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
The “winter that wasn’t” is almost over. I was afraid to mention it before now, because I didn’t want to jinx it. We’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t believe we had more than an inch of ice on the river, and it only lasted a couple of weeks. And, no snow here in Albany. I mean none. If there was ever a year we could have kept the ship in Albany and stayed open all winter this was it. But, who knew. Maybe one day they will perfect forecasting, but until then we will play it safe. And, I still expect the snowiest, coldest March on record.
One month to go before opening day and how are we ever going to get this ship cleaned up in time. The messdecks restoration involved a lot more metal work than we originally anticipated, particularly in the area of the scullery and the portside cage. In the scullery we removed two large and heavy sections of ventilation piping and valves that were added after the war. When we removed the sink and counter from the bulkhead, we found the steel terribly deterioriated, and that necessitated replacing a whole section of curved bulkhead. We also replaced all the expanded metal in the space. Then we discovered that for some reason the Greeks had raised the counter about eight inches, so we dropped in back down, and low and behold, it matched the height of the dish machine perfectly. Things are back in place and the space is just awaiting priming and painting.
The “cage” or issue room on the starboard side of the messdeck came in for some major work. The entire bulkhead by the ladder was a cob job of tacked together sheet metal. So we opened our pocket book and bought some new steel, cut out the cobbed up piece and replaced the whole thing. We also replaced plywood shelving with some new galvanized material. At one point during this evolution, Doug Tanner cast forty years of high stands aside. He had to deal with some gaps that just couldn’t be welded because the bulkhead in question was directly over a fuel tank. He was forced to break out a can of Bondo to fill in the gaps. His comment was that he was finally stooped to my standards. Of course, when Doug put the Bondo away his parting comment was, “This is so easy, I may never bother to strike another arc.”
Barry Witte and several electrical helpers spent several days on the messdeck, replacing the power lines to the forward ventilation fans, removing old armored cable, and generally trying to straighten out the cable runs. Anyone who has ever worked with their arms overhead, loosening paint covered bolts and pulling steel-jacketed cable with a come-a-long can appreciate the effort that went into this work. Ken Kaskoun has spent several weeks trying to locate an annoying short that causes the light in the lower storeroom to flicker and dim on occasion.
In preparation for painting, there isn’t a piece of loose gear anywhere on the messdecks. Of course, the adjacent forward berthing space looks like it has puked because all the grimy dust- covered equipment, mess benches and cooking gear is stowed in there. When Smitty serves lunch, there isn’t much room left to sit down and eat. A level above, the work by the starboard messdecks hatch is complete. Barry has only to run the permanent wires to the vent controllers to complete the job. All the metal work is complete, the insulation board repaired and the area has been primed. All that needs to be done in the passageway is cleaning, masking and spray painting. Likewise, the pilothouse is in the process of having all the electrical fittings and brightwork masked over in preparation for spray painting as soon as it warms up a little.
The chippers have been chipping down in the electronics shop below the messdeck. That will be an ongoing foul weather project this spring. We’ll be pulling them out of there temporarily for cleaning and masking. Down in the engine room, they are supposed to be working on painting main engine number four. However, every time I go down there, they seem to be deeper into the guts of this thing, and I hear language like, “This thing had to be running on just 14 cylinders. No way was this piston running with this valve stuck.” I think their “cosmetic” restoration is on number 10 of the engine’s 16 cylinders. Across the river, I don’t see or hear much from Rocky, but I understand he and Dave Jeffries have been continuing the work on the whaleboat in the cold confines of Scarano’s boathouse. A woodworker by trade, Dave tries to split his time between Rocky and Gary Sheedy, who was the one who originally brought Dave aboard to be his reefer deck go-fer. Dave remains loyal to Gary, and has spent several days cleaning and shining the cooling coils for Gary’s beloved reefers. And Liz Church Leviton continues to keep the RPI Midshipmen involved with the restoration of the steering engine room. By the way, Liz will graduate this May and will be assigned to the USS Pearl Harbor LSD 52 out of San Diego. That’s the same homeport her husband is assigned to, so congratulations Liz!
