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MEMPHIS, TN. - SEPT. 29 - OCT. 2, 2016

by Gene Sampieri

 This reunion year marked the 25thanniversary of the Hugh Purvis Reunion Association. If you were not there, you missed a really great time. We had some of the best sites to visit and some of the best food, particularly the Barbecue. We headquartered at the Whispering Wood Hotel and Conference Center in Olive Branch, MS, just across the border from Memphis. There were several good restaurants within walking distance; Japanese Hibachi, Mexican, Chinese plus others, with more within 20-30 minutes drive (the hotel only had breakfast or take out sandwiches). Some shipmates arrived onTuesday and Wednesday, with the majority arriving on Thursday. Most left on Sunday though a handful stayed until Monday and Tuesday. (Allein and I left on Monday for Nashville and more music.)

    The hospitality room was one of our best, large and often full with our attendees. When ever we were not out on the tours or out for lunch and dinner, this is where most congregated. As each shipmate checked in, they picked up their reunion information package, any clothing they ordered and a special gift marking the 25th anniversary; a set of two stemless wine glasses with the reunion name and date and the Hugh Purvis blue Seahorse (see the photo below).
    Our tours began on Friday morning, leaving the hotel by bus at 8:30 AM heading for "Graceland," the home of Elvis Presley. A self-guided audio tour of the Graceland Mansion was full of music and interesting stories about how Elvis lived in the home he loved so much (each attendee was handed an iPad with earphones to guide them through the mansion and grounds). We saw the largest privately owned collection of gold records in the world and Elvis' elaborate stage costumes and jewelry. The mansion tour ended with a quiet visit to the Meditation Garden where Elvis and members of his family are buried. On this Platinum Tour we saw Elvis' famous 1955 pink Cadillac in the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum and we could climb aboard his custom jet the "Lisa Marie" (extra fee) and tour the Sincerely Elvis Museum and the new Elvis Fashion King exhibit.

    Lunch was on our own , with a choice ot three on site resturants. The main one, the Chrome Grille, offers Southern-style plate lunches and world-famous Memphis barbecue in an automotive-themed atmosphere with Elvis’ favorite motorcycles on display in the dining room. Plate lunches include a Meatloaf Dinner with 2 sides (an Elvis Favorite), Catfish Dinner with USA Farm Raised Catfish Fried to perfection, a Vegetable Plate-Choice of 5 sides and an array of Sandwiches and Make you own Chef Salad Bar. Desserts were Fresh Baked Cookies and another Elvis Favorite Banana Pudding!

    After lunch we boarded the busses and headed over to the famous Sun Records Studio. Sun Studio is the birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll where Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and many others launched their careers. The tour  included the Sun Studio Café, Music museum and gallery featuring hundreds of rare recordings, memorabilia, photographs, and vintage recording equipment and the highlight of the tour, the original recording studio where the million dollar quartet rehearsed. Imagine standing on the same spot where Elvis recorded the first Rock n Roll song!  By the time we headed back to the hotel at 4:00, we were quite tired, but not too tired to skip the hospitality room.

   On Saturday we took a windshield tour of Memphis, including the Mississippi Riverfront and downtown Memphis where tradition and modern progress collide to form an exciting modern city filled with historic sites, fun and adventure.A special stop was made at the Peabody Hotel to view the “March of the Peabody Ducks.” The tour included the Mississippi River Front and new Beale St Landing, Tom Lee Park, Harbor Town, Mud Island, the Pyramids, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Historic Cotton Row, Beale Street and South Main Historic District, the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel, and Slavehaven Underground Railroad House.

    We stopped on Beale St. for lunch on our own.  We had about 1-1/2 hours for lunch and to take in some of the wonders of Beale St, including nightclubs and restaurants which offer a variety of food and live music including traditional Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, and Rock'n' Roll. Shops and boutiques throughout the district provide visitors with the opportunity to purchase souvenirs, t-shirts, memorabilia, and novelties. The world-famous street also features a statue of W.C. Handy, and a musical "Walk of Fame”.  We visited A. Schwab's Dry Goods Store at 163 Beale, a mainstay on the street since 1876, Schwab's stocks everything from voodoo potions to 99-cent neckties.

    After lunch we headed to the National Cemetery for our Memorial Service, returning to the hotel for our 3 pm annual business meeting followed by our formal dinner.

   At the dinner, after the invocation by chaplain Brian Goode, dinner was served. Following dinner we had some very “special entertainment” – “Elvis” entered the room and put on a fine show of Elvis’ rock and roll music plus several of his gospel tunes, great fun!
    This was followed by acknowledging our special attendees – one “Plank Owner,” John Mielnicki, two “First Time” attendees, Joe Decker and John Powell, and our “Weary Traveler,” Tom Pehrson. All this was followed by the 50-50 drawings, the free nights, door prizes and a drawing for a beautiful quilt, donated by Pat Andrews, won by Sal and Mary Ann Contello. This was the third year Pat has made a quilt for the reunion. Following dinner, the hospitality room was opened for the final time this year. Many of the shipmates and quests went there to continue the fun. In the nine reunions I have attended, this after dinner crowd was by far the largest.

    Sunday is the normal day of departure for most. The breakfast room and lobby were busy with all saying so long until the next time. A handful of us met in the hospitality room to break it down, with help from the assistant manager and one of his helpers (the full staff at WW was excellent, making sure we received everything we needed). They actually started before our crew showed up, emptying and drying the inside of our coolers, disposing the boxes, etc. Once complete, the cleanup crew said out goodbyes until next time. A handful stayed at least until Monday giving a little more time to chat, eat etc.

    This was my 9th straight reunion. I wish I had started going much sooner. If you were not in attendance, you really missed another great time. Look at your future travel plans and see if you can fit in a Hugh Purvis Reunion. I don’t think you will be disappointed. In 2017 we are going to Harrisburg, PA, and then in 2018 we will be in Savanah GA followed by central Connecticut in 2019. Watch this website and your newsletters for more information as plans develop.

Until we meet again next year - be well and safe!

PHOTOS from MEMPHIS - 2016

 (Hover mouse over photo for title - click for larger version - above and below)        
  Memphis National CemeteryMemorial ServiceMemphis National Cemetery
  Elvis and FriendsMemphis SkylinePeabody Ducks
  Bass Pro Shop PyramidSunset from the top of the Pyramid with Mississippi River in the backgroundMemphis
        John (Plank-Owner) Displays the new HPRA Banner           4 Ladies display the quilt they are selling the 50-50 tickets for         Quilt winners - Sal and Mary Ann with Pat (left)
                            John Mielnicki               Allein  Gigi  Mona  Jane       Sal and Mary Ann with Pat
             Displays our new Banner                                 

Recap Links to previous reunions...

                    2010 - St. Louis MO          2011 - Washington DC            2012 - Newport RI

                      2013 - Norfolk VA            2014 - Jacksonville FL        2015 - New Orleans LA