My parents were married in Nashville, Illinois on 12 Sept. 1917. My brother Charles Hobart was born 26 Oct 1918. I was born 20 Jan. 1921, and my twin brother Kenneth and sister Kathryn were born 3 Oct. 1922. Charles died of a ruptured appendix on 14 Apr. 1926
I have memories of playing with Charles during those years and I remember very clearly when he became sick. I don’t remember too much about the symptoms, but I recall Doctor Sanders coming to the house a couple of times to see Charles. I remember Mom telling me that Charles had appendicitis and they had to take him to the hospital in Centralia, IL, some 10-12 miles to the north. I think they took him on a Friday, because it was decided to wait until Monday to operate. Before they did the operation, the appendix ruptured and peritonitis set in, and Charles passed away on 14 April 1926. The folks bought him his first suit, paying $7.00 for it, to be used for his funeral. I’m sure it was the first time he had a new suit, and probably one of the few “new things” he ever had. I have no memories of his funeral, I remember him lying in his casket in the “front room.” although I do not recall any more about the funeral. I do recall going to the funeral for my Dad’s mother. The only time I recall seeing her alive, she was in bed, in a white night gown and ill. Not too sure how long this was before she died.
We lived in the north end of town, and had a narrow concrete side walk that ran our entire block, probably about 800-1,000 feet. In several places, and especially in front of our house, the tree roots had grown under the concrete, raising it and making a very uneven place. We had a small one person cart type wagon, with only two wheels and a long handle. We’d take turns pulling each other in this cart. We thought it especially fun to go real fast and hit these uneven places and watch the rider bounce high into the air. Sometimes the rider would flip one way or the other. Don’t remember anyone ever getting hurt this way. Seems there were a couple neighbor kids that played with us.
We always ran around barefoot during the good weather. Probably to save our shoes. Seems we had enough “trash” around the house one of us was always stepping on a nail, or cutting our feet with glass. But the remedy was always the same, soak the wound in kerosene. By doing this it would stop the bleeding and also seemed to disinfect it. Tetanus shots were unheard of in So. Illinois then.
My years in grade school were normal and uneventful. I remember some of my teachers, but can’t say that any of them had any great influence on me. I’m sure they all tried and did their jobs, but I don’t recall any counseling or boosting your ego telling you could succeed etc. We just did what we were supposed to and that was it. One event happened that I recall. The sparse play ground had 3-4 swings and a slide that must’ve been about 6-8 feet tall, all contained within a large grass play ground. One day I was using the slide, and somehow got my foot cross ways and fell off the slide. Not sure how far I fell, but I remember “coming to” and seeing all the kids marching in to class. No one had come out to see about or help me. I brushed myself off and went on it, rubbing my head. We didn’t think these things were a big deal.
Then I entered Ashley Township High School the fall of 1934. I was 13 years old that Jan. Among my memories of high school, and my life at that time, is the electricity in our home. In each room we had one electric line hanging in the middle of the room. Into the end of this was a light bulb. If you wished the bulb to illuminate, you turned the switch on the socket the bulb was in. We had no plug ins, and of course had no electrical appliances for most of my youth. Then along in 1934 or ’35 came a traveling salesman, selling MAYTAG electric washing machines. The kind with a square tub, a rubber hose you’d bend downward to drain the tub, and a double roller wringer. I can recall the day the fellow was there. Mom liked the machine very much, but between her and Pop, they decided they could not afford it. I don’t recall the price, but I have a vague recollection of something like $35. The salesman, being no dummy, suggested he leave the machine for a “few days”. He probably gave a reason for not being able to demonstrate it again for a while. So, he leaves it. Mom decided that since she was going to have it for only a few days, she might as well wash everything. So, I remember being up early, getting a big fire going, out doors and heating several tubs of water. This would have been in late summer, probably August since we were not in school. So we washed up a storm that day. Spent most of the day washing clothes and hanging them on the clothes line. If the truth were known, we were probably cleaner then, than we had been in years. The soaps in those days required hot water! A few days later the salesman returned to reclaim the machine and the folks had decided they could manage to pay for it. So on the back porch it spent the rest of the years that I was home. We’d move it into the “back room” during the winter, when it didn’t get as much use. I recall Mom calling for me to come home during recess a time or two. She was doing some wash and had blown a fuse. For some reason, she did not want or know how to change the fuse herself, so I’d run home (it was just next door) and change it for her. The next item we got was an electric “sweeper”, what we now call a vacuum cleaner. The folks ordered it (probably from the Sears catalogue) I recall hearing them talk of how nice it will be when it arrived, and I thought they were saying electric sleeper. I couldn’t figure our how it was going to work.
I also remember cleaning out the wells at home. We had two near the house from which we got our drinking water. We had another out in the couple acres we gardened, but it was used only to water the crops, so we seldom cleaned it out. We’d clean out one of the two wells about every three to five years. Seems things were always being dropped into the well. One had a covered platform, with a pump, the other did not. Just a platform with a 2’X2′ box built around the opening. We used a bucket to bring the water up. Each well was about 3 to 4 feet across, and probably no more than 30 feet deep. During the hot weather the water level would fall, and it probably held 10 to 12 ft of water then. When Pop decided it was time, we’d get an early start and use buckets to bring the water up. By working steadily at it we could take it out faster than it came in. So it seems like it took 5 hours or so and we’d have about all the water out. The sides were bricked up, in a circular pattern, using no mortar between the brick. The bottom was dirt. So, after we had as much water out as we could using the bucket, I would sit in a loop made in the end of a rope, and Pop would lower me into the well. When at the bottom, I would take an old cup, and clean out all the muddy goo that remained. Seems there were always some things we kids had dropped, and perhaps a bucket we’d dropped, or a cup etc. Anyway I’d clean it all up, putting the rubbish in a bucket to be hauled up. I recall what a good view of the sky you would get from down there, something like looking through a very long tube. Pop would always tease saying he was going to leave me there “until morning.” By the next day, we’d have a couple feet of water back in it, and within a couple weeks, the level was normal.
Another necessity which was quite a chore was getting rid of the rats that lived in the barn. We always had 2-3 cows, usually some pigs, and with them came the need for feed, so we’d have corn oats, hay etc. in the barn. We had no poison for the rats, so they’d multiply quickly. A time or two each year we’d wage war on them. You could see the holes leading to their underground living areas. And since they came out at night mostly, you could always expect them to be in their nests during the day. So, we’d take several tubs, all the buckets we had and any thing else that would hold water and carry a big supply down to the barn. It was probably 100 ft or so behind the house. We’d fill their dens with water, and with Ken pouring the water, Pop and I would arm ourselves with a good stick, and when the den got full of water, out would come the rats. We’d club as many as we could, but there were always some that escaped. There were probably 8-10 such dens located around the barn, all going in under the concrete foundation. So we’d renew our water supply and move to the next den. I don’t recall how many we’d kill this way, but it surely put a dent in their population.
One day at high school, someone brought a pair of binoculars. It was the first pair I’d seen. The room we were in faced north, toward our house and I recall being able to read the numbers on the license plate of our old Model T. That must have been at least 1/8th of a mile, and was astonishing. I was surprised at how clear the numbers were. The hi school took up the entire upper floor of the school building. The first floor was the grade school. There was a basement, in which the toilets were located, as well as the shop class, the girl’s “homemakers” class, the furnace room etc.
About this time Pop got the 1930 Chevrolet sedan. It was quite a better car than the model T. I had driven the old T a bit, but got to do most of my learning with the “new” old Chevrolet. The rubberized mat they put on the floor in those days was quite worn, and I remember how cold it got during the winter No heater at all, and the cold wind came in through the cracks between the wooden floor slats. Of course, the color was black. We also didn’t have anti-freeze, so I recall many times going out and draining the water from the radiator. If you used the car the next day, you’d fill it again with water. A bit later, we got “alcohol” to use as anti-freeze It worked great, except that when the engine got hot, some of it would evaporate away. You needed to keep a watch on how the level was in the radiator to know how much had left. The car had a heat gauge then, not the old red tube type in the radiator cap like the Model T and other early cars had.
