I'll never forget the first time I heard the Navy Anthem.
Anchors aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh,
Farewell to college joys...
On a hot summer day that July, my Grandfather and I had attended an old farm sale. While there we saw them auctioning off an old wind-up victrola. Well, as luck would have it, it was about to be my lucky day!
"Grandpa, I'm going to buy that," I said.
"Son, it doesn't look like it comes with any records," he laughed, "You'll have nothing to play on it."
Well, a twelve-year-old boy can be pretty determined. So when the bidding got up to 0. 50 cents I raised my hand.
"I got a bid for 50 cents from that young man right over there, do I hear 75 cents... , the Auctioneer intoned in his usual sing-song manner.
I held my breath and waited, hoping no one else would bid on it. It was with a great sigh of relief, I finally heard the Auctioneer say, "Going once, going twice, Sold—to that young man for 50 cents!"
A little while later Grandpa and I loaded my newly acquired, but very ancient RCA Victrola into his old truck and headed down the country roads for home.
Once home I checked the Record Slots in the bottom of the old Cabinet and found one lone record, "Anchor's Aweigh." It was a big band arrangement and played in March Time.
The Second World War was raging and from time to time, the guys were coming home on leave. I could hardly wait for my Uncle Keith to come home from leave in the Navy.
The day was finally here and Uncle Keith and Aunt Jeannie drove up in their old model A. When he got out of their old model A—I was in awe. He was the first Navy guy I had ever seen in uniform.
Aunt Jeannie had laughed a few weeks earlier when I told her.
"When Uncle Keith gets home, I'm going to play my record for him. I'll bet he'll really like it 'cause he's in the Navy.
Once the greetings were over Aunt Jeannie laughed and said, "Hon, I think Josh has something he wants you to hear."
Laughing at me, the two of them, arm in arm, made their way up the stairs to my room.
I had already wound up the old Victrola and so within seconds the sounds of Anchor's Aweigh was blasting through the house.
Once it was finished, I asked eagerly,
"Uncle Keith, have you ever heard it before?"
Grinning at Aunt Jeannie, he couldn't resist putting me on.
"Well, Josh, you know... it did sound sort of familiar. I'm pretty sure I may have heard it somewhere before."
"Uncle Keith, it's the Navy Song, you know, the one they play in the Navy." I said all excited.
"I thought I'd heard it before," he laughed, winking at Aunt Jeannie.
"You know, Uncle Keith, when I get older I'm going to join the Navy just like you did." I said with all the determination a twelve-year-old boy could muster.
"Josh, you shouldn't think about that right now. Just enjoy your life, go fishing a lot, have fun."
Seven years later... 1952
"Seaman Apprentice Josh Yocum reporting for duty, Sir. " I said.
The Officer, a Lieutenant looked me over.
"Take this guy down to Second Division Compartment so he can stow his sea bag. Then introduce him to D.D. Smithton."
The Third Class Petty Officer laughed as we walked down the deck.
"You're gonna like old DD, he eats Seaman Apprentices for Breakfast.," he said, laughing at his own joke.
Then added, "DD's bark is worse than his bite—but only by a little bit." He laughed again.
I thought, this guy really enjoys amusing himself.
Within minutes after meeting DD, I realized the Petty Officer was right.
DD turned out to be a First Class Boatswain Mate that ruled with an iron fist. His was the absolute Authority. He put up with no nonsense. His word was law!
This guy scared the hell out of me—and everyone else within the sound of his voice.
About now, I'm wondering if its time to start having regrets. Spilt Milk, I finally thought, I have to make the best of it.
I buckled down and worked hard hoping to earn a little respect. DD was having none of it. Somehow, I had picked up the name Smokey and before long, everyone forgot my civilian name.
"Goddammit, Smokey, hurry up and chip that paint so you can get it painted. I got other stuff for you to do," He would yell at me from time to time.
I finally identified what DD's job was—
Which was to make the life of us Seamen as miserable as possible.
There is an old saying, "Join the Navy and see the world." No one told me within the month the only thing I would be seeing was a wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. With the Korean Conflict raging, —I decided the Navy wasn't going to be a picnic.
A few months later, I got lucky and was accepted into the Torpedo gang. I was finally out from under DD's iron fist. The few times I run into DD after that, usual on the Fantail of the ship, he seemed downright friendly.