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“Shiver Me Timbers," a pirate ship is dry-docked in the Brownstown Elementary School library…much to the delight of the BES students.
Thanks to the ingenuity and ship-building skills of “Captain Melvin” (Willms) and “First Mate Jerry” (Reed), who answered the plea of Lady Verla, a.k.a. by the students as Mrs. Reed.
After receiving a go-ahead from the BES principal, Angela Reeter, Lady Verla took the order to Melvin Willms and Jerry Reed, and the job was as good as done. Willms furnished all the ship-building material, including the “timbers,” and the project got under way.
Mrs. Reed said, “Last year, we had two tables set up in here and I had a lot of places for the kids to sit, but they always felt like it was kind of a punishment to have to sit at the tables.
“So I thought that we need something different for the kids to sit at, because they love to sit here and there, and I have a little reading corner they like to sit in.”
An Adventurous & Seaworthy Idea
“But they needed something different. I don’t really know how I came up with the idea of a pirate ship, but I thought, ‘Kids love to be a pirate.’ It is adventurous, and they do things that we could never do,” she said.
When school was out for the summer, Verla told Jerry she wanted a large pirate ship for the school library, big enough that several children could sit in it to read books. Jerry told Melvin, and Verla explained to Melvin the size the ship must be in order to fit in the space the tables took up.
“Melvin came to the school and measured the space. He built the bones (skeleton) of the ship at the lumber yard, It looked like a beached whale, with just the bones in it,” Verla said.
“He and Jerry brought it to the library, and they spent about seven evenings working on it here (in the library), about a week before school was to start. One afternoon, they stayed five hours. They got it done right before school started, and I painted it the day before, she said.
The colors of ship are purple and gold, the school colors.
“I told Jerry that I wanted a plank, but not one that would always stick out, so he made one with hinges on it,” she said.
The ship was christened “The Jolly Reader” and is complete with a tall mast and authentic-looking, weather-beaten sails and a fishing net thrown across the bow, with a red lobster caught in it, Colorful posters decorate the walls with a pirate ship, skull and crossbones and realistic, but not scary, pirates, and all have messages designed to encourage the young people’s reading habits. A tall “coconut tree” stands along one wall, and a coconut adorns Mrs. Reed’s desk.
A friendly-looking little skeleton sits on the plank, bedecked in a pirate hat and a ragged, but bright red Cardinal’s T-shirt and blue-jean shorts.
“One little boy, Jeffrey Kelly, came in and said, ‘Mrs. Reed, this is a die-hard Cardinal fan’, she said, laughing.” We are going to dress him up according to the holidays. I was afraid just the skeleton might be a little scary for the little kids.”
She said that it caused a little stir when she took the little skeleton in the clothing store to fit him with some toddler-sized clothing.
“The kids are very good. They know when they come in that they have to have a book to read before they can get in the boat,” Verla said. “
They have never once thought about climbing on it or anything. They don’t look at it as a toy; they look at it as a place to get in and read,” she said. “We went on vacation down at Mexico Beach, Fla., and we got a lot of things there.”
Verla said she had her whole family looking for pirate’s stuff.
The Plans and Blueprints are in Melvin’s Head
The ship builders, Captain Melvin and First Mate Jerry, said they “had a blast” making it.
Melvin said, ‘It was cooler in here working on it, after working outside,” he said “We would do our sawing outside and then come in and start putting things together.”
They estimated that they put 28-30 hours building the ship. “When the kids came in, it was here,” Jerry said. “It was a surprise for them,” Melvin said.
It was the first boat either man ever built. “It was kind of interesting,” Melvin said. “I’ve wanted to build something, but I’m over that now.”
They had no blueprints or plans to go by. “The plans are in Melvin’s head,” Jerry said. And they may have been subject to change from time to time, but with great results.
“Verla brought a picture of a pirate ship down to Melvin and said ‘This is what I want – a ship,’ so Melvin had to figure how to get it scaled down to size to fit in the library,” Jerry said. “She would keep encouraging Melvin during the summer.”
Melvin laughed and said, “I was working on a project at my home amongst the pine trees, with a hammer and saw, and she was walking her dog there. I would hear some lady talking and I thought, ‘What is that?’
“It was Verla, and as she got closer she was saying, ‘Aye, he must be building my ship.’ I was working on my shed.” The subtle hint finally took effect about a week before school was to start.
Anticipating requests for more building projects, Melvin said, jokingly, “We’re going to subcontract (those) out.”
Jerry said, “One of the teachers was here getting get her classroom ready, and she came in and said, ‘I’d sure like to have a castle in my room.’
Melvin poked his head back in and said, ‘We’re just the clean-up crew. The guys who built the ship are already gone.’
It seems the builders are still having fun with it. Mrs. Reed is excited about the way the children have responded to it, and Mrs. Reeter encouraged them throughout the project.
So the bottom line seems to be a great idea, great demonstration of ingenuity, imagination and ship-building skills in designing and building, and the students probably would say, “Aye, Aye, in agreement.
Brownstown Elementary School will hold an open house at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday.
That would be a good time to view the Pirate Ship.