Goodness, It Has Been Awhile…The Conference

The last time I wrote a blog entry was way back in September 2017…that was not long after the Fall semester began. A word of advice: if possible…DO NOT take three history classes at the same time – particularly if two of these courses are upper division and the third is needlessly complicated. If memory serves, I wrote about 15 papers in 15 weeks. The lowest grade? In the 100 level course. Ish. Anyway…I survived the semester.


Early in the semester I noticed that Phi Alpha Theta, the honors history society of which I am a member, was holding their biennial conference in New Orleans – in early January, which is smack in the middle of Christmas break…so…I thought, why don’t I submit a paper? They’ll NEVER accept it…but they did accept it. I was never particularly fond of this paper, mostly because it was for the historiography class that all history majors are required to take and which was (for me at any rate) difficult to grasp. Then it became apparent that since the paper was accepted, I would have to find a way to pay for the conference registration, meal plan and so forth…and I wasn’t working.

I made cookie dough. Lots and lots and lots and lots of cookie dough. And I made marinara sauce which technically is a meat sauce but whatever…if you want to get me drummed out of the League of Cooks (is there such a thing?) – go right ahead. I call it marinara sauce…and it is delicious. I made batch after batch after batch of marinara sauce…and I raised enough money to pay for the conference costs. My husband had been to New Orleans several years ago and I said to him, “Do you want to come with me to New Orleans?” (He paid for the airfare, car rental and hotel…and meals outside of the conference…) This was our Christmas gift to one another. We both realized that we do not need STUFF…we have enough STUFF. So we gave each other time and fun experiences instead.

Fortunately, my husband Paul loves history as much as I do, and there were at least a hundred different presentations covering a plethora of topics in history, so there were a number of presentations that he was interested in attending (one of them was mine…thank you, my love!) We met many students from all over the country and faculty members who accompanied their own students to the conference. We attended the opening reception and happened to sit at a table with Dr. Jochen Burgtorf (Cal State Fullerton) and his wife and had a most enjoyable evening chatting. I even had a chance to use a little of my German, which pleased him. He also gave the keynote address at the conclusion of the conference. Dr. Burgtorf’s area of study is fairly comprehensive: crusades, military orders, papacy, refugees, law, England, Vikings, and world history. Given that the conference was held in New Orleans, and St. Joan of Arc is the patron saint of the city, it was not a surprise that Dr. Burgtorf spoke on “When the Saints Go Marching In: The Defense of Old and New Orleans.” I was impressed, because in his speech, he managed to incorporate Star Trek, Star Wars and three hundred years of the city’s history…as well as the Catholic Church and the Ursuline Sisters of New Orleans.

Two years ago when we went to Annapolis, I wrote about the most important lesson that I learned there: that you Cannot. Do. All. The. Things. With that in mind, as we were planning this trip, my husband and I brainstormed the things that we did want to do while in New Orleans. Obviously the conference was #1 on the list and took up the bulk of the week…but that left some time periods where we just decided to skip a block of sessions and do our own thing.

Inside Preservation Hall
Inside Preservation Hall

For some years I have wanted to go to Preservation Hall, which I had learned about in a documentary on New Orleans. It’s a dumpy little building that is dedicated to preserving the jazz heritage of the city, and was also featured in a documentary called “Sonic Highways,” the brainchild of Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. One of the documentary segments was filmed in Preservation Hall…so of course that was a must see for us. We saw Wendell Brunious and the Jazz All Stars…and man alive, they are aptly named. It was a religious experience…

Paul and I at Preservation Hall
Paul and I at Preservation Hall

New Orleans is home to the National World War II Museum, which was another must see for both of us, and was a fantastic experience. I highly recommend it if you’re ever in New Orleans…but plan to go there at least twice, because if you just blow through it, you’ll miss the incredible attention to detail in every exhibit. Plan to attend the film narrated by Tom Hanks called “Beyond All Boundaries.” It’s a 4-D experience and very well produced. My great-uncle Chester D. Jaques was a B-17 pilot in World War II and the most meaningful part of that film for me was when the section of a B-17 cockpit and fuselage was lowered from the rafters…amazing…and the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center was also incredible; there is a fully restored B-17 which is suspended four stories above the floor of the building. As you ascend (I used the elevator), more and more of the plane’s details are revealed, until there you are – FOUR STORIES high – looking down on the B-17. I hadn’t realized just how enormous that plane was…

My Gal Sal - b17 airplane
“My Gal Sal”

I could write chapters and chapters more on our week in New Orleans…for example, the Bourbon Street experience: let me just say one thing about that. Please, if you have very young children…avoid Bourbon Street. No child needs that stuff seared into their brain for the rest of their lives. As an adult it was something to be experienced – briefly – and ticked off a list of Things I Never Want to Do Again…

Overall, our week in New Orleans was well worthwhile. The conference was a success, in that I didn’t throw up, have a seizure or die as I presented my paper. In fact, it seemed to be well received, and I hope to be attending the next biennial conference in 2019…maybe even as a presenter. Who can say?



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