Photo of Bob Ellis and USS Spangler

Why A Reunion?

by Bob Ellis

Presented at 2009 Annapolis/Baltimore Reunion

I signed up for the Navy shortly after my 17th birthday and told the recruiter that school would be out in May. He said he would let me know when to show up.

In May 1948 after graduating from High School in Hazleton Indiana, I waited for my call...it never came.

Sometime in October I went to Evansville Indiana and asked the Navy recruiter what happened. He checked his books and said to come down Oct 26th for my physical which would be in Louisville.

My mother packed me a lunch and I showed up in Evansville that next morning for a train ride to Louisville. Well I had my physical but instead of them sending me back home to wait for my call up I along with some other guys were given the Oath and bused to the YMCA in Louisville to bunk for the night.

They had Liver and Onions for supper. I hate Liver.

The next morning they put us on a train going to Great Lakes, Illinois.

It was months before I got to see my mother again.

The next day at Great Lakes Oct. 27 not much went on, I thought this boot camp isn’t nearly as bad as my brother Paul had warned me about. I didn’t know that Oct, 27 was Navy day.

Almost every one was on Liberty that day, except for me and my bunch of class 434 at Camp Downs.

In fact my first liberty was in San Diego in January 1949.

But heck fire by then I had turned 18 in December and a US Sailor for over three months.

We did have a 10 day Christmas leave from Boot Camp and I celebrated my 18th birthday then. I was by then an old salt.

I was TAD on the USS Marsh DE 699 as the scullery maid for two weeks while waiting for the USS Dixie to move my sea sick body to Pearl where I boarded the Spangler.

I was assigned to the Spangler for three years eight months and eleven days getting discharged Oct. 22, 1952 in San Diego. During that time I did spend six months at the Fleet Sonar School and another six weeks on the new MK 5 attack system later. I spent the next 43 years looking every month in the American Legion Magazine for information for a reunion of the USS Spangler DE-696. I joined the Legion while I was home on Boot Leave in 1948.

Then wonders of all wonders in 1995 there it was!

USS Spangler DE-696 Reunion listing with a phone number to call!

I called at once and talked to some nice lady who gave me another phone number for a Mr. Ted Smith in Springfield Illinois. I called Ted and we had a nice talk, but he wasn’t going to be the person running a reunion but just wanted to get something going. Ted had about 6 or 8 names of ex Spangler sailors. Bill Irwin, Ken Nolan, Bill Hux, Art Arts, Bill James and Ed Wessler. I made contact with Bill Irwin and we exchanged letters and ideas as did Ted and I.

Ted mentioned that he was a member of DESA

Now I had run across some DESA members in Nashville in 1993 during their convention but they or the ones I met seems not to take as very important of a post WWII DE sailor.

Photo of Ted Smith

Ted Smith

I was having a weekend with my brother and sister who live in Indiana so I didn’t pursue to matter at all.

Bill James and Ed Wessler served when I did and although I didn’t remember Ed I did remember Bill James as he was a Radioman and in the “O” division.

I doubt if Ed would have spoken to me anyway as he was a Bos’n mate and I was one of those xxxx’s in sonar.

I called Bill James who lives in Houston Texas. I couldn’t figure out what his rate was a MSGT or something like that but found out he had after getting out of the Navy had joined the Army and was a career Army guy.

We had several phone conversations and he also told me about DESA, even kind of made fun of me for not knowing about it as the Governor of the great state of Tennessee had made headlines about the virtues of our trim but deadly Destroyer Escorts during WWII.

I joined the DESA and went to their convention in Hampton Virginia the next year expecting to meet many old and new friends.

A WWII plank owner Bob Cracraft from Florida and I were the only ones there from the Spangler.

It was almost as if we were not from the same ship as he talked about torpedo tubes and called the “K” guns something other than “K” guns and 3” main guns and speeds I never ever saw the ship make. But we had a nice time his wife and Millie hit it off real good. He said he had never missed a DESA convention.

I met some guys from the Marsh who were on board while I was their scullery maid and they adopted me as an honorary Marsh member for three or four years after that convention.

Bob Ellis & Ed Wessler

Photo of Bob Ellis and Ed Wesseler

The next year I went to Springfield Mass DESA convention and met Ed Wessler who was there also.

We had again two Spanglermates at yet another DESA convention.

