After serving King and Country for 25 years -- and the NWTA for 23 -- Stanley Rayner officially retired from reenacting at the Vincennes, Indiana, event May 25-26. His retirement is a concession to advancing age, declining health, and the rigors of life in the field. Stanley is one of the founders of the Northwest Territory Alliance as well as a co-founder of the King's Regiment (Re-enacted). As might be expected, we did not let the retirement pass unnoticed Captain Rayner was honored at Vincennes by the NWTA, the King's Regiment, and the Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous, Inc.
Stan didn't suspect anything when he reported for duty with the advance setup crew at Vincennes Thursday afternoon. He was somewhat amazed when the Vincennes Rendezvous people revealed to him Friday morning they had put him on the cover of their program to mark his retirement and celebrate his long association with the Vincennes event. But there was more to come!
Stan was a little baffled when Bernie Kazwick came up to him in the middle of Saturday evening Colors and said "Captain Rayner, come with me please," (he thought he was being placed under arrest). At that moment, Gary Ambrus called him forward to present him with the main gift from the NWTA -- a mirrored glass case containing a personalized powderhorn engraved with a map depicting the siege of Fort Sackville. Stan was also presented with a medallion made especially for him by Larry Chowning of the 42nd.
From formation we went almost directly to serving dinner, where Stanley discovered a life-sized photo cutout of "Young Stanley," part of a mirthful "have Your Picture Taken With Stanley Rayner" program from his regiment. The picture was of Stan in his Grenadiers uniform taken at Ouiatenon in 1974 ("young Stanley" reappeared elsewhere in camp throughout the evening).
But there was more! Back at the 8th's camp, we presented Stan with his own personalized King's Regiment chamber pot that the unit had Bastian Pottery create specially for the occasion, and Carole Kazwick of the 8th unveiled the beautifully illuminated certificate of-appreciation she prepared for him on behalf of the Regiment -- it was a work of art worthy of any medieval monk's praise! Then, the NWTA members were invited for dessert: the Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous people provided cake for 400 people to mark the occasion and to recognize Stan for has long-standing commitment to their event. The four cakes were specially decorated with a map of 8th Regiment posts, the King's Colors of the 8th, the Clark Monument, and a fleur-de-lis representing the town's French heritage.
It was a celebration of Stanley the man and of his intrinsic involvement in our hobby--and our lives. But it was also a celebration of heritage and of roots, a point driven home by the announcement of Bill Burke's death at the start of the weekend. Of the 10 original founders of the NWTA -- the ones who actually met at Racine in September of '74 with the purpose of creating an organization to call our own -- (see following) only three where still active in the hobby the day before the event. And by the close, there was but one (Gary Reber of Proctor's Artillery). Although most had left the hobby without a thanks or good-bye on our part, we were grateful for the opportunity to properly express our appreciation to at least one of them.
Stanley was instrumental in helping organize the first large gathering of Revolutionary War re-enactors held in the central states, "Showcase 74" at Moraine Valley College in Palos Hills, Illinois, August 17-18, 1974. This was also the first event for a core of midwestern reenactment groups soon to become known as the Northwest Territory Alliance.
Most of the units participating at Moraine Valley were associated with the Brigade of the American Revolution, but the BAR had refused to support the event, and had repeatedly demonstrated little interest in backing activities proposed by the western units. Stanley and the other western regiment leaders became increasingly disenchanted with that situation. On September 29, 1974, representatives from several of these units met at the Racine County Historical Museum in Racine, Wisconsin, to discuss the problem. They decided to form an alliance amongst their own units to back their own events. On that day, Paul Peterson, Victor Mejias, Lowell Luedke, Greg Novak, Don Davis, Bill Burke, Paul Block, George Kwain, Gary Reber, and Stanley Rayner created the Northwest Territory Alliance.
When Stanley retired from Tootsie Roll in 1986, he decided to return to England. However, he maintained his membership in the NWTA and kept in contact with his friends in reenacting. In 1988, he realized his real home was America, and returned both to the US and active duty with the Alliance.
Stanley is retiring from the hobby because of advancing age and declining health. It is a concession to the extremes of weather, the long drives, and the late hours that take a certain toll on all of us. This does not mean he might not drop by to visit the occasional encampment!