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.
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.
Marines and Air Force got footlockers and we got
a big ole' canvas bag.
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.
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 and
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
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?
months, every fleet sailor was down to one set
of dress blues, port and starboard undress blues
and whites, a couple of white hats, boots,
shoes, 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 engine room. Underway ships
were not ships that allowed vast accumulation of
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 the 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 packing, known by mother's
world-wide as 'cramming'. It is amazing what you
can jam in! to a space no bigger than a bread
box 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.
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
But what in
the hell did they expect from a bunch of jerks
that lived in the crews hole of a 2100 Fletcher
Class can. After a while 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
winkles! led nose sniffs of your pea coat then
getting up and finding another seat...
Do they still
issue seabag's? 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 with 'Subic Bay 1945'
on the other shoulder... An eagle on his chest
and a full blown Chinese dragon peeking out
between 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
Maturity is hell.