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Jack’s Mid-Missouri Memories, “Burger in the Morning,” A Navy Story

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I spent my active time in the Navy aboard US Navy Destroyers in the ’50s and ’60s, those small ships they called the greyhounds of the sea because they didn’t spend a lot of time in port.  It could be very boring during those long stretches at sea, so the officers and crew would make up their own entertainment in the form of variety shows, known as “smokers” on ships.  These smokers were often used as a forum for the enlisted men to voice grievances or pet peeves on the way the ship was being run. The story below is about one such a time.

Burger in the Morning

I served aboard The U.S.S. Hawkins during the ’50s, a radar picket destroyer.  For the most part it was great, but some experiences I recall are a lot more enjoyable now then when they were happening, like the one I call “Burger in the Morning.”

A few months before our yearly deployment to the Mediterranean Sea, the Hawkins was assigned a new Supply Officer fresh out of Officers Candidate School, and a real go-getter. It was apparent from the start that advice from the more experienced enlisted men that worked under him was not wanted or heeded as he set about to make his mark and prove his worth as a no nonsense Naval Officer.

Now, if you were to ask a “seasoned supply officer” what was the most important lesson experience had taught him, he would say it was that old axiom “Use it, or lose it,” especially where supplies were concerned.  Our new Supply Officer apparently having never heard this axiom, began to cut all the fat out of the ship’s budget, then returned the surplus, just like “The Book” says. What happened next was predictable by anyone who has spent any time working for the government.

The ship’s supply allotment was pared down by the powers that be, so there would be no surplus to send back, proving another well known axiom: “No good deed goes unpunished.” By the time the Captain found out how much our ship would be saving the Navy over the next six months, it was already too late, and we were stuck with a much smaller than normal budget for a ship going overseas.  The Officers and crew did without a lot on that cruise, and the young supply officer spent more time saying he was sorry than a clumsy mess cook.

The deployment that year will forever be known by the crew of the U.S.S. Hawkins as the cruise of the hamburger, since that was about all the meat we could afford.  The officers and crew ate hamburger in every form imaginable during that cruise, some I’m still trying to forget. It was on the menu nearly every meal, even breakfast, and was the main topic of jokes and skits at the ships smokers.

The Night Hawks was a country music band four of us enlisted men had formed to entertain the officers and crew at those smokers, and a very talented songwriter in the group named Charlie Walker who rewrote a popular song of the day called “Sugar In the morning” with sugar changed to burger. It was a song with verses reflecting the crews displeasure with the chow, and it was requested quite often, even by the Captain. The song was always dedicated to the young Supply Officer, and was all in fun, although I’m not sure how much he enjoyed it.

The whole thing seems a lot funnier over 40 years later, and I can’t help wondering how that young officer made out in life after that.  One thing I’ll bet he still remembers the words to that song! “Burger in the morning, burger in the evening, burger at supper time; All we get is burger, hamburger all the time.”

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