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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
 
South Jersey

Monday, October 22, 2001
Readers weigh in on ship hours

thing mildly critical of the Battleship New Jersey and the mail just pours in.

So, for the first time, I'm giving this space to readers.

First, some background: Last week, I urged the new battleship museum on Camden's Waterfront to change its admission policy.

Currently, the huge ship offers only 90-minute tours - hikes that require people to clamber up and down ladders and squirm through tight spaces. I proposed the New Jersey' s operators should allow people to walk about on their own, a less demanding option that would attract families with children.

This also might ease bottlenecks like the one seen Saturday, when an estimated 1,000 people visited the ship - and some waited two hours for their tour.

The week's best letter, from Bob Philbin of Almonesson, noted ship tours are free for military personnel in uniform.

"In addition to self-guided tours, how about free admission to any Purple Heart (combat-wounded) veteran?" he suggested.

Other writers seemed interested in wounding me.

"What a guy!" wrote one reader, who described various ways I might be anatomically incorrect.

He said my plan would encourage thievery and crowd the ship. Even worse, he said, "Someone could very well enter part of the ship that is not open, fall or become incapacitated and no one would ever know until the body started to stink."

Battleship volunteer Sue Shaw of Cherry Hill noted many people have enjoyed the tour.

"It seems some journalists feel their job is to find something bad in everything, and if they can't find it, they create it," she wrote.

But several writers noted other battleship museums let people wander.

"It's the only way to go," said Jeff Cary, a Navy veteran from West Deptford.

"I was a part-time volunteer on the Big J," he added. "I know what's there and it's wonderful for all ages."

Maria Elfreth of Washington Township expressed regret for her family.

"I have been showing my children, ages 8 and 6, the pictures and stories about Big J that have been in the Courier-Post for the last couple of years," she wrote, noting the youngsters' grandfather helped build the New Jersey at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

"I promised them that as soon as it opened we would go aboard and bring their grandfather with us."

But Elfreth feels a 90-minute tour isn't kid-friendly. So she'll wait for a change in policy.

"Until then, please ask your editors to continue to run pictures," she wrote. "Because that's as close to seeing the ship as many families with young children will get."

Contact Jim Walsh at (856) 486-2646 and jwalsh@cour ierpostonline.com.

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