The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






Sometimes Santa Claus Wears
Bell Bottom Trousers

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

"Dear Santa, My name is Ricky, I am seven years old and I live in DQ, Iowa. Right now I am in the hospital. I was run over by a car. I only want one thing for a Christmas present. Please send my daddy home to me."

This is the pitiful little letter that Yeoman Second Class George Thompson clutched in his hand. "Read this, " Johan, my wife enclosed this in her letter to me. "What in the world am I supposed to do?" George was talking to Quartermaster First Class Johan Mason, who had just handed out the mail. "I was looking forward to spending my Christmas leave back home with my wife and kids. But Brooklyn, New York is very very far from Dubuque, Iowa! My little son, Ricky, was struck down by a hit-and-run automobile. He has required very intensive surgery, and also intensive care. My wife did not have the money to cover it. I have sent her everything in my pay account, and I have borrowed money from all of my shipmates. Now I am completely broke, I don't even have a dime. And the executive officer, who must authorize any shore leave, was very concerned. I would like to help, he stated, but cannot... you know the rules and regulations. I cannot give you any shore leave, if you do not have the money for a round trip ticket!"

George and Johan were shipmates on a special submarine, The USS Guardian. It was a very very cold December day. In fact, Johan claimed it was cold enough to freeze the horns off a billy goat! The submarine and her crew were assigned as goodwill ambassadors and trouble shooters. They were always sent wherever a particular bad international problem threatened to develop. Somehow it seems they were always away from home port on most

Cecil Owen

important holidays. So this chance to be home for Christmas delighted the weary sailors!

They had been on an extremely long cruise, when their sub docked at pier 10 Brooklyn Navy Base. The entire crew are all specialists in their different Navy fields. They are all hand-picked, from the whole navy for their qualifications and daring during emergencies. As soon as the usual welcoming ceremonies were over, the crew could secure from general quarters.

Next, what everyone was waiting for, the ever welcome bags of mail were brought onboard. Then crates of fresh fruit were given out to everyone. Fresh fruit was one of four things that the crew enjoyed the most. Mail from home, shore leave, and payday were the other three!

Onboard this submarine, the quartermaster was like a big brother to most of his shipmates. Especially since he handled their money! George looked up at Johan and complained pitifully, "how do I tell my little boy in the hospital that he will not get his Christmas wish? I cannot even buy any toys to go under the Christmas tree!"

"Don't give up the ship," George, the quartermaster replied sympathetically. "I will spread the word around, and maybe we can figure out a way to raise some money."

"Wow, Johan, you would have to be a genius to pull a stunt like that! But thanks anyway," George said sadly.

Suddenly Johan's face lit up as an idea hit him broadside. He broke into a big grin, and snapped his fingers. "Genius!" "Stunt!" "That is the way to get things done!" Johan exclaimed, as he slapped George heartily on his back.

George looked at him kind of funny. "What is wrong with you? Have you completely flipped your cork?"

"Never mind, you go and find the exec, and have him fill out your shore leave papers! Because I will have all the money you will need come morning!"

So George headed forward, his brow wrinkled in bewilderment by Johan's words. Johan headed for the coffee table in the crews compartment. Three other sailors were drinking "java" there, and heard his whole conversation with George.

One Sailor was Torpedoman Second Class Jug O'Malley, who was also a big pal of Johan Mason. "Tell us, Johan, just how do you plan to find any money that fast?"

So Johan began to explain, "here in Brooklyn there is a TV quiz show called Genius! It is a give-away quiz show where you win big prize money for being smart! Tonight we are all going to be on that show! I will need the help of our whole gang, so pass the word. Then put on your dress blues, so we can all go ashore."

