Another Day, Another Airplane Ride…

Thirty-six hours of travel for 16 hours worth of meetings.  I’m not doing ‘something’ right here.  Good trip though, productive and hopefully some positives will come out of it…  

In the I TRULY know I’m getting too old category, came out of a two day meeting on the second day, and had a individual come up to me and say, “My Dad says to tell you hello.” I’m standing there with a WTF? look on my face, and he whips out his cell and shows me a picture taken in 1973 with myself standing next to his dad in the picture.  Of course the obvious question is, HOWINTHEHELL did you recognize me??? Turns out I was over at their house years ago and his son remembered me…

And called his dad, who sent him the picture and a ‘suitable’ comment, which of course I returned…

In honor of the ‘good ol’ days’, The Seabag!!!

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 it. 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 home 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 the ‘issue’ gear when you went to a 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 girls in a good Naval tailor shop would cut down & sew into a ‘greasy snake’ for two bucks?

Within six months, EVERY fleet sailor was down to ONE set of dress blues, port & starboard, undress blues, and whites, a couple of white hats, boots, shoes, a watch cap, assorted skivvies, a pea coat, and three sets of bleached-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 paint locker. Underway ships were NOT ships that allowed vast  accumulation of private gear.

Hobos who lived in discarded refrigerator crates could amass greater

loads of pack-rat crap than fleet sailors. 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 global equivalents of nomadic Mongols without ponies to haul our stuff.

And after the rigid routine of boot camp, we learned the skill of random compression, known by mothers world-wide as ‘cramming’. It is amazing what you can jam into a space no bigger than a bread-box if you pull a watch cap over a boot and push it 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 hell did they expect from a bunch of swabs that lived in a crew’s hole of a 2100 Fletcher Class can? After awhile you got used to it… You got used to everything you owned picking up and retaining that distinctive aroma… You got used to old ladies on busses taking a couple of wrinkled nose sniffs of your pea coat, then getting and finding another seat.

Sometimes, I look at all the crap stacked in my garage and home, close my eyes and smile, remembering a time when EVERYTHING I owned could be crammed into that one canvas bag…

Now to try to get back on East Coast time… sigh…


Another Day, Another Airplane Ride… — 21 Comments

  1. At least you weren’t on a Gearing class can … 1944 edition. FRAM II conversion in the ’60s didn’t make the lockers any bigger, either.

  2. Bud, I loved the seabag organization; probably why I grew up to be an engineer.

    You’re right though, the raincoat, et al, found their way into the rubbish, but I found that the folding & packing rules worked well in the long term.

    ‘Course now, I got sh!t spread all over the house, so I can’t say that the lesson stuck…

  3. Seabag packing sounds like an art form but you should see how much crap I can stuff into my purse!! 😉

    Also, glad you’re back safely!

  4. Cool encounter, even if it makes you feel your age. And there’s a LOT of wisdom in that sea bag bit!

  5. Its really cool that your friend’s son remembered you. Obviously you made a lasting impression… which seems pretty typical of your personality.

  6. A friend of mine’s kid came home on his first leave and HIS canvas bag (he’s Army) has SHOULDER STRAPS.

    He told me it was no big deal–they just loaded it (the bag) up and slung it on like a high-school backpack.

    I’ll never, ever forget almost fifty of us marching–or trying to, at least–back from the depot where we’d just been issued blues, fatigues, extra boots, etc etc and had it all crammed in our bags that had one strap, and as we were marching, we kept listing to whichever side our bag was hanging off of.

    The sadistic NCOs knew what was going on, but yelled and cursed at us unmercifully–promising LOTS of PT if we didn’t shape up and keep those ^$&%*% bags from swinging.

    We didn’t, and we did lots of PT that day all the way into the evening.

    Decades later, I still have the damned bag. It’s in my attic and it holds two ancient sleeping bags.

    But even all these years later, I still hate the thing.


  7. The Marines also used sea bags but only when going from one duty post to another. We did live out of them while we were at the rifle range for a week during recruit training at MCRD San Diego. Its amazing how much can be stuffed into a canvas bag and the one thing you needed was at the bottom of the bag. Great memories.

  8. Rev- True…

    SS- We were poorer in those days. 🙂

    DT- Agreed!!!

    JR- Hopefully without a seabag 🙂

    ADM/Fuzzy- Yeah 🙂

    Murph- It is

    MC- For ‘some’ reason I think you could probably pack one and have room left over… LOL

    MB- It IS true… BTDT

    Suz/Andy- Yeah, that was truly a surprise…

    AOA- Yeah, we got yelled at for the same thing. Mine’s in storage, with my last set of dress blues still in it 🙂

    Anon- Glad to help 🙂

  9. This is a great story. When it was all over, one day you just took one deep breath and exploded all over your garage. That’s what they’re for anyway. 🙂

  10. Fun read. Thanks.

    Yeah, us AF types had foot lockers, but only in Basic. After that we had those fine B-4 bags. Hate to think about lugging a damned foot locker around!

    B-4s did beat the hell out of seabags. I know because I was 2 years USNAR in high screwl. I still remember Boot Camp and learning about folding everything they issued me. Except the Bluejacket’s Manual.

  11. Hey Jim, Remember putting all your socks in the mesh bag, throwing them in the laundry and never seeing them again? Happened to me too many times. I got stuck on a2250 class can out of Norfolk DD 864 for 18 months flying QH50C/D Drone Helos. My bunk was right under the main deck . In the Red Sea in the summer temp on deck was 125/130degrees and with the A/C going full bore, the birthing compartment was a cool 115! I hated that vessel!!

  12. ExAF- Yeah, B4s beat seabags all to hell 🙂

    Ev- The ones that got me were the assholes that would steal the underwear… I don’t remember losing that many socks though. And ANYTHING in C5F gets ‘warm’ during the summer…

  13. The only thing we added was five checkerboard shirts and our float coats. We were also issued two extra sets of boots, three if you were a wog because after wog day the third set was going over the side.

    The only time I ever saw anyone expect us to look like we were ready for inspection was when I was on the Nimitz. They had just come over from the east coast and had a new Chief in charge of the aft chow hall. We came down from a 12 hour flight ops to grab some sliders before the recovery came in and he tried to turn us away until we were in clean and pressed uniforms.

    Needless to say that went over like a fart in church and he ended up having a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting with some higher ups. He would glare at us every time we came down looking like we had been rolling in dirt all day (which wasn’t far from the truth) but he never said anything about it.

    I miss those days, and I don’t