got underway to Norfolk and while steaming to Norfolk we hit the tail-end of a hurricane while at the same time we were passing near Cape Hatteras where the seas are dangerous all by themselves. During all this, I was working in the scullery cleaning food trays with smelly, greasy, porkchop residue on them. I started hurling uncontrollably. I was told to get out of there and hit my rack (bed). The unfortunate fact was that the mess cook’s sleeping compartment (Bedroom) was just aft (behind) the anchor chain locker. This area bounces up and down more than any other part of the ship. Consequently, it was all I could do to just hang onto that rack to keep myself from being thrown out onto the deck (floor). The next morning, I didn’t get out of my rack and report for work on the mess deck. After a short time, Chief Corman walked into the mess cooks compartment and told me to get up, get dressed, and report to my job in the mess. I told him, no way!! He told me that that was ok. He’d be back in a minute with a bucket full of water and if I wanted to lay in my rack, soaking wet, then so be it. He left and returned shortly with that full bucket of water. When he walked in, I was sitting on the edge of my rack. He told me when you’re dressed come see me in sickbay. He gave me some seasick pills and told me to make sure I kept my stomach full of something. The only food I found that I was able to keep down was an apple.

The next station I was assigned to in the foodservice department was the salad maker in the Galley. This job was a little more artistic than washing pots and pans. I was provided with a big chopping knife, cutting board, a huge salad spinner, and a water nozzle for rinsing/washing the lettuce. I really got good and fast at making the salad. When I was not making the salads, the cook would have me do other tasks like carrying those pots and pans, that I use to wash, down to the scullery for someone else to wash. 

I guess I was such a success in the galley that they assigned me as a Chief’s mess cook. In this assignment, I actually cooked for the Chiefs. The Chiefs had their own compartment, and their own kitchen, and food. Some of those Chiefs were very picky as to how they liked their eggs and bacon. The Chief mess cooks also had to collect their laundry and take it to the ship’s laundry. We also had to strip their bedding and remake their racks. There were some benefits to being a Chief’s mess cook. You had access to the same food and were able to cook your own food the way you like it. The next assignment was even more interesting since it dealt with the effects of the crew’s visits to the mess deck. Please stay tuned for another thrill-packed episode of how the sailor sailed to parts unknown and found the way home.

Until further notice, our regular Legion meeting will be the third Thursday of each month. Our next meeting will be on Thursday, October 21st at 7:00 PM. The next Sons of the American Legion (SAL) will be on Thursday, October 21st at 5:00 PM. The Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings have been resumed at 8:00 AM. If you are a veteran, come by for our monthly meeting, and/or the Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings. Several of the Post 142 members meet on Wednesday’s at Daylight Donuts on OK-99 around 8:00 AM in Hominy for coffee and breakfast treats. If you have a good story, it may end up in print. Also, keep up with us at the Post 142 website “americanlegion142.org” and Hominy Legion on Facebook.

About American Legion Post #142

Authors the weekly article "News from the Hut", about local American Legion Post #142 in Hominy, OK. Read his weekly articles in the "Hominy News Progress".
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