November 10 – 14, 1999
Holiday Inn, Pensacola, Florida
Co-Chairmen Bob Bothfeld and Ken Sanders did the STAG proud with the arrangements made for this reunion. We had a good attendance, about 80 or more and we certainly had a good time.
The opening Cocktail Party was held at the Hotel. Ben and Marion Tate, Malcolm and Ada Johnson and Eleanor and Norm Tengstrom all missed it because a flight cancellation out of Atlanta. Reports though were very favorable. Thursday was spent at the Museum of Naval Aviation. The new Building is beautiful, as are the surrounding grounds. The museum’s collection of US Navy and other aircraft is impressive, both in numbers and in quality of restoration. Without question it rivals the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. We had lunch at the Subic Bar, in the old museum building decorated with squadron memorabilia from the Philippines. That afternoon we saw films on flying and space at their new IMAX Theatre. All very impressive. Many of us had dinner that evening at Darryl’s Restaurant nearby the Hotel. The spareribs and the catfish were excellent!
But then came the letdown!
The next morning we piled into our buses and with Bob Bothfeld directing the drivers, wound in and out of roads on the Naval Base to an old storage building, void of personnel but loaded with junk. Never have seen a Navy facility in such a messed up state! Her is where the country’s last remaining TDR-1 is stored. Not in a storage facility such as the Smithsonian’s Paul Garber Warehouse but one more of the Skid Row type! The official word is that exhibits must be rotated and there is only so much room. The only other aircraft we saw here was a non-descript twin engine trainer (?) piled almost on top of our TDR, even though the rest of this more than 40,000 sq. ft building was almost empty. Seemed pretty clear that someone in the museum would just as soon see it somewhere else! Maybe they should be accommodated before the drone is beyond restoration. More on this subject to come.
We had lunch at the Naval Officers Club and this sort of eased our anger at what we had seen. Then back to the field to see the Blue Angels performance. This was their first since the tragic crash two weeks earlier. Five planes, rather than the usual six went through the routine of their marvelous aerobatics show. We had our business meeting after returning to the Hotel and will publish the minutes on this site when received from Roger Newton, our secretary.
Saturday saw us on the buses again, this time to Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama. The tour of the house and the gardens was memorable, beautiful, and a few more adjectives would be appropriate. Then back to the Holiday Inn for our closing banquet, a few short speeches and a chance to sing Happy Birthday to Della Gibson whose grandson Todd, has become an outstanding STAG ONE/SATFOR booster! Lots of heartfelt good-byes since many had early flights out the next morning. God willing, we will be back again next year.