Many years ago I ran across a sculptor in Gettysburg, Charlie Caldwell, who worked exclusively in Sculpey, a wonderful polyform plastic modeling clay. His figures were whimsical and quite delightful and prompted me to get some Sculpey and get to work. That was 23 years ago and although Mr. Caldwell's Gettysburg shop is shuttered, I still fondly recall my conversations with him every time I break out the Sculpey.
These sailors and Marines of the "golden era" of the U.S. Navy, made of Sculpey, represent my memories of the years I served with the U.S. Fleet as a young 3rd class petty officer on the island of Guam and aboard Destroyers.
These figures all average about six inches in height and though they have a lot of detail they're not intended to be photorealistic but rather, three-dimensional cartoons of the guys I remember serving with back in my version of "the old Navy".
Unlike todays military, three fundamental components of Navy life were: smoking bushels of cigarettes, consuming gallons of bear, and frequenting entire populations of whores. Throw classic tattoos in the mix and you pretty much have the delights available to sailors in the old days.
This sculpture represents one of those greatest of pleasures, the mass consumption of cold beer at what were termed "Beach Parties".
Held as morale-boosters, a beach-party would be proclaimed by a division officer or a skipper in recognition of a period of hard work, a successful operation, or as a general "well-done" to the crew. This celebration of a cohesive crew, the beach-party, would usually occur during regular working hours and might comprise an entire afternoon of baseball, burgers, steaks, swimming, and the ubiquitous swilling of a designated number of beers per man.
Warm beer of a local or otherwise cheap pedigree would be tumbled into a GI can and several large CO2 fire extinguishers would be expended to hose down the brewskis and get them serviceably chilled. Then the drinking could begin in earnest. This was back in the days when alcoholism was fairly common, especially among the career sailors, and a stumble-down drunk was tolerated as long as he was sober by his trick on watch.
At a beach party, sailors who didn't drink plied a lucrative business selling their alloted four beers for whatever price the market would bear. As a result a good time would be had by all!
A picture of hard-earned satisfaction as this first-class petty officer draws deep the sweet elixir of life.
San Miguel was a staple in the Philippines and on the Islands of Guam and Midway.
Back in the "Old Navy" every lifer had a church-key on his key ring for just such eventualities.
Sculpted by yours truly, this is the first of a few of my old shipmates...
that may appear on this blog from time to time.
Art imitates life, and this was a part of my life so many years ago.