<Nineteenth Birthday In A PBY>

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Nineteenth Birthday In A PBY
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Let me tell you how I spent my nineteenth birthday.

A hurricane was headed for the coast of Florida, and possibly to Jacksonville, Florida. I was working as a Flight Mechanic Instructor in a PBY(Catalina Flying Boat Squadron). The Naval Command fearful of wrecked planes and injured personnel decided to order a flyaway to Corpus Christi, Texas, as a safety measure. The planes were heavily loaded with extra personnel, and the heavy beaching gear,a large dual wheeled apparatus that could be attached to the seaplane to enable it to be pulled up on a parking ramp.

The planes were also loaded with food provisions, consisting of several five pound loafs of pasteurized cheese, several six pound cans of spiced luncheon meat, some cartons of milk, and loaves of bread and mayonaise, and mustard.
The flight to Corpus Christi was long and boreing (At 105 knots airspeed). We landed without incident, and I personally attached the mooring pendant to a buoy, having learned a hard lesson previously that new crewmen didn't always know how to attach a mooring pendant to a buoy. (I spent a night anchored to a buoy with nothing but a frayed hemp line because I failed to check on the student who I assigned the job.)
I signaled for a crewboat and went ashore, and promptly ran into a good friend a Naval Aviator with whom I had gone to flight training, He had survived the mass cutback of pilots,got his wings and commission, and had been assigned to Corpus Christi. He invited me into officers quarters for a chat. He was very unhappy with the base.The humidity in Corpus Christi was so bad that they kept light bulbs turned on all the time in their clother closets. Forget about the bulb burning out and in a few days you would have a heavy green mold covering your shoes, and any other leather in  the closet. Mildew was rampant.
He invited me to spend the night in officers quarters since his roommate was out on a mission and wouldnt be using the extra bed. I passed the offer up and went back to the PBY.
To add info to help clarify the following yarn it is helpful to know that flight crews in who flew over the ocean carried switch blade knives to help cut themselves out of parachute shrouds, should they be forced to jump over water. My switch blade which I purchased at the Naval Ships Store, hung from my belt by a bale. Like many country boys I kept it very very sharp, and occasionally shaved with it just to blow the minds of some of my citified fellow sailors.
I came aboard the PBY just in time to encounter the crew getting into the food rations that the Ships Stores had issued us. One of the planes pilots was in the crews quarters holding a 5 pound load of processed cheese. He said "Hey Mech, loan me your knife". I reluctantly handed him my knife, andt turned to the food supplies to get myself something to eat. Suddenly I heard a "skrunk skrunk" of tortured metal. That idiot was cutting the end of a 6 pound can of spiced luncheon meat with my knife that I had spent weeks sharpening.
Seething with controlled rage, I reached for the tin of luncheon meat and said, "Here Sir, let me show you an easier way to open the can. See here on the end is soldered a winding key. You snap the winding key off the end of the can, pull thin tab up on the side of the can and wind off the strip of scored metal at the end of the can."  "Then the spiced luncheon meat will slide right out."  --- "Oh", he says, and hands me my knife  back, and of course it has a nick in the middle of the blade I had spent weeks getting to razor sharpness.  
Unknown Lieutenant, if you are still alive you have had bonus years since September 15, 1945.
The Storyteller
PBY Catalina - Great Planes Documentary [GO!]

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