Saturday, August 1, 1998
people turn out to express support
By JEFF BEACH
- Samuel Levy has a soft spot for warships, having barely survived
a Japanese kamikaze (suicide) attack on the USS Wesson, a destroyer
escort stationed in the South Pacific during World War II.
So he and his wife, Joy, didn't mind braving
a little rain Friday morning to be among the first to arrive
to greet the USS New Jersey Battleship Commission as it docked
aboard a paddleboat at the New Jersey State Aquarium.
About 300 people from South Jersey, and some
from as far away as Florida, would later join the Levys, of Haddonfield,
to send the commission a clear message to make Camden's Waterfront
the site for a battleship museum.
''My ship was given to Italy, and they later
scrapped it, so you can never have that again,'' Levy said. ''For
sentimental reasons, the New Jersey should come here. It was
built here, and it can certainly be an attraction here.''
Like the Levys, others lined the Aquarium's
promenade to show support for turning the ship - now mothballed
in Washington state - into a museum on the Delaware River.
Over the past few months, people signing petitions
to lure the battleship to New Jersey were encouraged to show
up for the visit by the commission. Although thousands signed
petitions, the weekday timing of the event and the rain that
ironically gave way to sunshine just as the paddleboat docked,
kept the welcoming committee's numbers lower than expected.
Some tried inventive ways to gain the commission's
attention. Russ Homan of Cherry Hill brought his speedboat up
the river with a sign reading: ''Camden and USS New Jersey, Perfect
Together.'' Aquarium management unfurled a huge American flag
from the building's roof, augmented by a banner urging the ship's
''I spent time on the ship in the Naval Reserves
in the 1950s, and when the thought came about to bring it to
Camden, I was interested,'' said Homan, whose 24-foot speedboat
with banner caught the eye of many onlookers. ''I just got a
crazy idea and said, 'I'll put a sign on the boat and take a
ride down there.''