|From time to time, various posts have
been made on this board concerning two topics about which I would like
to write. One of these topics was the "good old days" , the other
was about how "rough" the duty was aboard a submarine, especially
a diesel job.
One or two individuals mentioned the concept that the "good old days" were known by that name because our minds tend to remember only the good times while the bad times are relegated to the back corners of our memories.
My slant on this is much different. I think that most of you young whippersnappers wouldnít know rough duty or bad times if they hit you on the head. You think that living in close quarters for weeks at a time, smelling other unwashed bodies, inhaling the obnoxious fumes of diesel engines, stale food, bad breaths, of going without baths for long periods, of having to live in confinement obeying the orders of superiors whom you deemed not half as intelligent as yourselves, and of crawling through filthy bilges constituted rough duty. To this I say, "BALDERDASH!!" You guys donít know what rough duty and bad times are. Let me elucidate.
In the days before WWII, we lived at various times either on farms or in small rural communities. We did not have modern conveniences such as refrigerators, electric dishwashers, or indoor plumbing. Our trips to the "bathroom" were down a path to the outhouse.
An outhouse was also known as a toilet or privy. Sometimes they were a simple wooden structure whose basic concept was to hide you from the view of the outside world while you performed your necessary body functions. Some were more elaborate, being constructed with an arbor covered with morning glory vines leading to the inner sanctum. They could vary in size from a one-seater to a four-seater. I never saw one larger than a four-seater and I must also confess that I never saw anyone sharing the occupancy of an outhouse so I am at a loss to know why they built multiple holes. Perhaps for show, to brag to the world that WE HAVE A FOUR SEATER.
From earliest infancy we learned to schedule our trips to the outhouse. Soon after potty training it became evident that scheduling was of the utmost importance. One trip to that far off oasis at 2:00 in the morning on a cold winterís night when the temperature was hovering in the 20 degrees below zero range was enough to etch into oneís brain forever the necessity for scheduling.
Rich people had inside plumbing. We had no inside plumbing. Moderately rich people had chamber pots. We had no chamber pots. Our only recourse was the outhouse.
For those of you who do not get the picture, let me explain. Assume that you awake at 3:00 a.m. with a sudden, demanding urge to "go". (It seems that you are a poor scheduler.) If you are not sick, (Dadís standing rule was that you were not sick if your temperature was less than 104 degrees and our thermometer was your standard outdoor instrument about two inches wide which could be used as a rectal thermometer when needed, a procedure which we almost always waived when we recalled the jagged metal edges of the thermometer), then you went to the outhouse. This required getting fully dressed, including pants, socks, boots, sweaters, and an overcoat (remember, it is 20 below outside) and beginning the trek, perhaps through two or three feet of snowdrifts.
Inside the outhouse, you have to undress partially, lower yourself to an ice-cold , sometimes wet or icy seat, do your very best to hurry the process, keeping in mind that you donít EVER want to do this again, at least tonight. Finally, your job is finished, you complete the necessary cleanup details, redress yourself, and scamper back to the house. Back in bed, you suddenly discover that you are numb from the waist down to your knees. In an hour or so, this too shall pass away. I once heard of a guy who had to "go" when it was 35 below zero. The poor guy froze his most prized appendage and while they were preparing him for a thawing out procedure at the local hospital, the doctor inadvertently hit it and it snapped like a candy cane.
So much for the wintertime. How about summer, you may ask. And well, you might, because those hot, muggy, hazy, lazy days of summer that the song writers sing about were not much fun either.
On an afternoon in August, you stroll down the path to the bath and place yourself over the hole. Down below, the flies, the bees, and the spiders are having their annual picnic. If you have never experienced a swarm of flies buzzing around your nether extremities, you donít know what hard times are. And when you hear the whine of an angry, distraught honey bee or an occasional bumblebee running amok coming in for the kill, you soon learn the meaning of fear. Raw, unadulterated fear. This is where the men are separated from the boys. The men stay put and suffer the slings and arrows of Mother Nature while the boys run screaming from the privy with their pants still down around their knees.
So, I ask you to re-examine your premises about the good old days and hard times. Re-think your position about how "rough" submarine duty was. Thank your lucky stars that all you had to undergo was an occasional depth charge attack from a few Japanese tin cans and that you were never subjected to the agonies of the old country outhouse.