The Gismo

The Gismo was the ship’s newsletter. Captain Copeland described its creation in the following manner:

One of the little things that helped break the everyday routine of watch standing and ship’s work was our ship’s newspaper. It didn’t just happen nor was it exactly inspirational. I have told you that when we left Boston en route to the Pacific the Commodore had our division doctor, Dr. Erwin, come aboard to ride with us at least as far as Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, we had very little illness on board and this unfortunately, as far as Doc was concerned, gave him practically nothing to do.

After about a week or ten days of sheer boredom, Doc came to my cabin one afternoon and wondered if there wasn’t something he could do to relieve his own monotony and at the same time do the ship and the crew some good. Both of us knitted our brews and cudgeled our brains for quite a while. After discarding several other ideas I finally asked him how he would like to get out a ship’ s newspaper– something on the lighter side to stimulate the interest of the crew in their shipmates and shipboard happenings.

Doc was a little skeptical at first, but considering anything preferable to twiddling his thumbs, he embarked upon the idea with a great deal of enthusiasm. For his initial staff he enlisted the help of Cronin, our yeoman second class, who in civilian life had done some newspaper work, and also obtained the services of Chuck Raymur, one of our radiomen, as the ship’s cartoonist. By the time the paper was first ready to go to press Doc was around again wondering what we should call it. Several high class names containing the words “Herald” and “Chronicle” or something like that were suggested, but none of them seemed appropriate.

Finally Doc said, “Well, I just don’t know what to call it,” which caused me to reply, “Well, Doc, any time we don’t know the name of anything we usually call it a ‘gismo’.” When the first issue came out, that was the name it bore. I guess there never was a newspaper published anywhere that didn’t run a contest of some kind or other, so the editorial staff of the “Gismo” decided it was high time to run a contest to get a permanent name for our paper. At least forty entries were submitted. I don’t remember who all of the judges were, but Ensign Moylan was one of them.

The last night before the contest closed, sometime after midnight, I had an inspiration. I took a piece of paper and a soft lead pencil and painstakingly, with my left hand, wrote out a contest letter suggesting the reasons why I thought the name “Gismo” should be retained. I then signed it “Sammy B”, went up on the fo’c’sle, picked up little Sammy, who was sleeping behind the hedgehog, took him down to the deserted yeoman’s office and, with the aid of a stamp pad, put one of his paw prints below the signature.

Of course, the prize money could never be awarded but the judges finally decided that Sammy’s letter was the winner. Although I think more than one or two of the crew suspected that I had written Sammy’s letter, no one was indiscreet enough to openly accuse me of it, and the name “Gismo” stuck with our paper from then on.

“What happened to the ‘Gismo’ when Dr. Erwin left the ROBERTS?”

Ensign Moylan carried on as editor. Except for the first issue which came as a surprise to the men, the publication was the crew’s own project. Each division selected a representative who became a member of the editorial staff. How much good the “Gismo” did will never be known, but one thing is certain–its articles and poems and cartoons brought a lot of chuckles to most of our crew who only by its disclosures found out how interesting the lives and the habits of some of their shipmates really were.

from “The Spirit of the Sammy-B

Editions of the Gismo

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