Blog Alert!! Ding — ding — ding !!! I published this blog while in the midst of the second paragraph — IN ERROR!! Read at your own risk. I promise to re-publish the complete version soon!! WARNING: I do a whole lot of ramblin’ in this one!! … “the ole guy”
It was a time in 1996 when it all began , we were celebatin’ our 50th — no, it was not our golden weddin’ anniversiary (we, the wife and me, had only been married 45 years at that moment in time). My class had graduated from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD, in early June of ’46. We were stayin’ at the Annapolis Hilton — celebratin’ our 50th Reunion — of our entry into the fleet. I had casually and at different times brought up the idea to some of my close friends and classmates; namely Paul Miller, Wayne Warlick and Chan von Schrader — about comin’ down to visit us in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico — that’s where Harriette and I had settled in 1990. That was the genesis of a “mini-class-reunion” that would not take place until a year or so after we all met again at our 55th annual class reunion — which was held in San Diego/Coronado, CA, in the summer of 2001.
That non-Annapolis location worked out extremely well for the wife and me. We had been spendin’ a month each summer at the Coronado Shores Apartments — and had shared many carefree moments with the Coronado natives — Jim and Sybil Stockdale. So, at the reunion, they up ‘n offered us their spare basement livin’ quarters, instead of the our stayin’ at the reunion Hotel Coronado. In those fun days of togetherness with ole classmates — we got commitments from 5 couples to come to Mexico for some sightseein’ fun, some mariachi song-and-dance, ‘n some great and fabulous eatin’!! That’s what the wife and I were famous for. We had moved into some very nice quarters in 2000, and would be able to find housin’ nearby for everyone — all would be within walkin’ distance of the town’s center. (Y, Emiliano y Harrieta son muy famosos en la ciudad!! Solo preguntale a alguien!!)
There were 6 of us fellas with our spouses: namely, Jim and Sybil Stockdale, Paul and Doris Miller, Wayne and Rosemary Warlick, Chan and Nancy von Schrader, Tom and Georgea Hudner plus the wife and me. We were gonna be twelve fun-lovin’ Americanos, and we were gonna paint the town ???? That’s when age and health issues began to take it’s toll on our numbers — Sybil’s doctor told her that she and Jim should not come to San Miguel — that the cobblestone streets would be too difficult for her and Jim to traverse — and, I do believe that their general health issues were beginnin’ to appear in both of their cases. That meant we were whittled down to 8 visitin’ gringos! So, includin’ Harriette and me — there were ten of us — for our Class of 1947 mini-reunion!!
We found a two-story house nearby with a beautiful roof garden — and a full-time maid. That’s where we housed the Millers and the Warlicks. And, lo and behold, that full-time maid caused a ‘wrinkle’ in their free time and diminished town inspectin’ ‘n tourist shoppin’. They loved the idea of just enjoyin’ the fresh air and blue sky — while in repose on the roof with that Mexican senorita respondin’ to their every need. Or, they would enjoy the frequent games of bridge, inside — if the wind had come up and chilled them a bit. In the meantime, we had placed the von Schrader’s and the Hudner’s in a B&B around the corner. They were galavantin’ around the picturesque, art-filled town, and lunchin’ in the various restaurants with their “hosts”!! We all met in the early evenin’s for cocktails and dinner — at a different fav restaurant of ours. But back to the beginnin’ of the week …….
On the very first night, we had a welcomin’ party at our casita — invited were all of our gringo ‘n English-speakin’ Mexican amigos — to come ‘n share a fun-filled evenin’ of food, wine, guitar music, dance, and a bit of singin’ by one of the senoritas. But, at exactly 8pm, to everyone’s surprise –comin’ through our front door — a 9-piece, white-suited mariachi band with trumpets a-blazin’ and violins a-hummin’ — it literally was a sight to behold — and just bloggin’ about those nine smilin’ Mexicanos — gives me some remembrance chills (at this very moment).
One mid-mornin’, we all met in the jardin in front of the Paroquia (the parish church) — that’s the town’s center. That’s when we took a “guided walkin’ tour” of San Miguel. We must have visited a couple of churches besides the Paroquia — stopped in a few shops along the way — visited one of the open-air markets — and finally ended up inside the “Nuns’ Church” — Las Monjas. I had arranged the tour by requestin’ a personal friend to lead us — she was a regular volunteer for the tours, the proceeds were for a good cause. So, at the end, we were all seated in the church pews, and she was standin’ in front of us with a cord draped around her neck attachin’ a card with her name on it. When there were no more questions and the tour was at an end — with a twinkle in her eyes she flipped the name-card over and printed thereon was: BEAT NAVY!! Ya see, her husband was a member of the Class of 1940 ……. at WEST POINT!!
