WILMINGTON — Do you know why ships are called “she?” Because it takes a lot of paint and powder to keep them up! This old adage applies to our beloved Battleship North Carolina. We rely on a dedicated corps of volunteers who give a lot of time and effort to maintain and restore the ship.
Fighting rust is a constant endeavor. Whether it’s steel decks, Machine Shop equipment or a 5-inch gun mount the volunteers remove the rust then prime and paint what’s needed. Our brass pipes and steel counters literally gleam thanks to volunteers, while the cleaning crew keeps the tour route ship-shape. Working with Maintenance staff the volunteers keep the original teak deck cleaned and preserved year round. And now they are working with Maintenance to improve the flood warning system.
The volunteers also work together to restore spaces on the ship’s tour route. Recent projects include the vegetable locker and the ice cream fountain on the second deck and the gun house of turret No. 2.
“They literally bring these spaces back to life,” says Curator Mary Ames Booker. “The visitor’s experience on the Battleship is definitely enhanced because of the volunteers’ efforts.”
“Having recently retired from operating a machine shop business, I thoroughly enjoy using my skills as a machinist and fabricator to restore and repair various equipment on the battleship,” says volunteer Robert Stidd. “My dad, Stephen W Stidd, was a machinist working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII where the USS North Carolina was built, so I have a personal connection to the Ship.”
Robb and fellow volunteer Richard Allison settled on restoring any and all equipment within the ship’s bridge area. Brass polishing is a large part of their work, along with fabricating replacement parts that have corroded beyond repair and reproducing missing equipment, such as brass voice tubes. But they wanted to do more to enhance the visitor’s experience. They designed and produced a push-button interactive for visitors to hear the ship’s sirens and horns for signaling.
“Watching the children’s faces light up when blowing the ship’s foghorn is a special treat!” says Robb.
“Being a volunteer at the battleship has allowed me to scratch my Navy itch while at the same time getting me out of the house,” says retired Commander Richard Allison. “I welcome the opportunity to be part of something that is bigger than myself. The Battleship Memorial is a fitting tribute to all those who have served our country, especially those in the US Navy and Marine Corps.
“Maintaining the ship to keep it from slipping from our grasp is a gift to our community that cannot be quantified,” says Allison. “The pure joy I find in doing the research to determine what a particular space looked like in 1941 and then working hard to bring up to that standard gives me a great feeling of satisfaction. The biggest thrill is to be in a space as visitors come through and hearing them express awe and amazement over the detail and authenticity of the ship. The work we volunteers do on the ship is truly a labor of love.”
If you are interested in volunteering for the Battleship contact Museum Services Director Kim Sincox at email@example.com or 910-251-5797, ext. 3006 to learn about opportunities that are waiting for you!
-Content provided by Mary Ames Booker, Curator, Battleship North Carolina
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*Edit: This article was edited on 12/8/2016 to correct Richard Allison’s rank from “Lt. Commander”, to “Commander”.