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Original posting 19 January 2008 on Don Gentry's BBS
More like this at THE AFTER BATTERY RAT
More from
Route 460
The Yellow Brick Road to civilization, adventure and pride in service.
by Dex Armstrong
dex armstrong Posted 2008-01-21 4:26 PM


 I do remember the Jolly Roger.

Great cheeseburgers and two- bits for a standard draft beer. Chicago Charlie, Bob Daly, Big Dick Donaldson and Snorkel Valve plus yours truly, ALWAYS picked up two cases of Rolling Rock at the Jolly Roger before hitting the Hampton Roads Bridge/Tunnel.

Thanks for all the great memories contained in your post. I deeply appreciate the time and effort you put into it.

Those memories have never been captured or found their way into print, but they constitute what was our history.

Sad, but nobody seemed to care about recording what we did, the life we lived and the contribution we made.

Thanks for caring,

Proud to have served with you.


MAD DOG Posted 2008-01-21 9:38 PM


Thanks for chronicling some of the famous (or is it infamous) road trips of '60's non rated boat sailors.

My CRS and total lack of Wordsmanship forbid me from relating most of my memorable adventures all of which occurred before the "fleet nannys" regulated us out of the business,

In those days, the majority of red blooded. God fearing, patriotic American motorists held , not so much pity, but a genuine admiration and respect for the young sailor with the out- stretched thumb and for the rain soaked, slept in, skin tight, zipper in the side, dolphin adorned set of gabardines he was wearing.

On my many trips, at first by thumb and later (when I became rich enough to purchase an old "road hazard Ford"), I experienced the love and kindness of the American citizenship in a whole bunch of ways. Not only would they go out of their way to make sure you got to your destination ,but they usually made sure you were fed, had a beer and, at times took care of "other needs".

I recall one Friday night in Wheeling, WV. the old Ford blew a water pump as I was cruising through town. It was 10:00PM and fortunately it broke down in front of a bar (go figure). As I was relating my tale of woe to the bartender, the guy next to me was dialing the phone.

Turns out he called "Ole Bubba", the owner of the neighborhood auto parts store. Bubba showed up, opened the store, found my pump and installed it for me. Didn't charge me a dime and even paid my bar tab before sending me on my way.


Thanks Bubba, wherever you are!

dex armstrong Posted 2008-01-27 9:30 AM

We usually got FINEX sometime Friday.

The Old Man would pass the word and the old girl would start making turns for the barn....The beasts in the Forward and After engine houses would throw a few extra logs on the fire and the off watch animals would get the COB to open the showers (by that time all the potatoes stored in the After Battery showers, would have been consumed and the effects of the consumption residual pumped to sea.).

The animals leaving the showers after drowning their fleas, would break out foo-foo juice, douse themselves in amounts intended to extinguish body odor that was diesel boat specific and that large numbers of America's civilian population associated with sewage plant operators. Submarine sailors of the period used industrial strength foo-foo...and before long the entire After Battery and Crews Mess, smelled like the inside of a lingerie drawer at Madam FiFi's House of Carnal Delight in New Orleans. Before long Sonarmen were dancing with IC Electricians and guys were breaking out custom tailored Seafarers with satin lined jumpers.

When they passed the word "PASSING CHESAPEAKE LIGHTSHIP" (Currently in Baltimore succumbing to the seductive machinations of the Goddess of Progressive Oxidation), it was like Mother left the front porch light on for you. You collected in the Crews Mess and wondered just where in the hell all the clean white hats came from.

Your shipmates were engaged in the discussion of very weighty subjects like dried up cans of KIWI shoe polish, who was in first place in the National League, What happened to Hudson automobiles, what the hell happened to Gogi Grant and what day they served fried clams at Howard Johnsons.

Word would filter down from the Bridge via returning coffee haulers..."Were passing the Cavalier Hotel...Thimble Shoals Light....Silver Tank....Fort Monroe and the degaussing range....Old Point Comfort...Passing Fort Wool....Carrier Piers in sight."


After you nudged your way into your assigned nesting assignment, put your lines over, got your Guard Mail runner off and running and the Exec got on the 1MC and told you all about the personal benefits to extended life prospects of staying out of automobile collisions, purchasing expensive stuff when loaded and sex with girls with large lip blisters someone, usually the incoming Below Decks Watch passed the word." Liberty now commencing for Sections One and Three...Section Two has the watch." The Liberty Sections simply evaporated into the night with and without AWOL bags. Chiefs simply tucked a full ZIPPO and toothbrush in a pocket.

