SNUFFY

Discussion in 'Vietnam Stories: By John H. Wilborn' started by rooter, Dec 15, 2008.

  1. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    SAID TO CALL HIM SNUFFY


    The year was late ‘69.….I had just returned from the second Vietnam deployment…..I was slated to go back to the Vietnam arena again in March of 1970.…I certainly did not want to go, and being that I had almost 19 years of active naval service, I ‘put in my papers’….That was the terminology for electing retirement. I made my intentions known to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington DC and selected my final duty station to be at the HOME BASE OF THE PACIFIC SEABEES, Port Hueneme, California. Every since the early days of WWII, Port Hueneme has had that distinction of being the Pacific Seabees home port and while other towns grew and expanded around the base, Port Hueneme stayed small. Oxnard, Ventura, and Camarillo were thriving cities that bordered the Seabee base. All of these communities mentioned were less than 75 miles north of Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica and other coastal cities that tended to spill over into the Oxnard/Port Hueneme area.

    Around Christmas time of 1969 I received the orders I had requested---back to the same command as I had served with prior to going to Vietnam….With retirement in the near future and with 4 kids to raise, I decided to go to work in the local community…Sears had just built a fine, new, Class A store there in the center of Oxnard…Class A stores was defined as having a tire and auto center, an outside garden layout, and a home improvement center compared to none other. It was called Sears Esplanade with Sears being the anchor store with a dozen other stores located in the same type mall arrangement. Sears run an ad in the local paper for part time employment over the Christmas holidays….I applied for a job in the plumbing section of the home improvement department….I was a trained navy plumber and knew I could sell things….I had been the battalion career counselor in Vietnam and caused more than a few Seabees to buy my line for the 5 to 10 K. dollar re-enlistment bonus…I took a Sears performance test and it was determined I was pretty detailed orientated so was asked if I wanted to go to work part time in the Auto Center…Of course, I told them I wasn’t an auto mechanic or a tire buster but the manager told me he needed someone to keep the sales details orderly and correct…So, I went to work at the auto center and within a week the boss asked me if I wanted to attend an engine rebuilding class down in Los Angeles…not for me to rebuild but to become aware of the whole nine yards ---the merchandising of associated engine parts and power upgrades .

    It was about that time the services presented a training program to the active duty troops thru the typical GI training programs…The name of this training program was called PROJECT TRANSITION and it amounted to active duty military personnel enrolling into the program administered at companies such as Sears, General Electric, Hughes Aircraft, to mention a few. I applied for the program and was accepted so the last six months of my naval career I went to Sears every morning at 8:00 AM to train for a Sears Department Manager Program.. Sears did not pay me but I maintained all military rights, benefits, and privileges afforded me due to my rank. The Transition training was 8am to 4pm Monday thru Friday in various departments in the big new store…I wore civilian suit and tie with no hint of being in the military. Actually, on the part time basis employment, I would go right from training in the store to the Auto Center when scheduled and there I worked for standard wages….Repeat customers, many of them being military who knew me, really had a task figuring things out…Sold those troops many a set of Michelin radial tires and Die-Hard batteries just because they would ask for me when they come into the store.

    I suppose I saw the old fellow many times before I recognized who he was, after all the big new Sears Roebuck store was a prime attraction. That close to Hollywood many shoppers showed up shopping and perhaps later, some other sales person would say, “oh, so and so was in today” and leave it at that. He looked vaguely familiar and one evening when he come into the auto center, Mr. Waldo, the auto center manager introduced me to him. Walter Brennan was his name and he lived in nearby Camarillo…..He sounded just like the character he played in THE REAL McCoy’s, Grandpa McCoy…the he-heing sounds meant to be laughter. The old man was dressed very poorly, unshaven, and coughing a lot. Of course, it was only an introduction and I was doing the auto center detail work so didn’t spend time chit-chatting. It would be weeks later when I was over in the main retail store would I run into Mr. Brennan again….In fact, as I recall that time, I was working in the Men’s Department when he come in---as a managerial trainee, I worked in all areas of the store. I greeted him with a “good morning, Mr. Brennan, how may I help you today”? He peered at me quizzically as if trying to remember my name----I prompted him telling him my name and that we had met at the auto center recently…Sears, at that time, sold a hardy pair of men’s jeans called ’THUMBS UP’ ---a heavy dungaree fabric that challenged or exceeded LEVIS in wear quality. I volunteered that brand of wear when he told me what he was shopping for…Even though the old fellow was pretty scrawny, he stated he didn’t want them to fit tight---he stated that he wore flat shoes and not boots so I boasted about the hip and leg roominess of the THUMBS UP jeans. Of course as I served the needs of the customer, I continued addressing him as Mr. Brennan….rang up his sale and as he was ready to depart, he rather mischievously whispered to me behind a shielded hand, “my friends call me Snuffy---you kin call me Snuffy” .

