The Early Years 1977–1984
Recollections of Early Taylor Reunions
Late in the fall of 1975, Eddie Hitchings would phone his old shipmate, Fred (Red) Bowman in Boston to ask for his assistance in planning a USS Taylor reunion. The next year found these two former shipmates searching old telephone directories, placing numerous phone calls across the country, writing many letters, sending reunion notices to naval and veterans magazines in efforts to contact their former shipmates from World War II.
The first official reunion was held at Kings Court Motel, Danvers, MA, on Saturday afternoon, October 21, 1977. An indoor poolside cocktail party preceded a delicious outdoor New England Clambake feast. Eleanor Hitchings, with Peg Bowman’s assistance, immensely added to the success of this get-together. A total of seventy-five people attended (shipmates, wives and guests). Taylor first commanding officer, Admiral Ben Katz, gave an informal talk recalling events and incidents that occurred aboard Taylor while under his command. Each shipmate was impressed and honored with our skipper’s uncanny ability to recall each crew member by sight and name, especially after all the years, and by his warm personal greeting to each. The hours passed unnoticeably…for this was the time for TAYLOR SAILORS to reminisce about Taylor and their wartime experiences; it was the time to spin yarns and swap sea-stories; it was the time for wives to become acquainted with each other; it was the time to proudly show family photographs of the kids and grandchildren; it was the time to learn what has happened to each of us these past thirty-five years; and now, regrettably, it was time to again say good-bye.
The second Taylor reunion took place in the Holiday Inn, Torrance, CA, on Saturday, October 19, 1980, with Nick and Clara Apostol, Heath and Gail Angelo, John Kinder, and Sid and Dot Wallace hosting our group of sixty-eight people. Taylor’s second commanding officer, Admiral Nicholas Frank, USN (Ret.)(1944–45) arrived from San Diego for the Saturday Brunch but had to leave early. The women went on a conducted shopping tour while shipmates held their business meeting. It was decided to conduct a 1982 reunion in Chicago to commemorate Taylor’s fortieth commissioning anniversary. We later adjourned to spend time renewing old friendships. Surprisingly, few shipmates ever had learned the fate of Taylor after placing her into the Reserve “mothball fleet” in 1946 (she was later modernized, recommissioned, saw action in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and ultimately sold to the Italian Navy). Taylor’s eighth commanding officer, Commander Jack Mackie, USN (Ret.)(1958–60), was the after-dinner speaker that evening and gave an interesting account of Taylor’s peacetime activities while under his command. Several shipmates living near Torrance held open houses on Sunday for visiting shipmates. A good time was had by all.
The third Taylor reunion had headquarters in Cezar’s Inn Motel, Burbank, IL, near Chicago’s Midway Airport on October 7–11, 1982, with Tom and Terry Brown, Fred and Pat Gramse, Gene Gallagher, Herman and Bernice Haus, and Ferris and Veronica Reid hosting this reunion. They planned and guided the one hundred-ten members through four days of activities and fellowship none of us will soon forget; the narrated sight-seeing bus tours of downtown Chicago and vicinity; the visit to the captured WW II German Submarine; the luncheon visit to Great Lakes Naval Station over-looking Lake Michigan and sitting in the reserved reviewing stands during an impressive graduation exercise. All shipmates received a specially designed Taylor reunion certificate, and Plank Owner certificates were presented to each of those who commissioned the 468 in August 1942. A Saturday morning memorial service was conducted for our deceased Taylor shipmates, and a business meeting followed. Motions were passed to establish a more permanent reunion association with elected officers; approved an annual $6.00 dues fee to cover cost of stationary, newsletter printing and postage; voted to open Taylor reunion membership to all shipmates having ever served aboard Taylor anytime from first commissioning in August 1942 until final decommissioning in July 1969; and concluded by approving Lexington, Kentucky, for the site of the 1984 reunion. After a fine banquet dinner, the program started with Toasts being made to the President of the United States, and to the memory of our gallant U.S. Navy Destroyer, USS Taylor (DD/DDE 468). Shipmate, and presently Commodore, Chuck Smith, USN (1958–60), spoke a few words recalling the training he received aboard Taylor as a junior officer that prepared him for subsequent Command assignments. Our Guest-of-Honor, Admiral Ben Katz, USN (Ret.)(1942–44), received a rousing standing ovation as he took the podium. He delivered a heart-warming address recalling those days and nights of long ago in the South Pacific. He wanted each shipmate to know he has always been extremely proud of Taylor and her crew. He recalled how Taylor carried out all her operational commitments, however dangerous, and all hands performed each assignment most commendably. After his address, an orchestra provided dance music for the rest of the evening. A Sunday farewell breakfast closed the reunion.
