February 18, 2013

Yesterday, CBS News Sunday Morning had a cute little segment on the SS United States, the hulking ship currently docked in South Philadelphia across the street from IKEA. (The Sunday Morning recap says it’s across from “the parking lot of a strip mall.”)

The United States has been rusting away, still looking impressive, in the Delaware since 1996. The SS United States Conservancy is attempting to save the ship from the scrapyard, and their work is really the most interesting part of the report. (More important, of course is that the ship, built in 1952, was integrated.)

Conservancy executive director Susan Gibbs admits her grandfather, the ship’s designer, was “obsessed” with the ship and says her family thinks so too. Meanwhile, a CBS producer just happens to be a huge collector of memorabilia from the ship, furnishing his apartment with it.

I always love learning about people really into things I don’t know much about. Yes, part of it is that it makes me feel better about my own obsessions. (Oh, I own too many pairs of sneakers? At least my apartment is furnished with normal things instead of with the items that were on a ship built in the 1950s.) But it’s also because there’s no better way to learn about a subject than by talking to an obsessive.

To me, this is just an old ship a few miles from my place, and its rusted hulk is something I’ve described many times as “so Philadelphia.” I know it’s unlikely this ship will stay in Philadelphia — it’ll be moved, or scrapped — but it’s nice to know it was here for a while at least.