Scott Air Base, Belleville, Ill, 1946. The bomber I was a crewmember on was grounded.
The war was over and most bombers in the military were no longer needed by order from the Pentagon. A few of us radio operators would be assigned to base communications. I was not one of them.
Hundreds of us were moved into casual barracks on another part of the base. The Pentagon gave us a choice of retraining into another career field or being discharged from the military.
I received a three-day pass to visit my home in Jenkins for my first time. On my last day at home, I met a very pretty young lady when I was leaving on a bus, who would be my penpal for my remaining time in the military.
At 16 years old, I still had not been out with a girl. I decided to take my discharge, go back home, find a job and have my first date with this young lady I just met.
I was transferred to Chanute Field, Ill., until my discharge came through. I was assigned to the base hospital as a clerk, writing out discharges for military people returning from overseas.
My roommate was a Yankee from Boston, Mass. I never in my young life met a person who could talk to girls like he could. He was invited to a party in Champaign, a little town near our base, and he asked me to go with him. I’d never been to a party in my life.
I did not drink or smoke, and only had a few dance lessons at the USO Club. I guess you could have called me a party pooper.
In those days, you could not wear civilian clothes, so I wore my best uniform. I looked pretty good when I saw myself in the mirror.
The big building we went to was like a barn. Hundreds of people were there. Many of them knew my roommate, and I felt out of place. The girls there seemed to like a shy person like me, and they asked me to dance with them. This was not like the dance at the USO Club with the older dance instructors.
The couple of girls I danced with held me so close I had a hard time breathing.
I had my first beer that night and my head felt light. I guess I am a party pooper, because I sneaked out and went back to my barracks.
My roommate came in the next morning, higher than a Georgia pine, woke me up and wanted to know what had happened to me.
That was my last party.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.