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Archive for August, 2012

It Made a Lot of Scents to Us!

by on Aug.06, 2012, under Stories over the ages

In Memory of and Written By: George Sullivan *

Many years ago in a far, distant land (Halifax) a couple of young sailors inadvertently had probably one of the funniest evenings of their lives. We still chuckle about it.
This would be January/February 1964. My oppo Bill, who I had joined the Navy with in Hamilton, and went through Cornwallis together were sitting around in Basin Lockers (at the corner of then Buckingham and Barrington streets). I was an OD Sonarman on Swansea and he was an OD Stoker on the Bonnie. Naval protocol dictated seaman (dibbydabs) and marine engineers (greasies) did not associate with each other, however, we never paid any attention to that shit. Bill did 3 years and got out joining the Hamilton Fire Department (just retiring after 44 years service as a fire fighter!) He remains one of my very best friends to this day and we are in contact on a weekly basis.
Basin Lockers was one of many establishments for matelots1 to store their civvies as civvies were not allowed on ships back then. It was quite the place; rows and rows of lockers and benches, a wash place and showers …and a rec room … in the rec room there were a couple of sofas and chairs all of which were well beyond their prime, stained with various stains of … well, who knows, with springs and various other objects sticking up out of them, a black and white TV which the horizontal hold wasn’t quite right and a huge stuffed moose head mounted on the bulkhead close to the entrance door. As a result of being in close proximity to people he, the moose, (I knew he was a he ’cause he had huge antlers) would get the odd shot on the hooter as people walked by resulting in the end of his nose was about 45 degrees out of kilter with great bunches of stuffing material hanging out …. it was a great place.
Anyway, on with the story; Bill and I always went to the Seagull Club on Hollis Street every night; there were other places around like the Carpenters Hall, but they didn’t have the class the Seagull Club did. Prior to going we would get a mickey of Wood’s Old Navy rum at the liquor store just around the corner on Buckingham St using our phoney Nova Scotia Liquor Commission cards which were required at that time.
We would then sit in the comfort of the Basin Locker’s rec room imbibing a few wets from plastic glasses … or right out of the bottle if we were in a hurry. It must be noted this was purely a social occurrence simply to get ourselves up on that fine edge of suaveness, couth and culture in the anticipation of meeting the fine local damsels of Halifax.
We would time our social cocktails to last from 7ish to 8:30ish by that time having changed into civvies, leisurely finished off the Wood’s Navy and then head down to the Seagull Club. Arriving a little late was of course the fashionable thing to do, it showed class.
On this particular evening we had to get something at a local store and while in there we noticed they had a jokes and novelty section … and … in that section they had stink bombs! WELL! What is a sailor to do? We purchased a package containing 6; surely they would come in handy somewhere!
Meandering down Barrington Street, then Hollis Street we arrived at the Seagull Club, duly paid our 25 cent entrance fee, checked our coats and made our grand entry. We wandered around the dance floor for a while taking in the sights, now and then commenting how this one or that one really could use our hot blooded talents and how good they would look under our thrusting bodies with their ankles, along with their perfume, behind their ears.
The vast majority of the gals in the Seagull Club every night were student nurses. They all lived in a student nurse’s residence, had a curfew and woe betide them if they missed their curfew! They went to the Seagull Club for one thing and one thing only … to dance, period. They did not go out with sailors. It was cheap, there were lots of panting, drooling suitors to boost their egos and they could dance all night … and disappear. God bless them!
Around 10, 10:30ish it appeared that none of the gals were very bright this evening; they were apparently oblivious to our charms, good looks and obvious potential. What to do? … as it was getting boring. Well! We did have the stink bombs, they should liven things up a bit.
Now the scene has to be set up. The place was packed, it was bitterly cold outside so the heat was quite high in the dance hall. People had been dancing for the past couple of hours so it had that hot, humid, sticky fug you get when a lot of people are packed into a warm hall with an overworked ventilation system.
Enter George and Bill stage left. We walked around the hall in opposite directions strategically dropping the stink bombs on the deck at the four corners and one each on the middle opposite sides. These ‘bombs’ were a little glass vial containing a liquid of some sort; you just dropped them on the deck and stepped on them to crush the vial and release the eau de hooter. We then continued our leisurely stroll around the dance floor and much to our dismay initially … NOTHING! There was nothing at all it seemed; had we been ripped off? It seemed that way.
But then … after 5 minutes or so, the most ungodly stench started to rise from the floor! Yee Haw! Eureka! … and then … and then … it got stronger and stronger! Initially we could see everyone sniffing the air, then sniffing each other. The smell continued to get stronger, things were really livening up! It got even stronger! People were gagging, some puking, geez it was just like coming out of the tear gas hut, eyes watering, snot all over the place, some with the foot long drool streamers hanging off their faces, I never saw anything like it, not in a dance hall anyway.
Bill says to I or perhaps I says to Bill (I don’t remember which), “Holy Fuck! Maybe we used too many” and then we wisely went to the cloak room and got our coats.
At this point the Seagull staff open all the doors, fire exits, windows and order everyone out onto Hollis Street, no stopping for anything, straight out onto the street. It is bitter, bitter cold, a foot or so of snow on the ground, the vast majority don’t have their coats and after being in such a warm place people are freezing outside, especially the girls, most of which have their ‘ballet slippers’ on as their boots are in the cloak room … and a real bonus is the ‘bud’ cold weather reaction on the girls as well! Half the people are covered in drool and that is freezing up as well.
Bill and I are off to one side quietly observing this shambles looking suitably bewildered, doing our very best to keep a straight face. The next thing we know somebody punches somebody else. Guys thumping guys, girls smacking each other, girls jumping on guy’s backs and now we have a full blown riot! It was like being at the movies!
I have to say, Bill and I were quite amazed at how fast the Halifax Police and Naval Shore Patrol showed up with, it had to be, a good half dozen paddy wagons. They put their little ‘Billys’ to good use that night, bonking guys and throwing them into the paddy wagons like cordwood. This went on for a good half hour anyway. In the end 3 chaps from Creighton Street area were arrested for starting it all; I don’t know why, I don’t think they were matelots so they wouldn’t even have been in the place (although in those days discrimination was not unknown amongst local constabularies everywhere) Bill and I, being the unfeeling sods we were at the time, had a little chortle at that as well.
At this point things were beginning to wind down, the paddy wagons were full and people were being allowed to go back in to the Seagull Club and retrieve their coats and boots then leave. It appeared the dance was over!
Bill and I had worked up a bit of an appetite by this point (Did you know that laughter is a major calorie burner???) so we wandered over to Morris Street and the Morris Lunch just around the corner, had a big plate of chips and gravy and a hot chocolate coming through the whole fiasco undetected and unscathed.
For weeks after the old Seagull Club had a lingering, clingy smell that took a long time to completely disappear. T’was a great reminder of just how much fun a guy could have for just a couple of bucks!


EDITOR’S NOTE: I was there that night you ‘son of a sea cook’! I almost froze my knackers off outside on the cold cold night.


1 Matlote – French for ‘sailor’ and sometimes used by Canadian Navy men to instead of the word ‘sailor’


* George Sullivan joined the Canadian Navy in 1962 as Sonarman; he sailed on Swansea (2.5 yrs), Margaree (5 yrs), and submarines 13 yrs, (Okanagan & Ojibwa) – 20 years sea time all told. He also had several prestigious shore postings including NDHQ in Ottawa; he retired in 1991. Sadly, George Sullivan passed away at home in Ottawa 30 Jul 2012, 3 A.M. EDT.


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