1948

A Navy Picnic: USS Siboney (CVE 112)

By Corwin A. Olds '48

It would be a good bet that most of you think of life in the Navy as life of constant tedious paint scraping. Admittedly there is an abundance of that, but occasionally life can be very good as it was at The Picnic.

I joined the Navy at the end of WWII, consequently my ship, the USS Siboney, CVE 112, named for a minor skirmish during the Spanish American war, was tied up at pier 7 in Norfolk, VA for the entire first year I was assigned. Eventually, after the mandatory shake-down cruise to Cuba, we got old SIBO underway for a really cruise to the Mediterranean, including among other things, visits to Naples and Pompeii. The real purpose of our cruise was to deliver a deck load of twin engine SNB training planes to the Greeks so we were scheduled for a port stop at Piraeus, the port for ATHENS. This provided the opportunity to visit the Acropolis and several places where St. Paul had preached.

The visit at Piraeus culminated in a request by the ladies of the American embassy for a draft of junior officers to escort them on a picnic to be held at nearby Corinth on the Peloponnesus Peninsula.

In order for us to reach Corinth it was necessary for us to travel by automobile some miles to the south and to cross the Corinthian canal. The canal is carved from solid rock just wide enough to accommodate a small freighter. The walls are sheer cliffs several hundred feet high. To cross over one had to traverse an old combat Bailey Bridge put together with nuts and bolts, and in itself an adventure sufficient for the afternoon, but was safely and thankfully negotiated without difficulty.

Eventually we arrived in a big field on the side of a hill which enabled us to look out to sea with the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Diana in our immediate foreground. On questioning our guides, the ladies from the Embassy we learned that in ancient times the temple was served by virgins who could not leave the temple until their virginity had expired.

We also learned this temple was the exact one from which Jason had departed to find the Golden fleece. I had always been skeptical of that legend but was assured it was true. The fleece was not made of gold but was sheepskin staked to the bottom of fast flowing streams at the eastern edge of the Caspian Sea in which gold dust was abundant. The gold became caught in the fibers of the fleece providing an easy substitute for panning gold as in our own western history.
The ladies of the Embassy having provided an excellent picnic meal, as the sun was setting we raced back across the bridge and to the safety of old SIBO.

The highlight of the whole expedition nearly overwhelmed me. How could it be that a poor country boy from Corinth, Maine could end up enjoying life with educated young women in the shadow of Jason’s temple.

Truly, the Navy has given me everything I have in life: family, useful occupation, a reliable retirement, several academic degrees, and fun.

Why would anyone choose another life?

 

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