Mobile Canteen Truck

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

I think it was officially called the Naval Exchange Mobile Canteen Vehicle, known to the animals that inhabited Pier 22 as the 'Roach Coach', the 'Geedunk Wagon' or the 'Pogey Bait Truck'.

It sold stale candy bars, cokes, bags of peanuts, smokes, pipe tobacco, Red Man chew, pocket combs, pens that ran out of ink on page two of a love letter, hamburgers made from ground up animals nobody had ever seen and hot dogs that gave you stomach acid that could dissolve chipping hammers.

"Hey… Two burgers, a coke, an Orange Nehi, pack'a Luckies and two bags of chips."

"You want everything on them burgers?"

"Yeah, we can pick off anything we don't want… You guys Navy?"


"How'n the hell do you get a gahdam billet on a damn ice cream wagon? What do you tell your girlfriend when she asks what you do in the Navy?"

In the summer, it came rolling down the pier right after the sun went down… The topside watch would yell down the conn hatch,

"Hey below… Mobile canteen truck is on the pier."

And all over the Squadron, heads appeared in open hatchways and the faithful gathered on the pier to buy portable cholesterol boosters. Then we'd find a place to plant our butts and eat our gourmet treats.

One night, the guys handed out survey forms. One of the questions read, "Is there anything we don't presently carry in our line of available merchandise that you could use?"

Everyone wrote rubbers, Slim Jims, beer and skin books.