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NEW ORLEANS, LA. - OCTOBER 15-18, 2015

by Gene Sampieri with input from Steve Singlar and George and Mona Baker

NEW ORLEANS – We had a good time in NOLA

    In one year we will be heading to Memphis Tn. for our 25th annual reunion. But now is the time to reminiscence about 2015 in New Orleans. If you were not there, you missed another fine planning job by VP George. The hotel choice in Kenner, while a distance from downtown New Orleans, it was located near the airport making it easy for those flying in. Hotels in NOLA would have cost quite a bit more per room. His selection of tours and things to do were excellent. The WWII Museum, a plantation tour, a live dinner show plus the usual windshield tour of the city.

    Reunion registration began on Thursday at 3pm in the hospitality room. Attendees were waiting at the door to get in. After collecting their packets and clothing orders, then the real purpose of our reunion began; catching up on the past year over some snacks and a beer (or wine, water, soda), or even more years for those there for the first time or may have missed one or more previous reunions.

          (The following three photos are links to websites - select to go)

The first full day, Friday, there were two separate tours scheduled. A visit to the WWII Museum and a visit to one of the plantations in the area. Both were at the same time. Most shipmates took the former while most of the quests went to the plantation. Some of the museum is still being completed (WWI in the Pacific) but the rest was very interesting and entertaining. A film, narrated by Tom Hanks, that covered beginning to end was very well done. Near the end presents the dropping of the bomb on Japan. With the explosion, the screen and room went black. That was startling to me and many others. We were there all day, as many were staying for the dinner show.

    Plantations were very prevalent on River Rd., half way between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Both plantations we visited brought wealth to the area in the 1800’s raising sugar cane. (Sugar cane is still a $2 billion crop in Louisiana!) There were similarities at both in that slave labor was a necessity.  There is a museum at Oak Alley discussing slave life and at Laura there are slave cabins open to tour.

    Laura Plantation was a French Creole Style consisting of 12 buildings on the National Registry. The home was painted yellow, red and green, typical of the Creole influence. This plantation was in the same family for 200 years and sold by its last owner, Laura, aged 18, because she detested the way slaves were treated on the family plantation. She then moved to St. Louis where she compiled the 200 year old history of her family, which is shared on the tour.  The folk tales of the Br’er Rabbit were even written in one of the slave cabins.  Restoration is still ongoing here; thus adding to our historical knowledge of the period.

    Oak Valley Plantation, the Great Dame of the River, is the typical white columned plantation home you always picture in your mind.  The 300 year old live oaks that line the entrance to the front door, from which the Mississippi River could be seen, make Oak Alley the majestic plantation most often seen in advertisements.  This home was richly furnished with European influence.  The size of the rooms contrasted greatly with Laura, which tended to be smaller and less opulent.

    A tour of any plantation in this area should be a priority.  It is an example of history coming to life again, helping future generations to be educated.

    After the WWII museum and plantation tours, we had the opportunity to attend a live dinner show at the museum.  It is high energy, nonstop entertainment. There was an additional cost for the dinner and show, but it was well worth it. It is called "Jump, Jive & Wail" – a 40’s style swing band production with singing and dancers. It is based on the professional life of Loui Prima and his band covering the 1930's to the 1950's. Prima was from New Orleans. Both the dinner and the show were excellent. About 64 attended this part. The plantation attendees that were coming for the show were brought back from the hotel at around 4pm. The dinner began at 6pm.

    On Saturday morning, we boarded the buses at 8:30 for a windshield tour of New Orleans. Each bus had a guide on it so there was a lot of local information and stories. The planned route had to be modified due to a bike race shutting some of the streets, but it still worked out. At approximately 10:30, we had a tour of Mardi Gras World. This is where they build many of the floats for the 73 different Mardi Gras parades held each year. Around noon, we were dropped off at Jackson Square for lunch on our own with a little shopping.  We had until 2:30 to tour the area, walk up to Bourbon St., tour a museum in the area or just relax and people watch. 

    At 2:30, we boarded the buses to head back to the hotel for our business meeting, and then our banquet.  At the meeting it was decided to go to Harrisburg, Pa. in 2017. Elections were held for secretary and a new president.  After the dinner, we had the regular presentations and 50/50 drawings. Steve was given a framed version of the pen and ink ships drawing. One added feature was a short talk by Nicholas Spinelli (IS2 IDW - E5). Nick is in the navy reserves and is the son of Michael and Barbara Spinelli. He talked about todays navy and answered some questions from the attendees. He also came to dinner in his Dress Blues. Sharp!

    Sunday morning,many met again for breakfast to say our goodbyes until we meet up again in Memphis in 2016! Be there!

    For those who have never been to New Orleans, you may want to pay a visit on your own. It is an interesting place and has some of the best creole and Cajun food anywhere. This web site will help out in any planning.

It was about a 20 minute ride by taxi down to Jackson Square from our hotel in Kenner and ran about $36 or $15 each if 3 or more are in a taxi. If staying in New Orleans, bus and trolley fares are very inexpensive for getting around
PHOTOS of the New Orleans
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