Category Archives: Shipyard

The songs they play in Bremerton each day


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.

If you’re downtown, you hear the Carillon Bells from high atop the Chase Building, a tradition that dates back to the early 1970s (and even further when the bells were atop the Methodist Church on the same site).

But there’s also another tune we hear from the yard. Yes, the National Anthem is played each day at 8 a.m. But what you hear from the Yard as night falls is different.

Evening Colors,” 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 morning instead.


Beat blast: 5 stories you’ve gotta know in Bremerton this week

Here’s your three minute news update for the week in Bremerton. In the video above, you’ll learn:

  1. What Bremerton road will soon get a $5 million makeover?
  2. What park is getting expanded?
  3. Who may be to blame for too much saltwater in the sewers?
  4. The City Council’s change to utility taxes
  5. What brewery opens in Bremerton Friday


This week’s blast was filmed on location at LoveCraft Brewery, 275 Fifth Street, and includes an interview with the owners.

Comments or suggestions? Send them to me at

10 Stories from my 10 Years at the Kitsap Sun

This job is never boring, let me tell you. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
This job is never boring, let me tell you. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

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 integral role.



1. After 62 years, death comes six hours apart

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.

When they were buried, they were placed side by side, in the same casket.

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 doing it.


2. The CIA is doing what in Washington state?

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?

That line that line of inquiry got me started down a path that revealed that in Kitsap County, and indeed all of Washington, there are a lot of confidential license plates driving around.

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.

The story had revealed not only the confidential license plate program, but that the state’s Department of Licensing was also issuing confidential driver’s licenses.

I teamed up with Jenkins and we went to Olympia to interview the DOL. Amazingly, Gov. Jay Inslee and Gov. Chris Gregoire before him, didn’t even know about the program.

The biggest shocker of all came when a spokesman revealed that many of those confidential driver’s licenses were going to the CIA.

“Yes, that CIA, “the spokesman told us.

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.

Wikipedia photo.

3. The Pentagon’s calling, and they’re not happy

Ever wonder what it’s like to have The Pentagon angry with a story you did? Well, let me tell you.

You may recall the story of Naval Base Kitsap’s highest enlisted man being convicted in a sting not dissimilar from To Catch a Predator. He served his time, but I had wondered what kind of discipline he faced from the Navy, and that became the subject of a story months later.

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.

Photo by Meegan M. Reid.
Photo by Meegan M. Reid.

4. Burglary victim becomes the suspect

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.


5. Squatter’s ‘meticulous’ highway home

I never met Chris Christensen. But I feel like in many ways I knew him following his 2008 death in the woods off Highway 3 in Poulsbo.

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 Cedars.

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 life and 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.

Nametags of those who went through Kitsap Recovery Center who later died or went to prison.
Nametags of those who went through Kitsap Recovery Center who later died or went to prison.

6. Heroin’s ugly grip on Kitsap, the nation

I’ve probably put more energy into covering the opiate epidemic than any other single topic in my decade at the Sun.

Heroin, in particular, was virtually nonexistent when I got here. But following the explosion of opiate medicines for pain, drug cartels seized their chance to feed a spreading addiction more cheaply.

The story has taken me all over Puget Sound. I interviewed a man at McNeil Island prison who had an 8-pill a day OxyContin habit and was bringing sheets full of “Oxy” from California to Kitsap; I visited a woman who was literally injecting opiates near the knuckles on her fingers in Suquamish. I’ve hugged mothers whose children were lost forever when they could not kick the habit.

It is a problem that remains unsolved.


7. Bad math on jail’s good time

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.

He was right.

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.

Small potatoes? When you consider that at the the time it cost about $100 a day to house a prison inmate and that there were 548 inmates from Kitsap in prison, it’s actually quite an expense. After our story ran, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office corrected his sentence, along with everyone else’s, and fixed the policy.


8. ‘Where can we live?’

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.”

It turned out to be anything but for his family.

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 got out.

“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 island.”

“We’re treated like we’re diseased,” his wife told me.

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 time?

