The Navy Reunion
Kansas to Colorado
Early, on the morning of 17 September 2005, bags packed, having a cup of coffee, and Frank checking the oil in the truck, Norma and he ventured out on the road towards their first stop in Colorado to spend a few days with their son James and Family.
Arriving late afternoon in Colorado Springs, they were treated to a good ‘ole country supper of pork roast, fried potatoes, greens, plus a piece of their granddaughters birthday cake for dessert. “Man was it good”!!!
Enjoying a fine weekend and Monday with family, it was time to head out again. So, early morning Tuesday, bags packed, a cup of coffee, a piece of toast with jelly and peanut butter, and Frank checking the oil in the truck, it was on the road to Sacramento, this time, with their son James driving, “California or Bust”!
The Trip Out
The first day’s trip took us up north through Colorado, into Wyoming, then west. Frank asked if we were going to see any of those “Goat looking things” running around on the plains of Wyoming, I laughed and said, “More than likely.” Norma said, “Well those would be Antelope” but we’ll just leave it as “Goat looking things”! I don’t know but, I also kept hearing someone singing in the background “California here I come” … On west we drove, through the wide-open plains of Wyoming crossing the “Continental Divide”, the “Great Salt Lake Desert” of Utah, and on into the infamous gambling state of Nevada, stopping at Elko for the night after traveling approximately 850 miles.
With a good night’s rest, a continental breakfast, checking the oil and gassing up the truck, we continued on west.
During the last stretch to our final destination, we decided to stop and have an old fashioned roadside picnic. We found a nice location about 35 miles outside of Reno and pulled in for our lunch break. Getting out all the goodies and the ice chest from the back of the truck, we sat down at a picnic table and Norma commenced to make bologna sandwiches, and open a can of good ‘ole “Campbell’s Pork and Beans”, we had some avocado’s, tomatoes out of Franks garden, and chips as well! Finishing our lunch, we sat there taking in the views around us and talking about old times and Elk City. It just so happened that right next to us there was a fresh-water well with an old red handled pump system, can you believe that! Some young lady who looked to be from the city came up and wanted to use it to wash her hands but, couldn’t figure out how! Must be a country thing, we chuckled and Frank jumped up and said “Here! Let me show you how to use this thing.” Frank started working the handle and pretty soon out came the water! You could not imagine the look on this lady’s face! She washed her hands and thanked Frank and walked away in amazement and I think looking for something to dry her hands. We chuckled a bit more and then decided it was time we departed and get on down the highway.
Arrival, Capital Plaza Holiday Inn, Sacramento, California
About an hour or so later going up and down and all around in the “Sierra Nevada Mountains” we figured we must be in California, never did see a “WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA” billboard!
We finally topped the summit around “Donner’s Pass” and Frank started talking about some folks and a wagon train that got stranded in a snowstorm in the mid 1800’s trying to make it out to the Sacramento Valley and people having to eat each other to survive. I looked at Norma and asked, “We still have plenty of food left in the back don’t we?” she laughed and said, “I think so…” I guess not a worry, there was not a snowstorm in site, it was not 1846-47 and we were in a Chevy truck cruising with plenty of gas and food to spare and get us where we needed to go!
Coming down out of the “High Sierra’s” the road started to widen into a six-lane freeway and low and behold, there was sign, “Sacramento 40 miles” We were almost there!
Zipping in and out of traffic, racing along with Jaguars, Norma holding onto the door, Frank saying, “Slow Down!” I found our exit. I asked Norma, “Where’s the hotel located again?” and she said, “On the corner of 300 block!” We were already in the 600 block!
Seeing a construction worker along the street directing traffic, I rolled down the window and yelled, “Hey! How do I get back to the Holiday Inn on 300 block?” He said, “Go to 700 block, make a left, then the next block up make a left and keep going straight until you see a street sign for 300 block. Make a left there go a block and it will be right in front of you.” I navigated on with his directions and found the Holiday Inn, no wonder we missed it there were bushes and Eucalyptus trees in front of the sign!
