The Spud Locker

(Photo supplied courtesy of USS Missouri Museum website)

Seaman Bradley joined the Navy to see the world. He had remembered that was what people in his town told him to do after High School. You won’t have to go to Vietnam…they said. You won’t be sleeping in the mud…they said. You won’t be pumping gas for the rest of your life…they said. You won’t be washing dishes for the rest of your life…they said. He’s thinking, “boy what a bunch of crap that was”. Here he is aboard his first ship and he’s washing dishes, scrubbing pots and pans, slopping garbage, and all of the other unpleasant tasks that he had done back at the diner in his home town. Of course that job only lasted a couple of months, thank God.  He finally got up the nerve to ask the owner at the local Conoco Philipps Service Station if he could work there part time during the summers until he graduated from High School. To his surprise the owner hired him right away. Seaman Bradley’s Mother had passed away when he was still in his sophomore hear of  High School, so it was just he and Dad living together during those final years of high school.

As his day dreams continue and the sweat is dripping off of his face his reverie is broken by the Mess Deck Master at Arms. “Hey, Seaman Bradley I don’t hear that dishwasher working and playing the music that comes from all of those metal trays” comes a voice booming at him from outside the scullery. Bradley notices that the stainless steel trays are stacking up and need to be fed into the dishwasher. He’s thinking, “damn I hate this shit, I still have over two months of this crap to contend with”. He resolves himself to ask if he can be moved to a different part of the Mess Cook detail. After the evening meal is finished and Seaman Bradley has finished cleaning up the scullery he approaches the door to the First Class Petty Officer’s Lounge, knocks and asks if he can talk to BM1 Swafford, his Leading Petty Officer in First Division. Swafford looks up from his card game, “whaddya need kid” says BM1.

Seaman Bradley asks BM1 Swafford if he will talk to the Mess Deck Master-at-arms and try to get him switched to a different detail on the mess decks. Swafford thinks about this and asks Bradley why he wants to change jobs. Bradley continues, “well Boats, I did this crap when I was in High School…I didn’t join the Navy to be a dishwasher. I know that we all have to take our turn at mess cooking for ninety days but maybe there is something else I could do on the Mess decks. The fucking scullery really sucks”. Swafford tells the kid he will get back to him tomorrow. BM1 sits back down after drawing another cup of coffee from the coffee urn. He’s thinking, “Bradley is a good seaman, caught on to splicing line quickly and appears to handle himself pretty well on deck. He hasn’t done anything really stupid yet. I’ll see what I can do for the lad”.

Seaman Bradley reports to the mess decks for duty in the morning ready for the damned scullery detail again. Just like every morning the Mess Deck Master-at-arms lines all of the mess cooks up for morning inspection…after the inspection he pulls Bradley aside. Seaman Bradley is thinking…”oh shit, now what did I do”. Petty Officer Second Class Adams who has the duty as Mess deck Master-at-arms says to Bradley that the guy in the Spud Locker has become ill and can no longer perform those duties so due to unknown forces Seaman Bradley has been selected to replace him in the spud locker.  Bradley smiles at hearing this bit of good news…”no more pots and pans to scrub”, he is thinking. “But shit now I get to peel potatoes all damn day”. With further reflection on this change of detail he realizes this might not be so bad. Little does he realize he will have the space all to himself, he will learn how to prepare salads and other odds and ends. The Spud Locker is also known as the Vegetable Preparation room.

Bradley enters the space and is greeted by this huge guy, arms as big around as telephone poles, a neck as big as a tree stump, and a chest the size of a fifty-five gallon drum. “So, your the newbie for the Spud Locker” exclaims the bigger than life guy filling the entire doorway of the space. The big guy continues, “ I hear you don’t like washin’ pots and pans and scrubbin’ slop…don’t blame you at all.” He reaches out and grabs Bradley’s hand and shakes it. He introduces himself as Boogaloo Brown. Brown was given the name Boogaloo by the head Stew Burner on the ship because he was always doing funky dances behind the serving line during meal hours…what a character! Bradley takes note that the big guy is wearing a Second Class crow and with further conversation learns that the larger than life character blocking the doorway is a Second class cook, or CS2. “Come here lad let me introduce you to your new favorite friend” says Boogaloo Brown. SN Bradley gazes over at what reminds him of his mother’s old ringer washer minus the ringer on the top, that was kept in the basement of the house back home. CS2 takes the round top off of the tub and tells Bradley to look inside. Seaman Bradley looks at the inside of this contraption and is thinking, “looks like it’s coated with non-skid paint to me, what the hell is it doin’ in the galley”? smelly ass Brown says what the seaman is thinking…”no it ain’t non-skid paint, the surface is what will peel your potatoes for you…twenty pounds at once lad”. CS2 explains to the seaman that when he came in the Navy during the Korean War he had had to peel potatoes by hand. You’ll fall in love with this contraption sailor. You’ll get on the beach that much faster CS2 continues. “Now just how in the hell is that going to happen” inquires seaman Bradley. Boogaloo Brown explains to him, ” you’ll be gettin’ up outta the rack earlier than most, but once you’ve made the salads for the day and peeled the spuds, cleaned up your space, hell it’ll be liberty call for you…earlier than most of the guys”. CS2 fails to mention to seaman Bradley about the sanitary inspections and the asshole of a supply officer who conducts them. As the day progresses CS2 Brown explains more about the job and the Spud Locker. Seaman Bradley learns about recipe cards and all sorts of culinary arts that he had never dreamed of. He counted over twenty recipe cards for salads alone. Each card had a recipe for two or three salads written down on the card. Seaman Bradley was mumbling to  himself. He was reading the cards, “carrot and celery salad, cardinal salad, Cole slaw, chicken salad, cucumber and onion salad, fruit salad, orange, grapefruit and banana salad…shit I didn’t know the world had that many different kinds of salads”. He’s thinking…hell back home Ma fixed up collard greens, turnips maybe, spinach, and he’s remembering the bean patch and the cucumber patch also. This was sure a lot different than back home, that’s for sure.

