Whitesburg KY

USAF — A great way of life

One day during the winter of 1958, I got permission to go to the BX. While there, a woman came out of the bowling alley and said she needed me, and would pay me to help her. I went with her inside. The Officers’ Wives Club was having the regular practice of the bowling league. I was to set the pins. (This was before automatic pinsetters.) I was showed what to do.

I spent the next two hours jumping from one alley to another, setting the pins. It was hard work. When they were finished, the woman handed me $15, which would buy us a week’s groceries. I was worried that when I went back to work I’d be in trouble. But the supervisor had left for the afternoon, and no one knew where I had gone.

While I was at Chanute Air Force Base I had noticed some very large yellow machines in the motor pool. At Plattsburgh Air Force Base I found out what a snow removal machine was. Some cars were parked illegally near the flight line, and were buried until the spring thaw.

We had a J-47 jet engine mounted at an angle on a flatbed trailer. The truck was driven slowly down the runway, letting the engine blow off the snow.

I was assigned for 30 days to be a dispatch driver. I took maintenance men to and from the aircraft. One night, the instrument repairman was working on a C-124. I got on the aircraft to stay warm.

One of the crewmen was working on a heater in the airplane. He got mad and kicked it. I heard him yell, “Fire! Fire! Fire!”

I jumped from the cockpit to the floor below, about 12 feet. I ran outside and got on the radio and reported the fire. I directed the firetrucks to the aircraft. It burned a hole in the side of the plane, and it stayed there for two weeks.

We got in a one-triper, a hothead from New York City. He claimed to know judo and karate. We told him that a man was not responsible for what he does in the first five seconds after being awakened. One morning, I had to go wake him up. He opened his eyes, looked at me, and took a swing at me. I was ready. I blacked his eye.

My friend Bill and I ate our lunch in the office of the shop superintendent. The clerk there said that they were going to send 14 of us to Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. They were going to ask for volunteers. We asked him to put our names on the list.

Later that afternoon, our shop chief called us all together and he read off a list of names who were going to be transferred. Our names weren’t on the list. He had listed himself and all of his close friends. We talked to the clerk. “I thought this assignment was to be for volunteers.”

He said, “It was.” We went and talked to the superintendent. He called in the shop supervisor, and we could hear the loud conversation going on. The superintendent went to the shop and questioned every man on the list. Some of them didn’t want to go. The next morning a new list of volunteers was posted, and Bill and I were at the top of the list.

In June, 1959, we were leaving the north and headed south. We would be working on the B-52 and the KC-135.

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