"Victory At Sea"
Charlie Taylor always had a smile on his face, even when things weren't going too good down in the Engine Room.
All the time I knew Charlie, he was Chief Engineer, coming up from the steam vessels like the P-2 class Troop ships, and the smaller diesel ships like Kane, and Gilliss. Not too much for ceremony, and certainly not a "respecter of persons"...in other words, whether Admiral or Wiper - he respected you the same.
I remember one instance where we were scheduled for a "Command Inspection" aboard the USNS Gillis. We were in Bayonne, N.J. at the end of the pier.
The word came down that the Admiral ( LANT had a Rear Admiral in those days ) was on his way over from the USNS Mizar...another MSTS ship that just arrived from sea.
I told the Chief Mate to tell Charlie to join us at the gangway to greet the Admiral.
After a few minutes, Charlie comes up on deck from the engine room in khakis. "Where's your "Blues" Charlie.' I asked.
"Aaaaaaaagh...they don't fit anymore.' he said.
We still had time, I suggested Charlie quickly slip into his blues, and just leave the jacket open ( unbuttoned ). "Okay.' he said, and ran off.
Just as the Admiral stepped onto the deck, Charlie appeared, but I hadn't noticed, being busy greeting the Admiral, and his entourage, and introducing the Chief Mate.
Then the Admiral, looking past me, and the Chief Mate, began to smile, and walking on, put out his hand to Charlie, who, with his winning smile, and upbeat demeanor, shook hands with the Admiral...introducing himself, and saying: "Hi Ad'.'
The Admiral stepped back from Charlie for a better view of him, and scanning him from head to toe, began smiling.
"Grown out it...eh Second!' said the Admiral.
"Chief, Admiral...I'm the Chief, but these are the only Blues I have...I never upgraded them from two stripes, ( Second Assistant Engineer - like Navy full Lieutenant ) and they're a little tight, so I found this big safety pin, and that does the job.' said Charlie. Like always, Charlie could "fix" anything.
I'll never forget that scene. It was a lovely sunny morning...Charlie standing there, his stomach straining at that large laundry bag safety pin, about four inches long, laughing it up with the Admiral.
Suddenly, the Admiral put his arm around Charlie's shoulder, and asked:
"Where the hell is the coffee pot Charlie?'
With Charlie leading the way, we all follow down to the Mess halls, and the coffee pot, and the story gets funnier.
Of course the Chief Steward had everything spic, and span, and everything to specs, even to hiding the "spoon in the glass". MSTS had come out with a sanitary directive that the "communal spoon" was "outlawed", and henceforth wooden stirrers were to be used.
I poured the Admiral a cup of coffee, and he helped himself to the milk ( cream ), poured that in, and then with the sugar dispenser in his hand asked:
"Where the hell is the spoon?'
"Oh, no...Admiral...you have to use those wooden sticks.' I said.
"What? Get me a damn spoon!' he demanded.
Then..."That damn Dutchman! He got me drunk!' the Admiral blurted out.
He was somewhat plastered...but no one noticed!
What had happened was, he thought, since he was new on board as COMSTSLANT, he'd get to know his Captains, and ships by boarding them out at the Pilot Station, and ride the ships into port...about a two, or more hour trip.
Oltmeyer, another jovial sort like Charlie, but Captain of the ship, broke out "the bottle" on the way in.
The sun wasn't even "over the yardarm yet", and it was "party time" already!
We must remember that this was over forty-years ago, when seamen, even Admirals were men...fun loving men. They could handle their ships, or whatever regardless, even smoking wasn't taboo in those days. Though regulations prohibited booze on the ships, they were just regulations - you framed them, and posted them nicely...some of them on the overhead ( ceiling ).
As the morning wore on, and Charlie presented his Engine Room, calling his generators, and main engines "fire cracker engines" ( high speed diesels vs slow turning large engines ), and then the Admiral "inspecting" the rest of the ship, noting how austere everything looked ( no paneling - wires everywhere ), and comparing it to Navy ships he sailed, the "glow" began to subside, and thanking us all for a grand tour, with compliments all around, he, and his entourage left.
When I look back on this now, I have to correlate that "wooden stick" thing with the "beginning of the end".
Where are you Charlie, where are you Admiral...when we need you most?