The Protagonists

Johnny Arthur, '62 (left), was the first Mister B. His distinguished career was brief. He made one presentation one morning in Tecumseh Court and was captured and fried for it. His successor had a longer and more distinguished career, making countless presentations and was never caught or fried. Although Johnny Arthur ceased to be Mister B, he was an active contributor. Most notably the trademark vomiting sound was recorded with Johnny leaning into his first wing tiled shower making the wretching noise while I sloshed water from a wastebasket between his legs to make the splashing sound. The revolting sound following the nausea seizure was courtesy of the drain in Johnny's shower.

Who Knew?

To my certain knowledge the only officer in the Executive Department with certain knowledge of Mister B's true identity was USAF Captain R.W. McLain. He was OinC for WRNV, I was recording engineer for WRNV. More than once WRNV was suspected of being at least an accomplice and I took him into confidence so that he could credibly deny any affiliation between the Mister B presentations and the radio station. There was, indeed some collaboration among WRNV personnel, but the station itself had nothing whatsoever to do with Mister B. If he ever disclosed my identity (and I don't think he did), it didn't have any severe consequences. There were some close calls, i.e. darned near caught, but I think they came with the territory, not attributable to Capt. McLain.

Were There Any Confederates?

There was, indeed, a sympathizer in the Executive Department, the Conduct Officer LT Phelan. Although he had no idea who Mister B was, he was an invaluable asset. Since he sat in on many of the meetings where strategy and tactics were discussed, he was able to dash off a written note and see to it that John Kelsey '64 got it. He knew that John could get the note into Mister B's hands quickly. LT Phelan's timely warnings of traps and other plans to capture and silence Mister B were among the reasons why it never happened. Is it the ultimate irony that it was the Conduct Officer who kept Mister B out of so many scrapes?

The Antagonists

There were certainly more than two Executive Department officers who pursued Mister B but the two most determined and even relentless were the 1962 Third Batt Officer, LtCol R.H. Twisdale, USMC and 1962-63 Operations Department Assistant LT G.E. Biles, USN. The former went so far as to try and trace audio lines in from the old WRNV spaces in the fifth wing (under renovation) and lines from the new WRNV spaces in the eighth wing. The latter had an almost Ahab-like borderline obsession. LT Biles' dedication to capturing Mister B was more than once rewarded by his being the butt of one of the breakfast presentations when he was sure to be in the mess. Mister B was about mischief, not villany, these two officers never figured that out.

So How'd You Do It?

Mister B was not very clever. Johnny Arthur's concept of a rogue illumination of various stupidity was a good one. The flaw in his approach was that it made him (obviously) vulnerable to capture and discipline. He had to be on watch, excused from the morning meal formation to present to the formation. Further, he only reached half the Brigade by using Tecumseh Court. It made a lot more sense for Mister B to use the mess hall to reach the entire Brigade and to be inconspicuous by not missing any formations prior to a presentation. How to do that?

One day I happened to be in the mess hall near the stewards' serving station that handled the staff table. The PA system resided in a closet in the serving station. I noticed it and became curious enough to go examine it. My eyes focused on the right side of the amplifier where there was an input jack marked "AUX" and a similarly marked volume control just above it. That's all I really needed. Some of us may recall that there were some problems with dirty tableware in spring 1962 and then there were the perfectly wretched powdered eggs... I calculated the time it took to form up, march into the mess hall, have the morning prayer, and "SEATS!". It was mechanical
and entirely predictable except for one long winded chaplain one morning (nearly an oops). I simply left enough blank tape preceding Mister B to occupy the time it took me to start a tape recorder, chop to formation, march in, pray, and take my seat. There were never announcements early in the morning meal. The closest timing call was that time when Father Cahill overprayed his welcome. Chairs were still scuffling when Mister B's music started, Whew! I forget what the presentation was but I remember how hard I prayed for him to stop praying.

Yeah, it really was that simple. Walk down there with the tape recorder, plug in to the AUX jack, wait for the time to put the lever on "play", make formation and be in my seat when it started. This was the procedure until late fall '62. Some pinnacle of brilliance figured out that there was a door to the PA locker and it had a lock on it (for very good reasons). I arrived with the recorder and the PA locker door was locked. Remember that they had chiefs supervise the stewards and march them back and forth? I was not an unfamiliar sight in the mess hall and that morning I must have looked forlorn because a chief boilerman walked over to where I was standing and removed a large keyring from his belt loop and left it on the corner of the table nearest me with a key extended. He then folded his arms and turned his back. I took the key and it unlocked the door! I dropped the keys on the table to make a sound loud enough for him to hear and turn around after I had vanished to make formation. I was always careful to make sure the door was locked when I removed the tape recorder after breakfast. This went on until just after Christmas leave. The BTC who had been so obliviously helpful stopped me on my way to the PA locker. He told me that he was going back to sea, but his relief was a chief boatswains mate and he had briefed him. I looked over to see a gold crow barrel chested BMC standing next to the table with his back to a ring of keys with one extended. I was still in business.

The last Mister B presentation was made the first day of academic year in Fall 1963. Aforementioned BMC was rustling stewards when he saw me and did a double take. I was wearing tropical white long with supply corps ensign shoulder boards. I had been assigned to stay on after graduation and teach, I had not yet been detached to proceed to supply school, so I did a little welcome for '64-'66. The '67 guys didn't get it, but the others loved it. Once the chief got over the surprise of recognizing me dressed as an officer he put the keys in the customary spot and turned his back, arms folded.

How Did You Rig the Army Game PA System?

