At first, I naively thought I just
had a staunchly patriotic neighbor, whose alarm clock
would play the National Anthem each morning at 8
a.m. It was 2007 and we had just moved to Winfield
Avenue in Manette. What I didn’t know was that music was coming
across the Port Washington Narrows from the Puget Sound Naval
Shipyard, which plays it each and every day.
And Bremerton residents know that isn’t the only song
played for all the town to hear.
also known as “Retreat,” “Day is Done” or “Tattoo,” is played year
round as well but not at the same time, according to Shipyard
Historian Cristy Gallardo.
“Everyday it’s sounded at the
official sundown time, so it changes by a few minutes throughout
the year,” Gallardo told me.
She points out the evening tune is not “Taps,” which
now is mostly limited to military funerals and memorials.
As you might’ve guessed, the songs are programmed to
play automatically through the Shipyard’s “Port Operations” post.
It “doesn’t require human interaction at all,” she
said. “It just does its thing.”
How far back this tradition goes is uncertain.
Gallardo told me it’s been the practice at military installations
since before the Civil War. She suspects that the Marines, who
actually arrived before the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard opened in
1891, probably even started something given their devotion to
tradition and propensity to carry a bugler.
There’s no plans to discontinue this time-honored
practice, she added. Just think, if we were near an Army post, we
might hear “Reveille” every
Today marks my 10 year anniversary at the
Kitsap Sun. It’s a milestone that I’ve been thinking
about a lot lately. I’ve witnessed a dramatic transformation
in journalism this past decade. Not all has been positive: the
newsroom staff is half the size it was when I got here, reflecting
an era of massive media consolidation. (That’s
the nice way to put it). But I am also part of a new
era, where the most creative and industrious minds will prevail in
an age where anyone can publish a story.
I wanted to take you back through this decade, for a
trip through the stories that fascinated me most. Many of
these, you will notice, are from my first seven years on the job,
when I was the Sun’s crime and justice reporter. But Bremerton, as
home to the Sun and those I’ve covered, has always played an
1. After 62 years, death comes six hours
Amazing stories that are told on the obituary page
nearly everyday. So I was especially curious when my editor, Kim
Rubenstein, came to me with a rather unique one: A couple whose
obituary ran together, in the same article.
I phoned the family, wondering if they would be
interested in telling their parents’ story. It’s a phone call that
never gets easier, having to call someone coming to terms with
death, but it’s a call I feel is a newspaper’s obligation. In doing
so, I’ve always tried to explain I’d like to give the community a
chance to know the person they were in life, and if not, they were
free to hang up on me. Everyone grieves differently but some people
view the opportunity as cathartic.
In this case, the family was thrilled and invited me
to their home in Kingston.
I learned of a
very special love story — a couple through 62 years of marriage
did everything together. Everything. Even getting the mail.
It’s a story that not only touched me emotionally, but
apparently others as well. Few stories I’ve ever done attracted
broader attention. I got calls, emails and letters from all over
the country, and was even interviewed by the Seattle P-I about
2. The CIA is doing what in Washington
Undercover police officers have their identities
concealed for a reason: they are often conducting sensitive, and
sometimes high risk, investigations that warrant it.
But what about when police chiefs, who use their
government issued vehicles mainly for the purpose of driving to and
from work, start using those undercover license plates?
But nothing could prepare me, months after the
initial story, for a call from Austin Jenkins, NPR reporter in
Olympia, who’d been hearing testimony in the State Legislature
about these license plates and changes to the program.
Later, the DOL would backpedal and say that they had
no authority to release information about those “federal agencies”
that have the licenses. But it was a fascinating discovery, an
amazing story to work on and I am glad
we were able to help bring the program to transparency.
3. The Pentagon’s calling, and they’re not
Ever wonder what it’s like to have The Pentagon angry
with a story you did? Well, let me tell you.
