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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, December 17, 1911, Image 32

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1911-12-17/ed-1/seq-32/

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Dio Louis
ABSURD as it may sound to ev
ery one, the bluejackets still be
lieve in Santa Claus. That ro
tund, rosy cheeked little old man
pays as much attention to the thou
sands of boys on board the warships as
he does to the thousands of, perhaps
younger in years, boys and girls
ashore. Instead of coming in a sleigh
•with reindeer and merry bells, he comes
in a precarious looking boat, fully
armed and convoyed with the boom.
of musketry and the loud blowing
of horns. The blowing of horns is a
universal custom with the boys of all
countries and colors and with the blue
jackets too.
On Christmas day Santy is the high
est-ranking officer of the fleet, and all
•ags are Junior to his fur tree hoisted
to the masthead. With his flag lieu
tenant his aide and the rest of the staff,
he cruises about among the ships dis
tributing the gifts with which his ar-
Cosy Is laden. His method of doing this
le fraught with as much red tape as
was ever the greetings of the old ad
miral of the Dutch fleet in the time of
Queen Bess. All the paraphernalia sym
bolical of austere rank and bounty that
ctn be gotten together are used as
adornments and no end of work is ex
pended on the rig of the boat to be
used, which Is sometimes the wherry
and sometimes the punt.
In order to hold to the traditional
custom used in the time of Paul Jones
and down through the years, the boat
Is rigged like a brig, that is. with two
masts and yard armt crossing, with
Jib and staysail and spanker out astern.
On the fore and after quarters they ar
range large wooden tubes, in which are
4nserted small arms. These "spiggoty
guns" compose the saluting battery and
.ieavy main battery also, and are
manned and fired by the boatswain of
~Der Prosit." who is a ponderous man
In his official garb and daring in the
way he approaches the ships, whose
crews throng the sides and answer the
salute with a revolver shot from the
The saluting takes place before *D«r
Prosit" is within hailing distance, and
all hands have a laugh at the tiny
founds, strongly contrasted in their
minds with the salute of the big guns
which they are accustomed to hear.
Next the boatswain gets up in the bow«
and resting one hand almost on top
of the foremast and lifting a mega«
phone as long as himself to his lips,
calls out at the top of his voice. "Ship
• hoy!" The quarter master answers
from the bridge, "Hello. hollo! Der
Prosit?" "Aye, aye." the boatswain re
turns. "Come alongside," rails the
quartermaster. Then the admiral of
"Der Prosit" ris#s in the stern, some 10
feet aft of the boatswain in the bow,
his head on a level with the topmast
and l<awls out through his megaphone
' All hands fur-r-1 sail." With that th«
..•ew, consisting of one man, who alsft
acts ;t. the capacity of foghorn, gets
amidships and climbs the mainmast
which sways to and fro as If about to
capsize the entire craft, and pulls down
all the sails. "The vessel is standing
!*».*■ he then calls out to the boatswain,
wno reports to the admiral over the
crew's head, who In turn reports to
Santa Claus sitting in the stern sheets
at the tiller. All these orders are
friven and carried out in the most
solemn manner, to the merriment of th«
ship's crew looking on from the rail
The crew of "Der Prosit" then gets out
oars and pulls alongside while on deck
"the real boatswain's mate ; pipes eight
Bide " boys to stand "at \ th head J. of! the
: gang-way and salute the y admiral and
Santa Claus. when they come aboard;
The president iof the United -_, States
only; rates ! six side boy .when he com es
aboard, while Santy' has' his eight, be
sides his are petty officers while th«
president's are only good looking ap
prentice boys. As the argosy draws
alongside the boatswain pipes the long,
low tune and three short blasts char
acteristic of the coming aboard of great
men. , '
No less a person than the captain of
the ship meets the admiral of- "Der
Prosit," his wife, Santy, ladon with a
huge basket full of presents, the boat
swain and the crew, while the bugler
sounds • three portentous ruffles and
the ship's company, assembled aft.
stands at attention. Indeed the
officers are all present, for they be
lieve in Santy as well as do the crew.
When the admiral's wife, some fair
faced sailor with Manila rope ( hair and
a tawdry skirt, swings aboard holding
her train high" and exposing a gener
ous view of red stocking to the eyes
of the sailors, a great laugh Is evoked
and a shout goes up, "higher, higher,**
or, "Oh you Kiddo!"
The boatswain in command of.'the
crew shouts to his one man for, "At
tention!" then puts him through a
series of gymnastics of a peculiar and
intensely funny character. The admi
ral, as if not thoroughly taking in the
landscape, lifts a huge pair of binocu
lars in the form of two quart wine
bottles lashed together, to his eyes
and makes a pretense of getting his
bearings by scrutinizing the sailors
about him. Presently he reports to
Santy, who has : deposited his basket
of presents on the quarter deck, "Sir.
