More Sea Stories with Carl Snow

Carl’s biography: A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Carl Snow graduated from the University of Maryland and had a long career in the United States Navy. Carl started out as a Radarman (RD) and advanced to first-class petty officer. He was involved in “ECM” as the Navy called it then, when a new rating was created, Electronic Warfare Technician (EW) and Carl was folded into that, advancing to chief petty officer. Then he applied for a commission as a Warrant Officer and was selected, becoming an Operations Technical Officer. After retirement as a CWO4, he worked as Assistant Editor for The Hook magazine and then as Production Editor for the Topgun Journal at the Navy Fighter Weapons School. When Topgun moved to Fallon, Nevada, Carl remained in San Diego, working as a Technical Writer, researching and writing manufacturing process documents for hi-tech electronics manufacturers.

Carl retired for good in March 2011 and volunteers in the Midway Museum Research Library in San Diego, California.

On Getting Face-time in Thailand

Ah, Pattaya Beach, the first port call coming out of the I.O (Indian Ocean). I don’t think that I am in the picture; my days of “scouting local talent” were far behind me by then. About the only thing I ever got in Pattaya Beach were a pair of ornamental brass dolphins (somewhere in one of the sheds by now) that I had to carry back to the ship by boat. They weighed about 30 pounds when I bought them and I swore they were 200 pounds by the time I got them back to the ship. I went a couple of times for the freshest sea food in the world at a restaurant called Dolph Rijk’s. The fish were unloaded on the beach and carried across the road to the restaurant. Delicious and you could watch the boxing matches across the street while you ate. Once in a while the admiral would host a battle-group party for all the ship’s officers at the Holiday Inn hotel up the beach. These were mandatory, “face-time” events; you’d go and make sure your department head saw you, and maybe do something obnoxious so he’d remember that you were there. Two drinks and about twenty minutes of mingling usually satisfied the face time requirement. An engineering junior officer brought a local girl to one of admiral Brown’s parties. She was dressed in a frilly lace top and long native Thai wrap-around skirt. He twirled her on the dance floor and her skirt unraveled, leaving no doubt that she had no underwear on. They hastily exited the hotel and the general consensus was that it was an intentional, though raunchy, attempt at face time.

On Man Overboard Dummy

The helicopter squadrons (both) ready room was in the area where the F-8 Crusader “mini-museum” is now. The first time we had a man overboard drill after I became ATO (Air Transfer Officer) we had an argument when the helo crew dumped the water-soaked Oscar dummy in the ATO shack. I soon found out that, being a “passenger” in the helo, he belonged to us until we got him back to the forecastle and turned him over to the Boatswain’s Mates. After that, when there was a man overboard drill one of my airmen always met the helo and hustled the dummy down to the forecastle. Live and learn.

On Where do Oscars (Man Overboard Dummy) come from

We could probably find a photo of Oscar in one of the cruise books and send it to the “cushion lady” in the Air Wing Department. They were all home-made by the Boatswain’s Mates, usually by cutting up old kapok life jackets. We may be able to get an active-duty ship to donate one in exchange for attribution in the exhibit.

On Helo Rotor-over

I remember the Wessex coming over. He brought the British admiral to see our admiral and they tied it down on spot three. The pilot was a warrant officer and, since their passenger was staying for lunch it fell to me to entertain him until time to man up for departure. One of the chiefs from HC-1 (Helicopter Combat Support Squadron-1) took the crewman under his wing and I took the pilot down to the dirty shirt locker for lunch. He was taken with the “auto dog.”

Afterward I took him around the ship to see some of the spaces he was interested in. He asked if we’d ever seen a “rotor-over,” which turned out to be the helicopter equivalent of a wing-over in an airplane. He asked if we’d like to see him do one upon take off. I called the Boss on the Mouse when we were manning up and requested permission for the helo to do a rotor-over. He said it was okay, just don’t hit anything. I called for the admiral at the flag mess and escorted him to the helo. The Boss alerted the flight deck crew to watch the helo for some aerobatics.

As soon as he was clear of the deck, he accelerated and made a couple of passes up the starboard side and then after the second pass, he climbed and “rolled” the helicopter then dove aft and crossed the fantail and took off for the admiral’s flagship. I always assumed that the British admiral knew about the maneuver and was okay with it. We were all impressed.

On Will Rogers

Speaking of Will Rogers, I’m reminded of his comment, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” When I was on Enterprise (CVN-65), our CIC Officer, a certain commander Wheeler, apparently not well regarded, was transferring from the ship. Some of the officers in CIC wore tee-shirts that read, “CDR Wheeler never met Will Rogers!”

Interview with Carl Snow, Scuttlebutt Editor for the USS Midway (CV-41) Museum Library

Q: Carl, how long have you been editor of the Scuttlebutt? And what enticed you to take over the job?

Carl Snow, Scuttlebutt Editor.png

In the Midway Museum Research Library there is a Pass Down the Line (PDL) log where the Library Lead enters items to bring them to the attention of other Library Leads; these could be “lessons learned,” reminders to perform certain tasks, or just funny or unusual things that happen. Not everyone in the Library has access to the PDL and so our Lead Librarian Bonnie Brown started compiling selected items for distribution to the “general population” of over 30 Library Volunteers. She referred to these documents as “updates.”

Bonnie had been doing her series of updates for about two-and-a-half years every two weeks or so. She got busy with other duties as the Library grew and asked if I would mind taking over publishing these notes. We decided to “dress up” the update notes and asked all Library Volunteers to submit names for the newsletter. Several people suggested The Scuttlebutt and so we chose that as the name. I did my first issue of The Scuttlebutt 7 September 2017 and called it Volume 2, Number 12.