The folks let me use the car to go to the movies once in a while. On Tues. it was 10cent night. So that was the night we’d go. By then I knew that girls were for more than just to fight with and that they could sometimes make pleasant partners. So at times we’d have 2 or 3 fellows and a sister or two going. The movies were at Nashville, some 9 miles away. And then, it must have been the summer of 1935 that “that Gurney Girl” arrived. Gram Gurney lived about 2 miles from us, at the south western part of town. It was about then I started to work at the “Y”, or the “Pyramid” or the “Bus Station” take your choice. It was called all three. Anyway, I got a job working at the cafe, located in the bus station. Then the bus network was quite extensive, and at the evening transfer time, about 8;30 to 9;30 we’d have 3 or 4 busses arrive. They would stay from 30 min to a hour, permitting use of the rest rooms, getting a bite to eat, and making bus change connections, then they’d all depart. I’d clean up, get things put away etc., then go home. It was located about 1 ½ miles west of town, a good 3 miles from my home, so I’d hitch a ride if I could, or if not would walk home. It was by the infamous Gurney house, my travels took me. Even so, I don’t recall seeing “her” until school started that fall. About a year later, June’s sister Ruth arrived to stay with her and Gram. I thought Ruth, the older, was quite a pretty girl, but way too old for me. Her good looking sister, June was a bit more reserved and not as flashy as Ruth. I remember what a great complexion she had, how cheerful she was as well as having a good looking trim body! She seemed like a very outgoing person, and someone you could easily like. I don’t think there was a person in the school who felt otherwise. One must remember our school, even though it was a consolidated school, with 3 or 4 busses bringing in kids from the surrounding area and small towns we still had a total high school enrollment of 110-120. Our class had 30 in the graduation class. Because of this smallness, and most of us not even having radios and not too many read newspapers, we were just a “country group” and tended to look with suspicion at outsiders, and especially if they came from the “big towns.” So, I’m sure June had a bit of “proving” to do before she would be counted as one of us. I was pretty busy during that year, what with working evenings, after school to 10 or so, and the activities connected with band, and I went out for the track team. Seems I did some running and threw the javelin. That and with a minimum of studying, I stayed busy. June became a member of the band, and a part of the group responsible for getting out the yearly Annual, as well as president of our class. I was also a member of those groups so came in contact with her then. And I guess along toward the later end of the year, I started spending my free time at noon etc., along with one or two other boys over at or near her desk. We’d tease her and the other girls nearby. I remember it was fun teasing her, she was quick to retort, and didn’t get mad or nasty, and could pass it back, so teasing was fun. In those times we used ink pens that had a rubber bladder, with a lever that by working back and forth a time or two, you would get the bladder to fill. One stroke of the pen compressed it forcing the ink out, and the return stroke would permit the ink to be sucked in. Anyway, I’d work the lever on her pen a time or two, with the top part of the pen in place. This would cause the ink to spill into the top portion. When you took the top off, to use the pen, the ink would run all over your fingers, making quite a mess. If memory serves me right, I did this a time or two. And so I learned to think that she was someone pretty special, and she found me tolerable, so it was along then that we had a date or two. Usually going with our friends, Charles Whittenburg and Mildred Zimmer. We were somewhat a foursome for a while, Charles thought June was pretty special too, and I found Mildred to be fun to be around, but she wasn’t the gal June was. I began to think of June as “my girl.” One of the naughty things I remember doing , and I think it was in high school, was I flipped ink on the back of one of the lady teachers dress. Ink was not “washable” then, so it could spoil the dress, depending on color and pattern. I forget why I did it other than just being ornery. Nothing was ever said about it, and I don’t know if she ever knew it. If she didn’t look close she would probably have not seen it. And, on May 26, 1938 they said they had taught me all they could and to get outta there! That Gurney girl and I both graduated!!
After we finished school, I was still working at the “Y”, and June went back to St. Louis to attend business school. We wrote each other and it somehow came to pass that I would go to St. Louis on my day off some weeks to see her. I had no car, so had to hitch a ride.
The main paper in St. Louis, the Post Dispatch, was delivered to the outlying towns each day. The driver came through Ashley, always stopping by the “Y”. It was there I became acquainted with Pete, the driver of the panel paper truck. He very graciously agreed to break the rules and let me ride back with him. He made no deliveries on the trip back, so there was little chance anyone would report him. This was during the summer, so I’d work all night, go home and sleep some, be down at the hi-way to meet him around 2;30- or so and ride to St. Louis. He would let me off shortly after we crossed the “Free Bridge”, it required a 10 cent toll, but was originally intended to be free, hence the name.. I would hoof it over to the street car stop and ride the street car for nearly an hour to get out to Maplewood. When there, I had to take another car for 6-8 blocks, or if no car was there, I’d walk. Seems I’d arrive at June’s place around 6 or so. Her folks had already moved to Michigan, and June lived in two rooms of the folk’s house they had fixed up as an apartment. Her cousin and hubby and two kids lived in the other half of the house.
We’d sometimes go down to the main avenue, where the street car change place was, and eat at a restaurant there. They always had a “blue plate” special. Must have been 35-40 cents, something like that, and would be pork and potatoes, veggies etc. A fairly good meal. If we didn’t do that June would sometimes fix something. We’d sometimes go to a movie in the evening, or take a walk etc. we always managed to find some time to get in some smooching. June’s two aunts lived next door to her. Aunt Kate let me come over and sleep at her house. So I’d go over there around midnight and spend the night. The next day, we would go over to Forest Park, or to the amusement place in the park or something, until around 2;30 or 3PM. Along then, I’d have to head back down town. I would go to the train station, and ride the evening train out to Ashley. I’d get home around 6-6;30 just in time to go out to the “Y” and work my night shift. I guess I’d do this a couple times a month, and some week ends June would ride the bus out and see her Gram. I would be around to bug her then. And so it began to dawn on me, and I think on her too, that she was someone pretty special, and that I was in love with her and I felt I could enjoy being with her for the long run.
In the summer of 1938, I was still working at the “Y”, June had finished her schooling, but did not have a job so was in Michigan with her folks. I was invited up for a vacation, and took them up on it. I rode the bus, a long ride. I believe I arrived around 10-11PM. June and her Dad were there to meet me. I spent the next several days up there on Pickerel lake. June’s Dad let us use his car, so we went to a movie or two. Other than that, we spent the time around the lake. For me, it was the cleanest water I’d seen. I do remember, June and I got into a friendly argument about something. She had on shorts and a halter top, I forget what the fuss was, but I picked her up, carried her out onto the dock, and held her over the water which was probably 12-18 inches deep. I ask her to take it back, or I’d drop her, she didn’t, so I did. I recall she made quite a splash, and of course, got somewhat peeved. She went in, changed clothes and really wasn’t’ too upset. So we made up and I soon saw I was forgiven. It was then I knew she was really someone special.
About then, my buddy Charles went to St. Louis, stayed with his married sister and got job with the WHITE CASTLE hamburger chain. He told me about it, and I can remember the pay. $16.80 for a 60 hr week, plus all the hamburgers and pop you wanted. Since I was only making $7.00 a week, working every night, 10-11 hours, that looked pretty good. So early spring of ’40 I believe, I put my extra shirt in a paper sack and set out for St. Louis. I went to the White Castle place and was hired. They sold all “new hires” a couple sets of white shirts and pants, deducting so much each week until they were paid for. I some how found a “boarding” house and rented a room. Seems that was $5.00 a week and the lady would furnish sheets, towels etc. I think she also changed sheets on the bed and so, I became a roomer at Bill and Helen McGuires, way down in the southern part of St. Louis. I worked a varied schedule, mostly at 12th and Chouteau. We rotated shifts and the worse was the split shift, you’d come in around 10:30 or 11 and work the noon rush until 1PM or so, then be off until around 4PM and work until 10:30 or 11PM. Each shift had a portion of the clean up to do. The night shift was to wash down the walls. The walls were all sheets of white enamelware, so cleaned rather easy, but you did have to wipe to wash and wipe to dry them. And of course, during this I saw June as much as our two schedules would permit. She was working in the office for a dress making factory. But we’d see each other several times a week, sometimes for just an hour or so.
Different things happened at the restaurant. One night, must have been around 11PM or so, some fellow came in with just he and I in the place. He pulled out a gun and said he wanted all our money. I was alone working behind the counter, and had been bent over doing something under the counter. When he spoke, I stood up and looked at him, he than said it again. In looking past him, I could see the outside of the building and the main street. When I looked out there I saw the regular cop from the beat heading across the street for our place. He always came in about this time for coffee, so I said something like “”there’s a cop coming, why don’t you put that away and leave.” He looked out, saw the cop and took off, out the door. The cop was still 50-60 feet away. When he came in, I told him and it didn’t seem he was too upset. Seems like he thought he knew who it might be, or for whatever reason, didn’t make big deal of it. Another time, late at night after a ball game, or some big activity we’d always get quite a crowd in the place. This night, a couple got into quite a fight. I took them to be married and they were calling each other names etc. They went out behind the restaurant onto the gravel parking lot and continued hollering. I went to the back door to see how bad it was going to get. If figured as long as he didn’t beat up on her, I’d best stay out of it. Anyway she took off her ring and threw it across the lot. He replied by doing the same. After more words, they decided it was foolish and started looking for the rings. The lot wasn’t too well lighted, but they found her ring but not his. After I got off duty the next morning I went out and found the ring. I kept it around for several weeks, but they never returned, so I kept the ring. Weird things you see when exposed to the public!
My boss seemed to like me and had talked of my being moved up, but I could see others (one other also named Potter), who was quite a bit older, and who had several years seniority etc. and he still wasn’t a supervisor, so I questioned it. I did enjoy working there, but promotions and the future seemed very limited.
June came back to St. Louis from Michigan early in 1940, and since I was in St. Louis we were seeing each other regularly. Somewhere in the spring, maybe April or May we decided to get married. Didn’t set a date, except for one day in June. We picked the 27th. mainly because it fit our work schedule. I was working the early split shift, so was off during the late morning hours. June was to be off both that Thur. and Friday, the 28th. We went to the downtown City Hall and got our license and near the appointed day asked Helen and Mac, my landlords if they would stand up with us. We went in their car to a church and ask the pastor to marry us. I don’t think either of us had ever been to this church before and the only reason I recall for going to it is that it looked nice We were married around 11AM, and Mac and Helen said they wanted to take us out to breakfast. They took us to a hotel and we all ordered breakfast. When the waitress brought the orange juice, she spilled a glass, getting it on June’s lap, wetting her dress and also my trousers. The hotel people apologized all over the place and said for us to go up to a room and give the maid our clothes and the hotel would have them cleaned and pressed. We did but June, being married only an hour or so, went into the bathroom to change and refused to come out until her dress had been returned. We still sometimes wonder if Mac and Helen had put the waitress up to this?
