My Short History with the Jolly J

Contributed by: Raymond “Harold” Ponsell – SM3

I was assigned to the Johnston in about Aug 1967. Shortly thereafter I was a striker for Signalman and was moved to the signal bridge. I remember a few of the names but unfortuneately not all. There was the First Class Mike Shibarik (spelling ?) who was naturally callled “Ski.” There was E-5 Cline, what an ol’ salt as my memory tells me. He introduced me to “Salty Dogs” at the Hong Kong Hilton, that I remember. There was Gordon Schrader E-4 from Murfeesboro Tenn, he turned out to be my running buddy. There was a Larry Smith, a Mike Dees who had just gotten married and Jacobo Martinez “Jake” I hope some or all of these guys get this message as I would love to talk to them after all these years.

Sometime around Nov we sailed for Vietnam. Somewhere around Cuba we lost a shaft bearing, if my memory is correct, and we alone went back to Mayport for repairs.

Mayport sits next to Jacksonville Fla which is my home town. I visited with family and friends while the ship was in Mayport. Finally the ol’ girl was ready for a sea trial and I borrowed my dad’s car to drive to Mayport for the sea trails. Well as Navy luck goes she passed the sea trial and we went straight on south headed for the Far East. Now there were no cell phones etc in the sixties so around, as I later learned, 10pm my Dad called the base to learn why I and his car weren’t home. Dad told me later he had a heck of a time getting on the base and retrieving his car.

A few of the shipmates visited some local drinking joints while the ship was in Mayport and a few of them brought along a lil’ present with them, nothing the needle couldn’t cure πŸ™‚

I was REALLY impressed with the Panama Canal, some kind of technology and this 19 year old (at that time) thought it was something.

The single ship convoy over was pretty cool in my opinion as I was born in Jacksonville and had hardly left the area before joining the Navy. San Diego was short and quick and I don’t remember much about it.

Guam was cool as I got a “care package” from home and the guys on the signal bridge really enjoyed sharing the homemade Pecan Logs my mom had sent.

Our arrival in Subic Bay was REAL CULTURAL shock to this young southern boy. I had never heard of much less seen that kind of poverty. The Phillipines turned out to be interesting, Olangapo City, was really weird. Yea I got a lot of shoe shines on the bridge leaving and entering the base, beat the alternative black shoe polish on the whites. Any one remember the base club “Sampitago” .25 call brand drinks and then to Olangapo City for warm San Miguel beer.

The Gulf Of Tonkin and the firing line was something else. I actually enjoyed all the activity while we were shooting. The plane guard duty was interesting to say the least. Yep I got my “Gulf of Tonkin Yacht Club patch and the Stompin’ in the Tonkin patch”.

Hong Kong was great, enjoyed the sites, food and all. Got my “crow” there on the fantail from Cmdr Curran.

Kaoshong (spelling) Taiwan, WHAT A PLACE. I tried to ship over for permanent shore duty there THANK GOD THE NAVY SAID NO

I remember the BIG STORM we went through on the way over, that was something else. I remember something about a galley fire somewhere in the cruise and all we had to eat that night was “battered, fried Egg Plant” I have loved it ever since. Anyone remember Cook Friley, the big guy?

How about all the pirated records we had to throw overboard on the way back? I hated that πŸ™

I am sure there are many, many things I am forgetting and may never remember or might if someone else’s memories jog mine.

I got out of the Navy in Dec 68 and piddled around on several jobs until April 75′ when joined the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office in Jacksonville Fla. I retire from there this Dec 14th, 2001.

We, Tish and I, will move into our motorhome and travel the USA for a few years to find the PLACE we want to live. Hopefully this posting could lead to a chance to meet some of the former shipmates sometime in the future.


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