The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 12, March 25, 2007, Article 21


Dave Lange writes: "I went directly from the Charlotte ANA show to
the Whitman show in Baltimore, arriving at the latter a day early.
This gave me the opportunity to tour the U.S.S. Constellation in
Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The ship had been condemned by the Navy
as unfit for visitors in 1994 but was then restored to its present
glorious state during 1996-99. I hadn't been on the ship since 1985,
and it really is a much improved exhibit.

"One thing that caught my attention was the display of coins retrieved
from beneath the mast during the most recent restoration. I was hoping
to see some old pieces, if not large cents then at least some silver
coins. Instead, the coins recovered consisted of a cent, nickel, dime,
quarter dollar and half dollar, all of recent vintage. They were somewhat
encrusted, so I couldn't read the dates, but the three highest
denomination coins were clearly cupro-nickel-clad, and the hub style
of the quarter's reverse was that adopted in 1977! So much for history
and romance.

"Another interesting incident occurred while I was aboard Constellation.
I'd made my way down to the lowest deck, which was below water and had
no portholes. Hearing multiple sirens nearby, I jogged up the steps two
levels to the gun deck to find out what was happening. Leaning on one
of the cannons, I peered out the gun port to see fire trucks, police
cruisers and ambulances all gathered on the nearby dock and police tape
all around that side of the ship. There were also hundreds of bystanders
looking back in my direction, though their eyes were aimed at a slight
downward angle. Following their gaze, I looked straight down from my
perch to see a body floating face down about ten feet below me, bobbing
against the side of the ship. Just then a small police craft pulled
alongside, and the three occupants began gently prodding at the body.
They declined to do anything further at that time, and the boat moved
back to the dock. It was perhaps a half hour later when the body was
finally removed and laid out on the dock, at which time we were permitted
to exit the ship. I got an extended tour that day, courtesy of some poor
soul's tragic misfortune. Until that point the highlight of my day was
getting to raise the national flag during the sounding of colors.

"As I was exiting through the gift shop, a final episode occurred that
annoyed me in no small amount. I ran into a familiar coin dealer who
was just about to board, and he ran over to me with a big smile. He
then pulled from his pocket a plastic flip containing a bronze souvenir
medal of the Constellation struck perhaps 30 or 40 years ago. It bore
the date 1797, as at that time the mistaken notion still persisted that
this 1855 sloop-of-war was actually the famous 1797 frigate named
Constellation, a sister ship to the U.S.S. Constitution now preserved
at Boston. He gloated as he told me that he'd bought the medal from a
dealer's junk box for a dollar and had been using it for years to
obtain free entry to the ship, which was evidently the purpose of this
medal when made. He then told me that he had a similar medal that he
used regularly to go aboard Constitution for free, too. As he trotted
off happily toward the gang plank, I paused to ponder what a wonderful
job the volunteers have done in restoring this beautiful ship, and I
dropped an additional five dollars into the collection box to supplement
the admission price I'd paid earlier."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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