Norfolk Late Night Radio

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Anyone out there ever stand topside watch in Norfolk and listen to late night Norfolk Radio? I know you weren't supposed to do it, but everybody did. You were supposed to be informed...Weather and ball scores fell under some kind of informational category. Besides, in it's raw form, topside watch and mushroom farming have to rank side by side as man's most boring activity.

Every boat had one... Some idiot at the absolute lower end of the submarine social structure who would be given a white pistol belt and a side arm and be sent forth to see that in the dead of night, the Tooth Fairy didn't hijack your boat.

When you got tired of inspecting mooring lines, welcoming drunks and inventorying the pier 22 rat collection, you listened to Norfolk Late Night Radio. There was always some silly bastard out on Military Highway trying to sell you a used car for no down payment and thirty five cents a week for life... It was always a creampuff owned by some nun being transferred to Tibet.

Then there were naval tailors. "Old Bill" was the biggest marketeer on the late night airwaves. Old Bill was immediately prepared to put you in a set of doeskin blues for $29.95 and if acted within 24 hours, Old Bill would toss in free alterations, rate patch and hashmarks. What Old Bill failed to tell you, but past experience had taught you , was that anyone operating a sewing machine at "Old Bill" smiled a lot and couldn't speak one gahdam word of anything remotely resembling the English language. All the people who did alterations at Norfolk's naval tailors came from remote third world countries where the indigenous male population had highly miniaturized crotch fixtures... And that in the post purchase phase of ownership of $29.95 dress blues you would spend a great deal of time attempting to relocate your testicles. This made a four to six hundred mile trip on a Greyhound bus an adventure not to be forgotten. It also added fun and excitement to a trip to the head after you were half in the bag.

The Jolly Roger Bar and Grill wanted you to drop in and meet your shipmates for good food and good times. it was a good time if you rode DDs or DEs... If you rode the boats, it was a good place to go for broken teeth and a date with the shore patrol.

Little Italy... A touch of Italy on Hampton Boulevard. If you were an E-3 drawing sub and foreign duty pay. Little Italy was a wonderful place to go if your folks owned a major railroad or you had just successfully robbed the Tidewater Savings and Loan and wanted to celebrate eating spaghetti and drinking a little vino. The table decorations included Chianti bottles with candles and ashtrays that read "Little Italy - Fine Italian Food."

When I mustered out and cleared the receiving-station at N.O.B., I said to myself,

"Horsefly, stay the hell out of Bells.. you'll get hammered and blow your dough"

Maturity was attempting to enter my life. I went to Little italy. When they handed me the menu, I thought they were trying to sell me the place... You could buy a boxcar load of Franco Ameriacan Spaghetti for the price of lunch.

Between hawking stuff to the sleeping fleet, Norfolk Radio dedicated songs...

"To Pete my handsome machinist third and all his buddies on the U.S.S. Tinkerbell from your Agnes."

"To my little Marine. love you forever... Trixy."

"For Bubbles, from you-know-who"

"To all the boys in Liberty section Two, USS Doo-Dah, meet you at Cindy's Place... From Red Hot Mamma."

And there were songs in the night. Patti Page, Julie London, The Big Bopper, Theresa Brewer, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, and Benny Goodman.

I couldn't have survived four hours of do nothing boredom every other night without my old friend Mr. Radio...

"Hey Sailors, this is Old Bill unloading Seafarer nut huggin' blues... Come on down today and I'll have Mr. "you looking good' Wong Ho make you look sharp for that special girl... And have that sweet thing wondering why you are constantly trying to find a way to keep Mr. Willie from being worn out with tailor made crotch friction."

They promised us the world and gave us Dinah Shore and Jo Stafford. It never got any better than that if it didn't rain.