As of today, we have three veterans of the 290th Combat Engineers here with us in Albany. These old soldiers are outnumbered by widows, children, grand children, etc. & their respective spouses. Back in the “good old days”, this was a hard-drinking, hard-partying bunch of fellows. The centre of action was always – and still is – the Hospitality Room a.k.a. “The Hospital Room”. Way back when, things might have slowed down a bit around 4:00 or 5:00 AM but in the 60’s, you could usually find at least two guys with a drink in their hand at most any hour of the day or night.
Nowadays, the Hospitality Room shuts down around 10:30 PM or so and the Veterans retire much earlier than that. It’s the children of the 290th who keep things going that late and even we retire on the early side. My cohort started attending in 1964 or so and we are older now than our parents were at time. Talk about a sobering thought!
Being a 290th kid was pretty neat as for one weekend every year, we had scads of “Uncles” and “Aunts” who would give us a quarter for the candy machine, keep an eye on us when we made our mass migration to the swimming pool or were simply willing to hear what we had done since the last reunion. These wonderful ladies and gentlemen would kindly look the other way when we got up to our annual mischief. Mind you, our “trouble” was either relatively mild or could not be proven by the hotel management/police..
We kids would spend that terrific weekend listening to stories from the war – or at least those stories which could be told in mixed company. As time went on and we became older, some of these stories sprouted additional details that were not fit for younger ears. The kids in my cohort attended almost every year until life began pulling us in different directions after high school and college. Since then, we’ve attended when time, distance and circumstance allowed.
It was a running joke that the “Children of the 290th” would carry on after our fathers and grandfathers were gone. Since this appears to be the last time that our heroes will gather in any organised fashion, perhaps now is our time to carry on their legacy.