Member Stories: Toga Party



LT Bobby Lett was a pretty funny guy. He was a graduate, and proud member of “The Corps” at Texas A&M University.  He had a loud, twangy Texas accent.  He was a good family man, and he knew how to party when it was just the boys.

When we were on workups near the island of Saint Thomas, back in 1993, our XO, Gary Hicks, had senior shore patrol duties for our port visit. Things were heating up in Haiti, and tension was growing in the Caribbean. In Charlotte Amalie, the main city of Saint Thomas, there had been some violent crime affecting sailors from the USS Saratoga. The XO decided it was a good idea for us to cut our port visit short. I was standing duty the day he made that decision.

When I left the ship, we were told that everyone was going to have to return the next day due to cancellation of liberty.  They couldn’t get everybody back that night.  So, anyone who was still in Saint Thomas was required to stay in their hotel.  Our “Admin” was out at Cowpet Bay, on the east side of the island, pretty far from Charlotte Amalie.

When I got there, I said, “Hey! I’m supposed to tell everybody that we have to stay the night here!  We can’t go out in town.”  I started hearing things like, “What’s that?”  “Did Bluto just say something?” “I didn’t understand what you said.”  And, finally: “Grab a sheet off the bed!  It’s toga night! We’re going to Red Hook!”  “If you’re not coming with us, you’re a wuss!”

“OK, I told you what I was supposed to tell you,” I said.

“We still don’t understand you, Bluto.”

Red Hook was a small town on the eastern side of Saint Thomas, near the ferry landing to St. John’s, and there were a couple of bars there that catered to American tourists.  In one bar, if you wanted a rum and Coke, the bartender would bring a glass with ice, a bottle of rum, and a can of Coke. It was your job to mix the drink however strong you wanted it. Then, if you wanted to take the chance of rolling dice for the drink, you would either pay twice for the drink if you lost, or it would be free if you won.

We stayed at the bar for quite a while before we decided it was time for us to leave.  Bobby, dressed in a toga, found out some of the other patrons were Texas Aggies. I think he was more interested in talking to them than they were in talking to him. But he didn’t understand that. We said, “Bobby it’s time to go.” In his twangy Texas accent he said, “Go on ahead! I’m with some Aggies! I know they’ll give me a ride.”

We insisted, “Bobby, we’re leaving!” But he wasn’t having any of that. He said he was staying. So, we drove back to the Admin. The next morning, Bobby’s clothes, keys and wallet were still there. We wondered what happened to him. When we got to the ship, there was Bobby, sitting in the ready room in a toga. He’d been sitting there for hours.

Apparently, we were correct about the Aggies not wanting to have much to do with Bobby.  So, he decided to walk back to the Admin, which was a couple of miles along a dark road from Red Hook. He saw a van drive by. Thinking it was us, he waved it down.   When the van stopped, he slid open the door, sat down, looked around, and realized everyone in the van was wearing Navy summer white uniforms. They all had “scrambled eggs” on their covers.  It was the Admiral, his Chief of Staff, CAG, the CO and XO of the ship; essentially all of the heavy hitters from Saratoga.  They had just left a Navy League reception on the east side of the island.

They weren’t going to drop him off at the Admin!  He knew he was in trouble, especially considering we weren’t supposed to be out that night. When the van pulled up to Fleet Landing, where sailors lined up to take the ferry back to the ship, Bobby decided he only had one chance to keep out of trouble. As soon as they stopped, he opened the door and sprinted to the dock.  Someone at the dock said, “Hey, it’s Mr. Lett!”

Our squadron’s enlisted people were the ones manning the ferry dock. They hurried him onto the ferry boat and launched it before the senior officers made it there.  Since it was all VAQ-132 enlisted people for security, and VAQ-132 JOs were boat officers in charge of the ferries, Bobby was able to get to the ready room in his toga, but he didn’t have the key to his stateroom. I guess none of the senior officers in the van knew that Bobby was a Scorpion (or they didn’t care enough to worry about it). So nothing was ever heard about it again.

He lucked out.



About Author'

James Allen retired as a Captain after thirty years in the US Navy. Pilot EA-6B, NFO, EP-3, Instructor T-34.  Currently United Airlines – 737 Captain, Author

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