by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong
I am an odd man to memorialize Tink Garlock, a shipmate who died aboard Requin. I do not have the eloquent vocabulary or the ability to craft the phrasing required to do proper honor to a fallen mate. Wish I did… If anyone rates such a homily, it's Tink.
This one is rough. We were alley rats together and well after his death I came to know and love his family… His brother, his sister and his lovely mother.
His name was Marl Garlock. He came from McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, where they called him "Tinker" or "Tink"… We called him "Lil' Abner."
The day he arrived, he dropped down the after battery hatch, dumped his gear and came forward to the crews mess where we were taking a small mid-morning Spanish recess, swapping lies with coffee. He had just cleared Great Lakes. He was a tall lad. They ran out of dungaree trousers his length and issued him trou that hit him three inches above his ankles. They used to say that God never intended to create mice… They were elephants before they entered the Navy supply system.
So there was this new guy. Freshly minted sub school grad via the T-division on the Orion… Standing there in GP boots (general purpose high tops) and high-water pants.
"Hey kid, tide's out… You can roll 'em down."
"Hey Lil' Abner, what happened? Did Dogpatch burn down?"
"Hey Abner, you'n Daisy Mae lookin' fer a home?"
He became Lil' Abner from then on.
The next morning, Lil'Abner shows up at morning chow. The cook yells out,
"Watcha havin, Abner?"
"Pretty much anything you want… But if you eat turtle eggs and hummin' bird wings, then go to Annapolis and eat forward… You take what y'want, but y'eat what you take…"
"Give me a dozen eggs scrambled, four toast… Six link sausage , shitload of bacon and a black coffee."
"Hey kid, never bullshit a cook. If you're serious, you got it. You pull my leg and I'll bounce you off the inside of the pressure hull."
"I AM serious. You gonna stand there all day runnin' yur mouth, or are you gonna earn what they pay you and fix me some breakfast?"
Tink ate one dozen eggs and everything that went with it.
"Hey kid, you got a gahdam tapeworm?"
"Garlock… Is it true that your mother couldn't afford to feed you anymore, so she smashed your plate and tossed your butt out the door?"
Tink could take it and deal it out. Within a week, he had degenerated into a full-fledged after battery rat.
Talked about hunting all the time. Closest most of us had come to hunting was doin' in rats with a pellet gun, while they were doing their 'Rockettes' imitation across our mooring lines.
Lil' Abner was neck-deep in 90% of the stupidity cooked up in the alley, but since he can no longer defend himself, I leave him out of the stories. That way, when I buy the farm and get to where either God or the devil billets boat sailors, Tink won't punch my lights out and will have saved me one of those racks where you don't hot sack… Like in God's goatlocker (When you die, everyone makes Master Chief - that's why they call it Heaven).
Lil' Abner went down in the pump room to wipe down the diamond plate deck plates and equipment. He opened and lifted out a plate so the belowdecks watch could see the bilge level and pump when necessary. At some point, he stretched out on the deck plates. Belowdecks watch and trim manifold operator thought he was catching siesta Zs.
What had happened was that Tink Garlock was wiping down with a solvent that came in a can with no warning that it was toxic and shouldn't be used in confined spaces. Someone said that it was intended to clean airplanes and that anywhere you could put an airplane was not a confined space. Argument useless at this point since Tink was overcome and died in the pump room.
His brother, Bob Garlock took this tragic, senseless loss and fashioned it into a living tribute to Tink.
Bob Garlock began the Requin reunion. He started rounding up sailors who served on Requin from '45 to '70. The list grows larger each year as does the reunion. Without Bob Garlock, there would be no reunion. It's always in Pittsburgh because that's where the boat is. If you or anyone you know rode Requin, get in touch with Bob at (717) 485-3451.
At the first reunion, we took a boat ride down the Ohio and back. It was a beautiful fall evening. Snipes gathered at the fantail to suck their lungs full of diesel exhaust and play the 'Do you remember that silly bastard off the USS So-in-so' game. Tim Conaty, a third class quartermaster, was forward. The skipper, Ed Frothingham yelled,
"Conaty, can you fix our position?"
"Aye sir… If my calculations are correct, we are either approaching La Harve or entering Tokyo."
Then someone yelled, "Jeezus, isn't this perfect weather?"
And someone, can't remember who, hollered back,
"What did you expect? We've got Lil' Abner standing watch on the weather!"
He was ship's company… Always will be.