GRAMPIAN HOUSTON EXCHANGE VISITS
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2006

      Every four years a group of members from the Houston/Grampian Association is hosted in Aberdeen by our sister organization and likewise we host members from the Grampian-Houston Association in our city. This year it was our turn to host our friends from Aberdeen. A delegation of 24 from Grampian Houston made their way to Houston for the week of September 25 - 30. The week was one of beautiful weather and a chance to renew old friendships and to make new ones.

      Lifelong friendships are formed with our sister city membership, as well as with our own friends who make the journey with us. Words cannot adequately describe what these exchanges mean, or the values received, so we'll best describe these events with the photos from the visit to Houston this year and the last exchange visit of our group from Houston Grampian in 2004.

     Pictured above are the members of our two groups taken at the George Bush Memorial Library in College Station, Texas during the week of the visit of our distinguished guests from Aberdeen. The week began with their arrival on Monday, September 25 at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, where they were met by members of Houston Grampian and whisked to the Hilton Hotel on Post Oak to have a few minutes of rest before beginning a very intense week of fun and events with us. As their Chairman, Jimmy Hay, noted in his remarks to us later, they were expedited through Customs quickly and treated as the first class visitors we already knew them to be.

      The members of the Houston Grampian planning committee had a delightful and hard-working time preparing for the visit, and we were very capably led by Joanne Zumbrun who seemed to be able to do magic to make some of the events happen so flawlessly and with perfect timing. We were most fortunate to have her leadership for this special event. We would also like to thank Marlene and Ian McLeod for providing several of the photos we used on this site. Without their contribution, the site could not have been so nicely populated with photos.

     The first official event was a delightful reception held for our guests at the Hilton on Monday evening which included refreshments and an opportunity to renew acquaintances with those we've known for years and to meet first time visitors and welcome them all to Houston. Below are photos taken at this gathering.


     Tuesday morning, after a night of rest from the flight to Texas, we began the week's activities with a visit to Saint Martin's Episcopal Church where we were met by Mary Metz and the Rector, The Reverend Laurence A. Gipson,D.D. All of us in the group would have quickly agreed that we could call it "St.Mary's" as our truly gifted saint, Mary Metz took such good care of us and placed us exactly where we needed to be to begin this incredible week. She looked angelic as she greeted the bus and shepherded us into the church to learn and to be so blessed. Look at this photo of her with Marlene McLeod and see if you don't agree. After greeting us, Dr. Gipson and several Docents discussed the history of the church, it's Gothic architecture and stained glass windows and then we were treated to a tour of the church and a wonderful organ concert by Organist and Director of Music, Dr. George Mims following his discussion of the church's new Schoenstein organ with over 4,600 pipes. We then enjoyed a delicious lunch in the church cafeteria, which is also open to the public. There could not have been a more appropriate beginning to this week, and we were all touched by the special way we felt as we left the church to begin the rest of the journey.

      Tuesday afternoon, we proceeded to historic Bayou Bend, the estate of Ima Hogg, which contains the Bayou Bend Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The fourteen-acre estate slopes to the north from Lazy Lane, the street from which the grounds were entered during Miss Hogg's residence, down to a broad oxbow curve of Buffalo Bayou. The two-story, twenty-four-room house and an adjacent two-story garage and service building were designed and built between 1926 and 1928 for Ima Hogg and her two unmarried brothers. The house is modeled stylistically on early-nineteenth-century English precedents, though many of its details were inspired by eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century houses of the American South. The result is an eclectic amalgam that Ima Hogg called "Latin Colonial" and considered especially appropriate to Houston. Beginning in 1920 with the purchase of an eighteenth-century American Queen Anne armchair, Miss Hogg gradually acquired an extensive collection and filled the house with seventeenth, eighteenth, and early-nineteenth-century American furniture, paintings, and artifacts. In 1956 she offered the estate and its contents to the Museum of Fine Arts, which accepted the gift in 1958. Conversion of the house into a museum began in the mid-1960s, though the principal rooms in the center of the house retain the character they had during Miss Hogg's residence. The gardens presented a special challenge. Covered in towering trees and thick undergrowth, the site was, in Miss Hogg's words, "nothing but a dense thicket." Undaunted, she created a series of gracious and beautiful gardens that were intended as outdoor rooms for living and entertaining, not just views to be admired from within the house.

      For the evening, we were the guests of Her Britannic Majesty's Deputy Consul-General, Michael Morley, and had a wonderful time socializing, visiting and enjoying excellent refreshments. The Consul General, Judith Slater did not host and was not expected to attend, due to the presence in Texas of Prince Andrew. She was "tending to duties" while providing Texas hospitality to him but, she managed to break loose long enough to drop by the reception at the Deputy Consul-General's residence and surprise us and spend awhile with us. She has been most faithful in participating in Houston Grampian events and it was a pleasant surprise to see her.

