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Norb’s Corner – In The Navy

“In the Navy. Yes you can sail the seven seas.” (Village People)

The U. S. Navy says 13 October, is the anniversary of its official founding. The Second Continental Congress passed a resolution that formed the Continental Navy under President George Washington. Dangers to American merchant shipping by Barbary pirates from four North African States, in the Mediterranean, led to the Naval Act, which created a permanent standing U.S. Navy.

I celebrate the Navy’s anniversary and recognize all the brave men and women who have served, now serve and will serve our country. Today it’s the largest and most capable navy in the world, with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage. The Navy also boasts the world’s largest aircraft carrier fleet, over 300,000 active personnel, and nearly 100,000 in the Reserve.

I enlisted in Buffalo in 1967 and spent 4 years of my life in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

One of my greatest pleasures during that time was messing with the career Navy personnel by not using Navy speak. I will give you an example. I would say something like “I was walking from the round end of the boat to the pointed end of the boat by going down the hallway and due to the floor being recently mopped, it was slippery. Someone suddenly opened the door to the bathroom causing me to run into the wall. As I continued walking, I noticed a light out on the ceiling. I went down a set of stairs, into the cafeteria and had a drink of Kool-Aid. I then exited thru a door to the outside. I went to the front of the boat and threw a rope into the water to measure the depth of the water. When I got a measurement I called up to the driver in the front seat and told him the water was 100 feet deep. The driver then turned left and I went back into the boat, went to my bedroom and lay down in my bed. “

I will now convert the above paragraph to Navy speak. I was walking from the “stern” of the “ship” to the “bow” of the “ship” down the “passageway” and due to the “deck” being recently “swabbed”, it was slippery. Someone suddenly opened the “hatch” to the “head” causing me to run into the “bulkhead”. As I continued walking, I noticed a light out on the “overhead”. I went down a “ladder”, across the “mess deck” and had a drink of “bug juice” I then exited thru a “hatch” to the “main deck”. I went to the “bow” of the “ship” and threw a ‘line” into the water to “take a depth sounding”. When I got a measurement I called the “pilot” on the “bridge” and told him the water was “600 fathoms” deep. The “pilot” then turned to the “port” and I went back into the “ship”, went to my “quarters” and lay down in my “rack”……. There was no rule that said you had to use Navy talk.

I also loved to paint my shop and the things in it. I painted murals on the walls and drawers. One locker I painted a black light “rising sun” on it and a set of drawers had a black light Jesus Christ Super Star on it. I also had a wooden chair with vertical slats in my shop. I painted the horizontal piece of the back rest blue with white stars and the vertical slats I painted red and white. I did the same with the metal trash can I had. The top was painted blue with white stars and the bottom was striped red and white. This was not a problem for the people on my ship as they understood me. It was a problem one day though when we were the second ship out from the pier and I had to carry the garbage across this ship. The “lifer” (career Navy person) on the quarter deck took offense to the garbage can and called my commanding officer demanding I repaint it.

He said I was being disrespectful towards the flag. Not wanting to cause a fuss (yeah right). I did repaint the trash can. We had 2 shades of grey a light grey called “haze grey” that the hull was painted with and a “deck grey” that we painted the …well…decks with. The trash can now had a dark grey band on top with light grey stars and the ribs of the can alternated between light and dark grey. No more disrespect to the flag now, just a nice pattern.

I ended up moving my “rack” (bed) into my shop suspended by ropes that I could use to pull it up to the “overhead” (ceiling) when I was not sleeping. Suffice to say Navy life and I didn’t get along too well together. I don’t know who was happier when I got out, me or them.

The Navy did do a few things for me though, despite my best efforts. I got to travel the world, they gave me a level of maturity that I think would have taken me several more years for me to achieve if I wasn’t in the service and both of my daughters were born during my enlistment for only $25.00 each. As I look back on those years now, I realize they taught me how to be independent which is probably one of the best life lessons I could have learned.

Lead image: Melodi2

Written by Norbert Rug

Norbert Rug

Norb is a writer from Lockport. His email address is nrug@juno.com. If you have any fun stories or memories to share of Buffalo's "good old days", feel free to send him a note.

Norb has now written 500+ articles, over 90 restaurant reviews, and has been published in the Buffalo News, Lockport Union Sun and Journal, Niagara Falls Gazette, the East Niagara Post, The Lockport Star, The North Tonawanda Extra, the Niagara Reporter, and Artvoice. His work has been published on Press Reader, Good Cookery, the National association for Home Care and Hospice, and Konitono. He also has his own blog at whywny.home.blog.

Norb's writings deal with Buffalo nostalgia. He wrote a series of articles on early Buffalo television including Rocketship 7, Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, and Mr.Rogers. Norb has also written on his childhood in the Bailey Kensington area, The Mohegan Market, and sailing on Lake Erie. He continues to write weekly on the city that he loves.

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