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
It's only October 18th but I'm watching a bad omen. I can look out the door of the ship's office and see across the river. What is I see is the Albany Yacht Club, which coincidentally is located in Rensselaer. At the Albany Yacht Club, there is a crane at work. It is busy hauling boats and docks out for the winter. Here we start preparing for winter early. Since the last issue, the Michigan Chapter of DESA showed up with their eleventh fall field day crew, a small but highly motivated contingent. The reason for a small crew is they're here a week earlier than usual and many members are attending ship's reunions. They arrived on Sunday the 21st September, and turned to that Monday morning. Faithful cook Bill Kramer's domain of the galley kept the crew well fed with three meals a day all week and kept the galley spotless, with the support of Jim Andrus and Roy Brandon. Dick Walker continued squaring away his beloved fire control shack on the flying bridge. He spent the week fine- tuning the shack and readying the instruments on the open bridge. Close at hand, CAP-DESA members, Bob Donlon and Ron Mazure, enjoyed their fifth field day week with them as they put the finishing touches in the Sonar Shack and hopefully will soon have "pinging with Doppler effects" reverberating as you enter. Gary Headworth, Jim Ray, Earl Moorehouse and Rush Mellinger painted the whole starboard deckhouse. They all took part in cleaning up the reefers, painting various ladders and overall needed work. The award for Tim's favorite went to Air Force Vet Gary Headworth. Usually Michiganites Ron Zarem, the spray painter, and Tom Schriner, the welder, vie for this not so coveted award. However since neither attended this field day and first, Gary was forced to fill in as a welder. Then, in Ron Zarem's absence, he picked up the spray gun and did the whole starboard side main deckhouse. He called his multifaceted talents Air Force efficiency. Watch out you sailors!
October got off to a big start with the annual volunteer appreciation dinner on Saturday September 27th. If you didn't know about it it's because you never ventured to the CPO mess and looked at the notice on the volunteer bulletin board that Pat Perrella posted in early August. This has become an annual event, sponsored, organized and put on by Claire Oesterreich and the Perrellas. Of course, Pat always says she doesn't have any real involvement, and that it's all Claire and Frank that do the work, but we know better. Over sixty of our crew and families showed up to partake in an evening of good food and conversation. The most important part of the function is it's a chance to show our spouses what we have accomplished and that we really have been working on a ship for the past year. We haven't been using it as an excuse to attend the races in Saratoga. Of course this often backfires into, "Gee honey, if you did half as much around the house as you do on that ship…," but we won't get into that again. For me, as ship's superintendent, it's an evening to meet, greet and make friendly conversation with all the wives who probably wish I'd drop off the planet for my part in keeping husbands away from housework. They are all remarkably cordial to me. Perhaps it may be, as I was told by one, "At least you're keeping him out of the bars." The weather was beautiful, there was enough great food that we didn't have to bring lunches for a week, and Richard Andrian managed to capture the whole group on film for the first time. It was a most memorable evening.
The missing link from the Michigan field day finally showed up with the USS BROUGH reunion on October 3rd. That day we hosted both Ron Zarem's ship, the USS BROUGH DE148. Later in the day the USS HEERMAN DD532, the only fleet destroyer to survive the Battle of Samar joined us. The BROUGH crew arrived early to have their memorial service aboard, and then took to sea to ride our next-door neighbor, the cruise boat DUTCH APPLE, for lunch. The HEERMAN crew were also aboard, and we're happy to report that despite the full bar that the Captain Lou Renna carries aboard, no fights broke out between the ships. The combination of touring the SLATER and having a full sit down lunch on the DUTCH APPLE is proving a popular combination for reunion groups.
Both ship crews reboarded the SLATER that afternoon. Upon their arrival, we hosted Bob Cross's first book singing in the Albany area. Bob's biography on Franklin Roosevelt, "Sailor in the Whitehouse," has been received with great reviews. Bob greeted both crews on behalf of the Mayor, and told a few of his favorite Franklin Roosevelt stories. What I thought would be a small intimate gathering in the gift shop turned out to be a hundred people gathered on the deck. I take full responsibility for the lack of the sound system, but not for the size of the crowd. Bob's book almost completely sold out of our gift shop and more have been ordered. We're almost getting culture here!