Q:  What‘s a scuttlebutt?

In the days of wooden sailing ships, potable water for the crew’s use was carried in large wooden vats. To make it readily available, drinking water was transferred to a small communal cask, or “butt,” centrally located in the ship’s quarters. This cask had a hole, referred to as a “scuttle,” with a hinged lid enabling a person to get a drink with a dipper. The “scuttlebutt” was a natural gathering place where news and pleasantries were passed among the crew. Eventually, the information itself became referred to as scuttlebutt.

Scuttlebutt Masthead

Q:  How often is the Scuttlebutt published and how long does it take you to prepare each issue?

We publish every other Thursday, twice in a month. It takes, all together, maybe 12 to 14 hours in the two-week period. In months that have five Thursdays, we publish only two issues and take the extra time off.

On the Sunday before publication I start to lay out the material and decide on “lead” articles, features, etc., which takes about three to five hours. Then on the next day I execute a “hard” deadline and start to refine the content, again maybe three to five hours. Monday night before I go to bed I route it as a PDF document to the “proofer’s guild,” or “editorial board” consisting of the Senior Library Leads. They get back to me on Tuesday and I include their “nits.”

I let it rest on Wednesday and do a “final” pass maybe a half-hour before I go to bed and then send it out so that our readers have it in their in-boxes first thing Thursday.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for each issue?

I pick up items and photos as I come across them. I always keep an eye out for things that might “fit” and collect tidbits as I go. Folks in the Library are constantly feeding me ideas and tips. I keep a folder called “hip pocket file” that all this stuff goes into. When I need something to write about, I dip into that.

Q: Who writes the features?

I usually scan the e-mails and PDL, taking material from them and then polishing it into complete sentences. Sometimes I can combine two or more items into a wider story. Martha Lepore does the “people” features and is a constant font of ideas.

Q:  Do you have a standard layout you use?

I copy the previous issue’s Word document to use as a template for laying out the new issue, going through to update the folio, masthead, and title banner. I save that into a new folder. When I’ve completed the draft of the new issue, I save it as a PDF document to route to the proofer’s guild.

Q: Does anyone help you with the Scuttlebutt?

First and foremost, assistant editor Martha Lepore is tireless in pursuit of material for The Scuttlebutt. She almost single-handedly does the “profiles” or feature stories of people aboard the Midway Museum.

 

Carl Snow, editor and Martha Lepore, Asst. Editor.png
Carl Snow and Martha Lepore, Scuttlebutt co-editors.

 

I send a draft in PDF form to the editorial board for editing and proofing. On Tuesday night Martha and I do a marathon telephone walk-through, addressing all the changes/corrections and essentially a page-by-page comb-through taking about an hour or two.

 

Scuttlebutt Editorial Staff-Ed Wong, John Bing, Carl Snow, Martha Lepore, Hal Simmons, Don Senda, Bonnie Brown ,misisng Phil Eakin
Scuttlebutt Editorial Staff:  l-r  Ed Wong, John Bing, Carl Snow, Martha Lepore, Hal Simons, Don Senda, Bonnie Brown (missing Phil Eakin)

 

The real secret is having a cadre of interested, intelligent, willing, and very knowledgeable people to do most of the heavy lifting. It’s a team effort with 30-some Volunteers chipping in. We have four or five Volunteers who contribute regularly from different parts of the country; two on the East Coast! All I have to do is put it together….

Q:  What else do you do as a Library volunteer?

I’m the Library Lead on Saturday afternoons, supervising three to five librarians. We usually field four to five “guests” in the Library to look up former crew members, interacting with them as to what their relatives might have done aboard the ship. This sometimes gets emotional, particularly if we can find a photo of the crew member during a cruise aboard USS Midway.

We’re also working up a book on the aircraft exhibited aboard the Midway Museum. This will detail the airplane’s Navy service, its path from the Navy to the Museum, and what the Museum had to do to make the aircraft presentable as an exhibit.

Q: What was your background before you became a volunteer?

I spent thirty years in the US Navy and, after retirement, about ten years on various magazine staffs and another ten years as a technical writer for high-tech manufacturing, research, and development.

Q:  I understand you previously served on the Midway. When did you serve and what was your job? Did that have any bearing on your desire to become a volunteer here?

After I was commissioned as a Warrant Officer, I was detailed to USS Midway in 1981 as the Assistant Electronic Warfare Officer with a collateral duty as Air Transfer Officer. As ATO, my duties required me to work on the flight deck during flight operations, probably the most exciting job I had in the Navy (rivaled only by combat with the Mobile Riverine Force in Vietnam during the late sixties). After I retired from technical writing some old shipmates from my Navy days were volunteering as docents and persuaded me to spend some spare time aboard. I was drawn to the Library and started volunteering in 2011.

Q: How do you define the word shipmate?

A shipmate is anyone who serves in a ship with you. A ship’s crew is divided into workgroups referred to as divisions, people who work in the same spaces (in olden days, divisions were referred to as “messes” or people who ate and slept in the same space. More efficient “cafeteria style” dining in communal mess decks took away the messes, but not the camaraderie). The “pecking order” is messmates before shipmates, and shipmates before anyone else.

Our audience:

As mentioned, we write to the 35 Midway Museum Library Volunteers. Our readership has spread to the Museum staff of about 150 people; the 400 Docent Volunteers; and the 200 Safety Volunteers. In addition, we post The Scuttlebutt to the Museum’s Intranet for who knows how many readers there, though that includes all the above-mentioned folk. I suspect that there is a wider “shadow” audience as staff and volunteers share with friends and family.

Bravo Zulu, Carl.  Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed.

Best Naval Aviation Library Afloat.PNG