Jimmie Carrick: The Little Boy with the “Can Do” Attitude

By William C. Shaner II, Exhibit Curator, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum, Naval History and Heritage Command

Seven-year-old Jimmie Carrick learned via phone and radio, over a nationwide broadcast, that he’d been officially named mascot for every Seabee.  Jimmie’s reaction, “Oh boy, that’s swell!”

Jimmie Carrick was a little boy from Pittsburgh, Pa., who, at two years old, contracted spinal tuberculosis, crippling his back and left leg.  Jimmie spent most of his young life in a plaster cast and seldom went anywhere besides Mercy Hospital, where he received his medical treatments.

In 1942, Bernard Flinn, 8th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB), wrote to Jimmie, then age 5, and stated that members of the battalion would like him be their mascot, a practice that many other Seabee battalions had adopted.

The offer was accepted happily by Jimmie and letters from Seabees began arriving shortly after. Jimmie’s mother would read all of the letters to him, which in her words, “seemed like a tonic for him.”

In August 1942, Pappy Rayburn, the editor of Tow Lines at Camp Thomas, learned about Jimmie’s story and wrote an editorial about him. The editorial was warmly received and the number of letters that Jimmie received increased to approximately 500 a day, only now they were written by Seabees from all over the globe.

The fame that the editorial brought was the foundation of the drive to make Jimmie the mascot for the entire Seabee organization. Camps voted and Seabees stationed overseas wrote thousands of letters in favor of Jimmie being the official Seabee mascot.  When the vote was finally complete, Jimmie was notified on June 21, 1944, via telephone and in front of a national radio audience of 12 million people that he was elected the official Seabee mascot.  It was hardly a surprise, but Jimmie and his family were thrilled nonetheless.

The first perk that Jimmie received as the mascot was the local cinema turned Jimmie’s bedroom into a theatre so he could watch the movie, “The Fighting Seabees.”

At a “Pennies for Carrick” donation station, Y1c John P. Pauk and S1c Orville Belton roll coins.

Shortly after Jimmie’s election as the official Seabee mascot, the Seabee Coverall initiated the “Pennies for Carrick” campaign.  The goal of the campaign was to have every one of the more than 260,000 Seabees donate a penny.  The total donation would be used to help restore Jimmie’s health. The grand total of the campaign was never tabulated, however, the most notable single contribution was by the 47th NCB — 36,500 pennies.

Clearly the Seabees went above and beyond for their mascot, Jimmie Carrick. In 1946, the funds raised by the “Pennies for Carrick” campaign were put to use when Jimmie was admitted to the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa.  Jimmie was bedridden for 18 months while he underwent numerous surgeries and intensive physical therapy to repair the damage done to his back and leg by spinal tuberculosis. However, the long and painful process was a success since the Seabee Mascot was able walk out of the Shriners Hospital just before Christmas 1947, under his own power.  Rear Adm. J.J.  Manning, chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, sent a new Sailor suit to Jimmie for the momentous occasion that was memorialized in newspapers across the country. The Seabee’s and their generosity not only helped a little boy walk again, it showed what a “Can Do” attitude could accomplish.

Some of the men with the 47th NCB who contributed to the Carrick Mascot Penny Fund. The men are grouped around the “penny fund box” on a table displaying the Carrick story in the Seabee Coverall.

 

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