    Yeah, back then in my late 30’s, my memory was a lot better and it wasn’t long before I’d meet ‘Snuffy’ in the home improvement department where I was assigned as the assistant department manager. He remembered and I remembered and he seemed overjoyed to be addressed as ‘Snuffy’. He was coughing a lot that morning and I offered to go right across the isle and get him a cup of water…it was the stores pop corn/candy stand so it was a very quick thing to get him a cup of water…He stood there and dabbed his eyes with an old blue farmer type handkerchief…..the coughing subsided, he thanked me and departed the store.

    The next time I saw him I was in dress blues….You recall I was still on active duty but in the TRANSITION training program…The base had inspection and pass in review ceremonies that morning and I had gone to the store right from those ceremonies for some reason or other…When ‘Snuffy’ spotted me there in the plumbing department his reaction was without description…he was totally aghast, to say the least….I didn’t want to linger there in the department too long as surely I’d wind up selling a water heater or disposal so I asked the old man if he’d like to go down to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee…

    Well, the only reason I am telling you all this story, and have delayed writing it for you, is that I saw the movie SGT. YORK over the Veterans Day of November 11th….Walter Brennan was one of the main characters in the movie that starred Gary Cooper….That’s how he sounded in that old 1940 some movie---the voice thing and the seeming constant “HE-HEEING” sounds as he talked---heard them sounds often as Grandpa McCoy in THE REAL McCoy’s television show. We must have made a strange looking pair that morning there in Sears fancy new cafeteria ---I, in my navy dress blues with gold hash marks and gray gloves and old ‘Snuffy’ looking all the part of a homeless person…I had explained with much difficulty what my training situation was there at the store and after a bit he understood…He asked me what my military work had been…I told him about naval construction and the navy Seabees ---I told him I was currently attached to the DISASTER RECOVERY TRAINING DEPARTMENT out at the base and had been in that field for a number of years---when I told him my secondary job code was chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare he become very interested…I had no reason to know about Walter Brennan’s military background but there in the cafeteria that morning we visited for more than an hour…He had served in the Army during WWI and had been ‘gassed’ during some offensive operation out of the trenches…He laughingly told me that was the reason he sounded as he did when he talked….that was the reason he coughed a lot and had to wipe his eyes all the time…How ironic I mused as we visited that morning….I told him that I had rec’d my chemical warfare training at the Army Chemical Corp School in Fort McClellan Alabama, Dugway Utah, and Sandia Corp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was very impressed when I inquired if he had been injured by the agent ‘phosgene’ or ‘Lewisite’…..I pulled up my sleeve and showed him the 2 inch scar on my arm from the confidence course test done at Dugway long ago….I told him that was mustard gas liquid and he knew it well.

    I never realized if he had called me John or Son or what he had ever called me but from that day on, every time we would see one another, I was ‘CHIEF’….he remained ‘Snuffy’ for me though I never heard anyone else call him that….

    No, I didn’t stay with Sears Roebuck….I never saw him again after I left Sears---I was offered a department managers position up north in Merced, California, but declined as I didn’t want to move my family. An extremely well paying job was advertised as the Naval Missile Test Facility, Point Mugu, California which I applied for and was hired…a that time the TOMAHAWK missile was being tested there on base and the naval ship NORTON SOUND.

    I really wanted to work for myself…be my own boss, so in late 1972 I purchased an established drain cleaning business, whose owner had passed away…It was a very successful business venture--the work was hard and dirty, but I never realized so much money could be made honestly--without a gun, so to speak…

    I heard and read when the old man had passed away---must have been in the mid 70’s perhaps. He was well known, not actually in the community, but from the numerous movie and television roles he had played in….he certainly epitomized the common man for anyone who knew him…I’d not have thought about telling all this had I not seen that movie of SGT. YORK last month.
    Chief
    __________________
  2. retiredtech

    retiredtech New Member

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    Heart-warming and well told!

