Branson was OK. Beautiful weather. The locals say that business is way down from what it usually is but it was pretty busy. The main drag down the strip was bumper to bumper when the morning afternoon and evening shows let out.
I was not sorry I went. Something to do, right? I bottom fished for everything on Priceline, so it didn't cost me much.
Probably less than 20 guys showed up. That's not many. No matter, there were three or four of us who sat over in a corner of the hospitality room, chipping away at the liquor, having a pretty good time. Some of the other guys would join us from time to time between the shows and other scheduled family activities on offer. It's funny. Talking to old sailors, because of shared experiences, you can often be more honest and express things that you have difficulty expressing to others. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to matter whether or not they knew you then or were on the same boat at the same time.
One of the most interesting experiences was on the last day. An 89 year old guy who had been on the 197, before it sunk, showed up. I talked with him for maybe 2 1/2 hours before he got tired and his wife took him home. In spite of different times and across all those years, we were just two sailors, learning a few things from each other. There were some guys from the 575, time frame commissioning crew, early 50s, to just after they replaced the sodium reactor, early 60s. They were pretty fun too. Even older and gimpier than us. Gives me something to look forward to.
The Captain showed up. Only officer. Tells you something about a guy, that he will travel across the country just to spend a little time with a few broken down old sailors that he was too preoccupied to get to know very well 35 years ago. We didn't share many points of view then and probably even fewer now but I always liked and admired the guy and still do.
Even with the small turnout, the only real disappointment I had was with one of my old shipmates. He was one of my heroes at the time. We stood watch in the same area. I knew him pretty good. He's a changed man. Total Christian, tea total, prays over a sack of burgers and fries before digging in. Still, I don't blame him. He always did what he wanted to and I'm sure he still is. It's just that we didn't get to spend too much time together in the corner, chipping away at the liquor and swapping stories. He was happy and healthy. Good for him.
As you can imagine I was odd man out politically. Not that many of these guys are hard core Christians but most of them are pretty far Right Wing. I didn't try to hide my views but wasn't there to argue politics either. Nobody else was either. It was no problem. There was some speculation about women coming on board submarines. I kind of would like to be able to be aboard a sub to watch that. It should be real interesting.
I'm not real interested in ever going to another submarine reunion, at least any time soon. Maybe if they ever have one close to where I live, California. I doubt that. Las Vegas would be more likely. I'd probably go for that. Only time will tell.