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Category: News - Features (Archived) Created: 11/06/2003 10:28 PM
URL(s): http://ap.tbo.com/ap/florida/MGANIA7NMMD.html  Updated: 05/11/2004 11:16 PM
Trader Jon's Closing For Good
Legendary Naval Aviator hangout closes for the final time
 
By Mike Whaley
 
Trader Jon's, the unique waterfront bar crowded with unique aviation memorabilia and models and the place where virtually every U.S. Naval Aviator spent their off-hours while stationed in Pensacola, is finally shutting its doors for good. The (in)famous bar, which attracted not only pilots but astronauts and movie stars (ranging from John Wayne and Bob Hope to Prince Andrew and Brooke Shields), will close for good the weekend of November 8th. At least they are getting to go out in an appropriate manner... the last scheduled event there, on Saturday the 7ths, is a Blue Angels party following their season-ending homecoming performance. Retired Captain Bob Stumpf, a former Blue Angels leader who led a non-profit organization that tried to purchase and preserve the bar, said that Trader Jon's "was the social heart of the Pensacola naval aviation community... it's going to be missed. There's no replacement for it."

Most attribute the bar's closure to changes in society and the culture of today's Navy. In the old days, commanding officers were known to take their entire squadron to Trader Jon's, and nobody left until their commander left. Said retired Vice Admiral Jack Fetterman, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, "Now that same commanding officer will have somebody up on a DWI charge and drum them out of the Navy."

One bright spot is that those who had attempted to preserve the bar are happy with the efforts of its current owner and former naval aviator Matt Hackemeyer, who bought the estate of founder Martin "Trader Jon" Weissman, who opened the bar in 1952 and ran it until 1997 when he suffered a stroke. Weissman died in 2000. The massive amounts of irreplaceable memorabilia in the bar -- including about 10,000 photos, flight helmets, aircraft parts, models, and more -- are destined for the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, including a lot of unique Blue Angels material that will be used for a special display about the aerobatic team.

"Trader Jon's is a common denominator for virtually everyone who wears the wings of gold and countless thousands of other aviation aficionados. It is truly a national treasure."
-Capt. Bob Stumpf, 1998

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