The wardroom still looks like the hedgehog magazine as that has been the center of the restoration of the hedgehog projectiles. The weather has started causing deterioration of these replicas so Erik has been supervising their preservation, including body filler, extensive sanding, painting and stenciling. Kudos to Bob Scian and his son Thomas for coming in every Saturday all the way from Monticello. That’s about a four-hour round trip, and they even made it on President’s Day when Tom was off from school. Thomas is one dedicated kid, and his father is one devoted Dad for bringing him every week. If you want to know where the next generation of shipkeepers is coming from, look to kids like Tom.
As always, our projected planned work exceeded what we could actually accomplish. The repairs to the forward expansion joint over the galley will be deferred for another year. Again, so long as the only leak is directly over the galley sink, that is not a real issue. And tackling that job during the work weeks when the cooks are trying to prepare chow is just not going to happen. Never plan work that interferes with the work of the cook. And the machine shop was another dream that didn’t happen. At some point, the port half of the expansion joint has to be replaced, and there are several sections of wasted deckhouse along the port and starboard sides, including some hard to reach areas behind the work bench. It’s hoped when we pull out the workbench we can also replace the lathe. The Greek Navy upgraded to a British Harrison lathe. We’ve got an original DE model South Bend lathe in storage, and it is only awaiting time and opportunity to find its new home.
Speaking of the machine shop, you remember last month we advertised for a volunteer to try and straight the shop and the crew out? Well, believe it or not, we actually found someone willing to take on the challenge. Who but a former Marine would come aboard to try to straighten out a shipload of sloppy Sailors. But, John Thompson, a rather imposing combat wounded Vet from Viet Nam, has spent the better part of the month aboard two days a week, cleaning, organizing and straightening, and finding parts and tools for volunteers in need. Despite the best efforts of the crew to intimidate him, John has stood his ground and the transformation he is working is amazing. We gave him an “as built” picture of the machine shop of the CURRIER DE700, taken probably before a single Sailor had ever laid a tool on the work bench and said, “This is what it should look like when you’re done.” I know John must be doing a great job, because several other volunteers have come to me asking if I will release John to work in their space when he finishes the shop. I personally think once he gets it straightened out; with this crew it will take all his Marine endurance to keep it that way.
Another unsung hero is our retired Coast Guard storekeeper Dick Walker. Dick and wife Maralyn usually spend their Mondays on the road for us picking up all the last-minute supplies that the restoration crew needs to keep going. As part of our preparation to get SLATER cleaned up for spring, we asked Dick to go through and inventory all our shop vacuum cleaners and buy new HEPA filters for them. Dick did the inventory and it turns out that we have eleven shop vacs scattered about the ship in various compartments. When Dick began to research what filters he needed to purchase he discovered that of the eleven shop vacs, no two used the same filter. Talk about a storekeeper’s nightmare. He is in the acquisition and installation phase with the filters as I type this, and thus far has gotten HEPA filters for six of the eleven vacuum cleaners. Two others we are planning to turn into “wet only” vacs, so no filters will be required. That only leaves three to go.
Our long suffering radio gang may have gotten a break. If you have followed the five-year-long saga of the TBL transmitter from San Francisco to New York you know that the latest problem is a burned out armature on the low voltage side of the motor generator, and that side produces three different voltages for the transmitter. Through the wonder of the internet, Jerry Jones discovered that the original manufacturer of the unit, Bogue Electric Company, is still in business in New Jersey. Jerry contacted a gentleman named Richard Lanza at Bogue and sent him an extensive packet of information about the SLATER project and pictures of the damage to the armature. Richard ran it up the chain and Bogue agreed to look at the armature to see if it was repairable. Jerry and Bob Kibbey promptly crated up the armature loaded it up into Bob’s SUV and drove it to the Bogue shop in New Jersey. We’re awaiting the diagnosis.
Over on the Albany side, bringing our major donor boards up to date is a daunting task this year thanks to your generosity. Many more of you and your ships have passed over the major donor threshold and are eligible for listing on the board. To update that information, our archivist Frank Peter has stepped into the breech and, in conjunction with Erik Collin who generated the raw data and Rosehn Gipe who is laying out the boards, is coming up with the list of who is on the board and who needs to be added. For the first time he is putting all the data into an Excel spread sheet, something that we should have done years ago. Thanks to Frank’s efforts, future annual updates will be much less cumbersome.
