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November 15, 2012

Hauling history home


Around World War I, grandpa Sam moved his family north, up the western shore of the Chesapeake to Annapolis. What with the war, there was work aplenty up there for shipwrights and house-builders. That’s when grandpa morphed into a full-time contractor. 

You can drive around Annapolis today, especially its Homewood section, and admire dozens of houses grandpa built, including the white-shingled, slate-roofed home in Murray Hill that he built for Anna and himself. My dad was born in that house. And so was my brother, since it was the Depression and he and his own new wife were briefly sharing lodgings with his parents. (I got born some years later — in still another house grandpa built for my parents, right next door.)

When the World War II years came, grandpa shifted back into shipwright work, reporting to work every day at Trumpy’s Boat Yard, converted to the building of wooden-hulled torpedo boats. All the skilled shipwrights of the area worked there, five hundred of them; my brother and I are proud that grandpa Sam was among them.

Grandpa and all his workmen brethren were building 110-foot wooden sub chasers for the U.S. Navy, plus 70-foot Vosper PT boats for the British Royal Navy, plus 70-foot Vosper-powered PTs for the Russian Navy. 

Those shipwrights worked on six boats at a time, side by side in Trumpy’s big loft, which extended out into the Annapolis harbor on pilings. By the war’s end, they’d sent 1128 boats down the ways and off to battle the Axis navies.

Oh, and what are we hauling down too Shady Side? Why, the very tools that grandpa Sam used through all his years, including his time fighting the war from Trumpy’s Boatyard.

When he died suddenly in 1948, grandpa left all his tools in the basement of that slate-roofed house in Murray Hill, Annapolis; and there they stayed through grandma’s long, long widowhood.

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