||My Sea Scout Memories – Andy Biro
TGIF was invented to describe how this 13-year-old felt about the
days leading up to the weekends as a Sea Scout. Actually, Tuesday
nights weren’t that bad either.
Before I could drive I could pack a sea bag. Required to board
either the Sea Horse or Sea Scout, my packed sea bag meant I was
about to take another step toward becoming a man. At 13 assuming
responsibility for anything was usually annoying and distasteful,
unless you were at the helm of a 43’ or 65’ war ship, in the galley
preparing a meal for 15 hungry soldiers, or in the engine room monitoring
switches, dials, rpms and leaking seals. When you knew you were
responsible for something on the ship, you focused on the job at
hand and made sure your watch would count.
I was a fattish little Momma’s boy when Ray Mendel brought me to
the B.P.O.E. building one Tuesday night in 1959 or 60; I was almost
13. Not expecting much, I was astonished to find boys from every
walk of life dressed sharply in blinding whites and eagerly participating
in a variety of exercises and programs. I wanted in.
My first assignment was working the Christmas tree lot between
the B.P.O.E. building and Sears. In a fowl smelling tent, on an
uncomfortable army cot, I spent my first night away from home. We
worked under the glare from strings of 60 watts bulbs and gas lanterns.
We stole away to Sears to get white chocolate and a ¼ inch
socket. We awoke to eggs and bacon, aching from head to foot from
the cots and sleeping bags, damp from the morning dew but grinning
from ear to ear. I wanted this to last forever.
My first trip on the Sea Horse was even more spectacular, arriving
on Pier 1 at Dinner Key, sea bag in tow, I hoisted my petard aboard,
found my assigned bunk in the bow, and waited for instructions.
Within minutes the remaining crew arrived, Hartwell, Nemeth, Pine,
Mendel, Fitch, Thickman, others I can’t remember and, of course,
Wood was already aboard with his stogy. We quickly became a team,
heaved the lines and set sail for a weekend of intense maritime
study aboard a boat that was made to order. With something always
needing attention, we were never bored. As we showed talents and
interests to the leaders, our places and responsibilities were determined.
I was given the opportunity to stand at the helm during the day
and was given a 4-hour watch on the stern at night. I slowly learned
how to operate the radio, and how to listen unconsciously for distress
calls from weekend boaters in trouble. I steered the boat through
the Feather Beds, learned Distance equals Rate times Time and found
a legitimate use for dividers and slide rules. Life was grand.
We camped one weekend on Elliott’s Key. Practically the entire
ship participated and was fairied over to the island on a small
fleet, which included the Sea Horse, Charnley’s boat and other cruisers
that I faintly remember. Sea Scout Drummond, much older than me,
and I decided to walk around the island…thinking it would be an
afternoon stroll. We got lost and were found late in the evening
battered and bleeding. We even made the papers.
Wood, Fitch, Quillen, Barry and Bees somehow, with the help of
Massey, I think, snagged us a 65-foot yacht that I met in dry dock
off the Miami River. We scraped, caulked, screwed, sawed, sister
ribbed, engineered, refitted, sanded, sanded, sanded and painted
for a lifetime. Finally, with a red bottom, a blue water line and
a gleaming white hull, the Sea Scout was launched. With enough room
for a small platoon, we took to the high seas using all the skills
we had honed on the Sea Horse. With two engines, two generators,
a real galley, salon, two helms and lots of sleep quarters and hammocks
on the fantail, this ship was the perfect vessel for the committed
crews that it trained.
Many memories fill my mind. The Sebring races, the VIP tent, the
Dry Tortugas, the tool shed at Wood’s house in South Miami, the
65 Mustang, red with no power steering, and delivering phone books
and pamphlets to fund our journeys. The friends I made, both young
and old, all had a lasting affect on what I am today. I always thought
I would become a Scout leader as an adult. Never did, never was
willing to devote the enormous amounts of time it required. I will
FOREVER be grateful to Dave Wood, Charlie Berry and the band of
men that made this possible for me a hundreds of others. I became
a Man as a Scout in SSS 537.
I have done much since SSS 537. Attended Mars Hill College, played
bass guitar and traveled around the world twice with Up With People,
Graduated FSU, partnered a Fish Farming venture with my brother
in Malawi, Africa, had a small mobile home company in Fairbanks,
AK during the pipeline days, partnered with my Step Father in a
computer business, System 20/20 and Miami Voice. Had a small telephone
equipment company, lived for many years, about a block from Dave
Wood's old house, just behind the Parrot Jungle. Moved to Tallahassee
when the kids were Young and my wife and I had a Christmas Shoppe
for ten years. Presently, we are building a restaurant in Tallahassee,
Brewbakers Bakery Cafe. I am presently the General Manager of the
#1 store in the Atlanta Bread Company Franchise. I am old and fattish,
I love the Lord. My mom passed away in 86. My father, Dr. Biro,
is still living and healthy at 97 in Palm Bay, Florida. My brother
Rick and Sister Bonnie Lois live in Ft. Lauderdale. My youngest
brother, Ladd lives in Dallas.
I am married, forever, to a wonderful lady, Keta and I have two
kids. Travis, 18, is going to FSU in the fall. My baby girl, 17,
is an ART freak and both are great kids that have been raised by
a trained Sea Scout...both love the Lord. I suffered a triple bi-pass
three years ago, but I am just fine now. I love to cook, fly fish,
and fly. I have my instrument rating and had a C-172 for many years...and
once the kids are gone, I will have one again.
I have several rolls of Super 8 film of our times in Sea Scouts...one
of the Dry Tortugas and the infamous food drop. I have NO projector
and can't find anyone in Tallahassee that can convert the film to
CD or DVD. Someday I will get it done and load it on the internet
for all to enjoy.
Keep up the good work, and please visit me in Tallahassee when
ever you are in the area.