After 40 years, shipmates reunite at Wilber's Barbecue
By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 2, 2010 1:46 PM
Former shipmates, from left, Garry Price of Goldsboro, Robert Logner of Pinehurst and Beryl Lyon of Bluff City, Tenn., reminisce as they look at photos taken when they served together on the USS Conway. The three got together for the first time in 40 years recently when they met at Wilber's Barbecue.
Laughter served up over barbecue and fried chicken melted away the 40 years since the three shipmates had seen each other, and for a brief time they were back aboard their ship, if only in their memories.
For Garry Price of Goldsboro, who arranged the reunion at Wilber's Barbecue, it brought back that day in 1969 when the USS Conway, on which he was a medical corpsman, escorted the Queen Elizabeth II into New York Harbor and he had a run-in with an admiral.
"She (Queen Elizabeth II) was coming off one of her voyages and we were escorting her back in," he said. "When a flag officer comes onboard ship, as soon as his foot touches that gangplank you have six side boys, three on each side, and they have to salute. A boatswain mate is standing behind you and he is piping him aboard blowing a whistle. The whole time he is on that gangplank that whistle had better be blowing.
"He (officer) got there in front of me and I was standing there saluting. But I am a little bit double jointed. He stopped in front of me and said, 'Price, what is wrong with your hand?' 'Nothing sir.' 'Look at it. Take your hand down and look at it.' I tried to splay my fingers out. Meanwhile the boatswain is about to pass put from blowing the whistle for so long"
Finally the admiral said, "'Carry on. But I never had to pull a side boy duty again.'"
Price was reminiscing with Robert Logner of Pinehurst and Beryl Lyon of Bluff City, Tenn. Logner, who was a commander at the time, served as captain of the USS Conway, a destroyer escort, from May 1968 to November 1969. Lyon was a chief petty officer and Price was a medical corpsman. The three served together for about 18 months.
Price and Lyon have kept up with each other over the years and often talk by phone. Price said he could not recall how he found out that Logner lived in Pinehurst. Logner did not know Lyon was going to show up for the meal.
The three gathered at Wilber's Barbecue recently, the first time they have all been together in 40 years. Price's twin brother, Larry, was also onboard at the same time
The twins were, "no trouble at all that I know of," Logner joked.
"We were friends, but when we were on the ship he was the captain and I was the chief that is the way we treated each," Lyon said. "We respected each other's position. He trusted me and I trusted him. Off the ship we carpooled together. We had a unique relationship. Usually that doesn't happen between an enlisted man and the captain of the ship.
Logner, who served in World War II, started as a medical corpsman first class, similar to Lyon so that attributed to the close bond, Lyon said.
"I have the utmost respect for him," he said. "Even though he had bars on his shoulder, I respected the man. I had to respect the rank."
Originally commissioned as a destroyer, the Conway was primarily a training vessel during that time.
"We would take trips to Halifax Nova Scotia, Bermuda, Florida and do gunnery practice," Logner said.
Lyon had 12 to 13 years of experience before being assigned to the Conway, and, like Logner, is retired from the Navy.
"I had already been around the block a time or two," Lyon said.
The Conway was the first assignment for Price after he completed the corpsman training.
They all have fond memories of their service on the Conway.
"We had our moments," Lyon said. "Somebody yelled for the medical department for the chief to come up to the bridge, they had a heart attack victim. I went charging up to the bridge. It was a reserve lieutenant commander. I went up and the man was seasick and was hyperventilating. A paper bag took care of his heart attack."
Price remembers another shipmate whose natural expression was a grin.
"We were in the process of giving flu shots," Price said. "I happened to be standing there by the door and the chief (Lyon) was sitting there at the desk behind me. This fellow come up and said, 'I come up to get a flu shot.' He was just a grinning. I reached down got the serum and syringe.
"He looked over and said, 'You qualified to give a shot?' I said, 'No, but I've got to learn on somebody.' He looked back at the chief and had a concerned look on his face. The chief looked up and said, 'He knows what he is doing.' A flu shot takes about 10 second to hit you, but when it hits you, it hits. I gave him his shot and he said, 'That didn't...,' and about the time he was saying it didn't hurt, it hit."
The man hollered.
Lyon recalls one rather large man who came to sick bay and said he was sick. But Lyon said he knew the man just didn't want to work.
Lyon asked him what was wrong.
"I don't remember what he told me," Lyon said. "I pulled out the journal and started filling it out and he was standing there like this is too easy. I kept writing and kept writing and kept asking questions about his symptoms. He said, 'What are you putting on there?'
"I said, 'From what all you have told me, you have lumpucker root' and I kept writing."
The man asked him what that was.
"I told him, 'That is when all the pores of your skin turn into pustules and you are going to poop yourself to death' and I kept writing. He mumbled something and turned around and walked off. He never did come back and ask me for sick bay again."
They said their service was fairly routine except for the time a 55-gallon barrel being loaded broke loose and pinned Price's twin brother and another man against the bulkhead. Fortunately, they were not injured.
While most of their stories revolve around sick bay, others deal with the Conway's speed. In fact, the Conway holds the fossil fuel-powered ship speed record of 42 knots.
When the ship was built in Maine in 1941-42, there weren't enough destroyer screws, but there were extra cruiser screws, so those were put on the Conway, making it extra fast.
"It achieved a speed recorded for both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets," Logner said.
"It was like a high-speed bass boat when they had it cranked up," Lyon said.
He recalls a high speed night-time run from Rhode Island to Halifax. The ship had put into Rhode Island behind schedule because of some repairs before setting out again.
"I rode that night," Lyon said. "I was trying to sleep. We got back out that night and I kept hearing the foghorn. I was in my bunk trying to sleep. I got up early and went out on the deck of the ship and the ship was sitting like this (bow up) and I knew we were moving on and you couldn't see from here to the captain because of the fog.
"I went up on the bridge. I went up to him and he had 28 knots rung up. I said, 'You can't see the bow.' He said, 'I have a good sonar chief and I have a good radar chief.' I said, 'I hope so because you are going to need both of them.' He put that much confidence in his people. He knew they were going to do their job."
The ship also was known for its speedy trips down the Delaware River from the Philadelphia Naval Yard to reach the ocean -- normally a trip of three hours.
"We would leave the shipyard at about 5 o'clock in the morning and it was dark and we'd go out and get out about 9 o'clock in the morning past the sea buoy," Logner said. "So you had to really get down in a hurry."
Private boats were moored along the banks and the wake thrown up by the Conway caused the them to rock.
"The commodore told me I had better slow that (expletive) boat down going down the Delaware River," Logner said.
Part of the training as the commander officer was to teach the younger officers how to handle a ship -- taking it away from the dock and coming into the dock.
"This time I had a young jg (junior grade officer) taking it in," Logner said. "I knew he was going too fast to stop so I immediately took it over and I announced to the engineering department 'All back emergency full,' but we did take out a couple of pilings."