Then June took the street car home and I went to work a short afternoon shift. When I finished working, June and I went swimming at the Maplewood city pool and then to Ruth’s house for dinner. There, SURPRISE, SURPRISE. June’s mother had come down from Michigan and was at Ruth’s for our “wedding dinner.” While there, June Ellen, just a little tike crawled up into my lap, with chocolate all over her hands and put her hand prints all over my white shirt. I think my folks knew of our intentions, but did not come. It would have been quite a trip for them from Ashley. And so it came to pass that the Gurney girl, and the Ashley country boy became man and wife. I might add that in spite of my most persuasive efforts and my one thousand and one good reasons for not doing so, June remained a virgin until the day we were married. When June got home from the ceremony, she had a message calling her back to work the next morning. (the Friday she was to be off) Not knowing how “frazzled” she’d be we agreed to wait one more night so we’d both be off work. (we knew so little) So it was the next night before we became “one flesh.” Couldn’t risk loosing our jobs, you know. Neither of us were experienced in this area, and had so much to learn.
So you may more fully understand why we had no experience in this area, when we married, remember, I lived my whole life in a small town. Population was 750 or so. There were no taverns or bars around. The town had a very conservative attitude, dancing was not encouraged, nor allowed at the school. Condoms were the only birth control item available, and to get one you had to ask the druggist for them. Mr. Steelie Eyes Seibert ran the drug store. We boys were all certain he would pierce us with a look more deadly than anything then known to man if one who wasn’t in a position to have a qualified, church approved need for such an item were even to ask. And among all my friends I really didn’t know of any hanky-panky going on. From the girl’s side, to become pregnant, especially while in school, was the end. It was really a disgrace. One was immediately sent from school, never to return. The girl as well as her parents were considered outcasts. Someone who just didn’t know how to get along. And of course, my family attended church regularly, as did most of the people. The church was 1,00% against such things. So because of our up-bringing and the morality of the time, plus no easy place to take a girl since there were no motels in the area, there wasn’t much opportunity for hanky panky. We did have a small hotel, but perish the thought of going there, and there were very few evening activities where you might slip from view for very long. The school activities, such as track meets were always in the afternoon. Basketball was the popular winter-time school game. Always played is the evenings in the gym. Every one knew everyone else, which tended to restrict your activities too. Course there was no TV, no magazines that showed girls in swim suits or other provocative poses etc. No such thing as Playboy or Hustler. So even though we were aware of sex and the part played by the male and female, it wasn’t exploited and was something only married people got to do. Married women who became pregnant, after they began showing spent most of their time at home expecting not to be seen. About the only pregnant woman I recall seeing back then was the dentist’s (can’t remember their names) wife. They had a son about my age, and I was at their house playing with him We went into their kitchen to get a drink and she was there. It was the first time I had seen a lady with such a big tummy. The boy said his mother was going to have a baby. Had he not said, I may not have known. It was more of a private affair. There were no medals for those that didn’t refrain, it was just expected. I never recall seeing pregnant women in church or on the streets. I do recall asking Bessie my neighbor, who was about 10 years older than I, married with two kids about it. She had a married sister who lived about ¾ miles from us both. This sister used to walk down and visit with Bessie every few weeks. I noticed I hadn’t seen her in quite a spell, so I asked Bessie one day, “Where’s your sister?” Bessie replied “Oh she’s pregnant, she is going to have a baby, so she can’t come out. She has to stay at home.” It was just the way things were. When dating, if you walked a girl home from a basket ball game or a school or church activity after dark, there wasn’t much kissing going on, perhaps a little peck or so, but not the tonsil licking type you see advertised now. The girls would let you put your arm around them, and if you were cagey enough you might be able to brush your hand against their breast (from the outside of their clothing). Course, for the most part we didn’t have cars. Our time with the girls was usually walking time, and that set a different stage too. There just wasn’t the breast fondling, or getting under their sweaters or such activity. A girl would be out of her mind to take her skirt off, and of course slacks were not worn by girls then. Just a different age, much more slow, but it did make sex something that happened between persons with more of a commitment, those who had known each other and had more than just a passing interest in the other. One night stands were as yet to be invented in our small town. It may have been different in the cities. But we didn’t have AIDS then either If your wife got “with child” you could be pretty sure your DNAs were going to match.
So we settled down to our routine. We were both working, both had to ride the streetcars to get to and from work. June worked only days, but I had to change around, working split shifts, evenings and nights, as my turn came up. There would be times we wouldn’t see each other awake for several days at a time. So we’d leave notes for each other. Nothing earth shattering, just something to let the other know what errands or chores were done etc. We also set up a schedule for our monies. We fixed a box with several compartments, labeling them “rent, food, car fare, etc.” We’d put the correct amount in the box, then have the rest to live on. We also had one for savings. So even though we didn’t make much, by being careful with it, we did manage to save several dollars. Before too long we had enough to put a down payment on an auto. We looked on some car lots and found a 1939 black Chevrolet sedan for $550. This was a 1941 model, just a couple years old. We both fell in love with it and bought it. With wheels, we made several trips to Ashley and also get out to some of the places June remembered as a girl It was a 6 cylinder car, ran good, and I recall having very little trouble with it. It did not have a radio, so I bought one and installed it. We were living high! One of our favorite meals was to get a couple pork steaks. Got them at a little store close by. We could get 2 the size of your hand for 10cents apiece. That with some spuds and gravy was especially good. We had no refrigerator in those day either. We did have a “window box” that fitted outside the window. You could put butter, milk etc. there, and it would stay cool, course it depended on the outside temperature When living at Ashley, we’d put such items in a bucket and hang them down into the well, just above the water which kept them cooler.
Life continued on, and I was beginning to get the idea I’d never work up too much in the hamburger business and we discussed what I might go into. And then Pearl Harbor turned up. I still remember being at Ashley that Sunday. When we heard on the radio about the attack. I had no notion of where Pearl Harbor was, and even the whereabouts of Hawaii was vague. That became the main news item then. All the fellows that came into the restaurant, the war talk always came up. I thought about joining the army, but at that time they were taking only single men. Ruth’s hubby Charles had taken ROTC in college and had a reserve commission. He was activated and sent to a camp where the inductees came. He was in the Quartermaster corps, that furnished uniforms, supplies etc.
About this time they started advertising for welders. A large plant in south St. Louis made rail cars, and with the war production starting, everything began to hum. They had big orders I imagine, so were hiring. We located a vocational school that taught welding and I quite the hamburger business and went to school for a few weeks to learn electric welding. I seemed to pick it up pretty quickly, and I remember the instructor saying that I was doing better than most. The vertical and overhead welding was the hardest naturally, but you didn’t have to do too much of that. So with diploma in hand, I went down to the rail car building plant, applied and was hired. I worked on a line that put the steel cars together. The sides, already prefabbed would come along on the big over head crane, and we’d attach them to the bottom of the car, which was already on wheels. And so the cars were born. I worked there for several months, and was making quite a bit more than before. This must have been mid ‘42 or so, and June got the bug she wanted to live nearer her mother. I had little to keep me in St. Louis, so we both quit our jobs and headed to Michigan. June’s folks had their place on the lake then, her Dad had quite a good job in a plant making valves for aircraft engines. He had learned to run a lathe, and was making more money than ever. I recall him grousing about the union there. It would permit them to turn out only so many valves in any one 10 hour shift. George, as well as others could turn out quite a few more, but were restricted from doing so. So they’d work ahead. Make more each shift, but stash them at their work stations, for several days., when they had enough ahead, they could spend several hours playing cards, reading or what ever. George did not like that and fussed about it, it was hard for me to imagine too, I didn’t think anyone could or should do that.
The war effort was going strong then, and being patriotic, helping out, doing your best, doing without, etc., all was an indication of how much you loved your country. It made me really wonder just what was right, when I heard George tell these stories. So after a period of job hunting, including a foray to Detroit where I got a room and tried to get on at the auto plants. But the unions had every thing tied up, and you had to go through the union to even get an application. Seems I tried there for a week or so. I then got disgusted with that type of operation, and I did not like being away from June, so I went back to Pickerel Lake and we lived with her folks. I then got a welding job working at the same place as Herman Williams. He and George were good buddies. Herm lived just a couple house’s away. I don’t recall if he helped me get the job or not, but get on their payroll I did. I was assigned to the swing shift, four to midnight, same as Herm. So I rode to and from with him. My pay jumped to around $30.00 a week and often we’d work over time. This was a steel foundry which made steel castings. They’d make molds with sand, pour the liquid steel into the castings, let them cool, knock off the sand, and you’d have the part. Often, due to a defect in the casting, or an air bubble etc., there would be a hole, or another defect. We welders would use a large welding rod and fill these imperfections. I can remember the smoke as being terrific in the whole plant. From the blast furnaces, down the line to our welding, it all caused smoke. For our welding we were using welding rods that were larger than a pencil and along with high heat, the smoke just poured out. That winter (probably ‘42) we had some of the heaviest snow storms which almost buried our car at times, setting out behind the garage. Even without snow tires we never really had much trouble driving. By now, June was working at Ft. Custer with the Quartermaster Corps She had to drive there six days a week, some 20 miles each way. So again, we were busy, and did not see each other too often.
