GOVERNORS ISLAND BRATS
June 26, 2006 by Palmer McGrew
We did it. Nearly 80 of gathered on Governors Island last Saturday, following a meet and greet party at the hotel on Friday night, and followed by a banquet at the hotel on Saturday night. Of course, the highlight was the day on the island.
For a full year I worried about it raining that day. I didn't worry enough. I didn't worry about a day-long tropical downpour. But you know what? It hardly mattered. It did nothing to dampen spirits and not much to dampen even clothes, as everyone came with an umbrella.
I would love to describe the wonderful events of the weekend, but I can't do them justice. The stories were fantastic. The reunions of long-lost friends were amazing. Getting inside Castle Willy! And it goes on and on. For those many who missed it either out of conflict or indifference, I am truly sorry that you did. Not only did we miss you, but what you missed!!!! It was truly special for everyone.
Visit the web site. There will be many pictures on it in a week or two. Henry isn't even home yet and he has probably 400 pix to sort through and post, so be patient. But in your patience, do not fail to go to the web site and look.
Then your second job is to react. We will have an opportunity in the fall to comment on the National Park Service proposed plan for their part of the island. We need to do that. We'll remind you.
And, finally, your job is to try harder to attend the next (?) reunion.
The island will start changing soon. GIPEC is reviewing hundreds of proposals for projects to be built on the island that will change it forever. This was probably your last chance to see it as you remember it. Over the next few years it will be transformed into something else. Fort Jay and Willy, in the national park, will remain. The rest is up for grabs.
How I wish you had been there!
Now, the future of the brats. We can ride off into the sunset without a look back, as many have already done, fading away like MacArthurs' old soldiers. Or we can contribute our memories, photographs, documents of all descriptions to history. A number of us talked about this and my view is this:
We can archive our history with the NPS on the island so that we will know where it is, access it when we want and contribute when we can. Caveat--they don't have that authority or capability today, but if we press for it, it will happen. I submit that this is important to us and to history. Please cooperate in trying to make it a reality. The first thing you can do is to send anything you want preserved to the rangers on the island. Email Mike Shaver thusly Mike_Shaver@nps.gov. You may not be able to see it but there is an underscore between mike and shaver. And/or, when you are in the vicinity, call the rangers and arrange to visit the island. They will record every word you say and make it history. I don't want to put Mike's phone number out to the world, but if you want it, ask me.
Brat history: make it happen.
Palmer McGrew, 47-51
More reunion pics
Reunion 2006, Pics Page One
Reunion 2006, Pics Page Two
Reunion 2006, Pics Page Three
Reunion 2006, Pics Page Four
Reunion Brats, 1
Reunion Brats, 2
A Thank You Email To The Governors Island Park Rangers
by Stan Bacon
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the outstanding
support the Park Service staff provided the Governors Island Brats
group last Saturday on our tour if the island. Your professionalism
and enthusiasm made a great visit that much more enjoyable. I was
particularly impressed with the woman who conducted that 10:30
orientation. Sorry I don't recall her name. She was articulate,
very knowledgeable regarding the Island's history, eager to hear our
stories, and didn't seem to mind standing out in the rain. Please
convey to her and to her boss my personal thanks.
When we passed St. Cornelius and got to the Officer's Club on the
tour, I explained to our guide that she was standing on top of a
tunnel that went from Ft. Jay to the Officer's Club, an old battery
covering Buttermilk Channel. When we were kids, we were convinced
that there were connecting tunnels between Ft. Jay and Castle
Williams, Ft Jay and the O Club and Ft. Jay the quarters just north
of the CG's quarters which we called the Governor's House and you
call the old guard house overlooking the alternate ferry slip. It
housed the First Army Chief of Staff at the time, a Brigadier
General. Back in the mid '90s Garry Roosma asked a West Point
classmate of ours (twins Will and Garry Roosma, Palmer McGrew and me,
1958, all present on this tour) by the name of Tom Sands, Atlantic
Department Engineer at the time to sort out the tunnel
situation. His subordinate, the NY District Engineer, confirmed only
one tunnel based on the old plans -- the one between Ft. Jay and the
O Club. Good luck on finding the entrances. :-)
Attached is a vignette which I had written a few years ago for
another purpose -- one of our West Point classmates was collecting
Will Roosma stories. Will and Garry were born on the Island in
1935. At the time of the attached story their father was First Army
Provost Marshall and they lived in the quarters in the Park right
across the street from what was then a two room wooden school
building housing the 5th through 8th grades (P.S. 3) and more
recently became the Jewish Chapel. The Roosmas departed the Island
and later came back -- their father became Post Commander and they
lived in the large quarters at the east end of Brick Row (later
Colonels' Row) by the Catholic Chapel. I spent six years (47-53) in
the quarters at the opposite end -- then Qtrs. 78-12 across from the
hospital. Despite Will's propensity for getting into trouble, he
managed to go on to become an Army Major General.
