Web-first version: Remembering Stockton’s maritime heritage, legacy of ‘wooden ships, iron men’

Two veterans pause near the USS Lucid moored at the San Joaquin County Building Futures Academy where students and volunteers will take on a five-year restoration project. (Business Journal photos by Keith Michaud)

Two veterans pause near the USS Lucid moored at the San Joaquin County Building Futures Academy where students and volunteers will take on a five-year restoration project. (Business Journal photos by Keith Michaud)

Central Valley Business Journal, March 2012

By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor

STOCKTON – It doesn’t look like much now. It’s scuffed and worn – even with signal banners from stem to stern – and hardly seems seaworthy.

But over the next five years or so the USS Lucid will play an important role in the lives of students at the county’s Building Futures Academy near Louis Park in Stockton.

The wooden-hull Aggressive class minesweeper built in 1953 will be a classroom to students studying woodworking, electrical, plumbing, and other skills taught at the charter school adjacent the Stockton Deep Water Canal. They will get a unique look at maritime history as they research the USS Lucid and other ships like her, talking with the men and women who served in the military.

Then once the restoration project is completed the USS Lucid will be moored near Weber Point for visitors to benefit from the work of the students, volunteers, and the Stockton Historical Maritime Museum.

“I have serious doubts there’s another (school) district in the nation that has its students restoring a ship,” David Rajkovich, one of the co-founders of the Stockton Historical Maritime Museum and its executive director, said. “And if so, I want to hear about it.”

The USS Lucid is moored near the county Building Futures Academy. It will be restored over the next five years or so and then moved to the Stockton Waterfront near Weber Point. (Business Journal photos by Keith Michaud)

The USS Lucid is moored near the county Building Futures Academy. It will be restored over the next five years or so and then moved to the Stockton Waterfront near Weber Point. (Business Journal photos by Keith Michaud)

Rajkovich, county Office of Education and academy officials, Stockton Mayor Ann Johnson, and others spoke to a crowd of 200 or so in an academy warehouse out of the rain, the USS Lucid just outside. The event also marked AmeriCorps Works week.

San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools Mick Founts reminded the crowd of the challenges facing schools, especially in California. And that not all students thrive in a typical classroom setting.

“They’re a lot of kids who learn from getting dirty. … Sometimes getting dirty brings education to light,” said Founts.

Founts said the students working on the restoration project will have a lifetime of memories, not only learning skills that can provide a career, but also in researching and talking with military veterans.

“This is the best classroom in the world,” said Founts.

Rajkovich also spoke of the students to be involved in the restoration. He said that while they may have had problems in the past, now in the right learning environment they were polite, respectful and eager to learn.

“It’s easy to stray,” Rajkovich told them, “but you’re on the right path now.”

He said that everyone in the community and the school district wanted the students to succeed.

The USS Lucid was built in New Orleans, but there were three other ships built at the Colberg Boat Works in Stockton. Rajkovich said volunteers searched around the country for information and plans for the Aggressive class minesweeper, but only found that information in Stockton. Henry Colberg, grandson of the Colberg Boat Works founder, was able to loan the museum 700 pages of blueprints and home movies showing the launchings of the three ships built in Stockton. Today, Rajkovich was able to repay Colberg with the gift of a recovered ashtray from one of those three ships, the USS Engage.

Artifacts and photos of the USS Lucid on a table during a presentation about the restoration project. (Business Journal photos by Keith Michaud)

Artifacts and photos of the USS Lucid on a table during a presentation about the restoration project. (Business Journal photos by Keith Michaud)

Rajkovich said it will take $1 million or more over the course of the project, but that volunteers have already recovered original parts and fixtures to be used in the restoration.

“While this is not the time and place for fundraising,” Rajkovich wryly told the crowd, “if you give us the time, we’ll come to your place (for donations).”

Later everyone left the warehouse for presentations by students and a ribbon cutting sponsored by the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. Veterans, students and others took the opportunity to take photographs with the USS Lucid in the background.

Contact the author about this and other stories at kmichaud@cvbizjournal.com.

 

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