With arrows pointing every which way we pulled up to the hotel drop off area, but of course, the wrong way, a Valet came running up to the drivers side and asked me, “Dude, did you just drive out here from Kansas today?” Frank said “No we flew!” I just looked at him, laughed, and responded, “Did we pull in here the right way?” He said “Nah Dude, but that’s okay, everyone pulls in here the wrong way!”
While Norma and Frank, Frank in his bib-overalls, went in to check on the rooms, a bellboy started loading up our luggage on a cart, probably wondering why we had fishing poles, a can of worms, and beer cans in the back… “Nah not really” Anyway, I started chatting with the Valet explaining to him where Kansas was, that it was more than a days drive away, and that we hadn’t flown, well kind-a-sort of not I guess! I think he believed what I was saying after all; I was wearing bib-overalls too, had my John Deere hat on backwards and was wearing rubber boots…
After parking the truck, I went in to check on Norma and Frank to make sure everything was going okay. Norma was still at the reception counter finalizing our check-in and Frank was carrying on a conversation with the bellboy telling him all about the Navy, asking him if he had been to bellboy school and if he knew what he was doing! Norma and I just looked at each other and laughed!
Once we got our room keys, the bellboy showed us to the elevators, pushed the button for our floor and when the elevator arrived and the doors opened out came some of Frank’s Navy buddies!
No sooner than some of Frank’s Navy Buddies came out of the elevator he was immediately recognized and the whooping and hollering began! They even started “Dancing a jig!” I was hearing things like “Glad you and your wife could make it this year!” “There’s trouble!” “How are you and the wife doing?” “This wouldn’t be a reunion without Frank and Norma being here!” “We’ll get together “Far East Foster”!”
I don’t know, but as I backed off into a corner my thoughts at the moment were… “What did I get myself into here?” “The folks are going to have a great time!” “I hope nobody is watching…” and “I better keep an eye on Dad!”
To the Rooms
After everything settled down and everyone was “jigged” out, we went on with our business of getting to our rooms. The bellboy rolled our baggage onto the elevator with an un-wordable expression, most likely thinking, “Who are all these crazy people?” Mom told him, “I reckon the best is yet to come!” and I sighed with a laugh, thinking, “Buddy, you haven’t seen nothing yet!”
The rooms were immaculate and after getting settled in and resting up a bit, ha, which was probably only a couple of minutes, we met up again to check in at the reunion’s reception desk. I was not well versed on how all this reunion rig-a-ma-roll worked, but Mom and Dad sure were and I guess I was about to find out about the situation, and knew, I was going to be educated in “Reunion School”…
Reunion Reception Desk
The reception check-in was located on the top floor of the hotel with a spectacular view of the surroundings. We were warmly greeted as we signed in and received our packets with nametags, schedule of events and tickets for our trip to San Francisco.
After signing in we meandered around, there was coffee, tea, water, drinks and a spread of sandwiches and just all kinds of goodies to be had. Quite a few people that already arrived and Mom started visiting with few past acquaintances and of course Dad was right in there talking up a storm with them all. After spending a few hours visiting we turned in for the night to rest up for the following day.
The First Day
The Holiday Inn was conveniently located in and around “Old Sacramento”, the “Water Front”, a “Farmers Open Market”, the “Capital City Mall “, and not too far from the Capital building itself! Plus, wouldn’t you know it, a Denny’s Café…
The First Day Continued
Thursday was pretty much a free day for everyone to visit and check out the surrounding sites. We started out having a nice continental breakfast provided to the reunion by the hotel.
Once finished, we took a stroll through the “Farmer’s Open Market” and the “Capital Mall”. The farmer’s market was pretty cool, merchants were busy preparing their stands with all kinds of common and exotic produce plus other things like nuts and breads. The mall was basically your typical mall; there were lots of stores to choose from with clothing, trinkets, etc. and a variety of food-stands and restaurants. At one end of the mall there was a “Hard Rock Café” so we stopped there and Mom took a picture of Dad and me. Mom managed to get in the picture too, since she had part of her finger in front of the camera lens.
