Busy Life Led By Sampson Recruits
Daily Schedule of Their Duties from Time of Arrival at Big Training Station to Be Described by One of Them. In Series of Articles
The first Day’s Experiences
By Frederick W. Box
“Stay in Line and march inside”
Those were the first of many orders we received upon arrival at the Sampson (N.Y.) Naval Training Station receiving center on a cold February afternoon. The comparatively new station, is located on Lake Seneca, one of the Finger Lakes in Central New York, about 12 miles south of Geneva.
Several hundred recruits from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey followed their first order that day and formed lines against a wall on the main deck (first floor) of the large building. A number of petty officers and seamen were in charge of the detail.
A chief petty officer bawled out our names and assigned each man a number. With that number in ink on our wrist, we lost our civilian identity. In a short time we had changed from civilians to “bluejackets”, at least in appearance.
Most of the men had traveled long distances and had been without food since breakfast. So the receiving routine was momentarily halted while the recruits were given their first Navy meal. It consisted of ham loaf sandwiches, with no butter on the bread, a cup of hot coffee and an apple.
Fifteen minutes later we started filling out clothing, express and dental examination “chits,” the Navy term for slips. Then the yeoman’s section filled out our medical examination forms.
A seaman guide took our medical and clothing forms and ordered us “topside” (second floor).
After we had climbed the “ladder” (stairs) to the top deck, the men with singing or instrumental experience were interviewed by two chaplains. Later we learned that men with choral experience were assigned to a “choir company,” the second to be established on the station.
Examinations and Inspections
After the dental examination the men disrobed preparatory to moving through the line of medical experts. Clothes were packed in boxes for shipment home, and only watches, rings, toilet articles, pocketbooks and money belts were retained. These few items were placed in a pillow cover and carried during the physical examination.
A station system is used for the physical. Specialists examine the eyes, ears, throat, chest, heart, legs and arms, and every other part of the body. The doubtful cases received an ink question mark or cross mark on their chest and are given a re-examination before being finally accepted for Naval duty. Few if any men “flunked” that day.
Every man will remember the first day in the Navy, for many reasons. One is the typhoid and tetanus injections, the cowpox inoculations and the blood test. Several of the less hearty, who let their imaginations run away with them, keeled over after receiving their “shots.” For the most part, however, the men took it in stride
Full effect of the shots were to come later in the day, we were to learn.
Assigned to Company
After finally being accepted physically, each man was handed a slip bearing the number of his company. Seventeen men, including myself, were assigned to the “choir” company. Next we went below (downstairs) to the clothing issue department. The storekeepers tossed us $113.95 worth of clothing (gear to Navy men) after a speedy measuring. The issue was thrown into a mattress cover and included “undress blues”, dungarees and complete accessories, winter and summer underwear, a “pea” jacket (a mackinaw type coat), gloves, wool blankets, pillow and mattress covers, swimming trunks and a ditty bag. Every need is provided with the exception of a razor, shaving soap or cream and needles.
Our outward appearance turned military after donning the blues. After being photographed, we were loaded into a truck with our gear and taken to a newly opened unit “C” and assigned to barracks. Before our Chief Petty Officer, Frederick Godfrey, a former Oklahoma music instructor, let us rest. We were sent off to another barracks to get our mattresses.
Enjoy First Mess
Upon return we fell into formation, for the first time, and marched to the largest mess hall any of us had ever seen. The building has facilities to feed 5,000 men in one hour.
As we arrived at evening mess we were greeted by calls such as “Barber bait” and “Where are you fellows from?” Every recruit rides the new comers until they get their first Navy hair cut and each man hopes to find someone from home.
Our first Navy meal impressed most of the fellows. Nothing fancy but plenty of good wholesome food. It usually includes, soup meat, potatoes or rice, one other vegetable, a green salad, plenty of bread with butter or jam, beverage and desert. We strolled back to the barracks after chow.
There Chief Godfrey, (Mr. to his men) gave instructions to the men on the method of making their bunks and stowing their gear in the lockers. Only 34 men were in our company that night, the other 17 men having arrived the previous day.
The one-day old recruits were “old timers” to us and we listened attentively as they told us the rights and wrongs on how to make the bunks, wear our uniforms, and generally how to act. Most of the newcomers hit the “sack” early although “ lights out” did not come until 9:30 p. m. (2130 Navy time). We were all exhausted. Our arms were beginning to ache from the injections and the inoculations.
With our arms somewhat sore from the “shots” the men had difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position. Those who slept 4 or 5 hours were lucky and it was restful sleep at best. Several of the men, most of whom are from the age of 17 up to 20, were away from home for the first time, and those on the upper bunks were having an added new experience.
After what seemed an eternity, the dormitory guard shouted “hit the deck” which meant it was 5:30 a. m. and time to climb out of the sack, beginning our second day in the Navy.