When I was in the Navy, most of my friends were E-5 and below. All of them were on their first enlistment. Anybody that had re-uped or extended was, by definition, a lifer, and while I might socialize with them, would never take them into my confidence. Sailors that have so little time in grade and service make almost no money. The married guys, with children, made a lot more than I. That's the way the Nav works. Still, compared to non sailors, they made nothing. Their families suffered.
I'm not trying to pretend these guys were any kind of martyrs. These were young guys. They smoked. They spent a lot of time and money on drugs, liquor, gambling and women. The wife either worked or made do with what was left after her husband's vices were paid for and not many of them worked. It was the middle late Seventies, times were tough for everybody and especially for junior enlisted in the Navy and their families.
Even as tight as money was, most guys felt like a jerk, if they didn't take the family out to dinner, off base, at least every month or two. They couldn't afford a "real" restaurant, even IHOP gets pricey, when you're feeding four or five. A burger place wasn't "really" going out to eat. One of the places they ended up going to a lot was Long John Silvers Seafood. It was cheap. It wasn't burgers or pizza. It was always real popular with the Navy crowd.
Sometimes I like to go to Long John Silvers, even today. I don't think they have built many new ones recently or remodeled the old ones. They look, operate and have the same menu that they always did. They're beat up and shopworn but that's OK. The food is amazingly greasy. It's guaranteed to give you the shits. It always was. I don't care.
I can go in there and for under five bucks get a basket meal with fish, chips, fritters and a drink. They let you pump all the tarter sauce, cocktail sauce and ketchup you want, into little paper containers. They have Malt vinegar. I usually go alone, my wife doesn't like it. I guess she ate at better places in the seventies. No nostalgia there for her. As long as I don't sit near a window, where I might see my reflection, I can pretend it's 1976 and I'm 25 again, with endless possibilities ahead of me. I hope they don't remodel the one near my house. It wouldn't be the same.
I always ring the little ship's bell a couple times on the way out, in appreciation of the experience. Maybe they think it's for the food. Naw!