Saturday, April 08, 2006

Submarine Museum is an asset to the city


Tribune & Georgian
April 05, 2006

Last Friday, the St. Marys Submarine Museum honored its 10-year anniversary with several hundred spectators listening to invited speakers in the Howard Gilman Memorial Waterfront Park.

The organizers couldn’t have asked for better circumstances.

The weather was warm, but not too warm; the sun shone brightly in the sky as it made its way beneath the horizon; and the wind blew just enough to keep the dreaded sand gnats away.

It was almost an omen from above, telling St. Marys, “You did a good thing.”

The museum is full of history — 106 years’ worth of it, from the first submarine in the early 1900s to the most recent, nuclear and fast-attack submarines that make up our country’s force today.

Sheila McNeill, the first president of the museum, welcomed speakers and guests alike and gave a rundown of the museum’s history, from start to finish.

There aren’t many such shrines out there, and not only does the museum attract passers-by who happen upon it, but it also draws former and current submariners to the area, those who come specifically to see the museum, but stay and spend their dollars in local restaurants and shops and hotels.

The main speaker, retired Vice Adm. Albert H. Konetzni, elicited laughs from the gathered crowd, setting a light tone for an evening of “war stories,” not only about the museum, but the submariner experience in general.

The museum is an asset, but it needs community support to stay alive.

Such a structure needs donations of time and money to stay afloat — or under the water, as the case may be.

A perpetual fund set up by a generous man, Jack Schiff, who never set foot in St. Marys before offering to help fund the museum, keeps the museum from going down altogether, but local residents need to step up to the plate, as well.

Schiff’s $20,000 a year, bequeathed after his death, is merely a drop in the bucket.

Fundraisers are held throughout the year, but as with any non-profit, they are never enough to cover expenses.

The number of people who came out for the anniversary ceremony shows just how important the museum is to local residents. There were submariners from Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay; Mayor Rowland Eskridge of St. Marys; World War II submarine veterans; government employees and officials; and just ordinary citizens who appreciate the impact the museum has made on the area.

A small group of people works tirelessly to keep the museum up and running, acquiring items and information piece by piece to preserve for anyone interested in reading or viewing it.

The museum prides itself on having records on every submarine ever built, and when possible, photos and first-hand accounts of serving on the individual boats.

The museum, 102 St. Marys St. West, St. Marys, is open for tours from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and from 1-5 p.m. Sundays.

Current president is Tony Cobb and John Crouse is the curator.

The museum can be reached by calling (912) 882-2782 or by e-mail at

For more information, call, e-mail, stop by or visit



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