Several former employees of the Vinyard Shipyard returned to the site in Milfordon Tuesday, November 11, providing insight into what it was like to work there. Hershal Deputy, whose father and grandfather worked at the yard, brought his son, David, his sister, Sylvia Deputy-Edmondson along with other family members to visit the yard. In addition, George Truitt and his daughter, Virginia Chimielewski, joined the Deputy family to reminisce about what it was like working at the yard.
The Deputy and Edmondson’s toured the carpentry shed and the machine shop. Hershal and Sylvia’s father was the head of the machine shop when he worked at the shipyard. In addition, they were able to climb aboard the ship Augusta, who is in dry dock for the winter.
“I don’t believe that is the original color of her house,” Hershal said, referring to the classic yacht. “I recall it being much darker. I think it was walnut. I know it was not mahogany although I think they started using mahogany later.” He later said that he had a rack that was given to him from one of the ships that would be in the original color and promised to bring it to the Lofland’s so they could match the colors.
Hershal worked at the shipyard in 1948 and 1949 while his grandfather worked there during the early years. His father worked through the early yachts, WWII and to the end of the boat building at the shipyard in 1951. Mr. Vinyard called Hershal and Sylvia’s father back to work on a yacht in 1967 that had originally been built at the yard in1939.
“This was such a cold place to work in the winter,” Hershal said, standing in the boat bay where the yachts are in dry dock. “The doors didn’t come all the way down to the water so the cold just blew across you.” His sister said that her father stayed chilled right up until the day he died after spending so many years working in the shipyard and on the water.
George Truitt said he was sent to work at the shipyard at the age of 15 by the United States Government when he was in tenth grade at a trade school in Bridgeville.
“When I signed the paperwork for free schooling, I said I would go to work whenever they told me I had to go,” George explained. “I got my welding certificate and in March of 1941, they sent me to the shipyard. The first place I came was into this room, the office. I worked at the shipyard for a few months until they called my brother up in the draft. Because he was a farmer, someone had to go tend to the farm, so I left the shipyard and went to be a farmer.”
When asked if there had ever been a fire at the Vinyard Shipyard, current owners of the shipyard Sudler and Joan Lofland said that there had not been a fire there because the Vinyard’s were strict about fire safety. They realized that too many shipyards went away due to fire.
“I remember when the Abbott Shipyard burnt,” Hershal said. “There was also a big nursery fire at the same time and the fire company was not sure which one to attend to first. Sonny was really strict about smoking here. I remember one boy who was outside and lit cigarette. He wasn’t even inside any buildings and Sonny came along and knocked the cigarette out of his mouth. The guy wasn’t happy, but those were the rules.”
Hershal said that the Vinyard’s had a really good reputation in the shipbuilding industry. The shipyard built 14 sub chasers, although other yards were only given contracts for seven. According to Lofland, a ship builder in Maryland went out of business and the Vinyard’s were given the additional contracts. They also built ten rum chasers used during prohibition and Hershal remembered that it was not only rum chasers they built.
“At one point we were building a rum chaser in one shed and in another shed they were building a rum runner,” Hershal joked. “The story was that a guy came to the yard with a wad of cash and asked them to build one that would go faster than the chaser, so we did.”
Sudler explained that many prominent businessmen in Milford got their start at the shipyard, including Richard Y. Johnson and John Wilkins, both of whom went on to become very successful contractors.
“These may be the last of Milford’s World War II and shipbuilding legacy,” Joan Lofland said. “I am thrilled and honored to have them visit and tell us some of the interesting stories they have about working here.”