USS New York, BB-34, The Christmas Ship

December 21st, 2010

Filed under: New York Metro — admin @ 10:34 pm

New York Times, Sunday, December 26, 1915

Little Poor Boys and Girls, 100 of them, Guests of the New York’s Crew


The Most Unique Christmas Celebration Ever Known in the Navy Makes the Men Happy

When good old Santa Claus, guiding his prancing reindeer, made his annual trip in the early hours of yester morn, from his mysterious abode somewhere in the land of purple ice and snow, he had a stop in view that the runners of his cutter had never before in the history of the world made an impression. After providing for the sleeping children of Manhattan he guided his spirited animals across the Brooklyn Bridge and was met at the other end of the structure by Chief Bosons Mate Harry Percival, who guided him to the Navy Yard, where Uncle Sam’s great sea fighter New York Lay resting and falling on the gentle roll of the East River.

Leaving his team hitched to a spile, Santa made his way aboard the fighting craft so stealthy that not even the officer of the deck, who was watching for him, got a glimpse of his ruddy face or portly form. In some manner he even lost the bosons mate in the shuffle. Through all the entrances o the various parts of the ship were guarded, no one saw Santa go aboard. Percival is convinced that the jovial old fellow climbed the latticed fighting tops. From there to the smokestack is a small leap for someone as agile as Santa. Once on the stack it was a simple matter to slip down into the inner works of the ship.
While the men of the ship were chagrined by the way that Santa eluded them, they were more than happy with the quantity of toys he left to be given later in the day to 100 of the poorest children in the city who were to be the guests of the crew at one of the most unusual Christmas celebrations ever known, and the first of its kind ever held on a ship of the United States Navy.
Several weeks ago, when it was found that the New York would be at the Brooklyn Yard during the holiday season, some one in the crew that it would be a good thing if the men got together and contributed sufficient to entertain a number of poor children on Christmas Day. The idea was adopted with great eagerness by the crew and approved by the Captain Hugh Rodman, Commander of the ship.

A committee of which Percival was chairman was organized and the contributions came along in fine style. Applicants for tickets were investigated, for the men of the crew wanted as their guests only those children who could not possibly partake of Christmas cheer at any other place. When Thomas A. Edison, the famous inventor, went onboard on Thursday and saw the preparations he asked what it was all about. When he was told he made a substantial donation, and was so pleased that he communicated with the Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. The Secretary, in a wireless telegram to the ship, expressed his approval of the generous spirit of the men which had which had prompted them to provide a happy Christmas for the 100 little children.

At exactly 1:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon the 100 lucky youngsters assembled at Washington and Johnson Streets in the vicinity of Borough Hall. They were surprised to see the old chowder party coach, “The Pride of the Nation” awaiting them. The coach was drawn by ten horses and on the floor inside there was straw inside there was straw to keep the children’s feet warm. The coach, a common sight several generations ago, was a novelty indeed to the children of today
At 2 o’clock the venerable vehicle drew up alongside of the New York
”Heave Ho” Shouted Percival, and the children scrambled out of the coach and up the gangway leading up to the main deck of the vessel, about midships. At the foot of the gangway there were two Christmas Trees, and at the head was an arch of holly and mistletoe with the word “Welcome”.

The children were marched up to the gun deck, the landlubber will understand better when he is told that is one flight below the main deck. On the port side of the vessel, about midships, is a large space that in ordinary times serves as a sort of corridor. This was fitted up with 10 large tables. Japanese lanterns swung from the ceiling, while about the sides of the gun deck were clusters of electric lights fitter with red white and blue globes. Strung over the deck were festoons of mistletoe, holly, and Christmas greens, while wreaths of holly decorated the walls.
Ten women who had volunteered for the occasion brought food to the tables. They wore on their sleeves sailors headbands on which was printed “U.S.S. New York.” The steaming hot turkeys and geese, roasted to a turn, and chickens done to a wonderful brown, were brought from the ships galley and turned over to 6 members of the ship’s crew, who wore white aprons and caps and were armed with large carving knives. Desperately and grimly they attacked the fowl, and soon the plates of all the youngsters were heaped high.
Captain Rodman was one of the happiest men in all creation as he trod the deck, where, instead of upon open ports and guns ready for split destruction, there were the faces of happy children.
“I think this is the finest Christmas entertainment I ever had the pleasure to attend” said the jovial naval officer. “It’s the first time such an entertainment has been given by the men in the navy, and I personally hope that the precedent will be followed by other ships in service.

