I couldn’t help but chuckle as I followed the saga of “petroleum products” in the Shaw and Logan Circle areas of DC over the past few days. Those of you who have lived on a Navy ship (especially carriers) know exactly what I mean. Who among us hasn’t turned on the shower and basked in the smell of JP5 (Jet fuel used by Navy aircraft……basically expensive kerosene)? Heck, there was always a hint of kerosene in the water. This is the principal reason that internal parasites are not a problem for Sailors……the hint of kerosene eliminates them. (When I was a young lad growing up in the backwoods of Alabama, the standard remedy for worms was a teaspoon of kerosene. Check out the link) I’m sure there are a variety of other benefits, but I’m too lazy to look them up. Back to the JP5 laced water. We didn’t complain because we were glad to have water. By the way, for you youngsters, there was no such thing as bottled water back then. In the days before the all nuclear carrier fleet, ships were all to frequently put on “water hours” to conserve fresh water. Priority of water usage was First to the boilers, second to food, third to washing airplanes and finally to the crew for showers. The way in which ships made fresh water back then was by distilling fresh water from seawater using the “Flash Evaporators.” Even graduate engineering students had a hard time figuring out how those things worked ( and frequently they didn’t….hence “water hours”). In fact, Chief Engineers would mortgage their souls for an individual who knew how to make the damned things work…They were usually some salty petty officer who had done nothing all his life but coddle and coax fresh water out of the mysterious machines. These guys were the original “Scottie”, capable of performing all sorts of miracles with baling wire and silly putty . We were always told that JP5 was in the water because during flight operations the carrier tended to stay in the same general area seeking the wind, and consequently we would crisscross the wake and suck up all the flotsam, jetsam, sewage, dumped fuel and who knows what else. It was also rumored that salt peter was put in the water (I’ll let you figure out why).
Other related issues also come to mind…Navy Showers. Because water was scarce, one was required to take a Navy shower. Here’s how to take a Navy Shower:
- Find shower with hot water
- Alternatively find shower with any water
- Dampen body with greasy water
- Soap up all your parts
- If water still available, rinse. Otherwise search for shower with water (preferably hot)
- Wipe soapy residue from body with towel
The alternative to a Navy shower was a “Hollywood” shower…..In order to luxuriate in a Hollywood shower, one had to do some prior planning and smuggle a regular shower head onboard. Showers normally had a handheld jobber with a button one pressed to unleash a fine water mist. These didn’t work too well because often there wasn’t enough water pressure to make the blasted things work. Anyway, in order to enjoy a true Hollywood shower, one would remove the standard issue shower head and replace with the regular shower head, and assuming there was water, you could splash away…..At least until the Master at Arms (also know as the XO spies) caught you. On one ship I was on, if the Master at Arms caught you taking a Hollywood shower, you had to carry around a rubber duck until you caught someone else taking a Hollywood….which you could then transfer to the most recent offender. I not too sure that the Navy still polices the showers, so this is probably not a problem now….In fact with unlimited amounts of nuclear power, reverse osmosis water plants and the like, I’m guessing water isn’t that much of a problem any more….
Enough of that. Maybe on another slow news day I’ll write about more quirks of my past Navy life.
Anyway, here’s wishing you all the happiest of Holiday Seasons and a prosperous New Year.