The Facilities


Navy men never regard the "facilities" as an important part of then-daily life, they're taken for granted. However, as a Naval Amphib in WWII where everything was on a temporary basis in lands where open sewers are not uncommon and flies not only abound but dominate, dysentery became a part of life. Keeping track of the "facilities," was on a par with the chow hall.

Most common of all was the Latrine, a French word for a communal outhouse. This was just several rows of holed benches over an open trench, sometimes with a canvas cover, sometimes not, but always odiferous and full of flies. One didn't go there to fluff off from work.

Bathing was a luxury and most often accomplished under an open spigot of cold water.

Then there was the French Barracks at Karouba. After we got the sewage and water system working, things were a little less primitive. Here there was a water spigot high up on the wall, a washbasin, and in the floor was a 2'x2' square depression which tapered to a hole in the center. On either side and just forward of the hole, rising to floor level were two large footprints, water poured in from openings around the rim. The trick was to crouch there, keeping your trousers out of the water, and not forget the toilet paper. I could only see one advantage to this thing. It eliminated the age old question of where you caught it: The Chat Noire or the toilet seat?

At the hotel in Bone where we stayed between ships, we lived in luxury. The bathtub commode and washbowl were somewhat like at home. There was a fourth article there occupying equal prominence. I had never seen anything like it. It was like a toilet bowl only longer and narrower. It had a hot and cold faucet at the front, and shot water straight at you. It was impossible to do anything with that without soaking your pants, so I left it alone.

Hot water came from a long vertical gas stove of sorts which stood silently in the comer until the hot water was turned on. Then, this innocent looking thing became a demonic flame thrower shooting a great, roaring blue flame through coils of tubing. The more hot water, the more it roared. You'd better know what you were doing.

This thing paid off for a couple of enterprising young Ensigns. They appeared one day with two pretty Army nurses and a request to use our facilities. I believe they were using a hot bath as part of a sales pitch, for competition was pretty stiff out there.

Our bathroom smelled so sweet after that, we were quite reluctant to allow any dirty old sailor to use it and erase our last vestige of American femininity.

Naples was another story. Our barracks was at the end of Molo San Vincenzo, that long breakwater that originates in the vicinity of Santa Lucia, and runs almost to the middle of Maple's harbor. We had warm showers and a WC with a million dollar view.

The luxury shower was a tribute to the shipfitters. They got one of those steel cubicle tanks which are used to build floating drydocks, causeways, bridges, etc. This was painted black, mounted on the barrack's roof. With a float shutoff, Naple's municipal water and the brilliant Italian sun, we were assured of a warm shower after work.

Ah, but the crowning achievement was Stupka's two holer. Stupka was a tall Iowa boy, bowed from the early years of farm work and glasses like coke bottles. He was the master of all trades, in those days a fanner had to be. Nothing phased him. He ended up being the staff carpenter. Give him a ball peen hammer, a hand saw and pocket full of nails, tell him where and what was needed and it was done. There was always sufficient packing crates and shoring from the regular unloading of stateside ships.

When they told him of the need for a latrine out on Molo San Vincenzo in the middle of Naple's harbor, I felt he'd finally been stumped. Not so. He figured out how to anchor two large timbers to the inside of me breakwater, and proceeded to attach three sides and a roof. Inside was a nice two holed bench. There one could sit, beneath the shadow of Vesuvius,

Carpenter's Mate Stupka looking out over the beautiful Bay of Naples to a panorama that tourists since the ancient Greeks have paid dearly to enjoy. It just don't get no better than that.

It had one shortcoming. One must not get too occupied with the scenery, because there were frequent outgoing ships. If one of those happened to be a destroyer under a full head of steam, there was the possibility of putting to sea with her. However, the marvelous two holer survived the summer with only a few minor wettings reported. It was still there when we left in the fall of '44 and went back to the regular dull shipboard plumbing.

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