One late night during my sequester I was bored and playing my favorite drinking game, shopping on eBay. I came across an item that I immediately recognized and it took me way back to my college days.
The item related to a drinking game we played by the name of Turtles. This item seemed to match what I recalled about the history of the game and consisted of a 10 Franc Bill printed in France on 5 December 1940. The bill is signed by 20 people including Raymond Babb. I figured it was such a rare find that I would purchase it regardless of whether I could match it to the correct Raymond Babb.
Back in my college days I wasn’t in a “real” fraternity and neither were any of my friends. We instead banded together and formed our own pretend fraternity so that we could just do what we wanted without the school’s prying eyes. We had our own frat shirts made and enjoyed being “rebels!” Every Thursday night we would gather in one of our dorm rooms and play the drinking game Turtles.
It’s a simple game for the first few rounds filled with tongue twisters that increase in difficulty just as the alcohol is starting to make it more difficult to say them. Those who could complete the game were made a Turtle and became part of our fraternity. I still hold the Turtle (the animal) most fond because of these days and have dozens stashed all over the house. We adopted the Turtle as our Mascot and had no idea of the historical significance of the game.
Decades later I stumbled across a web page that talked about the history of the game and its roots in WWII. Soldiers would get together and play the game as a way to pass the time when off duty. In that way it was very similar to long boring nights in Sherman, TX where I went to College.
A game of turtles went like this:
The Turtle Master would take a drink, then say the rhyme.
The next person would take a drink and say the same rhyme. If that person messes it up, the Turtle Master merely says, “That is not correct” and repeats the drink and rhyme.
Then the person would take another drink and say the rhyme. If that person completes the rhyme perfectly, the game continues with the next person. Turtles moves in rounds, each time adding a new rhyme.
The rhymes went as follows:
One Red Hen
Two Cute Ducks
Three Brown Bears
Four Horny Hairs
Five Fickle Females Sitting Sipping Scotch
Six Simple Simons Sitting on a Stump
Seven Sicilian Sailors Sailing the Seven Seas
Eight Egotistical Egotists Echoing Egotistical Ecstasies’
Nine Nimble Nymphs Nibbling Nips of Nicotine
and Ten You Bet Your Sweet Ass I’m a Turtle!
My love of Turtles and also of Babb memorabilia made me purchase this item. Once it arrived and I started to write this article I came to realize I was confusing two different drinking games, both of which date back to WWII. In this case the bill isn’t related to Turtles at all, but instead is known as a “short snorter.”
A short snorter is a banknote which was signed by various persons traveling together or meeting up at different events and records who was met. The tradition was started by bush pilots in Alaska in the 1920’s and subsequently spread through the growth of military and commercial aviation. If you signed a short snorter and that person could not produce it upon request, they owed you a dollar or a drink.
Our particular short snorter appears to have been the property of Floyd L Shaskey and appears to have been completed in a single sitting on 1 December 1945. The bill is from France so we can assume they were in the European Theatre. A quick scan of historical events shows that the Nuremberg trials had just started about 10 days prior.
Floyd’s Headstone Application shows that this was roughly 6 months into his 18th month enlistment. It should be noted that he enlisted just after Victory over Europe Day (VE Day). Perhaps someone who is better at deciphering military acronyms to figure out what his regimental history is. That is a weakness of mine and I gloss over when I see that many acronyms at once. I think it says that they are at Headquarters in Headquarters Company, 7th Ordinance Division at an Allies Air Force facility, even though they were US Army.
You may recall that there was a devastating fire that destroyed most of the WWII personnel records so we can’t say for sure where Floyd was on 1 Dec 1945. One might imagine that these troops were about to ship out and come home having one last snort before they left.
One last thing
The short snorter was accompanied by a photo taken just 13 months later taken by the Studer Photography Studio in San Antonio, TX. No names are listed on the photo but it seems that this could be a reunion or their final get together once they were discharged at one of the many military bases in San Antonio. The items were described as found in an old military trunk, but the owner of the trunk is also a mystery.
I’ve reached out to one of Floyd’s relatives who had posted him in their Ancestry tree and am hoping they can help answer a few of these questions.
As for the Raymond Babb who signed the bill, sadly I’m unable to determine exactly which Raymond this might be. The name is common enough that I’m unable to do a proper match. But I post here in hopes someone can help us solve this mystery of Raymond and his drinking games.