We Work on a Haunted Ship, in a Haunted Library

midway-at-seaMidway Magic is the term for the spectacular success and luck that the USS Midway (CV-41) has had as both the longest serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century and the most successful ship museum in the United States (and maybe the world.)   The magic may also include a few ghosts.

USS Midway banner

The Library falls under the Curatorial Department.  Our boss,  Dave Hanson, is not only knowledgeable about World War II airplanes, http://www.daveswarbirds.com/,  but he is also interested in the paranormal.  His paranormal group discovered the Midway is home to more than one ghost.

Dave brought his paranormal group into the Library, and they determined that our ghost was named Monty. The ghost in the BOM theatre, who sits in the 3rd row, 3rd seat from the left, is named Jerome. At first we thought Monty might be making trips to the theatre, but the paranormal group determined it was a different ghost.

Nan and Maddy in the Monty Halloween shirt.
Nan and Maddy modeling the Monty ghost t -shirt.

Midway Maddy, Nan’s Emotional Support Animal, does not like Annex 2, where she senses Monty’s presence.

 When she was working on the inventory last month in Bay 2 of the library, I wasn’t happy. I don’t like Bay 2, because there is someone there that I don’t know. I had to watch Mom from the doorway to make sure she was okay.

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Last year’s Halloween T-shirt . “I work in a Haunted Library”

This year’s Halloween T-Shirt was designed by Carl Snow, Scuttlebutt editor and library volunteer.  (Carl is the last one on the right in the second row, wearing  glasses in the picture above.) It features Monty, the library ghost reader.

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The library has a second ghost, Chad. The library staff hoped that Chad did not get jealous of Monty for being this year’s t-shirt model.

From the Library Pass Down Log on 22 October.  … Dave reported that the overnight ghost event went very well and that more ghosts had been discovered on the ship including the library.  A ghost by the name of Chad is in Annex 2.  Served in the Navy in 1953.  There is a maelstrom of spiritual energy swirling around in Annex 2, more ghosts that can’t be identified.  Dave thinks maybe from the pent up feelings of the many crewmembers contained in the cruisebooks in that space.  Discovered elsewhere on the ship a woman ghost and a young girl ghost.

To read more about the Haunted Midway, check out Midway historian, Karl Zingheim, Karl’s Corner “Spirits of the Midway.

Navy Presentation Silver: Interview with USS Midway Library Volunteer, Bonnie Brown.

Bonnie was the first person I met when I interviewed to be a volunteer at the USS Midway (CV-41)  Museum Library.  Since then she has become a valued shipmate and friend.

 

Bonnie Wendy and Pat at the Archives 2018Mar14
L-r Pat,  Bonnie and Wendy at the Naval Academy Archives in Annapolis, MD.

 

 

  • What is Navy Presentation Silver? 

It is a silver service presented to the officers of a Navy ship usually on the day it is commissioned.  This practice was a tradition in the Navy, and many silver services were presented to ships between about 1890 and up to World War II.  Although, Sherry Langrock has identified over 500 ships with silver, I have limited my research to battleships.  All 50 states had battleships, and all those battleships had silver with the exception of West Virginia.

 

Navy Silver explanation, USNA
Navy Silver explanation from the USNA Museum in Annapolis, MD

 

 

  • How did you become interested in Presentation Silver?

How long have you been studying it?  In 2011, our Director of Exhibits emailed the library asking for the history of Navy presentation silver as the Midway was getting a loan of the partial set of the USS Toledo CA-133 to put on exhibit in our wardroom.  That was when I began collecting and reading books and articles about this tradition.

 

  • Did the USS Midway (CV-41) ever have any Presentation Silver?  If it did, do you know what became of it?

As far as I know, the Midway never had its own set of silver.   I read an article that mentioned that the USS New Mexico silver was on the Midway in 1946.  That silver is now at the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe.  Between 1970 and approximately the mid 1980s, we had the USS Michigan silver onboard.  The Michigan silver is currently in storage, and some of it is on the submarine, USS Michigan SSGN-727.

 

  • I understand you have seen Presentation Silver around the United States.  How do you know where the presentation silver is and how do you arrange to view it?  Which states have you visited to see the silver and which ship(s) did it come from?

I have a contact at the Navy Supply Corps headquarters in Mechanicsburg, PA,, and he  knows where all the Navy silver is located.  So far, I have seen and photographed the following:

USS Alabama—USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, AL

USS Arizona—Capitol Museum, Phoenix, AZ

USS Arkansas – Governor’s Mansion, Little Rock, AR

USS Florida – Governor’s Mansion, Tallahassee, FL

USS Louisiana—USS Theodore Roosevelt

USS Maine—Governor’s Mansion, Augusta, ME

USS Maryland—State House, Annapolis, MD

USS Mississippi – Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS

USS New York—US Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, MD

USS Oregon—Oregon Historical Society, Portland, OR

USS San Francisco—USS Carl Vinson

USS Tennessee—Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, TN

USS Utah—One piece at the US Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, MD

USS Toledo (CA-133)—USS Midway Museum, San Diego, CA

USS Wisconsin—Norfolk, VA

 

  • Is there such a thing as a Silver Presentation starter set?  What are the most common pieces a ship’s presentation silver might include? 

