Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, April 26, 2010


A few days ago, I had a great visit from an old shipmate on USS Topeka (SSN 754) who was passing through town. (An EM2(SS) when I left Topeka in '93, my friend got commissioned, and is now a Naval Flight Officer on E-2 Hawkeyes. Quite a career change.) He brought over all the letters he had sent home from the boat's '92-'93 deployment, and I brought our my scrapbook for us to go over old memories. In going through the scrapbook, I saw all the Family-Grams my wife had sent me during those six months.

For those young Submariners who wonder what a "Family-Gram" is (since you have E-mail almost every PD trip), it was a one-way message your loved one could send a Submariner while on deployment. In my day, the wives were given six of them to send during the deployment, and I think they were limited to 50 words. Like most things on submarines, they weren't very private -- the Radiomen saw all of them (and in fact could download the Family-Grams from all the boats on deployment if they wanted). Here's a story from an old Submariner about how the lack of Family-Gram privacy resulted in an embarrassing situation.

One of our pastimes during midwatches was to try to come up with the worst possible Family-Gram (limited to 50 words). I liked to add the old submarine standby, "The flooding put out the fire". Many submissions involved the wife running off with the neighbor and selling all the Submariners possessions.

What are your favorite Family-Gram stories?


Blogger John Byron said...

This one got through the SUBGROUPTWO censors, circa 1970:

"...curly and the twins miss you."


4/26/2010 5:10 PM

Blogger Jarrod said...

They were doing them as of a few years ago; they were just pointlessly redundant because e-mail was better. Family grams these days are just e-mail with a word limit; they're even distributed the same way.

4/26/2010 6:08 PM

Blogger Bill Lapham said...

Old Boomer patrols - 70-75 days, 6 Grams, 20 words ea.

"Kids doing fine in school. Mom and Dad will be here to greet you when you get back. Love, Me"

It was enough to make a grown man cry.

4/26/2010 6:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a fast attack radioman and of course we copied the boomer broadcast to laugh at the family grams. Best one I ever saw (and can't believe it made the broadcast) was "Red river flowing, no need to worry"

4/26/2010 7:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's rare for me to receive or send a Fam-gram. Family wise, I have only The Mother Superior to talk to in such matters. I grew up in an orphanage with almost no contact with real family over the years. Less than seven years ago, I joined the Navy 2 days after my 18th B-Day. Family grams I can tell, are one of the most important things in a sailor's life. Moms, girlfriends and wives are the biggest thing here. It's a considerable tradition with us.

Off topic, another tradition which Joel can write a post on,

Why is it important for the each mess to remain separate? The main mess deck, the goat locker and the wardroom all should remain separate for ample reasons. We all need a few minutes to relax and discuss topics one normally would not talk about in open public. It's not a matter of segregation, it's based on protocol and proper decorum.

I'm sure a lot of guys here have a few thoughts in this direction if Joel wanted to blog on the subjct sometime soon.

4/26/2010 7:41 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

One time in off crew...I had the duty and couldn't lock up and leave because the radiomen were typing up family grams to send to the sailors.

What made it so interesting was from one wife to her Sailor. Three family grams, all worded differently, but said the same thing!

Another, obviously one wife didn't understand the directions. There were 50 spaces for words, she made it 50 spaces for letters!

Some were rather sexual.

I got a family gram one time from my wife with about 10 words. Got called into the COs stateroom for the rest of it. Wife had surgery and she put results in family gram. She wasn't supposed to ahve surgery until after I returned!


4/26/2010 7:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a famgram, but pulling into Yokosuka a fellow E-divver bolted to the phones to call wifey. She told him she had packed up all his crap & put it in storage, & she was now shacked up with his BFF from his hometown. And yes, she was serious.

Pulling in to SD after WesPac an ST was met on the pier by his wife and two young daughters. During the small talk on the pier one of the daughters asked the ST, "Daddy, where are you going sleep?"

ST: "With mommy, why?"

Daughter: "Well where is Uncle XXXX going to sleep?"

4/26/2010 8:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ST: "With mommy, why?"

Daughter: "Well where is Uncle XXXX going to sleep?"

Wow! That's just cold!! Too bad it's quite the reality in our world too.

