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Thanksgiving memories

Yvonne Delaney Mitchell | 11/23/2011, 2:56 p.m.

Happy Thanksgiving 2011. Are you thankful, grateful for all that you have and for what you don't? The days leading up to Thanksgiving are always such an exciting time. Just listening to the conversations about where others are going or what others are doing is enough to get you in the mood. I saw one lady in the supermarket buy pounds of sweet potatoes as she was in charge of baking the sweet potato pies for her office party. I could only imagine she was going to start baking days ahead of time, as she had enough sweet potatoes to feed an army.

This Thanksgiving was especially sentimental for me, as my aunt, Doris Jean Palmer, had passed away on November 11th. Doris, wife of Bill Palmer, mother of Michele, was a beautiful person, soft, gentle and kind. I will always remember her as such. Then, there was also the passing of Audrey Petty, wife of Cal, former member of the FEW Bridge club. Much like Doris, she too was a beautiful person-soft, gentle and kind. Now, they are sisters in Heaven, both to be remembered fondly.

I know you know the name, but do you know what's really going on at the Brooklyn Navy Yard? Located on Brooklyn's waterfront between the Williamsburg and the Manhattan Bridge, the yard was founded in 1801, before the Civil War, when the government purchased the land along the waterfront for $40,000. Having been previously used as a ship building facility, the government continued the usage with the construction of the United States' first steam-powered warship, the Fulton Steam Frigate. While the Frigate was completely destroyed in 1829 in an accidental explosion, many of the Steamships built there over the years went out to sea to create history.

The USS Niagara was launched in 1857 and shortly thereafter, was off to England to lay the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. The USS Arizona was launched in 1915, but its destiny was doomed as on December 7, 1941. The Japanese would sink the USS Arizona and for the United States, that meant war, as the U.S., officially entered WWll. Not to be deterred or discouraged, the USS Missouri was launched in 1944. It was only one year later, when on September 2, 1945 that Japan signed its unconditional surrender, where, upon the USS Missouri, which had become known as "Mighty Mo," and the war was over.

Over the years, the yard expanded to become an industrial site where aircraft super carriers such as the USS Saratoga, Constellation and Independence were built and employed during the Korean War. In addition, the Naval Hospital had been built thereby employing thousands. In 1966, then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara closed the Brooklyn Navy Yard. However, it was only a short time before the City came to the rescue, purchasing the yard for a mere $24mm. Today, The Brooklyn Navy Yard operates as a thriving industrial park with over 40 buildings, 230 tenants and 5,000 employees.

Most recently, a grand reception was held celebrating the grand opening of BLDG 92, which houses the exhibition and visitors center. BLDG 92, located at 63 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, showcases a fascinating exhibition encompassing the yard's past, present and projections into the future. Among the honorees at the reception were 87-year-old Clarence Irving, who is the mastermind behind the African American Heritage Stamp (first one issued in 1978 was Harriet Tubman), and 100-year old Wesley Hager, who was the only African American photographer working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the early 1940s. There are free tours of BLDG 92 over the weekend with free shuttle bus service from downtown Brooklyn at the intersection of Jay Street and Willoughby Street. For all of you teachers out there, it makes for a great class trip. Ahh from whence we came.