The silver lining in this cloud was this, he was out of the damn smelly ass, hot, and steamin’ dirty ass scullery. It seems that silver lining didn’t last as long as Seaman Bradley was hoping. He rousted himself up at 0330 to report to the galley and the night baker. The night baker new that Bradley was the new Spud Locker guy and told him to get crackin’. SN Bradley had been briefed the day before by Boogaloo Brown what to do his first day on duty in the spud locker. So, he commenced the job. He turned on the water spigot to the automatic spud peeling machine, dumped in twenty pounds of potatoes and watched the machine work its’ magic. Sure enough, spuds were peeled in a flash…” wow, this machine does a fantastic job” he exclaims to no one in particular. He’s a bit shy about making his first tray of salad but finds that following the recipe card makes it pretty easy. He puts the salads in the chill box and delivers the peeled spuds to the main galley area to the cooks who are now on duty. Boogaloo Brown greets him saying “good morning Seaman Bradley, when you’re finished with all of the salad preparations for the day, you can start cleaning up your space”. Boogaloo has a sly look on his face and knows what the first inspection will bring to Bradley.

Around 1300 or so Bradley has cleaned his space and figures he is ready for inspection. He asks the Mess-deck Master-at-arms if he can be inspected now. He is anticipating going on liberty early…this is what he remembers CS2 Brown telling him anyway. Bradley is thinking this’ll be a piece of cake! “I’ll be right back with the Supply Officer who will be doing the inspecting” says the Mess-deck Master-at-arms. About fifteen minutes later the Assistant Supply officer shows up in the space. Bradley wasn’t sure who to expect so he stood at attention close to his new favorite machine, the automatic potato peeling gizmo…he was at attention and rendered a sharp hand salute to this Officer. The Officer, actually not much older than Seaman Bradley, returns the salute. The Seaman exclaims, “ready for inspection Sir”. The Assistant Suppo, Ensign Reynolds, pulls out his pen and clipboard, gazes around the space and steps toward SN Bradley and the “spud peeler”. The Asst. Suppo asks if the Automatic Potato Peeler is ready for inspection. “Why yes Sir, absolutely”, exclaims Bradley. Ensign Reynolds turns on his flashlight and points it into the machine…”what is all of this garbage doing in your Potato peeler SN Bradley”, says the Ensign. It is now SN Bradley’s turn to look inside…sure enough there are numerous potato skin particles trapped on the rough surface of the potato peeler tub. He’s mumbling under his breath, “I guess early liberty ain’t gonna happen”. By the time SN Bradley figures out the best and easiest way of cleaning his new found friend, the automatic spud peeler, liberty call has been sounded on the 1MC and his buddies are already on liberty. He’s thinking…”man, I sure did want to see that new Clint Eastwood movie, (The good, The Bad, and the Ugly). Well maybe tomorrow. Now that I know how to clean this new contraption I inherited, I’ll be gettin’ off the ship early in the future”.

Seaman Bradley learned how to make eye appealing and nutritious salads and he had the cleanest “automatic spud peeler” in the fleet. His mess cooking tour is just about up and he is so damn glad for that. As he departs the ‘Spud Locker” for the last time…Boogaloo Brown greets him and congratulates him on a job well done while in the Spud Locker. SN Bradley shakes Browns’ hand and says thanks for all of the help and training. Boogaloo looks at him with a quizzical look on his face saying “what kind of training Lad”. The seaman looks at Brown and says, “you taught me how to work on my own and how to be self-sufficient. And best of all how to clean properly”. Bradley motions over at the automatic spud peeler…”take care of my best friend” he says to Boogaloo Brown.

The next morning at quarters BM1 Swafford notices SN Bradley and welcomes him back to the Division. BM1 says, “I heard you enjoyed the Spud Locker seaman Bradley…I suppose you want to strike for stew burner now”. Hell no replies Bradley…”you told me that I would learn how to operate the winches when I finished mess cooking, so here I am. I hope that I’ll be able to strike for Boatswain’s Mate…if you’ll let me”. The Division LPO pauses, smiles, and says…”we’ll see Bradley, we’ll see”. Quarters is over and BM1 Swafford seems very pleased at hearing one of his deck seaman say he wants to strike for Boatswain’s Mate. Swafford is thinking…”good to hear the kid wants to strike for BM, turned out to be the right move putting Bradley in the spud locker”.

%d bloggers like this: