Originally Published 06/29/2011 05:45:48 AM
Photo Source: Jessica Beebe
“Shoulda seen them destroyers they use’ta build here,” the old timer said, pointing across the vast expanse of still, silent cranes, smoke stacks and hangers that formerly comprised the Navy Yard. “You wouldn’t beLIEVE how big them things was! And how proud we was to build ‘em!”
He wore a threadbare cap tight over his eyes and paint-splattered canvas pants. He had a pot belly now, but his face, although slightly puffy, was still hard and firm from years of heavy lifting.
There was nothing left. Just an unstable fence, a yard strewn with rope, anchor chains and beer bottles, overgrown with weeds and snarled with train tracks that carried no cargo.
The old timer dragged on a hand-rolled cigarette, a wistful look in his eye. “I got on here in ’42, when I was sixteen. My daddy got me on. The war was heating up in the pacific, and they needed all the work they could get.” He shuffled his feet a bit walking toward what was the main gate. “That was fifty years ago now. Fifty years and a lifetime, it seems!” he chuckled.
The wind picked up, blowing autumn leaves across the concrete with a rustle and whistling through a bit of chain that lay draped off a dock in the distance. The sound was almost spectral, almost carrying the sounds of industry, commerce and the war effort.
Rumors had been going around about the future of the yard. The old timer stooped into the wind in the gray chill, the wistful look replacing the fleeting mirth. “Heard tell they’re gonna turn the hangers into apartments and nightclubs,” he said, speaking down into the sidewalk. “I guess it’ll be beautiful.” He turned, stopped and clutched the fence, staring far beyond the remains of the Navy Yard. “But it won’t be nearly as beautiful as it was once.”