2009 Reunion Report

by Barry Dahlberg

The seventh USS Arnold J. Isbell reunion was held October 25-28, 2009, in Galveston Island, Texas. Thanks again to Barry Dahlberg for organizing the reunion and providing this report.

Day 1,  Sunday, October 25.

Several of the shipmates arrived Saturday so registration and check-in began early in the morning in the second floor Hospitality Room overlooking the Gulf. The Commodore Hotel is located atop the Galveston Seawall just across the boulevard from the beach. With all rooms facing the Gulf, we could hear the surf at night if the door to the balcony was ajar.  A total of 43 registered, 23 shipmates and 20 family and friends.

Bruce and Joyce Scott, and Rick and Phyllis Waltemath were attending for the first time.
The crew gathered in the hospitality room at 6:00PM to renew old friendships, make new, and tell the same old sea stories while enjoying a reception buffet of supreme subway sandwiches, cheese and fruit tray, vegetable and dip tray, and a cake displaying a picture of the ship and the message, “Welcome To Galveston Island” The ladies all congregated around a table to help prepare and set out the trays and sandwiches, while the guys kept the refrigerators filled with soda, water, and beer.

Day 2,  Monday, October 26.

After a continental breakfast in the hospitality room, the shipmates boarded a coach for the 40-minute trip to the Museum Ship USS TEXAS.  We were met at the USS TEXAS by three docents who guided us through the ship, explaining shipboard life during World War Two and before. Due to the foul weather, we were not able to explore the weather deck and above.

The group proceeded on to the Johnson Space Center where we explored the museum on our own. Most of us headed for the cafeteria for lunch before visiting the many exhibits of spacesuits, full size mockups of the space shuttle cockpit, moonstones and video simulators. The highlight of the tour was the guided tram tour into the actual space center facility where we were shown the original control room where most of the first missions were conducted. A short talk by one of the original participants of the space program who had worked there, brought the scene to life. The next stop was the training facility where all the space vehicles are mocked up for the use of astronauts and engineers to train and check designs. As we proceeded along the enclosed catwalk above the floor, our guide explained each station and its use. The last stop was a visit to the immense Saturn rocket laid on its side with panels removed to exhibit key sections of the structure. The foul weather caused accidents for two of our shipmates, John Blackwell, and R. E. Thomas both slipped and fell on the wet steps of the tour tram. John was not injured and continued on with the tour, but R. E. badly scrapped his elbow on the pavement. The emergency team was summoned and the tour went on without Bob, Shirley Thomas, Ben Lowery and Shirley Lowery.  Bob refused a trip to the hospital, and the four were then taken on a special escorted tour down on the floor of the training center and given NASA caps by the staff to make up for Bob’s misfortune. They were returned to the Museum via a NASA VIP vehicle.

Upon returning to the hotel, leftovers from the Sunday reception were enjoyed a second time and the evening was filled with more sea stories, looking at photo scrapbooks, and just plain comradeship.

Day 3, Tuesday, October 27.

The day began with breakfast in the hospitality room before boarding the coach with a step on guide for a 1-½ hour tour of the sights and history of Galveston Island.

After dropping the guide off back at the hotel, the coach proceeded to Seawolf Park on Pelican Island, across the bay from Galveston. We were met by the curator of the park, John McMichaels, who welcomed the shipmates at the Compass Plaza, before giving us the history of the Museum Ships USS STEWART DDE 223 and USS CAVALLA SS 324.  Shipmate Jimmy Pollock then conducted a memorial service for our comrades who have crossed the bar before proceeding to tour both ships. Instead of a wreath, a donation of $100.00 was made to the ships.

Our next stop was the waterfront of Galveston harbor where we boarded the 1877 restored barque ELISSA for a self-guided tour of the ship. All spaces of this beautiful ship were open for inspection including the officer’s quarters, engine room, main hold, forcastle, and deckhouses.
The oil drill platform museum OCEAN STAR was next on the tour, where exhibits illustrate the techniques of offshore oil drilling. The remainder of the afternoon was used for shopping on the Strand, the streets of the original city of Galveston, and the evening was again a session of sea stories and visiting.