Next Johan went ashore to contact the local TV station, and talk to the quiz show sponsors. He got permission to have a champion from the submarine appear on that night's program! Then he came back and worked all afternoon on a secret project. It was a small lapel pin shaped like a Christmas wreath. Across the front was a scroll that spelled "Merry Christmas!" A thin black wire dangled from the wreath, to a small pencil-type flashlight. When Johan pressed the button on the flashlight, a small bulb lit up behind the wreath. It illuminated the words Merry Christmas in a red glow!

"If we are all supposed to help our champion win big prize money, what do we do?" asked Jug impatiently.

Johan explained, "I am going to use ESP (Extra Sensory Perception) mind reading, if you want to call it that. With our entire crew in the audience, one of us is bound to know the right answer to any question. Whoever knows the answer will tell me, and then our champion will read my mind!"

Motor Machinist Mate First Class "Slug" Wingfield really exploded. "Of all the nit-wit schemes I ever heard! Nobody on board this sub can read anybody's mind. And I do not believe you have a mind for anyone to read!"

But Johan just smiled broadly, and from the lapel of his pea-coat, the red Christmas wreath flashed Merry Christmas!
"Just have faith, you deck ape, just have faith!"

Soon all sixty five perplexed submariners arrived at the TV station. The announcer called to Johan, "now is the time to produce your sailor

champion." Johan calmly pointed to Signalman Third Class Charlie Thundercloud, a Navajo Indian from Arizona.
"Be sure to watch me for the right answer," Johan whispered in his ear.

The format of the show called for each contestant to draw an envelope from a revolving drum. The envelopes contained several questions, each one harder than the previous one. Each question also had a certain amount of money value, and a lighted board totaled his winnings. Two misses and you were off the show.

Finally it was Charlie Thundercloud's turn to stand before the camera. He was so nervous that his face was bathed in perspiration, and he twisted the ends of his neckerchief! At first Charlie could not even remember the name of his own submarine, the audience just roared.

He closed his eyes and grabbed an envelope from the huge revolving drum. He handed it to the MC and looked for the section where his shipmates were sitting. Quickly Johan half raised from his chair, and clasped his hands over his head like a prizefighter. Charlie grinned real big when he located Johan in the audience.

"Now then,  Charlie Thundercloud, for $25 Tell me the name of the iron man of baseball?"

Charlie looked back at Johan, and Johan flashed Merry Christmas! then Charlie just smiled and said, "the answer is Lou Gehrig!"

The next question was really a lulu! The MC bellowed out, "for $75, what was the name of the encounter between the Stuart Kings of England back in 1066?"

Again Charlie looked back at Johan, and again he flashed back Merry Christmas! Then Charlie replied, "it was called The War of The Roses!"

Now, this sequence was repeated every time the MC asked Charlie a question! He progressed through the most difficult questions, and was still going strong when the show ended. The score board showed that Charlie Thundercloud had won an amazing $785 just for one night's work!

Back onboard the submarine, George Thompson just sat and cried (but they were tears of joy!), as Johan counted out the big bundle of money!

"I just cannot thank you and the gang enough, for what you-all have done! Johan, you are a real Santa Claus to me!"

Johan just flashed Merry Christmas! on his little Christmas wreath. Then he put his arm around George and said, "who ever heard of Santa Claus wearing bell bottom trousers?"

Just as soon as George stepped through the hatch and disappeared, a mob of gobs (angry sailors) cornered Johan and Charlie! "We demand to know how you managed to accomplish your stunt! And do not give us that mind reading baloney!"

Johan chuckled and replied, "when I told you that Charlie was the best reader onboard our sub.... I did not mean mind-reader but code-reader! Remember that the Apache Indian is a very good signal-man!"

Then Johan began blinking his little wreath rapidly before their eyes and they understood he had been using Morse code to signal Charlie!
"Well, I'll be a bow-legged kangaroo," exclaimed Jug O'Malley. "Charlie, what did he just blink in code?"

"What else," grinned Charlie the Apache Indian Signal-Man.... "but Merry Christmas Everyone!"

Adapted from Milton A. Maynard's story published in Our Navy Magazine, December 1964