by TED MEBUST
Local school board member and Vietnam War veteran Anthony Scalici published his first book this year, a memoir titled “Seasick Submariner: The Lure of Ocean Adventure from Old Staten Island to the U.S. Navy.” Told through a series of vignettes, Scalici recounts impactful moments as a son of Staten Island (before the Verrazano Bridge), an avid fisherman and a naval sonar technician.
Recalling conversations with his immigrant grandparents and explorations along the island, Scalici described a colorful childhood.
“Before the Verrazano Bridge was there, Staten Island was much more rural,” he explained. “I’ve always had a passion for fishing and would troll the coastline looking for good spots.” Throughout his adventures, Scalici’s interest in the sea would continue to grow, pushing him toward the next chapter of his life.
Despite harboring a lifelong fascination with the ocean and marine life, influenced in part by the Jacques Cousteau television specials of his youth, Scalici described a constant battle with sea sickness. Assignment to USS Clamagore, a diesel-electric submarine in use since World War II, compounded this ailment. It patrolled the Atlantic Ocean, ranging from the Caribbean past the North Sea.
“We took four-hour shifts on and four-hour shifts off,” Scalici recalled of his time aboard Clamagore. “The cabin air would smell of diesel exhaust and the ship constantly rotated with the crashing waves.”
After a lifetime of collecting stories, Scalici said he felt inspired by friends to compile his most cherished memories into a longer piece.
“I’ve been writing poems and stories my whole life, so when my friends and family all encouraged me to write my own stories down, I felt the time was right,” he explained.
One of the more memorable of these stories, he said, chronicled a Sunday afternoon which saw the Clamagore docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Tasked to paint the ship by its captain, who knew full well that no supply stores would be open to provide the necessary tools, the crew was left with limited options.
Rectifying the issue, a defiant Scalici resorted to boarding a nearby Russian sub and requesting the necessary provisions from its crew. Walking back with brushes in hand, he received the admiration of his crewmates and chagrined captain. Scalici’s levity in this retelling mirrored the tone of his work, which is available on Amazon.
“Seasick Submariner” confronts concepts like service, sacrifice, and perseverance, yielding lessons that surely made a lasting impact on its author. Scalici has been a member of Cooperstown Central School’s Board of Education for more than 25 years, a director of rural housing development, and a professional grant writer. He battled blindness while completing his memoir. His acknowledgment of friends, family and community in driving him to complete this work permeated throughout his conversation. Scalici’s memoir offers something for a variety of fans, but its deeper contemplations can offer lessons to us all.