Damage at Pensacola causes Blue Angels to cancel Oceana show
By JACK DORSEY, The Virginian-Pilot
© September 17, 2004 | Last updated 6:00 PM Sep. 17
Damage at the Navy's air station in Pensacola, Fla., where 90 percent of the
buildings sustained "significant" damage from Hurricane Ivan, has forced the
Blue Angels flight demonstration team to cancel its appearance at Oceana
Naval Air Station next week.
Oceana will continue with its annual air show, which features several other
aerial flight demonstrations. It is scheduled to begin on Friday and
continue through next Saturday and Sunday, said base spokesman Troy Snead.
About 55 members of the famed F/A-18 Hornet squadron, who have been on the
road for the past two weeks, are on Nantucket Island where they had planned
to perform today. That performance also was canceled.
"We've got folks up here learning for the first time on TV about their homes
and boats, seeing the damage from reports being broadcast from their
neighborhoods," Lt. Mike Blankenship, the Blue Angels' spokesman, said
Friday. "Our priority is to get back to Pensacola and get our personal lives
back up to speed. Our priority right now is not doing air shows."
Every member of the Blue Angels team reported damages to their homes and
apparently their base hangar building has collapsed, Blankenship said. While
the airfield is considered "capable," the base radar is out.
Pensacola Naval Air Station, home to about 11,000 military personnel and
4,400 civilian workers, reported damage to every building, the Navy said. It
has no electrical power, water or sewage service. There are sporadic gas
leaks throughout the base. No injuries were reported.
The Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum, where the Navy houses its most
valuable aviation artifacts, held up, officials said.
At nearby Whiting Field, in Milton, Fla.. where the Navy primarily trains
all of its helicopter pilots, every hangar is missing its roof, the Navy
Damage to aircraft that remained at the field is suspected, officials said.
Wonder what kind of damage there was to the museum? Hundreds of pieces of Naval aviation history and aircraft in that building and many aircraft were in hangers just down the road awaiting restoration. They had Navy One sitting outside and a F-14A out front as a gate guardian when I was there in July. Truly a sad situation.
I wonder if Trader Johns made it through the storm ok....................there is more Naval Aviation history in that building than you can shake a stick at
Trader Jons is long gone history....
When I went through Aircrew school in 86 I spent more than one night at Trader Jons letting the AOCS's to buy this "salty" E4 drinks while I told them of the "real" Navy.
The XO of VRC-30 remembered me from Trader Jons when I checked into the command.
PUBLISHED WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2003
Last call at historic downtown watering hole
Party ends at Trader Jon'sTrader Jon's will close its doors for the last time this weekend, and its treasure trove of memorabilia will go to the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
Matt Heckemeyer's dream of keeping downtown Pensacola's landmark bar alive will end sometime early Sunday morning after the last patron leaves a party celebrating the Blue Angels' season-ending homecoming show on Saturday.
"It's tearing me apart," Heckemeyer said Tuesday of the impending sale after three years of ownership. "It's ripping me to pieces."
Heckemeyer, 36, talked quietly and haltingly about his inability to return the South Palafox Street bar that caters to the Navy and is a repository for more than 10,000 pieces of military memorabilia to its former heyday.
The late Martin Weissman, known to adoring customers around the world as "Trader Jon," opened the bar in 1953 and presided over it until he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1997.
At its height, the bar attracted Navy people from admirals and Blue Angels to the rawest trainees as well as military personnel from every other service. It lured celebrities and royalty, like John Wayne, Bob Hope, Elizabeth Taylor and Prince Andrew. It also brought in droves of everyday tourists and local residents.
Heckemeyer said the decision to close was a financial one, brought about by a lack of customers and a Navy that now frowns on excessive drinking.
"It has a lot to do with the changing environment," he said. "The old days that were the glory days of Trader Jon's are no more."
He did not want to say who plans to buy the bar. But he said the new owner is expected to refurbish the building rather than maintain it as a food and drink establishment.
For Heckemeyer, the only silver lining is that a local law firm plans to acquire the entire collection of irreplaceable Trader Jon memorabilia and donate it to the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. He declined to identify the firm, saying that deal will not be finalized until late November.
"All that memorabilia needs to be preserved together," he said. "It needs to be as Trader Jon's, as it was forever, not picked apart."
Heckemeyer is well aware of the special place that many local people hold in their hearts for Trader Jon's. And it's for that reason that he doesn't want to sell memorabilia piecemeal.
"Pensacola people have a lot of their memories in that bar and in that memorabilia," he said. "Everything that was there when I bought it is there now."
Jackii Weissman, the late owner's widow, said Tuesday that she had not heard of the sale.
"I don't need that news," she said.
Retired Vice Adm. Jack Fetterman, president and chief executive officer of Pensacola's Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, is mourning the death of the bar.
"With my affection for Trader and having spent years down there since flight training, it's the end of an era," he said.
Fetterman said Heckemeyer gave bar ownership a "fair go" but, like Heckemeyer, he said the age for an establishment like Trader Jon's is fading.
"That whole business of the commanding officer leading his whole squadron to Trader Jon's, and nobody left until the commanding officer left, those were the good old days," he said. "Now that same commanding officer will have somebody up on a DWI charge and drum them out of the Navy."
Fetterman said the foundation is thrilled to become custodian of Trader Jon's memorabilia, including photographs, crash helmets, flight suits, model airplanes and assorted aircraft parts.
The Blue Angels memorabilia will be used in a display about the Navy's precision flying team at the National Flight Academy, which will be geared to young people and will be housed in an addition to the museum.
The Blues' photographs and artifacts can't be duplicated, Fetterman said.
"They don't exist anyplace else," he said. "Those are treasures. That's my first order of business - the pictures and the airplanes - as we portray the history of the Blue Angels from inception until present day."
Fetterman said the rest of the memorabilia will be inventoried and preserved, but he doesn't know what will become of it.
"That will be emotional," he said. But: "I can guarantee you when we do something with it, it'll be done properly. We're not going to put it on eBay or do any of that stupid stuff."
Heckemeyer went through flight training in Pensacola between 1991 and 1994, then returned as a flight instructor in late 1998. He ended up leaving the Navy he loves to put his heart, his soul and his dollars into the bar.
He and his wife, Kerry, from whom he's now divorced, bought the bar and its contents from Weissman's estate for $464,000 in 2000. They then spent more than $150,000 bringing the dilapidated building, which was below code in virtually every way, up to standard.
Fetterman noted that Heckemeyer was anything but an absentee owner.
"This guy got a hammer and nails, and he physically got involved with every aspect, tearing windows out and putting them back in, so it wasn't just a management thing," he said. "He put 100 percent of his life into it."
But a second life for the bar, even spiffed up, was not to be.
"The once-shiny penny couldn't be shined anymore," Heckemeyer said. "The times have changed."
Heckemeyer won't say how much he's selling the building and its contents for. He also is hoping to sell his liquor license.
"If I break even, I'll consider it a success," he said.
He plans to return to his family's home in Sikeston, Mo., and decide what to do next. He ruefully noted that his father warned him against taking on the bar for a living.
"I need to rest," he said. "I've been at it three years and under stress."