      Ah, Wednesday - our longest day and certainly one of the best of the week. We boarded the bus at the hotel very early for our trip to Bryan, Texas and to College Station, Texas, home of the fighting Texas A & M University Aggies, to visit the Messina Hof Winery and Resort, and the George Bush Presidential Library. Our first stop was at the winery in Bryan, where we were treated to a presentation on the history of the winery, followed by a wine tasting and tour of the winery. It was established in 1977 by Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo and was the result of the union of two family heritages. Winemaker Paul Bonarrigo’s family dates back seven generations to Messina, Sicily, and Merrill’s family is from Hof, Germany. The facility is one of the fastest growing wineries in Texas and is located on the family's 100 acre estate, of which 42 host the vineyard, and the estate is also home to The Villa bed & breakfast. Following our tour, we enjoyed lunch in their Vintage House Restaurant.

      After the excellent tour of the winery, the group traveled the short distance to Texas A & M University in College Station, where the George Bush Presidential Library is located on a ninety-acre site on the west campus. At the top of this documentary, you can see the photo of the group that was taken there. The Library and Museum is situated on a plaza adjoining the Presidential Conference Center and the Texas A&M Academic Center. It operates under the administration of the National Archives and Records Administration.The archives contain over 38 million pages of personal papers and official documents from the Vice Presidency and Presidency as well as personal records from associates connected with President Bush's public career. Records are housed in acid-free storage boxes in a balanced humidity and temperature atmosphere. The archival storage area houses 13,000 cubic feet of records and the Library has a National Security vault holding 3,500 cubic feet of Presidential Records. In addition to memoranda, speeches, and reports found in the textual collection, there is an extensive audiovisual and photographic archives which includes approximately one million photographs and thousands of hours of audio and video tape. The museum collection contains approximately 60,000 historical objects ranging from Head of State Gifts, gifts from the American people, and personally used items. Permanent exhibits draw on the best of the museum collection to visually convey the essence of George Bush's life and public service career and to illustrate historical events of this period in American history.

      To end a wonderful and informative day, we were invited to dinner at the home of Mike and Barbara Trotter, and the group enjoyed unwinding around their swimming pool with refreshments, and then were treated to a delicious, home cooked dinner. Mike and Barbara were also our sponsors for the trip to the Messina Hof winery and to the Bush Presidential Library. A weary, but very happy group of travelers returned to the hotel to enjoy some rest and to re-energize for the activities that would be awaiting us on Thursday.

      On Thursday morning, some of the group members enjoyed a later start while those who are members of the two boards of directors met for a joint, GHA - HGA Board Meeting. Discussions were held about challenges faced by each group and possible solutions for them. The need to bring more young members in is a shared challenge and will be important to growing and energizing our two associations. One new initiative will be investigated, and that is to attempt to begin an exchange program for law enforcement officers between the two cities, similar to our student nurse exchange program, and each organization will be contacting our respective city police departments to explore the opportunity. Below are photos taken at the meeting.


      Following the Board meeting, the morning's fun activities began. One group went to Kingwood to play golf and were hosted in this outing by Melinda and Greg Fitzgerrell. Reports are that this competition was a mini-Ryder Cup event and that it was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The remainder of the group boarded the bus and headed into the city for a tour of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, with lunch following at the Artista Restaurant in the Hobby Center. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is a state-of-the-art entertainment complex. This $102 million facility illuminates Houston's Theater District. The Hobby provides the ultimate experience for cultural connoisseurs with two opulent, acoustically distinguished theaters - Sarofim Hall and Zilkha Hall, Michael Cordua's Artista restaurant and its own above-ground 800-car parking garage. The three-story Grand Lobby - open, inviting and contemporary - is topped with a majestic roof, supported by tubular steel columns which punctuate the facade of 60-foot-high glass walls. A block-long, second-floor terrace offers a panoramic view of Houston's skyscrapers and the surrounding greenery of Houston. In carrying on Houston's role as a culture capital, art has been integral from the start, and the Hobby had two significant works commissioned. The Hobby appointed acclaimed contemporary masters, American painter Sol LeWitt and British-born sculptor Tony Cragg, to create site-specific pieces. LeWitt's color-suffused mural Wall Drawing 2002 serves as the focal point of the Grand Lobby, while Cragg's sinuous, two-part bronze In Minds mimics human profiles as it stands guard outside.