Day 4, Wednesday, October 28.

Following breakfast, the coach picked the group up at 9:00 AM for a short ride to the Lone Star Aviation Museum where we toured the hanger containing many warplanes dating back to pre world war two. During our visit there were a B-17 and a B-24 being prepped for take off. We were allowed to visit the planes and their crews on the tarmac, getting a close up view of the activities and a personal history of both planes as well as a technical question and answer session.

Before the planes took off, we moved on to the Moody Gardens where the shipmates individually explored the aquarium, various I-Max theaters, explored the gardens, and had lunch. It seems as though most of us ended up on the paddle wheeler Colonel for an hour boat ride on the Offatts Bayou.

In the evening, we all convened at Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant just across the parking lot for the traditional banquet.  The cash bar opened at 5:00 PM as the shipmate gathered and made ready for the banquet. At 6:20, 20 minutes late due to a mix-up in the kitchen, the banquet program began with the piping aboard of our guest speaker, Master Chief Pacific Fleet John Minyard. After his introduction Barry Dahlberg conferred honorary membership to the crew of the USS Arnold J Isbell and presented with a copy of the ship’s cookbook. Jim Walters led the Pledge of allegiance to the flag. Ben Lowery and Barry Dahlberg presented the Missing Man Ceremony. Jimmy Pollock said Grace as the soup and salad was being served. We had a choice of four seafood banquet dishes or any thing on the menu.

The program continued after dinner with Master Chief Pacific Fleet John Minyard describing his position on the Admirals staff to represent the enlisted personnel and recommend enlisted policy to the Fleet Commander. The master Chief told us how the Master Chief program consisted of of a series of consisting of Master Chief of the Navy,  three Fleet Master Chiefs (Pacific, Atlantic, and Europe). There are also Command Master Chiefs for other lesser commands.  He brought us up to date on the attitudes and intelligence of the present day sailors, their skills and the problems the Navy faces to inspire these men to achieve their maximum potential in the service. The new sailors have a different attitude than those of our period, especially with the co-ed navy, it’s accepted as if it’s the normal thing to do and both sexes work together without problems. Separate facilities have been created aboard ship to accommodate both men and women and the practice will extend in the near future to submarines. He presented a sample of the new undress uniform that is now in the process of fine-tuning the design that will replace the traditional dungarees and chambray shirts the enlisted all wore during our tours of duty. After a short question and answer period, Ben Lowery continued the program with a request that we establish a new project, that of filling in the history of the USS Arnold J Isbell with first hand personnel stories of events that happened during our times aboard ship and publishing them on Dan Davis’s web-site. R. E. Thomas was called to the podium and asked to relate his famous sea story of purloining a ham right under the Exec’s and Captain’s nose without repercussion. He gave an exceptional presentation, complete with sound effects, illustrating exactly what we want to get for the history. Part of the reason of picking on R.E. to tell his story, was to get him up front so that we could present him with an award for his fabulous efforts of procuring raffle prizes and conducting the raffle at the 2004 reunion in Baton Rouge LA. Those of you who were there will know how much he contributed to the success of that reunion. We have been waiting 5 years for him to attend another so his award could be presented.

Ben Lowery followed up with a narration of the Tsunami that washed several men overboard including Chuck Ehaney, resulting in the loss of two of the sailors.

Joe Clark was recognized as a plank owner and presented with an award by Ben Lowery.

Joe Kiefner and Jim Walters conducted the raffle of items brought by shipmates and several Ships’ Cookbooks. Evelyn Dahlberg was the first winner and selected the “Tinman” handmade of tin cans by Joe Clark as her prize. When all the prizes were distributed, Jimmy Pollock conducted the Benediction and the crew retired to the hotel.

One Response to “2009 Reunion Report”

  1. george mcwhorter Says:

    show ships roster for 1954-1955

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