The following week Pat and Frank Perrella brought the THOMAS J GARY DE/DER 326 back on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Thanks to Frank, they have made several visits, and were most good-natured about the lousy weather, reflecting the thoughts of the old DE vet who told his family, "If you really want the DE experience, you need to come on a cold rainy day." The tenth was a busy day for us because we had two reunions and our quarterly board of directors meeting. The first group aboard was a large contingent from the attack transport USS CHILTON APA38, reflecting the growing trend of ships other than DE reunion groups coming to Albany. Right on their heels came the Richard Warner and the crew of the USS KENDALL C. CAMPBELL DE443. Richard is one of our biggest boosters and in addition to getting all our tour brochures printed for free this year, has been helping spearhead funding efforts on the west coast. He and his crew spent the whole afternoon with us, enjoying a box lunch on the veranda. Former exec Richard has many sea stories about the CAMPBELL, including one legend about a skipper that was so beloved by his crew that they pelted the gig with rotten vegetables when he was finally transferred off the ship.
That afternoon the Board Meeting was well attended by out-of-towners including Earl Johnson who came in from California, Ray Windle who came in from Texas, Sam Saylor who came in from Oklahoma, Don Norris in from Pennsylvania and Martin Davis in from Long Island. While no definite plans were made, there was much discussion about the feasibility of moving the ship by tug for a tour of other river ports. Coast Guard involvement, the possibility of operating machinery. However, the primary goals for the Museum still remain the establishment of the three million dollar endowment fund, the construction of a permanent year round mooring at the Snow Dock in Albany, dry-docking the SLATER, and obtaining a permanent museum/library building in Albany. Strategies to obtain grant funding for these projects were laid out. Our historian, Victor Buck, spoke passionately on this museum library issue, reminding us that if we don't gather the firsthand DE stories while the participants are still with us we will lose that opportunity forever. Out of the discussion came the need for two critical volunteer slots that need to be filled here in Albany. Those are the positions of Librarian/archivist to compliment the work Pat Perrella is doing with the artifacts, and a Chief Engineer to coordinate the work of the engine room volunteers. The obvious choice for the archivist is retired history professor Dr. Dennis Nagi, who prefers his current role as ship's carpenter, and for Chief Engineer, Gus Negus, who has a great record, but has a small problem in that he still has a permanent job running locomotives for the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Someday he'll retire! We're counting the days.
The following day Marty Davis invited the engineers from the fireboat JOHN J HARVEY, Tim Ivory and Jessica DuLong, up to Albany to present a seminar on the effort they went though to get the HARVEY operational. The meeting packed the mess decks and a lively discussion followed. Tim and Jessica brought a great deal of valuable experience and knowledge to the meeting and all the problems and risks were explored. While no firm decisions were made the biggest question remains, where will the money to support the project come from? The EDGAR CHASE DE16 crew was aboard that same day, October 11th. This was supposed to be their last reunion, and they wanted to end it in style on the decks of a real DE. However, they too were an especially enthusiastic group and I'm almost sure they'll be doing at least one more reunion after seeing the SLATER. The final two groups we're expecting at the end of the month are the McNULTY crew and the USS INCH crew.
Special thanks need to go to color guard organizers Ken Kaskoun and Dick Walker and all the members of the their detail. These included Larry Williams, Dave Floyd, Floyd Hunt, Les Beauchaine, Tom Pollock (who can still fit into his original uniform) Dennis Nagi and Sea Cadets Shaun Phoenix and Bridget Stevens. Also, not to be forgotten is Jerry Jones who always looks sharp in dress whites and stood by the podium on the sound system to make sure the music played on cue and that there were no technical glitches. This crew performed in all weather, and really raised the level of pageantry and professionalism associated with memorial services aboard the SLATER. We and all the reunion groups that held memorial services aboard this season thank this dedicated group of volunteers. Our thanks also to Reverend Hemphill, Reverend Father "Boats" Kosgarian, and all the other clergy who donated their time to support or memorial services.
