The Newsletter of the USS SLATER's Volunteers
By Timothy C. Rizzuto, Ship's Superintendent
Destroyer Escort Historical Museum
Phone (518) 431-1943, Fax 432-1123
One of our most dedicated volunteers, Gary Sheedy had such a dream. But he was having a bad month. A former refrigeration tech with Grand Union, he was laid off with all the GU maintenance people this month. But as a refrigeration tech, he felt a natural kinship with the rusty, cold dead reefer flat aboard the SLATER. He had a dream for that space. He would restore the space to its former glory and convert the portside storeroom into an electrical storeroom and the three reefer spaces could be storerooms for all the electrical parts. In short, in a place that nobody cared about he would have a place to call his own. The reefer machinery would be immaculately restored, and he would show it off and explain it to visitors.
The first step in restoring any area is to have a plan. He would build a workbench. He would get a couple of the deck guys to needle gun the space out for him. He would bring in drawers for storage. He would clean out the reefers for his electrical supplies. Gary designed a beautiful workbench and set about to find material to build it. He found and brought in from home three beautiful pieces of ten-foot angle iron to build the frame for the workbench. He brought his stereo system so he would have music while he was working. It was a home away from home.
Gary took a vacation day to start work on the project. All excited, he approached the Ship's Superintendent with a question. "You think I could have a couple of the chippers to scale out the reefer deck for me? The Ship's Sup replied, "No way man. Those guys are booked solid until 2005. Aft crew's quarters, then aft steering and the laundry, the aft motor room and then the aft diesel room". "How about the Michigan guys during the field day helping me out?" "Sorry, They'll be painting decks and scaling C-203L" Dejected at the apparent lack of support, Gary got out the grinder and began cutting away the old Greek shelving so he could build his workbench. Thirty minutes later the Sup was back down in the reefer space. "Gary! What are you doing? All that dust is getting on the bunks up here in the berthing space. Cut that out." "That's what I was trying to do", Gary responded. He spent the next two hours rigging flexible ducting into the exhaust vent system. He turned on the exhaust and went back to work. Just as he finished cutting out the shelving the Sup reappeared. "Gary! Why are you running the exhaust system! You're sucking out all the heat!" Gary put down the grinder. It was okay. He was now ready to build his workbench. He went out on deck to get his steel. It was gone. He tracked down the Sup. "You see my steel?" "Why, you need it? You didn't have plans for it, did you? I gave it to the radio guys. They're building shelving in the coding room." Gary raced up to the radio room. "You guys got my steel angle iron?" Jerry and Don laughed. "Was that yours? There it is." Gary looked sadly at the pile of steel in the deck. The longest piece was now fourteen inches. He found the Sup again. "I need some steel." "Go to Albany Steel. We have an account there."
Gary got into his truck and drove to Albany Steel. Of course, they made him pay cash. He brought his steel back and took it immediately down to the reefer deck so no one would steal it. There he found the ship's Sup and the curatorial team in his reefer spaces. "What are you guys doing in here?" The Sup replied, "We got to move all this electrical crap out of here. We're going to use the reefers for artifact storage." "But I was gonna set these up for display when I restore this place so the people can see the reefers" "We need the reefers for artifact storage. They're insulated and they don't sweat. That's as close to climate controlled stowage as we have. Besides, you can't let the public down here on tours. There's only one access. And besides, the tours are already running over an hour. That's way too long. The people don't need to come down" "What am I supposed to do with all these electrical parts?" The Sup replied, "Put them right down below here in the engineers storeroom." "Can't do that. That's where I'm gonna put the hot tub and the Jacuzzi." Now it was time for the Sup to throw up his hands. What else you got planned down here? Wide screen TV and a wet bar?"
Over the next couple weeks, despite constant harassment, Gary actually managed to finish his workbench, install his parts drawers and get the electrical parts reasonably organized. As he pulled his stuff out of the old electrical shop, Ken Kaskoun and the IC gang began to move their stuff in to fill the void. The interior communications boys have never had a shop of their own, and they are thrilled. And as of this writing, Gary has yet to install the hot tub, Jacuzzi and wet bar, and he is still looking for someone to chip out the reefer space. Not like those radio guys. Not only do they build shelves with stolen material that are straighter and neater than Gary's, but also they do their own chipping. When Don and Jerry wanted to paint the coding room, they didn't go whining to the Sup about getting a chipper. They got the needle guns and did it themselves. Now the coding room is all painted and looks like a million dollars. So what if it took them three months to do a space smaller than a closet. It'll probably be years before the reefer space looks that good, particularly if Gary does install that wet bar.
