I trust that this finds all of you in good condition following this El Nino winter we have had. I’m well aware that many of you have been through some pretty bad conditions while we here in Missouri have had a southern Florida type winter. The lowest temperature I can recall was only 18 above and we have had only 4 or 5 one-inch snowfalls. To have two days the last week in January the temp. reaches 60 degrees is hard to imagine. Even as good as it has been, I’m quite anxious to get back out on that tiller and lawn mower. The inactivity has not done right by me and the 5-6 pounds I have put on have made my ties too short.
This is a little earlier than I normally do the spring edition but there are a couple reasons for expediting it. First, I just finalized the arrangements for this year’s reunion a couple days ago and want to get that word out so that you can all start making your plans. The second reason is that I have had a half dozen calls from some of you telling me about reunion notices running. I first became aware of this in December when I went on the Internet and, while searching for any Navy links, I came upon a notice for a 1998 Great Sitkin reunion with date and place unknown and signed by Mr. Chuck Davis. Since he walked out in a huff in Orlando before we had a chance to decide when and where to meet this year, I thought maybe he was just trying to alert shipmates that we were having one and he would let them know the details when he knew what they were. But, as I continued to receive other versions of the notice from some of you, I have come to the conclusion that his motive must be to try to disrupt our effort by holding a renegade reunion separate from ours. That’s all well and good, if that’s what he wants to do and there may be some of you out there who would prefer the different kind that I think he plans. If so, please feel free to contact him. The only problem we will have is that most publications state that they will only publish one notice from each ship per year and he probably has most of the sources saturated. I’m not going to let that bother me too much as 99% of our attendance comes from the people who receive these newsletters. Some of you who went through his ordeal in Orlando may want to contact him with your opinions.
Now for the "official" reunion details - I have been working since December trying to come to some acceptable terms with several places in Pigeon Forge. They were being rather un-cooperative because they are having a car show in town that week so our 50-60 rooms were not too important to them and they were asking room rates which I didn't want to impose on some of you. I was in the process of getting quotes from several places in Myrtle Beach which were much more reasonable when I received a note and a flyer from Walter Carlson about a place in Gatlinburg, TN, five miles from Pigeon Forge. I called them and they called back with an offer which sounded pretty good. I called Bob Niederer to ask him to please check it out for me. His favorable report made me decide to tell them to send us a contract.
The place is called River Terrace Creekside and their toll free reservation number is 1-800-473-8319. The rate will be $69.00 plus tax and they have put a hold on 50 of their 67 rooms for us for Sep. 11-13. As in the past, you can get additional days before or after at the same rate. They have a cancellation policy that says if you cancel within 3 days of arrival you will be charged for one day unless they are able to rent your room, in which case there will be no charge. For our Saturday banquet we can either have a Bluegrass Cookout buffet for $18.75, a seafood buffet for $24.50, or plated dinners ranging from chicken breast @ $14.95 to prime rib @ $18.95. I would appreciate some input of your preference about that so that we can collect the money at the registration table when you get there. Some other activities available in the area include: Dollywood - $18.75 for group of 20 or more: Dixie Stampede - $24.20 for 20 or more: Musican Mansion Theater - $18.75 for 20 or more: Lee Greenwood Theater (1-800-686-5471): Country Tonite (1-888-544-7469). Our motel sits at the western entrance to Smokey Mountain National Park. On the east entrance to the park, 39 miles away, is Cherokee, NC where an outdoor play called "Unto These Hills" is held which we enjoyed about 30 year ago. Also, I have been told that Harrah’s have opened a new casino in Cherokee in case you desire to contribute to the Native American assistance fund. I didn’t do Dixie Stampede in Branson but some who did said it was quite good. I would suggest getting a group to do that as our Friday evening meal. The Country Tonite show in Branson was very good.
After the banquet and prior to our annual business meeting on Saturday please plan on a group picture session. Due partly to the disruption last year in Orlando, we wound up with very few pictures for our scrapbook. I would appreciate receiving copies of any that some of you took.
When my son was home for Christmas, he got me hooked up to the Internet and set up a Great Sitkin web page on it for me. If you have access to the Net call up the address: http://www.jcn1.com/gfrank and you will have at your fingertips just about all the information I have managed to accumulate about the ship and her sailors these past five years. To protect your privacy I have shown only the city and state where you are and will provide the rest of the address or phone numbers to those who request it. I will update it periodically as more shipmates are located. By the time you see this, I should have received the 1962 microfilm and gotten the data off it. That will complete the list of all enlisted men who ever served aboard and all officers after about 1957. I am still looking for officers rosters for a few years from 1946-1956 to make our records complete. My e-mail address is: email@example.com and I would like any of you with e-mail addresses to send them to me. I can send the fall newsletter to all who have e-mail in an instant at no cost. That will cut down on our postage costs and the number of envelopes to be licked.
The search effort has added about 60 new finds but it also has added to our honor roll of deceased shipmates: LCDR. Smith (ship’s 1st skipper), Clarence Dorband SK1 ‘62, Ronald Cushman SM2 ‘62, George Hudacik BM1 ‘62, Theodore Haese CS1 ‘64, Lt. Mario Malfer ‘65, Lt. Fred Emerson ‘61,and Edward Loader MM2 ‘61. In addition, I have been informed that Delbert Northcutt and Bill Hodges have lost their battles with cancer and Lyle Root with ALS.
New addresses are available for: Frank Piscura, John Jacobs, Maurice Graham, Edward Brevold, Stephan Croce, Paul Demchar, Edward Kerstiens, Wilbur Mennecke, Earl Kephart, Carl and Earl Sizelove, Roosevelt Banks, James Bradbury, Duane Giessler, Dale Lake, Ronald Laprise, Charles Mangan, Arthur Bjorkner, Richard Therrien, Hamlin Caldwell, Paul Deshong, Luther Brady, Lawrence Eichner, Thomas Erdman, Edward Flick, Robert Heywood, Philip Hazelmeyer, Eric Grosfils, Ansis Bergs, Maurice Debroisse, Paul Etter, Ray Hysong, Dale Tatro, Jesse Capps, James Bryant, Kevin Christensen, Harry Hesser, Gregory Fair, Ronald Holdread, Carlton Huff, Robert Futrill, Isaac Griffith, James Harrah, Burton Maxwell, George Belot, William Schultz, Ronald Jamison, Ronald and Donald Kropidlowski, Gale Kratzer, Sabino Oca, David Obersheimer, Albert Parkin, Alexander Paszly, Edward O’Brien, Lewis Hayes, Dennis Crews, and James Krouse. Most of these new finds are from the late 50s and early 60s which were found on the new microfilm. If you want any of their addresses prior to the reunion let me know by mail, phone or e-mail.
I will be placing an order for more Sitkin caps shortly. For the new people - we have caps and "Always Ready" lapel pins available. The caps will cost $6.00 including postage and may be ordered from me. Or you may tell Adelmo (our treasurer) when you order the pins from him or send in your dues ($10 per year). I plan to add a ship’s store to the web page where you will be able to see pictures of both items. I can still get more 8x12 ship’s pictures like the one on the internet for $4.00.
I want to thank Garcie Roberts and Bob Niederer for making trips to the Pigeon Forge area. It really helps to have a reunion chairman living in the city where we are having the reunion. Looks like I need to find one of our crew in Vegas shortly.
I have had a couple reports concerning the "ghost of George" incident. But I did not see anything on the microfilm about the man falling to his death in one of the holds in 1957 or 1958 which a couple of you have confirmed.
That’s about it for this edition so it’s off to the printers as I go to my monthly ABB retirees breakfast at Shoney’s.