The Pale Skinny Moons Of Sailor Bill
A Salem legend Endures
By S. D. Legend
Photo credit: Jim McAllister
Not so long ago, in a Salem only the old-timers remember, our downtown streets were inhabited by a few very colorful characters. One of them was an entertaining fellow who was known by a few monikers. His most well known name was probably Sailor Bill, but to many he was known also as SeaBee, or simply as Red.
My memories put him somewhere around 60-years old in the late 1970’s. His beard and hair were a mix of bright reddish-orange and some grey. He was a well-worn, skinny man who often wore a sailors dixie cup hat and later a woolen tam. He liked his drink, and was often under the influence. In more innocent times this was seen more as an amusement than a nuisance.
One of his favorite pastimes was to find a good spot along the tracks as the MBTA bud liners passed into or out of the old Salem Depot on Mill Street. He would wait for the right moment and then turn his back to the passing trains, drop his trousers, and exuberantly moon his pale backside to the passengers. This was a semi-regular activity of his and I suspect that many of the daily commuters probably came to expect it. There came a day when this activity stopped, because Sailor Bill suddenly ceased his downtown appearances.
No one seems to know his actual fate. Whether or not his family or some friends saw him through his last days, or if he is one those sad, anonymous people lying under the numbered granite markers in a field at the old Danvers State Hospital.
It is said however, that even today on warm summer nights, when the moonlight and clouds collude to cast the shadows of the night on Salem, passengers on the commuter rail are known to see the pale, skinny moons of Sailor Bill waving at them. Perhaps this apparition is just old SeaBee, or Red saying that he awaits them on the other side.