Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Winning Travel Tips

Air Travel

  • In the airport
    • Hop on a courtesy tram as it goes by -- if going your direction.
  • On board
    • Ask for airline cards and wings -- and they'll laugh at you.
      • Delta gave out the last of theirs in the 1990's.
    • If travelling for pleasure, take your time finding just the right overhead compartment.
    • Unless your flight ticket specifies MEAL, bring food.
    • Wear a parachute -- ask to have it checked as baggage when they take it from you.
    • Be among the last to leave -- look for souvenirs.
    • Never steal the life preserver from under your OWN seat.


  • If you've chosen to stay at a decent hotel, they have sewing kits at the front desk. Ask for one.
  • Hotel towels -- have your personal towels seen better days?
    • Take inventory of what towels are in your room.
    • Note how many are missing, and ask for them.
    • Leave initial inventory behind when departing.
  • Still need LED lighting at home? 
    • Bring dead standard A19 incandescent bulbs. After last day's cleaning service, exchange them with your room's bulbs. While checking out, remark that lighting was substandard in your room.
  • If you really like the room's ice cube holder, immediately report it missing, as it's very important to have one in your room. Leave that one in your room.
  • Double-A and triple-A batteries cost at least a dollar apiece these days, If you're willing to wait a couple hours after arrival, is it no wonder there aren't any in your remote control? Pressing 0 on the hotel phone still usually reaches the front desk.
  • Complimentary hotel dining room breakfasts end on time. If you ate yours at 7 am and breakfast lasts until 9 am, be sure to return for that last cup of orange juice, hot chocolate or coffee. Bring breakfast to your room, if in need of dishes or silverware.
  • Bibles are rarely found in hotel rooms anymore. The Holy Bible is the most commonly stolen book.
  • Lobby and hallway cameras are everywhere -- refrain from moving DO NOT DISTURB signs.
  • It's ok to eat from trays left outside rooms, why care about cameras at this point?
  • If kitchenette glassware is really better than yours, be sure there is evidence of broken glass for any that was in your room.
  • "Lather, rinse and repeat" on the shampoo bottle necessitates quick usage of room toiletries. Ensure that they are replaced daily.
  • Visit an unattended service cart to address other room deficiencies such as pens/notepads, soap, toilet paper, or chocolates. Leave the wheels. Don't expect to find incendiary matches.  
  • Tip service staff appropriately. If you've managed to keep them out of your room except to address important deficiencies you've reported, make it worth both your while.

At Sea

  • Meet the Captain, have a photo taken with him or her. Remember Capt. Francesco Schettino.
  • If you don't imbibe alcohol, purchase your duty-free limit and re-sell it to friends and neighbors.
    • If you drink, save your money. You'll need it for your own cocktails.
  • Ship casinos are closed while in port.

  • Televisions are bolted down for a reason.
  • Delivery and caller ID services are now ubiquitous -- don't make prank delivery calls, even while away from home.
  • Resorts are huge. Since you keep track of must-have toys and model numbers from Christmas, visit their Lost and Found department and lament your specific loss.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

All Our Yesterdays

An initiative began earlier this year by the Class of 1981 will bring all Godby High School's yearbooks' content to public view for free.

On January 18, 2019, Phyllis Goodman Williamson forwarded me an email sent by Leon High School's principal to their students'  parents, telling them that Leon had partnered with FSU Libraries to scan in all their yearbooks and other historical documents, which were then newly available for public viewing. Phyllis suggested that perhaps they could also do Godby's.

I made several phone calls, and spoke with personnel at Leon High School and then FSU Libraries Digital Archivist Krystal Thomas. I introduced myself and connection with Godby, and told her that although we don't have Faye Dunaway, we are a young school with only fifty graduating classes, and asked whether FSU Libraries would be interested in undertaking a scanning project of all our school's yearbooks.

A week later, Krystal confirmed that FSU Libraries would be happy to scan in all our yearbooks. In late February, we met with Godby Principal Desmond Cole, and received his approval.

Over the next two months, I determined which yearbooks were not already at Godby, and made arrangements with several alumni to temporarily provide us with those issues.

I have just returned from meeting with Mr. Cole, Ms. Thomas, and Ms. Jennifer Fain, and the scanning project has officially begun. Every page of every yearbook will be made available for free public viewing, well before our upcoming all-inclusive first 50-year reunion in early June 2020.

We will make an announcement in Summer when all images are available.