Each state had a private committee which usually solicitated private funds to commission a silver service. The number of pieces depended on the amount of money raised.  I think the most common piece is a punch bowl which after 1914 was called a soup tureen when the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels prohibited alcohol on Navy ships.

 

USS Maryland Soup Tureen
USS Maryland Presentation Silver–note the punch bowl/soup toureen in the first picture and the detail of the flying Canada geese in the last picture

 

 

  • What was the most impressive Silver Presentation service set you have seen to date? What made it impressive?

That is really a tough question.  I loved the badgers on the Wisconsin and the terrapins on the Maryland.  The Arizona’s beautiful landscapes and copper linings are gorgeous.  But I have to say my favorite is the USS Florida.  It has Pelicans, alligators, oranges, sea shells, the landing of Ponce de Leon on the punch bowl, along with portraits of Ferdinand and Isabella.

 

Badger from USS Wisconsin Battleship
Badger from the USS Wisconsin

 

 

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Beavers from the USS Oregon Silver

 

  • Is the Presentation Silver owned by the Navy or the donating organization?  Who usually donates the silver?  On the day that the silver is presented to a ship, the Navy assumes ownership.  A lot of battleship silver has gone back to the states on permanent loans.

 

  • If someone wanted to learn more about presentation silver, what sources would you recommend?  One of the best sources is the Library of Congress’ chronicling America.  Just put in the name of a battleship and silver and you usually come up with a good story.  https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

 

  • Does the Midway make use of your extensive knowledge of Navy Presentation Silver? I would like to write an article for the Midway Currents, and your questions are a good start!

 

  • Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself, the Midway, or Presentation Silver that we did not ask You? I love to study what each state has put on its silver.  Louisiana’s set included 58 goblets which represents the 58 parishes.  The Arkansas silver has a piece with a map of Arkansas with every county’s name.  The Mississippi has Jefferson Davis on one side and Hernando de Soto on the other.  The Utah, which I haven’t seen, has Brigham Young on the punch bowl.  The elevator in our condo will be down for three months beginning in January of next year, so my husband and I have planned to do more road trips.  You can bet that these trips will include stops to see and photograph Navy battleship silver.

 

  • What did you do before becoming a Midway volunteer?  My first job out of high school was in the library of my university.  I loved the work so much that I took an undergraduate minor in Library Science.  After moving to San Diego in 1968, I was hired as a librarian at an electronics engineering company.  And after 20 years of being a librarian, I decided it was time to get my MLS.  I applied and was accepted at UCLA, and two years later I had my degree.  The latest library job was with my friend, Maxine, at a mathematics research library.

 

For more information:

USS Tennessee, USS Wisconsin tea service, detail of badger from USS Wisconsin and USS New York – Some of Bonnie’s pictures.

USS San Francisco silver onboard USS Carl Vinson – More of Bonnie’s pictures.

Maryland State Silver—Additional information about the Maryland State Silver collection

USS Maryland Silver—In Annapolis, MD.

 

Interview with Carl Snow, Scuttlebutt Editor for the USS Midway (CV-41) Museum Library

Q: Carl, how long have you been editor of the Scuttlebutt? And what enticed you to take over the job?

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In the Midway Museum Research Library there is a Pass Down the Line (PDL) log where the Library Lead enters items to bring them to the attention of other Library Leads; these could be “lessons learned,” reminders to perform certain tasks, or just funny or unusual things that happen. Not everyone in the Library has access to the PDL and so our Lead Librarian Bonnie Brown started compiling selected items for distribution to the “general population” of over 30 Library Volunteers. She referred to these documents as “updates.”

Bonnie had been doing her series of updates for about two-and-a-half years every two weeks or so. She got busy with other duties as the Library grew and asked if I would mind taking over publishing these notes. We decided to “dress up” the update notes and asked all Library Volunteers to submit names for the newsletter. Several people suggested The Scuttlebutt and so we chose that as the name. I did my first issue of The Scuttlebutt 7 September 2017 and called it Volume 2, Number 12.

Q:  What‘s a scuttlebutt?

In the days of wooden sailing ships, potable water for the crew’s use was carried in large wooden vats. To make it readily available, drinking water was transferred to a small communal cask, or “butt,” centrally located in the ship’s quarters. This cask had a hole, referred to as a “scuttle,” with a hinged lid enabling a person to get a drink with a dipper. The “scuttlebutt” was a natural gathering place where news and pleasantries were passed among the crew. Eventually, the information itself became referred to as scuttlebutt.

Scuttlebutt Masthead

Q:  How often is the Scuttlebutt published and how long does it take you to prepare each issue?