Dick Hall, who later went down on THRESHER rode another SubRon Six boat but I can't remember which one had a Triumph TR-2.  (We went to Wakefield High School together, left blood on the same football fields together and tasted the lipstick of many of the same lovely girls .}

In a TR-2 you could travel at NASA speeds with your butt four or five inches above highway asphalt. At eighteen this is of absolutely no consequence or concern. At eighteen death is an unknown concept that you know is reserved for old coots way down the road. Death by stationary object like being wrapped around a bridge support I- beam, large oak tree or courthouse lawn granite monument never occurs in the E-3 mind - which is more attuned to location of glove compartment stored church keys, finding locations to return kidney processed brewed products to the earth from which they came and finding attractive females with loose panty elastic and no curfew.

So one night we pulled in, and when they put down LIBERTY Dick Hall met me at the pier side brow. "Hey Armstrong, wantta share gas and beer expense back and forth to Arlington?"

"Does a hobby horse have a hickory dick?"

So we tossed our AWOL bags into Dick's TR-2, kissed the Marines on the DesSub Piers goodbye...stopped at Bell's and picked up a case of cold Rock' n Roll.  Rolling Rock Beer, made in LaTrobe Pennsylvania - where Arnold Palmer comes from...actually rumor has it that it is actually Arnold's diabetes specimen ...either that, or comes out of Arnold's pony.

Picking up beer to consume while driving was a poorly thought out concept indulged in by a significant percentage of non-rated East Coast bluejackets. Picking up "roadies" was a popular practice. You could get an ice cold case of Rock N Roll at BELL's for an exorbitant amount of moolah...and spend the rest of the night drinking and whizzing in strange locations and pass 200 miles quite agreeably.

There was a radio station WCKY Cincinnati 1 Oh-hi-OHH --- "The station musta hadda antennur tha size uv the goddam Eiful Towur" (direct quote from John T. O'Neil) and you could get WCKY in places where you couldn't pick up VOICE OF AMERICA, RADIO FREE EUROPE or Dick Clark and AMERICAN BANDSTAND, and you could pick them up on the moon.

WCKY was shitkickers dream: Mother Maybelle Carter, Ferlin Huskie, Hank Williams, Buck Somethin'er nuther and more gittarz, banjers, fiddles and harmonicas than you could tolerate in a bloody lifetrime. And they had the damnedest advertising, "Yessir Folks that'z GOOD BOOK...Spelled G-O-O-D...Good, B-O-O-K book...Good Book...You git both the Old and New Testaments in one combined volume...with pitchurs, explanatory text and all the words actually spoke by Our Savior is printed in red. It is bound in genuine imitation leather and comes to you with a bonus if you act today...Yer choice of a hundred baby chicks or twenty pounds of Burpee marigold seeds...Remember thatz G-O-O-D,...B-O- O-K box 29, Cincinnati 1, Ohio....act are limited,

Listened to WCKYon the road because about midnight on Route 17 North it was all you could get. It was educational. One night we learned all we would ever know about horse laxative.

Well sir, It had been a long maneuvering watch and we had wrapped ourselves around several bottles of Arnold Pee and were busting down a stretch of Route 17 between Glouster and Tappahannock when Mister Sandman decided to pay us a visit - both at the same time. We awoke to the sound of some kind of Devil inspired drummer beating out some kind of loud obnoxious tune. In reality, two members of SubRon Six had left the designated highway and were trailblazing a course through some poor bastards corn field with stalks of corn falling with ears of green corn whomping on the hood.

The Goddess of the Main Induction had seen to it that (A) there was no fence and (B) there was no ditch....just a sign that read DEKALB 43 that was cut off at five inches above grade, on our way out.

If we had had the brains God installed in a tree frog we would have found the nearest church and gotten on our knees in thanks. But that kind of wisdom comes with maturity and we were miles away from arriving at that destination.


Tom McNulty Posted 2008-01-27 10:05 AM

Thanks for the great story.

It was also played out in similar fashion on Rt13, AKA Suicide Highway.

I can't remember what year they did away with the middle passing lane. By the way Buck something might be Buck Owens and his Buckaroos. I used to rent a place across the street from the old Va Beach Convention center. I could sit on the balcony and listen to whoever had gig there. Buck Owens was real popular and it was a good show.

dex armstrong Posted 2008-01-27 11:47 AM


Where was Route 13 ?

Back in the late 50's, early 60's the only routes I recall were Route 460...Route 301...Route 17....and old US-1.

