I found out that there was a square dance every Saturday night in Rantoul. I started going because I used to be on the Folk Games Team in high school, and I liked square dancing. I met a woman there, and we were good together. She was married to a civilian, and the only time I ever saw her was at the dance. A good dancing partner.
We got a new lieutenant in the squadron, a “90-Day Wonder.” He decided to pull an inspection. He found some dust on the top of my wall locker and grounded me for the weekend. I really wanted to go to the dance, because there was going to be a live band that Saturday.
While marching, I noticed that several men were working on the fence, and there was a large hole there. A friend with a car said he would pick me up there after dark. When I got to the hole, two more men were waiting there for their ride. I went to the dance, and had a wonderful time. She drove me back to my escape hole, and I wasn’t caught.
The base closed all classes for 17 days for Christmas. I found a man going to Portsmouth, Oh., and paid him $10 to ride with him. I hitched several rides from there to home. I had a wonderful time at home, then hitchhiked back to the base.
Marching in the snow was quite an experience. We slipped and slid all the way to school and back. That was the coldest winter of my life, so far. Lots of snow.
One Saturday there was a football game in Champaign. I hitchhiked to see it. On the way, my ride stopped at a bar for a beer. I went in with him. I wasn’t old enough to drink in Illinois, so I ordered a Coke. A policeman came in. He checked my ID and said, “Get out of here! You’re too young to be in here!”
I said, “I’m only drinking a Coke, sir.”
He grabbed me by the belt and shirt collar and said, “I didn’t ask you what you were drinking. I told you to get out.” He threw me out of the bar into the parking lot.
Someone broke into a local sporting goods store. We were marched to breakfast, then told to go to our barracks and don’t go out for anything. They found an empty .22 shell in my locker and had a fit. (I don’t remember picking it up.) I had to write a letter to the base commander about it.
They found the thieves, with several guns and some ammo, two barracks away from us. They were members of the “Pachuko” gang from Puerto Rico.