In our day Castle Williams was still a U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and
parolees handled routine chores on the island -- grass cutting,
stoking the coal fired furnaces in the quarters, sweeping the
streets, etc. On one occasion two parolees started sweeping the
street down to the ferry slip with stable brooms. They swept the
ramp; the ferry arrived; they swept down the ferry as it crossed over
to Manhattan. When it docked, they carefully swept down the ramp and
approach, dropped their brooms and made a dash for the IRT Subway
entrance across the street. They were later caught and returned.
Thanks again for all your efforts in our behalf and for helping to
preserve a history which is dear to us.
Planning and Info to Brats Prior to the Reunion
June 8, 2006 by Palmer McGrew
As of today we have 76 registered to participate, with a very few being "maybes". That number comprises some 42 brats, the rest being family members and a couple of guests. Island time ranges from 1927 to 1964.
For your planning: Saturday we will go over on the 1000hrs ferry, that's 10AM for those of you who have forgotten military time (could anyone actually do that? I still remember the old phonetic alphabet ((Able,Baker, Charlie, Dog, etc)) because it was posted in the ferry and there was not much else to do so I memorized it.) If you are staying in the hotel, we will meet in the lobby at 9 (I will do the math and update this later) and take the light rail to Hoboken, then the PATH to World Trade Center, and then walk to the ferry - about a half mile. If you are not staying in the hotel, we'll meet you at the ferry at 10. You are free to leave on whatever ferry you want, but then you must find your way back to the hotel. I expect that most of us will leave at 3:30 and I can guide that group.
My daughter and my minivan will bring the lunches over on the workers' ferry at 9. Lunch will be set up in The Quadrangle, Fort Jay that is. In the event of rain we can take shelter on the porches. We are trying to find chairs, a rare commodity on the island.
When you arrive at the hotel, ask for my room number. I have negotiated for a suite large enough to host a party for the Meet and Greet on Friday afternoon. I expect to be in the room and set up by 1600hrs (4). Price of admission to the Meet and Greet is a bag of munchies and some dip. I'll provide liquid refreshments. You can donate a small amount toward that if you want.
At the Meet and Greet, I will have name tags, an instruction sheet for Saturday in case you miss the group, and a red, brats reunion tee shirt. Everyone please wear the tee shirt on Saturday to identify the group. You will have trouble getting a lunch if you don't have a tee shirt on. If you aren't staying in the hotel, we will have nametags and shirt on the ferry. Think about changing into the tee shirt on the ferry when you are getting dressed in the morning.
It goes without saying that we have no control over the weather, but I'll say it anyway. Chances are it will be fine, but if it isn't...it will get interesting. If there is any chance of rain, bring an umbrella.
The "banquet" will be in a conference room in the hotel and will be a catered buffet with a wide range of choices. The last I heard the hotel had no liquor license, but someone told me today that there is now talk of their restaurant coming back, perhaps with a license. If you just gotta drink, you might want to bring something along.
Please don't forget that the price of admission to the island is a story about something during your life there. Turn it in to the ranger when you get there.
A number of people have told me how excited they are about this and I'm glad. It should be a very special day filled with memories for the rest of our lives.
April 19, 2006 by Palmer McGrew
The registration site for the Brats reunion is now up and running. Please register if you are coming. You will use a credit card to do this. Go to https://secure.west-point.org/governorsbrats/reunion
Things are progressing. An Army band is now coming over to the Island to play for us, in fact here is a schedule from the National Park Service:
Ferry departs from Battery Maritime Building at South and Whitehall Streets
on the hour, every hour starting at 10 AM until 3 PM.
