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Where's Gumby?

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

Many of you may have noticed that on occasion we include in our travels a little figure of a character called "Gumby". I soon realized that many followers, especially the younger ones, have no idea who Gumby is and why he is featured in some of our photos along the way.

First of all, who is Gumby? Gumby was the claymation creation of Art Clokey in the early 1950s after he finished film school at the University of Southern California (USC). Gumby, and his side kick Pokey, a pony, were stop-motion-animated clay figures in a children's show gentle enough for very young viewers, but weird enough for teens and adults. I remember watching the show on television during the sixties.

Karen and I, early in our traveling adventures, decided to purchase a small figure from Amazon and he sits on our truck dashboard as a reminder of the term "Semper Gumby" to help us navigate through challenging situations and circumstances. I first heard the term from our son Erik while he served in the United States Marine Corps. Later, I again heard the term used by my shipmates in the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Semper Gumby is an unofficial dog Latin motto meaning "Always Flexible", used by all of the branches of the US military. It is a play on the motto Semper Fidelis (which means "Always Faithful"), the official USMC motto. It is also a play on Semper Fortis which means "Always Strong", and the official motto of the US Coast Guard, Semper Paratus, meaning "Always Ready." (The real Latin phrase meaning "Always Flexible" would be Semper Flexibilis.)

While the first use of Semper Gumby is often assigned to Captain Jay Farmer of HMM-264 in 1984 who actually flew with a Gumby character toy mounted on the standby compass on the instrument panel of his CH-46E nicknamed "Airwolf", the term was in use in 1977/78 in 1st Battalion, 5th Marines at Camp Pendleton. Popular belief has it that the term was first referenced by the 1st Sgt TOW Co. 3rd Tank Battalion 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Task Force Ripper) prior to deployment of Operation Desert Shield from MCAGCC 29 Palms, Ca. on August 15, 1990 who said "Marines, my platoon commander in Nam used to tell us 'Semper Gumby, Always Flexible'."

So when things get weird or stressful, we say, "Semper Gumby" to help us manage a challenging situation. It helps.


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