November 04, 1999
Riverton students hope to give the battleship a special greeting
By CAROL COMEGNO
Third graders at the Riverton School want to see the battleship USS New Jersey when it comes here, but they also want to sing its praises to Gov. Christie Whitman.
Two teachers wrote a song for their students about the ship's Panama Canal crossing and its homecoming as part of an ongoing study of the ship's voyage from Bremerton, Wash., to Philadelphia, where it is expected to arrive late next week.
Third-grade teacher Rosemarie Whelan said students sang the song last week for state Senate President Donald DiFrancesco, R-Union, who is trying to arrange for the students to sing at a ceremony when the ship arrives.
No plans have been finalized, but the third graders are continuing to practice in hopes of performing when the ship comes to Philadelphia.
“We're very excited and hope this will be worked out,” said Whelan.
“She's seen lots of action in her day. Now she's heading back to us for display. And we tracked her every inch of the way from Washington to Philadelphia,” the kids sang during a recent practice session.
The children helped Whelan and music teacher Karen Molloy refine the words, which are set to the tune of “The Erie Canal.”
For example, they changed the pronunciation of Philadelphia's last two vowels to long “i” and “a” sounds so the word would rhyme better with the word “display” in the preceding stanza.
The children learned about the Panama Canal, latitude, longitude and the ship's history.
“We could use what we learned in every subject from reading and English to science and social studies,” Whelan said.
The students have a definite opinion on where the battleship should be placed as a floating museum. Camden and Bayonne are competing for the honor.
“I think it should go to New Jersey in Camden because we're the ones that built it,” said Katie McBurnie, 8, referring to its construction at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard by workers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Student Patrick Hayes said he will be happy when the ship gets home because she won't be at risk of sinking in the ocean.
“I feel happy it's coming back,” said Rebecca De Philippo. “I'll look forward to it a whole bunch and I'll get nervous and excited.”