Transmission 26: Jean Garrett

The SS United States drydocked at Newport News

The SS United States drydocked at Newport News.

I remember standing on the banks of the James River in Newport News and seeing the SS United States all lit up from bow to stern. I’ll never forget it. My father, Channing Cole, helped to build this great ship.

I can’t remember what his title was then, or what his specific job was, but like thousands of other shipyard workers, he worked to construct the SS United States. My dad started out in Newport News shipbuilding at age seventeen and rose through the ranks until the day he retired. I remember him telling me and my brother that he had engraved our names on the bow of the SS United States. We were so proud; we went to school and boasted about it. Our boasting ended quickly when all our friends told us their dads had done the same thing! I can only imagine how many names were engraved into her hull before she was painted.

My father would take us in the car down to the dry dock from time to time to see how construction of the ship was progressing. When she was completed, he went on her sea trials, as he did with many ships he helped to build. His trial trips usually lasted a week or more, and we always a party to welcome him when he arrived home. He brought a dining room menu back from the SS United States’ trials – I still have it tucked away in the pages of our family Bible.

— Jean Garrett, daughter of Newport News shipyard worker Channing Cole