Reunion 1999 – The Big Easy
By Ken Hill, LCDR, UNSR-R
The 1999 reunion of the USS/USCGC Lansing convened on October 21, 1999, in New Orleans LA, otherwise knows as "The Big Easy". (Ed. According to the New Orleans Convention Bureau, the title of The Big Easy came about because New York was the Big Apple so it made sense to call New Orleans the Big Easy, as in easy does it). For the past several years, some shipmates have been arriving a couple of days early to tour the local attractions, as well as have an opportunity to get together in smaller groups before the start of the reunion. This year was no exception with some folks arriving four to five days prior to the reunion. People traveled as far as Mobile AL and Vicksburg MS visiting local attractions. I am happy to report, that unlike last year, I have heard of no one who had their driving habits questioned by the local police.
For the first time at our reunions, we had the same tour guide for all tours, Nancy Ting, of the Bayou Barn. She was an outstanding guide. The first event was a tour of the facility, Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, where 80% of the floats for Mardi Gras are designed and constructed. We viewed a film of Mardi Gras which covered the history as well as the "mechanics" of putting on the parades. Several of the crew and their wives tried on the costumes of the parades. We then had a tour of the construction and storage areas where we viewed many of the floats from past Mardi Gras parades as well as having the construction of the floats explained in detail.
Thursday evening, the reception which is generally the highlight of the reunion was held. This event usually draws the highest number of attendees as former crew members who live in the local area are invited, even if they don’t attend the entire reunion. (Ed. Lucien Prothro, a Lansing crewmember who was aboard in 1944 and his wife, Harriet, attended. It was interesting to say the least, to hear his remembrances of the DE Lansing and WWII.) As usual, old friendships were renewed. I have never yet been to a reunion where I didn’t meet someone who I hadn’t seen since I left the ship in 1962 and this year was no exception. Even if you can’t make the entire reunion, and it is being held in your hometown area, I urge you to at least attend the hospitality night.
Friday morning saw us headed for the Bayou country south of New Orleans. There, we boarded a "swamp boat" and took a two hour tour of the bayous. Along the way, we viewed alligators "up close and personal" as the guide enticed them to the boat with chicken parts. Lots of film was shot of their jumping, so I assume we all have spectacular pictures of the event. We were joined on our trip by "Elvis", a baby alligator who happily posed for pictures with us.
Upon returning to the hotel, we posed for our annual group photo. This was followed by the annual business meeting where we voted to hold the year 2000 reunion in the Seattle WA area and the 2001 reunion in Virginia Beach VA. Due to the uncertain nature of the weather in the Northwest, the 2000 reunion will be held the last weekend in September, while the 2001 reunion will revert to the normal October date.
The women held their annual gift exchange while the men attended the business meeting. Renate Mannes coordinated the meeting this year on short notice and did an excellent job.
On Friday evening, we went to the Bayou Barn in Lafitte LA, a dance hall and restaurant owned and operated by Nancy Ting and her husband, Tony, who also served as the drummer in the band. We dined on a Cajun feast of shrimp, crabs, jambalaya, fresh oysters purchased during our morning tour, and numerous other treats unique to the bayous. The dancing was a real eye opener. I never realized we had such talent – both dancing and musical – among us. By the end of the evening, we had a new appreciation of the Cajun lifestyle, particularly their food and music.
Saturday sent us into downtown New Orleans, to the Aquarium which ranked with the San Diego Zoo as one of the best nature exhibits we have visited. After the Aquarium we headed for Jackson Square which has to be one of the more unique spots in the United States. It featured mimes, artists, tarot card readers, palmists, and jazz musicians, all in the shadow of the Cathedral of New Orleans. After a tour of a local museum, some of the folks headed for the local flea market, while others sought other entertainment in the French Quarter…..
Saturday evening we were on our own as we split into small groups and headed to local restaurants. Somehow, I’m not quite sure how, Nancy Ting ended up at the local Outback Steakhouse with a number of the Lansing crew. I’m sure Terry has a full explanation.
Sunday morning, we held our annual breakfast and Memorial Service. It was conducted by Earl Moorhouse, Bob Goodrich, Ernie Mathews, and myself as we honored those who have passed on in the last year.
We had a great time in the Big Easy and hope to see you all in Tacoma next year.
As those who attended the reunion in New Orleans know, we voted to go to Seattle for the 2000 reunion. I spent nearly a month trying to arrange things in Seattle. No hotel in Seattle offered a reasonable package. While some of the room rates were acceptable, the amount of money they would charge us for our function room was $400 per day on up. The only way to get a complimentary room would be to book over 53 rooms. That simply would not occur. I then made contact with a hotel in Tacoma, who offered a reasonable package and then went to work on tour arrangements. As the tours planned for the reunion all originated in Seattle and Bremerton, a distance of 30 miles from Tacoma, transportation costs increased dramatically. The total increase for tours that were not as complete as those we had in previous cities, was about $140 per couple. I felt this cost increase was not acceptable in light of the lesser quality. According, the business committee met vial email and elected to return to San Diego for our year 2000 reunion. While we were unable to consult everyone on this, I believe you will enjoy the things that have been planned for our enjoyment in San Diego.
Extracted from the USS / USCGC Lansing news letter ‘Lansing Vigilance’ Volume 4, Issue 2 December 1999 - Terry Moberg, Editor