    Thank you!

    And a BIG thanks for your Service.
  3. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    Welcome Aboard Retired Tech.....I noted this was your first post...Did you just discover the site by chance...I thank you for your kind and generous comment...at my age of 76, sometimes relating things like this story about Walter Brennan, seems like it happened a lifetime ago, while other times as fresh as the shift yesterday...I also noted your location of Arizona...down here in Glendale it's pleasant but very busy with all the big time sports activities...if I were sports orientated, I'd be in hog heaven...Stop back and tell us about your retirement and what the technical aspects of your work was...Are you a Veteran....a gun fancier....? Chief
  4. jim brady

    jim brady Active Member

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    Hi Rooter. That was a very well told and touching story. I am also a RVN Vet (I Corps - Army). Just wanted to say thanks for that story. I am going to remember that one. My brother lived not far from Mr. Brennan's farm near Moorpark, CA. I was there when they talked about cutting down the walnut tress from around his farm for their value after he died. I didn't even casually know him, but I always admired that man.
  5. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    Thanks Mr. Brady....I know the name Brady well for there were many of that clan in and around north easter Iowa where I lived until joining the navy in 1951. One Brady achieved fame around the farming community of Greeley, Iowa. It was Don Brady, and he was a year ahead of me in school...Don went on to be a crew member of the Budweiser Clydedales team of horses. Right in front of the old Greeley School House they have a park dedicated to Don Brady...Chief
  6. jim brady

    jim brady Active Member

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    Hi Rooter. Like they say, think we about the same age - I'm Jim. Those Iowa Brady's may be distant kin. Dad came over in 1939. My comment on Mr. Brennan's trees being sold off and cut down. It was my understanding that he loved that farm, and it was a shame that his old walnut trees were being destroyed like that. I'm no 'tree hugger', just that my Grandfather - 'Pop" (Mom's side) was a farmer, and I think I have an idea about how Mr. Brennan would have felt about that. He always reminded me a lot of my own Grandafther.
  7. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    Jim, I just remembered another old cowboy star who used to come into the Sears Store a lot....Fellow by the name of Joel McCrae (sp).....I recall him living north of Ventura in the town of Ojai...Remember, that was in the early 70's and he was pretty old then...Actually, I don't recall any movies Mr. Mac played in...he looked pretty normal to me..not a all suave and debonier!!! During my PROJECT TRANSITION training there at Sears for 6 months, I got to train in all departments of the store..Jeez, the very most dramatic and traumatic was customer service and the toy department...served in both areas around Christmas time 1971...that'll wad you shorts in cluster!!!! Chief
  8. jim brady

    jim brady Active Member

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    Hi Chief. I remember that Actor Joel McCrea. I'm with you on that one - I remember him, but not well. I lived out there in the early 50s thru the mid-70s. We lived in Redondo Beach. Dean Jones lived not too far from us. This was in the 1950s, and he lived in a nice house, but no mansion. He seemed like a decent guy.

    Thinking on it, do you recall the story of Humphrey Bogart? As I recall, his funny way of talking was from during his service during WW1, when he was in the Navy. He was escorting a prisoner on a train, when the prisoner attemtped to escape and clobbered him in the face. I can be wrong, but I remember reading that story about him.

    Not too many stories of the actors who had served in WW1 were made known. Had to have been a bunch. Jim
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2010
  9. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    No Jim, I never heard that story about Bogart, but he certainly had an unusual speech 'impediment'....You suppose that's what made him popular with the good
    looking dames?
    There's been a thing passing around about WWII vets also...names and faces that were never mentioned, let alone being blown out of proportion because of their service to country. Only recently, and it was after his death, did I hear Paul Newman was a naval air crewman...So many others too, and many of them portrayed as old clowns in their movies, were actually noted military veterans...Surely you must have seen that video passed around...long list...wonder if anyone ever thought to thank them for their service to our country...? Chief
  10. jim brady