By this time we had bought a house. It was across the lake from her folks. A couple were getting a divorce and wanted to sell out quickly. We had enough money to swing it, so had our first home. If I remember right, we paid $3,000.00 for it, furniture and all. It was on a narrow strip of land between the road and the lake. Leased land, so we paid a yearly fee. The place was a nice little house, oil heat and facing the lake. Our 55 gal. oil drum was located outside along the house. We had to take oil from it in to the stove. One day, when getting oil from the drum, someone across the lake shot a 22 rifle. The bullet zinged off the water and struck the house just above my head. Had it been 3-4 inches lower it would have hit me right in the old bean. But it didn’t. The outhouse was unique, since we were so close to the lake, we couldn’t have a regular biffy type outhouse, so used a 5 gallon bucket set under the seat. When filled, I would take it into the woods and bury the goo. We did have a pump at the kitchen sink so it wasn’t too bad. We hadn’t lived there long when we found we needed to redo the roof. So that became the first roof that June and I ever installed.
Getting back to my work at the steel foundry, I seemed to get along well with everyone and though I was younger than many, I seemed to be asked advice on different subjects. I had to join the union when I went to work there and before long the group I worked with voted me to be their union shift representative. This meant I could use some time, seems it was an hour each shift, going around talking to others seeing if all was well etc. So this way I got to see the whole operation. I soon saw this was not for me. The work was hard, it was dirty, and I didn’t like all the smoke. I knew it had to be very unhealthy. Altho there was no talk about smoke being harmful, or cigarettes being harmful etc.
To pour the castings, they had 2-man teams who would carry a bucket, about the size of a 5 gallon one, attached to a long rod. The rod ends would stick out 3-4 feet. Front end was a single bar, the rear was a double They’d fill the bucket with molten steel, then hurried so the steel didn’t cool too much going down the long rows of castings. They would fill each casting as they went, usually being able to fill maybe 4-5 castings before they ran out. They’d dump any left over, run back, refill and be back pouring more. Probably 8 or 10 teams doing this. One night, a fellow in the front stumbled, dropping his end of the carry rod. When he did this the single end, stuck into the ground stopping the bucket very fast. This cause the molten steel to slop out of the bucket forward. It slopped far enough ahead to fill one of his shoes with the molten steel. It burned his heel right off his foot. I recall several helping him get his shoe off, putting the fire out on his pants, etc. It burned much of his heel completely off. I recall how strange it was, ghostly white and that it didn’t bleed. Terrible to see.
And I got to sit in a time or two on union discussions with the management. I think it was just routine meetings, trying to keep the operation going smoothly. By now everything was geared up to the war effort. We had ration books then, so much sugar, coffee, butter, meat etc. per person per week. Don’t recall it being any bother to us. Also had gas and tire rationing, but since we both worked “defense jobs” we got enough gas to go to and from those jobs. Did very little else anyway, didn’t have time, so it was ample.
About then, must have been mid summer 1942 or so, they started advertising that married men could join the Air Cadets. By now Donna had been ordered, and we were looking forward to that. By virtue of my job at the steel mill, I was classified as holding an essential job and exempt from the draft. But June and I discussed it, and felt I should go ahead and try to get into the flying program, than to take my chances by hanging back and getting drafted into the infantry. I doubted my job would keep me exempt too much longer, because the need for recruits was increasing greatly.
It was about then I met Frank Robinson. I think George knew him, since he lived on a farm in the neighborhood. Frank had a pilot’s license, and when the war came along, he got a job instructing potential naval flyers at the airfield there in Kalamazoo. Both the army and navy sent all prospective cadets to a college course to brush up on mathematics and related subjects. This was known as CTD- “College Training Detachment.” While there each future cadet received a couple of “orientation” flights in a Piper J-3 Cub. It was supposed to tell if you were inclined towards flying, and to rate your potential. The report the instructor turned in just about determined if you got into the program or not. So, Frank told me to come and take a flight with him and he’d be able to tell if I could hack the program. I went up with him. This was about my 2-3rd flight, but the first time at the controls (dual controls).We did what Frank felt was needed, slow turns S turns etc. He announced I was one of the best, no problem at all with making the program etc. Of course, it had nothing to do with anything official but did help my ego. I still don’t know where I got the confidence, but I felt I could do almost anything I wanted to do. I felt if I got an even chance at trying, I could do it. Even if I didn’t know what was going on I thought I could watch someone and pick it up quickly enough to manage. And so along with June’s blessings, I went into the recruiting office and took the tests required to join the ARMY AIR CORPS. I was to be assured of getting a chance to qualify for the AVIATION CADET program. Results came, and verified that I was qualified. Since I had registered for the draft in St. Louis, I had to contact the draft board there, have them release my records to the board in Kalamazoo. After they received the release I could request immediate induction. I would then be on my way. So this was the process I followed, although as one could suspect, there were many pot holes twixt here and there. A paper would be lost something else would happen etc. all taking time.
Soon it was Feb, 1943 and a lovely, loose spirit whose time for flashing in from the great universe beyond was about to evolve into that who was to be known as DONNA RUTH POTTER. By Feb 7 she was ready, so was her mother and the two in one became one by one. Donna was here! I was a pappy! Donna was really a bargain too. I recall the hospital bill for her ran less than $300.00. We had no insurance so was glad the bill was no higher. I believe they kept Mother in bed on her back for ten days, mandatory! ‘Course, no sulfa drugs etc. and infections were a great worry.
While my paper work continued to bounce back and forth, I continued working at the steel foundry. Along in early July or so, I was told to go with a group to Detroit to take our pre-induction physicals. Went by bus, over and back. Then another wait, until in early August, I was to report for duty. Those in this group were all who had qualified so far for flight training. We boarded a train, and headed to Miami Beach, Fla. Had no reclining seats, just the straight backed doubles. We spent about 3 days and nights getting to Florida. Arrived in Miami around 2AM and was taken by bus to Miami Beach, some 8-10 miles. We were told to “find a room and go to bed.” Many of us thought we’d be permitted to sleep in the next AM since we’d been on the train so long needed baths etc. But wasn’t to be. Around 5AM through the hotel they came, rooting us all out. We spent the next couple days getting haircuts, uniforms, shots etc. Were assigned 4 men to a room, two bunk beds. Basic training began. During the long years of separation, Gram Gurney was a great blessing. She took care of Donna while June worked her 9hr a day, 6 day a week job at Ft. Custer. We really appreciated her.
Some of the remembrances I have about the Miami. We were all restricted to our hotel with no time off. We would march to the dinning hall, a new building, right on the beach, covered with green roofing material. Of course we called it the “green latrine.” Meals weren’t bad, and it was here I was introduced to and learned to eat beets. We’d never fixed them at home. Also most of the permanent buildings there were white, or a light pastel, and I remember how bright the sun was. It would reflect off those white walls something fierce. Our formation area where we met when leaving the hotel was in the back parking lot surrounded by white walls. I recall my eyes actually hurting from all the glare. I think I must have burned my eye balls since I and many others didn’t have sunglasses. Also recall, they took us to a large park for marching practice and to the beaches for physical training where we would go into the ocean up to our knees and run. We ran for quite a long way. If you were on the deep side, of the four abreast it was tough. I was in a group billeted on the 5th floor. We used the back steps to go up and down for all formations. It was a narrow, concrete set of steps, hardly wide enough for two at a time, so you alternated sides about ½ a person behind. We were to be down the steps, out of hotel and into formation in given amount of time. And we practiced and practiced trying to get the time down. Had a S/Sgt. in charge overall with a Corporal in charge of our unit. So, we’d wait in our rooms, he’d blow a whistle and down we’d come. All 5 flights of stairs. Of course, we’d never quite make the time, so back up. Another blow on the whistle and down we’d come. Seems we’d do that for hours. We were issued 2 pair of fatigues, (every day clothes) and had to wash one pair each day The only washing facility was the bath tub so each night the four of us took turns washing our fatigues. You had to have a “clean” pair each AM. Also recall our dental appointments. Had about a dozen chairs set up in a long room. I had several teeth needing fillings. They used no shots for the pain, just drilled and filled. Quite an experience. We’d also get picked for both guard duty and for KP (kitchen police) duties. I was on guard duty a time or two along the ocean, all lights out, supposed to watch for submarine lights. I never saw any. On KP I did many things from washing the metal trays, which you ate from, to cleaning the pots and helping with the cooking. A time or two washing the greasy pots convinced me there had to be a better way, so I made it a point to be extra helpful around the cooks. Before too long my tours of KP were spent helping mash potatoes, making gravy, you know, “OK, Potter, throw in some more salt, put in more of that, etc.” I was coming up in the world. It was about then they asked for a volunteer to play the bugle.
