September 10, 2013

Submarines, the Beatles, Sloops, and Apples



Hugs for Steve and Paul


While in Groton, Connecticut, Monte suggested that we visit the Submarine Force Library & Museum. He was especially interested in touring the  Nautilus (SSN 571), even though he experiences claustrophobia. I still recall touring a submarine at the Portsmouth Navy Base (Kittery, Maine) when I was a child, and had no qualms about walking though another one.


We walked through the museum first.


While viewing the landscape through a glass window a man standing beside me said he had worked as a welder on the hulls of submarines under construction for seven years. Although he had worked on submarines he “would not ride in one.”


Steve Schroeber (spelling perhaps inaccurate) proudly mentioned that he “stood as close to Jackie Kennedy as he was standing by me (about 12 inches)” when she Christened a new submarine. “She was a beautiful girl.”

“They are thinking about shutting down this (Groton, Conn.) Navy base,” he told us.

Steve was an infant when his family moved to Groton. “That was 70 years ago,” he said. “There was nothing here in Groton before the   base.” However, during the cold war the Navy started building 4-5 submarines a year and the base had 18,000 people.”

He left Groton 23 years ago .He lived by the space center in Florida but had no interest in space machines, just in submarines.

After working on submarines Steve went into the housing market, and then entered the antique market. While living in Florida one of his customers (and good friends) was Les Stuart, a member of the original Beatle’s band, which practiced at Les’s home in England. Les, who eventually moved to Florida, passed his share of the band on to Paul McCartney because he wanted a family and stability, not drugs and travel.

When both Les Stuart and his wife died Steve sold their antique estate.

Steve returned to Groton a year ago and found that things had changed. All his friends were gone.

“I graduated in a class of 300  in 1962, and there are no reunions—3/4 of the class members are dead, I understand.”

Another major change:  “the trees are so high…”

“Isn’t it amazing, being a kid going to school and suddenly you’re 60 years old. Where did the time go?” he ended.

We parted then. Monte and I strolled over to the Nautilis. The Navy man on duty noticed my Cornell University hat and shared that his father had attended that university for a year.

“He’d been a nerd in high school and decided to change who he was in college,” the man said.

“I didn’t graduate from there in the traditional manner,” I shared. “I graduated from the Cornell University of Hard Knocks…I’m a descendant of the same Cornell family as was Ezra Cornell.”

The ship was quite compact, using any and all space as efficiently as possible. The kitchen galleys were small, but not much smaller than the tiny kitchens in some of the Laurel Mountain Borough (PA) cabins in our home community.


How the men could sleep in—or even fit into—the tiny bunks is beyond me.


About those bunks. Monte and I had a conversation that left us laughing and caused a couple next to us to wonder why. I cannot write on this blog what that conversation was. However, if you meet Monte (or me) we will share the joke one on one.


Monte exited the submarine none the worse for wear, his claustrophobia held in check.

As we were leaving the museum a young man entered wearing a notable T-shirt.

“Can I take a picture of your shirt?” The man looked startled, but agreed when I explained why I wanted it.


After leaving the museum we headed towards Mystic, Connecticut, where I hoped to find clues about a Hingham packet, a boat Gen. Henry Jackson hired to take Madame de Leval to Downeast Maine (Hancock and Washington counties) to examine the land she had a tentative contract to purchase from Gen. Henry Knox and William Duer (information I wanted for my novel.

We found our way to the Mystic Seaport Museum Collections building  It took Paul O’Pecko only 5 minutes to hand me a book with the information I’d been seeking for seven years.

The Vice President, Collections and Research and Director of the G. W Blunt White Library also spent time helping me understand the difference between a packet, sloop, and other sailing boats of the 1790s. He headed me towards books, pictures, and models of these boats. He definitely impressed me with his knowledge and resources on the boats.


(An after-note: When we returned to our motel, I pulled up my file where I wanted to file my new-found information. Wouldn’t you know—the book Mr. O’Pecko pulled off the shelves was one I had found on the Internet just before leaving home, but hadn’t looked at. However, it would have taken me hours to find the Hingham listed, since it was found over half-way in the book that was probably a recent addition to online tomes.)

It was a hot afternoon and Monte sat in the car while I spent my time in the library.

For out next adventure we drove to Whittle’s Willow Spring Farm Market to pick apples in an orchard with approximately 400 apple trees bearing about 12 different apple varieties. We spent $12.39 for the delicacies priced at $1.00 per pound.






Pearl Harbor: A 1942 Radio Broadcast Script

Two Photographers Named Cornell


  1. As a mom of a son who served 15 years in submarines (USS Louisville, USS Boston), I would say that it does take a special brand of sailor to serve aboard these boats. (as I learned early, boats go underwater, ships sail on top!!!) The submariner core are a tight, close group and my son remains in constant contact with his crew members as well as crew members of other boats. They have a special page on facebook and if anyone has any interest in submarines its worth reading – just search “submariners” when on facebook –

    Comment by Fran — September 10, 2013 @ 6:19 am | Reply

  2. Thanks Fran—How are things out “west?”

    Comment by carolyncholland — September 10, 2013 @ 10:02 am | Reply

  3. My son spent 2 years of his naval career in Groton Conn. thanks for sharing your tour with me.

    Comment by merry — September 10, 2013 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  4. You visited an interesting trail of CT nautical mixed with music, I enjoyed your journey through my CT backyard.

    Comment by 11cvmshistoricthoughts — September 10, 2013 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

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