“Way Out West”
Brotherhood Reunion 2004
24th, 25th & 26th
What’s in store for you at this years’ reunion?
Here are some of the things that your committee has been working on.
Friday, a tour to historic Ft. MacArthur, one of the coastal batteries that
protected the Pacific coastline during WWII and into the ’50 with Nike missile
detachments in the local area. This will be a full half-day tour, box lunches
& water will be provided. Our group will be the only group touring the
facility on this day and we have been promised access to areas not normally open
to the public. Also, the docent giving the tour has expressed interest in the
TLCB and hopes to have time to find out more about our groups’ experiences
after the tour. As scheduled, the
bus will leave the Doubletree at 09:00 and should be at Ft. MacArthur around
11:00 giving time for lunch prior to starting the tour. The tour should end around 15:00 and on a Friday evening may
take around 3 hours to get back to the hotel. You can check out Ft. MacArthur on
the web at: http://www.ftmac.org/
the tour is a visit to the Planes of Fame Museum. It will be an afternoon tour of about 3 hours in length.
Planes of Fame has many rare and unusual aircraft including the prototype
Northrop flying wing. Many, the
flying wing included, are in flying condition and are flown at different events
during the year. The museum has
recently remodeled on of their hangers to look like the inside of a Navy carrier
hanger deck and inside are several Navy aircraft from different eras. There are many things to look at and although the time there
is limited, one tends to get an information overload in a fairly short time. It
is the type of place that needs to be revisited from time to time to get the
full impact. Planes of Fame’s website is: http://www.planesoffame.org/
keep the basic registration fees as low as possible, banquet costs are
approximately double what they are back east and still provide a quality time
for everyone, the two tours have been priced separately, much as the shirts and
other memorabilia. We need a
minimum of 30 signups to be able to offer the tour and the max is a full bus of
50 for each tour.
will be the Memorial service at the March Field Museum and all are welcome to
tour the museum after the memorial. Transportation
and entry to the museum are included in the registration fee. We just need a
head count of all those planning to attend so that we can work out the bus
schedule and get the proper amount of tickets for entry into the museum.
Many of the locals will more than likely drive to the service and depart
for home from there. Visit the March Field Museum at: http://www.marchfield.org/
The speaker this year will be Jim ‘Mule’ Parker,
author of ‘Covert Ops’ and ‘Last Man Out”. Look
his books up at Amazon.com. The main entrees for the banquet will be BBQ Chicken
Breast and Roast Sirloin of Beef. I
was planning on bringing a fresh durian for the assistance auction, but the
hotel does know what they are and said please don’t.
Doubletree Hotel is a first class hotel located less than a mile from Ontario
Airport. They have shuttles to and from the airport as well as shuttles to the
nearby Ontario Mills Outlet Mall. All
of the rooms are being refurbished and will be like new for our reunion.
Please take advantage of the reunion rate and remember that rate is the
same for single or double occupancy, so if things are a little tight you can
split the cost with a brother.
REMEMBRANCES AND REFLECTIONS
Ken, Hap and Brothers and Sisters,
"Way Out West". The 2004 TLC reunion was named after the classic movie made by my two favorites, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
This is an unofficial version of what happened 23-26 September, 2004. Done my own way, as usual.
First, my apology to Bob Santo. Somewhere at the reunion I saw a list of those "alleged" to be part of the SEA, after reunion return to Thailand party. I'd say the list was a dream list because so far at least two of the 'alleged" attendee's are right here in the states and not over in SEA. I'll be damned if I'm going to quote that stupid list anymore...........
Since I live 50 miles away from the reunion location (actually chose the location) I was one of the first to arrive, walking into the lobby around 2:30 PM on Thursday. I immediately spotted a small group talking with Les Thompson near the main desk. The group included Les and Carol Thompson, Dave MacDonald, "Mr." Mac and Sunee Thompson, Donna Bart, Jim and Lydia Roth, Padre John and Peg Loftus. Damn, it sure looked to me like the party was ready to begin!!!