Through a public records request, I got hold of a
Navy document that reported he’d received an honorable
discharge from the Navy — something a former Navy JAG told me was
unheard of following a sex crime conviction.
We ran the story.
The following Monday, The Pentagon called.
“Your story is wrong,” I was told repeatedly. “Are
you going to correct it?”
“How is it wrong?” I asked.
I couldn’t get an answer because those records were
private, I was told.
“So how can I correct it?” I wondered.
Round and round we went, for what felt like an
eternity. Newsroom meetings were held. I freely admit it does not
feel good when the Pentagon is not happy with you.
Eventually, others at The Pentagon and the local base
released information that showed the man had received an “other
than honorable” discharge. To this day, I am uncertain why I
saw reports that contradicted each other.
4. Burglary victim becomes the
Imagine coming home from a trip to find your home has
been burglarized, and yet
you’re the one getting hauled off to jail. That was the
situation Luke Groves faced in 2009. A felon, he’d broken into a
school in Shelton at 18, and now, at 37, police found his wife’s
guns in their Hewitt Avenue home.
Prosecutors, who charged him with felon in possession
of a firearm, had offered him no jail time in exchange for his
guilty plea. But Groves took the case to trial,
was convicted, and could’ve faced years in prison over it.
The case was one that former Kitsap County Prosecutor
Russ Hauge and I had butted heads about. He felt we’d cast the
prosecutor’s office as the bad guy in a case which they could not
just “look the other way” on a weapons charge.
I followed the trial from start to finish, including
Hauge himself handling the sentencing — something I can’t
recall on an other occasion in my seven years covering the court
system here. Hauge told the judge that Groves should ultimately get
credit for time served for the crime, and Groves was released.
The story started with a scanner call for a DOA (dead
on arrival) near the road in Olhava. I inquired with the police
sergeant, who told me that the death was actually a pretty
interesting story — certainly not something I expected to hear. I
headed north, parked, and followed a little trail into the woods
where I found “The Shiloh,” Christensen’s home among Western Red
It was a “meticulously organized world,” I wrote. “A
campsite with finely raked dirt, a sturdy green shed and a tent
filled with bins of scrupulously folded clean laundry and cases of
Steel Reserve beer.”
In the subsequent days, I learned all about his quiet
penned this story. Most satisfying to me was that Christensen’s
family had lost touch with him. Without the story, which thanks to
the Internet made its way across the country, his family would’ve
never found him. He got the dignified burial he deserved.
6. Heroin’s ugly grip on Kitsap, the
I’ve probably put more energy into covering the
opiate epidemic than any other single topic in my decade at the
I’ve received a lot of “jail mail” over the years,
and while there’s usually an interesting story, it is, shall we
say, not always one I would pursue in print.
When the letters started coming from Robert “Doug”
Pierce in 2010, I was skeptical. He was convinced that Kitsap
County had miscalculated his “good time” or time off for good
behavior, and that he was serving too long a sentence from his
current cell, at Coyote Ridge in Connell.
Now I will tell you I am a journalist and not a
mathematician. But the basic gist was that jail officials here were
calculating his good time by simply dividing his time served by
three, rather than tacking on an additional to his overall
sentence. The result was he would serve 35 extra days.
A criminal past can often haunts someone for the rest
of his or her life. That was certainly true for Ed Gonda, a man who
moved his family to Bainbridge Island and had heard it was a “laid
back, forgiving kind of place.”
His crime was a sexual relationship with a
15-year-old girl. He admitted to it, did time for it, paid more
than $10,000 in treatment for it — and had lived a clean life for
15 years, to include starting his own family.
