Sep 27, 2013

The America's Cup Race...

15 September 1962 President Kennedy waves to the America's Cup crew of the "Weatherly". Aboard the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., off Newport, Rhode Island. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, White House
I was recently listening to the radio when a commentator began lamenting the pitiful performance of Oracle Team USA in the 34th America's Cup competition. He rambled on about the embarrassment of both failed technology and lackluster team performance that had allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to build up an 8 to 1 advantage. Obviously, the next day was only a formality in which Team USA would once again be trounced.
This year's finalists
Thus, I was really surprised on Wednesday when someone at the office started talking about the final race in the series and the unbelievable comeback of the American team. I had no idea! Oracle Team USA had reeled off seven straight wins to even up the match. Wednesday's event was the nineteenth and final race in this "first to win 9" competition. And to top it off, the Oracle team won on Wednesday in one of the most remarkable rallies in American sports history.

This news reminded me of my involvement in an America's Cup that took place over fifty years ago. I had recently reported aboard my first ship, the U.S.S. Hugh Purvis, a Sumner-class destroyer of World War II vintage. It was the summer of 1962 when we were informed that we might be an escort vessel in support of the upcoming America's Cup competition to be held in Newport, Rhode Island, our home port.
  That year, the America’s Cup competition would be run by the New York Yacht Club, since they were the current holder of the cup.  They held a competitive regatta to determine which boat would represent their club.  Bus Mosbacher’s Weatherly, Paul Shields’ Columbia, and Ted Hood’s Nefertiti competed for the opportunity to defend the cup.  Weatherly, a Phil Rhodes designed boat that had been originally built for the 1958 competition, won the right to face the challenger.  Weatherly had undergone significant changes since the 1958 cup races.  The challenger was Gretel, the first Australian-built 12-meter racing yacht.  She would be helmed by Jock Sturrock (Is that not the greatest athlete’s name ever???).

Nefertiti -- One of the ships
eliminated during trials
During these years, the race was a real gentleman’s event.  It took place off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island.  Each morning, there was the ritual procession of vessels down the bay and past the old Brenton Reef lightship (about to be decommissioned, as the new Brenton Reef light tower was nearly finished and would soon be placed into service).  This maritime entourage was made up of the escort ships (three navy destroyers and two Casco-class coast guard cutters), the judges’ and officials’ boats from the yacht club, the competitors themselves, Weatherly and Gretel, and finally hundreds of pleasure craft of every description.  The party atmosphere was palpable.

The ships' formation
The navy and coast guard vessels had been scrubbed and painted and polished for weeks.  After all, the President and First Lady would be among the spectators.  The procedure each day was fairly straightforward.  We would proceed to the “operating area” in which that day’s competition would take place.  The large government vessels would form a vee formation with the competing sailboats inside the vee and all pleasure boats outside.  Only the judges and officials could be closer to the competitors than the navy and coast guard ships.  My ship, the Hugh Purvis, was the flagship of the vee formation, which included the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD-850), the USS Newman K. Perry (DD-883), the USCGC Barataria  (WHEC-381), and another cutter whose name I can’t recall.

JFK and Jackie observe the race from the "veranda"
aboard the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD-850)
The President’s entourage embarked each day on the Kennedy, named for the President’s brother, a naval aviator who had died in an aircraft explosion in 1944.  The navy had removed the #2 5-inch gun mount and created a “President’s veranda” on the 01-level forward of the superstructure.  The story circulated at the time was that the veranda had been planked with teak, but photographs taken on that platform lead me to conclude that a canvas surface was installed on the deck, probably to provide a non-slip surface.

Each of the escort ships was used to carry VIPs to the daily race.  We had a few Medal of Honor winners, a couple of Congressmen and their parties, and an Indian Princess among our distinguished guests.  I specifically recall Admiral Joseph James “Jocko” Clark, a veteran of both World Wars and Korea, and the first Native American to graduate from the Naval Academy.  Admiral Clark was the recipient of the Navy Cross, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Navy Commendation medal.  He was typical of the passengers that we had aboard for the Cup Races.

A souvenir cup from the race
The White House had provided the chefs and stewards who fed our distinguished guests each day.  Our ship, as well as the other two destroyers, had completed the Fleet Remodeling and Modernization (FRAM) program, during which a small helicopter hangar had been installed aft of the stacks on the 01-level.  This hangar became the food service area, with a spectacular buffet each day.  Nothing was spared.

The warships lined up in formation as we reached the site of the day’s competition.  Maintaining steerageway was a challenge because we were moving so slowly much of the time.  Each day’s competition involved a total course of 24 nautical miles, but some days’ courses were triangular whereas others were windward-leeward.  The first leg of each course was always into the wind.

Gretel surfs through to windward of Weatherly
 in the 1962 America’s Cup - Maritime Productions Collection
At the end of each day’s race, we’d proceed back into Newport Harbor up past Coaster’s Harbor and Coddington Cove to the Navy piers, where transportation awaited our guests.  The city of Newport awaited them and thousands of other spectators.  There were dozens of parties each night, including many held at the renowned mansions of Newport.  But that’s a story for another time…

Sep 14, 2013

The Power of Color...

