Saturday, October 25, 2008
Charlie Brooks was drafted, and you could argue the scarecrow was, too. The story of the scarecrow that sits outside the Portsmouth branch of the First National Bank of Ipswich is significant for two reasons. One is that it wears Brooks' Navy uniform — the submarine New Hampshire, the Navy's newest nuclear attack submarine, will be commissioned today. The other is its part in a community project — to help celebrate the event, city businesses have created Scarecrows of the Port, hoping to entertain the thousands of people who will pour into the city for the ceremony, as well as bring them back next year. Brooks, 75, was drafted into the Navy in 1954 and served two years on the submarine USS Grampus. Even though the service was not his cup of tea, he kept his old uniform. He recently offered it to his daughter, Wendy Blouin, head teller at Hanover Street bank, for the bank's street scarecrow.The scarecrow sits in a chair outside the bank door. For a short time on Friday, Brooks sat with it. "(In the 1950s), I definitely did not re-enlist," the Kittery Point resident recalled. "I didn't like (military service) much then, but now looking back on it, it wasn't bad. I traveled the East Coast and the Mediterranean. It was neat. We visited different ports, although sometimes they wouldn't let us off the boat." Petty Officer 3rd Class Brooks was an engine man, a position he said the new subs, being nuclear, no longer need. "We'd light up the engines when we hit the surface," he said. "We'd set down and when they wanted us to, we'd snorkel." It was pretty close quarters, Brooks said. The 307-foot Grampus was home to about 80 men while at sea. He was not married at the time but was already dating his future wife, Jane. "He'd drive home from Virginia all the way to Eliot to see me," she said.