Godby Yearbook Project Team
L to R: Ms. Jennifer Fain, Principal Desmond Cole, Mitch Gans, Ms. Krystal Thomas

Many thanks to all who collaborated on this effort

Phyllis Goodman Williamson (1981) for bringing Leon's project to our attention

FSU Libraries Digital Archivists Krystal Thomas and Jennifer Fain

Godby High School Principal Desmond Cole

Marsha Wilson Long (1971), Karen Albritton (1973), Carol Marchant (1976), Donna Bruce Longfellow (1986), Jim Reilly (1988), and Jacklyn Burkett (1997), for loaning us their yearbooks to be scanned

July 17, 2019: All Godby yearbooks 1969-2018 are now available for free public viewing here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Your First Class Reunion

Hopefully, it's been only eight or nine years since you suited up to receive a blank High School diploma to be mailed later -- if you behaved yourself in late May and June.

If you're already a few months away from ten years, the following still applies, but often in an abbreviated, rarely unhurried fashion.

The Reunion Planning Committee: The group of classmates entrusted to periodically meet and make general plans and decisions on behalf of the class, not to include a large subset of the class, as progress attained is inversely proportional to the size of the group. An odd number of committee members is most conducive to resolving debates.

At least one, and as many as possible of the committee members should be local and available to meet on a regular basis, and provide progress updates to the class.

These minimum, not necessarily mutually exclusive roles should be established at the first committee meeting: Chair, Treasurer, and Public Relations.

The Chair is more than a figurehead, as most public announcements require that a contact person be specified, and venue contracts necessitate a responsible signature.

A Treasurer when activated, is responsible for receiving attendees' fees and making payments to service providers, as well as providing complete periodic financial reports. The Treasurer is expected to know Treasury Balance and Guest Count at all times. Assets = Liabilities + Capital is a most useful equation.

A class that schedules only pay-as-you-go events will likely not need a formal Treasurer. This more often occurs when an expected guest count cannot be easily determined, or when there remains too little time to collect fees and/or make deposits to secure venues.

If setting up a class bank account for the reunion, consider that there may be associated account maintenance fees and restrictions, and you will likely need to acquire and provide a federal Electronic Identification (EID) Number.

Many class Treasurers use their personal bank accounts for financial transactions for the reunion.

Decide if you will accept electronic payment of fees, and if so, set up a secure website to facilitate payments. If accepting checks by mail, determine the payee's name and address.

If collecting fees for the event, consider that planning committee members should be among the first to pay, to not only promote confidence in the venture, but also accumulate capital for deposits to secure venue and entertainment.

Will you allow family members, friends and acquaintances? If collecting money, the more the merrier, and more likely you are to surpass any minimum attendance requirements.

When all this information is known, prepare a reunion announcement flyer in PDF format to be published to the class community.

The person with the Public Relations role is responsible for providing announcement content to classmates, community events calendars, school and alumni websites, and social media.

Sub-committees may eventually be formed to recommend potential reunion dates, venues, entertainment, menu selection, and for event planning and decorations.

Meet as soon as possible for the first time with an agenda to establish roles, prospective dates and venues, assign tasks, and agree to the next meeting date before adjourning. Exchange contact information.

Popular reunion event ideas include a casual Meet and Greet event on either the Thursday or Friday before the main reunion, and a Saturday family event. 

Consider alternative dietary requirements of the guests. Vegetarian and gluten-free menu options are frequently requested.

First class reunions are most often held in the summer months, to accommodate public school schedules of families with small children.

A Few General Ideas

Actively look for "missing" classmates. Scan in the Senior photo pages from the Yearbook and the Commencement list as included in the program at Graduation, and use them to locate classmates.

Recognize and honor the deceased. At my class reunions, a representative recites the names of the departed and lights a memorial candle in their honor.

Wild, public, open-ended questions regarding reunion preferences will encourage discussion to meander and continue far past any time by which you intended to make a decision. People will respond to that thread long afterwards, having just read the question for the first time.

Consider having donated door prizes that will travel well awarded in hourly drawings to keep classmates in attendance throughout the evening. I personally keep a roll of double-raffle tickets for these occasions.

Name tags can be as simple as purchasing "Hello My Name is...." tags and providing self-serve markers, or the technically inclined have printed yearbook photos with names on pinnable name tags.

Promote early payment of fees by having the fees increase over time. Advertise an early-bird discount, or a small discount for couples or families, and be prepared to add a premium cost for those who decide to attend at the last minute. Some come to a public Meet and Greet event and decide that they'd like to attend the main event after all. You've likely had to have already supplied an accurate guest count to the caterers by that time, so in general, you want to discourage too many late payments. Fortunately, most professional caterers will also build a cushion into their provisioning planning.

Some early respondents suggest a Reunion Cruise. Great idea, let a travel agent handle all the planning and collection of money, and everyone sails away together! Lots leap at the prospect until they discover they have to fork over a $50 deposit several months in advance, and then will have to come up with more than $500 per person to attend.

There have been five highly successful Godby alumni reunion cruises, but they have always been open to all class years, and I have sailed on four of them. The Class of 1974 has invited all Godby graduates, family and friends to join them on a three-day cruise to the Bahamas in April 2019.