We were instructed to check in, get situated in our rooms and then meet in Les' room, which was on the second floor in building #2. The DoubleTree, Ontario, is a monster big hotel (488 rooms) built California style and does wander aimlessly like a rat maze over a large piece of real estate. Kind of on the trendy side, rooms normally cost $250-400 a night so the Les negotiated TLC price of $89 may have sounded high to some but it was really one hell of a deal. The hotel is located just up the street from the location of the original Ontario Airport terminal, and within a mile of the new terminal facility. Transportation to this years reunion was very simple. The comments I've heard on the hotel, its location, service and food has been nothing but positive. Yes, there were a couple of minor problems that we had; the Mexican wedding DJ next door during the banquet (I wanted to toss a can of pepper spray into their room but Len wouldn't let me), and a couple of incidents when the minority labor help in the Citrus West casual dining area couldn't get the bills correct or the ordered food to table in a timely manner. The hotel service, IMHO, was pretty good over all! TAG said to me "what a great bed in my room. God, I love the bed!". The arranged tours were great! We even recognized the U.S. Army for the first time in reunion history and set up a tour specifically geared for our Army (or Marine)personnel. The transportation showed up on time and was prompt and courteous. The food was actually pretty decent at the hotel and prices not too bad! Most of those attending ate in the Citrus West or snacked at the buffet table provided by the hotel in the Big Bear Hospitality Room. The hotel bar prices were a little high, IMHO, but we did have Singha available for the asking. I'm not bragging but I heard "best reunion ever" out of a few of the regular attendee's. If you didn't come, well then, it's your loss. You, IMHO, owe John Sweet an assistance donation for missing the party...........
Thursday evening I would estimate we had 30+ in the Les Thompson suite. Les had procured ice chests full of Singha, Beer Lao and Vietnam 33. I even saw some Mekong for the takers, but really don't think there were that many. The hotel delivered a bucket of Miller Lite (whatever the hell that is?) and some complimentary snacks for those with the munchies. Les had an assortment of CDs (DVDs?) with footage of the war continually playing on a wall screen in both his suite and the hospitality room throughout the reunion. Dinner time came and the party broke into small groups filtering out somewhere for an evening meal. John and Lina Avery, Bob Peloso and I ended up at a small oriental rice and noodle fast food joint across from the hotel, which actually turned out to have pretty good food. On the way back to the suite Bob told us to take a certain elevator in the hotel as it was shortcut to where we were headed. Well, we ended up on a mouse maze tour of some part of the hotel, took forever to find our way out of that mess. Whatever you do, NEVER ever take Bob's elevator........ The party reformed in the Thompson suite after dinner and went on till about midnight. And If TAG had called me "Ed Miller" one more time I probably would have tossed him off the patio. What's that you say, FRANCIS? Most filtered on to bed but a few retired to the small Vineyards Bar off the main lobby, or just stood in the lobby area and chatted until the wee hours of the morning.
Friday morning broke sunny and clear (temp in high 90s every day of the reunion). The hospitality area opened in the Big Bear Room at 08:00. Some had breakfast in the Citrus West and the rest munched on bagels, muffins, coffee and tea in the Big Bear Room. The scheduled tour for Friday was an all day affair, 9-5, over 60 miles one way, to the historic Ft. MacArthur Army base in San Pedro. Ft MacArthur, while now closed, is still the living quarters for Los Angeles AFB. In the upper Ft MacArthur reservation a 14" disappearing rifle battery from WWII has been restored and made into one very neat museum. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island the spectacular view alone is worth the trip. The Ft Mac tour was the first time a TLC reunion has scheduled tour with just our ground pounder members in mind.
Meanwhile in the Big Bear Room, those who stayed behind were dragging out pictures and books, and deeply involved in heavy conversation about our time and experiences in SEA. Les was busy checking in the day's arrivals, and in between taking part in one of the numerous discussions. Reunion T-Shirts finally showed up and were passed out to those who had pre-ordered. The contract supplier a tad slow on the delivery but all turned out ok. The polo shirts were ready on time. Jim and Lydia Roth manned the Brotherhood BX and mugs, hats, patches, several different pins, TLC coins and bumper stickers were readily available. Local ex MACV-SOG troop, John Stryker Meyers, was on hand selling autographed copies of his book "Across The Fence". John's book is written about his time spent on long range recon patrols into Laos and Cambodia. The real secret stuff war legends are written about. The hotel ran shuttle buses all day long back and forth to the Ontario Mills shopping mall for the ladies. I know of one troop who hopped the mall bus looking for a can of shaving cream only to discover it was three hours till the return bus came back, and the mall was an outlet mall and shaving cream "no hab". Oh well......... In the late afternoon the Ft MacArthur tour bus arrived back at the hotel and soon the evening meal was on. I was part of a rather large group who hit the Citrus West that evening.