From there we walked a few blocks around the capital area ending up at the Grand Masonic Lodge where I had Dad stand at the entrance and took a picture of him. Getting close to lunchtime Mom and Dad spotted a Denny’s Café so in we went. The waitress was pretty nice and Dad started in on her by ordering pond water and asking if Arnold had been in yet. She answered no to Arnold and didn’t think he would be in today since he was out of town and as for the pond water… Well she looked a bit confused and said she didn’t think that they had pond water available. So Dad told her he would take a glass of iced tea instead.
After lunch we continued on with our walk and traipsed over to “Old Sacramento” and the “Waterfront”. Dad and I found a Military Museum and went in to check it out while Mom sat outside enjoying the sun and taking in the sites.
The Museum was very interesting and had all kinds of war relics ranging from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War. From there we walked over to the waterfront to have a look. Dad made a comment that there wasn’t much to see here just water and a few fishing boats so I figured that the folks were getting a bit tired and since it was late afternoon I herded them back to the hotel where they could rest up for the evening events.
Evening Get Together
The folks and I, after having rested up a bit from our day of site seeing, met up again and we went up to the reception room for an evening gathering. To everyone’s surprise, the head reunion host had a delightful food spread catered in with all sorts of goodies to eat!
Finished eating, everyone gathered around exchanging war stories and looking at pictures and cruise books of the “USS Valley Forge”. One unusual story I heard, and this will probably get me in trouble, was something about the “Line” while on cruise.
Such are the origins of the granddaddy of all seagoing ceremonies: The shellback initiation when a ship crosses the Equator, in which "Pollywogs", sailors who have not previously crossed the “Line”, become "Shellbacks", fit subjects of King Neptune.
I guess one thing a “Pollywog” had to do to become a “Shellback” was kiss some fat man’s belly button!!! Ask Frank, I’m sure he can tell you all about it since he is an official “Shellback” and has a cool looking certificate from “King Neptune”.
Early Friday morning we all gathered downstairs in the hotel foyer to wait for the buses to arrive and take us on our trip to San Francisco. Everyone seemed to be pretty excited about the trip and was chatting up a storm about what they were going to do and see! When the buses finally arrived everyone shuffled out and boarded. There were three buses and every seat was filled!
Heading west on I80 we passed by several almond, olive, grape vineyards, and produce farms but it sure wasn’t long before we were back into the city life of things! We crossed over the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge and not too long afterwards we arrived at our drop off point at “Fisherman’s Wharf”.
As soon as everyone got off the buses we went straight over, like a gander of geese, and boarded a tour boat that took us on an hour’s trip around the bay. We passed by the “San Francisco National Historical Park”, “Fort Point”, under and around the “Golden Gate Bridge” Fort Baker, and by “Alcatraz Island” for a close look! Really makes one wonder if Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers survived their escape from “The Rock”!
Pulling back into “Fisherman’s Wharf” we disembarked from the boat and went to have lunch at a nice seafood restaurant overlooking the bay. Dad ordered his usual, a triple decked cheeseburger with pond water, Mom ordered catfish but unfortunately they were out, she told the waiter to get his fishing pole and go catch her one, the waiter laughed and said he wished he could, so Mom elected to have flounder instead.
There were plenty of activities to see and do but not really a whole lot of time. We meandered around the wharf and stopped to listened to a really cool sounding South American Peruvian Indian band playing their folk music. Very nice! We managed to make it to pier 41 and take a look at the famous California Sea Lions sunning and barking up a storm! I can tell you though, the smell was worse than being on a hog farm in the middle of summer!
Around mid afternoon, we loaded the buses and headed back to Sacramento and the hotel. Everyone must have had a good time, at least on the bus we were on, because there was a lot of head bobbing and snoring activity on the return trip!
Back at the hotel we had supper, visited a bit and then turned in for the night. What a fantastic day!
