Aug 25, 2012

Now hear this!

Beautiful rain -- enough to make a difference and enough to set me to small indoor chores. One of them was to replace batteries and clean up my work horse USN battle lantern, a mate to the one on the right.

It has become a semi-collectible, but mine is a user, most often employed for spotting New Dog Libby when she wanders a little too far on her midnight pee excursions. 

The left three are WW2 models, gross and complicated things designed by BuShips  in accord with its old motto: "Damn it, put in some more parts!"  These oldies had oddball batteries,  and maybe bulbs,  available only through the federal bureaucracy. They had a cable and mechanical relay system to switch them on when ship's power failed. Surprisingly, they sometimes worked, though if you needed to carry one around you had to perform a little dance of disconnecting the power cable and twisting it out of its bracket.

The models like mine came along after I'd retired my sea boots,  in the 60s. They're built of brutish plastic and use off-the-shelf lantern batteries (two 6-volters) and sealed-beam bulbs. Battery life is extraordinary. This replacement was the first one in years of intermittent use.

Excuse me. I'm getting a somewhat gushy here over a freekin' flashlight. That's probably because I just did a small Wikiwander on Navy battle lanterns and found that good men have all but dedicated their lives to the subject.

The entire project -- a should-read for retrogeeks -- is here.  Click the arrow for the slide show. 

Then maybe you'll want to go see the big picture -- where the refurbished lanterns go --  on damndest ship restoration project you ever saw. 

USS Slater was a DE, destroyer escort, newer than Queeg's Caine but still a toy boat on a real ocean.  And for one man's perspective on going to sea in one, consider:

My Gearing class destroyer hung around with cruisers and aircraft carriers, big ships. The crews would fraternize in Oriental dives on WestPac deployment. We always took the usual shots at one another's  ship assignments, bullshit stuff but good for easing tensions.

As, Them to Us: "How to you wind up the rubber band on your bath tub toy?" And Us to Them: "You clowns really get sea pay for living on that building?" Etc. Just very young men releasing testosterone at a low, banal, and friendly level. 

But, then, often enough, the SunTory (not bad, about like Jim Beam) would give us the comradely maudlins. Big ship guys would salute tin-can riders. They would, they avowed, desert to the Commies rather than face the risk of destroyer life.

Now that I've told you all about that, one point remains: My tiny little destroyer weighed about 2200 tons. The USS Slater, DE,  displaced about 1200 tons. And she sailed the same damned ocean though the same damned weather.

And that is why you see me facing Albany with a snappy salute to the guys restoring her -- and to the probably long-gone counterpart of yours truly who sailed her a generation earlier. Sir, by the numbers, you're about twice the man I am.


Gee, that's a lot to excrete from putting new batteries in a flash light. But, as I said, it's raining. Nothing good on the electric teevee, either.


Stephen said...

I too have one of the yellow flash lights. Damned if I could find it a moments notice. Thanks for the memories.

Stephen said...

Excuse me...'at' a moments notice.

Jim said...

If I had another I'd be looking for it. I'm a big fan of the LED revolution because of stingy battery drain. But nothing I know of replaces the long reach of a good old sealed beam. Happy hunting. :)