I found out later that my new friend Bob Cracraft from Florida had passed on.

By now I was corresponding with Bill and Ted and getting more names of ex crew members of the Spangler.

Great idea Bob, when are YOU going to do it?

Some from Irwin and some from DESA, I mailed several letters and made phone calls to try to get something going but the answer was almost always the same.

Bill Irwin took the bull by the horns and sent out several letters as did I inviting men on our list to come to the DESA convention in Albany NY in September 2000.

Six of us showed up. Bill Irwin, Arthur Arts, Billy Hux, Ken Nolan, Bob Ellis and Ed Wessler.

Helen Nolan and Millie came to our meeting so there was eight soles there to plan a ship’s reunion.

We were all pretty blue.

Photo of Daryl Hux, Billy Hux & Arthur Arts

Daryl Hux, Billy Hux & Arthur Arts

Photo fo Ed Wessler & Bill Irwin
Photo of  Ken & Helen Nolan

Ed Wessler & Bill Irwin

Ken & Helen Nolan

Talk was made about forgetting the whole thing, or maybe trying just once more.

Bill Irwin had a little box with several names and addresses.

Billy Hux said maybe we should try for the middle of the country, like Indiana. Bill lived in Indiana. I said I would send out mailings.

Now Bill Irwin may be older that me, but he can move fast. I had the box with names and addresses faster that you could say Spangler.

Billy Hux offered to look around Indianapolis to see what he could get in the way of facilities for a reunion. Bill lived in the upper part of Indiana and Indianapolis is about in the center, while I lived in South Eastern Tennessee at the time. Billy Hux did his duty and found a couple of motels at a fair price.

He then drove to my home in Tennessee to give me the information he had gathered.

The ball somehow was in my court.

Millie and I drove up to Indianapolis to the Ramada Inn Bill had found and while it wasn’t the very best, they did seem to want our business. We agreed on a room rate.

We returned to Tennessee and I started writing letters to people listed on the address list Irwin had given me.

I had no idea of just how many who show up and how many men knew of other ex Spanglermates who might come.

The word did get around. Don McGill was my first return call from the mailing and he said he knew where David Norris was and would make contact with him.

I was typing this on my Smith Corona typewriter and the info I sent out was really childish as I am damn near illiterate when it comes to proper grammar and spelling.

No computer with spell check and grammar hints for me. I’m surprised anyone replied.

Not knowing hardly anyone I was writing to I asked for the first nights room rent and the price for the Sunday Luncheon as not to tell the motel there would be 20 rooms and only 10 show up which I figured would come out of my pocket, not to count the Sunday Luncheon I had ordered. I asked for a check $87.25 for one or $103.45 for a couple.

I received some static from that but not much. Mostly from one guy who was heavily involved with reunions down in Florida.

He also said that I should accept credit cards as to allow people to list deductions on their tax returns, Gosh.

I think the hardest part was the question that came up many times “what are we going to do?

The only answer I had was to get things going so we could have bigger and better reunions in the future.

Along with the return mailing of planned attendance were at times monies to help defray the cost of the mailings and stamps. This was greatly appreciated.

The Indianapolis reunion was scheduled for October 13-14 and then 9-11 happened. I was sure the whole thing was going to be a bust. It wasn’t.

We had 50 people attend, 28 Spanglermates with 8 plank owners.

The motel seemed to be shutting down.

This was good news and bad news.

The good news was we had the run of the place.

The bad news was the restaurant and bar was usually closed. The rooms were not up to snuff.

Maybe it is Ramada quality, I just don’t know.

To have a hospitality room we went over to a liquor store bought supplies and set this up on the bar that the motel was not manning.

The other good news was they had an excellent meal for our Sunday Luncheon.

A hat was passed to help defray some of the cost of the impromptu Hospitality area.

All other meals were somewhere else. I know one thing, Dick Hitt sure did like those good Indiana Pork Tenderloin sandwiches from Grindstone Charlies.

After our meal on Sunday I told the group that Millie and I had done our thing, had a reunion and we were retiring from this highly respected, great paying job.

Oh the hue and cry, let us not stop now after all these years, keep it going.

Ed Mills took the stage and was in agreement to run things for future reunions just as soon as we set up some sort of an organization. Not my cup of tea.

David Norris setting to one side half way raised hand and mouthed “I’ll Help”.

Then Don McGill, Gene Workman, A.J. Goers and Ed Mills said they would help.