    jim brady Active Member

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    If I could have as many beautiful gals after me as ole Bogie did, I'd gladly let somebody poke me in the jaw, too. I didn't hear that about Paul Newman. Some of the names would likely be surprises - like Pat Sayjack (Spelling) the guy who hosts "Wheel Of Fortune"? He mentioned once that he was an Army enlisted guy in Nam. That's been a long while ago, but I recall him mentioning that.
    SeaBeas, Chief? You guys built most of the sites we used up at Phu Bai before I got there in 1970. We were an Army helicopter unit on the west side of HWY 1 at Hutchmuth. You might like to know that the hootches and other buildings withstood a big Typhoon in 1970 with very little damage. Thanks for keeping the tin roofs over our heads! You guys built 'em good. Thanks! Jim
  11. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    I was going to mention Old Willard Scott as being a former Navy Seabee...I just now went to Google to verify, but could not find any military experience listed...I used to watch NBC all the time and Willard was a comedy/weatherman on the line with Katie Couric and Byran Gumble...Don't watch NBC at all any more...just too slanted liberal for my liking...I had personally corresponded with Tom Brokaw over the years and sent him several craft items I have made...When I told him about being a personal friend of Nao Takasigi, who he had written about in his bestselling book, THE GREATEST GENERATION, that prompted more personal letters...Chief
  12. jim brady

    jim brady Active Member

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    Hi Chief. Tom Brokaw isn't exactly at the top my my 'people to admire list'. He might be OK as a person, but politically he is way too far to the left. I do like the fact that he has used his personality to highlight the "Greatest Generation". But that is a double edged sword. The people of the 40s were heros in my book, but the title "The Greatest Generation" takes away from the patriotism and sacrifice that other generations have made.

    Look at these kids today who serve. They have left even more creature comfort that past generations to serve and protect our country. These are kids that for the most part we would have looked at and shrugged our shoulders. But they are out there putting thier butts on the line just like every other generation before them.

    I hate to toot our own horn, but the kids from OUR generation did the same thing. Hollywood and the communist news here at home branded us as fools or dupes because we went off to fight communisim and protect a little country that was trying to survive. But Tom Brokaw salutes the kids who stayed home, went to these snobby elitist's schools and partied their fannies off. The whole time looking down their noses at the 'rubbish' who stupidly went off to war.

    Sorry, Chief, but I don't see eye-to-eye with you on this one. I view the Tom Brokaws's and even the Walter Cronkites of that era as being a hair breadth from Traitors. They sold us out and praise those who hold our country and our way of life in contempt. It is guys like you - and all of my Brothers I served with - that deserve praise and respect.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2010
  13. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    Naw Jim, I respect your opinion about Brokaw...I used to feel such foolish loyalty to Katie Couric until the evidence showed exactly what you've pointed out about Brokaw...Until their ass shows for some reason that I don't know about now, I listen to Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck....Beck is the FOX mover and shaker these days and he has a lot of followers...No sweat Jim...like I said, I respect your views...Chief
  14. jim brady

    jim brady Active Member

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    A+1 with you on O'Rielly and Beck, Chief. The only one on CNN I ever listened to was the guy they just canned - Lou Dobbs. They canned him because of a Taboo topic called in by a viewer?

    Katie Couric was spunky when she was younger, but now is just another Liberal Talking Head. Dan Rather is a Biased Left Winger. Really proved that when he tried to sell his lies about GW Bush's Reserve service. He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar on that one. Walter Cronkite? When I was a kid, I assumed everything he said was truth in reporting. He sure tucked tail and caved into the Communists here in one quick hurry. If there was a single person who handed the North Vietnamese the little country of the Republic of South Viet Nam on a silver platter - it was Walter Cronkite. We beat them in every way, except here at home. Thanks, Walter.......

    What do you think about this one, Chief. Remember the "witch hunts" back in the 50s under Senator McCarthy? Wasn't his target Hollywood and the News media being infiltrated by Communists? Everyone today uses him as their Boogieman when it comes to unfair accusations. Was he really wrong? I don't think so - the News Media and Hollywood are as far to the Left as is possible.
  15. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    Joe Mac sure ruffled a lot of feathers...the Hollywood scene was scared to death about his antics...I remember him well but was never sure of his reasons for being so vicious...Why did he die so early or did some kill him? I recall him as being only middle age...Hell, perhaps I'll just go over to Google and check my own questions out...Take care...Enjoy the season. Chief

    Partial info about Joe Mac....there sure was loads of it!!!!!
    McCarthy's next target was what he believed were anti-American books in libraries. His researchers looked into the Overseas Library Program and discovered 30,000 books by "communists, pro-communists, former communists and anti anti-communists." After the publication of this list, these books were removed from the library shelves.