      Thursday evening was our time to visit together and to dine at the homes of several members of Houston Grampian, in a comfortable and casual atmosphere. Conversations were both nostalgic and energetic and everyone enjoyed this kind of special time together. Dinner gatherings were hosted in the homes of Jane and John Fowler, Mary Metz, Barbara and Gilbert Fitzgerrell and Cheryl and Walter May.

      Friday morning, we boarded the bus and went to downtown Houston to the headquarters of Continental Airlines for a VIP tour of their System Operations Coordination Center. At this center, Continental directs and controls all of their flight and ground operations around the world. Their Operations Director and Operations Manager oversee activities, and their Customer Service Coordinators, Aircraft Routers, Dispatchers, Crew Coordination Shift Managers and Crew Schedulers, work to insure timely and safe flights to every destination Continental flies, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Technical Operations and Maintenance Control functions are also managed from this location. Continental was a pioneer in computerized flight planning and flight dispatch systems. Enhanced weather displays are available at each workstation, as well as the deployment of all aircraft in the air around the world. Our thanks to Sheila and Bob Gilbert, both former Continental employees for making this very special tour a reality.

      From the Continental facility, it was a short bus ride to the other side of downtown Houston to Minute Maid Park and to our luncheon, hosted by the office of Houston Mayor, Bill White, at The Inn at the Ball Park, a hotel just across the street from the park. Minute Maid Park is on the site of the former Union Rail Station, a departure and arrival location for Houstonians for many years. A portion of the station is still present and you enter the ballpark through the front doors of Union Station. The Inn is located on a most historical site and was from 1860-1926 the House and Garden for Erastus S. Perkins. In 1880, Former President Ulysses S. Grant came to Houston aboard the first train to arrive at the New Union Station. In 1891, the organization 'Daughters of the Republic of Texas' orginally 'Daughters of the Lone Star Republic' was founded at the home of Mrs. Andrew Briscoe, whos' home occupied the site at the hotel's southeast corner. In 1894, Geronimo, Chief of the Apache Nation, passed through this station on a Federal train as a prisoner. Our luncheon was delicious and the Houston Mayor's office was ably represented by Councilman M.J. Khan and Councilman Jarvis Johnson, and the International Protocol Alliance, which coordinates the Sister Cities Program was represented by Protocol Manager and Sister Cities Coordinator, Alma Maldonado, and by Ellen Goldberg, President of Houston Sister Cities. Each of us received a beautiful City of Houston logo pin, and gifts were exchanged between Jimmy Hay and the Council Members of the City. Prior to the luncheon, refreshments were served in the foyer and our members toured the facility which included sports and historical memoribilia.

      Friday evening was a unique and very Texan event, assembled for the group by Cheryl May, combining their talents as members of the Houston Livestock & Rodeo Speakers Bureau with their love of things Scottish. Our bus departed for Friendswood, Texas and during the ride We were entertained by Scott Bumgardner, well known for his cowboy poetry and a winner of national competition as a teller of tall tales. We arrived at the beautiful home of Bruce and Andrea Bryant, set on a bayou with a swimming pool and cabana converted into a wine cellar. Perfect for large parties, the decor of the large home has been described as "late 1930's movie theater." It is early 20th century minimalist modern, and is exemplified by stair rails and newel posts made of pipes. There is a large collection of pin ball machines as well as baseball memorabilia. The family room has a large bar in one corner and the house is equipped with a movie/TV theater. The Lone Star Cowboy band did a great performance which was purchased in a charity auction by Cheryl and Walter May and donated for this event. The group is known for great entertainment and lots of laughs. More entertainment was offered by Bill Sharber and his dance partner, Buncie, who won national recognition in a clogging contest last year in Kansas City. As if that weren't enough, Steve and Clara Maddox played and sang during dinner and Dick Hudgins provided rope tricks and other entertainment. Walter May cleverly used an East Texas accent to tell anyone that would listen about his rodeo speech on the "Influence of our Scottish Ancestors on the Heritage and History of Texas." Dinner was, of course, a full course Texas Bar-B-Q and the tables were decorated in a western theme. Our guests returned to the hotel with a true sense of understanding the essence of what Texas is all about.