Heather Maron and volunteer Jim Kuba will be attending the BSA Twin Rivers Council Pow Wow Institute of Scouting to help promote the overnight camping program and encourage more group tours. By bringing artifacts that scouts can relate to, such as rate badges, uniforms, and signal flags; they hope to make a tangible connection between badge requirements and what the SLATER has to offer such groups. This is the second year that the SLATER has been allowed to have a table at their midway exhibit area, and we hope to continue working with scout groups to tailor tours and programs.
As part of our preparation for opening Day, Erik and Heather are planning a special event, a “Ship Shape Overnight” for the night of Saturday, March 24, 2012. All maintenance and interpretative volunteers and staff are invited to come and go through refresher training and help with cleaning to prepare the SLATER for opening day. If you want to participate, email Erik at Erik@USSSlater.org Plan to arrive on board by 0900, Saturday, March 24. You are invited to enjoy a restful night’s sleep aboard. Supper and breakfast will be provided on the Mess Deck. The evening entertainment will include a game of SLATER Jeopardy and a private screening of the Japanese movie that was partly filmed aboard SLATER in 2008, “Battle Under Orion,” complete with popcorn. Again, if you want to participate for all or part of the event please R.S.V.P. to Erik in person or via email, at Erik@ussslater.org by Saturday, March 17.
Finally, when we tell people we are the last Destroyer Escort, it is always important to include the qualifier “afloat in the United States.” We can’t forget that the dry-berthed EDSALL-class DE USS STEWART remains a significant piece of DE history down in Galveston, Texas. For those of you living in that neck of the woods, too far away to participate in the SLATER work weeks, the EDSALL Class Veterans Association wants to hear from you. They are planning a work week for April 28th to May 5th. You can sign up for a few days or the whole week. They say they have the best free food in the restoration fleet, (Smitty might take exception to that.) and you can berth in an historic ship free. Your travel (auto, airline, train, bus, etc.), meal expenses and any hotel/motel expenses may be deductible as a charitable donation on your 2012 income taxes. If you’re interested in helping them out, contact Mac Christy ENC USN (RET), 841 Thomas Rd., Pomona KS 66076, 785-255-4368, email firstname.lastname@example.org
And another reminder, in addition to our “Ship Shape Overnight” on March 24, our SLATER spring work weeks are set for this May. The Michigan Field Week will be May 6 to 11. If you want to participate, email Ron Zarem at email@example.com. The HUSE group will be aboard the following week, May 13-16. If that week works out for you and you want to give us a hand, contact George Amandola at Gamand@aol.com We can always use all the help we can get, and sons and grandsons are welcome, though we require that youngsters be at least 12 years old to participate and must be accompanied by an adult relative.
We have a wedding announcement. On February 17 Linda Wruck and long time volunteer Tom Beeler were married at Christ our Light Catholic Church. Several SLATER volunteers were in attendance, including Tim Benner and Super Dave Mardon who were on their best behavior for the reception. Perhaps being chaperoned by their wives Carol and Sharon had something to do with their unusually gentlemanly demeanor, proof that they can rise to any occasion. Their wedding gift was a large framed portrait of themselves so they wouldn’t be forgotten. We wish the new couple many years of happiness.
We can't thank you Winter Fund donors, Hull Fund Donors and Endowment Fund Donors enough. As of March 1, the 2012 Winter Fund Appeal had generated $68,000 in donations, money that is critical to carrying us over into the spring. I'm almost afraid to point this out, but the combined endowment fund and hull fund totals recently put our net worth over the two million dollar mark. It’s like the weather we've enjoyed this winter. I don't want to jinx the weather and I don't want to jinx the stock market. Back in 1998 when we didn't know where our next dollar would come from, I never thought I'd see this day. Thank you all for helping to make our progress possible. Next month we should be writing from back on the Albany side.
Finally, in late breaking news, it was announced today that the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will sign the final documents that will designate USS SLATER a National Historic Landmark. This is a great tribute to all the Sailors who donated the money to bring her back from Greece in 1993, the thousands of you who have continued to support her, and the hundreds of volunteers who have made her the superb memorial she is today. Thank you all.
See you next month.