By: Garland Davis
The Great Auk
(Pinguinus impennis) is a flightless bird of the alcid family that became extinct in the mid-19th century.
(Raphus cucullatus) is an extinct flightless bird that was endemic to the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
In the Royal Navy. By 1650, a pint of rum had been unofficially adopted as part of the sailor’s daily ration. Competition for rum sales and for the security that armed ships brought with them was fierce among the planters. Even the island governors supported selling rum to the navy, a move they hoped would help keep the pirates at bay. Then in 1687, to appease the governors and guarantee the supply of spirits for their sailors, the Royal Navy officially adopted a mixture of rum from the English Caribbean islands as part of the crew’s daily allotment. Ships were dispatched to collect and distribute this special blend that would be carried on all Royal Navy ships around the world. Thus began a statutory naval tradition that would last almost three hundred years: rum and the sea.
The Caribbean spirit came out of the still at 140 proof and was a lot stronger than the beer and wine it replaced. Drinking a pint of West Indian rum every day caused such disorder among the sailors that Admiral Edward Vernon ordered that the ration be diluted with two parts water prior to issue. He also decreed that sugar and lime juice be made available as a reward for good behavior. Sailors endorsed the Admiral’s order and christened the new ration grog, in honor of their hero who led them to battle wearing his finest grogam coat.
In the 20th century, it was finally conceded that rum was not conducive to the mental concentration needed to wage modern warfare. The cerebral demands of flying supersonic aircraft or operating sophisticated electronic equipment are much different from those needed to load or fire a cannon from the deck of a ship. In the Royal Navy, the sailors’ tot became another casualty of changing times on July 31, 1970, when the last rum ration was served on board HMS Endymion, marking the end of an era in naval history. The tradition of rum and the sea lives on, however, on private vessels at anchor around the world. Cheers to another day in paradise!
Alcohol aboard ship in the U.S. Navy. 1914 General Order 99, issued by Secretaryn of the Navy, Josephus Daniels on 1 June, strictly prohibited “the use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any navy yard or station,” to take effect on 1 July 1914.
The parts of General Order 99 pertaining to “Navy yards or stations” was later amended to permit Enlisted, Acey Deucy, Chief Petty Officer and Officer Clubs to operate aboard Navy shore facilities under the direction of the Chief of Naval Personnel. Navy clubs operated under the control of BUPERS until the mid-sixties. Some clubs were profitable and some weren’t. The profits from the clubs were pooled and used to operate all clubs. Small installation’s clubs were subsidized by the profits from larger clubs.
Those of you who were there remember the days of twenty-five cent drinks and ten cent happy hours in the overseas clubs. Prices were slightly higher in stateside clubs, but not markedly so. Most of the smaller clubs were operated by a CPO or senior PO1. They usually employed dependents or off duty sailors. They weren’t fancy. They were comfortable; a place where a sailor could go and unwind.
Wonder what happened to this great club system? The civilians who operated the Navy Exchange system had embarked on a program to build “department store” type operations. They realized that if they could get the clubs under the NEX there was potential to make a lot of money, hire more people and increase the size and scope of their operation. They proposed that all Navy clubs be transferred under their umbrella. Navpers agreed that EM and Acey Deucy Clubs could be turned over to them but maintained control of CPO and Officer Clubs.
That became the first nail in the coffin of the Enlisted Men’s Club System. First, they hired Club Managers for each club and full-time staff. This increased the cost of operating the clubs so they raised prices to compensate. In many instances, the new prices were equal to or higher than in the surrounding civilian community. Customers started going elsewhere.
When congress authorized the Navy Exchange System to replace the ashore equivalent of the ship’s store operated by Navy personnel, they specified that each store had to be self-supporting or close. This rule forced the closure of many of the smaller clubs. Under BUPERS, they were subsidized. But the NEX rules forced their closure.
Although the drinking age in many states was twenty-one, most installations and clubs turned a blind eye to these rules as long as the sailors were well behaved. I remember a club at Port Chicago, Ca. where underage personnel could drink in dungarees or undress uniform. As an eighteen-year-old, I spent many an enjoyable evening there. The drinking age in Hawaii was twenty. Upon entering the club, you were required to sign a log acknowledging that you understood this. Then they sold you the drinks.
During the Viet Nam War, some states lowered the drinking age to eighteen. Many states had eighteen as the age for beer but not distilled spirits. There was a concerted effort by groups such as MADD to get states to raise the limit to twenty-one in all states. They were finally successful in 1984: “The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 required all states to raise their minimum purchase and public possession of alcohol age to 21. States that did not comply faced a reduction in highway funds under the Federal Highway Aid Act. The U.S. Department of Transportation has determined that all states are in compliance with this act. The national law specifically prohibits the purchase and public possession of alcoholic beverages.”
The Navy wasn’t immune from this law. The clubs in both the BUPERS and NEX systems were required to cease underage sales of alcohol.
At the end of the Viet Nam war, groups and individuals began to make a concerted effort to discourage drinking in the Navy. About ’76 I was serving in Ponchatoula. I was on leave and went to the CPO Club at lunch. I had business at Navy Legal that morning and was in uniform. I was having a beer and sandwich at the bar when a Master Chief from COMNAV14 came to me, showed me a letter from the Admiral giving the Master Chief the authority to question anyone under COMNAV14 authority. He asked for my ID and noted the information, asked my command and noted that also. A few days after my leave, I was called to the XO’s stateroom. He handed me a letter from COMNAV14 to the CO of Ponchatoula. It said in part. “The following Chief Petty Officer from your command was observed drinking at the CPO club at 11:45 on day and date, a working day.” After explaining that I was on leave, the XO said. “Warn your fellow Chiefs. This new Admiral is an ex-alcoholic and has a hatred for drinkers.”
The result: The CPO club’s lunch business declined while the business at Mama’s Kitchen, outside the gate, boomed. The CPO club burned in the late sixties. BUPERS was reluctant to rebuild the club, but after much lobbying, a club was constructed. It never gained the popularity of the old club and finally closed its door. The building was PSD for a time. Then it was used as the courtroom for the CO of the submarine that surfaced into the Japanese fisheries training ship. It is now the administrative offices of the Federal Fire Department. There is a small, unofficial club at the CPO quarters on base. It is usually filled with CPO retirees. Active duty CPO’s pretty much steer clear. The Fleet Reserve Club does a booming lunch and after work business.
More to come tomorrow……………………………..
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.