One day we hired a couple of vans for a guided tour of the unbelievably unique and historic city of Guanajuato — an hour away. We parked above the city — next to the gigantic statue of Pipila (I’ll let you check on why he is so enshrined!) — but at the statue’s base, one can hop on a funicular which takes you down and leaves you very near the town’s center. Guanjuato is the capitol of the state with the same name. San Miguel is in the state of Guanajuato also. The town is full of history and our guide poured it on. Between San Miguel and Guanajuato, the two cities — you are in the midst of Mexican history when, in the early 1800’s, the fight for freedom from their Spanish overlords began — Pipila was just one of the peasant heroes. The town is nestled in what I might call a humongous gully — in an oblong shape with a beautiful panoramic highway encirclin’ the entire city. And since the town is basically a gully — earlier, when the rains came, the town would be flooded — until the people built some underground reservoirs in which the water could accumulate. Today, however, with modern drainage capabilities — those reservoirs are now tunnels and offer one of the most interestin’ tourist attractions in all of Mexico. And my bloggin’ here barely begins to cover why everyone who visits San Miguel de Allende — will always spend a day tourin’ the spectacular town of Guanajuato.
Drivin’ back to San Miguel that late afternoon, the Millers and the Warlicks were in the other van — Harriette and I were with the von Schraders and the Hudners in a larger limo. Suddenly, they were no longer followin’ us — we only hoped that their car was not havin’ engine trouble or a flat tire. Later, when we met for cocktails and dinner, I asked Paul what had happened. They had stopped at a “tienda” on the outskirts of San Miguel — and did some shoppin’. They had left their limo and went directly into an “every-day, all-purpose” store and met some natives — they were amongst some real Mexicanos. [aside: I luv to tease Paul and Wayne — they did spend an inordinate amount of time in that multi-bedroom, grandiose casa, which included that attendin’ senorita. While the von Schraders and the Hudners, in that B&B, had their single bedroom — and a general service-room with its “coke-machine”!! As long as everybody enjoyed themselves — that’s all that counted in our book]
Can’t exacly remember where we dined that last night — my aged brain is not able to recover all the details anymore. You readers should understand that this blog is probably fraught with a bundle of what I hope are minor errors and embellishments. But, if it made interestin’ readin’ — that’s what counts. Mind you, when Miller and Warlick get a glance at this — they will let me know where I went astray. But, I want to get a little serious now and bring everyone up-to-date ‘n explain this blog’s title — “And then there were five ……” And even here I may be a bit wrong with dates, etc., but ….. Jim Stockdale passed in about 2005 havin’ suffered from Alzheimer’s in his final years; while his spouse Sybil passed more recently in 2014 — and we had visited her a number of times while she was sufferin’ from a relatively severe case of Parkinson’s Disease. She wanted us to continue to make our annual visit from Mexico, when we would get in her van and sit in the back — her caregiver would push her wheelchair in, and we would be off to our regular visit to the Brig — where we would have our fav cocktail — but, she would renege on those “Horny Handshakes“. She couldn’t speak on those last two visits — but she made that pen and paper “hum”. And this is mentioned in two previous blogs — one about our two BFF’s — and the other about America’s #1 Heros Warrior — the latter, however, mainly about Jim and his so-called, uncalled-for, political career.
I’m not sure of when nor the cause of Rosemary Warlick’s passin’!! As Miller and I will always remember, in the fall/winter months of 47/48, in a rented house in Winthrop Beach, MA, she was not only married to Wayne — she was our “rock”, our “protector” — the two of us adored her!! She would even do our laundry! We were a five-some with li’l Stevie — and I can’t remember a cross word the entire time — she would talk to me, in private, about Paul; and I’m sure she told Paul a few things about me!! We all do have a few shortcomin’s, ya know!! But, lookin’ back, we all got along and we remained friends — til death do us part!!
It was shortly after Harriette and I moved into our new home here at 947 Tiverton Ave when I got this call from the von Schrader’s daughter. She told me to wait a sec — and Nancy got on the line. I had known that Chan had been sufferin’ from (I believe) severe diabetes!! He had lots of trouble walkin’ — he had even passed out on the freeway, drivin’ his convertible. And as bad as it got, he was still up for a round of golf — maybe only 9 holes, but he loved that sport. But when Nancy spoke to me, I knew immediately it was over — but it wasn’t the diabetes. Chan had fallen backwards on the lower stairs and hit his head on a door knob. Nancy sounded good — but all of a sudden she stopped and said, “Meis, I have cancer and they’re given me six months or less. It wasn’t too long after — that I got a call from Jeannie, tellin’ me that Nancy had passed.
Then, it was just a month or so ago, while watchin’ CNN or MSNBC, there was a break in the news — and suddenly there was a picture of naval officer — it was a photo of Tom Hudner. And that same day, I received an email from our current class secretary — advisin’ of Tom’s passin’!! As requested, I sent a contribution to the New England Center for the Homeless, which Georgea had suggested. I’m not sure of the “what” or “how” but it doesn’t matter — we’re all in the final stage of life — the last five of us!! We are all in our early to mid-90’s — we are the survivors!! And the blessin’ we all pray for is that when it comes, it’ll be as painless as possible. Life sure has been good. We are the U.S. Naval Academy Class of ’47 — “Best on the Severn”! ‘nuf ………