They asked who knew how. Well, I had played the trumpet in school, and although I didn’t know any of the bugle calls I figured I could get some noise out of it. I knew if I could do that much, somehow I’d be able to learn the different calls. So I raised my hand, and thereby became the official bugler. Somehow I got a set of music showing the calls and with a little practice, knew those I needed. So when we went to the park for drill practice, I would be picked up in a vehicle and taken to the place where we stood retreat each day. I would have to be a few minutes early, so I got to ride while the rest marched. I would blow the appropriate calls when told, then got back into the vehicle and was taken back to the hotel, beating the rest. This gave me the washroom all to myself for a few minutes. So I blew all the formation calls, the retreats, lights out etc. and by doing so managed to live about a half step above the “grunts.’ Big deal! It was through this I learned that by just offering to help even if it took a bit to learn to do it correctly or quickly, by just by being willing to try, you could get a slight edge over the rest. Of course they only needed one bugler at a time, so my position was firm.
Then we shipped out to CTD (College Training Detachment.) at Lebanon, Tenn. Another train trip. The 4-6 wk. of college training was designed to brush you up on math, and other subjects. We also had ground instruction in basic flying such as map reading, navigation methods, using a compass etc. We received about ten hours of flying time in a Piper cub with a civilian instructor also. The time at Cumberland College in Lebanon. was another busy period with lots of studying. The regular professors taught most of the classes except for those having to do with flying, navigation etc. Not being too dedicated a student before, I really had to scratch to get the math and other classes. But in the classes on flying I did quite well. Again they needed a bugler, so guess who! I did all the calls there too, but did have another fellow who helped. He was a tall blond fellow from Penn. so we’d split doing the calls with me doing most of the early wake up calls. From the time the bugle blew, you had a short time to be dressed, shaved and into formation. We’d have roll call, announcements etc. then return to the same building for breakfast. Since I blew the bugle I would have the night CQ (charge of quarters-fellow who stayed awake all night to watch for fire etc.) waken me a few minutes early. This gave me use of the bathroom without having to wait. Often there would be 3-4 lined up waiting for a wash basin to shave. So it made life a bit less hectic. As an Aviation Cadet, I was paid $52 a month. In addition June was given a small allotment (seems it was in the area of $18 a month or so). Then they needed an “Honor Council” member from our flight. Another story shortened, the fellows insisted I take that after I’d promised fairness, and equal hearing for all etc. So I joined the 3 or 4 others that made up the honor council. We would resolve accusations on such matters as stealing, cheating, failing to do, etc. We could award demerits, each of which required a given amount of punishment, extra drill etc. It was about then they started calling me Pop. I was 22 or 23, married with one child. Most of the others were younger and single. We were there several weeks before we had any time off. It was there that you Donna with your mother drove down to visit for ONE WEEKEND. What a long trip for such a short time, but was I ever glad to see you both. You made quite a hit with all the fellows, Donna. Mother had you dressed so cute, and you would talk right up with the fellows etc. Our time there was busy and I remember it as enjoyable. Course, all this time I’d have rather been “at home” living with you two, but our generation was steeled to “do what had to be done.” I and your mother both were caught up in it, you couldn’t turn back, so you did what you had to do and looked forward to the end and a return to normalcy.
In the program, between the college stint and the first flying was a 3-4 week course known as preflight. It was aimed mostly at testing both mentally and physically. They had a gadget you sat on that was built to flip to one side or the other. By the use of two hand levers you could keep yourself in the middle and not flip to the side. You’d sit down, they’d unlock it, and you were off. You needed to stay within the center’s lines for a given period of time to be called a pass. I always managed to do OK in it. There was a new procedure here. Any one caught stealing, cheating or doing anything dishonorable was driven from the Cadet Program. It was called being “DRUMMED OUT.” It supposedly came from the academies. But anyway, the first you’d know of this going on, was late, near mid-night. All the lights in the area would come on, the centrally controlled speaker system would be activated, and you’d hear very slow beat of a drum. I believe they used snare drums. But it would start off with a single beat, a pause of several seconds, another beat, another pause, etc. When this started, we had to dress quickly form into our groups and go to the designated central area. The drums would be continuing their slow but steady beat. We’d get in our given positions and stand at attention, waiting. The tempo of the beat was slowly increasing all this time, and in 20-30 minutes or so it was almost a continuous beat. Reminds you of the beat of primitive peoples. Starting slow, and not too loud and continuing for the entire time, building in tempo and volume until it was really a crescendo. By this time we’d been standing for 15-20 minutes. Then suddenly, silence. The drum beat would stop and there wasn’t a sound to be heard. Over the centrally located PA system would come the announcement. Something like, “Aviation Cadet, John J. Jones, 1st. Squad, 3rd group, 5th Battalion serial number so and so after having been found to be a cheat, in that he did, on such and such a date, in an effort to help himself did,” and then they’d tell what he did. Stole a paper, copied from someone etc. The story would end with Av. Cadet Jones is to be banished from the corps, and his name will not be mentioned again (or something similar). It was really an impressive ceremony, and very effective. What a disgrace. And of course, you were done with the flying. Depending on what you had done, you might go to jail, be sent to the infantry or what ever. It was not an action you wished taken for you. They had been stressing the HONOR CODE all these weeks. It made a believer out of many of us, me included. I recall at least two occasions when someone was caught and was “drummed out” of the service.
Soon after this I was sent to DARR AREO TECH at Albany GA, for the first phase of flight training. Again lots of schooling, ground classes etc. All along the way prior to this time, we were given a battery of tests. Dexterity tests, eye-hand coordination tests, mental dexterity to see if you could cope with 2 or 3 things happening at once. Each testing would be graded, and you needed an overall score of such and such to pass. To be in the pilot training, you needed to better the scores by so much. I continued to pass them all and rather easily, so that fed my ego.
At flying school, we spent one-half day on the flight line most days. I and four others were assigned to one instructor, a civilian, (like Frank Robinson). We flew PT 17’s the Stearman bi-plane. We were told that since the wheels were not too wide apart, the plane liked to ground loop when landing. That was considered a “no, no,” but it was a thought you had every time you landed. The instructor would take us up, one at a time for 30-40 minutes of instruction. By the end of about the 4th or 5th lesson, we were being prepared for soloing. We’d been taught to take off, land, control the airplane. Some had problems adjusting to this phase and we lost a fellow every now and them. You got a written report made on each flight. The instructor would go over it with you but if he turned in a report written on a pink sheet, an unsatisfactory ride (due to ability, attitude or whatever), you were then given a check ride by a Lt., a real honest to goodness tough as nails Army check pilot. He could reverse the pink slip grade, assign a different instructor or uphold it and you went for a check ride with “The Captain” We also got regular check rides by the military after so many hours to see how we were progressing. We lost a few men regularly for one reason or another and in my group of 5 we were soon 4. One fellow had flown several hours as a civilian. In fact he had his private license already. So while the instructor was flying with another, we sat in the “waiting room” reading our manuals, talking to each other. This fellow was telling us he was pretty sure the instructor, let’s call him Mr. Big was going to solo him first. How long it took us to solo was a reflection on how well the instructor was doing his job. We had to solo in a given time frame, seems like it was 8-10 hours, or take a checkride. We were all at the 5 hour point. Then one afternoon, another beautiful day in Georgia about 3;30, Mr. Big returned with his student, and while Mr. Big used the rest room and finished his report, we would get the latest poop from the fellow who just came down. “What’d you do, is it rough up there today, how’s Mr. Big’s mood etc.?” Mr. Big zipped up his pants, got a drink of that good old GA water and said “come on Potter” lets see if you remember anything” or something similar. It was always something to help your moral! So off we went. I took off, climbed out leveled off, did a few maneuvers he called for, and headed to an auxiliary field. They had so many planes flying we’d go to these little outlying fields to practice our landings. This one was in the middle of a great pecan plantation. Just a 5- acre grass field surrounded by 20-25 ft. pecan trees. He had me make a landing or two and when taxing back said for me to pull up “over by those trees”. I thought he had to whiz (as they sometimes did) and since Bigmouth was sure he’d be the one to solo first, that didn’t hit me. But when I “pulled up there” Mr. Big got out and I noticed he stowed his seat belt, which he normally did not do. Then he climbed up on the wing, leaned in to me and said, ” I want you to take it around, land and taxi back. If I don’t wave for you to stop, take off again. Do this three times.” He says “Now get going” and jumps down and went off to the side. So I got into position, lined her up, pushed the throttle full up, and was soon trying to control the wobbly thing bouncing over the cow flops, etc. I had never noticed these before. But airborne did I get. I flew the pattern just as we had practiced and made a respectable landing. He didn’t wave so I did a repeat. Again no wave, so by then I was feeling pretty good, thinking just wait until I get back and tell em. Off I went on take-off #3. By now a few fluffy afternoon clouds had moved in line of my flight path. I didn’t want to deviate from my previous path, since it had proven OK, but right on the downwind leg was the first of the several puff balls I would have to fly through. This really concerned me. “How long would I be in it, would the engine continue to run?” And “what if I got lost in it and didn’t come out straight.” Or “what if I turned upside down and fell out (open cockpits) or whatever?” Surely something terrible might happen.
To appreciate my concern about flying into the clouds you must know that back then, on cars the spark plug wires were simply attached to the plugs by a metal clamp. Very much like the ones now on lawn mowers and other small engines. I recall many times on our old model “T” Ford and also our 1928 Chevy if you ran through a deep puddle, and splashed water on the engine, and got the plugs wet they would “ground out” and not fire properly. If only one plug on a 4 cylinder engine got wet the engine would usually continue, but would spit and sputter until the engine heat dried it. If two got wet, it’d buck and jump and run very rough. But if more were wet the engine would completely quit. To rectify, you had to wait a while and let it dry from the engine heat, or open the hood and use a cloth to dry them. Today of course, we have the rubber caps covering the wire and the plug end so the problem no longer exists, but in those days it could happen. I knew about it as far as cars were concerned and had not been told if an aircraft engine was any different. It had not been discussed as far as I knew. And as so often happens one doesn’t think of it until the problem is there. So this is why I was apprehensive that the moisture in the cloud might cause the engine to spit and sputter? Luckily it did not.