To directly answer the question, I didn't. Don Nissley '64 was in the WRNV advance party to Veterans' Stadium. I had asked him to do reconnaisance to find a place where I could patch in the tape recorder. He reported back that they were too smart for that, it couldn't be done but if I'd meet him in the press box, we'd figure something out. That, as it turned out, was the least of my worries. To keep my word with Capt McLain I could not ask Don to take an active part, so I had to run it myself. I knew I would be too nervous to speak a capella, so I had to tape it and get myself and the tape recorder into the press box before game time. This meant I had to be absent from the march on. I couldn't use my time worn medical excuses, the excused squad didn't go to the game, I had to be an "authorized absentee", i.e. I had to be able to tell my mustering PO, Mike Shelley coincidentally, that my absence was authorized. Well I couldn't do that unless someone authorized it and that meant an officer, Executive Department in my chain of command or something else. It was too early to disclose my identity, too much of the year remained for too much vengeance by the Executive Department. As I pondered the dilemma I was kissed with inspiration. I went to the company office and telephoned the Superintendent's quarters.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick answered and I introduced myself: "Mrs. Kirkpatrick my name is Mister B. Is the admiral available?" she asked me to wait and called to him "Honey there is a man named Mister B on the phone for you." She was doubtless puzzled by his whoop, but he picked up an extension and said "Mister B, I've heard a lot about you, what can I do for you?" I explained that I wanted to make a presentation in Veterans' Stadium but I needed to be an authorized absentee for the march on, would he please authorize my absence? He cheerfully agreed and I thought I had cleared the highest hurdle. He suggested that it would be courteous to see to it that a transcript of what I planned to say be sent to Captain Burke (Executive Officer) and that he would see to it that only he, and Captain Minter (Commandant of Midshipmen) would be privvy to it. I eagerly agreed. I had correctly guessed that the Brigade would be more pleased that Mister B was on the PA system than they would be with what he had to say. I used the company officer's typewriter and prepared the text.

Things went smoothly right up to game day. I had made several presentations in the mess hall and I prepared the Brigade by using a drum roll, cymbal crash, and trumpet fanfare that would precede the Veterans' Stadium piece. Obviously I didn't tell them that, but I told them to remember those sounds. When the bus arrived in Philadelphia I debarked with the tape recorder and set out for the press box. I had climbed the steps to the first row of bleachers when I heard a clanking noise behind me. I turned my head to see what it was and to my horror the sword clad figure running across the field was LT Biles! I quickened my pace to get to the press box door and was nearly out of breath when I arrived and it was locked. Mister B was about to be caught red handed. The civilian guard looked through the window and saw my frightened look and the officer racing up the steps behind me. He opened the door and shut it behind me with LT Biles no more than three strides away. I heard the door knob rattle furiously but the guard didn't let him in. All he ever got to see of Mister B was the back of an overcoat wearing first class shoulder boards. I was so rattled that Don Nissley had to show me where the head was... Army marched on first, the Brigade took the stands and both teams took the field for pregame warm ups. A Woopoo was making announcements on the PA when it looked like our team was leaving the field. I had rigged a headset onto the tape recorder. I asked the Woopoo for the microphone, he gave it to me and I stuffed it in an earpiece of the headset and started the tape. The effect was nearly perfect. When the drum roll came over the PA about a quarter of the Brigade heard it and shut up. Half the Brigade shut up when they heard the cymbal crash and the rest shut up when they heard the fanfare. When the Brigade shut up, so did everyone else in Veterans' Stadium. When Mister B's theme song started the Brigade exploded in cheers, but shut up again just before it stopped (it was always the same length). Mister B had the undivided attention of everyone in the stadium.

Did Biles Ever Figure It Out?

Short answer is yes he did, but the longer answer is more entertaining. One of the rites of the supply corps school is that copies of the commissary returns for the future duty station are given to each fledgling supply officer. In order to calculate the amount of money available for rations, the personnel office prepares a form reporting the head count. The NavSandA 21 form is signed by the personnel officer. On a small destroyer type, I was being ordered to USS Lester (DE-1022), that is the XO. Imagine my horror when I recognized the signature of the Lester XO, LT George E. Biles. My only consolation was that I was dead certain he didn't know who was really Mister B.

I don't know who told him, but the gun boss on the Lester, Skip Davis, a ROTC, heard some Mister B stories and liked to repeat them in the wardroom over meals. He took special pleasure in that he knew how well the CO liked to hear them and how it irked the XO, the supply officer (me) remained silent. I suspect that Skip got the stories from either Dick McKenna or Eric Turner, but neither of them ever admitted it; he certainly didn't get them from me. One day the CO had gone ashore for lunch so XO was presiding. Skip started yet another Mister B story only to be cut off by the XO, audibly and visibly irritated. "I don't understand why you keep telling these stories when you weren't even there. They caught him you know." I looked up at him from my seat at the opposite end of the table "Sir?". "Hell Bill, he was in your class and I think he was in your company. Didn't you know him?" I hadn't realized they had figured out Mister B was in fourth company... "Well yes Sir. He was in my class and he was in my company, but XO I was NEVER caught!" His face flushed scarlet, he sputtered his soup and left the table before the main course was served. Needless to say, XO<->SO relations became more strained from that point forward. In fairness to Mister Biles he was a tough but good XO, a superior ship handler, and all around top notch seaman. Our wardroom was so short of officers that I accepted his suggestion that I stand deck watches. Wasn't any reason not to, I had the same training as they did and payday was only twice a month. I became an unusually proficient gunner and ship handler and most of those skills were developed through the teachings of LT George E. Biles. I will confess that I was relieved that Skip Davis wasn't as fond of telling Mister B stories after the disclosure occured.

So there you have it. Some you may have known, but fewer than ten of us knew it all. What started as a poke at Admiral Davidson's wife wanting us in whites before it was warm enough to wear them ended up as a collection of grins lasting for years.

Last modified: Sat Oct 28 14:03:29 CDT 2000

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