July 31, 1998 |
at vessel's birth work to bring her back
By CAROL COMEGNO
much of a career choice.
When Mabel Giordano went to the Philadelphia
Naval Shipyard for a job during World War II, she was told she
could either clean toilets or learn to weld.
"I figured I'd like to weld," said
Giordano, 82, of Mount Ephraim, who welded pipes for the battleship
USS New Jersey.
Because of her connection to the battleship,
Giordano has joined a South Jersey petition drive to bring the
ship to the area of its first berth.
She and her friends have collected more than
400 signatures in their neighborhoods and turned them over to
Camden County officials who are helping to spearhead the effort.
Through distributing the petition, she said
she has met others who worked at the shipyard during that war,
such as Jim Mutchler of Runnemede.
"When I asked him to sign my petition,
he told me he worked on her from stem to stern," said Giordano,
who is retired from the Camden County Board of Elections.
At the shipyard she was an acetylene welder
in the 53 Pipe Shop for 2 1/2 years.
"At that time I had to work in the shop
because they didn't allow women on the New Jersey or any other
ships that were being built. The next year they did," she
Both she and Mutchler witnessed the launching
on Dec. 7, 1942, after almost three years of construction at
a cost of $90 million.
Mutchler, 81, a retired shipfitter who helped
lay the keel and the bulkheads of the battleship, said he saw
the wife of then-New Jersey Gov. Charles A. Edison smash a bottle
of champagne against her bow. He said a crowd of several thousand
cheered as the ship slipped silently down the ways that had been
heavily greased for her release from the dry dock.
"It sent a huge wave over the Jersey
side at National Park and drenched some who were on the beach
there," Mutchler said.
"It didn't make any noise as it slid
down the ways, but by the time it slid all the way down, the
wooden ways were smoking because she had scraped off all the
grease by then. The tugs then turned her stern downstream,"
Giordano said her boss came by the shop that
day and told her they were putting the ship out in the water,
so she went out to see.
"She slid down and almost hit the Jersey
shore she was so big," she said. "What a sight it was.
People roared and she just slid down real nice as if she was
glad to get a bath."