These stories have been a magic carpet ride. They have put me in touch with shipmates I had lost touch with for many years and that is a gift beyond price.
I found him, William Ehney. He was a tall slender fellow from Summerville, South Carolina... Emphasis on the "tall". He was two inches taller than your average telephone pole and smiled all the time. His height destroyed the myth that you had to be pigmy or dwarf to ride the boats. Being just under twenty feet tall naturally got you a nickname like 'Teeny Weenie' to rhyme with Ehney... Pronounced "eeenie".
If you look under 'clean-cut American lad' in Websters dictionary it just reads... William Ehney. When every other blue jacket wearing Dolphins was out knocking the bark off of trees... Cohabiting with women who made Monica Lewinski look like a rank amature and pouring down liquids on par with paint thinner, William R. Ehney was out visiting museums and doing the kind of things intelligent intellectually mature people do.
If you were to ask Bill who Thelma was... He would say,
While the rest of the idiots in Subron Six were out doing their best to destroy themselves, he was out buying film for his camera or doing the kind of things properly raised lads were expected to do.
He rode The USS Cubera (SS-347). He was a Quartermaster... A good one. There have only been two, worth a damn, Quartermasters... Simon Peter and Bill Ehney.
I met him in Sub School, class 182, Diving Section 121. He was smart... I wasn't. I spent a lot of time on the grommet squad... He didn't. I, along with a boatload of fellow idiots, spent hours memorizing stuff I didn't fully understand to pass tests I never fully understood. Ehney understood everything. He was our 'go to' man. If it didn't make sense and you were heading up the creek without the well known, paddle, Ehney would serve as your last resort.
Ehney had never been a class clown... Never wound up in detention hall in high school for getting caught in civics class reading Mad magazine... Passing notes... Snapping girls bra straps or making imitation farting sounds. In short, Bill Ehney was the son all parents wanted. How he ended up in the diesel boat service only God and the United States Navy fully understood.
He only tap-danced on one rule that I know of.
In 1959, Sub School students were allowed 'no outside' reading material... No skin books... No newspapers... No Playboy magazines... Nothing but letters from home.
The band of gorillas that ran the basic enlisted course up at New London's Snorkelvalve University for the Mentally Deficient, screened the mail for things like forbidden home town newspapers.
Ehney came from a town so small they only had a four page newspaper that was so small it could be folded and mailed in a legal envelope. No national news... No ball scores, no stockmarket tips and listings... Just the county fair pie-baking winners... The names of the sick to pray for... What apples were selling for at the Piggly Wiggly and who was visiting their aunt Sarah in Tweedleburg.
And most important, the great scandal saga of 1959... Some rotten lowlife sonuvabitch stole the 'Garden of the Month' sign from some lady's front lawn... A local highly-prized symbol valued dearly in a town where folks grew lovely flowers and the debate over flouridation of the water brought out lynch mobs in aprons, swinging rolling pins. In Ehney's home town there were only two evils... World communist domination and water fluridation.
In the middle of this controversy some evil hombre stole 'The Garden of the Month' sign... Making the Lindberg kidnapping small potatoes in comparison.
For ten weeks, everyone in barracks 141 waited for the weekly status of the stolen sign investigation. Andy and Barney's big case. Ehney would read us the latest, after taps... The case of the missing sign was our only link to the real world... That along with the price of lima beans and the front line reports on the flouridation war, was the only news we got.
We never knew if they ever caught the wicked rascal or multiple rascals. We had all kinds of theories. Some thought they would find it in some old gal's closet who got rejected for membership in the garden club... Some figured it was nailed up on the wall of some fraternity house. I personally subscribed to the theory that space aliens from the planet Mongo came to buy a bunch of bargain cucumbers at the 'Pick and Pay' and took the sign as a travel souvenir.
It has always remained an unsolved mystery... One of those open-ended memories we all have. If you know where it is, please call the Summerville, South Carolina law enforcement folks. The rapscallion has been on their most wanted list for 41 years.
Willian R. Ehney... They don't come any finer.