Alas, the humiliation
by Richard Lewis
PENSACOLA, Fla. — Friday, August 22nd, marked the Reunion at Seville Quarter of Naval Air Station Pensacola (NASP), celebrating the 100th anniversary of naval aviation. As most everyone knows, Pensacola is the birthplace of naval aviation and virtually all naval pilots and many other naval personnel spent some time at the Naval Air Station here and surrounding naval installations like Whiting and Saufley and Cory Fields.
Many have fond, if bleary, memories of time spent here, most notoriously at Trader John’s, where the proprietor, aptly named Trader John, would trade drinks for naval memorabilia. Every wall was cluttered with everything naval one could imagine. Good thing the Shore Patrol took a lenient view, or someone could have spent some time in the brig for “liberating” naval property.
All the restaurants in the complex, Rosie O’Grady, Phineas Phogg, Lili Marlene, Apple Annie, Fast Eddie, End o’ the Alley, and the Palace Café, saw many folks, some decked out in sparkling white and tan naval and marine regalia, and other military folks, active and retired, in bold and inventive civvies, all of whom were invited to come for a celebratory festival of music, food, and memories of tours of duty, some barely remembered or consciously forgotten, Stateside and abroad.
Naval personnel, flight, maintenance, shipside-ers, support, all were honored, with toasts and libations of every sort in full flower. It was a grand night, with music, mainly but not exclusively from the ’50s and ’60s, mostly played at ear drumsplitting levels (if it’s too loud, you’re too old) in nine different locations, with food of every sort on the buffet table — even that old naval standby, Spam and rice. Unfortunately, no SOS was visible.
It was moving to see some folks who were no longer young, but that night felt young, unaware of moving to the sounds of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Unchained Melody.” With the slightest encouragement, they would have all moved to slide into half-remembered dance steps. Some did, gracefully and otherwise. Memories of warm desires and hot nights were evident on many faces. It was a grand night.
PBCA was invited, as was the Corvette Club, to bring some of the cars naval and marine personnel might have driven back in the day. A display of early and late Corvettes as well as MGs, Jaguars and Austin-Healeys were on display, parked in front of the restaurants, shining in all their glory — an array of cars that once saw the streets of Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and downtown Milton, filled with young naval personnel and pretty local girls, all packed into bucket seats, and all with hair and scarfs streaming in the wind, leaving behind peals of laughter and maybe an occasional beer can. Your Loyal Correspondent (YLC) was one of those who drove a prized car to the festivities, in this case the beautiful and seductive TR6, which hummed happily all the way over from Baghdad to Pensacola without mishap.
That is until, while stopped to await the parking of some of the Corvettes who were late arrivals, YLC turned off the switch, killing the engine. “Killing the engine” is the proper term, for when it became time for the TR to take its place in the gleaming line of beauties — nothing. Nothing. The key was turned off and on again. Still nothing. Finally, accepting defeat, a friendly crowd of (perhaps scoffing) Corvette owners, joined by some less contemptuous British car owners, pushed the TR into place. Pushed it right past that line of Corvettes, all of which seemed to be smiling. Smirking is a better word. The TR took its place in line, no doubt with head bowed and filled with humiliation, to be so scorned before her sister cars, and especially in front of a bunch of American iron.
Noted car surgeon Tom Matsoukas, assisted by cosurgeon Bill Weeks, saved the day, doing triage on the TR and getting her running again, perhaps only temporarily.
It was a sad day, and the TR still hasn’t recovered her good spirits from the dreadful happenings. Time, however, heals all wounds, and the day will come when she will take her place again among the hale and hearty. That day will come. Just not yet. As sad as that episode was, other happy things occurred. Here is a short list of past and future fun-filled times:
August 22 — 100 Years of Naval Aviation. See above for an account of that fun-filled account, where nine British cars gathered lots of covetous looks. Those attending were Bob and Risa Manske, MG TF 1500; Rich and Darla Willows, Triumph TR3B; Tom Matsoukas, TR6; Tom and Jeanne Schmitz, Jaguar E-type 2+2; Bill Moseley, TR8; Mickey and Kay Kay, TR6; Bill and Donna Weeks, MG Midget; Richard Lewis, TR6; and Ron and Cathy Pasco, Austin-Healey 3000.September 2 — PBCA Breakfast at the Crowne Plaza. This continues to be a very popular event, with about 15 folks gathered for good food and companionship.
September 6 — Emerald Coast Car Show, Niceville, Fla. A nice collection of foreign and domestic cars gathered for what turned out to be a very nice show. Circumstances prevented the awarding of awards until late, but many loyal folks stayed around until the end.
September 13 — Classic Car and Cycle Show, Robertsdale, Ala. Again, a good show for all makes of cars and with an additional reason for showing up, as all profits will go to “Under His Wing,” a program aimed to help girls in need in the Robertsdale area.
September 18-21 — Peachtree MG Show in Dillard, Ga. All British marques are welcome to this premier event in north Georgia. Several PBCA members, including the Manskes and the Schmitzes, would make the drive up past Atlanta for what everyone says is a great show.
September 19-20 — “Brits on the River” Show in Natchez, Miss. Held on the same weekend as the Dillard show, this too is a quality event in a beautiful setting. You couldn’t have made a bad decision whichever show you chose.
September 27 — PBCA Dog Days Rally, organized by Tom Matsoukas and for the benefit of and starting at the Pensacola Humane Society. PBCA has done an outstanding job in the past, delivering a ton of food and donations to the Humane Society to help support their fine work.
October 4 — Ice Cream Social at Richard and Donna Cunningham’s home in Daphne, Ala. MGMG, South Alabama British Car Club, and PBCA members will all join in this great event, with the best homemade ice cream ever. Sponsored by SABCC and held in the Cunninghams’ Garage Mahal, there will be lots of food capped by that great ice cream to make your day. More details via e-mail.
October 7 — PBCA Breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 10 a.m. Just good food and companionship. Be there.
October 11 — Derail Diner and Rally. Organized by Tom Schmitz and starting in Pensacola, the Rally will drive through some great countryside to get to the unique Derail, where we will meet our friends from SABCC for good food and great talk.
October 14 — “Brits on the Bay” planning session at Seville Quarter at 12 noon to continue plans for the premier British car show in northwest Florida. All are invited to attend.
October 15 — PBCA Executive Board meeting at the Crowne Plaza at 12 noon to continue the work of the club. Again, all are invited.
October 18 — Pensacola Historic and Brewery Tour. Organized by Bill Weeks, the rally will take us through the historic sections of Pensacola and end with lunch at the Pensacola Brewery. This is lots of fun and details will follow via e-mail.
October 20 — PBCA regular meeting, 6 p.m. at the Quality Inn on Scenic Highway at US 10, Exit 17. Club business, 50/50, and door prizes will be enhanced by a presentation by Marc Cherry regarding his restoration of a Jaguar E-type, a project that has taken a great deal of time and effort. Promises to be very interesting.
October 24 — Fairhope Car Show and Crafts Fair, Fairhope, Ala. This always proves to be a great show, with lots of interesting cars and loads of crafters, vendors, and food. More details to follow via e-mail.
That’s it. In the meantime, keep your fingernails off the pavement when you drive your TR3.