4/26/2010 8:35 PM

Anonymous 3383 said...

That stuff isn't just a joke. A new EM2 STARbaby went with us to RIMPAC 86 or 87 for 2 months, and found his kids with unknown neighbors, a completely empty apartment, and his wife living with her meth dealer when I drove him home.

4/26/2010 11:16 PM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

Seems like family grams would be a good topic for the EM-Log. It's almost been a year!

4/26/2010 11:45 PM

Blogger Chap said...

When we pulled in from the deployment and op and some REMF SOB on the pier handed us an envelope full of printed familygrams they couldn't be bothered to send us on the broadcast. Thanks, buddy.

4/27/2010 4:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gave numerous grams to POTUS and he never sent me any! c'mon, I voted for him and his 600 ship Navy three times!

ex-Miss Sh@tcan A-ganger

4/27/2010 6:10 AM

Anonymous Sparks said...

Well, if anything here was gonna move me to finally post something, I guess this one is it...

As a Boomer RMLPO in the mid 70's, I know all there is to know about our "grammers."

Yes, we could read all grams to all the boats. I kept a file of the funny ones. I wanted to write a book, sorta like the Linkletter pocketbook about the funny things kids say...

My last skipper wanted to read our grams before they were passed out. He would come to radio once he was notified grams were inbound. He nearly always wore a sub sweater, wore slippers, and would stand in front of the broadcast teletype, his arms crossed, smoking his pipe, and when he read one that, for whatever reason he wanted held back, he would tell one of us to "pull that one.." He would do that a lot.

One evening, grams coming in, he's standing by the machine, and he kept giving me the old "snake eye" and finally, he said to me..."P.O. Sparks, that's your 10th gram, isn't it?" It was... The off-crew LPO suffered for it, too..

Ahhh, I don't miss those days at all!

4/27/2010 8:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad was an ET1(SS) on the 599 back in the day when SSBNs were new. Back then, family grams were only 10 words, so they had to be chosen carefully. On his last patrol, my dad got a family gram that said "Mice in wall wear combat boots.". My dad thought it was some kind of code from my mother, and it drove him nuts all patrol trying figure it out.

He asked her about it when he returned. The Norwich apartment we lived in at the time was a converted Victorian mansion, and it was infested with mice. At night she could hear the mice scurrying around between the walls.

That was the best one I ever heard. Except maybe for the guy who's wife wrote she was going to give him a good tongue-lashing when he got home.

4/27/2010 9:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had to read the incoming/outgoing Sailor Mail, too.

Sorry, I'm not telling.

4/27/2010 9:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike Shaw and I work in the same office now...and we're wondering who could be our shipmate that is now a brown-shoe? Just curious.

4/27/2010 9:49 AM

Blogger FT2(ss) said...

Great now I have to go open my box of navy stuff and reread all my family grams I saved.

4/27/2010 10:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On patrol in 1970 I received a family gram from my new bride, “Keel laying successful, launching August 25”. I scratched my head for a minute as my bride knew nothing about the Navy. I then realized that my 30 year navy dad did and figured out that I was about to be a father. Memories.


4/27/2010 10:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a friend at SupShip Groton in the mid-1970s: It was time for a familygram, and there was no news. Nothing had gone wrong, nothing had broken or burned, no kids were injured—there was no news. Her twenty-word solution, including the required salutation and closing:
Dear B** Horny Horny Horny
Horny Horny Horny Horny Horny
Horny Horny Horny Horny Horny
Horny Horny Horny Love D***
Of course, the censors refused to send it.

4/27/2010 10:58 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

NAV on MAINE (BLUE) always got the best family grams. He'd been a JO on CALHOUN, and was famous even then for his grams.

Greatest of all time??

"Back door squeaks. Needs oil."

4/27/2010 11:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was a RM on boomers in the 70's, best gram that got through was "Bet your birthday sure was a bummer without me there to give you a hummer"

4/27/2010 12:37 PM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

sparks @ 8:54--That wouldn't happen to have been CAPT Lachata, would it?

