January 22, 2020
We were lucky that the weather was a typical winter day; cold, but no ice, sleet,
snow or Polar Vortex (remember THAT last year??)
Eighteen members showed up at the Frankfort Public Library, which will be our
venue for the next few months. The first half our was devoted to mingling and
socializing, along with some snacks (thx for the donuts Dick!) and coffee & water.
Ron promptly brought the meeting to order at 7:30. He addressed the group
briefly, saying that things were moving along for Spring Fling. Additionally, he
mentioned that we are doing pretty good financially, with roughly over $5000 at
this point, which could change depending on the bill for Ride Illinois. He quickly
moved to the speaker/presenter portion of the meeting, and addressed Fern to
introduce the presenter for the evening. Given that a lot of members already
knew the speaker, she cheerfully told the everyone to “meet Gary.”
After his introduction, Gary Meyer smiled, and said hello. He expressed
enthusiasm for the Spring Fling, and he has agreed to have his business, Hickory
Creek Brewing, as the starting and endpoint of the ride. He cautioned that there
are several potholes near his brewery on Nelson Road! Even though many of the
group knew him as an avid cyclist, there’s a part of his life that many people aren’t
as familiar with. He was a 2 nd class Petty Officer going into the Navy when he
volunteered to train to work as mechanical operator on a nuclear submarine! But
before this, he was born in Michigan and then moved to in the Joliet area, & went
to Joliet Central High. His first line of work was as a carpenter and he joined forces
with his brothers. But the housing market declined, and so did the need for
carpenters. He then joined the Navy. After his 6-year tour of duty, he got out and
worked 28 ½ years at an oil refinery. After 2 years of retirement, he became
interested in opening a brewery.
Gary explained that the Navy has 3 types of submarines; attack, ballistic missile
(aka “Boomers”, and guided missile. Gary’s was an attack sub. During his service,
he volunteered & graduated from nuclear power school (which approximately
25% of the students fail). He was sent to the Navy’s submarine training facility in
Saratoga Springs, NY. Afterwards, he was assigned Holyoke, Scotland. The
submarine he was assigned to a route that took the sub close enough to hit Russia
if need be. The sub launches its missiles while the sub is submerged. His sub could
be submerged for up to 24 hours before it needs to emerge to charge its batteries.
He credited Hyman Rickover for championing the nuclear submarine; its biggest
advantage is nukes don’t need oxygen to run. Life on a submarine is not easy.
They had 18-hour days that were broken into 6 hour shifts. The schedule and the
fact they were confined in a sub resulted in not knowing if it was day or night, but
mealtime helped clue them into the time of day.
There were approximately 150 crew, and after a while, rank doesn’t matter so
much on a long tour of duty. Life on a sub means some mundane tasks are done
differently, such as discharging the toilets for sub. At the end of each day, the
toilets contents went to a pressurized tank to be pressurized to the point that it
gets pushed out. But when it is pushed out, it must be done so that they do not
cause a disturbance that could be picked up by enemy radar. Also, the process
involves each toilet, so the men could not use the toilet during this process! In the
dining area, tables must be bolted down. The tablecloths are specially treated to
be sticky so that dishes remain on the tablecloth. There was fresh fruits and
vegetables that are loaded at the beginning of the route, but usually lasted 2
weeks. 500 eggs may sound like a lot, but they too went quickly and the men had
to rely on powdered eggs after that. The practice of hot-bunking went on because
of the limited beds and the 18-hour schedule.
Gary could receive a telegram from his wife once a week, she had a 40-word limit!
If a crew member became sick, there wasn’t a doctor but there was a specially
trained Navy corpsman. If the crewmember was drastically ill, the sub would
emerge to have the crew member taken off the ship to a medical facility. If there
was an emergency but the sub was not allowed (or couldn’t) emerge, a “rescue
sub” was needed to be deployed; there are 2 rescue subs in the entire Navy…
Submarines themselves are incredibly expensive. A sub in 1964 cost 200 million;
nowadays they cost 2 billion or more! AT this point in the program, Ron realized
that it was time for the meeting to come to an end. Fern thanked Gary and
encouraged everyone to visit Gary’s establishment.Thank you, Gary, for revealing
a way of life that few of us has ever encountered, and thank you for your service.