The fourth Taylor reunion was hosted by shipmate, Jack Lane, a true Son of the Old South, in 1984. He exposed all one hundred twenty-five reunion members to the real meaning of the expression: “Southern Hospitality”. We were pampered, flattered, spoiled, catered to, entertained, wined and dined, befriended…and we were grateful and appreciative! His wise selection of the beautiful CAMPBELL HOUSE INN for our reunion headquarters resulted in the finest accommodations. The meals served there at our banquet dinner and at our other functions were hearty, plentiful, and delicious. We appreciated the full cooperation of the management, and the courteous service of their staff.
The City of Lexington is located in the Blue grass country where the HORSE reigns King! Our shipmates spent a delightful afternoon at the races at beautiful Keenland Racecourse. The day prior, they visited several privately owned horse farms seldom open to the public. World champion stallions such as SEATTLE SLEW, ARMED, and many other multi-million dollar champion sires were paraded before us at a private showing. We visited Kentucky Horse Park where MAN O’WAR is enshrined. Our group stopped at the Clubhouse Restaurant on the grounds for a pre-arranged luncheon (delicious) and took a walking tour visiting various horse-related exhibits. Surprisingly, Queen Elizabeth of England was also in Lexington visiting her two brood mares the day before at one of the horse farms we had visited. Several shipmates and their wives saw her in person at Keenland Racecourse where a race was named in her honor.
The Prospective Commanding Officer of the new frigate Taylor sent from Norfolk, Virginia, a four-man Color Guard team in their dress-blues to participate at our two-bell memorial service, which was a most solemn and inspirational service. Our business meeting followed and among the order of business, Jack Lane was elected Reunion Commodore, and Gene Gallagher took over the office of Reunion Secretary. Our shipmates selected the Orlando, Florida area for the fifth Taylor reunion sometime during 1986. Shipmates Bob Baker, Richard Berrio, Louis Bodura, Howard Swartout, and Clint Westbrook volunteered to plan and host the Florida reunion. Each shipmate at Lexington reunion received a current reunion Directory of shipmates’ names and addresses, which Tom Brown (1942–45) had prepared; a copy was mailed to those shipmates unable to attend Lexington reunion. Former chief Jack Taylor (1967–69) prepared a fifty-three-page history of Taylor from first commissioning through final decommissioning. It appears he spent months researching for this most comprehensive and interesting book, which all shipmates are sure to treasure. This not-for-profit book was sold for $2.00 at reunion to help recover cost of preparation and printing. Once again, our shipmate reunion caps were in great demand. Our “Taylor Maides” looked cute in their nearly identical blue and gold caps with gold tassel on top. Have received many compliments from shipmates who ordered caps by mail. A professional photographer took each shipmate/shipmate and wife’s picture, which will appear in our keepsake reunion Memory Book. Other interesting snapshots taken during reunion will also be included.
A Taylor mini-reunion was coordinated and hosted in Portland, Maine on 30 November 1984 for the commissioning ceremony of a new frigate, named USS Taylor (FFG 50) in Bath on 1 December 1984. Several times during this ceremony, references were made of the proud heritage the 468 had left to her namesake. We had a guided tour through this newest Navy warship immediately follow these proceedings. We later participated in a reception ceremony held aboard Taylor. Commander J. Stephen Fitzgerald, USN, the new ship’s Commanding Officer, presented our USS Taylor (DD/DDE 468) Reunion Association with a framed colorful Honorary Plank Owners Certificate from his new command; Gene Gallagher reciprocated by presenting the new skipper with a framed photograph of the DD 468. Food and refreshments were served Aft on the heated, enclosed fantail. We thanked Commander Fitzgerald for extending the commissioning invitation to our reunion association, and for making our Association a part of the day’s festivities.
January 15, 1985
From John Kinder, July 13, 2002
You know it seems to me there was a mini reunion several years ago in between the regular reunions. I did not go and can’t throw any light on it now. During the 60’s and 70’s Nick Apostol put together mini reunions in the LA area for the WW2 group. We must have had 3 or 4. They were family, Sunday, summer, potluck, picnic affairs at a park. I believe I attended all or most of them. There were probably a dozen or more various shipmates attending and with all the families it made a fair sized group. We played baseball and had various games for the kids, etc. They were lots of fun. Nick’s wife Clara could perhaps remember more details of these than I can. By the way she called a few days ago and did not think she could make the reunion nor will Richard Berrio’s wife Jo. We keep in touch and visited frequently over the years before Nick and Richard passed.
From George Van, July 13, 2002
The one in ’80 was at Torrance, CA. That was my first. I went because I saw John Kinder’s name in a publication and called him so he gave me the dope on it. I think there was another one in between the other reunions listed in our directory. It was a boat cruise as I recall. I didn’t go. Perhaps John Kinder did but I’m pretty sure Jack Lane attended.