But under Washington state law, he had to register as
a sex offender, though he was not a pedophile. And somehow, after
making friends at a local church and at his daughter’s school, word
“The news traveled fast, and people who they thought
they knew well acted swiftly,”
I wrote. “His daughter could no longer play with friends down
the street, he said. The church pews around them were vacant on
Sundays. They more or less stopped going out anywhere on the
“We’re treated like we’re diseased,” his wife told
It was the start of a
three part series I knew would be controversial, but I felt was
important. We want to protect all people in society, especially
children. But is there ever a point when we’ve gone too far and it
has infringed on the rights of those who have already done their
Let’s face it: Bremerton has a gotten a bad rap over
the years, following the demise in the 1980s of its retail downtown
core. An increasing violent crime rate followed, and in many ways
the reputation was earned.
When I was hired in 2005, the city had the highest
per capita violent crime rate. During my interview, which was just
weeks after two murders blocks from the Kitsap Sun’s office, I was
asked how I would take on the story. Aggressively, I said.
If you live in Bremerton, you know that each time we
do have a tragic, violent episode — even if far outside city limits
— it reinforces the stereotype.
But followers of this blog know better. There are
many positive signs of a community improving: Increasing ferry
traffic. Volunteers embracing parks. Home improvements being made.
We’ll see how long it takes for the rest of the world
10. Walking the story in
Any reporter will tell you that we spend a lot more
time with the story than what ends up in the paper. But what about
those people who want to know more, who
are curious for every last detail?
In honor of president’s day, I brushed up on my Kitsap County
presidential history and found out some fascinating tidbits about
those rare times POTUS stopped
by. I was lucky to have a copy of historian and journalist Fredi
Perry Pargeter’s book “Bremerton
and PSNY,” which devotes a whole chapter to presidential
Here’s a rundown of the Oval Office occupiers’ visits and why
Rutherford B. Hayes: In 1880, Hayes came by
ship to Bainbridge Island, where he helped cut a 150-foot long tree
at Port Blakely Mill.
Teddy Roosevelt: Not long after the shipyard
was built, Teddy Roosevelt came to see it in 1903. Roosevelt didn’t
stay long — half hour or so — and thus let down quite a number of
onlookers who’d hoped to catch a glimpse of Teddy. But later on his
trip, he journeyed to Tacoma, where a man from Manette — who had
been a roughrider alongside Roosevelt — came to see him.
William H. Taft: Taft also visited the
shipyard, this time in 1911. During the visit, he apparently
remarked that Charleston, then an independent city, was simply too
close to Bremerton and that the two should be joined together. They
Franklin D. Roosevelt: No. 32 visited Kitsap
more than any other president. He came twice as assistant secretary
of the Navy and as president came another two times. The first, in
1942, was done in secret for war planning. The then Bremerton Sun
didn’t know about the visit until nine days after it had happened.
The second visit was public and Roosevelt made a speech aboard the
USS Cummings, a picture of which you can find prominently displayed
at the Bremerton Bar and Grill. He held himself up to appear
standing, though he was afflicted with polio.
Harry S. Truman: The Missourian came to
Bremerton in 1948 and gave a stump speech at the corner of Fifth
and Pacific. It’s widely believed, even by Truman himself, that it
was here someone shouted the phrase, “Give ’em hell, Harry.” While
it’s in dispute, I’d say let’s just go with it.
Bill Clinton: In 1993, the former Arkansas
governor brought together leaders from Asian-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) countries on Blake Island. During the video we
made, I misspoke — in an effort to be more causal, Clinton brought
them all leather Bombardier jackets, not jean jackets,
according to the Washington Post.
Additionally, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter are both believed
to have come to Kitsap before they were president. And there’s a
rumor that even JFK stopped by. But that will take some additional
The Puget Sound Naval
hammerhead crane, whose green steel still towers over
Bremerton, hasn’t been in use since
1996. But you might be surprised to know it
still moves from time to time.
See exhibit A, these two photos. I took both photos from close
to the same vantage point: on Park Avenue near Sixth Street,
looking south into the shipyard. There’s almost exactly a 90 degree
difference between the photos.