Enlist volunteers to serve as Designated Drivers. I attended a class reunion Meet and Greet event in 2012, and one of the graduates didn't make it home alive. The next evening's main event began very somberly.

Some area hotels will provide a reunion discount, but be wary of establishments that require a deposit or a hold on someone's credit card to do so en masse.

Proper planning will prevent budget deficits, but there may be a surplus beyond what is relegated to event costs. Some classes will provide each attendee with a complimentary drink ticket to reduce the surplus, while surpluses may not be known until some guests remit cash fees the evening of the main event. Some choose a responsible person to hold onto the money for another five to ten years. Others have donated surfeit funds to the Association of Godby Graduates Legacy Scholarship Fund towards future education of Godby graduates.

What the Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) Can Do for You

The Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) is an academic booster club founded by Godby graduates in 2003 to foster, recognize and reward academic excellence and lifetime achievement. Each year, we host an annual alumni Hall of Fame Induction Banquet at the Godby Media Center, Friday evening before the annual Springtime Tallahassee Parade, and all proceeds benefit the AGG Legacy Scholarship Fund. We have given away more than $80,000 so that Godby alumni can further their educations. We facilitate class reunions.

The AGG has a database of contact email addresses for each class as provided to us by alumni at one time or another, and can give them to reunion planners. As graduates who supplied those email addresses would have had to update us whenever their contact info changes, you can expect to experience some undeliverable emails.

We will publish your reunion event at our alumni website and Facebook group which has more than 2,000 members.

I am happy to attend reunion planning meetings as possible, serve as volunteer photographer for the reunion events, make digital photos publicly available for free, and to pay the same fees as the other attendees. All I ask is for a few minutes at the main reunion event to talk about our alumni organization.

Please refer any other related questions you may have to me.


Mitch Gans graduated from Godby High School, is one of the founding members of the Association of Godby Graduates (AGG), and has served to plan and attend forty Godby High School class reunions.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why I Wear My Hat

Why I Wear My Hat

For my Great-Aunt Gus*, 97, who emailed and asked me last Thursday

By early 1981, I had participated in two Springtime Tallahassee parades with the Godby High School Drama Club since my family's arrival to town on September 1, 1978. The Godby Drama Club was welcome to walk behind the Godby Cougar Marching Band in the Springtime Tallahassee parades.

In 1981, the date of the annual Thespian Festival in Jacksonville, Florida coincided with the weekend of Springtime Tallahassee. I was one of a few who could not attend due to other commitments, and received approval from the Drama Club to march with the parade in their stead.

In the last few days before the parade, My First Halloween buddies and I, along with the Godby Wargames Club, my late brother Mike, and sundry friends, built a boat from wood, cardboard and an old baby carriage, and called it a float. I visited the Magic and Fun Costume Shop in Tallahassee and purchased a Captain's hat for $3.09. At parade time, we perched a cockatiel in a cage at its prow, and we alternatingly pushed and pulled it through the 1.1 mile parade route to the delight and astonishment of many thousands.

If we gave our boat float a name, it eludes me after all these years. No photos to my knowledge still exist, but there were at least seven of us involved in that crazy outing, and my wildest parade experiences were still several years away.

We didn't save the boat, and I didn't remember saving the hat until shortly before preparing for a move across town in Spring of 1990, when I noticed it in a box of costume paraphernalia that had not been unpacked since several moves earlier. I made major changes in my life beginning with that move, and completely forgot about the hat again for two more years.

In my early years in Tallahassee, I often enjoyed playing volleyball at Tom Brown Park on the weekends during high school, and then much less frequently after graduation. In Spring of 1992, I heard about Tallahassee Community College's annual Student/Faculty Day festivities including volleyball, and attended.

I ate a burger for lunch and played volleyball all afternoon. I hadn't played so much volleyball at one time in several years, and loved every moment of it.

Until later, when I stepped in the shower and realized I'd sunburned my head.

I wouldn't begin regularly playing softball for another year. I had just moved a few weeks before, and knew where my captain's hat was. It was the only hat I owned. I immediately needed a prophylactic for my head, and the hat seemed to agree with and please me.

Since then, and now more than twenty years later, unless I am playing softball, sleeping or swimming, I am generally wearing the hat. I've been going to the Magic and Fun Costume Shop for my specialty costume needs since they opened in 1979, and continued to purchase my captain's hats there until the owner retired and closed the shop in 2018. I consume two or three a year depending upon my activities, and keep a pristine dress hat for special occasions, and use the more worn ones for painting, yard work and the like before their eventual disposition,

On rare occasions, I will encounter someone else wearing the same style hat, and have had much success in asking these individuals to pose for a photo with me. I have a "Captains" Facebook photo album with these and photos with other Captains I've met. I especially enjoy wearing my hat on cruises, and with Halloween costumes that are complemented by it.

