The "Silver Edition", COA'S Twenty-fifth Anniversary

by Jean Roe, COA Secretary
A little glitter and a lot of memories -- What better way to celebrate an anniversary?!

Anne Joffe and the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club had promised a special celebration for the twenty-fifth anniversary of COA and they certainly delivered. From the tiny silver "sprinkles" tucked into the registration forms to the elegant black and silver chair covers and exquisite table decorations at the banquet, the "Silver Edition" was special.

A record number of attendees enjoyed the facilities of the beautiful South Seas Plantation in its tropical setting on Captiva Island, FL. Many first-timers, as well as veterans like Herb Young, who was attending his twenty-third COA Convention, met new friends, talked shells, laughed, learned, and carried away memories of the five days between July 13 and 18.

The fun started with early registration on Saturday, July 12, when canvas totes with Sue Stephens' beautiful design incorporating the COA logo and the Junonia of the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club were handed out. Inside were lots of "goodies," including shells, Christmas cards and word games. Pre-convention field trips started this afternoon also, with groups heading out to Pine Island Sound.

Although the opening ceremonies would not take place until after lunch, Sunday morning found the convention hall buzzing with activity as new arrivals stopped to buy a convention tee shirt from Pat Burke or raffle tickets from Ben and Josy Weiner or maybe just to peruse the Silent Auction or the Walter Sage fabric. Convention photographer Georgette Laforet recorded it all.

Registration Chairmen Howard and Susan Roux seemed to be everywhere, handing out totes, answering phones, gluing errant magnets back onto name tags. From her vantage point at the desk Susan was also keeping track of the UPS trucks delivering "Beanie Babies" to the store across the street and alerting eager collectors. . .even some of the dealers have fallen under the spell of the cute and cuddly "Beanies."

Mixing with the many Floridians who were close to home were others from far away: Tom Rice, Trevor Roberts, and the Youngs from Washington; from Italy the Angioys and Bruno Briano; the Coltro brothers from Brazil; a large group of Texans; several Australians; Brian Hayes and family from South Africa; and on and on. We are truly becoming an international group!

Opening ceremonies included a welcome from Anne Joffe, acknowledgment of shell club reps, greetings from COA President Dave Green, and an invitation to an open house at Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum from its scientific director, Dr. José Leal. José also was our first speaker and showed us slides of the museum's progress.

Cesar Rodriguez told us about successfully raising clams at nearby Charlotte Harbor. He was followed by Rich Goldberg, who took us in search of land snails in the Spice Islands. Betty Jean Piech left us laughing at her cute brand of humor as she shared her memories of thirty-seven years of shelling.

The Welcome Party Sunday evening under the direction of Biddy Dean and Georgette Laforet seems to have solved the problem of making sure there is enough food for everyone. It was great! Afterwards, Rosalie Taylor had arranged a Conch-L get-together, so the Conch-L crew could get to know one another in person. We each received a tiny sticker for our name tag with a pink conch and "L" on it. A clever idea.

Monday morning started with club sales, more Silent Auction, and sales of the Walter Sage fabric. After door prizes from Dot Whitehouse, her husband Jim got things underway as master of ceremonies. Tom Watters told of "America's Most Imperiled Fauna," freshwater mussels, and we learned there isn't much we can now do to prevent some of them from extinction. Doug Jones of the Florida State Museum taught us how he predicts the age of shells from growth rings and that it is possible to predict at what season of the year shell material was added.

During Open House at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum we toured the Great Hall of Shells, explored the library and storage facilities, asked questions, viewed the computer program Ross Gunderson is working on, and enjoyed snacks. It is a good feeling to know we have contributed to the development of this exciting place with our contribution of funds for the entry desk.

Back to the convention center for afternoon programs. Harry Lee gave us a look at the fascinating dove shells of the Western Atlantic, some of them unnamed. Dr. Jerry Harasewych took us to view Pleurotomariidae via submarine; and Brian Hayes brought us more of his excellent photography of living shells, this time of deep water mollusks of South Africa.

After a hot sticky day it was inevitable that raindrops would start to fall just as the Lady Chadwick was departing for Cabbage Key. Most of us managed to keep dry under cover, but Ken Trauernicht and kids just stood in the stern and enjoyed the rain. Once at Cabbage Key, former home of author Mary Roberts Rinehart, we were served the traditional "cheeseburger in paradise", made famous by the Jimmy Buffet song of the same name. Many of us left behind a dollar bill with a message, taped to the wall so others will know COA was there.

