Port Clarence – Wash Day
By Jack Morrison
Most places that you went in the Coast Guard you had either a base or a ship’s laundry, or the corner Laundromat. Who could get clothes dirtier, a deckie or a snipe is a question that could be debated forever, the bottom line however was that they had to be cleaned, a nasty task, one best passed along to others if possible.
At Port Clarence Loran Station water was a scarce commodity as we could only get it from the rain that fell when the temperature was above freezing or from melting snow when it wasn’t (as I recall 8-10 inches of snow equals out to 1 inch of water.) We stored about 200,000 gallons of water in building 3 for cooking, drinking and laundry. Now I know that sounds like a lot of water, but when you have a 30-man crew, it can go fast.
Water rationing was the name of the game; we practiced all the water policies that were common place in the fleet and then some. Included in conservation measures was the practice that each man was allowed to wash clothes twice a month. With typical military efficiency you filled the machine and washed your white clothing first, then without changing the water you washed your dark clothes. You were permitted to fill the deep sink halfway with water to use as rinse water. The washing machine had a ringer, when you wrung your clothes, the water dropped into the deep sink where it added to the rinse water for your dark clothes. After a few loads you got used to the procedure and thought nothing of it.
Our station electrician, while a great electrician, had a minor problem doing his weekly laundry. Sparky had decided to express his individuality by dyeing his thermal underwear fire engine red; he was quite a sight to behold. Now this particular day Sparky was washing his clothes, including his red "long johns” ............. Decisions, decisions, should they go with the light clothes (after all they were white to begin with) or should they go into the dark load. This wouldn’t be a story if he had selected the dark load. Sparky decided that they had to go into the first load with the light clothes. Into the hot water went the red long johns, did I forget to say that this was the first time for them to be washed since being dyed ?
After a few minutes the water adopted a reddish tinge to it.. Oh well, as Sparky ran the clothes through the wringer it was obvious that whites were not really white but rather they had a reddish tinge to them. Oh well its just scivvies, no one will see them. That is true, but our hero forgot that the water had to be reused for his dungarees and chambray shirts. The water that had given the scivvies the reddish tinge, when used for the dark load, gave the dungarees and chambray shirts a colorful tinge, not red but pink. All work clothes he had save the ones he was wearing were in that load, everything except for his socks had the pink tinge and it stayed regardless of how many times he washed them.
I wonder if Sparky still had the red scivvies in his seabag when he retired 25 years later as EMCM.
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