Friday, July 04, 2008

Pollywog to Shellback: Crossing the Line, 1975

This is hazing at its finest. The shot below is of King Neptune's court. Presumably, the day before the initiation, the Pollywogs are afforded the opportunity to trade places with their superiors - something referred to as the Pollywogs' Revolt. During the revolt, Pollywogs are free to do whatever they want to the Shellbacks. However, the next day (initiation day) the Royal Court is wheeled out to cast judgement on the revolting Pollywogs and the Shellbacks get a chance for revenge. Usually present among the Royal Court is King Neptune, Davy Jones and the Royal Baby...among others. Of the many traditions, Pollywogs, on their day of reckoning and initiation, wear their clothes inside out.Mercy. When King Neptune asks the Pollywog if he wishes for mercy and the Pollywog says he does - well that's exactly what the Pollywog gets. This box full of rotting garbage is known as Mercy. As the Pollywog sits bound and face down in the baking box trying vainly to keep his face out of the muck, Shellbacks routinely beat on the sides.
Firehoses figure prominently in the initiation. When they are not spraying the Pollywogs, they are used to bludgeon them. Over time the hazing has become less intense. Gone are the days of severe beatings and keel hauling (keel hauling was the cause of death for one sailor during WWII - causing one of several clamp downs on the initiation ceremonies), but as late as 1975, bludgeoning was still common.
Kissing the Royal Baby - who is usually the fattest and hairiest Shellback aboard ship. The black stuff on the baby's belly is axel grease.The Royal Doctor administers a concoction of nasty stuff to the Pollywogs. This mixture varies, but some form of hot sauce or mustard is usually included.The Royal Barber cuts Pollywog hair. Style is not his forte.The most gruesome stage is a swim through the garbage. As disgusting as the tank is, it is still a step up from a previous variation where a long line of canvas is sewn into a tube and filled with week old garbarge and, as the Pollywogs crawled through the tube, Shellbacks with various bludgeoning instruments, whack any movement along the tube. The tank, though, is still awful enough. Today, a pool full dye is often used instead of garbage. The tank in the background it is supposed to be for rinsing, though towards the end of the day one can hardly tell the difference.For special punishment: the stocks.The line of Pollywogs head for the tank of garbage- multiple views. The tank is the last stage of the initiation. Once the Pollywog emerges from the first tank, he is asked whether he is a Pollywog or Shellback. If he answers "Shellback" he proceeds to the rinsing tank and then receives his certificate. If he answers "Pollywog" he is sent to the end of the line without rinsing to repeat the plunge.
* * * * * * *
The USS Midway
The Tip of the Sword: A Brief History of the USS Midway
Gator Control: The VA-115
Aircraft of the USS Midway

On the Deck and In the Air, 1974-77
Pollywog to Shellback: Crossing the Line, 1975

Japan: A Forward-based Homefront
Home: Yokosuka and Nagai
Japan: Kamakura, Fuji and Izu areas
Ports of Call
Subic Bay
Hong Kong

1 comment:

stewart said...

I was there. Only thing that cut the grease was head and shoulders. Cpt Chambers got the first and worse hair cut. The swim in the IO afterwards was cool.