story & photo
by MC1 Steven L. Myers
Tony Packo Jr, the owner of Tony Packo’s Café, Toldeo, OH, and several staff members traveled to Submarine Base New London to serve lunch to the crew of his hometown’s namesake submarine, USS Toledo (SSN 769), on July 9. “This group of men here does such an incredible job, the least we can do is come down here and show our support,” said Tony.
More than a year ago, ET1 Robert Smalley, 39, a Toledo native, inquired about shipping some of the food to the boat while it was stationed in Norfolk, VA to try to lift the spirits of the crew. Instead, the owner and staff took the trip themselves to feed the crew while they were in dry-dock.
Tony explained that when they were in Virginia last year they had such a great time and everybody enjoyed it. So, they decided, “Let’s do it again,” said Tony, 61, whose parents got a $100 loan from relatives during the first years of the Great Depression in 1932 to start Tony Packo’s. The cafe gained notoriety later when it was mentioned in several episodes of the popular television show M*A*S*H.
“It was a very big deal for the crew,” said Robert, who recounted that he had gone to Tony Packo’s since he was one year old. “We had been in the shipyard for about a year, and it was kind of dragging. It really did improve morale.”
During this visit, Tony and his crew served hot dogs smothered with mustard, diced onions and secret sauce, and spooned out bowls of chicken chili. They also brought their “Mother of All Hot Dogs (MOAD),” which are the size of four hot dogs. Cmdr. Paul Davis, Executive Officer, Toledo, ate a MOAD and two dogs.
“We’re thrilled that Tony Packo could come down,” said Cmdr. Davis, 36, Harrisonburg, VA. “This is such a great deal for the crew. We have a really good relationship, and I’m humbled by their generosity to come down and do this for us.”
For much of the crew, this picnic along the pier was more than just another meal. “This is a very tangible way for the crew to realize how much the general public stands by and loves what we do,” said Cmdr. Davis. “You can lose sight of that when you’re chipping paint or when you’re cleaning stuff. But when folks come out and they fly out from Toledo just to share this with us, just to say thanks, it touches each of us.”