But as for me, I relied more on the snail mail from home. Got better stuff, like my first X-Mas on Westpac. Mother sent me a pink pig called "Pudgy". It got kidnapped, and tapes circulated the boat of it being "tortured" lest I not pay the ransom of Pepsis and Snickers bars to a certain E-Div "middleman"...

4/27/2010 12:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being newly engaged and fiance left for 6 month deployement, I didn't grasp how to do the fam gram right I put as many words on each line as possible. I got a call from the Chaplain and then a call from Diego Garcia from future hubby saying my note made the Family Gram of the Week in West Pac...hence the start of creative letter writing...

4/27/2010 1:45 PM

Blogger Sparks said...

nhsparky @1240...

Ummmm, no.. 617 boat....

Cutest words, to slip by the group censor, as I recall, made ref to someone's "blue veined throbber..."

4/27/2010 3:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was in a wedding right after New Year's Day in 1986. Struck up a little bit of romance with one of the bride's maids. She was headed off to Communist China to teach English. So, I sent her some family grams to send back to me while I was on patrol on the USS Michigan Blue.

Amusingly, no one at Group 9 or Squadron 17 ever asked me why I was getting grams postmarked from China.

Dave, the nuke (with cancer) from St. Louis

4/27/2010 7:22 PM

Anonymous Studmuffin said...

Don't have any memorable family grams that I recall but I do remember one clueless TM who knocked on the door to radio and commenced to hand over his family grams to send back home.

The COB and CO decided it was time to have him dress out for the mail buoy.

4/27/2010 7:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On my first deployment in the early 1980s my boat had gone a while without receiving any family grams. The crew was not happy. The CO sent a Pfor to the Commodore that simply read "Family Grams WTF (spelled out), over BT". We had family grams on the next trip to pd.

This same CO sent another Pfor when we were scheduled to go to Yoko that simply stated "prefer San Miguel to Kiren", but those stories are reserved for another day. PS. We went to Subic instead.

4/27/2010 7:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last patrol in 2006, e-mail was great. Quickly found out that not only can e-mail be read coming in but also going out.

Great insight into what CO/XO thought about each other and what CO thought about his wardroom...the Engineer never had a chance!

No wonder the great Alaska Blue ORSE Exam cheating scandal of 2006 happened!

4/28/2010 6:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our A-gang chief on a boomer got one that he couldn't figure out. It was a string of words like "Interior Walls are not tacky. tomorrow our sick takes on neighbor ... . The Chief was like "I don't have a dog and our neighbors are away! WTF?"

Anyway, someone finally figured out it was a code: take the first letter of each word and it spelled out: I WANT TO SIT ON YOUR FACE AND HAVE YOU EAT ME. After the code was cracked, he was smiling for days!

4/28/2010 7:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was on my first boat one of my roommates was a Radioman and he informed me that another Radioman from the Group was in trouble for harassing a girl I was seeing. Apparently he had the hots for her and was copying all the Family Grams that she was sending to me and would call her to know why she was sending me grams. It got to the point that she changed her phone number and sent parts of it to myself my roommate and another friend so I could put it together to call her from a port call.

During one offcrew I received a ziplock bag in the mail at offcrew office just before bus away with shredded paper in it. It was a family gram that the postal system destroyed. They were able to put the address part together so that it would make it to the office. It turns out that that gram was the first one mailed in the previous patrol.

4/28/2010 12:05 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Great to hear from you! I sent you the answer via your Facebook E-mail.

4/28/2010 2:26 PM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

One year anniversary of the last post on the EM-LOG. I hope the owner is doing well!

4/28/2010 2:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Famous family gram circa 1980:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
I sure miss your candlestick.

4/29/2010 8:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back on TOPEKA, on the last run with he who must not be named. (but after joel escaped)

A divorced JO would craft and "send" himself family grams from another JOs wife.

The victem JO made the classic mistake of getting angry. Made for great conversation for a long period of time.

Unrelated, the divorced JO remarried and the married JO divorced...

5/02/2010 3:49 PM

Anonymous mln84 said...

659Blue, early 90's- just before crew combination. Saw one guy's- "Dog is outside burying a bone, can't wait for you to get home and bury yours."

5/04/2010 9:18 PM

Anonymous sex shop tienda said...

I consider every person should read this.

6/29/2012 5:04 AM


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