June 15, 1998
'Seaman Roloff, you're hopeless'
by Oscar Roloff
Upon boarding my first warship, my main job was to swab the ship's main deck. When I called the swab a mop, Chief Boatswain's Mate Tony Zito blew up and shouted, "In this man's navy that's a swab, not a mop. Don't you ever forget it."
Shortly after war started in 1941, Tony received an officer's commission and shoved off to a new assignment. As he left, Tony still referred to me as "that dumb kid."
Soon word filtered back to the USS Tucker where Tony had reigned high and mighty. Now a LCDR and in charge of the docks at Manila, P.I., one day while on the docks watching the unloading of war supplies, Tony saw a former Tucker shipmate alight from a warship. He was one Tony used to go ashore with, have a few beers and shoot the bull. His first name was Steve. As his shipmate stepped ashore, Tony yelled, "Hey! You old shipmate. Come over here." As the two hugged each other, a young naval academy graduate on another ship saw the officer fraternizing with an enlisted man and said, "Sir. You're not supposed to fraternize with an enlisted man." Tony turned and said, "Why don't you mind your own business?" Then the two headed for the tavern to have a drink or two and talk about Tucker days. Actually Steve had earlier turned down an officer's commission and would have outranked Tony.
One day I ran across Tony who recognized me as the one who'd never amount to a hill of beans and disdained me. "Are you that dumb Roloff kid I used to have aboard the Tucker, the one who'd never amount to a hill of beans," he thundered as he looked down on me. Straightening up, I said, "Sir, for your information I rose to become a writer, editor, war correspondent and did well for myself. For that I want to thank you. You so belittled me that I had enough of it. My prominence over-shadowed the dumbness you always said I had and I ended up in a top slot in Washington D.C. "By the way, Sir, what did you mean when years ago you said I wouldn't amount to a hill of beans. I don't know much about a hill of beans." Whereupon the two and a half god striper got up and yelled, "That was to get you off your duff and make something out of yourself and it appears that's what you did. Let's go to the officers' club and celebrate your amounting to something." That's what we did. I preferred bourbon and coke.
I might add that I'm not on navy pay and while on naval connections my status is equivalent to a commander, such as while I am a guest of the Secretary of Navy on cruises and am given VIP status (Very Important Personage.) Heady stuff. Not bad for a lad who slopped hogs on a farm. Proves anyone can become a VIP.
Editor's Note: Oscar Roloff was one of the nominees honored at the first Alex Sidie Random Acts of Kindness Day. He was recognized for bestowing random acts of kindness throughout the community.