During Tuesday morning announcements, Ted Metzger was named the winner of the shell count for his guess of 752 olives in the jar.

The Annual Meeting began with a special ceremony as President Dave Green presented plaques honoring the service of past presidents. Happily, many of them were present: Tom Rice (1974-75), Dick Forbush (1983-5), Anne Joffe (1985-86), Rich Goldberg (1986-87), Don Young (1987-88), Alan Gettleman (1988- 89), Peggy Williams (1989-90), Hank Foglino (1990-91), Glen Deuel (1991-92), Doris Underwood (1992-94). Linda Koestel (1994- 96), and Dave Green (1996-97). A good looking bunch! Sadly, 1980-81 president Wayne Stevens passed away just before the convention. He will be missed.

Dave then presented each of the current COA Board members with a plaque of appreciation. A special plaque was presented to Lynn Scheu in honor of "Ten Years of Excellence as Editor of American Conchologist."

To begin the business portion of the meeting, minutes of the 1996 Annual Meeting were approved as printed in the welcome packets. COA Treasurer Bobbie Houchin read the 1996 Summary Treasurer's Report. Educational Grants Director Dr. Gary Rosenberg read the list of 1997 COA Educational Grants recipients. Guido Pastorino of Washington, DC is the 1997 recipient of the Walter Sage Award. He will conduct a study of Antarctic Trophons.

Larry Stiles made the report of the nominating committee composed of Eleanor Hillman, Glen Deuel, and himself. The slate was approved by acclamation. Your new officers are:

President: Dave Green
Vice President: Linda Brunner
Secretary: Jean Roe
Treasurer: Bobbie Houchin
Trustee: Rosalie Taylor

Linda Koestel presented a slide show on the 1998 convention "Discover the Magic" at Walt Disney World in Orlando, July 19-23. She's working to get Mickey to join us.

At the close of the Annual Meeting, Linda Sunderland stepped up to present Lynn Scheu with a special "memory book" of her ten years as editor. Happy tears all around for a well-deserved tribute.

A "different" type of auction awaited us on our return from lunch. It was "different" in that items were not auctioned in sequence, so bidders had to stay awake and on their toes. Auctioneers Dick Petit and Hank Chaney played their audience along and garnered an amazing $8,142!

The night dive trip departed while the rest of us hurried to get dinner in time to attend the symposium on techniques and products for shell collectors. Here we learned the importance of proper storage, the difference between "good" and "bad" foam, and that polyfil is better than cotton. Many other tips were given by panelists Dr. Hank Chaney, Dr. José Leal and Alice Monroe. We later learned the divers had had a few problems with the boat, weather and seasickness. But shellers are a hardy bunch. They came dragging in at 6 AM. Of course none of them were at the Club Reps breakfast. Too bad. It was a very productive meeting with lots of good ideas exchanged.

A few changes were needed in the program line-up on Wednesday morning due to misfortunes of some of the presenters. Kermit and Gloria Pearson gave a very interesting talk on live shells of Kwajalein in place of Ross Mayhew, who was delayed in Canada. Peggy Williams took us shelling in Baja and then Emilio Garcia filled in for Emily Vokes, who had cancelled when Harold broke his hip. We wish them well. Hank Chaney told of dredging in the Pacific. A good morning of programs in spite of the changes.

At 3:00 PM the doors of the Bourse opened with the usual frenzy -- 105 tables of shells, books, and shell-related items greeted eager shoppers. Next morning found last minute shopping going on until noon. Afternoon programs by Hank Foglino and Alice Monroe each dealt with seashell shape and sculpture and served to complement one another. Gertrude Moller's cartoons on "Molluscan Humor" had everyone smiling, a great wrap-up of programs.

The banquet provided the perfect setting for an anniversary celebration. Black and silver balloons floated along the wall, while tiny lights twinkled in the plants and in the lovely centerpieces, designed by Goz Gosselin and created by Anne and her team.

After an excellent dinner, Rusty Brown recited passages from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea. She almost became Anne as she took us back in time to the days when Anne walked on Captiva and collected shells. It was a beautiful and memorable evening, a fitting finale to this special anniversary for COA.