After dinner the John Sweet show, better known as the Assistance Auction, got under way in the Big Bear Room at 19:00. A no host bar was provided by the hotel and to my surprise had plenty of cold Singha on stock. Not a lot of items this year at the auction but somehow we did raise a tidy sum of money for what was on hand. The usual bottles of Mekong, a six pack of Beer Lao, and another SEA bra?nd of whiskey. A supply of the legendary elephant wallets brought in Mac T. Assorted patches, including one of the 56 SOW remakes I donated to John for the auction. A few books, including a couple donated by the attending author, John Stryker Meyers. Funny thing about John's donated books is they sold in the auction for more than he was selling them at the table. Shhh......, don't tell anyone this. I had brought two six pack boxes of Singha glasses which were given to me for the auction by Gene Ponce several years ago but I could never find someone willing to carry them to the reunion. These were beautiful labeled in gold glasses and each box went for $50. Maty Benoist donated six beautiful pillows she had hand crafted. Four were done in branches of the service, AF, Army Navy and Marines. The other two were a matching set of gold pillows, one labeled TLCB, and the other TLCS (sisterhood). There was a nice Thai dress for the ladies, several Hmong celebration t-shirts, a few jungle fatigue shirts and a set of 50s AF one piece fatigues Dutch showed up with. Probably the highlight of the show, the fatigue suit was made for a rather short person so the chant started for John boy to buy the fatigues as they were a perfect fit! Of course, John did balk, and whine and scream "no way in hell I'm going to buy or wear that piece of crap". The more John hollered, the more we yelled. Finally John got the message and tossed a dollar bill on the floor saying he would buy the party suit and match whatever was put on the floor. Within a minute there was a nice pile of dollar bills on the floor and John was the proud owner of a great party suit for all the TLC reunions to come. John, get the damn party suit decorated because you probably haven't heard the last of this one.......!!! Dutch, I hope you have got some more of those party suits stashed away for John to buy in the coming auctions? After the auction members stayed on to continue the camaraderie as new faces had joined us during the evening and new acquaintances we made or rekindled. Soon the number started dropping as by ones or twos those still with us would disappear to their hotel room. About midnight I found myself in the Vineyards Bars with a small group occupying a portion of the seating. One thing I found interesting was TAG Jr. and Marika Hopkins were occupying the same easy chair. Think it was about 1 AM when I finally made it to my room.
Saturday morning came way too early and it was down to breakfast in the Citrus West by 08:00. I immediately spotted Larry Hughes and Donna Bart counting the election ballots and proxies. I went over and asked if they would like me to add a few extra votes to the pile and received a curt "no thanks and why don't you get the hell out of here"! Well, not really....... So I sat down to breakfast with Padre and Peg, and TAG, trying to get my eyeballs open for the business meeting starting shortly. After breakfast we wandered into the Big Bear Room and found another hearty group chowing down on bagels, muffins, coffee and tea. Around 09:00 everyone started taking a seat, ready for the annual business meeting. I will not go into details of the annual meeting, as Bob Santo has already covered the meeting. I would like to personally congratulate Hoppy, Dusty, Bob and Jennifer on their election and reelection to board seats. Also thanks to outgoing members Bill, Ed and Darrell for your years of service. After the meeting it was lunch in the Citrus West and a little slack time before the Planes of Fame tour in the afternoon. I'll tell you this much, there was damn little slack time to be had at the reunion.
At 13:00 the Chino Planes of Fame tour was scheduled to depart the hotel. I was head herder for the tour so was outside early waiting for the bus to show up. Sat down and talked to some of the ladies heading for Ontario Mills shopping Mall which was a regular shuttle service with the hotel. This was a different bus company than the one used for the Ft MacArthur tour so we didn't know how it would respond. At 12:45 I heard what I took to be a bus and soon spotted our prey heading for the main entrance. Nice, lovely lady driver. We loaded up and within 15 minutes after a short drive were at the world famous Chino Planes of Fame Air Museum. The museum is home to the original Northrop flying wing, completely restored and in flying condition. Upon arrival at the museum and a short scuffle with the door guard over who owed the admission fee (supposed to be part of the collected tour fee) we were soon pairing off and scattering into little groups inside the museum. Chino is large and takes up 1/2 dozen hangers and a couple of outside areas of the airport, not all located in the same place. The museum supplied a tour guide for those interested in a running dialog. This was an old boy who had been a belly turret gunner on B-17s during WWII. Hell of nice guy and interesting to listen to. Hell of a lot friendlier chap than the grouch at the front entrance (I'd ran into this guy before). Chino has many different artifacts and displays in the buildings besides just aircraft. Our own Gene Rossel, who is a member of the museum, has created a very nice display on the Air Commando history in one of the buildings. Gene, again what a great display! Gene even found a model of a damn U-10 somewhere. Wish I could find a U-10 hat pin? The last hour of the tour was spent at the jet fighter complex of the museum, where the flying wing is stored. Soon we were on our way back to the hotel to prepare for the evening banquet. An interesting thing about Chino is its located in one of the big milk producing areas of Los Angeles. About half way from the hotel you suddenly run out of wall to wall city and enter dairy farms far as the eye can see. Its like going from one movie set to another.