Speaking of Chippers, if any group of people on the SLATER have an assured place in heaven it is the chippers. You couldn't pay people to do what they do. Work in a compartment six or seven hours holding a needle gun overhead. Without them, the restoration would be nowhere. They are the first and most critical people in the restoration process. Like the pioneer farmers clearing away the forest. However, their group has been decimated by the effects of old age and injury. Pat Cancilla is out for three month having a hip replacement. Raf has a bone spur on his back that has him incapacitated. He can't walk without a cane. Sailors come up with the lamest excuses to try and get out of work but Raf says as long as he can get someone to bring him to the ship, he can still chip, sitting down. Chris Fedden scared the hell out of us one day when he went home feeling nauseous. We were all relieved when tests showed everything was normal. His doctor decided he had a virus. That leaves him with Smitty, Ed, Beth, Tom Moore and lately Chris Soulia holding the line to get the job done by spring.
Back in October 1997, on the day after SLATER's arrival in Albany; Sam, Marty and Ray drove away from the pier waving goodbye and left me by myself wondering what I had gotten myself into; I had a visitor. One of the first people to come aboard was Bill Siebert, then skipper of the cruise boat DUTCH APPLE. A navy engineman and licensed marine engineer, Bill helped me fold the signal flags that were draped all over the foc's'cle and lectured me that I needed to take immediate steps to preserve the insides of our irreplaceable main engines. I gave him my promise as a former deck officer cadet that I would get on it as soon as I could. Now, over three years later, tired of waiting for me to act, Bill has come aboard to take matters into his own hands. His plan is to try to circulate used lube oil through the mains using the original lube oil pump. To that end, working with former enginemen Bill Coyle and Bob Callendar, Beth and Gary, he cleaned out a lube oil tank in B-3, freed up the fill plug, overhauled the lube oil purifier, and got the lube oil pump running. Now he is just waiting for me to find him three hundred gallons of relatively clean used lube oil.
Finally, the dealers started to call back. One dealer said he would get back to me. The second guy asked how many I needed. I said three. He said he had one and he was honest enough to say that the plug listed at seventy dollars back in 1980; the last time the Navy listed it. He said he'd try to locate two more for me and get back with a price. Then the other guy called. He said he found one but he wanted $350.00 for it. I politely said keep it. I waited for the second guy to call back from Virginia, and after a week called him back. Yes, he had found two more, used, but that guy wanted $550.00 a piece for them. He politely told him to keep them. So after some haggling I agreed to purchase the one plug he had for the bargain price of $175.00. He is continuing to look for two more. Speaking of trying to save money, the electric bill jumped from $880 to $1,700 in January. A memo went out to the crew about the possibility of rolling blackouts if they don't start to conserve.
The Archival Team continues their sorting, photographing, labeling and cataloguing of the Slater Museum collection items. Eric & Julie Weidman, Chief Dave Floyd, Al Van Derzee, Dennis Nagi and Pat Perrella have put in several days a week toward this effort of tackling the enormous amount of cartons and bags of donated items. All related to Destroyer Escorts have been identified and separated from the general naval related articles. A computer database will identify each article by donor and ship and also contains a digital color image of the article. This database will also track the location of the item on the ship and will add a lot of credibility to our mission as a Museum Ship. One member of the team has temporarily deserted our ranks to head south for ARMY training with the NYS Guard. Good luck Eric and we hope you enjoy all of that warm weather while you learn to be a soldier.
Finally, we lost two great shipmates and supporters this month. It was with deep sadness that we bid farewell to Martin Smith and Louis Nagi. Martin, a survivor off the USS FECHTELER DE-157, had been ill a long time and lost his battle this month. Tragically, thirty-year-old Louis was killed in an auto accident. A dedicated tour guide, Louis worked aboard as a team with his father Dennis. Just as this issue was going to press we learned that Don & Mary Alice Kruse had lost their son to cancer. Our deepest sympathies go out to all the families. Our colors are at half-mast in tribute.
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