When I was a pre-adolescent boy, I played one season of American football. The main memories from that year were that we were the worst team in the league, that I was probably the worst player on our team, and that the other boys called me “Seabees”.
They called this because I regularly wore a t-shirt in practice with that name on it. I believe it even had a bee logo. I hated being called “Seabees” because in the same breath someone used to use it as my name, they were also chastizing me in a deprecating manner. “Hey Seabees, get off your butt!” “What’s wrong with you, Seabees?” “Seabees, that has to be the worst block I have ever seen.”
I wish I had that shirt now, though. I am pretty sure it belonged originally to my Uncle Claude, who lived down the street. He was my father’s brother. He was one of the neighborhood Dads, and a former Seabee.
I didn’t know much about the Seabees until I was sitting in the public library in Finland last year and ran across a book about them, in English. It was full of photos, which was nice because usually the library was where I went to relax and I wasn’t into heavy reading.
The Seabees are the U.S. Navy’s construction wing. What I recall from that book was how hard they worked during World War II. The Seabees did things like build airfields on Pacific islands lickety split. They worked long hours supporting our combat soldiers. They were unsung heroes of that war.
According to their website, they were involved in every American attack from the sea during World War II. Seabees were known for how creative they were. This conjures up pictures of duct tape and bubble gum in my mind.
If I knew what I know now when I was playing football in the sixth grade, I would have worn that Seabees shirt proudly. I would also have been proud of the name. I know I am proud of my Uncle Claude.