Fleet Week Moves Us in New Directions
September 29, 2010
Blue Angels Soar
The Fleet's in town. And -- for the California Collectors' Series -- that puts the Marines, Navy,and Coast Guard on the radar. Consider this a short search and rescue effort to bring some history up to date.
If you're one of a select seventy people invited to a private Blue Angel birthday party, look again at your invitation with this picture on it. It's Royce Vaughn's watercolor of the Blue Angels commissioned for First Lieutenant Juliet Richey, who was stationed at Ft. Sheridan, Illinois, when the painting was done.
The San Francisco Veterans Art Guild event at City College on Tuesday invited Royce to bring his angels as well. We applaud the effort. The VA is remarkable, in every way.
Old Coast Guard Cutters Never Die
In the foreground of Royce's picture is the Coast Guard Cutter Alert. This isthe fourth cutter to carry the name and The Cutter Alert Preservation Team is quick to tell you about herlively heritage. She was one of thirty-three 125-footers used for prohibition law enforcement during 1926 and 1927 and that assignment was no small potatoes. They weren't after smaller prey, local rum runners with a rowboat, but bigger targets, "the mother ships". The Alert served on the Bering Sea Patrol from 1931 to 1940, was assigned to the US Navy's Western Sea Frontier during WWII, reassigned to Morro Bay in 1949 and to San Diego in 1959.
After Barry Brose of Highland Labs bought her in 1969, the Alert's mission turned to parades, lots of parades, research for the Oceanic Society and -- perhaps most rewarding of all -- trips on the bay and up the Delta, including the 9-day June Cruise with Sea Scouts, plus bay trips for school kids sponsored by the SF Police Youth Fishing Program.
(I remember this group from my days working with The Salvation Army. And ah, sighs Royce, a floating training center for Sea Scouts! What a good place for young people to study! Remember, this is the man who envisioned such a floating school in the Sixties and although that particular idea was wilder than some, other envisioned dreams did become reality.)
So what do you do with a Coast Guard cutter that's seen a lifetime of active duty and isn't quite ready to call it a day? Brose's boat is waiting for new ideas and a new commission. She's currently sitting on the Columbia River in Washington.
If you're checking out special events and military memorabilia at the Marines' Memorial Club in San Francisco, you'll see a lobby display of Royce's note cards -- blank, of course, waiting for purchasers to write friends about the terrific weekend they had in San Francisco. Expecting crowds, the club has placed a significant order.
Many Voices/One Venue
Who are the folks who walk through the Marines' front door these days? Not just uniformed Marines checking out the Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom Memorial, it seems. The building's calendar of events is eclectic and varied.
Friday night's performance by the 1st Marine Division Band and talk by Vice Admiral Richard W. Hunt, USN is sure to be a rousing stars-and-stripes affair. That day's agenda also includes a World Affairs Council luncheon with Tariq Ramadan, professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford. Swords to Ploughshares and Philippe Cousteau (Jacques' grandson) were recently at the club. Next week's topic: BENS Illicit Network: Human Trafficking -- How you can help."
Marines' Memorial was built in 1926. Architecturally speaking, it's beaux arts. Theatrically, of course, it has a rich history of performing arts. Back in the day, it was the likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra who headlined national radio broadcasts there. Add the illustrious years of the Actors' Workshop and American Conservatory Theater (ACT) plus a wide variety of independent productions over the years and that brings you to the year 2010 when popular acts still fill the hall.
Fleet Week and the Angels
To put Fleet Week into perspective, think of Teddy Roosevelt sending the Great White Fleet out to sea to show America's strength in 1907-9.
Next, think of Franklin Roosevelt intent on expanding the Navy in 1935 when he inaugurated the first Fleet Week at the California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego. (It was a major effort. A total of 114 warships and 400 military planes arrived!)
Then, at the end of WWII, Chief of Naval Operations Chester Nimitz created a flight demonstration team, again to keep the public interested in Naval aviation. In 1946 -- the same year the Marines' Memorial Association bought the building at 609 Sutter -- the first Blue Angels started practicing their routines.
Where did they practice? Over the Florida Everglades, so the story goes, with none but the local alligators to watch. Their first exhibition was in June, 1946. And since that time, the Navy estimates the Angels have performed for more than 463 million people -- a number which in all probability doesn't include us since, like much of San Francisco, we can also watch from our deck.
The City of San Francisco officially expanded Fleet Week in 1981 and this year's event (October 7-12) features the grand Parade of Ships on Saturday and Italian Heritage/Fleet Week Parade on Sunday, disaster preparedness events and band concerts everywhere including at the 49ers game Sunday night.
Air shows are slated for Saturday and Sunday afternoons. You'll hear them coming....
The angels appear to be going our way this year. We hope you'll be with us, too.