Hey, it was a great party!!! We registered 370 people, had 314 for the Luau, 312 for the banquet, 90 for the Stead/Virginia City tour, 120 took the M.S. Dixie Sternwheeler Boat Tour and 40 beat the earth chasing the little white ball at the Hidden Valley Country Club.
The best part of course was seeing all of our old friends from long ago. We of the Reno Gang really enjoyed having you all come. There were helicopter pilots from as far back as 1944, including John Sanduski, the same Major Sanduski who was given the assignment to organize and establish the first helicopter school for the U. S. Army. John spoke to us at the banquet and described his experiences with cranking up the school, from flying the R-4’s from the factory to training the first students.
Old friends started arriving even before we had the hospitality room set up and stocked on Wednesday. Nick was able to find them a few drinks to warm things up however. Bob Greer and Bob Brubaker set up a very interesting display of the Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey. The display included a continuous run video showing the development and capabilities of this new high tech tiltrotor aircraft.
By Wednesday night, things were going great. Thursday brought most of the revelers in and the crew had a hard time keeping up with registration all day long. About 150 of us enjoyed the hotel show that evening. (Where does all that water go? Did you see the couple enjoying the quaking on the right hand stage during the great San Francisco earthquake?)
On Friday, two bus loads toured the housing area at Stead where many had a chance to see the house they lived in while stationed at Stead many years ago.
We then went over to the flight line and looked over some MIG 15’s that are being refurbished for sale.
From there the bus drove on down to Virginia City where the Bucket of Blood Saloon entertained the group.
The golfers had a great time at the Hidden Valley Country Club. The evening luau gave us a chance to see who all was there and to renew old acquaintances. The food was good but the weather did not cooperate too well as it got a
little windy and chilly when the sun went down. (Told you to bring a sweater.) George Kekuna honored us with a few Hawaiian melodies. Most people adjourned back to the hospitality room or one of the rooms to continue the party.
Saturday brought the trip to Lake Tahoe and the boat ride on the M.S. Dixie. It was a beautiful day on the lake and everyone enjoyed the trip.
On Saturday night we dressed up for the banquet at Bally’s. The photographer took portraits to put in the memory book. Former School Commanders Jimmy Hamill, Bob Hamel and Blackie Carney spoke to us briefly.
George Gaffney read us part of a letter from the daughter of Walter Morris, our old friend from helicopter academics who had passed away several years ago. John Sanduski told us what it was like back in l944 when the most common question asked was, “What is a helicopter?” We discussed the date and place for the next reunion, possibly the San Antonio group will have it down there.
Some folks had a chance to drive around the area to places such as Pyramid Lake and other favorite spots.
The tee shirts and hats with the eggbeater logo were very popular with the revelers.
A meeting was held to determine the future plans for reunions. It was decided to form the USAF Helicopter Pilots Association. Membership is open to ALL helicopter pilots who served in USAF units. Widows of eligible members would be granted associate memberships with no dues.
Don Damoth was appointed Executive Secretary to establish an association. All changes of address and other correspondence should be sent to Don’s address. Nick Conti is the acting Treasurer. Nick Conti, John Wilkinson and Bob Hamel agreed to serve also until the association is organized and new officers can be elected. Don will update the Master Address List and keep it current. The complete list along with this letter is being sent to everyone on the list. Don will make copies of the computer disk and send it to Bob Hamel, Jay Oberg and anyone else who has an IBM PC compatible computer and the Word Perfect word processing program to utilize the information. K.V. Hall agreed to be the association Historian and took the mementos home with him to store.
The Reno gang will close out the books as soon as this letter is mailed and all expenses are paid. We will set up an account here in Reno to establish the USAF Helicopter Pilot’s Association. The rest of the money will be forwarded to the committee for the next reunion.
The association will be set up to conduct the business of maintaining the Master List of addresses, providing an address for information and address changes and to store and display mementos. As association newsletter will be sent to all members periodically.
The reunion committee will be provided a fund to start the proceedings, but once in place, they will run on their own with only advice from the association. Following the reunion, any proceeds left over will be sent to the association to be held until the next reunion committee is formed.
Thanks to the many persons who made donations, and to the great turnout, the reunion came out well financially. We will have enough money to send the entire mailing list to everyone on the list, to organize the association and to get the next reunion started.
We cannot express our appreciation enough for the many friends that made the trip to Reno to make the reunion a success. Ginger Silver and son Kevin came all the way from Anchorage, Alaska. Skip and Rita Cowell brought us Kona Coffee from the Hawaiian islands and George and Helen Kekuna flew in to provide more atmosphere for the luau. Florida and Texas sent many friends from long ago, California provided a large representation and the rest of the states filled it in. Conflicts caused Don Walker, Bob Hawes, Doyle Kraus and others to cancel.
We lost a good friend two days after the reunion. “Dubs” Etheredge passed away in Reno on the 6th of July. His many friends will miss him.
While we were preparing this letter for mailing, we received great news!!!! Bob Hamel wrote that the San Antonio Gang held a meeting on the 24th of July and has decided to hold the NEXT REUNION IN SAN ANTONIO. They have not set a date yet, but committees are working on it and will notify us all in the near future.
SEE YOU IN SAN ANTONIO
The Reno Gang: Nick Conti , Keith Droegemeier, Don Damoth , Dave Gish
Note: Information taken from USAFHPA Newsletters and other sources. Kyron Hall, Historian.
Photos submitted by K.V. Hall