The necktie shown above was a gift from my grandchildren.  (Remember, when I married Mary Ann, I became an instant Grandfather!)  Not long after I received the tie, Mary Ann found the socks.  On Thursday, I just happened to wear them together.  I stopped at Costco on my way home to pick up a few items.  As I was checking out, the cashier looked at me and said, "Man, I gotta have that tie!  That is so cool.  Will you sell it?"  I explained that I couldn't possibly sell it - that it had been a gift from my grandchildren.  Then I lifted up my foot and pulled up my trouser leg.  "I've got matching socks," I announced.  He looked, as did the other people in line.  "Oh, ma-a-a-a-n, I gotta get those.  Where do your grandchildren live?  They sure didn't buy them in Huntsville!" he said.  I explained that the Glade family lives in Iowa.

There's a man who works at Costco who now believes that Iowa is a fashion center.  That's the power of color!

Sep 13, 2013

The Diana Singing...

Campers at "the Singing"

For many years, a little town not far from my home has been the site of a remarkable a capella singing event.  It began one evening in July, 1969.  A gospel meeting had just been completed in Diana, TN.  Brother William Sanders of Diana had led the singing, and Brother Tom Holland, then of Henderson, TN had been preaching.  The two of them were talking about an all-night quartet singing being held in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium.  Bro. Sanders questioned, “If people will go to hear quartets sing all night, why wouldn’t people come sing all night?”  Further discussion between these two led to the decision to try to have an all-night congregational singing.

According to the Web site of the Diana Singing, “The first Diana Singing was conducted in October of 1969 at the Diana, TN Church of Christ building.  Bro. Sanders had agreed to spend the necessary time preparing for the singing.  Because he was a member of the Diana Church of Christ, he secured permission for the singing to be held there.  There were no operating funds but Bros. Sanders and Holland invested $15 to have cards printed advertising the first all-night singing.  However, it was Bro. Sanders enthusiasm for the singing that became contagious, and when time for the first singing arrived, hundreds of people were on hand.”
Over the years, it’s been held every June and September.  What started inside a small rural church now overflows a huge tractor shed built just for this event.

I learned of this event through my immediate boss, who is an active singer and will be attending the event this weekend.  He and about 3,000 others will join voices in what promises to be truly “a joyful noise unto the Lord.  Here’s a sample from a previous Diana Singing.

Sep 8, 2013

A Visit to the Glidden Tour...

My old friend Jim Kahrs called a few weeks ago to inform me that this year's Glidden Tour was going to be in Chattanooga.  He thought it would be a good opportunity for him and Sheila and Mary Ann and me to get together to look at a few cars and break bread together.  Today we did just that.  I forgot about the time zone change so even though we were early, we were late!  We had lunch at Sticky Fingers.  Then we went back to the Choo Choo Hotel complex and Jim and I wandered among the cars.  The girls got to relax and talk -- something they never had previously had the opportunity to enjoy.  Can you spot the 1932 Model PB Plymouth roadster?

According to Wikipedia, "
The original Glidden Tours were held from 1902 through 1913. They were named after Charles J. Glidden, a financier and automobile enthusiast, who presented the AAA with a trophy first awarded to the winner of the 1905 tour.
At the turn of the century automobile travel was difficult as the road systems around the world were generally not well suited for the horseless carriage.
To bring more awareness and sponsorship to the event, the AAA announced that the tour would be a "reliability and endurance" tour, a type of road rally. This attracted automobile manufacturers who competed to test their vehicles and use the events for advertising.
The tours were grueling events: cars broke down, were damaged by accidents, and encountered nearly impassable roads. Drivers and teams did repairs on the run and helped out other drivers having difficulties."
The tours were revived in 1946 by the Veteran Motor Car Club of America (VMCCA) and have continued since with antique cars traveling pre-marked routes and stopping in local towns to show off their vehicles, with many participants dressed in period costume. The event is now jointly coordinated by the VMCCA, the American Automobile Association (AAA), and the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA).  Vehicles must have been manufactured on or before 1942.
No modified cars or hot rods are accepted, and the vehicles may not display any advertising of a current nature.  The coveted silver Glidden trophy is still presented to the winner of the event although the treacherous travel of the early tours is rarely if ever encountered today.

Sep 7, 2013

Young Man in Rumble Seat (Still Life)...

The Model A
A few days ago, my friend Clint Rankin and I went out to the shop where my '32 Plymouth roadster resides.  As we walked in, I noticed there was a 1931 Model A Ford coupe that I hadn't seen before.  It belonged to a friend of Deron Shady, one of the fellows who is working on my car.  I saw that the rumble seat was open and asked Clint if he'd ever been in a rumble seat.  With a little guidance on where to step (There are little step plates so you don't have to step on any painted surfaces.), he was soon in the place of honor!