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NAUI 50th Anniversary Celebration
by Dr. Sam Miller
2010 Dr. Sam Miller
All Rights Reserved.

In 1954 there was only one certification agency: LA County Underwater Instructors Association (LA Co UIA). In August 1960 LA County Instructors established National Association of Underwater Instructors ( NAUI) -- It was a true association of Underwater Instructors. Ten years later the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, (PADI) was established as a for-profit organization.

In the genesis of the recreational diving many of the SoCal spear fishermen were also LA Co & NAUI Certified.

What follows is a story of a recent event celebrating NAUI’s 50th Anniversary and my involvement.

NAUI 50th Anniversary Celebration - February 20, 2010

About a month ago I received a special richly engraved invitation to attend the NAUI 50th Anniversary celebration to be held at the new NAUI headquarters building in Tampa, Florida. It was not just an invite but an invitation to an all expense paid trip to the event.

I was certainly free and available but due to several circumstances I like to travel with a companion. My dear wife was the first choice, but since she has

her doctorate in school finance & budgeting and in view of the current California school crisis was booked up with conferences and seminars. My second choice was my son, who is a NAUI Life member, a Pro 5000 diver, a Hyperbaric doctor (in Santa Maria) and a former member of the Long Beach Neptunes, (as I was in the 1950s) was a logical second choice, but he also was booked solid.

With total dismay I telephoned NAUI and expressed my regrets that I would not be attending. At 8:05 the next morning Jim Bram, the president of NAUI, called and immediately stated "I will not take no for an answer, I want you to attend, I am sending Mike Dunst, the former SoCal district manager to accompany you."

"But he has moved to Texas" I replied.

Beau Bridges accepting an award for his
father, Lloyd Bridges, aka Mike Nelson

"That is correct! He will fly into California and accompany you on your trip, so get your bags packed!" he commanded. I did and Mike accompanied me.

The trip was interesting, worthy of at least several paragraphs, but that story will need to be deferred to the dark of the night over a cool one.

I walked into the lobby of the hotel right in to the middle of the "California section."

Setting around a table were octogenarian instructors: Harry Vetter, NAUI #4, Nick Icorn NAUI # 431, Glen Egstom, NAUI # 937, Home Fletcher NAUI #1833

and two past NAUI directors Art Ulrich, NAUI #601 and Sam Jackson NAUI #2972. Greetings were exchanged and space was made for me to join the venerable circle of vintage instructors. The twice told stories were told and retold each time the embellishments made them better than the previous telling.

At 3 pm the general meeting began. As one who can recall the humble genesis of NAUI I was surprised at the number of instructors from all over the world in

Nick Icorn and Dr. Sam Miller

attendance-- and how young so many appeared.

Immediately after the general meeting there was a champagne cocktail reception on the patio. A time for pictures and renewing of old friendships and cementing of new friendships. I was joined by Dave Woodward, NAUI # 29 who I hadn't seen in 35 years who now resides in snowy Colorado.

On to a Jim Bram personally conducted tour of the new and very exciting NAUI headquarters building. What a building! Modern with all the latest electric

Zale Parry and Tom Tillman,
son of Al Tillman

technologies with the light blue color and the NAUI "Wave" a general theme throughout all areas. So very, very impressive!

There was only one word for the banquet-- Fantastic! The quality, quality and variety of food was equal to a Las Vegas buffet. We heaped out plates and settled in. Once again the California Mafia had their own table; Glen Egstrom, Nick Icorn, Tommy Tillman (son of LA Co & NAUI founder, the late Al Tillman) Zale Parry and yours truly.

The informal program began with a trivia question, which I immediately blurted out the answer and won the prize.

Harry Vetter, along with me was a former member of the Southern California Skin divers club (recall that one" we won the

195I Spear Fishing meet). A diving buddy and veteran LA Co Underwater Instructor, and the oldest living NAUI instructor # 4 (FOUR!), singled me out for special recognition as NAUI Instructor # 27, as one of the four oldest living NAUI instructors, and the oldest NAUI instructor still living in California - where it all began! The recognition spotlight was somewhat embarrassing but also concurrently ego satisfying.

It was a night and an event that the participants didn't want to end, but to everything there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. As the oldest California NAUI instructor, my life and my diving has been enriched as one who has experienced the beginning, the middle, but the end is many years in the future and I suspect that I nor the readers of this post will never see the end of NAUI.

Jim Bram (left) gives a tour of the new headquarters with (from left) Tina Icorn,
Nick Icorn and Dr. Sam Miller

More Photos of the NAUI Headquarters Opening

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