The Newsletter of the USS SLATER's Volunteers
By Timothy C. Rizzuto, Executive Director
Destroyer Escort Historical Museum
Phone (518) 431-1943, Fax 432-1123
Another summer season is half over. We received a nice plug in our local Metroland Magazine. In the 2007 'Best of the Capital Region' edition, they created the category of 'Best Floating Museum' and gave us the nod with the write up "During World War II, this Cannon-class destroyer escort battled Nazi gunboats and Japanese submarines. After decades of hard duty in foreign waters, in 1997 the Slater made its way up the Hudson to Albany, where the restoration that had begun in Manhattan in 1993 continued. The only original DE still afloat in the US, the Slater has been restored from a rustbucket to a see-worthy museum, thanks to a heroic grass-roots effort mostly performed by naval veterans. Tours of the ship provide a vivid sense of the onboard lives and military operations of its 216-man crew." We're grateful for the plug and the recognition and it looks like after ten years in this town, we may be on our way to becoming an Albany institution.
In another PR event, our local public television station sent down Sharon Wolin, Sony Stark and a film crew to film a day aboard the USS SLATER. The spot will be part of a documentary series they are producing called "It's an Age Thing," about the contributions our senior citizens are making to our community. Of course, we're loathe to admit to having any "Senior Citizens" in this crew, but a few of the kids agreed to be interviewed anyway. They shot about three hours of footage for a seven-minute piece, but we're all looking forward to it. Les Beauchaine and Joe Burke agreed to be filmed giving a school tour, made a little more difficult by the rain. Monday is a day you can't escape the din of the needle guns on board, and I think the film crew assumed that the rain would end the chipping. But not to be stopped, Earl and Don rigged tarps over the deck and kept right on going. The best part was the interview with Clark Farnsworth. Not that there is ever any dissension within the ranks here, but he came in on a Monday morning ready to spit nails about the condition that the shop had been left in over the weekend. He was so hot you didn't want to get within a fifty-yard radius. But then when they got him on camera, he sat back, smiled and said, "I enjoy every minute I spend aboard the SLATER!" And we've got that on tape! Be watching for it on WMHT.
The SLATER tour guides are having a busy summer. Rain and somewhat cooler temperatures have been bringing a lot of visitors aboard over the last few weeks. We had well over 100 visitors on July 4th, and it's been just as busy every day since. We're also happy to welcome a new student guide to the ship this month, SUNY Albany sophomore Kelly Lassonde. She hopes to work for a military museum when she finishes school. Let's hope a summer aboard the SLATER doesn't change her mind. My personal thanks to the whole gang who are rarely mentioned but keep the public coming back.
The maintenance gang continues on. The welders have finished the work replacing rotted metal on the radio direction finder platform at the base of the mast and are moving on to two other projects. The work at the base of the mast was complicated by the fact that it put a major shipfitting project smack in the middle of the tour route, and the only day the shipfitters were available to work was on Saturday, our busiest tour day in our busiest month. Needless to say, work progressed slowly due to the need to stop work every time a tour went by. It was kind of like a construction project on a busy interstate. Clark Farnsworth and Gene Jackey are now welding up the depth charge roller loader racks that were built by students at Colonie High School. And Bill Siebert, Doug Tanner, Tim Benner and Chuck Teal are working on installing the watertight door at bulkhead 99 on the starboard side between B-3 and B-4. They are planning to have the work completed by the DESA Convention in September to allow easier access for the veterans who want to see the machinery spaces. That should also make life a lot easier for our engineers who spend a lot of time climbing up and over moving parts between spaces. Those guys aren't as young as they used to be. Gus Negus and Karl Herchenroder have spent the last six months looking for a water to water heat exchanger to replace a failed unit on the GM 8-268A ships service generator set in the aft engine room. Well, I should qualify that with: free or really cheap. After following up on several "hot" leads that didn't pan out, they are now trying to repair the old unit with JB Weld paste. We'll see how good it is.
