SN Ken Savage -
Aboard Oct 1967 to 1969
It was October 10, 1967, a day I will never forget. Eighteen years old, just married (Janelle) ten days and out of Cape May, NJ boot camp 14 days; reporting aboard my first ship. I was nervous to say the least. I had been though a lot in the past few months and thought I was ready for anything. I came aboard in the yards in Baltimore, MD. The ship looked rough with red lead paint everywhere, with sailors sand blasting and air paint scrapers running. My first thoughts were what a mess this place is.
My first meeting with BM1 Dykes was not a good one. He was on the way to a funeral; his lead seaman had died in a car accident. I seem to be in his way as he told the new lead seaman, Crabtree, "Show him his bunk and put him to work."
Now, I wish I could remember all the names, because some of the faces I will never forget. After a couple of weeks on the deck force, I was told to report to the galley, as a mess cook. I worked there for a month or two while in Baltimore and later as the Chief's Mess Cook for a long time after that. It wasn't a great job, but I got every night liberty and extra money from the Chiefs as tips. Chief Landgraff was nice, sold me his 'shark skin' whites and gabardine blues cheap, I still have them. I was really small then. I did spend a lot of time on the deck force painting, cleaning, and standing watches, and all. I went from SA to SN, but they never could find me that school that they promised me. I even passed the Engineer test to get off the deck force, but they would not transfer me.
I made three weather patrols (Charlie & 2 Echo patrols) and a trip to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but the things I remember most fondly were the ports. Seeing Boston, New York and in Argentia, Newfoundland, the big fight at the NCO club there. One of our guys, a black BM3 I think, was a golden glove boxer from New York. I stayed as close to him as I could and we both got out of there okay. The crew on the return trip wasn't allowed back there again, as we had done over $5,000 in damage to the club. In and out of Bermuda four times, I got to know a few locals. On my second Echo patrol a local showed several of us Coasties the whole island. He even took us to see the hit singing group "The Shirelles" in a club there. We got to meet them and they sat with us between shows. In Cuba, I remember the night we all heard, "Man your battle stations, this is not a drill!" A Russian freighter was trying to head into the bay and we fired a warning shot that night to stop it. I thought we started WW III. In Jamaica, we got into the Playboy Club. Capt Goodwin and several of the officers were there. I knew they were going and asked him if I could come. He agreed since he had a 'Playboy Key'. A couple of us did in our dress uniforms, as you had to have a uniform or dress coat and tie. Lou Rawls was there performing. The 'Bunnies' paid us extra attention, since we were all in our uniforms. What a night to remember.
Part of the engine room gang was Earl Purky, he was a good friend. We both had fun hopping up my 1967 Firebird. We put cut outs on it, traction bars, and hopped the engine up some. I got a couple of trophies from the Pensacola Drag Strip with it. I still have them on my shelf along with a picture of the car. I also bought a 1936 Chevy pickup truck, blue with chrome wheels and it had a 327 engine. It could 'jump' a coke bottle if you put it in front of the front tires. I remember my wife and I going to see Bob Zentz moonlighting in a bar playing his 12 string guitar. I remember Steve Peden stayed with us until he got transferred, so did Gary Igloo and his wife. We always seem to find room, if someone needed a place to stay. Not everyone had a house, you know and they came to our house or Bob and Susie Newson's to party.
BM1 Dykes and I had our differences and all came to a head while in Cuba. I will not go into it, but as luck would have it . . . I asked to be transferred off the ship before the Vietnam trip. I had hopes for duty in New Orleans, but got the ship next door, the Cape York. BM1 Dykes had been transferred there just weeks before. I waited until 11:59 PM that night to report to him there, as we both knew this was not going to be a fun tour of duty. As things went, we sat down that night and talked a long time, and both decided to put things in the past and became friends. I haven't heard from him or most of the Sebago guys, I was stationed with. I hope they all had a good life. That next year the Cape York was moved to Florida and its crew reassigned. I got the Blackthorn out of Mobile, AL. I stayed there for over two years and still have friends from it that I keep up with.
Last summer I took my 'new wife' Debbie, to Pensacola to see the dock and try to find my old house there. It had all changed so much. All I have now are memories and a few photographs to remember how it was. Nothing there is the same way it was.
The older I get; the harder it is to remember all the bad times. The days away from home and family, and all the 'extra hours' I worked. The cold and hot weather we worked in, rough seas, the dangerous conditions, and everyone being sea sick. Now it is just easier to remember those days, just as it should be, "The good old days."
Date: 2013-01-17 22:16