 Halloween 2011
Halloween 2011

* Great-Aunt Gus is my grandfather's sister Augusta, who married my grandmother's brother Elmer.
* Great-Aunt Gus passed away at 100, on January 27, 2020.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Godby High School Reunion Designated Driver Program

Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) President Roger Day and I attend as many class reunions as we can each year to help with the reunions in any way we can, and to talk about our alumni organization.

It was at the Friday night social at the downtown Tallahassee Center for the Class of 1982 last year that I met one of the reunion attendees for the first time, and no one would see him alive again after the party. Saturday's main reunion event began quite somberly the next day, and shortly afterward, I began hearing from many people who wished that they had been there to provide a safe ride home.

This year, we began the Reunion Designated Driver Program. Alumni volunteers from various class years, not at all necessarily from each particular reunion year, stand ready throughout the evening in case they are needed to guarantee a safe ride home to those who need it.

We are not a taxi service, and we are not there for people who intend to party heartily and then get a free ride home. We serve to ensure that a preventable tragedy associated with Godby High School and its precious alumni does not happen to someone who should have limited their consumption earlier in the evening. We also hope to serve as a deterrent to those who do not wish to unduly impose on their fellow alumni because of their own irresponsible drinking.

It is with that last hour or so of the reunion event evening we are most concerned, because responsible partiers typically make arrangements with sober drivers or public transportation earlier. We recognize that the time could have slipped by or taxi service might be less accessible later in the evening, so we stand by to prevent the worst of occurrences.

Whenever we can, we encourage planners to make their class reunions as inclusive as possible, because the Designated Driver Program does not discriminate against dissimilar graduation years, and neither do we.

Thanks to all who have volunteered to be reunion designated drivers. Your service is greatly appreciated by the Association of Godby Graduates and Family.

Roger Day, Class of 1980
Mitch Gans, Class of 1981
Mitch Gans, Roger Day at the Class of 1983 Reunion, July 20, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer: Save the Children

Summer has been my favorite season since I was 13.

When I was 12 and living in New Jersey, my parents sent me away from home for the first time, to be the youngest kid in a summer camp for twelve- to eighteen-year-olds -- for a month. That miserable summer is the one against which all my summers have been compared, and every other summer topped the one I spent away from family and friends in Minnesota.

That summer's experience was not without some benefits realized many years later. I played softball one afternoon at camp, and a couple of years ago, I reconnected with Brian, the only friend I made that summer.

With the exception of one summer in high school when I took Physical Education and had the time of my life swimming and playing dodge ball and softball with Keith, Kelly, Eric, Rob, Carla and others, summer meant freedom from school and many responsibilities, and afforded more hours of daylight to enjoy each and every day. Summer gets hot where I live, and I still play softball in it. Season 21 begins tomorrow.

Every summer, we read about three or four kids whose lives are ended in a hot car while negligent parents and caregivers conduct their business elsewhere. I have noticed that never more than a few such stories make the major news publications every year, and I was curious as to how often this actually happens.

There have been ten child heatstroke deaths in vehicles in America in the past month, with an average of 38 such deaths per year for the past 15 years.*

Why aren't these events reported more frequently?

Would many continue to subscribe to news media that feature a child dying in a hot car every three days?

Even if the Fourth Estate isn't willing to report it, perhaps enough of us can prevent it from happening.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Silver Anniversary 2013

All that I am and hold dear are largely the result of this photo twenty-five years ago today:

Dave the Cat, Sen. Bob Graham and Mitch lead the 1988 Springtime Tallahassee Parade
Photo by Jamie Butcher
Story here

I found a courage inside myself I had not known before that inspired me to do many things.

Today, we are March on the 2013 Leon County Humane Society calendar.

I am very grateful to those who made it all possible and worthwhile:

Dave the Cat (1987-2004);
Dr. Hall and the Westwood Animal Hospital, Dave's lifelong healthcare provider;
My wife Donna, and my friend Charlie, who have always supported my endeavors;
My children, Heather and son-in-law Dave, and grandchildren, Alicia, Dylan, Gabriel and Caleb;
Jamie Butcher, The Photographer;
Karl Filsinger, for being there that day, and attending many of our parades;
Allison Davis and Kelly Rigsby, who brought me Tigger and Elliott;
Peter Holtmann, who brought me Dave the Cat;
Our biographers:
    Julianne Hare, "Tallahassee: A Capital City History", 2002;
    Jan Annino, "Florida's Famous Animals", 2008;
The Museum of Florida History, "Pets in America", 2008;
Springtime Tallahassee,
and the hundreds of thousands of people we met along the way.

Thank you.