But since I wasn’t about to deviate from the track that had proven OK the first two trips, I bored right on! After an hour or so (probably 30 seconds) I emerged into the blue and was I ever glad to see that sun. I was upright and not too far down the leg, so on around and in for the last of the 3 landings. You had to have 3 landing to be considered soloed and this was my 3rd. He waved me over on this return and I thought, “Oh heck, what’ll he say about me flying into the clouds.” I knew he surely saw it and I thought he might be concerned over that. But as he approached the plane he grinned and said something like “Well you didn’t kill yourself.” That was about all. I returned us to the main field. I had just a tad over the necessary minimum required hours. Naturally I told the fellows, and being the first of our group and one of the first overall to solo, I was asked by the others to tell how it was. So another big boost to my ego. Big Mouth had very little to say. During the next few days they all soloed. We would then have one solo flight, then a ride with Mr. Big, then another solo or two to practice what we had been showed. When flying ended for the day, the group you were assigned to would assemble as a unit and march back to our dorms across the road. So we were all supposed to ready at a given time.
The airfield was laid out in a triangle, with hard surfaced runways along the outside edge of each side. There was less probability of ground looping by landing on the sod field, so solo students were required to land on the sod. It must have been after my 3rd or 4th solo flight when I returned to the field to land they had changed the wind T, indicating a different direction of the wind. We always landed into the wind, or in the direction the T was pointing. For this landing, I had to land to the east which meant I had to come in over the school buildings, the dorms, cross the road and either come just over the large hanger or alongside it. There just wasn’t much room I thought. So I approached the field, but being wary of all the obstructions, I didn’t come in low enough and was too far down the field before I could land. I recognized my error, so applied power and went around, as we had been instructed to do. I repeated this go-around on 3 or 4 passes. I could see my flight lined up, waiting for me to get down so we could go eat. But it seems I goofed once more and this time, when they saw me add power to go around, they started marching on back. They were leaving me! And of course, it was getting on toward evening. I knew it would be dark before long. I also knew I only had so much fuel, and it would run out sooner or later, so I figured I just had to get down. So I finally gritted my teeth, and figured if worst came to worst, even if I bounced off the hanger roof, I’d be low enough to land before the end of the field. So back came the power and with the thought positively entrenched in my mind that I was either going to land or crash, I came in low enough and got it on the ground. Luckily I did not crash nor did I hit the hanger. A big relief! I kinda figured I’d be in trouble for holding the flight up so long, and taking so many passes to get down. But it seems they thought I was pretty smart to see that the approach wasn’t right, and had sense enough to go around. All I had done was get another 20-30 minutes of flying time and never heard much about it.
It was here in Albany that June and Donna came down and stayed. I would be off-duty parts of most weekends. We had no KP or other duties now so unless you goofed you had week ends off. Mother found a room with kitchen privileges at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Collins. He was an elderly fellow, probably early 60’s and was the overseer of a large pecan plantation. She was a jolly gal about the same age. They lived about 5 miles further away from the base which in turn was s 4-5 miles from town. So we spent several of our weekends at their plantation home. Mr. Collins had a dozen or so Negroes working on the farm who all had cabins just west of the big house the Collins lived in. We could eat all the pecans we wanted, just pick them up. He would let me shoot all the squirrels we wanted to eat which were like flies all over the place. So we had many an evening meal of squirrel. I finished the primary phase of flying without a single pink sheet report, nor having to take a re-do on any of my periodic checks. By this time we were probably down by 20-25% of our starting students. A few quit, more “washed out” and were sent to either navigator training or the infantry.
I was then sent to “basic” flying at COCHRAN AIR BASE at Macon, Ga. Here we flew the AT-6. On this plane the wheels retracted, the prop had a variable pitch, flaps, a closed canopy, radios and lights. All in all it was a much more advanced and powerful airplane. More engine and flight instruments, faster, more horse-power etc. But it, too, liked to ground loop, so one had to always be careful. While here we did most of our landing on pavement. We had radios, so had to get tower clearance prior to take off and before landing. To prevent anyone from landing with the gear up, we had to call in to the tower reporting “the gear is down, pitch full high (propeller setting needed to go-around) and mixture rich.” They had an instructor in a car, parked near the landing area, to visually check for gear down, he couldn’t tell the other items, but if he saw something amiss, he’d call on the radio and alert you. With anywhere from 25-50 planes flying at any one time, and perhaps a dozen or more doing landings, (this was when solo) it became easy to forget if you were Red Dog 1 or Red Dog 2, etc. You had to keep your wits handy to keep from goofing. It was here we started formation and instrument flying. I had indicated a preference for multi-engine planes all along and seemed to be headed that way. So we spent a lot of time doing those things. All was going well, and after a bit they decided it was time for us to find out that the airplanes could and, if properly handled, would fly OK at night. Imagine being up in the sky, all alone and in the dark. On the given day we took off just shortly before dark and flew to our assigned altitude and quadrant. We would be given an altitude up to 4 or 5,000 feet and in the area assigned. This night I was assigned one of the higher attitudes, which meant I would take off early and be one of the last called in to do the night landings. After you were all stacked and it got dark, they’d call in the lower ones to enter the pattern and shoot landings. After they had performed their required landings, they were done for the night. The higher planes would all come down a notch as they pulled the lower ones out from under. So, I was sitting up there flying circles listening to all the chatter on the radio, “Red Dog, you’re too high,” or “What’re you trying to do, kill us all,” or “Throttle up, go around etc.” I was still in my area when darkness set in. It was probably the first time I had seen the sun set from a plane, and being in GA, the setting was spectacular. And sure enough, just as they had warned, the air plane appeared to be on fire on the right side. It was just the exhaust gasses that exited on the right hand side about ½ way back from the front of the plane. The flames were shooting out right alongside and slightly ahead of where you were sitting. So I was glad to have been pre-warned. It would have been quite a worry if you weren’t prepared. My time finally came to do my landings. We had to do some using our landing lights, perhaps 3 or so. More just using flood lights and some a combination, and then to top it off we had to have a few “black outs.” The only lights then were the ones lining the runway. I managed to do all the landings and I guess not too badly, since I passed to the next phase. The AT 6 aircraft was similar in appearance to the Japanese Zero. Hence it was used in many of the movies that were made such as “Toro, Toro, Toro.” When we had left Michigan heading to Macon, Donna had a nasty head cold and the Moms decided she would be better off staying with Gram Gurney there in Michigan. So at Macon, June got a job working for the Procter Gamble company subbing for the boss’s secretary. We got to see each other most week ends.
When finished with this flying phase, we had 7-8 days off before reporting to our next place, TURNER FIELD at Albany GA. It was on the other side of town from where I had been before. Since we had the time off before we had to be there we loaded the old Chevy and headed for Michigan to visit and pick up our girl. On one of these trips back south we ran into a sleet storm. All of Indiana was covered with ice, but we kept going, slowly, hoping we’d run out of it. WE JUST HAD TO MAKE IT, so we continued. It would take about 24 hours of driving through the night to get there. On one trip around 9PM or so, it was raining and the visibility very poor as we went through a town in Tenn. I was driving and in the glare of head lights from an approaching truck, I saw a person (it turned out to be a woman) sitting very near the middle of the two lane roadway. I pulled over right to give extra room, but just before we got to her an approaching trucker didn’t see her and ran right over her. I stopped and went back, but she was flatter than a pancake, and I think already dead. I left my name and we went on. Sometime later we were contacted by a lawyer for a deposition. We were told she had tried to run across the street, returning to her car, when another vehicle had hit her. They hit her a glancing blow and knocked her down. She was probably groggy, and was trying to get up when the truck did it’s job. I felt so sorry. I’ve often thought, since I saw her, had I even suspected what was going to happen I’d have driven right toward her, causing the truck to pull over. I could have stopped in time. But all these “what might’ve done’s don’t replace even one of the already have beens.” And so we went to Turner field.
Here we flew the two engine B-25. It was a real honest to goodness airplane, one they used in combat. This was the first American aircraft to bomb Tokyo in WW11. Then Jimmy Doolittle and 15 more “Tokyo Raiders” flew from the aircraft carrier, USS HORNET and bombed Japan on 18 April 1942. Having many more instruments and systems, it was more complicated to fly. We did a lot of formation flying as well as instrument practice. Also flew navigation problems, low level etc. Time went fast and finally in May of 1945, I finished my flight training. Graduation day arrived, and I was awarded my silver wings and the gold bars of a newly minted Second Lieutenant, a real honest to goodness officer in the US Army Air Corps. By then the war in Europe was over and the Pacific War was winding down so it looked as if I would not go to either place soon. After graduation and following the “ceremony” you were to give a dollar to the first enlisted person to salute you. It didn’t take long to be taken for your buck. When I graduated we had to buy our officer’s uniforms. We were required to have a certain number of each item, so many shirts, etc. It came to several hundred dollars. We got a small allowance, but not nearly enough. I can remember being so greatly surprised when my folks sent a check for $100.00 to help buy the uniforms. That was a really generous gift for them at that time. We really appreciated it. As a 2/Lt. I drew $150 a month plus 50% for flying making a total of $225. I think we did get a small “housing” allowance, but am not sure. There was no additional allowance for Mother then, so our monthly $225 was it.