We publish every other Thursday, twice in a month. It takes, all together, maybe 12 to 14 hours in the two-week period. In months that have five Thursdays, we publish only two issues and take the extra time off.

On the Sunday before publication I start to lay out the material and decide on “lead” articles, features, etc., which takes about three to five hours. Then on the next day I execute a “hard” deadline and start to refine the content, again maybe three to five hours. Monday night before I go to bed I route it as a PDF document to the “proofer’s guild,” or “editorial board” consisting of the Senior Library Leads. They get back to me on Tuesday and I include their “nits.”

I let it rest on Wednesday and do a “final” pass maybe a half-hour before I go to bed and then send it out so that our readers have it in their in-boxes first thing Thursday.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for each issue?

I pick up items and photos as I come across them. I always keep an eye out for things that might “fit” and collect tidbits as I go. Folks in the Library are constantly feeding me ideas and tips. I keep a folder called “hip pocket file” that all this stuff goes into. When I need something to write about, I dip into that.

Q: Who writes the features?

I usually scan the e-mails and PDL, taking material from them and then polishing it into complete sentences. Sometimes I can combine two or more items into a wider story. Martha Lepore does the “people” features and is a constant font of ideas.

Q:  Do you have a standard layout you use?

I copy the previous issue’s Word document to use as a template for laying out the new issue, going through to update the folio, masthead, and title banner. I save that into a new folder. When I’ve completed the draft of the new issue, I save it as a PDF document to route to the proofer’s guild.

Q: Does anyone help you with the Scuttlebutt?

First and foremost, assistant editor Martha Lepore is tireless in pursuit of material for The Scuttlebutt. She almost single-handedly does the “profiles” or feature stories of people aboard the Midway Museum.

 

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Carl Snow and Martha Lepore, Scuttlebutt co-editors.

 

I send a draft in PDF form to the editorial board for editing and proofing. On Tuesday night Martha and I do a marathon telephone walk-through, addressing all the changes/corrections and essentially a page-by-page comb-through taking about an hour or two.

 

Scuttlebutt Editorial Staff-Ed Wong, John Bing, Carl Snow, Martha Lepore, Hal Simmons, Don Senda, Bonnie Brown ,misisng Phil Eakin
Scuttlebutt Editorial Staff:  l-r  Ed Wong, John Bing, Carl Snow, Martha Lepore, Hal Simons, Don Senda, Bonnie Brown (missing Phil Eakin)

 

The real secret is having a cadre of interested, intelligent, willing, and very knowledgeable people to do most of the heavy lifting. It’s a team effort with 30-some Volunteers chipping in. We have four or five Volunteers who contribute regularly from different parts of the country; two on the East Coast! All I have to do is put it together….

Q:  What else do you do as a Library volunteer?

I’m the Library Lead on Saturday afternoons, supervising three to five librarians. We usually field four to five “guests” in the Library to look up former crew members, interacting with them as to what their relatives might have done aboard the ship. This sometimes gets emotional, particularly if we can find a photo of the crew member during a cruise aboard USS Midway.

We’re also working up a book on the aircraft exhibited aboard the Midway Museum. This will detail the airplane’s Navy service, its path from the Navy to the Museum, and what the Museum had to do to make the aircraft presentable as an exhibit.

Q: What was your background before you became a volunteer?

I spent thirty years in the US Navy and, after retirement, about ten years on various magazine staffs and another ten years as a technical writer for high-tech manufacturing, research, and development.

Q:  I understand you previously served on the Midway. When did you serve and what was your job? Did that have any bearing on your desire to become a volunteer here?

After I was commissioned as a Warrant Officer, I was detailed to USS Midway in 1981 as the Assistant Electronic Warfare Officer with a collateral duty as Air Transfer Officer. As ATO, my duties required me to work on the flight deck during flight operations, probably the most exciting job I had in the Navy (rivaled only by combat with the Mobile Riverine Force in Vietnam during the late sixties). After I retired from technical writing some old shipmates from my Navy days were volunteering as docents and persuaded me to spend some spare time aboard. I was drawn to the Library and started volunteering in 2011.

Q: How do you define the word shipmate?

A shipmate is anyone who serves in a ship with you. A ship’s crew is divided into workgroups referred to as divisions, people who work in the same spaces (in olden days, divisions were referred to as “messes” or people who ate and slept in the same space. More efficient “cafeteria style” dining in communal mess decks took away the messes, but not the camaraderie). The “pecking order” is messmates before shipmates, and shipmates before anyone else.

Our audience:

As mentioned, we write to the 35 Midway Museum Library Volunteers. Our readership has spread to the Museum staff of about 150 people; the 400 Docent Volunteers; and the 200 Safety Volunteers. In addition, we post The Scuttlebutt to the Museum’s Intranet for who knows how many readers there, though that includes all the above-mentioned folk. I suspect that there is a wider “shadow” audience as staff and volunteers share with friends and family.

Bravo Zulu, Carl.  Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed.

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