Saturday Business Meeting
Mid morning the meeting of the 34th “Happy Valley Reunion” for the “USS Valley Forge” members was called to order and all attendees stood to give “Pledge of Allegiance” to the flag, followed by the designated ships crew chaplain leading everyone in prayer.
“Roll Call” commenced with the attendees introducing themselves. For significant attendees, there were five “Plank Owners” present! “Plank Owners” being sailors who are part of the initial crew when a ship is first commissioned, which the “USS Valley Forge” was commissioned into the United States Navy, November 3rd, 1946. Also present, three “Airedales”, Dad being one, which “Airedales” are the sailors who maintain the tactical aircraft on board ship. When it came Dad’s turn to introduce himself he was rearing to go and let everyone present know of his history aboard ship! One proud man I should say, another story in itself!
Saturday Business Meeting Continued
After everyone finished introducing themselves, the prior year’s reunion minutes were read, well kind of, because the head reunion secretary forgot them and boy did he get a rash about that from the audience! Finances, dues, club elections, and future reunions were then discussed. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half wrapping up with a silent prayer, a salute to all past and present shipmates. Then attendees gathered for a picture.
Afterwards, Dad and I went outside and sat down to discuss the meeting, “situations” and watch girls walk by! Getting close to lunchtime, Dad wanted to find Mom and get something to eat so back in the hotel we went.
We figured Mom might be in the hotel room packing things up but when we got there she was not to be found so we started looking!
Up and down the elevator we went, checking the reception room, the hotel restaurant and foyer, the meeting room, the hotel and reception room, and the foyer and restaurant again! Finally we ran into a wife of one of Dad's friends who told us that the wives got together and had taken a walk to the State Capital to see Arnold while the men were having their meeting. She said that Norma had stopped to take a rest on a bench in the mall area and would be here soon. We thanked her and I told Dad to stick around the hotel foyer while I went to find Mom. He said okay and would be here when I got back. Talk about trying to “Find a needle in a haystack”!
Off into the “Capital Mall” I went, down one side and up the other, checking every bench, nook and cranny, yet no Mom to be found, so I figured I had missed her somehow and went back to the hotel! Walking into the hotel foyer, there she was sitting on a couch looking at an “Arts and Crafts” magazine! As I walked up to her she just looked up and asked, “Well is the meeting over with?” I kind of laughed in relief and said, “Yeah!” I then looked around the foyer for Dad!
I asked Mom, “Have you seen Dad?” she answered, “No, I thought he was with you?” I said, “Well he was, but maybe he’s in the restaurant since he wants to get something to eat.” “Oh Boy! Another dilemma of going up and down the elevators and looking, this time, for Dad!” I told Mom to come on and let’s go see if we can find him...
At least I figured right because when Mom and I walked into the restaurant there Dad was with the host and hostess, Bob and Pat McCafferty, talking up a storm about some “Bon Ton Bar” that Dad used to bartend at outside of “Moffit Field” Naval Air Base, CA. I don’t even want to get into that story right now! Anyway, I pulled Dad away and told him I found Mom. He asked, “Where did you find your Mother at?” I said “In the hotel foyer”, and he said, “Well, I didn’t see her in there!” I just gave a “Never mind” and asked if he wanted to go get something to eat. Dad said, “Sure and let’s just get something here in the hotel restaurant”. I said okay and mentioned it might be a bit high priced…
The $8.00 Hamburger
Picking up a menu we sat down and I asked the folks what they wanted for lunch. I don’t know about Dad but he sure does like “hamburgers and pond water” because that’s what he told me to order him! Mom said she would take the same plus some fries to split with Dad. I figured I would wait and save my appetite for the reunion dinner, so when the waitress showed up I gave her the order.
