The Lines We Have Crossed
Sweet Bird Of Youth
Spring  1998 Grog's Tribute posting left me with much empathy for a cyber-shipmate. We have all lost shipmates. Each loss leaves a scar in the heart.  Many on the BBS read the following when I posted it after we in upstate New York came out of the dark of ice storm-1998. Somehow it seemed to tie in with the THRESHER's loss.

Here's to our buddies, our youth, our submarines and lost shipmates.

(After the Ice Storm of '98}

During an ice storm with no electricity for a hundred miles while sitting by a warm wood stove during long winter evenings by kerosene lamplight kind of gets a person to thinking. Now you combine that with cheering phone calls from some submariners I have never met and the wheels naturally begin to turn.  [ Although the entire region was crashing to the ground under the weight of all that ice and the phone line was pulled from the house and buried under two feet of ice and snow   ---   it still worked. Amazing!  ]  Now after catching up on the posts and thinking about the Most-Coast Bash. I think of those strangers that went to Joe Most's place in Florida.  Strangers, but  not strangers  --  after all they are former Submariners  --  came from all over to meet. A wondrously odd kind of dynamics at work there.

Thomas Wolfe, a writer of the 1930s, died young but wrote prolifically in his short life. I always liked his rambling books because, as do I, he had a fascination with the flow and mystery of time and the weaving of events and people in our lives. One book I particularly like is called "Time And the River". (another is Look Homeward Angel)

Someone once said that all fiction comes from the writer's experience. So a mixture of impressions and sounds spun itself out in my mind and became something I'll pass on to you. Just some fiction. But is it?

Pour a glass of Jack D. or some Doctor Jim and recall old buddies and old times.

Sid (Reporting from the North woods)

Ice Storm of '98: A Retrospective   from North Country Public Radio
Thames River Time
by Sid Harrison ETCM(SS) USN(Ret)

The plaintive bugle sound echoes across the Thames, bouncing from the roofs of the Coast Guard Academy and the stone buildings of Connecticut College to lose itself among the bleak late winter hills. Topside watches on the river boats slowly lower their flags as duty officers and duty chiefs on their respective boats stand at attention.

Outlined against the fading late afternoon New London sky at the head of Pier 12 stands a tall figure in blues and peacoat. Collar up around ears red from the cold river wind, white hat resting forward on his forehead. His arm at salute, rigid against the shivering cold. The bugle sounds "carry-on" and the figure drops his salute and stands watching the low black submarine alongside the pier. He sees the duty chief reach into his jacket pocket pull out a pipe and light it. The chief looks around, exchanges a few words with the topside watch and duty officer. They laugh and the chief and duty officer go below pulling the after battery hatch shut with a metallic spang. The tall figure on the pier walks to the brow.


A silhouette in a stained, outsize dirty brown hooded parka, his pistol belt and forty-five looped loosely around his middle, peers around the forward edge of the sail. "Topside aye. Whaddya want?"

"I'm looking for a guy on your boat"

"Whozat?" responds the watch.

"Fitzgerald, Electrician's mate - he still on board?"

Topside stands motionless, mittened hands wrapped around a steaming cup. Face hidden in the obscurity of the parka.

The tall youth walks closer, "I met him a couple months ago in the upper base gee-dunk. I'm leaving tomorrow and thought I'd drop down and see him. He said he'd give me a tour of the boat. I know he goes home often. Newport I think. Not transferred is he? Said something about a transfer."

Topside looks over the rim of his cup. "Man don't you know? Ole Fitz went down with the Rayfin. Somewhere off Boston."


The wind is picking up now. Small whitecaps appear on the dark river's surface and twilight settles in. There are sounds on the wind of a crew laboring in the drydock. A spring loaded hatch snaps upright on a submarine. A short echo over the water and the hatch closes again. An outboard exhaust opens somewhere as a diesel starts. Smoke rolls low across the water as a second engine comes on line for a battery charge and the low throb of powerful engines carries on the river through the increasing darkness of the lower base.

The young man stands on the hill of the submarine base looking down at the dark river that flows to the sea. There's a hint of spring in the wind as he pushes his hands deep into peacoat pockets. Shivering in the cold he lights a cigarette, turns and walks away.

Shaken by the news, his mind drifts from image to image as he reflects on how he came to be in this place. Slowly it became clear this was not just a way to fill the time between high school and a civilian career. He knows nothing of the turmoil to come in the decade we call the sixties and how his life and perspective will be forever changed as he begins the crossing of those lines in life. That crossing that will set off events and mark the levels of deeper insight and understanding.

A sailor's life can often be a lonely one, to live so close and be so isolated. Loneliness can well up and cover you like a blanket, sparked by a plaintive melody on the radio, a sunset, a girl's perfume or the way a street light silhouettes objects in a rainspattered street far from home.

A strange illusion, this Navy of ours. A paradox of permanence and fleeting friendships. Always the same Navy - but the ships and the buddies came and went as we moved on. And moments that seemed at the time to stretch long and timeless into the future gave way over the years to fading memories until many of the names are gone and the dates are no longer clear.

The time and the memories all sliding quietly away.
Flowing slowly like the Thames River to the sea.

More insight into "diesel boat days"
A Mike Hemming essay   (A copy)   THE NEST    August 2002
Another Hemming essay   (A copy)     The River     August 2003
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