Most sailors in the world have seen Meow Man tags, on a dock, or an old rotting ship in some far off exotic harbor. Even on containers boxes, harbor bars, tramp stamp tattoo’s and just about any flat surface, wet or dry in the New York harbor area. Even many regular folks who dwell on land have seen the tags in many iconic TV shows like Barney Miller, Kojak, Welcome Back Kotter, Berretta, and even in the movies like “On the water front” with Marlon Brando and “The Key” with Sophia Loren. Non sailors the world over have wondered who was this Meow Man and why does he tell you to “Suk Ma Bag”.
So here it is for you non knowing land lubbers, the true story as I was told by an old harbor pilot, x-navy beach master most folks called Barnacle Bill. He was a crusty ol salt, said he sailed with Meow Man once in the 1950’s. Sadly and most recently Bill crossed the bar to become a harbor pilot for mariners passing through the pearl gates. Bill told me the whole story and asked me to share it here on boatjobsonly.com .
Barnacle Bill said that Meow Man has been a Merchant Marine most all his life, starting his career on steam tugs during the early 30’s prohibition. He was towing rum and sugar barges between NY and the plantations in S. America along with several small Caribbean islands. He studied hard and had enough sea time to become a Captain at 16 years old.
On December 7th 1941 while his Tug was moored off a small remote island. The Captain to be known as Meow Man meet a sexy red headed voodoo princess named Marie Laveau who invited him and his crew to an island dance. She was from New Orleans. Marie was collecting brown raw sugar syrup, coffee cherry’s, hot peppers, coca leaf extracts and a rare spice root she called “Meow” from the island. Marie had an island shack where she brewed and rendered it into a dried form and had the island native girls pack it into small virgin cotton tea bags that when drank like tea or in hot coffee gave you the “vitality of a hurricane” the princess proclaimed.
Problem was Meow Man had loaded all the islands sugar syrup and coca leaves aboard his barge for the Yankee Soda Pop company. Good news was his tug crew had bought 13 kegs themselves and a couple steamers pressed full of other plant products to bring home on crew change. But none had any “Meow”. The princess, she had it all.
After an all night party of dancing in the moist hot trade winds under the light of a full bright blue moon to the rythm of frenzied native drums with Ms. Laveau and her bevy of the islands tea bag girls the Captain was ready to hit the rack…but Ms. Laveau made him a tea that included just a scratch of her exclusive Meow…she told him for maximum effect, to go all the way, to get the most out of the moment you must “suck the bag”” like a sugar tit” she said, to make the most of the precious potion. So he did….. The party lasted another 48 hours straight. It was a party for the log books. And to cap off the night, the princess offered a more than fair trade, lined with sweet sweet lanyap for the sugar she needed.
Like any wise Captain he knew a good deal and struck a trade. All the crews kegs and spices were traded for 150,000 bags of Ms. Laveau’s brew. Next morning at 0300 the tide was ebbing and the tug had to clear the reef her barge loaded deep so they cast off and departed. Underway back to NYC. The crew had planned on selling the tea and starting a new company, they were all going to be rich. Then it happened. While off the coast of Key West the crew heard the news over the wireless that Japan had attacked America, the nation was at war.
They delivered the cargo to the Yankee Pop company and on crew change day the dispatcher told everyone they would have to work over. They all worked straight time loading and running war supplies and offloading all over Europe and the Pacific until the war was over. The new Meow Man Tea company would have to wait. The Captain not wanting to waste or let go stale started passing out free bags of his meow infused tea to any sailor or grunt who looked tired , depressed , listless or pooped . Included were written instructions to suck the bag too, then finish your job.
Soon Sailors and Grunts and Ground pounders too across the battlefield heard about the Captain’s tea too. They called him “Meow Man” and knew of his special brew. Meow Man’s tug , most trips, had always been ahead of the military on the battle front ports. Leaving them supplies they needed to win the war. But some lucky men and a rare woman or two, most from the spears tip like Navy frogmen, Army Rangers, and special forces, some underground too were lucky enough to meet Meow man and his crew. Often tired they drank his meow tea too. Noting an extra energy buzz by sucking the bags too. Soon “Meow Man Suk ma Bag” signs started showing up all over the battle fronts and ports of the world as a sign the merchant marines have been there and left you what you’re going to need to succeed.
To “suck ma bag” became nautical slang and get the job done with gusto and zest to waste nothing after Meow mans supply of tea bags were all passed out. Most members of the military and the merchant marines knew this, but did not share the information with the media. The media just assumed it was something deplorable not wholesome and good, and did not report on the tradition of tagging Meow Mans motto of thriftyness to Suk Ma bag. Instead the media chose to focus on following some grunt named Kilroy who tagged a few places with the paint the Merchant Marines left behind for him. Something lame like “Kilroy was here” with a big nosed guy looking over a wall. Has no deeper meaning, just showed everyone some jar head named Kilroy was there thanks to a ride and supplies provided by the Merchant Marines of America.
The press never understood the important role of the Merchant Marines and the things they put on hold so they could deliver an average of 12 tons of supplies for each man every year fighting the war. And still to this day for the most part the media has no clue as to the importance of the merchant fleet. So Meow Man keeps sharing his message to “suk ma bag”. Even the president who grew up in NY is a fan of Meow Mans message. ” I’ve seen Meow mans tags all my life and they have inspired me to do good” says President Trump.
After the war Captain Meow Man and his merry crew started tagging NYC with Meow Man Motto’s . They started his tea bag company but had problems getting FDA approval and was quickly shut down, details are sketchy as to why. Meow man still runs a tug and he still tags a few places but the legend of Meow man and his message to be thankful for the things the merchant marine do for all Americans now lives in every harbor the American Merchant Marines have ever sailed. Look for them and you will see Meow Man tags world wide thanks to the message of Merchant marine Meow Man. So remember if a merchant marine is kind enough to deliver you even a single bag of tea…. make sure you suck that bag and get the most out of it too.
Meow man group on facebook : Click here for daily Meow Man news
Meow man fan site : www.sukmabag.com just kinda sketchy not so sure..
Another fan site : http://www.whitehouse.gov
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