The follow activities report was presented in public session at the Board of Director's meeting on September 21, 2015.
We began hosting the tours in May and continued to have them held one day per month to encourage folks to safely access the campus. Each tour was taken around the entire campus and given an over history of tome and details about each of the structures. Participants ranged from young children to the elderly. I purposefully kept the groups smaller so that we could allow participants to get off of the bus and see the buildings up closer while still being able to oversee where everyone was. There were a lot of locals that came to the tours, but we also have people come from as far as DC and Philadelphia. A lot of photographers jumped at the opportunity to capture the buildings and even share those photos with the BDC. In July, a gentlemen attended the tour that worked as an officer for NAPS and had has office set in Memorial Hall. His office was down in the bottom level of the building, so I did not feel comfortable taking him down there due to the fire, but we were able to capture the same photograph of him on the steps of Memorial Hall just as he did on his last day at NAPS. From May to August, we had over 200 participants join the tours.
Tome Alumni Luncheon
Following the establishment of the Tome summer tours, a representative from the Tome School Alumni Organization reached out to me about hosting a tour of some kind for the folks from Tome School. Initially, I planned an entire weekend event for them, but the Tome folks thought that might be too much for a first event and that we should keep it simpler. Instead, we decided to have a tour followed by a lunch in the garden. Our initial projection was 50-75 participants, and we ended up with over 125! The day started in the late morning with a check-in and then busing everyone back to the campus. The Italian Garden was set-up to enjoy a catered lunch provided by the Old Smokehouse in Port Deposit. We had a large tent in the top-center of the garden where everyone came through to receive their food and refreshments, and then tables were set up throughout the shaded area of the garden for lunch. We had to adjust our day’s activities due to the larger number of folks, and allow for 2 groups to be in the garden while the 3rd would take the tour. We took a bus tour around the campus seeing of the buildings and sharing the history of Tome School. Once in the garden, folks were allowed to walk about and see the beauty of the campus, all while being supervised by our volunteers to ensure no one was wandering or going to buildings. We had a lot of current Tome School students and teachers come with their families, we also had descendants of Tome alumni and former military men. One gentlemen was 94 years old, he had come from Annapolis to participate with his granddaughter. And he remembered his way around the base as if he had just left. Luckily we were able to cover the entire cost of the event from ticket sales alone, while also keeping the cost at a minimal $10 per person. We actually came in under budget, which is always a great thing! That is due in large part to the donations we received. The VFW allowed for us to use their tables, chairs and tent for no charge, the Cecil Truck drivers provided us a driver and bus for the day, and I was able to rope in my family to help run the event. It was a great success and we received excellent feedback in the survey we sent. One a 5 point scale, the average score for the overall event was a 4.63 and the score for recommending the event to friends and family was a 4.81! A lot of folks asked if we could do this yearly. If the Board supports holding the event again next year, I suggest we hold it in the fall for cooler weather and an even more breathtaking scenery.
Sunday September 13 the Bainbridge Museum held their annual Bainbridge Sunday event. This year the museum provided buses for the tours which made a wonderful difference because it allowed for me to talk to the participants directly rather than driving and talking! We took 5 rounds of tours, the first two tours having 2 full buses, the final 3 having just one bus, totaling 201 participants for the event! The day ran very smoothly, thanks to the excellent support from the Museum. There was a gentlemen in his 90’s that trained over 1000 men while at Bainbridge. And he still remembered where each regiment was during the operating days. As usual, folks returning back were shocked to see that the once boisterous NTCB was open land. But everyone was very thankful for the opportunity to come back.
Early in the summer, a former WAVE contacted me that they were holding their reunion in Lancaster PA September 13-15 and asked if they would be able to take a tour of the property. After Board approval, I let them know that it would be great to have them. On Tuesday September 15, 2 busses full of former WAVES came to Port Deposit for the day. While one bus was taking the tour, the other was downtown seeing all the treasures at the Museum. Almost none of them had been back to the property since they left and while they knew it was gone they were so shocked to see it empty. Luckily, their barracks, Hunter Hall, is still standing and they were extremely excited to see it still there, hidden slightly behind trees. We took them by the old “grinder”, which was their drill field. They said they call it that because they marched so much they ground their feet into the cement.The women shared with me stories of boot camp, what daily life was like, the only time they got to go on liberty (Lancaster, which is why they held their reunion there), what they transitioned into after boot camp and why they enlisted to begin with. While driving through their “neck of the woods”, and by the grinder, they started to sing their old navy songs that they sang while marching. They also remembered their identification numbers and did a sound off on the bus. The women were wonderful and so thankful to be allowed back. IT was an amazing experience for me to get to spend time so closely with these women and hear their stories. Often while running tours I had to handle everything and don’t get to converse with the folks and hear their stories as much, so this was a wonderful surprise. Plus, it was the first time I have ever had ANY WAVES. And their stories are much different to hear then the former Navy men. In total, there were a little under 100 women that came. After both tours were finished, I sent all the women to Lee’s Landing for a wonderful lunch and shared some spots in town for them to see while they enjoyed their last 2 hours in Port.