I see we are now in the Cannibal
isles." .
Santy begins then to pick up pres
ents and read the name." aloud. giving
them to the crew of "Der Prosit" and
the admiral's wife, and even to the ad
miral himself, who distributes them
accordingly, cutting many ridiculous
The presents ar<? of a type that
bring laughter. They are gotten up
and made by the friends of those to
whom they are sent, with an idea
towards characterizing the ambition,
the whim or the standing jokes that
mark the receiver. Tf the captain is a
four striper he will probably get an
admiral's star, unless he has some
other whim by which he Is more prop
erly known. When he is presented
with this he can only blush In the
presence of everybody, and take his
dose, an Panty is supreme on Christ
mas day.
But the greatest gift that Santy <an
bestow falls to the lot of those who.
through some misfortune or slip, have
come in line for punishment. It is cus
tomary for Santy to walk boldly up to
the captain and ask him to "white
wash" the books. In the face of every
body and on Christmas day the captain
can not very well refuse this request,
although some captains have been neen
to wince and cough before granting the
immeasurable favor. The report book,
in which all punishable acts are en
tered, is swept clean and the culprits
are reinstated to first class standing
and enjoy all the- privileges held by
thelr more fortunate shipmate^ who
have not fallen before the multiplicity
of temptations that daily assail the
The event which forms a background
for all this merriment is the regular
"big feed," as the sailors call it. For
the last week this has crept into their
conversation. Pie, turkey and plum
duff are the three great delicacies to
the sailors, and they have more respect
for them than for the three graces.
"What kind of a feed is the commis
sary gonna hand us?" one sailor asks
of another. During this time of an
ticipation excitement runa high and the
commissary Is a very much respected
person. In fact, he 13 never r. retired
person, for his WlVet la ;i hard one to
fill to the HatisfiU'tio■> of every one who
cata at the gencm: ntsa. There Is
always some old tar or other who Im
agines himself to be slighted by the
quality of his food, and the apprentice
boys take from him the habit of com
plaining with very little reason on their
aide. Quarrels often result and have to
be referred to the "mast," where the
first lieutenant (first luff) settles the
matter In favor of the commissary, so
that the sailor arranges a private set
tlement with the commissary later on
where the first luff has nothing to say
about it.
The burden of the repast falls nat
urally upon the cooka and mess at
tendants. It is far from an enjoyable
affair with them although they are an
affable lot. The- preparation of the
potatoes is the work of a dozen men
Blnee they must be extraordinarily
The •'skinners" arrange themselves
astride a bench in range of a tub where
one man sits and tosus potatoes con
tinually. The tub i» kept full by an
other man who dumps in from a sack
• arilod down from thp upper deck. So
* e*cl« is made, the clean peeled po
Hers s a Tab of th«
Heliday of Hom?l?ss Sailors,
Of th? Qu??r Ship "Der Prosit
And H?r Funny Admiral, of Hi?
Naval St. Nick and tK? "Big F?sd,
Not t9 Mchtien tK? Racing Biscuit Bugs
Or ths CobUestone Pi? of Ons
Starving Christinas
tatoes going constantly into another
tub which is dragged into the galley
and dumped into a great urn through
which water is percolating. These are
rinsed around by another mess at
tendant and dumped into other urns
where steam is turned on, while an
other tub of peeled ones are being
brought from the skinners.
When they are done the ship's cook
himself, who paces to and fro in the
galley all the while, mounts upon the
nearest urn with his feet and taking
a great six foot masher proceeds to
pound them into a white flakey mass
fit for a king.
But this is not all he has to do,
either. The turkeys are browning: In
the long ovens and h» and his three
assistants have continually to open the
doors, probe with long- forks into the
swelling: breasts and ascertain when
to take them out. When one set of
turkeys is done the mess cooks remove
their carcasses and carve them with an
amazing aptness, putting: all the frag
ments into pans and setting: them in a
sort of upper oven to keep hot until
the bugler sounds "Mess call" at a
quarter before twelve, when the tables
are swung and the banquet is spread.
During: these preparations no one is
allowed on the mess deck except those
who are associated with the prepara
tions. No one arets a handout or a
glimpse of the "Big feed" until the
bell is struck and the boatswain's mate
pipes "dinner."
