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
Mid-month and the crunch is on. We open in two weeks. The old girl looks like she'll be ready for the date We didn't get as much done as we'd hoped; cut your expectations in half in November, and in February cut them in half again. But it's time to stop working and clean up. The crypto room which houses all our tape players, radios and the computer for sound effects is all done. The armory, which will function as the curatorial office, is all done. And the old bread locker which functions as the cleaning gear locker is done. The emergency radio room is ready for painting. Berthing space C-201L is being painted. Tom Moore did a great job repairing the insulation. Bob, Larry Williams and Ken Kaskoun got all the lights installed in the bunk lockers that will serve as our interim display cases.
Up in CIC, Bob Dawson and Gene Cellini got the horizontal plot table leveled and mounted. They bolted it to the DRT so we have one piece of gear secured for sea. Bob is in the process of refinishing all the radar gear so it will look like new before he heads out on another trip.
We achieved our mission of photographing and cataloguing all of the actual DE artifacts and these have been separated from the other items. They will be arranged in the C-201L lockers as soon as the space is painted, and the cataloged books will go on display in the various libraries around the ship. We've really pushed on this as we realize many of the visiting DE sailors will be pleased to see these memories of their ship service. A computer spreadsheet has all of these items listed by ship and donor along with a small color photo image so they can be easily tracked. We hope to have this available for viewing on a laptop during Reunion visits. We imagine it will encourage a lot more items to be dragged out from under the beds and deep recesses of those secret storage areas to be included in the SLATER DE Museum.
Nice reward for all their hard work over the winter. Chris Fedden talked his wife Trudy into laundering all the fart sacks and pillow cases in the forward crew's quarters, and our volunteers from Wildwood School are in the process of making up all the bunks again. All the decks are freshly painted and the place really looks sharp.
So where does all this leave us? Two weeks to get the ship all cleaned up and ready for inspection, and the crew is really turning to do the job. Tops on the list is Gene Cellini. Gene is back in a big way, now that it's getting warm enough to paint. I've never seen a guy so happy with a paintbrush. Gene is in the process of repainting all the interior decks. He's taking his time cutting them all in and touching up the white and green on the bulkheads, and painted out emergency radio. His primary helper is Erik Collin. Erik successfully finished both his winter projects, the armory and the bread locker, and is now a free agent, concentrating on interior touch up with Gene. As he did last year, Erik is even taking the last week of March off from work to help us get ready. Gene is also real excited because between him and Russ Ferrer, they got the power painter repaired and ready to go. He can't wait to take that baby outside and really throw some paint on the superstructure. All hands are pitching in to clean up. It's about time to uncover the guns and hang Charles Miner's beautiful wooden "USS SLATER" nameboard on the foc's'cle lifelines.
The winter would not be complete without a big vote of thanks for Les and Annette Beauchaine. They still keep the dogtag booth covered at Crossgates Mall and, aside from your donations, they have been our only source of operating income this winter. Some weekends they have cleared over five hundred dollars. That's a lot of dogtags. Not only is the income important, but having them out there two days a week has great promotional value too. It's a constant reminder to the residents of Albany that we are here. And we're making progress. Les was proud to report that in past years the most common question people asked is, "What's the USS SLATER?" This year people are asking, "Hey, when you gonna be open again?" We measure progress in small increments.
Things are really shaping up with the spring field days. Note the plural! The Michigan gang is coming back the first week of May, and they have a full crew of thirty four shipmates including a couple of Diesel experts, a spray painter, a couple plumbers and some guy who says he can weld. They will be followed by the Illinois DESA Chapter. Vic Schadel so far has ten guys signed up, and get this; an additional five women. The plan will be to put the men in the forward berthing and the women in the CPO mess, with shower times scheduled accordingly. We'll see who gets to use the flush toilet and who gets sent to the portajohn. The issue of who will be the cook has also yet to be decided. Remember that line in the movie PT109 when they were looking for a cook? The guy who used to make the peanut butter sandwiches for his brother got the job. Not to scare anyone away, but Victor still has slots available, so if you're interested in working aboard the second week of May, give him a call at (708) 456-7258, especially if you're a cook. Right now it looks like the bulk of their effort will be back aft chipping and hopefully painting in the aft crew compartments.
If you depend on the US Postal Service for your SLATER news; when you receive this issue, we should be back in Albany. However, if you're one of those who checks our website daily for the latest news, we're probably still in Rensselaer. The plan had been to put the camels in the third week in March, and move the SLATER on the last Tuesday of the month so we'd open at the Snow Dock on April first. However, due to the lack of thaw, the large amount of snow up north, and the fact that there is still a lot of ice on the smaller rivers up north, we probably won't move until the third week of April. We'll spend our first couple of weeks open to the public in Rensselaer. We'll have directions on the Snow Dock gate, but it's easy to find us. Just cross over the bridge and look for the big white BASF water tower to your right and we are just past that on the river's edge. The only WW II Destroyer Escort around for miles so you can't really miss us!
Notes from Nancy: Our March, pre-season meeting was a success. We took care of business and discussed our favorite subject – tour length. Up to that point, the gathering was informative, if slightly dull. But our guest speaker, Celeste Bernardo, Chief of Interpretation at the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston National Historic Park, MA, changed all that. With infectious enthusiasm, she got us all thinking about the kinds of tours we give, and how we can evaluate them and make them better. By the end of her presentation, I felt like finding a group of guests immediately and giving them a terrific tour.
Before I began to write this, I had a look at the April calendar. There are large fields of white unrelieved by any black ink - still plenty of spaces to fill. Call Dick Walker! Sign up early! Don't leave us in suspense. If you know someone who is interested in being a guide please give us a call at 431-1943.
There's still a lot more. The engineers, Gus Negus, Larry LaChance and the two Bills are making some real significant progress on the emergency Diesel and checking out the mains in B-3. The dry-dock request for proposal has been sent out to five shipyards, as we prepare our grant application to try again for funding. Nancy has been grinding out a grant application each month in addition to getting all her guides lined up and trained. Deb is booking in a lot of tours and getting our advertising kicked into high gear. Rocky is polishing all the door knobs and hardware, and Les is handing his signal flags in the flagbags. Al Vanderzee cleaned the wardroom pantry, sans flight jacket. And Pat Perrella got a real promotion. Her cleaning station has been moved from the aft head to the wardroom. She got officer's country put all back together and the wardroom table set up again. And as a follow up to last months' saga about our disgruntled Vietnam Vet electrician, Gary Sheedy got a job with Adirondack Refrigeration doing the same work as before. And we were all counting on him to spend a little time on unemployment so he could put in a few more hours a week down on the ship. Not to be. The sound of Elvis coming out of the reefer deck keeps clashing with the Benny Goodman on the ship's entertainment system, and now scuttlebutt has it that Gary has installed a lava lamp down in the reefer flat, The answer to the question, "Where's Gary?" is now, "Oh, he's down in his lounge." I sure hope we've had winters last gasp. These guys really need to get topside.
Finally, my wife got a little E-mail from a friend that I'm certain describes the state of mind of most of the DE Sailors I've met. The E-mail read: "THE TRUTH IN 13 WORDS Inside every older person, is a younger person - Wondering what the hell happened." See you next month on the Albany side of the River.
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