Picture Courtesy of Chief Flora, USN Retired.
This picture spans the time from 1797 when the U.S.S. Constitution, Old Ironsides, was launched until now, 2011. Old Ironsides, the sailors on the dock, and the Blue Angel aircraft and their pilots are all on active duty in the U.S. Navy. Old Ironsides was never de-commissioned and is the oldest active duty warship afloat in the world. She is berthed at the Charleston pier in Boston harbor. Her crew is made up of active duty officers and enlisted men of the U.S. Navy.
Another point of interest for me is that our ancestor, William Sprague (my 7th great grandfather), and his brothers helped build the town of Charlestown in 1629.
I feel very fortunate to have a piece of wood from the hull of the U.S.S. Constitution that was cast into a small paper weight. In the 1970’s I was Vice President and Plant Manager of a small manufacturing firm. We fabricated printed circuit boards and also had a department that produced front panels, nameplates, and signage. I was responsible for sales for the company and in that capacity called on the Director of the Aerospace Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego, Lt. Col. Ed Carey, U.S.A.F., Retired. I became acquainted with Col. Carey and the men who restored aircraft or worked as docents at the museum. One day, the Colonel showed up at our shop and said he needed help with a personal project. He had once been in Boston with his family and wanted to pay his respects and take a tour of Old Ironsides. He called, made an appointment, and at the proper time showed up in Class A uniform with his family. As they toured the ship they came to an area where some rotting timbers were being replaced by a crew of skilled craftsmen. Col. Carey, within earshot of other tourists, asked the Naval Officer conducting the tour if he might have a piece of the rotted wood as a souvenir. The officer apologized and said it wasn’t possible. As they completed the tour and were leaving the ship, the Colonel and his family thanked their tour guide and the Officer of the Deck. Colonel Carey saluted the flag and the O.O.D. as is the custom and the O.O.D. returned the salute and handed Col. Carey a sack containing a sample piece of the wood removed from the hull.
After telling me this story, the Colonel said he was going to take pieces of his wood sample and cast them as small paper-weights and wanted a small aluminum nameplate to identify the source of the wood. He provided camera-ready artwork so I made the nameplates myself, over a lunch hour, and provided them at no charge as a goodwill gesture from my company. A couple of months later Colonel Carey showed up at our shop and presented me with one of the paper weights containing an original piece of Old Ironsides. I kept it on my desk and showed it to every visitor to our plant.
June 1, 2011