The mess tables are all numbered so
that each sailor knows just where to
go when he gets down through the
hatchway, and he doesn't waste any
time getting there on this occasion. It
is indeed a singular and lively scene
on the gundeck at this period. Every
man's plate is heaped to the brim be
fore him and all apply themselves with
a daring and disregard for mere
stomachs that would make a dyspeptic
wince and turn his head. Dozens of
tables dangle from hooks between
parallel columns of sailors, who seem
only restrained from eating- ea<Mi other
alive by the flimsy, vacillating boards
which support the food. The mess at
tendants are hurrying to and from the
galley, sometimes colliding and oftencr
missing each other by a hair's breadth,
bringing "seconds" on the turkey, then
on the duff and pie. answering to the
imperative clamor of t lose who have
cleaned up everything in sight. Hi
larity is everywhere rife and primitive
joy takes the placo of monotonous con
When these ravenous appetites have
been slaked and even those who have
the dilating powers of an anaconda
are put at rest, or in pain, as the case
may bo, tome of the "old shellbacks"
will begin to grow reminiscent and tell
of the Chrlstmases they have spent in
lands where there were no turkeys nor
anything: else fit for the "big feed.' 1
Says old Pete, the sail maker's mate:
"I mind the time down in Darlen. when
the steward had nothin" in the store
room hut a ton of crusty hard biscuits
full of bugs, so when y' busted 'em
with the handle 'ye yer knife they went
whifty nifty in every direction—under
yer plate, behind yer cup, up yer
sleeve and around the mess pans. But,
matee, that was a Christmas fer yer
life! We couldn't eat the buffalo meat,
il was that much like bolt ropf, so we
The San Francisco Sunday Call
drunk our, coffee : and engaged our
selves in bug races down the table. By
tryin' all the bugs out we got some
speedy ones. And they was speedy.
I had one that could trot down that
—trot, mind y'—like It was Maude
S herself. The devil of it was the
bloody bug wouldn't keep in the course
between the plates. She'd break fer a
hole near the finish. I bet big money
on 'er. though, and | after loosln' 20
bones by her duckin' out of it when
she was two whole plate lengths ahead,
mind y'. I flggered I could head her off
the next time and win anyhow, so I
put up 60 bones— so good cold plunkers
on that skinny little runt of a bug. and
strike me ,L ndl you ought a Been that
race! Go! That cussed little bug slid
down that mess table like It was on
Xt L *£L lnirß -. X head 'er off at the
hole with a piece of Uck and she run
clean agin the bottom board of the
«v«re aY bUtel • >er bralns out- k^ked
rback •*»•'.««*.- But that
race! Whew! I raked In the coin from
the captain of the hold - Christmas I
™™I'Jt trkB me. fellers! That was
some Christmas even if we didn't have
any eats."
«nt ft 6*k Is thrll»n* narrative some
™Zv7 1 be sure to tell of th « famous
cobblestone .' ple manufactured and
eaten only ■in the tropics
nJfl 1! marvelous : edible was hit upon
quite by accident one time when Christ
mas came unawares upon |a ship's com
pany in South American.waters. Know-
Ing well that something special must be
served, the commissary, asked s the cook
ir he couldn't make mango pie. The
cook said he would try It. ■
"It's a lot o' dugouts as wlllbe eatin*
It, anyhow," the cook added.
When ;he 5 began to prepare the man
goes, he found that: the seeds did not
readily come out. They clung to' the
meat like glue. Rather than waste all
his ; material he decided to put them
into the ? pies L L and bake seeds and all.
,Word got around that there was going
to be pic } for :f dinner, and many sniffing
noses came hanging about the galley
door, until the ■■: cook had no ipeace of
mind 'with answering .questions con
cerning the nature and quality of, the
pies.; There -1 was ; no' satisfaction to be
; gotten from \ him and it came to ■be
quite a mystery among the sailors as
to t how and where the pies got their
being. ;...,v . ' . . • ."■■■ {^ *■ ■■
When at last they were served there
was great excitement at the different
"Wot's thlff cobblestone pie!" cried
an irate sailor, throwing out of his
mouth a stons half as big as his fist
"Ohy! I've fcust'id me jaw!" yelled an
"It's lime juice theyVe stuck lj» It.
fer sure!" «hou\.ed another. T?;-n *U
together. "Where's that damned cook!
Get the cook!" Away they went after
th« man that made the cobblestone
pie, armed w-'th the cobblestones and
segments of che crust. The cook was
found on the fo'castle taking a siesta.
He begged for mercy and pointed out
that it was Christmas day, but to no
avail. He \ras mercilessly bombarded
and plastered with the product of hia
Gradually this incident passed from
tragedy into humor until now It is so
generally known that one has but to ■
say "mango pie" at the mess table to
set every one in convulsions.

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