Since 1948, people in Baytown and nearby areas have taken time to visit the USS Texas, moored near the San Jacinto Monument.
Recently, there has been a movement to have the historic dreadnought brought to Baytown at Bayland Island after $35 million of the state’s money is spent repairing it. Baytown residents Jake Daniel and Russell Hamman, known for his own Facebook page “Hamman’s Baytown History...with a Twist,” have teamed to create a page for the battleship.
The page, called “The BBB Foundation: Bring the Battleship to Baytown,” was started three days ago. Hamman said it has so far garnered 1,188 members. And it is growing.
“That is impressive, and it took months for me to get that on the history site,” Hamman said.
Hamman was recently one of the local citizens invited to a committee led by Jay Eshbach, a community leader who is spearheading an effort to get people to pledge for five-years after the ship arrives in Baytown. Donations will help with maintenance costs. Eshbach has stressed no money is required to make the pledge, and no money is needed at this time. The pledges would be taken to the leaders of the Battleship Texas Foundation to show public and monetary support for the ship, which was first launched in May 1912 and commissioned in March 1914.
“I have some points that show the benefits of having it here,” Hamman said. “First, you have Highway 99 coming in, and it is about to be a part of the Grand Parkway. Then, there is a brand new hotel/convention going to be right there on Bayland Island. There is already a great restaurant and club there called O’Neals (Sportsbar and Grill on the Water). With Highway 99 coming through, folks will use it to get to La Porte, Galveston and other southern destinations. Some 80,000 a day vehicles travel across the Fred Hartman bridge. Think of the numbers when Highway 99 is up.”
Hamman said is one point is the most important of all - Baytown pride.
“The pride in our kids, and their kids, and their kids and for future generations of Baytonians to come,” Hamman said. “With all of these factors in place, Baytown will have a winning
combination. Our town will be an attraction and a destination like we’ve never seen before. It is a once in a lifetime win-win situation.”
Daniel said they expect the Facebook site to grow as more people hear of the idea of bringing the old ship to the shores of Baytown.
“It is not just a pie in the sky thing,” Daniel said. “There is a chance if we just do the things needed to do to get it with one of the big things being convincing the citizens of Baytown on board to do it. The goal is to do everything possible to get it here. It is more than just a place to share memories. It is a place to brainstorm ideas and help organize people. If someone needs to make phone calls, or mail letters, or send emails, or just get in touch with folks, it is the place to do it.”
Daniel said another point about having the ship in Baytown is it could receive protection from storm surges from hurricanes.
“I know some think putting it in Galveston is a popular idea, but think of the storm surge it would be subjected to out there,” he said. “We are not talking about a dry dock situation. It would be in the water. From a purely preservation standpoint, Baytown is better.”
Some other related items on the horizon include Hamman taking drone video footage of the ship with some children saying they want the ship in Baytown. “The Yellow Rose of Texas” would play in the background of the video, and there might be a chance to film it as it is towed to its repair destination and, hopefully, back to Baytown. There is also the outside possibility of some famous Texans taking part in the video, but nothing has been set in stone yet, Eshbach has said.
Hamman is also set to be interviewed by famed Texan Tumbleweed Smith today at noon. Anna Yowell of the Baytown Tourism Division is also supposed to be interviewed. Hamman said local DJ Dan Gallo of Country Legends 97.1 FM helped set up the Tumbleweed interview.
Hamman said he can feel the energy on Baytown growing in support of getting the battleship in Baytown.
“I see people writing about their experiences and their relatives. It is just a good thing,” he said. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We should at least try to get it here. I know some think it is impossible. But life is a roll of the dice, so it is better than to love and lost than to have never have loved at all.”
The Kiwanis Club of Baytown will do its part to help promote the battleship by handing out pledge application in the parking lot of Conn’s, 5010 Garth Road when they sell their famous apples. They will be there from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today. After today, apples and applications will be available from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
If any Baytown citizen is interested in making a pledge for the battleship, they can pick up an application at the Baytown Sun between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1301 Memorial Drive, Baytown, Monday through Friday.
They can also email Eshbach at email@example.com. He will send you an application, and you can fax it, email it or drop it off at the Sun’s location.