I joined a group forming in the Vineyard Bar around 18:00 who were waiting for the banquet to begin and enjoying a cool one and conversation. As start time approached the group began to head for the Lake Gregory Ballroom, site of the banquet. The room had large round tables, a podium on the north side of the room seating President Bill Tilton, Chaplain John Loftus, and his wife Margaret, banquet speaker Jim "Mule" Parker, and President elect Dick "Hoppy" Hopkins and his wife Peg and their lovely daughter Marika. Banquet tables were decorated in white linen and all the trim, with a small floral display in the center. We had the traditional POW-MIA missing man table. Padre John led us in the benediction. The colors were posted by a local group of kids from the Civil Air Patrol who were very sharp and professional. Future troops who will be fighting the next battle our politicians dream up. The hotel staff served up a fit for the king buffet dinner of roast sirloin of beef and western bbq boneless chicken breast at the rear of the room which had access directly into the hotel kitchen. Also available was tossed green salad, various cut fresh fruits, cut red potatoes, corn on the cob, baked beans and several other items I don't remember. Desert was assorted flavors of cheesecake that was absolutely delicious. I don't know about the chicken but the sirloin of beef was very good! Dinner was casual, serve yourself. A bar hostess was always available in case someone required a fresh libation. After dinner there were a few announcements and Bill Tilton was given a plaque recognizing his years as first president of the TLC, through the tooth cutting and organizational process, the good and bad times getting this org over the first major hurdles. I know we have had our differences but I offer a hand salute, Bill, for all you have done! Next, it was on to the guest speaker, Jim "Mule" Parker, of the U.S. Army and CIA, in SVN and the TLC area of the war. Mule gave a nice history talk on his, and the U.S involvement in SEA during the war. All during the banquet there had been slight background music from the Mexican wedding reception in the room next to ours. Near the end of Mule's talk the "disco danny" rented DJ contracted started cranking up the music. A little louder, and soon louder still. Les went and talked to the hotel management. John Sweet went and talked to the DJ. The hotel evidently shined Les on. The wedding party just got louder and soon Mule had to cut his talk short because of the excessive noise. Besides the Citrus West waitress not being able to keep the checks straight occasionally this was the only real reunion boner I can think of. I wanted to toss a can of pepper spray into their damn room but somebody talked me out of it. It would have taken care of the dd DJ problem, though..... Next was the annual Rosie Wheatley quilt drawing with Peg Loftus, Phyllis Hughes, Lydia Roth and Donna Bart. Again, Rosie out did herself with another beautiful quilt which raised a lot of money for our projects in SEA. Thanks Rosie! Lydia drew the winning ticket of a cousin of Rosie's in Indiana. Sounds like it was rigged to me..... Nope, just kidding. Anyway, the winner was not present and it was kind of an anti-climax since we didn't have a live winner. The winner was notified by phone call and was eventually talked into giving the quilt to Donna Bart as what I consider the Jim Bart memorial quilt. Exactly what I was going to do if I won the quilt. And probably a lot of others, too. After the drawing the dd noise was pretty bad so everyone retired around the corner to our Big Bear Room to continue the party until midnight. When the Big Bear Room closed I ended up in the main hall talking with Hoppy, Les Thompson and Gary Beatty until about 01:00. We did have some rather nice scenery though, as the Norco High School class of 84' was having their 20 year reunion down the hall, and as it broke up all these nice looking ladies, all 38 years old, dressed to kill went by our location. Finally the parade stopped and off to bed we went..........