While I was in training we found accommodations for June and Donna at a place called River Bend. Here they shared a duplex cabin with another cadet wife and child. The place was on the river, and had a fairly nice swimming pool. One afternoon I went to the store to use the telephone. Donna toddled along either with or after me. She stopped by the pool, where she tried to throw a cat into the pool. The cat resisted, and Donna fell in. I heard a splash and ran to the pool. There she was laying on the bottom, looking up, her eyes wide open. I jumped in and helped her out. She was not in long enough to require any medical help, but we were so glad I had heard the splash!
Thinking about these training years, a couple things come to mind you might find interesting. First, and this started with the time at Miami, we had quite an aggressive physical training program. I had no trouble keeping up but after going to Tenn. part of our PT program was running. We would run while in a formation of perhaps 50-60 men, for up to 5 or 6 miles. The college was at the edge of the small town so we had “country” type roads nearby. We would run on one of these roads until we came to a certain bend. I recall there was a big oak tree right alongside at the bend. We’d run to there, turn around and run back. It was either 5 or 6 miles round trip. Did that at least every other day. I remember gasping and how my sides hurt, but you’d keep going. The Sgt., who ran along, would say things like “drop out and you’re done” etc. So I figured I’d fall over dead before I quit. It showed, when I thought of it later, how you can push yourself when properly motivated. We had a few who would quit, so I’m sure many felt as I did. Had I been running alone, no way could I have done it. So we have more reserve strength and will power than we use most of the time. These runs continued throughout the training. And the parades! We’d have at least two each week. The Sat. AM one was the biggy. The whole outfit would be there. Must’ve been 20 or 30 groups all lined up, out on the field. Each group with over 100 men in it. The bad part was the heat and humidity. Standing like that (and we stood for quite a spell) you were not to move. Several fellows would just pass out. The Sgt. would tell us if you passed out they’d just leave you there until after the parade. Then the medics would come and pick you up. “If the fellow ahead of you passes out, walk right over him.” No such thing as helping him up. Again it was designed to give you the will and guts to get through. They would also advise about flexing your muscles, tighten them, let them loose, to make it more do-able. Also, take in long breaths, let it out slowly etc.
But in a day or two the assignments were out and I saw that I was being sent to WACO TEXAS, in the middle of the summer to attend the B-25 FLIGHT INSTRUCTORS SCHOOL. I was told I was picked for this because of my good grades in instrument and formation flying. I knew no one else in my class that was. So off to Texas! We wanted to drive, since Mother and Donna were going along and our tires were pretty well shot. One was especially bad. Tires were still rationed and to get a new one, I had to go to the rationing board, fill out a form and explain my need. I figured we could get by with just one, but if I could get two, we’d have a spare. So I asked for permission to buy two and by golly, we got them. Tires were good for 15-20,000 miles back then. I felt like everything was going right when we got the two new ones on.
But on to Waco. We arrived there and it was hot and muggy. It took us a spell to find a place to stay. We’d checked the ads etc. but for one reason or another, were having trouble finding a spot. So June had the idea to put an ad in the paper, something like “Help, Help, we must have a room, a cabin, a box or a tent. We need something to call home for —- weeks” It ran one day and we got a call from a nice Texas lady who had an apartment over their garage. She was willing to rent to us. So we had a place to stay.
Flying kept us busy, and we soon finished and headed back to Turner Field. When we got back I was assigned as an instructor in the FRENCH CADET program,. Of course, I could speak no French but they had picked up some English. But since it was mostly instrument and formation flying, it was taught mostly by showing. I stayed with this program for several months until it finished. It was from doing this I earned my French wings. During this time we rented a small house near the field. It was two rooms and had a toilet and a cold water shower as an add-on on the back porch, a kerosene heater and cook stove. We considered ourselves lucky to get it. After the French program ended we were getting fellows, 1st Lt., Capts etc. returning from overseas. I did a lot of flying with them, getting their time in and keeping them current. One might think there might have been some resentment from them but I never found any. We were all so glad the war was over and that soon we’d all be going home. I thought too, we’d be going back to Michigan. We still owned the house on the lake, and it was there we were going. Didn’t know for sure what we’d do, but we were going. The airlines hadn’t started advertising or hiring pilots yet, so there was no thought of that,.
We were given the opportunity of getting our civilian COMMERCIAL Pilot license just by taking and passing a written test if we had a current instrument rating. If you weren’t current you had to take a flight test. So I took the written and got my private license which qualified me to fly civilian aircraft. Then they started talking that they were going to be giving tests for commissions into the REGULAR ARMY. If you got a regular commission you would not be released, and would become a part of the larger standing Air Corps the Army said was needed. There was talk that so much college education was required to pass the tests, so I thought my chance of getting through was indeed slim. I didn’t even plan to apply. They had application forms laying around the squadron, and one day we weren’t flying because of weather and some of the fellows got the forms and started filling them out. We thought it would be a lark to try. You’d go to the big Army base at Atlanta for two or three days of testing. Even if you did pass, and didn’t want the regular commission, you could turn it down. So I, along with others filled out the form and sent it in. Later we were assigned a date to be at Atlanta for testing. First test was several pages of questions. They’d show diagrams of different architectural drawings and ask what kind this was, where used, time used etc. Also questions on world affairs etc. One I remember, “Who is considered the father of present day China?” Multiple answers and I guessed Sun Yet Sen, which turned out to be correct. I felt I did poorly on the written tests. We then had a meeting with 3-4 officers, who questioned you on everything. From “what would you do if,” to “what do you think about this,” etc. I thought I did well here, in fact I was told so when I left. Had some more mental attitude and dexterity testing too. We returned to Turner with me having very little hope of being selected, since I felt I had done poorly. But wouldn’t you know, in a few weeks I found I was the only one in our group that had been selected! I received a telegram from the WAR DEPARTMENT informing me that President Roosevelt was appointing me a 2/Lt. in the regular Army of the US. Reply at once if I planned to decline. Now Mother and I had a problem. She thought she wasn’t cut out for such a life. I thought I could do it, but wasn’t sure I should. We had a lot to consider. June wanted to live back in Michigan on the lake. It was quite a bit because her folks were there and she wasn’t used to being too far from her folks. True we owned the house, I think we had it all paid for by then, but what kind of work would I find there? I certainly did not intend to go back to the smoky foundry. We heard a bit about the GI bill, where I could go to college and learn a trade, but how would we live in the meanwhile? The information was sparse. My folks were not able to help, other than we could have stayed with them a while, if needed. June’s folks weren’t much better off, and neither of us wanted to live with either of the families. So we felt earning something to live on while going to school would be up to me/us. And I did not want mother working, at least not on full time away from home. We both felt it is the mother’s job to bring up the kids. On the other hand if we did stay in, I could be doing something I did enjoy, it was something I felt I was pretty good at, and we would be assured a job for at least the next 20 years. We felt if things got bad then we would have enough put away to get by. There was a little talk of the airlines needing pilots, but it seemed vague and quite uncertain. And if I did get such a job, we’d not be able to live in Mich. anyway. We’d undoubtedly have to go someplace else. So after several days of considering, we convinced ourselves that it would probably be best if I took the commission and we made a career of it. The picture they painted was quite rosy for the post war era. Little did we or anyone else dream of the many situations to arise. Who thought of the Iron Curtain, all the problems the atomic age would bring, the Berlin fiasco etc. Who could foresee the continuous world of turmoil that was to be for the next 20 or so years. I certainly did not. So we felt our lives would be quite stable. I figured we’d go overseas, but I saw the family going along so no big problem. Other than being away from her mother, June was for travel. So I guess in the end I persuaded her to agree that we’d give it a try. So we did not respond to the Sec. of War, with a NO, thank you! And I was given a new serial number, a new commission and was considered one of the new entries into the regular Army Air Corps. There were still quite a few reserve people around, but it was generally accepted that the future leaders would come from the ranks of the regular force. So I said yes, Mother said I hope so, uncle Sam said thanks and we were off. To be discharged then you needed so many points, awarded for months service, months overseas, awards etc. With my experience I had very few points, so it would have taken another year or so before I would have been discharged anyway. This was in late fall or early winter 1945. During this period I was given an assortment of jobs, including a tour of recruiting, being sent to a base or two to help in getting it closed. We had to move some of the equipment out, transfer some etc. They had a group of civilians who were boarding up the buildings etc. but it took an officer to sign that what was required had been done, and when.
It was about this time that the order to send another, very much like the one we had was sent. It was time for Dave, to begin getting his belongings together and to make his appearance down here with us. Then I was told I was to be sent to Japan. June being pregnant was not to go. She would not have been able to go in any event due to the lack of family housing. I had to go, then put in for her travel, and take our place in line for her transport. I was not permitted to put in for her to travel, until the “new baby” was a given age. (no ultra sounds then) Seems like the baby had to be 4 months to travel.