Meanwhile, ship work continues. The shipfitters, Doug Tanner, Tim Benner and Clark Farnsworth wrapped up work on the rangefinder and the details on the flying bridge. They have moved back to repairing the wasted chocks on the starboard side maindeck before we get back to Rennselaer and have to use them. The Electricians, Ken, Bob and Larry, are working on the JP sound powered phone circuits that connect the forty-millimeter gun mounts aft and the cease fire alarms. Barry and Mike are also continuing the work on running the fire alarms through the machinery spaces in armored cable. The chippers and painters, Ed, Smitty, Chris Rafael and Erik, are finishing up the waterways on the starboard site and are working on the overheads under the 01 level 20mm gun tubs and even managed to get the stack painted. There is also a lot of touch up work being done on the flying bridge. The radio gang, Don, Dick, Jerry, Joe, Walt and Stan, did a complete clean out of radio central and have restored the flying bridge whip antennas and are in the process of replacing them, as well as the continued restoration of the TAJ transmitter.
The gunner's mates are wrapping up their outside work. Dave Floyd and Andy Desorbo are preparing to move back inside to continue the work on the ordnance shack. They have gotten gun 23 all back together with an assist from Gene Cellini. Gene also worked hard on a plan we hatched to pour concrete around the three-inch gun centerline stuffing tubes. These are all rusted out and have been a constant source of leakage into the spaces below ever since the SLATER came back from Greece. Rich Pavlovick has gun 26 all back together and is planning to spend the winter helping Ray Lammers, who is contemplating a hip replacement. And the 40mm guys, Frank Beeler and Bob Lawrence, wrapped up the forties for the season. Bob wasn't feeling well and has turned himself into Ellis hospital for a check up that has turned into a double bypass. We wish him well.
The Boat Crew, Roy Gunther, Rocky Rockwood and Beth Spain, have a new program. They take the whaleboat out every Tuesday to keep it running smoothly. Tuesday is our slowest volunteer day, so we're hoping the chance for a whaleboat ride will get more workers to show up. We're also training additional crew how to handle the boat so it will get more use next season. Frank Lasch and Dennis Nagi, both small boat owners, were the first takers in our training program, and both proved to be pretty adept boat handlers. The first qualification is being able to get up and down the Jacobs ladder,since we don't have a regular accommodation ladder. That's also on the list. Roy Gunther completely rebuilt the lower blocks for the boat falls, fabricating new cheeks out of wolmanized oak. They should outlast all of us. And Rocky donated a brand new Ruhle self-checking electric pump to make sure his pride and joy stays afloat. It won't be too long before we'll be hauling her out for the season.
I got a call from the US Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. It seems that I have to make arrangements to pick up a 3,000 pound shipping crate that has come in from Korea. Captain Stephen G. Krawczyk's household goods from Korea. Actually it's 3,000 pounds of destroyer escort parts salvaged from the USS CAVALLARO. Greg is still sending me weekly care packages of carefully wrapped breakable parts. One of his boxes included a CD ROM of what was coming in this big shipment. What he has accomplished and how he did it is utterly astonishing. We're set for parts for most electrical systems for years to come. And that's just half of it. He still has an equal amount of stuff in Chin Hae that he couldn't lug back to his apartment in Seoul. He has set new standards for scrounging in terms of quality of goods, tonnage obtained, and distance shipped. We will be making the run to Virginia within the next two weeks to pick it up. Now I just have to figure out where we're going to stow it all on this little ship. He's bringing his new bride back to Korea at the end of the month, so it looks like he got the apartment cleaned out just in time. Soon Greg's new bride will learn of her husband's friend on the SLATER, the guy with two first names, "Damn Tim."
Finally we all know what time of the year it's getting to be. You old hands know that next month is "Winter Fund Drive" time. That time of the year when I once again stick my hand out and ask you who have given so much to give a little more. Amazingly, several of our readers have already sent in Winter Fund Donations, in the envelopes we sent out last year. Names have gotten the jump on the crowd. So be warned to look for that little return envelope with the freezing cold sailor on it.
Thanks for everything and see you next month
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