Our (Their) Navy


There have been
an awful lot of
changes made
since I served
in the United
States Navy ,
and even more
so since World
War II.

But you know,
some things
never seem to

… and that applies
even if you’re talking
about another
country’s Navy

The French
Navy, for instance.

One of the oldest
and finest Naval
forces in the world,
the French Marine
counts a
number of ‘firsts’
among their achieve-
ments –

The first catamaran
style landing craft,
the first seaplane,
and the first seaplane
carrier, for instance.

Not to mention
the snarkiest slogan –

( all Navies have
certain expressions
that are specific to
them ) –

If a recruit calls a
deck officer
Mon Capitaine“,
he will inevitably
receive the retort :
” In the Navy there
is My God and my
ass, but no
my captain‘! ”

Before WW II,
the French artist
Charles Millot,
a veteran of the
Great War —

( and known in
the postcard world
by his alias Henri
Gervese )

— created a series
of comic postcards
called ” Our Sailors “,
lampooning the
day to day life
of enlisted men
in the French

It’s interesting
just how many
parallels a
modern American
Sailor can find
in these….

Ok, so maybe
we didn’t have
the bright red
on our hats…

But the
cards in the
series still do
a good deal
of humor about
the military
and boondoggles
as they have
and still are
being practiced ;

liberty boats,
uniform inspection,
pretentious know-
nothing O-gangers,
chow lines,
rack rotations,
marching parties,
mid (night) watches,
general quarters,
weapons training,
military protocol,
and mail calls.

These cards,
as they appear
today on the post,
are mostly in French..

of course
it’s easy to see
what’s going on
in them for any
former sons of
Neptune )

but the series
was also issued
in English, and
they were much
appreciated in Britain,
by denizens of the
Royal Navy

There were other
series by different
artists on the same
general subject as
well, and we’ll
feature those as
we find ’em.

But, somehow
these cards by
Henri Gervese
sing just the
right chord for
me, and I’m happy
to share them
with you.


!! HOY !!



Bell Bottomed Blues

” Bell bottom blues
You made me cry
I don’t want to
lose this feeling
If I could choose
a place to die
It would be in your arms “

Here’s an interesting story
from the world of the
golden age
of rock and roll….
and another involving
Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd –

It concerns the song
Bell Bottom Blues “.

Now, you might remember
from a previous episode of
the Muscleheaded Blog 

( as well as from Rolling
Stone, Creem, and some
other 1960’s publications )

that Eric Clapton has a very
strong yen for Pattie,
who was, at the time,
(1969-1970) his friend
George Harrison’s first wife.

( He had written
Layla ” for her..
among other songs. )

Pattie knew that Clapton
was due to go on an
American tour, and asked
Eric to bring her back a
couple pair of American
bell-bottomed jeans.

According to Eric:
“Pattie asked me to get her
some pairs of these jeans
we used to call Landlubbers“.

And of course,
he did.

Ok, so it’s a short story.
Sue me.


Bell bottom jeans were
all the rage in the rock
and roll scene back then —
and American bells were
the most popular.

Hell, I remember a pair
of elephant bells that I
wore to a Junior High
dance that made me as
temporarily popular as
the Beatles.

Ahem again.

Interestingly enough,
as so many cultural cools
are, bell bottom pants
began with the Navy –

they’d been around
since the 1850’s —
popular with Sailors
because they were
easily rolled up –
and they soon became
synonymous with the Navy

(The British Navy version
were much more like
bell-bottoms than the U.S.
– ours are more like
what you might call ‘flairs’. )

This identification
with the Navy
became especially evident
during World War II :

Kay Kyser had a minor hit
with the ‘Sailor in the bell
bottoms’ theme in 1945 –

So did Louis Prima with
Bell Bottom Trousers ”

And bug-eyed comedian
Jerry Colonna did a
novelty piece on
the Bob Hope tour about

As for the fashion fad,
well, that seems to
have started around
1965 as the evolution
of the beatniks
into the hippie movement
was in full swing —

Cher wore a pair of bell
bottoms in a very wide
circulated photo of her
and Sonny on their

And that year, the
Coasters released a song
called ” Bell Bottom Slacks
and A Chinese Kimono “.

In 1966, Sonny Warner
had a minor hit with :
Bell Bottom Blue Jeans ” .

Considering how big the
whole cultural phenom
was – it’s a bit surprising
that more contemporary
songs weren’t performed
about them –

most of the good ones
about bell bottoms
pre-dated the hippie days,

Teresa Brewer’s
Bell Bottom Blues
from around 1954 —

or post-dated it,

Helen Cornelius’s 1974
Bell Bottom Trousers“…

or The Beautiful South’s
Bell Bottomed Tear
(about a relationship
with a Sailor )

— but Clapton’s
love tribute song
about Pattie would
have been hard to beat
, anyway.

!! HOY !!!



Image result for postcard Navy vintageYou know,
if there’s one
topic that a Sailor
can always speak
about in a
knowledgeable way,
it’s knots.

Tying knots are ,
along with:
swabbing decks,
chipping paint,
manual of arms,
and standing a
lonely fire watch
at oh-dark-thirty
in the morning,
are about the first
things you learnImage result for lonely postcard Navy
about when
you’re adjusting to
Navy life in boot camp.

Add shining boots,
dropping quarters
on bunks,
scrubbing the head, Related image
doing push-ups
till you die,
cleaning rifles,
and just generally
looking busy are also
very important lessons –

– oh, and
of knots……..

– who could forget
the most important one-

–the maintenance of
those all essential
emotional knots via
the art of writing letters.

You might be totally
illiterate the day you
arrive at boot camp,
but by graduation,
you’ll have written so
many letters to your
sweetie and back home,Related image
you’ll be a pocket

One of the advantages
of military service
( at least when I was in )
was that you could write
a letter home on a piece
of box from a C-Ration,
put an address on it,
and it would get delivered –
– no postage required.

I’m not sure how that was
handled by the Navy  –

– all I know is I scribbled
many a line on many aRelated image
scrap of paper and the
letter always got there.

Even the steamier ones.

And boy, can a Sailor
write a steamy letter.

Naturally, it would
be a lot easier
to just go to the
Navy Store and buy a
postcard that already
cut right to the point
for you…..

but in whatever
spare time one
finds himself with
in boot camp, the
loneliness and
boredom makes
one naturally
take to pen and paper.

And that especially
applies when it
comes to that ‘special’
person —

— such things can’t be
left up to random
chance and generic
postcards, ya know.

You’d be surprised
how easily even the
toughest character
finds it to
use terms like:
and ‘devotion’
and epithets like: 
‘my dearest’,
‘darling’, and
in a letter
when he’s far
from home.

When it’s time for
mail-call —

a desire to read a
reciprocal expression
of the feelings expressed
in ones’ own letters
becomes oh, so
very important — 

— when you don’t
hear back right away
sometimes it seems like
you’re totally cut off from
your loved ones.

It can drive ya crazy.

And of course,
you always want to feel
connected to the ole

Why does that
sense of being so far
from home make for 
better letter writing ?

Perhaps because
it’s really the only way
to express certain ideas
and feelings at a particular
moment in time —

one is inspired
to make his message
run deep, and clear,
like the blue ocean —

and to tighten the
knots of sentiment,
and intimacy.

Even today, with all the
different technologies

I’m sure that
a heartfelt letter
goes further
to express the
emotions, and
the sense of
for those
far from you
in distance
but close to you
in spirit.


!!! HOY !!!