Rocky is continuing to work on the whaleboat, still at Scarano's. Since we were under no time pressure, we told them we had no problem with deferring our work for more critical jobs. We would like to have the boat back for the DESA Convention, but we'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, Bosun Bill Haggart has brought his grandson Jeff aboard, and Jeff has been a big help to "Ole Boats." They have kept the mooring lines tight and are working on repainting blocks and maintaining the whaleboat rigging. His running mate Nelson Potter finished replacing all the halyards and reworking the retrievers. And if you know what I just said, you need to come down and volunteer as the "Duty Signalman." Rich Pavlovik has 20mm gun 25 all torn down and is doing a thorough restoration job. "Major" Les Yarbrough has been at the sewing machine two days a week, and has almost completed all the canvas covers for the 20mm guns.
Electronically, Radioman Joe Breyer hit a real milestone. He actually got the power supply for the TCS working, so we can finally have one authentic piece of WWII gear on the air. Now if he can just overcome the problem of being in the "black hole" created by the Dunn Bridge approaches around us, he'll be a happy radioman. A deck above him, Erik Collin has been making steady progress in CIC. Early last winter Erik and Jerry Jones were lounging around the Combat Information Center (CIC) admiring our new SL (surface search) radar and contemplating the possibility that it might someday be made functional. Since we don't have the combination of talent and manpower to make that happen, the conversation turned to other instruments and gizmos in CIC that might be made to glow, turn or make noise. The easiest thing to do, they agreed, would be to make various lights glow. Since that was settled quickly, they then agreed that some sound would be nice - maybe voices emanating from a communications box. Jerry had been playing with an $11 digital voice recorder that could record and playback 20 seconds of sound. It looked like another quick and easy task so conversation turned to something a bit harder but with much more of a "wow" factor a functioning radar display.
An RPI Junior, Zach Barth, responded with his expertise in game programming with emphasis on interfacing it with the real world. Exactly what we were looking for. Zach came to visit the ship, was very impressed and quickly agreed to put together a radar display. He spent a good part of the day in the Ward Room poring over radar manuals to get an idea of what the display should look like. Within a week or two he had a working computer program generating a radar display on our SA unit. He spent the next few weeks working on software that would allow us to write scenarios that we could show on the radar display. It was simple, fast and worked beautifully.
The really nice thing about all this is really the computer sequencer that controls it all. We can easily program any movement of our ship or any other ship into it. We can have voices and other sound effects come from any number of locations while in the background all the navigation instruments are reflecting the movement of the ship. And we can switch from one scenario to another with a push of a button. And what of Jerry Jones you ask? After a few months his leg healed just fine. Then his wife broke her leg so we've hardly seen the guy since December. Then after they had both recovered, a backlog of home improvements caught up with him. Somewhere along the way he got in the project of remodeling his kitchen, and that has tied him up until recently, when he got back to the ship. He was awestruck when he listened to the CIC display, complete with vibrating gunfire. He said we were finally on par with Disney. What Erik has accomplished will be the highlight of the tour.
We have several big events lined up including the DESA Convention the first week of September, the Port Festival and a memorial service for the SAMUEL B. ROBERTS October 13th, the 10th Anniversary of our arrival and Navy Day on October 27th, and the Annual USS SLATER Night at the Fort Orange Club and a military vehicle exhibit scheduled for Veterans Day weekend November 10th and 11th. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't thank all of you who have responded to our call to write letters of support for our Save America's Treasures Grant application for funding to help dry-dock the SLATER. Hopefully alerting the Department of the Interior and your congressional representatives to what we have put into this project so far and our need to get to the shipyard will finally get their attention. But be warned, if we do succeed in getting the grant, that's just the start. All these Federal grants are matching grants, and we'll be coming to you again, along with a host of local businesses and foundations to put us over the top. But at least we will have something on the table.
See you next month
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