(We will take the 1000 ferry.)
Returning ferry to Manhattan at 10:15, 11:15, then the bottom of the hour
starting at 12:30, hourly until 5:30 PM.
The tentative schedule for that day....
We'll do tours of the historic district - Fort Jay, Nolan Park, Brick Row
at 10 and 1.
We'll do shorter tours of just Fort Jay, Nolan Park and Castle Williams. at
11, 12, 2, 3. We can switch one of those tours to places you crowd would
want to see.
The 319th Army band is coming over maybe 11ish to set up for their 1:30 PM
There is a book talk at 2:30 PM in the Commanding General's receptionist
office - now magically the Pershing Hall conference room.
Governors Island (Images of America) by Susan L. Glen. To be published by
Arcadia Press on May 10.
Please register promptly so that we will know how many are coming. Note that dinner/banquet is back on track and fairly reasonable (actually unbeliveably reasonable for the NYC area.)
August 14, 2005 by Palmer McGrew
Dear GI brats,
I spent last Wednesday on Gov Isl being shown places I had never seen before and talking with the head Ranger, Mike Shaver, about the reunion(s). I say reunion(s) because Mike suggested that, due to Coast Guard Day in August which is getting some attention from brats as well as r't'd Coasties, that we have two reunions, Army brats (1) and Coast Guard Day (2). More on that later.
First, the facilities are in sad, sad shape, which will come as a surprise to no one, I'm sure. But it is which facilities are in sad shape that surprised me a little. Castle Williams is slowly turning into a pile of sand, for example, whereas my old quarters in Fort Jay, aka "The Quadrangle", are in better shape than they were when I lived in them. Go figure.
Mike took us into Castle Willy, and I doubt that any living Army brats have ever been in there. I understand that it was a "haunted house" and scout house for the Coasties, but it was an active prison for about a hundred years so the Army guys and gals couldn't even look through the gate. Due to some bad engineering, well, I don't want to steal Mike's thunder, you'll have to come to see for yourselves.
The rangers won't be able to take us into everything, but they will show us a lot. In fact, Mike suggests that we might be able to make a day of it -- come over on the workers' ferry and take an extra late ferry back at the end of the day after a picnic. For families with small kids that might be a bit much, but if so that allows us to use one bus for two loads in each direction. Just thinking here. My suggestion for a picnic site is in Fort Jay. Nice spot and covered porches available for inclement weather.
Hotels in Manhattan are outrageously expensive, again no surprise. We are still looking, but we are also looking at four other properties. My favorite at this moment in time is the IBM Training Site in Palisades, NY. It is absolutely first class and the price is right (I'm not sure of that yet because I'm using an old West Point grad price list. I'll find out tomorrow about rates.) Other options include Weehawken right at the ferry, and two on Staten Island. I didn't attend Curtis HS so I have no attachment to Staten Island, but others do. The trouble is that the two hotels are nowhere near the ferry so, although the SI Ferry docks right next to the GI Ferry, how to get to the SI ferry? Weehawken might not require busses, everything else would. Non-Manhattan rates run about 140 plus tax per room, 40 buck dinners...
Both Staten Island hotels have their drawbacks, including being far from the ferry. The Staten Island Hotel has just been refurbed and is in great shape, but the neighborhood is a little seedy and the parking lot needs some work. The Hilton Garden Inn is kind of hard to find and remote. Both serve as party central on weekends. The Gambinos, well maybe not THE Gambinos but who knows? were having a wedding party at he Hilton when we stopped by yesterday. Try telling them to quiet down!
I have resisted that idea from the start. It first came up from some coastie brats who said they would be going over for that anyway, so why not have the reunion in August on Coast Guard Day? I declined to do that. However, if there are coastie brats (Are you "brats" or, like the Navy, "juniors"?) who prefer their own kind, then it makes sense for them. I would not be the organizer for that, of course. The reunion I'm organizing is for any and all brats or juniors from the federal occupation of GI. Coasties need to talk amongst yourselves and decide what you want to do. I'll be glad to help anyone who wants with the email lists I have. I do not know for sure who is Army and who is CG. Even if you told me what years you were there, I may not have preserved that info. We can get that for many from the web site, but not for all. And I'm fairly sure that most of the volunteers to help are coasties, so I might lose them. That I can deal with if I have to.
