The weather could not have been better for this year’s Camp Gordon Johnston Days celebration.
As always, every World War II vet in attendance was designated as a Grand Marshall of the Saturday morning parade.
Honored this year was Carrabelle’s own Curley Messer, a Camp Gordon Johnston alumnus; Bob Franklin, who served in the 29th Infantry Division and was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge; Walter Mallett, a Carrabelle son who served on the Ticonderoga where he was wounded by a kamikaze aircraft; AND Carrabelle resident Don MacLean who served in the Army and drove landing craft in the Pacific Theatre. He has volunteered at the Camp Gordon Johnston Museum and built a number of the models on display there.
Also honored were Pete Hill, who served in Army’s 4th Brigade in the Pacific; Bob Dietz of Lanark Village who after getting his father’s permission to join the Army at 17, was stationed in Hawaii when war ended; Mary Britz also of Lanark Village, who was a Navy nurse in San Diego who, about to be married, had her discharge cancelled when war was declared and served for the duration; and Col. Ernest Berger, a retired Air Force pilot who flew P-51 Mustangs.
Tony Minichiello, a spokesman for the Camp Gordon Johnston Museum, said the head count of veterans was up this year, although a few familiar faces were missing.
Buddy Scala, who attended for the last three years, is laid up with a broken ankle and tail gunner Ken Tucker, an Eastpoint native who chronicled his wartime experiences in a memoir “The Last Roll Call” also begged off due to health issues.
Minichiello said a popular favorite, the 98th Army "Silver Wings" Band, out of Fort Rucker, Ala., was unable to take part this year due to budget cutbacks.
A well-attended gala dinner dance on Saturday night at C-Quarters Marina offered a festive close to the weekend. Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper and her family greeted attendees at the door, and this year’s queens from the 2014 Miss Seahawk Pageant, together with students from Stephanie Howze Jones’ class, served up a delicious meal of fried or baked chicken, or ham.
Minichiello presented Carrabelle restaurateur Ken La Paz with a plaque honoring him for service to the museum. Minichiello said he has supported the museum with money and food.
“He’s one great guy and very active in the community,” Minichiello said.
He said Jimmy Crowder would also receive a plaque for donating the use of C-Quarters for the dance.
Dressed in cowboy attire, Greg Kristofferson, from American Legion Post 82 in Lanark Village, spun tunes all night long, with several people stepping forward to sing tunes in tribute to the World War II era.
Lanark Village magazine publisher Chuck Spicer, and musician Jack Zurawka, sung many of the songs, as they took turns with songstresses Brenda La Paz, Evelyn McAnally, Shirley Cox and Ann Merrell, each of the ladies, dressed as Rosie the Riveter, having helped with serving and clearing tables all evening.
The show featured such numbers as “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “If I Didn’t Care,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Accentuate the Positive,” “You are My Sunshine,” and “That Old Black Magic.”
Highlighting the evening’s tribute was the leading of the audience in the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner by Skipper’s grandson, Devin Daniels.