    For some time opponents of McCarthy had been accumulating evidence concerning his homosexual activities. Several members of his staff, including Roy Cohn and David Schine, were also suspected of having a sexual relationship. Although well-known by political journalists, the first article about it did not appear until Hank Greenspun published an article in the Las Vagas Sun in 25th October, 1952. Greenspun wrote that: "It is common talk among homosexuals in Milwaukee who rendezvous in the White Horse Inn that Senator Joe McCarthy has often engaged in homosexual activities."

    McCarthy considered a libel suit against Greenspun but decided against it when he was told by his lawyers that if the case went ahead he would have to take the witness stand and answer questions about his sexuality. In an attempt to stop the rumours circulating, McCarthy married his secretary, Jeannie Kerr. Later the couple adopted a five-week old girl from the New York Foundling Home.

    In October, 1953, McCarthy began investigating communist infiltration into the military. Attempts were made by McCarthy to discredit Robert Stevens, the Secretary of the Army. The president, Dwight Eisenhower, was furious and now realised that it was time to bring an end to McCarthy's activities.

    The United States Army now passed information about McCarthy to journalists who were known to be opposed to him. This included the news that McCarthy and Roy Cohn had abused congressional privilege by trying to prevent David Schine from being drafted. When that failed, it was claimed that Cohn tried to pressurize the Army into granting Schine special privileges. Drew Pearson, published the story on 15th December, 1953.

    Some figures in the media, such as writers George Seldes and I. F. Stone, and cartoonists, Herb Block and Daniel Fitzpatrick, had fought a long campaign against McCarthy. Other figures in the media, who had for a long time been opposed to McCarthyism, but were frightened to speak out, now began to get the confidence to join the counter-attack. Edward Murrow, the experienced broadcaster, used his television programme, See It Now, on 9th March, 1954, to criticize McCarthy's methods. Newspaper columnists such as Walter Lippmann also became more open in their attacks on McCarthy.

    The senate investigations into the United States Army were televised and this helped to expose the tactics of Joseph McCarthy. One newspaper, the Louisville Courier-Journal, reported that: "In this long, degrading travesty of the democratic process, McCarthy has shown himself to be evil and unmatched in malice." Leading politicians in both parties, had been embarrassed by McCarthy's performance and on 2nd December, 1954, a censure motion condemned his conduct by 67 votes to 22.

    McCarthy also lost the chairmanship of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate. He was now without a power base and the media lost interest in his claims of a communist conspiracy. As one journalist, Willard Edwards, pointed out: "Most reporters just refused to file McCarthy stories. And most papers would not have printed them anyway."

    McCarthy, who had been drinking heavily for many years, was discovered to have cirrhosis of the liver. An alcoholic, he was unable to take the advice of doctors and friends to stop drinking. Joseph McCarthy died in the Bethesda Naval Hospital on 2nd May, 1957. As the newspapers reported, McCarthy had drunk himself to death.
  16. jim brady

    jim brady Active Member

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    Hi Chief. Thanks for that enlightening on Joe McCarthy! Not exactly a wholesome Patriot, there..... But reguardless of his personal defects, I think he was right about the Communist's (sucessful) infiltration of the mass media.

    It would have been nice to have had a more eloquent speaker to point out what was transpiring in America at that time. When the U.S. was allied with the Soviet Union in the 1940's to stop Hitler, our Government tasked Hollywood to make films and movies depicting the Communists as nobel fighters against the Nazis. I completely understand why that was necessary at that moment in time. It was a matter of 'the lesser of two evils'.

    Uncle Joe Stalin was every bit as ruthless as Herr Hitler, but we needed to have the Soviets on our side to defeat the Axis Powers. I think they call that 'a pact with the Devil". We had to do it. Stalin murdered nearly as many people as Hitler, and wanted to rule the entire planet just the same.

    In brief, I stand by the convictions held by McCarthy that Communism was creeping into American society via the news and entertainment medias. I don't think I'd have sat down with Ole Joe and had a beer, but he was right on (in my opinion) about the spreading influence at that time.
  17. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    Jim, I did go back and read up some more about Senator Mac.....Some of the things were very comparable to the shenanigans that J. Edgar Hoover was accused of being/doing....the gay business and other underhanded types of activities...Makes one wonder about folks who are supposed to be role models for the young people going forth into the positions of leadership...Chief