Coasties please let me know if you prefer to go on CG Day. Someone please remind me of the date in August.
Still a lot of organizing to do. The best part is that the Natl Park Service is delighted to have us and dedicated to making it a special occasion for us. It already is for me. Mike Shaver's "fee" for giving us the grand tour is one story about your time on GI per brat. The price is right! Get to work writing your story and make sure you have June 23 - 25 on your calendar for the reunion if you want to participate in that one. It will be very special, I promise.
Palmer McGrew 47-51
2006 Reunion T-Shirt Designs: August 9, 2005
At this particular web site, T-shirts will cost about $7 each with front and back artwork/lettering (I limited designs to single color to reduce costs). My son tells me that's quite a lot, but I have not found anything cheaper anywhere else on the web.
I have not ordered anything, only priced them on this webpage below, based on a mix of red, white and blue, mixed sizes (some mediums, mostly large and extra large, I suggest) and various quantities per size (the more we order, the less expensive per shirt).
For everyone to see my first pass "creations," it is easiest to go to: http://www.customink.com/ .
In the left hand frame (fourth bullet down) click on "Retrieve Your Design."
The next page will ask you for an email address. Give it: email@example.com. (which is not my email address any longer by the way).
The next page will list clickable links to the 8 mock ups I have done. I like "Bratslogo", but please let me know what you like and we'll finalize. NEW EMAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 5, 2005 Reunion Committee by Palmer McGrew
Your disorganized reunion chair is still working, albeit slowly. I asked Donald Havenick, who lives and works in Manhattan to check into hotels on that island. The results were pretty outrageous. Not only were room charges high, but cost of dinner and even breakfast, also too high.
Someone, wish I remembered who, suggested Staten Island instead. I had him check that out but he seemed content to look on the internet and considered himself done. Today I called both of the hotels on Staten Island. Both would be acceptable, much much cheaper than Manhattan, and within an easy bus trip of the SI ferry, which docks right next to the GI ferry. Of the two, I like the Staten Island Hotel so much better that I put 30 rooms on hold for us without consulting with you. I think we will need many more than that, but we'll see. It isn't too early to do this, they have parties booked for 2007 already. the other hotel is the Hilton Garden Inn. After several calls I have yet to speak to a human there. I strongly recommend the Staten Island Hotel.
They sent me menus and prices for dinner, cocktails, and breakfast. The cocktail prices are for a premium bar which I don't like. The scotch drinkers are in heaven and the gingerale drinkers are screwed. I asked by email for a price for just hors d'. Haven't gotten that yet.
Costs will be about like this:
Rooms (including the substantial NYC and NYS taxes) $160
Looking at the menus, I think I need someone else to take charge of parties and dinners. Who among you will take that job on? You will love Bernadette at the hotel catering as I do. She is the happiest person in New York.
Dinner (probably not including gratuity and tax) 40
Cocktail party still unknown
Bus to ferry 2
Jeff Holmes, if I remember correctly, has already designed a tee shirt. Jeff, have you gone beyond the design phase? His estimate for cost was pretty low. It might be cool to all be getting on the ferry together in matching tees.
Anything else we need to be doing now?
This is a trial balloon. Can I get a reaction to this date, 23-25 June 2006?
Arrive Friday, 23 June 2006, hotel TBD. Welcome cocktail party in hotel or nearby.
Saturday morning 24 June breakfast in hotel. Morning is free for sightseeing or visiting favorite NYC haunts, but meet at ferry site at 1230. Ferry to Island for picnic lunch. Tours of island begin at 3:15, that's 1515hrs for you Army types. Ferry back to Manhattan at 5. Banquet that evening in hotel or nearby.
Sunday morning farewell breakfast in hotel. End of reunion.
Rationale: relatively slow time for the Park Rangers on the Island. Most if not all kids out of school by then. Not usually too hot yet.
I'll be glad to get any and all suggestions or comments. If you want to be severely critical go ahead, you are the new reunion chairman.
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