The ship’s string orchestra, led by C. E. Fielding, played while the children ate. The menu consisted of roast turkey, roast goose, roast chicken, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, dressings, figs, mixed nuts, grapes, dates, candy apples and oranges. The children filled up with a zest that showed that they appreciated the cooking done onboard Uncle Sam’s boats. When they had been crammed with food and their pockets filled with fruits and candies Bos’ns mate Percival was seen very heavy weather with a large bowl containing a huge Jack Tar’s pudding. This was floating on a sea of brandy gravy, and when Percival had placed it in the center of the table he set it on fire. The children cheered and stamped their feet in approval as the flames lapped the sides of the piece de resistance.
Captain Rodman walked among the children, patted a number of them on their heads and asked them how they were enjoying themselves. A youngster 13 years of age proposed “Three cheers for the Captain.” The cheers were given with great enthusiasm. When the pudding had been consumed and things settled down a bit the children were taken down to the berth deck were they were regaled with a Punch and Judy show and funny moving pictures.

The Misses Annie and Rose O’Neil sang a number of popular songs which the children enjoyed immensely, and in the midst of the entertainment Bos’ns mate James Luddy appeared dressed as Sana Claus. Pandemonium then broke loose. The children swarmed about him, pulled his white whiskers, felt of his red velvet suit and admired his highly polished black boots, which came up to his knees. There was no more order on the berth deck.
Luddy led the way to the main deck, forward, where the crew, while the children were dinning, had placed the gifts left by the real Santa. Each boy was presented with a khaki suit, a pair of shoes and some candy and toys. Each girl received a pair of shoes, a set of furs and a doll. Luddy, the volunteer Santa, was breathing hard when a half dozen of sailors and Captain Rodman came to the rescue. The children were gently forced back from the perspiring Santa, and when all order was restored all assisted with handing out the gifts.

Two special prizes, one for a boy consisting of a regulation sailors uniform, cut out by the ships tailor and sewn by the men of the crew, and a beautiful doll, dressed at the home of one of the married Petty Officers, were drawn for. The juvenile sailors suit was won by James Ryan, 13 years of age, of 218 Sands Street, Brooklyn. The doll fell to the lot of Catheren Slavin of 444 Greenwich St, Manhattan.

After the toys had been distributed the children were taken in parties, each one headed by a volunteer from the crew and shown about the ship. It seemed as if the youngsters were in every part of the boat except for the fighting tops. After the tour of inspection, the little guests, in squads, with a sailor man at the head, were escorted to the pier, where motor trucks, provided by a New York contractor, were waiting to take them to their home.
While the party was in progress hundreds of visitors- friends of the Officers and crew- came aboard and everybody showed great interest in the children.


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The future USS New York LPD-21 under construction at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems’ shipyard in Avondale, LA, will be the fifth amphibious transport dock of the San Antonio class. The ship was named New York after the state and incorporates in its construction steel salvaged from the World Trade Centers. Her ship motto is "Never Forget." "We're very proud that the twisted steel from the WTC towers will soon be used to forge an even stronger national defense," New York Gov. George Pataki spoke in 2002. "The USS New York will soon be defending freedom and combating terrorism around the globe, while also ensuring that the world never forgets the evil attacks of Sept. 11 and the courage and strength New Yorkers showed.” This will be the seventh U.S. ship named New York.

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