After much discussion about where to have the next reunion Don McGill said he would host the next reunion in Louisville providing the others would help. It was agreed to do that.

It also seemed that Dave and I would be the contact people for future reunions.

In September 2002 the Louisville reunion went off as scheduled, with 50 people including 26 Spanglermates of which 6 were Plank Owners.

With the exception of the President of the United States arriving in Louisville the same morning as registration causing road closures. Secret Service men all around the motel lobby.

Betty Boyd tripping over some wires on the floor in the registration desk area, breaking her arm.

Ed Mills leaving in a huff at the banquet, every one had a great time.

We did have a Hospitality Room, and once again the hat was passed to help with the cost of the supplies, mailing etc.

Don McGill arranged for a tour to Churchill Downs.

I couldn’t believe how hard the seats were at the high priced viewing stands. I guess during the race we all stand.

David & Elana Norris agreed to host the next reunion in Laughlin Nevada in October 2003.

The reunion at the Riverside Hotel in Laughlin was a blast.

With a get together breakfast, a Margarita/Guacamole Reception in the ever open Hospitality Room with the high point being the dinner river cruise.

The dinner cruise had an open bar thanks to David Norris. Billy Hux passed a hat around again to help Dave with this bill.

We had the Hospitality Room, Antique Auto museum, the watch man and there was some rumors about some people even visiting some of the other casinos.

The Goers did a bang up job with getting Anheuser/Busch to donate beer for the Hospitality room.

We had tours to the Arch and to the Anheuser/Busch Brewery.

Bob Hunter suggested we have a silent auction in lieu of the ever present of the hat passing.

This has been a great success with enough monies to pay for the mailings and stocking the Hospitality Room and at times help defray cost of tours when we miscalculate the cost.

We have all picked up items to have and hold of fond reunion memories.

Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile. Dave Norris volunteered that he and Elana to do the Laughlin thing again in 2005. Gee whiz what a couple.

Before our trip to Laughlin we had a mini reunion in Albany, NY to visit the USS Slater DE 766. The Slater if not the last, one of the last floating Destroyer Escorts with original battle armor and is being restored by hard working DESA volunteers. In all we had 24 people including 4 Spangler Plank Owners.

Our reunion in Laughlin, NV in 2005 was once again a huge success.

We had 49 present with 27 Spanglermates.

The numbers stay about the same but each year we have some new faces and some others that for one reason or the other can’t make it. Like me last year getting new knees.

Activities included going to the various attractions in the Laughlin area and many sea stories being told.

The silent auction was again a success. Plans were made for 2006 in Myrtle Beach.

James and Nelda Sims were the hosts for the Myrtle Beach reunion.

The Hospitality room had a new feature, all sorts of home made goodies supplied by Nelda Sims and her sister Janette Morrow.

The attendance this year was 36 Spanglermates and 28 guests for a total of 64 in attendance.

Festivities included the Alabama theater show and a tour to the USS North Carolina (BB-55), Well as I said, you can’t keep a good man (and woman) down, Dave and Elana once again were the Host for our reunion in San Diego in 2007. The attendance this year was 40 Spanglermates and 40 guests for a total of 80 in attendance.

There we were in an area that many of us spent most of our Navy tour, San Diego out by the US Fleet Sonar School.

Along with our usual gab fests there was the bay tour, trip to the USS Midway, and a tour of the Sonar School.

My how time has changed things. The Sonar School wasn’t anything like we remembered and what ever happened to our lovely San Diego? It done went and grew up to be a great big city.

We enjoyed San Diego so much I think we will return in 2011 after our trip to San Antonio and the Alamo.

I believe we have a winner. Dave and Elana have once again been our host for the 2008 Branson reunion. I wasn’t there but all reports are it was indeed a great event. Keep up the good work Dave & Elana.

My count is 30 Spanglermates and guest for a total of 58 or so attendees at the Branson reunion. I know Millie and I missed a good time.

Photo of nearly all reunion mates and guest

It just keeps going and going with some new faces each year and some of us who for one reason or the other can’t make all the reunions each year but do come when we can.

Those who have made all the reunions. Dave Norris, A.J. & Sue Goers.

The 2009 Annapolis/Baltimore reunion hosted by Jackie and Stan Biess continued in the line of success stories with forty four SpanglerMates, wives and guest present.

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