Sunday morning was checkout time for most of us. A few were remaining another night to catch a flight out on Monday. The group who is currently touring Thailand and Laos was also scheduled to leave on Monday. After packing up my truck and a hurried breakfast in the Citrus West the group formed up and departed the hotel for the traditional memorial service to be held at the March Museum. Some went by bus and the rest of us who had arrived by private auto formed a convoy along with the bus. I grabbed Bill Tilton and told him to get in the truck, and away we went. March ARB base is about a 30 minute drive from the hotel. It houses a large museum and has a good sized court out in front available for mounting plaques and tiles, memorial services, etc. The war dog memorial in located in the court yard, having been originally intended for Riverside National Cemetery across the highway from the museum but for some stupid reason the government said no to the doggies. Some things in this world never cease to amaze me? Upon arriving it was decided to start the service and get it over with because the sun was starting to bake and it was supposed to be over 100 that day. The whole reunion was blessed with warm sunny weather, not a cloud in the sky. Probably a nice change for those from Florida or back east. The reunion committee had attempted to procure a guest speaker for the memorial service but I guess today's military are union members and do not work on Sunday. After many phone calls, all leading to a dead end, the committee decided to leave the memorial service to TLC Chaplain, John Loftus. A better choice could not have been made and to hell with the sanctimonious bastards who didn't have time for the TLCB. After much hard work by John Avery and Gene Rossel the services of the base color was secured so at least we had the damn flags. Although, when president Tilton decided to start the ceremony it took Big John a few minutes to locate and round up the color guard who had just been wandering around the area but was suddenly nowhere to be seen. Funny, I didn't see any of the scenery for the Norco class of 84' hanging around? Oh well.......the honor guard was located, the colors were posted and what turned out to be one hell of a service began. The service was handled in tandem by president Tilton and Chaplain Loftus with my dear friend the chaplain handling most of the ceremony. You could sure tell John had plenty of practice at this sort of thing. After benediction a TLCB wreath was set by president Tilton and president-elect Hopkins. After memorial poems the names of those who have passed on since the last reunion were read, plus a list of special requests. As each name was read a new tradition was started in the TLC. Padre John had procured a small ship bell and his wife Peg stood beside him and at the reading of each name she struck the bell. A most fitting tradition borrowed from the Navy and certainly something which should be continued at each new gathering. There was no reading of names at the wall this reunion as there has been in the past. It just didn't fit in with our location, availability, or time frame. Mainly the distance and time frame. Rest assured that the tradition started at the DC reunion in 99' will be done once more when the reunion returns to Washington DC in 2005. Finally, the colors were struck and a real fine ceremony was over. Arrangements had been made with the museum that any who wished to stay and tour the museum would be allowed to do so. Some had early flights to catch or were local and ready to depart for home right after the ceremony. Good-byes were said at court, the bus departed with an early load and the museum tour for those staying began. Since this days bus driver always seemed to be in to get somewhere even though contracted for a certain period, the early hotel bus did indeed leave early and left one troop behind. Carol Thompson, bless her heart, drove that person back to the hotel and saved the day. The rest of the group did the tour and at 13:00 the final bus depart for the hotel and the reunion officially came to an end for me. I stood after the bus had departed and said good-bye to Ruben and Bonnie Encinas, we then climbed into our vehicles, them heading north and me heading south. One hell of a great reunion was over. My thoughts were it was over too soon and I though the thing ought to last a week, but then I couldn't take a week of Singha and Beer Lao, and 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Damn it was a great reunion!!!!!
Last, I want to personally thank Les Thompson and his lovely wife Carol for stepping in and taking over as local reunion chairman. You did one hell of a superb job and mere thanks and praise is certainly not enough. You took the idea we sat down and discussed and started back at the first meeting and honed it into one hell of a fine TLC gathering. I do salute you........ I want to thank John Avery for all he did up and beyond the call of duty. John, you did the work of a dozen committee members and it all turned out so good. Gene Rossel for the Planes of Fame, and the CAP color guard at the banquet, and all the phone calls to potential speakers, military bases, the press, etc. Len Scheid for arranging the Ft MacArthur tour. Bob Arnau, Kham Manivanh and John Gerende for their support. John and Josie had to cancel out of the reunion at the last moment due to a death in the family. I salute you all......!!!!!
Howard "Hap" Wyman
Click HERE for Pix from Kham Manivahn, CPK Red
Click HERE for Pix from Hap Wyman (Thursday Informal)
Click HERE for More Wyman Pix (Thursday Informal #2)
Click HERE for More Wyman Pix (Hospitality Suite)
Click HERE for More Wyman Pix (Friday Dinner at Citrus West)
Click HERE for More Wyman Pix (Friday Night Auction, or The John Sweet Show)
Click HERE for More Wyman Pix (Saturday Business Meeting)
Click HERE for More Wyman Pix (Chino Air Museum)
Click HERE for More Wyman Pix (Saturday Night Banquet)
Click HERE for More Wyman Pix (Sunday Memorial Service)
Click HERE for Joe Martino's Pix