The Bamboo Telegraph

The Bamboo Telegraph

By Garland Davis

Did you ever leave the Main gate in Subic, stop for a beer on Magsaysay and then catch a Jeepney to the Irish Rose and walk in as the girl you had been rolling around with opened a beer for you and asked, “Why you stop at Brass Rail? You have girlfriend there? You buy her a drink, I think you butterfly!”

Shipmate, you have just experienced one of the most efficient communication systems ever to exist. Some call it the “Bamboo Telegraph,” others call it the “Grapevine.” Whatever name used, it is damned good.

I remember hitting the beach with a shipmate and we worked our way down toward the Jolo or New Jolo where his steady girl worked. When we arrived there, she was pissed and read him the riot act telling each place we had stopped and the names of the girls we had talked to. And then she gave him shit about not bringing me right away because she had a lonely young cousin to introduce me to.

I remember a time when a shipmate and I were bar hopping, drinking and talking to the girls.  His steady came bursting into the bar and started on the girl sitting with him. Fortunately, the waiters/bouncers grabbed them as the butterfly knives came out.

Back in the day, there were hungry kids who, for a couple of Peso’s, would wait at the gate and follow a sailor and report to his Honey-ko. They could relay information up and down Magsaysay at a speed that would make Western Union envious.

Usually, the Bamboo Telegraph was more up to date on your ship’s movements than CTF 73…


10 thoughts on “The Bamboo Telegraph

  1. William Wright says:

    The working lady’s of Pubic Bay had more knowledge of Ships movement than “HKs Fat Albert & Mary Sue” & truth be known an acquaintance on a vast majority of them! As they say “What ever happen in Subic stayed in Subic “ til this day!


  2. JD says:

    Those boys, those who report to their handlers for a buck, about your movement, were darn good messengers of the watched, when they joined the US Navy 😎


  3. William Barlow says:

    I recall a time when my steady girl came through the door with a knife held high. I grabbed her arm holding the knife and with my other hand grabbed her by the waist and flipped her over me onto the bed I was sitting on. She may have been small but she was strong! I managed to pry the knife from her hand and put her outside the door locking it behind her.
    The following morning there was a knock at the door. I got up and answered it. It was my steady girl. She seemed fine. She asked me for some money saying she was hungry. I gave her some money and told her to bring me back something to eat also. She turned and left.
    She did not return in the few minutes that I was expecting. After about 45 minutes I went outside my door and peered down into the courtyard. I was on the second-floor balcony. Shortly she came stumbling across the yard. This was abnormal since she did not drink. She came upstairs where I was. I asked her what was wrong. She replied that she had taken the money and bought Valiums. I knew Valiums were real cheap and had no idea how many she might have taken. I spied a bottle of cooking oil on the floor. I picked it up, removed the cap and handed it to her instructing her to take a drink. She began chugging the bottle down. I attempted to grab the bottle from her spilling oil all over her and me both. She let out a yell, “I kill myself!” With that, she took a leap over the railing. I grabbed for her, but with the oil on her and my hands, she just slid right through. Finally, I managed to clamp my fingers around her ankles and stopped her fall. There she was dangling upside down over the rails.
    My buddy had been there the night before and I did not know whether he had gone back to the ship or stayed the night, but I began calling for him at the top of my lungs. My girl was kicking and hollering, “I kill myself!”
    It seemed like an eternity, but within moments my buddy appeared in the courtyard in nothing but his underwear. He looked up and exclaimed, “Damn, Bill. You’re gonna kill her!” “Get the hell up here fast. I can’t hold her much longer,” I yelled back. My buddy came running at full speed. We managed to haul my girl back across the rail. I carried her into the room and laid her on the bed and held her down as she cried and yelled. After a while, she fell asleep and when she awoke a few hours later she was back to her old self.


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