The all-time scroungiest of all tee shirts belonged to Terry P. TM3 of the after torpedo room of Carp. And they say snipes wear rotten clothes. This thing left Norfolk for the Med. cruise in sad shape. About 3 days out, Terry decided that he would wear this shirt at sea for the entire cruise. But don't think this shirt started out clean, it had a torpedo loading and a couple of duty nights under its frayed collar before #1 line was cast off. So this Fruit of the Loom had a patina to start with. What it became was beyond the mere thoughts of mortal man, the human mind cannot conceive of this level of filth.
It was a standard T-shirt. What it became was first grayer and grayer, then by some magic, shifted toward brown. Becoming about the same shade of brown as a paper grocery sack. The color, grease streaks and all, was not its most outstanding feature, nor even its smell. Terry had a habit of rubbing his stomach with a circular motion. This caused the shirt to wear out in the form of holes. Holes that slowly became larger, until its front became an obscene tattered smelly lace. Imagine if you can, crochet caused by rot and wear.
The shirt became noticed forward of the after room about 3 weeks into the cruise. Its whole countenance of filth, smell and ragged edges caused its owner to be banned from the mess hall by the COB. The COB, an engineman, had the misfortune to sit next to it during a noon meal, after sniffing twice, he took a closer look. Declaring it 'shirt non- grata' for the rest of the cruise, actually he said,
"Change that gahdam shirt!"
Terry didn't change it and so was effectively banished to the ATR while wearing it. For the rest of the trip he never ventured forward again at sea, over 3 months, his relief bringing coffee and sandwiches for sustenance. The 'Animal' showered and shaved and went on the beach with the rest of us. Going ashore as spiffed up as a smoke boat bubblehead gets on a Med. cruise. True to form, he went too far on our first liberty in Rota Spain. Off base was off limits there at that time, so the 'Animal' and 'Asseyes' get drunk in the EM Club. Later they catch a cab, which somehow gets them off base. Of course they get caught getting back on after Cinderella liberty is up, and are written up. So at captain's mast, Terry wears the shirt under his dress jumper, being at sea. He and 'Asseyes' are given restriction after babbling some story of being shanghaied off base by Russian spies, hidden in a pumpkin. The Old Man didn't believe a word of it, and would have been disappointed by anything even verging on the truth. As they were leaving the wardroom the Captain was heard to remark,
" What's that gahdam smell, do we need to snorkel already?"
The fact that he put this shirt back on for maneuvering watch caused him to leapfrog the rest of us in the BO department by almost a week. A clean Terry, fresh from a shower became a sort of instant reek of Russian army sweaty jock strap. At the ¾ point of the cruise he was told to stand his watches between the tubes, curses and shoes were thrown at him... None of which fazed him in the least, mostly because he knew we were secretly proud of him, and hoping it would actually survive the trip.
It's existence changed lives up forward as well. A certain faithfully married chief, known to the ATR denizens as 'Chief Wacker', stopped his weekly visits to our head. Stomping forward again, Playboy rolled under his arm saying,
"It stinks back here!"
Followed by calls of,
"You wanna borrow some French perfume next week Chief?"
It was his last visit for 3 weeks.
Our return home through The Straits of Gibraltar were punctuated by radio messages in 14 different languages that freely translated into,
"What's that gahdam smell?"
It was about this time that a photograph was taken of the shirt and its disgusting owner, I wish I knew what happened to it, but alas, 30 years later it's long gone, I guess. Its survival wasn't in too much danger from being ripped from his body to be fired out the GDU, nobody was quite brave enough to bring themselves to actually touch it. Decay, rot and oxidation just short of spontaneous combustion were its major enemies.
One day heading home a few days out of Norfolk (which is a story in itself) I went back to rack out and saw a strange looking thing on the deck. It looked like a cross between a scab and a spider. After I pointed to it, an EM said,
"It's the armpit out of Animal's shirt. We are waiting to see if it can walk by itself."
The TM1 had placed money on it's being able to eat its way through the deck plates. Not wanting to see such a thing I went forward until my next watch.
Animal's Shirt of Many Holes did make it back to the states, the last evidence I saw of it was a yellowish fog over the ATR hatch. And the words from every quarterdeck at D&S Piers,
"What's that gahdam smell?"