Sid's N T I N S Locker
The Yellow Brick Road to civilization, adventure and pride in service.
by Dex Armstrong
They'd knock off ships work at 1200 on Fridays and if your boat was in drydock over in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, you'd toss three sets of clean skivvies, razor, can of Gillette Foamy, toothbrush, can of Colgates tooth powder, Ace comb, bottle of Lucky Tiger (the official squadron hair tonic as opposed to Vitalis and Brillcreme "a little dab'll do ya."), a jar of Peter Pan and spoon, five packs of sea stores Pall Malls and a Fabian or Nightstand skin book, into your rattyass AWOL bag.
You'd jump into a fresh set of whites or blues depending on SecNav's calendar of the Uniform of the Day and haul boogie out to Route 460 with the twelve million other bluejackets thumbing for rides North.
If you had a crutch for a theatrical prop, it gave you an advantage - like having a special fishing lure. The theory being,"Mr and Mrs Concerned Citizen" would see you standing there leaning helplessly on your crutch and Mrs Citizen would turn to her husband and say,"Oh Bill we can't pass that cute little fellow up - he's wounded." Then all you had to do was struggle to reach the stopped car with an exaggerated limp and foot drag.
Adrian Stuke invented this stunt and it quickly grew in popularity. Before long every boat qualified SubRon Six animal had one. The shoulder of 460 started looking like an orthopedic rehab convention.
460 North was the route taken by Greyhound and Trailways busses and they had this Rest Stop where folks could stretch their legs for 45 minutes, pee, get a meal and buy magazines, Dentine gum, Camels and Luckies, Life Savers, Kleenex, tampons, Chap-Stick and knock a few holes in a punchboard.
You could also get a halfway decent meal - meat, potatoes and a choice of vegetable - cooked by an old over-the-hill bastard who'd been a gut bandit on a Coast Guard buoy tender. The old unsalvageable bastard owned an apron that looked like a slaughterhouse wipedown rag and he came with the vocabulary to match.
The Rest Stop also had one of those coin operated human being scales where for a penny you could find out what your specific lard load was and get a little cardboard ticket with God's personalized message concerning your future: "You will meet a lovely girl." -- "There is money in your future" -- and "The straight and narrow is a good road to take on the journey of life." The back of the card read Toledo Novelty Company. God obviously lived in Toledo which made perfectly good sense to an E-3, who knew he had a whole bunch of years before he had to worry about getting right with his maker and with the way things were working out at present, may just decide to live forever.
Greyhound busses that hauled cargoes of enlisted animals had no on-board restrooms and they only emptied the ashtrays once a month and the seats looked like they must have transported diaperless baby chimpanzees between weekend runs to Philly and New York.
Hitchhiking was a lot more fun.
In a four year enlistment a hitchhiking blue jacket got to know the entire route. There was a place called Wrights Bar-B-Q at Zuni Virginia. All the waitresses were old enough to be your Mother, the employment requirements must have included white hair and combined bust displacement of a light cruiser. If you took the combined bra cup load of those lovely sweethearts, it would have outweighed an Egyptian pyramid. When we went overseas we'd pick up ooh-la-la type postage stamp size lingerie for Alice and Etta - two old twinkly- eyed darlings that probably damn near gave heart attacks to the bib overall wearing rascals they were married to, after each Saturday night bath.
Wrights Bar-B-Q had some of the best I've ever run into. They had two kinds of house made barbeque sauces MILD and HOT. Mild was a great sauce. Hot was a kind of vinegar based napalm - it was good for minor welding jobs and destroying your vocal cords, eating the lining out of your stomach and requiring Midas to replace the last three feet of your colon. If you stuck a couple of Wrights barbeque samidges in your peacoat pockets you were good to up past Baltimore.
There was also a roadside stand that sold fresh roasted peanuts, Virginia hams, pralines, peanut brittle and sorghum syrup - and they let hitchhiking sailors use their bathroom. You could make a five pound bag of fresh roasted goobers last about three hours,,,peanut brittle about twenty minutes.
I took 460 a year ago.
Wrights has become Alberts Auto Body Repair and there's only one old rusty Wrights Bar-B-Q sign with the faded images of the three little dancing pigs, nailed thirty feet up an old oak tree. No telling what happened to our old geriatric sex goddesses. They're probably sitting in some farmer co-op nursing home shuffling MediCare cards and reading the Victoria Secrets catalog. You met a lot of good people along 460 and collected a lot of warm memories. I have a feeling that the best way to see America is on foot. Sensitivity to the land and her people increases the closer your hip pockets are to the ground.
Any man who hasn't eaten cold Beenie-Weenies off the back of a Barlow knife blade and washed em down with a cold NeHi, with his ass parked on a steel guard rail - any man who hasn't slept on a Greyhound bus station bench - played paper-rock-sissors with a five year old at a diner counter - given away his white hat to a giggly little girl - or taken a 2AM whiz behind a WELCOME TO-----TOWN Kiwanis sign - or slept on a piece of corrugated cardboard in a cornfield, missed one of the great United States Navy alternative travel options available to non-rated bluejackiets in the late 1950's. And in winter, there were times when Cold War Warriors damn near froze their bo-diddlys off - nobody had to tell us it was a Cold War.
Route 460, The Yellow Brick Road to civilization, adventure and pride in service.
It all came with Dolphins and $120 a month plus Sub and Sea pay.
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