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Bainbridge museum hosts inaugural Navy Day in Port Deposit

About 300 people attended the inaugural Navy Day in Port Deposit Saturday to tour the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center and visit the Main Street museum dedicated to its history, according to event organizers.

Those who attended, including men and women who received their Navy training at Bainbridge, also had the opportunity to see a Coast Guard boat and a replica of a Navy PT boat along the waterfront.

The PT boat was provided by the Navy Club of Lancaster, Pa.; some of the Navy Club members were also on hand to assist with the event.

"We had people from Pennsylvania and New Jersey and Delaware, and of course, all around this area," Joyce Linkey, the acting curator of the Bainbridge Naval Training Center Historical Association Inc. Museum, said.

"A lot of friends that I was in the Navy with went to school here," Jack Agnew of Lancaster, Pa., said.

Agnew, who attended Navy Day with his friend, Julie Cameron, also of Lancaster, served in the Navy from 1965 to 1971; he trained to be an electronics technician in San Francisco, but a number of his friends trained for their Navy jobs at Bainbridge.

Linkey, who also lives in Lancaster, went through training at Bainbridge as a Navy WAVES, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, an all-female division of the Navy established during World War II.

She received her Navy recruit training and training as a dental technician at Bainbridge; she served in the Navy from 1951 to 1955, and she spent the majority of her career stationed in Norfolk, Va., working as a dental technician.

Bainbridge history

The U.S. Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, served as a recruit training center for 34 years, from 1942 until 1976.

The 1,200-acre campus on the northeastern side of Port Deposit was also home to the Navy's Service School Command, Naval Hospital Command, Naval Academy Preparatory School, Enlisted Personnel Distribution Office, Continental United States, the Personnel Accounting Machine Installation Command, Nuclear Power School and the Naval Reserve Manpower Center, according to a museum brochure and a history posted on the website of the Bainbridge Development Corporation.

The Bainbridge Development Corp., which was created through state legislation in 1999, is charged with redeveloping the site. Part of it is being used for Cecil College's Mid-Atlantic Transportation & Logistics Institute.

The Naval Training Center was created with the approval of President Franklin D. Roosevelt from land that was the prior home of the Tome School for Boys. The school operated on the site during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the school buildings were used for the Naval Academy Preparatory School.

About 244,000 recruits were trained at Bainbridge during World War II; the population of the training center was at its highest of 55,000 during the Korean War, and ultimately, more than half a million Navy recruits went through training there, according to the history posted on the Bainbridge Development Corporation website.

Visit http://www.bainbridgedev.org for more information.

Inaugural Navy Day

The museum hosted its inaugural Navy Day to celebrate the second anniversary of the museum's move from its former home along the Susquehanna River to a former bank on South Main Street.

Linkey called the first Navy Day outstanding.

"We had a lot who went through boot camp here," Linkey said.

There were also men and women who went through the service schools at Bainbridge and people whose relatives served there.

"We had several who said they were born here when their father was in the Navy," Linkey said.

She said some visitors picked up souvenirs from the museum for grandparents who could not come.

"I was so pleased," Linkey said. "It was a good day."

Andrew J. Murphy is a member of Navy Club of Lancaster and the vice president of the museum, and he went through recruit training at Bainbridge during the 1950s; he served on the Navy battleships USS New Jersey and Wisconsin during the Korean War.

He stood in front of a large map of the training center and pointed to Camp James, where he lived during his training.

"We did a little bit of everything," Murphy said of his training, which included firefighting, knot tying and swimming.

"They used to tie a little tin can around your belly if you couldn't swim, so your belly would float," he remembered, laughing.

Navy Day also attracted local residents who grew up around Bainbridge.

"I thought it was really cool," Abbas Rashid of Port Deposit said. "I grew up in Port Deposit, lived there my whole life; this is my first time getting to see the naval base."

Rashid attended Navy Day with family members such as his wife, niece and brother Hafiz Rashid, a former freelancer for The Aegis and The Record.

The family took a bus tour of the training center, and Abbas Rashid and his wife, Fatema A. Rashid, said they were impressed with the architecture of the granite buildings.

"The buildings looked really nice," Fatema said. "I was surprised to see how intact they looked, given they were over 100 years old."

Her 7-year-old niece, Zayneb Sumar, who was visiting from Dubai, noticed the disrepair of some buildings, such as missing bricks.

She said she enjoyed riding on the bus and "looking from the window and seeing all the nice green stuff," or the landscaping, and the views of the Susquehanna.

Other visitors, such as Brian Paap of Aberdeen, noticed the state of the buildings.

"It's weird seeing how big the base is in these maps and then seeing how deteriorated it is," he said later at the museum. "It's hard to believe there was an active base here."

Paap served in the Navy from 2004 to 2008; he was a signals analyst stationed at Ft. Meade.

Paul Lopez and his 10-year-old daughter, Isabel, stopped in the museum; He lives along Bainbridge Road close to the training center, and he and his daughter looked at many of the pictures of the center and recruit classes.

"I want to try and find my uncle in one of those pictures up there," Isabel Lopez said.

She was referring to her great-uncle on her mother's side, Joe Stefano. Her father said Stefano went through recruit training at Bainbridge.

"He used to do his training here and come into town and play in a band at one of the bars," Lopez said.

Lopez said he grew up in the area and knew "all about Bainbridge from the time I was a kid."

He said he remembers when it was decommissioned during the 1970s.

"We just never happened to have the chance to stop in," Lopez said of the museum. "It's nice, very nice."

The museum is at 6 S. Main St. in Port Deposit; it is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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