the USS Vulcan and Alice’s Restaurant…


Originally uploaded by jayfherron

It’s not difficult to look at back at the late 1960’s and realize there were some hard times going on. The civil rights of many Americans were crimped and controled – the Viet Nam war was prominant in most every American home-and the hippie movement was digging in its heels and getting the attention of the entire world.

I was stationed on the USS Vulcan in the fall of 1969. I was 18 years old and life was a new page on the boat and in the military. It was my first ‘holiday’ away from my family-and I guess that added to the mystic sense of being adult,or just sprouting wings of one.
We were raised in those days to really revere the holidays-Christmas ( crixmix ) still meant something and began the day after Thanksgiving instead of the day after school starts like it does now.

It was kind of an interesting sense being on the Vulcan during the holidays. It was a large ship-something like 880 men from one end to the other,so when we were divided up into three sections for off duty during the three holidays the ship was notably empty of a lot of sailors,and it seemed more relaxed.

My holiday off was New Years. So my holiday for Thanksgiving was spent on ship-so was ‘crixmix’-but Thanksgiving was much different than any I’ve ever known because families came on board and there were wives and children all over the galley and mess…we even had a Santa guy and a tree set in the center of the mess deck. It was a different sense of the season-watching this as just a teen growing into manhood.
Another memory of that Thanksgiving was ‘Alice’s Restaurant’…the movie of the day. We usually had a movie of the day on Sundays-I guess this was for the holiday…in the mess deck a two way movie screen dropped down from the overhead-and the guys would sit on either side to watch the film.
How ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ was chosen is a curious thing….an anti-war movie on a United States Navy vessel-during a war,but there it was…all about burning your draft card and mixing LSD with Thanksgiving turkey. It was quite a film-based on a long song by Arlo Guthrie about a van load of hippies that try to dump some trash on Thanksgiving day-and in that trash was the draft card of one of the dumpers-illegal dumpers. Pete Seager was even in the film-by these days he had become a leader in the anti-war movement.
Here we were-watching this on Thanksgiving on board the USS Vulcan…during the Viet Nam war.

I really don’t know how the film got there-if it was done as a joke…or some mistake…or even a protest of those against the war who dwelled with the rest of us on board the Vulcan. I really don’t know. I do know it was so amazing to finally see the movie on board ship-while in the service….while it was’nt a real hit in the theaters-the song was heard all over and it would take a total idiot not to realize its content was not pro-military.

It’s funny how stuff never leaves you….every time I hear a bar of ‘Alices Restaurant’ sung…it takes about three notes of the song to begin and my mind goes right back to that mess deck and watching that film…and I remember Thanksgiving on the USS Vulcan,1969.

2 Responses to “the USS Vulcan and Alice’s Restaurant…”

  1. funny facts Says:

    Guess who just brightened up my day? 🙂 Thanks a lot!

  2. Sousgal Says:

    Hey Jay! Missed reading your site….moved and all. Well done with the hearing!!! Still loving your posts and learning so much. And ya….it IS a wonderful thing that you’re sharing all this. I thank you 🙂

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