Mini-Reunion XX, Savannah, March 31-April 3, 2005:

Color and Culture

              Mini-Reunion XX in Savannah, Georgia, March 31-April 3 was one of the best attended of any outside of Princeton or Washington and also one of the best planned and executed.  The 117 participants, including 58 classmates, 56 spouses, 2 associates and 1 significant other, followed the advice of Savannah's favorite son, the great songwriter, Johnny Mercer, to "Accentuate the Positive," and the positive was fascinating indeed.  Savannah was in its glory, with azaleas and camellias in full bloom, Spanish moss dripping artistically from the live oaks, a city of color and culture.
Tom and Annella Dosdall signing in at the Hyatt Regency Savannah,
welcomed by Mini XX Committee members Walt and Carol Culin,
Nina Schaefer, Park Callahan, and Charlie Schaefer

                The host committee, led by Walt and Carol Culin, and ably assisted by Park and Aline Callahan, Larry and Dede Austin, and Charlie and Nina Schaefer, had planned and prepared nearly everything.  As we arrived, the weather report promised dramatic problems, including torrential rain and large hail stones, but in fact the only serious rain was Friday night when we comfortably dined under a massive - and secure - reunion tent in the garden of the Ships of the Sea Museum.  We were ready, if it came to that, to fall back on the wisdom of another Mercer tune, "Come Rain or Come Shine."

                Walt and the other members of the committee welcomed us at a dinner Thursday night at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the headquarters hotel on the banks of the Savannah River.  Through the evening, brightly lit riverboats passed yards from where we were meeting and eating.  Class President Hal Saunders conveyed greetings and discussed our growing tradition of mini-reunions around the country.  Entertainment was provided by Savannah's Huxsie Scott, who gave a rousing performance of Mercer's "Moon River," which has become something of a local anthem, as well as a stirring rendition of "God Bless America."  Dr. Paul Pressly '64, retired headmaster of the Savannah Country Day School and a renowned local historian, introduced us to local history, including the city's connections to Princeton.

                Friday morning, we toured Savannah's historic district in sightseeing trolleys led by professional guides, examining the squares laid out in the 18th century by the city's founder, General James Oglethorpe, and the elegant restored houses and churches.  Following the tour we boarded the Spirit of Harbor Town yacht for a trip down river to the site of Old Fort Jackson.  We endured an artillery demo, and then enjoyed a spectacular "lowcountry boil" lunch, including shrimp and sausage, potatoes and corn, chicken, barbecue and other trimmings.  Back on the yacht, we toured Savannah's very active and important port, one of the busiest in the United States, with commentary by Hope Moorer, program manager for the port's navigation improvement projects.

The 1820 Davenport House, a stop on our tour of the city

On the "Spirit of Harbor Town": Charlie Harper and his new bride Margaret

Carol and Hal Saunders on the "Spirit of Harbor Town," with the Harpers
Some of the equipment in the big and busy container port of Savannah

              After returning to the hotel, many of us gathered to hear my report on the increasingly serious nuclear weapons standoff with North Korea.  Following that, Hal and Vice President Steve Rogers led a discussion of possible class action to advance the findings of the 9/11 Commission on improving U.S. security and the nation's role in the world.  No courses of potential action were endorsed, but the class officers suggested further discussion of the issues involved. 
Friday night the rains came but, as stated before, they did not interfere with our dinner under the tent or our high spirits.

Don giving his report on Korea
Joe and Sue Handelman under the dinner tent

              Saturday morning participants toured the Railroad Roundhouse Museum and the nearby History Museum.  On returning to the hotel, some classmates boarded a bus for the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, which commemorates a locally-established Air Force unit that conducted massive raids against Hitler's Germany.  After a catered lunch, we were surprised and delighted to see the video image of our classmate, Bill McGarry, who flew with the Mighty Eighth, come onto the screen as part of the museum's regular presentation.  McGarry reputedly was and is the oldest member of the class.

                Another group of classmates, meanwhile, boarded buses for a seafood lunch and on to Wormsloe, a state historic site whose foundations - still standing - date back to 1736.  One of the highlights of the weekend was the welcome accorded the class by Diana Barrow, whose husband is a descendent of Wormsloe founder Noble Jones, at the family mansion - not open to the public - which is at the historic site.  Diana fondled a stuffed tiger presented by members of the class while she regaled us with the history of her house, which dates from 1828, and led us on a tour of the house, the grounds, and the family library containing many pictures and artifacts.  She was ably assisted by historic site manager Joe Thompson, wearing period costume.  This visit was all the more appropriate for us because Noble Jones' great-grandson was a Princeton graduate, class of '04. That is, 1804, not 19 or 20.

Wormsloe House
Roger and Latie McLean, Joe and JoAnne Masi

                The Saturday evening class dinner at the Chatham Club atop the Desoto Hilton was an elegant high point, with class members decked out in reunion jackets and the ladies in finery to match.  The Savannah Stompers kept the tempo fast. Hal handed out thank-you gifts to leaders of the memorable Savannah mini and announced that we will meet next year in San Francisco for Mini-reunion XXI in the first weekend of May.  John Lowry of the San Francisco host committee sketched out some of the plans.

Suie McShane with Mini XX Committee members Larry and Dede Austin and Walt Culin
Lydia Boyer, Gene Way, Lois and Dave Smith, and David Boyer

                The final event of Mini XX was brunch at the historic Oglethorpe Club, which was established before the "War Between the States," as the mid-19th century struggle is known in my home state of Georgia.  From the portraits at the club and our surroundings and soundings throughout the weekend, we were acquainted with a great deal of history - more than I learned in the public schools of Georgia in my youthful days.

Bob and Phyllis Oakley, with Jim Crutcher in background
George Aman and Olin Mills, with Mark Crane in background

             As he was leaving the brunch, Barry Loper suffered chest pains and was whisked to the hospital by Walt Culin, where an additional stent was installed in his artery on an emergency basis, joining two others previously placed.  The operation went well.  Barry was released from the hospital on Wednesday and proceeded home to Bethesda, Maryland, via car.  Savannah hostess Dede Austin, who arranged the wonderful Wormsloe visit, underwent neck disc surgery the day following the mini.  Both Barry and Dede are reported to be on the mend.

Bob Flinn and Ed Tieryakian
Don Malehorn and Steve Rogers

-- Don Oberdorfer (with assistance from Walt Culin and Steve Rogers)
(Photos by Roger McLean and Kent Rogers)


Savannah in the Spring -- March 31-April 3 -- it was the perfect time for a visit!