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Foot Traffic: 1941

March 1941. "Portsmouth, Virginia. Houses near Navy yard." The street last seen here. Acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

March 1941. "Portsmouth, Virginia. Houses near Navy yard." The street last seen here. Acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Today’s Top 5


Machinist Mate Chief Petty Officer (MMC)

Back in the day it wasn't so much an issue but in the last 40-45 years the Navy has frowned on "slovenly", unprofessional appearance while in uniform. This includes walking with your hands in your pockets, wearing your cover (hat) askew, jacket unbuttoned, etc.

I know it's not definitive, but, the stripes (and rank chevrons) appear to be gold. Gold stripes were authorized for 12 years of continuous good service/conduct. In the early '80s, I recall seeing a few "ole timer" Chiefs, Senior Chiefs and even one Master Chief retiring with red stripes. Another tradition that has been done away with. Today, when authorized, all service stripes will be gold.

CPO Rating

His rating badge looks like a caduceus to me, which would make him a Hospital Corpsman. Which would make some sense in that his stripes are on his left sleeve indicative of a less than normal chance he'd be at sea. Also there is a large naval hospital in Portsmouth.

Six seconds in the future

The CPO is pushing the carriage, having recognized dad from Shop 31 at the Yard. Chief and dad discuss their mutual 1920's China gunboat service; the serviceman has recognized the civilian's tattoos as similar to his own. Junior walks between the two, holding his father's hand and happy to be relieved of his duties. The little shaver continues to stare intently over his shoulder, impressed by his uniformed motivator. Most good ladies of Portsmouth disapprove of tattoos.

Navy heading home

Looks like a Chief Machinist Mate with 20 years service. If they are gold colored it means he served with Good Conduct (not getting into any trouble)

This part of the street sure looks a lot dirtier than the previous view.

Disapproving look

What a marvelous tableau, with so many groupings of people at various levels of interaction. My favorite is Dad with Junior pushing the stroller while Baby cranes around for a look, all under the scowly and scoldy scrutiny of Madame Tightly-Clasped Hands.

Child labor

I'll bet that baby carriage was fun to push with those little tiny wheels. The little guy pushing it seems to be working all out on it while Dad looks amused.
The house seems to have a sagging problem.
Great scene.

Hey Chief!

Get your hands out of your pockets!

An Old Salt

The old salty sailor is a Chief Petty Officer, Machinist Mate. The Navy authorizes one service stripe per every four years completed. This chief's got 5, so he's been in the Navy 20+ years. More than likely he's looking forward to retirement, but that's probably not going to happen with December 7 looming in just nine months. Here's hoping he made it through the war unscathed.


The guy with all the stripes is a chief petty officer. He has at least sixteen years service according to the hash marks (diagonal stripes). The stripes are only on his left sleeve and in this time period that would signify his rating was something other than a normal sea going rate which would be displayed on the right sleeve. The rating badge is between the chevrons and the rocker and is difficult to make out. It appears to have wings which signify an aviation job.

The chief appears to be feeling his Cheerios he's taking a good stride

I have to agree with rayray, the chief has five hash marks not four, and what I took to be wings are probably ships propeller blades which is the rating badge for machinist mate. The Navy would abbreviate his rank and rate as MMC.

All the stripes

belong to a Chief Petty Officer, looking bored to be back on land.

I'm waiting for

a report on the guy with all the stripes.

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