Charleston, SC - 2006 National Reunion.....

The 2006 reunion was held in Charleston, South Carolina at the Ramada Charleston Airport Hotel. All I can say is WOW! What a great time we all had.

If you didn't make it to the reunion, you most certainly missed one of our best. I had my doubts about the hotel from the beginning, but the staff at the Ramada did a great job. As always, there were problems, I have never done a reunion where there were none, but the staff, guided by the ever present Chris Walz was always on top of things. I hope that the pictures on the Gunboatriders Web Site serve as a reminder of the great time we had. If you missed this one, then I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Arrival and Preparations.....

For us the reunions always start a bit earlier since we have to meet with the hotel staff as well as do the snack and drink run. We arrived in Charleston on Monday, July 31 fairly late in the afternoon. Several hours later we had unpacked most of the things from the car. Flags, flag bases, raffle table prizes, hats, my laptop computer and printer took almost all the available space in the car. Fortunately there was enough room for suitcases and of course Nancy.

Tuesday had us heading out to Sams Club for chips, pretzels, peanuts, cases and cases of soft drinks and six cases of bottled water. At 5:00 Tuesday evening we met with the hotel staff for the PreCon Meeting. Following the PreCon Meeting we started bringing things down from our room and stacking them up in what was to become the Patrol Gunboat Association Hospitality Room. With the last few items unloaded from the car, we headed to our room for a much needed rest.

Wednesday morning after our free breakfast buffet we got started with setting up the hospitality room. While Nancy unpacked hats and coffee mugs, I got busy setting up the numerous flags that we have received from many of the namesake cities. The beer arrived shortly after we started and the catering staff from the hotel got it packed in ice and tapped the keg. Soft drinks and bottled water was loaded into our cooler and bags of assorted snacks and munchies were placed on the snack table. Bill Powell (PG-86), our temporary historian had shipped in a good assortment of memorabilia and was on hand early to start setting up his display. By 3:00 we were set up and ready to start registration.






Registration Begins.....

Several people arrived at the hotel a day or two early so when we opened the doors to the Hospitality room there were already people waiting to register. The first one to the registration book was Dave Nekola, (Pg-84, 90), a smile on his face, raffle tickets and a ball cap in his hands and we were off and running, reunion 2006 was underway. We closed the registration table shortly after 7:00 when the hotel provided a complimentary wine and cheese reception for everyone in the hospitality room. Afterwards we headed up to our room and then out for a bite to eat. When we returned the hospitality room was jumping. Since Nancy brought her laptop computer with her, she spent the remainder of the evening online with her office back in Virginia while I relaxed in the hospitality room getting reacquainted with old friends and shipmates. Watching her work at the registration table had sure made me tired.




Thursday, and Our First Tour.....

Around 7:30 Thursday morning I headed to the hospitality room where Nancy had already been busy registering late arrivals who had come in after we closed up on Wednesday. Registration closed at 8:15 so that we could get on the bus for the first tour of the reunion. We arrived at Patriots Point and reported aboard the Yorktown for a great tour of the ship. We were told to meet on the hangar deck at 11:55. Many of us spent quite a bit of time at the Medal of Honor Exhibit, partly because it was so interesting and partly because some of the exhibit was in an air conditioned space. It seemed like we had just arrived when it was time to meet for lunch. Once we were all mustered and heads counted, we headed to the Chief's Mess for a hot lunch on those old metal trays. After lunch we headed down the pier and boarded the boat for our "Cruise" to Fort Sumter.  I know how hot we were, particularly since the heat index was over 110 degrees. I cannot imagine how life must have been for the people who were assigned to Fort Sumter, especially considering the hot uniforms that they wore. By 4:00 we were back at the hotel enjoying a cold drink or two, chips, pretzels, etc in the hospitality room.




Friday, Charleston Tour and the Buffet Dinner.....

Friday morning found Nancy and I pretty worn out. I could say that I was too tired from all the work I did the day before, but it had more to do with how long I stayed in the hospitality room on Thursday night. It was a blessing that the tour started out with us getting to see Historic Charleston from the comfort of the bus. When we arrived at Old City Market I was ready for food. We found a great restaurant and had a quick bite to eat. An added plus was the fact that they had Tiramisu for desert. Anytime I take Nancy some place where they have Tiramisu, all of a sudden I am a good guy. Next we had some time to do some souvenir shipping at the Market.  Even though some may think that it's a "Gal Thing", everyone seemed to enjoy the visit, guys included. Soon it was time to board our coach and head back to the hotel. With the tour over, we got ready for the Friday buffet dinner. It was listed on the registration form as "The Low Country Pig Pickin",  I believe the word "Pig" was used quite a bit that night. So much food and so little room for me to put it. I think we all did our best, but in the end, there still was plenty left. Even so, back at the Hospitality Room, the beer flowed and the snacks got snacked on until the wee hours of the morning. At least that is what I heard, I went to bed early, I mean I went to the room to prepare for the business meeting.






Saturday Morning Business Meeting and the Hunley Tour.....

Saturday morning we took a few minutes to get serious. This years business meeting went pretty fast. We discussed the location of the next reunion and talked a bit about site selection for future reunions. As a result, in the pre-reunion edition of Gunboat Riders I will have a survey sheet like always. This time I will include space for suggestions about future locations. I haven't heard any complaints about our format so that will probably remain the same. We also discussed finances again so my goal is to provide our financial wizard with everything he needs to prepare a financial report for the dues paying members.




After the business meeting some of the group headed out to see the H.L. Hunley exhibit. Unfortunately I had to miss that tour in order to get ready for the banquet dinner. From what I heard from those who went, it was both entertaining and informative.




At 6:00 everyone gathered at the bar for a couple of drinks. A short time later the sales manager, Chris Walz and I met in the lobby. Soon we had most of the group gathered around us as Chris unveiled a beautiful picture of one of the Gunboats. Around the photograph was a two inch border with the seal from each of the boats and staff commands printed on it. The border had been in the hospitality room all week so that everyone could sign their name on it. It would take it's place in the Ramada Hotel's Hall of Honor where it will be displayed with dozens of others. It was a fine tribute to the men of the Gunboat Navy.

Following the ceremony, the doors opened and we started the banquet. After the Color Guard presentation we said the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the invocation and a short Moment of Silence. The opening ceremony concluded, dinner was served, and it was a great dinner too. After dinner, we were treated to a presentation by HTCM Cardenas who was introduced by his wife SKC Cardenas.

Dinner and speeches over, it was time to draw the winning 50-50 tickets. The total payout for the three winners was $1075.00 with the same amount going to the Association.   Remember that half of the money is awarded as prizes, the other half is kept by the Association to help cover reunion expenses. Next came the raffle table drawings. Among the prizes on the raffle table were certificates good for free rooms at next years reunion.  Gary Wentworth and Jim Thomas (the other Jim Thomas from Charleston) each won free rooms at the 2007 reunion.

And then came Elvis.









Updated by Terry W. McManuels


Copyright © 2006 PGRA. All rights reserved. Revised: 08/28/13.