They didn't open up Interstate 95 until the mid 60's. I-95 ended at Ashland Virginia and you had to go Old US-1 into D.C.

Route 95 back then was called Shirley Highway and ended at Woodbridge. Never heard of Route 13.  Could it have been Route 301?

I got to know 301 like the freckle pattern on the Bell's barmaids backs. I wouldn't know Buck Owens if he hopped out of a tree on me. But that goes for damn near all of the country music legends but Tennessee Ernie Ford, Johnny Cash, Burl Ives, Hank "Crawfish Pie- Hey Goodlookin" Williams, and a couple of others. I've always been a big band and 40's vocalist fan...slow romantic stuff, with understandable lyrics that don't involve unfaithful wimmin, being drunk and brokenhearted in a rundown hotel room, runover dogs, chickens or out of work rodeo performers, pissed off wimmin or driving trucks. Nothing against folks that enjoy that sort of thing - more power to them. However folks that support rap music, repetitive phrase boogaloo mumbo-jumbo music need to be rounded up and put on a reservation.

Everybody on REQUIN was into what was then called Western Style Music.  By the time I got off Johnny Horton had sunk the Bismark 27 million times...fought the Battle of New Orleans 22 million times...gone North to Alaska 15 million times and the surface of the record produced damn near unrecognizable sounds faintly reminiscent of the earlier versions. Johnny Cash warned us NOT TO TAKE OUR GUNS TO TOWN several thousand times and the COB came aft and literally destroyed Herb Alperts LONELY BULL --- the COB was into Patti Page and Doris Day.

Every sonuvabitch in Hogan's Alley hoped some fool bought that doggie in the window and that Guy Mitchell got whatever he needed at that Philadelphia corner hock shop.

Funny how song titles bring it all back.

Thanks Tom.


Ralph Luther (Summerville, SC) Posted 2008-01-27 12:17 PM

If I may...

Highway 13 runs up North of Norfolk thru E. Maryland and Delaware. Goes thru places like Salisbury, MD, Dover, De to Wilmington, DE

PaulR Posted 2008-01-27 1:04 PM

Correct, that was the route the NY/NJ bound caravans traveled.


When you got to Salisbury you had traveled 100 miles from the ferry. We were doing good if we made it 100 miles in 100 minutes.

How we ever survived without killing someone I'll never know.

steamboat Posted 2008-01-27 1:09 PM

That's right on, Ralph.

Ya had to take the Little Creek to Kiptopeake ferry for Rt 13 on up thru MD and Del.. Had to time your return time to coincide with the last ferry Sunday evening in order to make it back to the boat for Monday morning quarters.

I learned that the hard way.

Steamboat sends

Ralph Luther Posted 2008-01-27 2:02 PM

The Cheas. Bay Bridge Tunnel is great these days, but, if the wind is up and your driving an 18/22 wheeler you tend to pucker up on the seat with a 30" vacuum.

PaulR Posted 2008-01-27 2:24 PM

Never got to go across that thing while I was stationed in that area back in 61 & 63, as it was under construction.

Finally about 4 years ago, came back from a FL visit that way.  I must say it was nice.  Pretty cool.

BTW did you know that the old ferry vessels are now used up in the Lewes Beach to Cape May service?

whalen Posted 2008-01-27 2:48 PM

Rolling Rock?  Arnold Palmer's urine sample?

Would this guy pee in your beer?

YN3 Arnold Palmer

YN3 Arnold Palmer USCG

OK, he was a Coastie...  Bring on the water hazard jokes...........

dex armstrong Posted 2008-01-27


Never considered the Eastern Shore.

You got me big time on that.

When I was punching holes in the North Atlantic the Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel wasn't completed (The bastards dynamited at night...any poor bastard racking below the waterline got the full acoustic effects of the high explosives detonated.

I never heard a real depth charge, but as a single, live aboard non- rated After Battery Rat, I got treated to the full symphonic concerto of each series of nightly detonations. Bridge/Tunnel blasting provided one of the many reasons non-rated men shacked up with Hampton Boulevard barmaids.

The only way to get to the Eastern Shore was to take the Kipptopeake Ferry...the cost of which to an E-3 was the modern day equivalent of a week on the Norwegian Cruise Lines. I now know why I never heard of Route 13....It didn't go anywhere near where I was heading and I didn't have any shipmates who robbed banks in their spare time to bankroll ferry trips.

For me taking Route 13 would have been....something like taking the Hong Kong express to get to Tulsa Oklahoma.....just never took it.



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