Location: When Dick Hahner volunteered to head up the 2012 Reunion, he suggested that Pensacola would be an ideal location. I knew Dick well enough to know that Pensacola and its attendant facilities would be great, however I think it is safe to say that Pensacola exceeded everyone’s expectations. The beach location was outstanding. The hotel and facilities were absolutely excellent. It is also worth mentioning that the staff at the Pensacola Beach Hilton made everybody feel very at home and welcome.
One of the things that I thought went particularly well was the hospitality suite which was on the 14th floor overlooking the Gulf. Dick had it well stocked with various wines, beers and different hard liquors. There were also water, soft drinks and snacks for the attendees. It was open the vast majority of the time that we were in Pensacola. That was particularly nice as people had a chance to have a drink, visit and not have to pay $8-$10 per drink at the bar. This was a very good use of both space and money.
Activities: On Thursday, a large group of attendees arrived early. The group I happened to be with (approximately 20 ex-candidates and wives) went to dinner together just down the road from the Hilton. It is worth noting that Ray Mascola had a nephew who was in the Navy, in training at Pensacola Naval Air Station (and a classmate) who joined us for dinner. They were very nice, young men. When we offered to buy them a drink at dinner, they both answered that “we are not 21 yet”. Does anybody ever remember being that young?
On Friday, several of the wives got together and went to the Pensacola Art Fair which is a regionally if not nationally known show. All reports were that the show was excellent and the women had a good time getting to know each other. Others took walks on the beach, utilized the pool and soaked up the Florida sun.
Also on Friday, we had a fishing charter for those who had manifested interest. We had 10 ex-candidates and 2 wives who chartered on the 44 foot boat. The Captain took us out approximately 25 miles into the Gulf where we caught multiple species of salt-water fish. Among them were Red Snapper, Trigger Fish, etc. All in all I think it is fair to say that we caught in excess of 150 fish during our 6 hour charter.
On Saturday morning, Dick had a 48 passenger Greyhound-type bus waiting for us in the hotel parking lot. After boarding, we took a tour of downtown Pensacola, then had a simply marvelous private tour of the Naval Air Museum. I have had occasion to see many of these facilities throughout the United States and, in my opinion, this was absolutely the finest. After departing the Naval Air Museum, we had a wonderful catered lunch at the Officers’ Club. Upon leaving the O Club, we went by bus to VIP seating whereupon we observed the Blue Angel Air Show. This show was an outstanding outing for all and made everyone proud to be an American.
On Saturday evening, we had a cocktail party and banquet in one of the Hilton ballrooms. The dinner was done very nicely and everybody seemed to have a great time. I want to add something here that I think is particularly important. Brenda (my wife) and I happened to sit with Rick Kishur and his wife, Gina (among others). Gina said this to me; “George, I have been in business for many years as well as being involved with many social and community organizations, but I have never been with a group that is so kind, generous, sincere and welcoming.” I am, and we should all be, humbled by Gina’s kind words.
Also on Saturday at the banquet, Ron Milam, our classmate, (PhD professor at Texas Tech University) who had just returned from a Fulbright fellowship in Vietnam gave an interesting and insightful talk on his students, the new Vietnam and his on-the-ground experiences. It was very interesting to see how the Vietnamese viewed us after the Vietnam War.
Summary: One thing that could not be controlled but cooperated to the nth degree was the weather. We had 75 to 82 degrees and sunny throughout the reunion weekend. I think it is fair to say, as many classmates relayed to me then and after, that the weekend / reunion was a resounding success. It was truly a great opportunity to see very good old friends and perhaps get to know some classmates better that we graduated with some 43 years ago. I think Dick outdid himself on the planning and preparation. Thanks, Dick.
Click below for Eric Lampe’s videos of the Pensacola Banquet and the Naval Aviation Museum and Blue Angles Air Show.
Below are Gina Kishur’s photos of the reunion. Clink on any thumbnail to enlarge, click on full size picture to return to thumbnails.