After eating and filling Mom in on the meeting events I asked the waitress for the bill and told her to give it to Dad because he was paying. She laughed and tallied it up, handed it to Dad, and walked away. Dad, looking at the bill asked, “Is this right?” And I said, “What do you mean?” He says, “Well it looks like this hamburger I just ate cost $8.00!” I looked at the bill, compared it with the prices on the menu and said, “Yep! You just had an $8.00 hamburger!” and then added in, “At least you got a good deal on the pond water, it was only $2.75!” I think Dad is still talking about that $8.00 hamburger to this day! It’s a good thing he didn’t order it with cheese or I probably would have been sticking the bill up underneath the table with some chewing gum!!!
The “Happy Valley Reunion” Ball
The rest of the afternoon Mom, Dad, and I organized and packed our bags for departure, rested, and readied for the evening events. Around 5:45PM I went up to Mom and Dad’s room to see if they were ready to go and of course they were! So down to the hall we went. Everyone was already gathering around outside the ballroom doors and what looked to be more folks from the surrounding area who were associated with the “USS Valley Forge” showing up to make a grand crowd!
The activities kicked off promptly at 6:00PM with cocktails and selling of raffles tickets. Dad jumped right in to help out with the raffle tickets and I think he sold the most! The band, consisting of only three players, started playing a variety of contemporary songs and music.
About an hour or so later people started lining up for the buffet dinner that consisted of a main course choice of baked salmon, roast beef, or chicken Parmesan. There was an assortment of salads, fruits, and rolls to choose from as well as desserts. Everything looked great and tasted even better, especially the cheesecake! The band was treated as well and even joined our table to enjoy the food! They were all curious about the event and Mom told them all about it and mentioned that we were from Kansas! One of the guys in the band happened to be from Kansas City and said he would have the band play the song “Kansas City” for her and Dad!
After the dinner feast the band went back to playing, folks started dancing and ticket numbers were periodically called. Then all of a sudden the song “Kansas City” was being played! Dad grabbed Mom and out they went to dance! The night ended with the “Plank Owners”, “Airedales”, and various “Shipmates” of the “USS Valley Forge” having pictures taken for their web site and reminders of a good time. Last minute goodbyes were exchanged between folks leaving that night and early the next morning as well.
Oh, I almost forgot, guess what, the last raffle ticket to be called was won by, would you believe it, Dad! You’ll have to ask him what he got; I think it was a cleaning mitt or something of the sort but at least he won something! The funny thing was watching him kick up a storm about winning!
Back to Colorado Springs
Checking out of the Hotel we departed Sacramento Sunday morning around 8AM. The traffic was not too bad and the first day we made it to Evanston, Wyoming, where we turned in for the night having traveled 735 miles. Monday morning we departed Evanston and drove on for about another 530 miles.
The trip back was basically uneventful since we drove back the same way we went. Nothing had changed much with the “Sierra Nevada Mountains” there were still gambling casinos in Nevada, lots of salt in Utah, plains for days and goat looking things in Wyoming, and traffic galore in Colorado!
Arriving in Colorado Springs around mid afternoon we pulled into the driveway and as soon as we got out of the truck, Dorte wanted to put Dad and I to work! But we were too tired to do a thing and went out on the back porch to sit down while Mom filled Dorte, Freja, and Charles in about our trip.
Tuesday was a leisurely day with Mom and Dad resting up, getting their things together and visiting. Dad and I took off at one point to wash, check the oil, and fill the truck up with gas. After we got back we packed the truck and topped the evening off with a fine country supper of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and fried corn.
“There’s no Place Like Home”
Early Wednesday morning, after having a small breakfast and exchanging kisses and hugs, Mom and Dad departed Colorado Springs battling the north wind and rain for most of their trip back to Kansas. Arriving Elk City late afternoon Mom and Dad unpacked and started catching up on everything, reading their mail and newspapers and then settling in for the night having a bologna sandwich and potato chips!
All in all the yearly reunion was a success with Frank and Norma seeing lots of friends, visiting with family, and traveling through the countryside of the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”!!!
By the way the 2006 35th “Happy Valley Reunion” will be held in Branson, Missouri. I don’t think I’ll be driving Mom and Dad this year but sure would like to attend and ask if anyone had the luxury of having an $8.00 hamburger in Sacramento, California!!!