When the Korean War started, I was one of the first military men to be assigned to Sampson Air Base, New York, as the noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the base printing department. This new base was opened to train our young men for this new war. Most of my printers were older than I.
On my 22nd birthday, my men invited me to the NCO Club where Patti Page was the headliner that night. S/ Sgt. Dickerson grew up with Patti Page, and on her break she came to our table and sat with us.
Patti has sung her unforgettable songs “Tennessee Waltz” and “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?”, and other hits including “Mockin’ Bird Hill” and “ You Never Looked That Good When You Were Mine”.
Sgt. Dickerson told Patti that it was my birthday. She asked me to dance with her. I was so shy in those days and did not know if I could stand up, let alone dance with her. I somehow got to my feet and led her to the dance floor.
While we danced, she sang “Tennessee Waltz” in my ear, the song which became the officially adopted song by the State of Tennessee. When the dance was over, she gave me a birthday kiss. This old boy had a hard time walking her back to our table.
When she returned to the stage, she told the large room full of military people and their guests to wish Sgt. Everett Vanover a happy 22nd birthday. It took me a few days to come back to earth.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.