Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beach Party!

Though neither toys nor soldiers, these whimsical sailors and Marines evoke much of the delight , I find in the realm of toy soldiers.  These classic sailors and Marines of the "golden era" of the U.S. Navy represent my memories of the years I served with the U.S. Fleet as a young 3rd class petty officer on the island of Guam and aboard Destroyers.

These figures all average about six inches in height and though they have a lot of detail they're not intended to be photorealistic but rather, three-dimensional cartoons of the guys I remember serving with back in my version of "the old Navy".

Unlike todays military, three fundamental components of Navy life were: smoking bushels of cigarettes, consuming gallons of bear, and frequenting entire populations of whores.  Throw classic tattoos in the mix and you pretty much have the delights available to sailors in the old days.

This sculpture represents one of those greatest of pleasures, the mass consumption of cold beer at what were termed "Beach Parties".

Held as morale-boosters, a beach-party would be proclaimed by a division officer or a skipper in recognition of a period of hard work, a successful operation, or as a general "well-done" to the crew.  This  celebration of a cohesive crew, the beach-party, would usually occur during regular working hours and might comprise an entire afternoon of baseball, burgers, steaks, swimming, and the ubiquitous swilling of a designated number of beers per man.

Warm beer of a local or otherwise cheap pedigree would be tumbled into a GI can and several large CO2 fire extinguishers would be expended to hose down the brewskis and get them serviceably chilled.  Then the drinking could begin in earnest.  This was back in the days when alcoholism was fairly common, especially among the career sailors, and a stumble-down drunk was tolerated as long as he was sober by his trick on watch.

At a beach party, sailors who didn't drink plied a lucrative business selling their alloted four beers for whatever price the market would bear.  As a result a good time would be had by all!

A picture of hard-earned satisfaction as this first-class petty officer draws deep the sweet elixir of life.

San Miguel was a staple in the Philippines and on the Islands of Guam and Midway.

Back in the "Old Navy" every lifer had a church-key on his key ring for just such eventualities.

Sculpted by yours truly, this is the first of a few of my old shipmates...

that may appear on this blog from time to time.

Soldier (and sailor) on!



Hugh Walter said...

In the Grunts we called them 'Company Smokers' and the aim was the same, to drink so much, you forgot - for a while - why you were wearing Green every morning!

When you say 'used to be', We were amazed by how 'Dry' the US forces in Germany were, even when out for the night at the famous Clay Alee 'Starlight' club. Which also amazed us - a PX bar the size of something you'd find in Las Vagas!

Years later I read 'The Thin Gray Line' and after hearing the experiences of one of the officers who went to a Germany-based unit it all became clear!

Mike Bunkermeister Creek said...

What a great article. Nice sculpts too! I remember my time in the Army Reserve there was huge amounts of alcohol being served then as well. It also reminded me of an old Bob Hope, Phillis Diller movie about a ship full of canned beer that got sunk, and their efforts to refloat it;
"The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell"

Mike "Bunkermeister" Creek

festus said...

the bundeswehr pocket knife for non-combat soldiers
always had a bottle opener attached, http://www.militaerbestaende.de/images/product_images/popup_images/2163_0.jpg, the new one even has it separate from the saw.
on german naval pocket knifes the marlinspike lock is designed as bottle cap opener and the spike itself works on cans...

Hugh Walter said...

We found about 6 places on an SLR with which a bottle could be opened and there was a useful cap-catch under the gas parts of the GPMG for those of us who carried 'the gun'!!

ellwood said...


Awesome post on the Sailor drinking San Miguel. I shared it on a Subic Bay Philippines facebook group & it was a hit! Is it possible to purchase the Sailor drinking San Miguel?


Mannie Gentile said...

Hello Ellwood,

Thank you for the kind comments.

"Beach Party" is available for $150.00.

Thank you for your inquiry.

Mannie Gentile said...

What is the name of your facebook page?