The Slush Fund

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Slush funds are illegal. They are forbidden by regulation and frowned upon by all the wise people who never got caught a thousand miles from any source of cash... Dead broke in weird places where folks talk funny and don't give away beer, barbequed monkey strips and physical affection for free.

There are no established reputable banking institutions doing business in the North Atlantic. No ATM machines... No floating drive-in windows... And no plastic credit cards issued by Father Neptune and his mermaid tellers. No sir... When you're broke, you're flat out of everything but gold dental work. This malady was exclusive to enlisted elements - never saw officers running around trying to scare up enough to float a couple buckets of suds.

Our disbursing office was on the tender, USS Orion (AS-18). In the late '50s, early '60s, the Orion went to sea about as often as Mother Teresa went to the Kentucky Derby. We got paid from Orion... Our pay records rested in some secret hole on 'Mother Onion,' watched over by a group of lead-assed, shore duty shoemaker's elves who were never around when you were far from home, dead sober, hungry, and wanting to lay alongside something wearing a skirt.

So, the Great Sea Daddy of us all looked down from the sky and said,

"This is not good."

So, He bestowed upon his subsurface enlisted elements, the idea for the creation of a kind of Saltwater Savings and Loan... He said,

"When you are paid, select one among you to pass, among his fellow shipmates with a beat-up cigar box, and taketh from each a Fin... An Old Abe... A Fiver... five bucks. Do not telleth the FDIC, bank regulators or the wardroom. This reserve will provide comfort in times when you are far from the loafers who are camping on the Orion, shuffling your pay records, and you wish to imbibe in distilled spirits, commingle with exotic females, or get back into a poker game in the maneuvering room."

"Money can be obtained at the rate of 'Get five - return six', 'Get ten - return twelve'" It was simple. You could explain it to a trained ape (and many times we had to).

It was further understood that at times, red-blooded American bluejackets found themselves in circumstances requiring the payment of bail, fines, bribes, or compensatory damages. The Saltwater Savings and Loan was prepared to meet such needs once validated by a quasi-board of directors resembling the 'Hole-in-the-Wall' gang.

The price for stupid behavior was an allotment against down line earnings known in the colorful parlance of forces afloat as "Pulling a Dead Horse."

Your author once had the need to seek such assistance.

In high school, they teach you a whole lot of junk you never use... And leave out a lot of stuff that would really come in handy. For example, I took two years of high school French... Two years with a nice looking redhead, with a high-powered, attention-diverting bust line. In those two years, I never learned the French words for "fuel hose" or "Which one of you little frog sonuvabitches stole our heaving lines?"

In history, nobody said that following our separation from England, the British said, "We'll show those idiotic Americans... We'll drive backwards... Switch sides of the road... Someday we'll get some idiot from east Tennessee off a submarine tied up in Bermuda. This moron will rent a motor bike after wrapping himself around three rum & cokes. Then this idiot will think since he has recently qualified, he has the world by the short curlies and shoves off in the 'hell bent' mode.

Shortly thereafter, this simpleton will meet a lorry (Brit-speak for 'truck') and they will be on a steady bearing rate... Sharing the same side of the road, closing in rapid fashion.

To avoid a collision, Mr. 'Ain't I Smart' alters course and detours through what turns out to be a flowerbed of rare botanical treasures and a lawn dance at the Princess Hotel. To avoid ladies in expensive dresses, men in formal jackets, and a group of clowns playing musical instruments, he leans on his motorbike, that falls over and stays with him for a forty foot slide through plush three inch high grass.

While Mr. E-3 is standing there trying to figure out if a grass stain that starts at your ankle and ends at your shoulder would be noticed by the SPs, a little car arrives... One of those cars that you see at the circus, where the doors open and thirty clowns get out.

These little guys looked like they had escaped from the top of a seven-year-old's birthday cake... White knee socks... Shorts... And silly looking white helmets with a brass flagpole spike bolted to the top.

They hopped up on me and beat me silly with little league bats. I must've forgot the "You are America's Naval ambassadors" speech the exec gave us. Unfortunately, I said something that, had I taken the time to think about it, would have been anatomically impossible for Queen Elizabeth to do to herself... More little league bats.

Well, the Saltwater Savings and Loan saved me after I mortgaged my soul. It had to be the finest insurance policy an after battery rat ever had.

Every now and then, we declared ourselves a dividend from the surplus that built up in the cigar box, and invested it in a ship's party or beer ball game. No bank I ever stuffed my money in since has thrown me a drunken bash. It was a bank where bread cast upon the water came back ten fold in security and good times.

They don't have slush funds on nuke boats... Don't need 'em... Each man has a financial advisor located next to the Chase-Manhattan compartment. As I understand it, all the rolls of head paper come with preprinted alternating auto and home loan forms.

So kiddies, THAT is a slush fund. Underwater finance in days long ago when wild men went to sea in soon-to-be junkyard iron. Always remember though, slush funds were the best illegal things that sailors ever created.