We made it to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. For Sue and I this is somewhat of a homecoming since it was the first place we moved when we left New Jersey in 1974. We set up Winnie at the Bennett Acres Campground where I stayed. It’s the only campground within easy driving distance of the reunion at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott when the reunion was held and Sue and her Dad stayed. What a hole. The camp roads were unpaved and potholed. I had to drive across a wooden bridge to get to the RV campsites. I was afraid it wouldn’t hold Winnie, but she cleared without collapse. It was supposed to have a sewer connection, but “The Management” left me a note on the door of the RV not to use the sewers because they aren’t working. I never did meet the management as it was a self-service campground where you leave your cash in an envelope at the entrance. There were 3 trailers and Winnie in the campground. I was never sure what I was going to see when I got back late at night in the pitch black.
The reunion started on Wednesday. It’s always great when you can get 70 or 80 of the “Greatest Generation” together to renew old acquaintances. They are disappearing a fast pace. It would be a shame we were to lose them without recording their stories. If you know someone, try to get them to tell their story and record it in writing or on a digital media file. The Library of Congress as well as many veterans groups will take them and make sure they are preserved.
We went into Pittsburgh to visit Mt. Washington that overlooks the downtown area. While we were watching the Incline (a cable operated car), Mr. Karmade lost his brand new glasses when they bumped the fence. They fell down the hill into the trees. There was no way to get them back so we had to stop at Wal-Mart on the way to the hotel to get him a set or readers so he could do his crossword puzzle.
On Thursday, we visited the Air Force Reserve Base at the Pittsburgh International Airport as the guests of the 911th Airlift Wing. The vets were treated to a flyover Pittsburgh in a C-130. They were in the air for about 45 minutes. After they landed the vets and family members went to the Officers Club for lunch with the air and ground crews. After lunch the vets gave an educational forum about the weapons used by the 87th. In the evening we took a dinner cruise on the Gateway Clippers around the three rivers that surround downtown Pittsburgh. I got some great pictures.
On Friday, Professor Todd DePastino gave a presentation on the cartoons of Bill Maulden from World War II. His characters, Willie and Joe, were loved by the foot soldiers because Maulden was able to capture the thoughts of the “grunts” in the field. Maulden was hated by the officer corps, especially General Patton, because he was ruthless in making fun of them. Friday night was a mixer. One of the family members always leads the group in songs from the 30’s and 40’s. Mr. Karmade was dancing with every woman he could get his hands on. I hope I can walk when I’m 92!
Saturday morning is when the 87th Infantry Division Legacy Association conducts their business. I was asked to be the Treasurer of the organization. In the afternoon, a representative of the Army War College in Carlisle, PA gave a presentation about the Battle of the Bulge and several of the vets provided some memories of their experiences in the fight. The 87th was one of the key infantry divisions involved in the Battle of the Bulge. They were newly arrived in Europe in December and were moved 400 miles in open trucks from France to the Ardennes to help stop the German advance. They eventually worked their way across southern Germany over to the Czech Republic at the end of the war.
Saturday night is the big event that the vets look forward to – the Banquet. Time to get dressed up, dance and have fun before wrapping it up on Sunday morning at an Interfaith Worship Service.