Whitesburg KY

‘My nephew is an astronaut’

For seven years of my Air Force career I worked in an organization that built Air Force exhibits and took them on the road for nine months of the year, changing crews every 30 days.

We were the public relations team for the Secretary of the Air Force. I usually went on four 30-day trips a year.

On one of these trips in 1968, we took the X-15 rocket plane to the Texas State Fair in Dallas, Tex. It was nothing but an empty X-15 made to scale in our sheet metal shop. It was empty inside and we hauled it around on a flatbed trailer.

On this trip my Uncle Jerry lived between Dallas and Fort Worth. He invited me to stay and visit with him and his family on my days off. I worked one day on, and three days off.

Jerry owned a bar called The White and Tan Club. I caught the city bus and went to his bar. People he knew came and went until closing time.

He told me, “ You go along with anything I tell them about you.

A man asked me what I did in the Air Force and Jerry stepped in and said, “Don’t you recognize him? That’s my nephew, Jim Collins.”

“Didn’t you read about him in the paper last week? He’s the one who walked in space. He’s an astronaut.”

The man grabbed my hand and shook it. Jerry kept on bragging about me.

“Did you see that X-15 rocket plane at the fairgrounds? He flew that plane down here from Dayton to Love Field. It only took him 20 minutes! That thing goes 5,000 miles per hour!”

Jerry wouldn’t stop bragging on me and lying about me. “He’s going from here to Baton Rouge, La., next Monday. In that plane, it will only take him eight minutes!”

Some of his customers took me around in the bar and introduced me to their drinking buddies. Everyone wanted to buy me a drink but I told them I wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol.

I became very popular, and Jerry kept the story going.

A woman invited me to go home with her for the night, but I told her I was too busy and had to get back to Love Field.

A man wanted me to come and give a speech to the Sertoma Club. I told him I didn’t have time. Others said they would be at Love Field on Monday to see me off.

Jerry just stood there smiling. He had pulled one over on them, and he never told them that he was lying about me.

I just kept my composure and went along with everything he said. We had a big laugh about it later.

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