As part of my series on the 20th anniversary of the Community Protection Act, I also ventured to McNeil Island with Photographer Larry Steagall to see the state’s civil commitment center for sexual predators. Such a beautiful and pastoral setting for such a hideous complex. I am fairly certain Larry will never forgive me.

Yes, I have ridden in the back of a cop car. MEEGAN REID / KITSAP SUN
Yes, I have ridden in the back of a cop car. MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN

9. Bremerton’s plunging violent crime rate

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.

I spent a lot of time in a patrol car — every shift including graveyard — and was introduced to Bremerton’s seedy underbelly before meeting any other part. It was a scary place: I saw lots of people high on meth, fights between police and drunkards, violent domestic abusers whose victims would try to shield their attackers from the cops. And I wrote extensively about it.

But in the years since, that violent crime rate plummeted, for reasons I documented in a story last November. The tide, in my eyes, is turning: the city is making a turn for the better.

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. Developments downtown.

We’ll see how long it takes for the rest of the world to notice.


10. Walking the story in Bremerton

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?


This January, I found myself thinking about those two big Sequoia trees on Veneta Avenue. In writing about longterm plans to save them but close the road their roots are destroying, I came to the realization that nothing — not a story in print, online or even a video — would compare to the experience of going there, and seeing the story for yourself. I invited experts who I’d interviewed for the story to come along.

And thus was born the thing I’m most proud of since taking over the Bremerton Beat: my monthly Story Walk. It’s been such a satisfying journey taking the story to the community, rather than the other way around. We’ve walked all over town and I have gotten to know so many great people in the city in doing so.

There’s momentum for many more to come, too.

Here’s to 10 years at the Sun, and a hope that the next 10 will be just as exhilarating.

Vlog: The presidents who visited Kitsap


Hayes stopped by Port Blakely. Taft and the Roosevelts, the Navy Yard. Truman toured Bremerton. And Clinton came to Blake Island.

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 visits.

Here’s a rundown of the Oval Office occupiers’ visits and why they came:

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 were.

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 research.

Photo by Reuters.
Photo by Reuters.

The hammerhead’s not dead — and I can prove it

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 2.49.23 PM

IMG_9109The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s iconic 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 in service?

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:

Continue reading

Carrier Constellation rumbles toward Texas

The Connie departs Friday.
The Connie departs Friday.

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 (To find her, you must find the Corbin Foss, her tugboat escort.)

Feel free to drop me a line if you caught Connie slipping out of Puget Sound, or further along the journey.



Photo by Beth Cochran.
Photo by Beth Cochran.


Photo by Joanie Reynolds Pearson.
Photo by Joanie Reynolds Pearson.


Photo by Patrick Kerber.
Photo by Patrick Kerber.


Photo by Margret Mountjoy.
Photo by Margret Mountjoy.

A ‘Mighty’ Former Bremerton Resident Gets an $18M Facelift

The USS Missouri is seen in Drydock 4, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009 at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo/The Honolulu Advertiser, Gregory Yamamoto)
The USS Missouri is seen in Drydock 4, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009 at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo/The Honolulu Advertiser, Gregory Yamamoto)

For all of you here in Kitsap who still feel a connection to the historic USS Missouri, which was mothballed on Bremerton’s waterfront for decades, here’s a little update.

The ship was towed from its tourist spot near the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center yesterday and into a Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard drydock.

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 December.

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 local Congressman.

For those of you who don’t know the battleship’s history and tearful goodbye with Bremerton, here’s a synopsis:

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 1992.

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 course, won.

Last year, 10 years after it was towed away, some Kitsap residents still felt saddened by the battleship’s departure.

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.)

Shipyard Breed Smokers?

A few days ago I heard someone tell tale of his brother, a shipyard worker, who picked up smoking when he got his job there so he could better hang out with co-workers on break.

Then I saw this in a quitting smoking column from Tony Evans, a writer for the Kingman Daily Miner in Kingman, Ariz.

“I started smoking at 17 when I got a summer job working at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard and continued to smoke – off and on – until 1989.”

So, shipyard workers and everyone else feel free to weigh in. Is the number of shipyard smokers higher than in the rest of America?