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USAF — A great way of life


Next door to the Jet Engine Shops at Plattsburgh AFB was the Radar Repair Shop. They also repaired the radar-guided tail guns of the B-47 bomber. While I was at the dentist’s office, a gun was brought into the shop for repairs and inspection. My friends told me what happened next.

The gun still had one live round in the chamber. When they attached electricity to the gun, the round fired. The bullet went through the window of the Jet Engine Shop, ricocheted around the steel rafters, then fell into the aisle. Luckily, no one was hurt.

One man in the barracks made a lot of money. Besides being a loan shark, he cut hair and sold sandwiches to the residents. This was all illegal. He never got caught, and no one turned him in.

Another man in the barracks was discharged because his time was up. He dumped his uniforms in the hall, and we took what we could use. I took his work shoes. He had nowhere to go because he was an orphan. He was supposed to go home, but he had no home. During the day, he hid in a wall locker in his buddy’s room. He got out at night. Everyone brought him food. On inspection days, he caught a city bus and went downtown. At night, he slept on the floor. One day, someone turned him in. The squadron commander came with the Air Police. He packed his civilian clothes and was escorted off the base.

A fellow worker invited me to go drinking with him in Keesville, N.Y. I had to work that night answering the phone, so he went alone. At 1 a.m., the local police called me. My friend was being chased by the police, and he ran under a sign and was decapitated. They said he was going well over 100 miles per hour.

During the winter, the snow was four feet deep. Our room was on the second floor. Late one night, we went into the pool room to shoot a few games. Bill put his wine bottle in the open window to cool. He hit the bottle with his cue stick and knocked it out the window. He dived after it, and I saw his feet going out. I looked down and yelled, “Hey Bill, are you all right?” He yelled back, “Yeah, get me out of here! I’m cold!”

I couldn’t find a shovel, so I cut up a Clorox bottle and made one. Bill was singing. I shoveled him out. He held up the wine bottle and said, “Didn’t spill a drop.” His teeth chattered and his body shook. He took a shower and checked himself. He didn’t have a scratch.

In the summer, every Saturday, the Canadians would come to town by the thousands. Most of them went to the local beach. The whole family would get out of the car and undress right in front of everyone, then put on their swimming suits and go swimming. Lots of the airmen with telephoto lens in their cameras took photos of them. Some of the wives and children stayed a week, while the father when back to Canada.

In Plattsburgh, there was a teacher’s college. At the gate, there was a large concrete eagle. A local legend said then when a virgin graduated from that college, that eagle would rise up and fly away.

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