The Old Navy

The Old Navy

By Garland Davis


Did you ever sit around the work center or on the fantail and listen to a coffee logged Chief or a gut heavy First Class expound with horse shit crusted lies about something he referred to as “The Old Navy. You know the Navy in which we kids wouldn’t have lasted a half hour. It seems “Kids” was old coot speak any son of a bitch under the age of forty.

Something happened. Somewhere along the way, I joined the ranks of those old coots. It happened gradually. I don’t know when it occurred…you know when the stud I once was became the old goat I am. I used to envisage the old Navy as a bunch of guys with white or no hair, big guts, and packing an AARP card. (Boy, you know when you turn fifty, the assholes at AARP put out an APB on your ass.)

If someone had said at the time that I would look back with nostalgia on my days at sea and say things like, “The best days of my life,” I would have been convinced that the son-of-a-bitch was not right in the head. Time passing seems to cause me to remember things like cold and wet, bouncing off bulkheads in heavy seas, unwashed and smelly during water hours differently. We remember with affection painting acres of metal only to start all over once you are finished.


There were interminable nights spent in the fart, dirty clothes, and unwashed body aromas of unairconditioned berthing spaces. Sea stores and cigar smoke permeated almost every space, except for the magazines. Unlike Clinton, we inhaled, regularly. Whether you smoked cigarettes or not if you went to the mess decks movie and breathed, you smoked.

I wonder if the new, more sensitive, more diverse Navy has magic raisin bread. You know, the raisin bread that you could shake and all the raisins would run away.

Speaking of food, I never figured out the dumpster on the pier that was labeled “Edible Garbage.” Edible Garbage? Who eats that? Why cart it off to the pier? If it was edible all you had to do was leave it by the Boiler Room escape trunk. BT’s will eat anything, especially if you let them think they are stealing it.

A boomer bubblehead once wrote, “Man, if you ain’t been on 120 day submerged run without an algebra book or Vienna symphony tapes, you don’t know nothing about sea duty.” “Sweetheart, if you ain’t tied yourself into a rack on a Fletcher class can in rough weather, trying to read a fuck book while scratching your athlete’s foot on the bunk chains and listening to the fat guy in the bottom bunk farting, you ain’t been to sea.”

I love this shit. Some things don’t change when you get older. That’s right, I am not old and I didn’t get old. I am older and getting older. You know it when you hear someone at the reunion talking about six hundred pound, twelve hundred pound steam systems, punching tubes or cleaning firesides. And when you watch a show on the Discovery Channel about Taffy III at Leyte Gulf. You know those guys could tell today’s snowflakes something about “Old Navy.”

One of the great things about growing older is the reunions where we relive it vicariously, although maybe not remembered or told exactly as it happened. You know the guys, all they ever spent 120 days under was an LBFM.

Then one day, a Facebook shipmate calls to let me know that his wife cracked up at some inane horseshit that I wrote about the “Old Navy.” It seems to make it all worthwhile.

Christ, it was fun. Sorta like being turned loose in the Barrio with a ninety-six and a handful of purple Peso notes, you know the ones similar to Disneyland ride tickets.

And the world is good. North American bluejackets still live…Someone has the helm…And the Night Baker will be pulling the first of the cinnamon rolls from the oven in a few minutes