      Saturday, with a week of near perfect weather behind us, dawned with a return of Houston's notorious heat and humidity, but it didn't slow us down. The group boarded the bus for a cruise tour of the Houston Ship Channel on the M/V Sam Houston. Measuring 95 feet in length and 24 feet in width, the boat carries a maximum capacity of 100 passengers with air-conditioned lounge seating and additional standing room on the boat's rear deck. Named for the legendary military commander who led the fight for Texas independence from Mexico and later statehood, the M/V Sam Houston provides leisurely 90-minute round-trip cruises along the Houston Ship Channel.The M/V Sam Houston has been operating as the Port of Houston Authority's public tour vessel since its inaugural voyage on July. 30, 1958. Embarking from the port's Sam Houston Pavilion, our group enjoyed passing views of international cargo vessels, and operations at the port's Turning Basin Terminal. The Port of Houston is one of the busiest ports in the world and is a 25-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities located just a few hours' sailing time from the Gulf of Mexico. The port is ranked first in the United States in foreign waterborne tonnage, second in the U.S. in total tonnage, and tenth in the world in total tonnage.The Port of Houston is made up of the Port of Houston Authority and the 150-plus private industrial companies along the Houston Ship Channel. All together, the port authority and its neighbors along the ship channel are a large and vibrant component to Houston's regional economy.

      Our next stop was to see the Robert Burns Memorial in Hermann Park, located in a beautiful rose garden and standing next to memorials of several other world famous people. The Heather & Thistle Society has raised this commemorative bust to Robert Burns as a gift to the City of Houston. The bronze bust is mounted on red Texas granite and is located in the International Commemorative Sculpture Garden in Hermann Park. The project was totally funded by donations from members and friends, no corporate donations were solicited or accepted, making this a true gift from the Scottish Community. Walter May met our bus, dressed in his kilt, accompanied by a piper from the St. Thomas Episcopal High School, and led us to the bust where Jack Hume awaited our arrival. Jack is a Past Chieftan of the Society, and made opening remarks which included some Robert Burns poetry and a tribute in memory of Al Campbell. Bob Gilbert spoke and Dr. Arthur Gordon Mason sang the lovely "Red,Red Rose" and there was a presentation of red roses honoring Robert Burns, followed by a presentation of yellow roses honoring Jeane Armour. It was clear that our group felt much at home and almost as though we were in Duthie Park in Aberdeen. Below are photos of Jack Hume and Bob Gilbert making remarks and a group photo of our guests from Grampian Houston.


      Tired, warm and a bit thirsty, not to mention hungry, we next bussed to our luncheon stop at The Daily Review Cafe, a unique Houston restaurant which has been awarded the City's Best Healthy Dining 2004 by AOL City Guide, the City's Best Comfort Food 2004 by AOL City Guide, the Best Undiscovered Place for Lunch 2002 by Inside Houston Magazine, the Best Comfort Food 2001 by Citysearch.com, Best Brunch 2000 by Citysearch.com, the 8th Place Top Ten Wine Lists in Houston 3 Years Running by My Table Magazine, and in the Top 20 restaurants in the nation 1995 by Esquire Magazine. We had refreshments and a delicious lunch and then returned to the hotel to rest and prepare for the Formal Farewell Dinner in the evening. Below we are primed and ready in the hotel lobby and about to leave for the big affair.

 

      Saturday evening proved to be a most special evening with all those mixed emotions of having fun but saying goodbye to each other after a week of non-stop activities. Our Formal Farewell Dinner and Gala really showed everyone at their best, including lots of highland dress and other formal attire. We were entertained throughout the evening by the Ed Copeland Trio, which played lots of the music that so many of us remember and love very much from over the years. Our menu included some great Texas beef and jumbo shrimp, following a reception and cocktail hour, and the piping in of the head table. Opening remarks were made to remember friends lost to us during the last year, including our Perpetual Chairman, C.Jim Stewart II, Charles Nettles, Sr. and our HGA Piper, Al Campbell. James Prappas, President of Houston Grampian offered remarks of greeting and a lovely prayer, blessing our activities and the dinner set before us. Following dinner, Loyal Toasts to Her Majesty, the Queen of England, and to The President of the United States were offered. Greetings and remarks were made by Mitch Jeffrey, Jr., Vice Consul, by Houston City Councilwoman, Helen Chang, who is Director of International Affairs for the City of Houston, and then presentations of gifts and remarks were made by President James Prappas and by Jimmy Hay, Chairman of Grampian Houston. As is our custom, entertainment and dancing and a bit of rowdiness followed and of course it included the singing of "The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen". As we concluded the evening, smiles were mixed with tears and everyone returned to their place of rest for the night and to look forward with fond memories of the past week, and the hope of more great times ahead. Below are photos of some of our attendees and speakers, beginning with remarks from the podium by Joanne Zumbrun, Mitch Jeffries and Helen Chang.

      

 
 
 

Click HERE for our 2004 visit to Aberdeen to celebrate our Silver Jubilee.

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