I started this project with the intention of having a quality reunion on an annual basis for shipmates from the Patrol Gunboats. During my twenty six years of active duty I spent most of my time on ships. I deployed on virtually every class of ship in the fleet, from destroyers to carriers. One tour of duty however stands out more than any of the others and that was my time onboard USS CANON (PG-90). I started looking around the Internet to see if there were any reunion plans but I was unable to find any information about a reunion for the CANON or for that matter, any of the Patrol Gunboats. Since I had some experience assisting my father with his reunions for the USS CANBERRA, I decided that I would start this project and see where it took me. From the beginning, the response has been great.
The purpose of the Association is to promote a quality reunion. Let me explain to you the reasons for the schedules and itineraries that we have at our reunions. First off, if we want to have a quality reunion, we simply must have it at a quality hotel. Room rates vary from cheap to absurd, but with good planning and providing we have a large enough group, we can get a top quality hotel at a reasonable price. The key to a successful and reasonably priced reunion is to have a sufficient number of people attending and of course staying at the hotel. Virtually every aspect of the reunion is determined during the negotiation process. First we must estimate the anticipated room block, the total number of rooms that we assume the group will purchase during the reunion. This room block is then broken down to specific days. From there we try to determine the number of people who will participate in the group meal functions. We also estimate the number of tour participants based on the estimated number of rooms in the room block.
Like I said, the response has been great. We were fortunate to have over sixty former shipmates plus guests attending the first Patrol Gunboat Reunion held at the Holiday Inn City Centre in Peoria, Illinois in August, 1998. Working in conjunction with my father and the USS CANBERRA Association, we managed to get an incredible contract with the Fairview Park Marriott Hotel in Falls Church, Virginia for our 1999 Reunion. We had close to seventy people attend in 1999 as well as in 2000 when we met at the Sheraton Lakeside Chalet at West Port in Saint Louis, Missouri. By then we had grown to the point where I felt comfortable with trying to negotiate a west coast reunion. I had avoided the west coast due to the cost of rooms at most hotels until then. The 2001 reunion was held in San Diego at the Red Lion Hanalei Hotel. We had an impressive 171 crewmembers and guests at the Banquet Dinner on Saturday night.
Our membership numbers have finally leveled off. Each year we gain a few new members and we lose a few. As of July 2006 we had 2415 names in the data file. Of those we have found 1025 members, of which 242 pay dues and receive copies of the Association Newsletter "Gunboat Riders".
I also want to mention a bit about the timing of our reunions. First, keep in mind that generally speaking, the summer months are less expensive than the winter months, particularly on the west coast and the southern states. On the east coast the prices remain constant with the exception of the winter months like January and February. I mention this only to make a point. The cost of the hotel room as well as the cost of banquet facilities can be twice as much on a prime weekend during the peak season. Another factor in selecting the date for a reunion is the fact that some of our former shipmates still have children in primary school. Even more, myself included now have grandchildren in school. Many of us would find it difficult to choose between going to a reunion and participating in the activities of our children and grandchildren. Our ability to negotiate a great reunion at the least cost is dependant on the hotel's needs, not our desires. Initially I selected the month of August for our reunion. I have only deviated from that plan on one occasion, the 2005 Dallas Reunion. My goal is to continue to schedule our reunions during the month of August whenever possible.
Our itinerary has remained the same each year. Wednesday is an early check-in day, the hospitality room is open with refreshments at no charge. Thursday, we have day tour to one of the local attractions, followed by an evening in the hospitality room getting reacquainted with old shipmates and dinner "On your own". Friday we have a tour during the day with the group returning to the hotel early in the afternoon. Friday evening we have an informal buffet dinner in the hotel banquet room. Every year we have had a short business meeting early Saturday morning. Whenever possible, I try to plan a short tour on Saturday afternoon although not always. Saturday night we have the Annual Banquet Dinner. Following dinner, I try to arrange for an appropriate speaker to provide some insight into today's Navy. During the banquet we hold the drawings for the 50-50 winners as well as our raffle table drawings. Most years we top off the evening with dancing to a live band of a DJ. Sunday is for hugs and farewells until the next reunion.
Details for our reunions are published in the "Gunboat Riders" newsletter and on the web site. Reunion dates, location and hotel information is usually sent out in the Pre Reunion Edition of the newsletter. Reunion registration forms are sent out with either the December or March edition of "Gunboat Riders" along with menu's and tour information and prices. Checks for meals, tours and registration are made out to "PGRA and are mailed to me along with the registration forms. Hotel reservations are made directly with the hotel.
I will continue to organize these reunions as long as my shipmates continue to attend. Obviously the key to our continued success is determined by the number of people who attend the reunions. As always, I am seeking to locate other Gunboat sailors in order to pass on information about our Association so that we can continue to grow. Any assistance on locating former crewmembers would be greatly appreciated.
Updated by Terry W. McManuels
Copyright © 2006 PGRA. All rights reserved. Revised: 07/26/11.