This discovery sent my curiosity off the charts. Is this aging
wonder of Bremerton, built in Pennsylvania in 1932 by some of the
same iron workers who constructed the Empire State Building, back
Answer: No, not exactly.
Mary Anne Mascianica, a shipyard spokeswoman, told me that
moving the crane is actually quite routine.
“We rotate the crane about twice per year to ensure that we can
move it to provide clearances for various ship movements,”
Mascianica said. “The crane is no longer certified to make
any lifts and there is no plan to recertify the crane.”
So it rotates. But the 2,400 ton structure, a National Historic Landmark, does
little more than that — though it serves as a highly prominent
location for a Seahawks’ 12th man flag, some may recall.
Mind you, I have friends in the shipyard who will likely say,
“Josh, I could’ve told you that.” But you didn’t. So now it’s my
job to let everyone else know.
“When the Hammerhead Crane is rotated it is a sight
to see and will take up to 6 minutes to complete the rotation,”
wrote Ken Haines in a history of the crane. “But it still operates
and feels as smooth as silk.”
I will take this opportunity as a teachable moment. Here’s a few
really cool facts about the crane:
Were you among the droves of onlookers that bid the USS
Constellation farewell in Bremerton on Friday?
I know I was. I asked some polite folks at city hall if I could
come to the top of the Norm Dicks Government Center and take her
picture as the 61,000 ton vessel departed.
I got a lot of photos on Facebook, which I’ve displayed below.
Me and my partner in crime, Ed Friedrich (the military and
transportation reporter here at the Sun) will keep an eye on her
journey around the tip of South America to the scrapyards of
Brownsville, Texas. Ed will keep us posted on the largest ship
recycling in U.S. history as well.
So far, she’s traveling past Oregon, near Coos Bay, according to
marinetraffic.com. (To find her, you must find the Corbin Foss, her
Feel free to drop me a line if you caught Connie slipping out of
Puget Sound, or further along the journey.
Earlier this year, the USS Missouri Memorial Association began
work preserving the gray lady, on whose decks Japan signed the
declaration of surrender that ended World War II. For the next
three months, the ship will be cleaned up, rewired and
otherwise spiffed up (if you can call $18 million worth
of work “spiffed”) for the nearly half million tourists who now
visit the ship ever year. They will sandblast and fortify the hull,
and upgrade electrical and sewer systems. The work is being paid
for with a $10 million Department of Defense grant and funds from
the nonprofit USS Missouri Memorial
She’ll be back open for tours — they cost $20 per person — in
I visited the ship last month. They were doing early painting
touch up work, but it still was open for tours.
I didn’t visit it when it was in Bremerton; I probably wasn’t
old enough to appreciate it at the time. But I remember the fight
when its departure from Bremerton was announced. It was downright
vicious, involving a federal lawsuit and strong words from our
The ship was mothballed in front of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
from 1954 to 1984. Perhaps because of the popularity of the tours
and the exposure it received during the 1962 World’s Fair in
Seattle, other cities began clamoring for visits from the Mo.
The ship was towed to Long Beach, Calif., and recommissioned in
1984. It toured the world and was deployed during the Gulf War. Its
return to Bremerton was promised by then-Navy Secretary H. Lawrence
Garrett III in 1989, and it came back for its second mothballing in
In 1995, the year of the 50th anniversary of Japan’s surrender
1995, several cities — including Bremerton, Pearl Harbor, and Long
Beach, Calif. — petitioned to become its permanent home. Hawaii, of
No matter the argument about where the ship belongs, it serves
its purpose at the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor. As one of our
commenters put it, the Missouri provides a “period” to the
memorial’s statement on the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
So while I was there, taking it all in, I thought I’d bring a
little back for my fellow Bremertonians. It may not be the ship,
but these images from the tour are going to have to suffice. Also
included at the end of the slideshow are photos of the Arizona
memorial so you can read the sentence backward. (If you also have
visited the Mo in Bremerton or there, e-mail me photos or post a
link to them in a comment.)