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In the beginning, St. Marys, Georgia was a bit of a quiet southern backwater. Enter the United States Navy, and certain changes were inevitable. Among the commercial enterprises the Navy helped make productive was the semi-notorious Snorkel Bar on the St. Marys outskirts. Even those traveling to Kings Bay on submarine business in the 80s were made aware of this infamous establishment, I among them. Snorkels apparently put in various stints as an off-limits establishment, but enjoyed a generally relaxed oversight under the eye of the Camden County Sheriff Department.

As one might predict, Snorkels became an oasis of choice among submariners and submarine support sailors. Snorkels worked hard on coming up with specialty nights to encourage their patrons, many of whom needed little encouragement. One particular specialty event, sometime in the late 80s, brought a new level of notoriety to Snorkels. The feature entertainment was to be a contest to determine which couple could engage in the longest, most passionate kiss. All this to be performed on stage in a backseat removed from a ’57 Chevy. One can easily imagine the enthusiasm and creativity submarine and support sailors can throw into such an event. In the end, one particular couple went so far beyond the less imaginative efforts of other contestants that they were exuberantly and unanimously proclaimed winners. When they finally secured snorkeling and resurfaced from the depths of the Chevy backseat, they were duly crowned champions.

As fate would have it, the winners were both active duty sailors, and word of their feats spread like wildfire. Understandably, local Navy leadership saw few upsides to this titillating story, and plenty of negative public relations potential. So they decided to cover their bosses in Norfolk with an appropriate OPREP incident reporting message. I happened to be visiting at COMSUBLANT headquarters the day the message showed up in early morning message packages. What normally was a fairly calm, pro-forma morning conference became a chorus of stifled snickers and guffaws as the various captains sequentially came upon the Snorkel report. Not surprisingly, rendering such interesting circumstances into a very stiff report format is a challenge too great. The harder one tries, the more the result comes off sort of like Humor in Uniform. In the end you simply have a humorous story that, no matter how carefully stilted the language- is still funny. As for our senior leadership, better to be forewarned I suppose. But I got the impression they would have been quite happy not to be informed of the Snorkel exploits. There is that unwritten law of the Navy: “Don’t tell me something that I’d be better off not knowing.”

Some things have gone full circle in the 25 or so years since the Snorkel Incident. Camden County’s Sheriff routinely won reelection- once while under indictment, surviving until recent years through bluster and cunning. And, l might add, through appreciative treatment of Navy people! After being run out of office, he now threatens to run again, with plenty of local support likely. And Snorkel Bar, after several benign attempts to regenerate the atmosphere of bygone days into the modern Navy cultural environment, is now a substation for the Camden County Sheriff Department.

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