In the spring of 1946, I received orders for Japan. I had a couple weeks of leave time, so we loaded up and trekked back to Michigan. We spent our time there with June’s folks. Don’t recall if we went by Illinois then or not, but the time went fast and soon it was time for me to leave. I went by train to Ogden, Utah, one of the processing bases for overseas. I spent 2-3 days there, getting shots, filling out forms, a will, power of attorney, allotment forms etc. We then trained to Oakland, Ca. where we boarded a troop ship for Japan. Don’t recall the name of the ship, but it wasn’t anything fancy. I was assigned a bunk down about 3 levels. And so we were thus involved for some 12-14 days for the trip over. We had lectures, some training films and a few other duties on the ship, but we still wound up with a lot of free time. We read some, and then the poker games sprung up. Lots of guys liked to play poker. I played a little, the stakes were quite low and it helped pass time, but I was never very good at it. I was not much of a bluffer, and didn’t like to lose. I didn’t make much, if any, money. We all ate at the same mess hall, on ship, so were assigned eating times. I thought the food was pretty good. Seems like there was always plenty of it. I spent a lot of time on deck, watching the wake of the ship, the way the bow wave kept up all the time and of course the flying fish. When the conditions were right they would be hundreds of flying fish. They’d come out of the water alongside the ship, up to 3-4 feet high and wave their large fins, propelling themselves through the air for quite a distance. Don’t recall seeing any whales or other large fish. We did pass a few other boats, but not many. The water was so luminous at night. Where the prow would disturb the water, it’d kinda glow. And so the time passed, and we soon arrived in Japan. The war had been over for several months by now, and I guess we were told what to expect, but we no more than docked when the Japanese came aboard and started helping with the unloading. We debarked in Yokohama and rode a truck to the replacement depot. It was a large tent city, set up a few miles outside of town. From here I was assigned to Tachikawa. Must have been about Aug ‘46 when I arrived at Tachi. It had been an training airfield the Japanese used and had been pretty heavily bombed. The main runway had been repaired but many of the buildings were a mess. They had built several Quonset huts by now. These were a metal building, like one-half of a large metal tube, with doors on both ends. I along with 4 others were assigned to one unit. We had lots of rain then and the mud was terrific, very few paved roads and no hard walks. Since most of our movement was by foot, you had to always be aware of the mud. Our flight operations office was set up on the flight line and we spent time there daily. Our outfit was to set up and run the “airlines” for the whole far east area. There were no civil airlines at all with most freight and people movement done by ships. We set up regular scheduled flights to many places, including all the main Japanese islands and Okinawa, Korea, Philippines, Iwo Jima, Guam, and a few trips to Taiwan and mainland China.
We had several two engine C-46’s and some of the 4 engine C-54’s. I soon checked out as first pilot in the C-46 and as co-pilot in the ’54’s. To take up the time when you were not flying, everyone had an additional duty job. My first one was in charge of the enlisted dining hall. They had to have an officer to certify all records, the number of meals served, disposition of the food, hours worked etc. I was lucky. I had an older Tech. Sgt. Anderson who was the chief mess Sgt. He had run mess halls before, and was quite capable. I was smart enough to work with him and seek his advice rather than being pig headed, which he liked, so we worked together very well. We’d sit down to discuss things and he’d suggest what he thought we should do, and most times it was the way we went. So we took care of each other and had a good time doing it and wound up with a very good rating. I remember one time when we had inspectors due shortly, Sgt. Anderson went through the store rooms, the kitchen etc. sprinkling lemon flavoring around. He said they’d never smell a thing unpleasant with that splashed around and he was right. It really freshened up the place.
I was surprised at the attitude of the Japs. I kinda expected some resentment, but found them to be very docile and never did feel threatened or anything. We had lots of them working for us, both in the mess hall and in supply as well as all over the base and they always seemed very cooperative. I’m sure it was in a large part due to the fact their Emperor had told them “we must get along with the Americans” so never did I see any violence from them. I was OG (officer of the guard ) one night, a chore that was passed around, when a dead Japanese girl was found just outside the base For some reason we had to go to their police station and see about something so I saw her there. She hadn’t been beaten or anything, so I don’t know how she died. The only resentment I recall was when we’d ride the trains. It was the normal way for us to go most anyplace. They put a car on the end of most trains with a large white band running lengthwise of the car. It was for occupation forces only. Some times at night they’d throw rocks at these cars.
We had house girls who cleaned the quarters daily both at our Quonsets and in the barracks where I lived later. It was a surprise when I found they’d come into the shower room for water or to work even when we were bathing in an open room with a several shower heads, but this was their culture. I noticed they’d not even look at you. And on the streets it was not uncommon to see (especially) men urinating or doing “the big job” along side the street. In Tokyo the main RR station was badly damaged, and had one usable restroom. A long room, maybe 50-60 ft by 15-20. One wall had a urinal trough running most of the length, and the other side had maybe 30-40 partitioned stools, without doors for females to use. Again, it was no big deal. The charcoal burning trucks and taxis had a stove type deal on the rear of the vehicle in which they burned charcoal. The gas this produced powered the unit. Several of us would go sight seeing when we had time off, and never had any problems. We used SCRIPT money then, no green backs. Ever so often the color of the money would be changed, to keep black marketing down. It would go from blue to red, to green etc. You had to exchange what you had for the new color since the old color would be useless. If you had more than a normal amount, questions were asked.
Flying took much of my time, and for the most part it was all routine. I did get to fly over HIROSHIMA fairly soon after arriving in Japan. We could see Mt. Fuji all the time and of course lots of water. On most of our trips to Korea, we’d land at Kimpo on the outskirts of Seoul and spend the night. We had about 3 stops along the way, and the same on the return flight, so it made for long days. The winters in Korea were cold. The Quonset huts we used to spend the night were heated with an oil stove. A small stove about the size of a 5 gal bucket with the oil barrel located outside. Some nights it was so cold the oil in the line would congeal, and the fire go out. So about dawn a Korean would come by, run a wire through the pipe to get the oil flowing, then come in and light the fire. When he didn’t come by we’d dress and leave in the cold. We’d fill the C-46 with fuel before we left either end, and that would get us home, but to have a margin you had to run some of the tanks empty. It had 3 or 4 tanks and there was a sequence you followed in using them. When a tank showed nearly empty, we’d set it to feed one engine, and a full tank to feed the other. When the tank ran empty, the engine would spit and sputter a bit and we’d quickly switch to the full tank, and it’d catch again. As we always had passengers aboard it would wake them up! For some reason we thought that was funny! On these flights we’d have two pilots and a navigator. We did not have crews assigned as such as we all had extra jobs, so you might be flying with anyone. Even so, it seemed to fall into a pattern. A fellow I worked with in supply, Jim Berry was a navigator and he and I flew a lot together. Chuck Low was in charge of the theater etc., and he being a co-pilot flew with me often also.
The crew flying assignments would be posted several days ahead. On the assigned day we’d all report to Base Ops at the given time. The pilot would go to the aircraft and check on the cargo, make sure it was loaded and tied down right, check with the crew chief on the plane’s condition etc. The co-pilot would check on the passengers, sign the needed sheets and give the required safety briefings. The Navigator got his charts and did his pre-planning. Then we’d all meet at the weather office for their information. So early one morning, at daybreak when I went to the plane I found it surrounded by MPs. There were 3 jeeps with mounted machine guns and a rope barrier stretched around the plane. I identified myself and they let me aboard. No one seemed to know what was up. I checked the cargo, and found it was a bunch of boxes marked “Toy dogs,” each about 10″ wide, 18″ long and 4″ high. The whole load was about 10-12′ long, 4′ wide and 4′ high. When I checked in with the co-pilot I found we had only one passenger, a 1st Lt. Military Policeman from the Tokyo head quarters group. Most unusual to have one of them so far from Mac Arthur’s Tokyo hdqtrs. The Lt. wore his chrome helmet and all. So we took off headed for Okinawa. After a while the Lt. came to the flight deck and started BS’ing with us. It was then he told us our load was green backs, $75 million worth. It had been taken from China, (Mao T’se-tung was driving Chiang Kai-shek off the mainland to Formosa, now called Taiwan.) So that was our mystery load! And since it was a 2 engine plane, and over six hours of water, normal procedure was to toss out cargo if you had to shut down an engine. The idea was to save the airplane and the crew. So of course, we asked him what if ? He says “no problem. I’ve got the serial numbers of each box, I’ll just check them off as you throw them out.” He said they were weighted so would not float. When we landed at Okinawa a couple of Jeeps, again with machine guns came out, and followed us in from the runway. They quickly surrounded us when we parked and an officer met the plane and signed for the cargo. The cargo was unloaded, we departed later and I never knew how it was disposed of. Never since have I had that much money!
Another interesting trip, I took a group of about 12-15 Japanese Government big -wigs on a trip. Part of the occupation policy was to help their government get established. We took this group to a couple places on the north end of Honshu and then up to Hokkaido. Some kind of an inspection tour for them. We’d stop, they’d be met by the locals and spend several hours or a day or more conferring. Then we’d go to the next stop and do a repeat. Made 4-5 stops as I recall. They were all very nice and polite even thought we couldn’t talk well with them. They were quite considerate and appreciative. Amazing think what a few months and a big bang can do to change behavior.
One time we were flying to the north island Hokkaido. We were above the clouds in a two engine C-46. As we approached our destination we had to descend through clouds. The moisture in the clouds condensed and the pitot tubes froze closed. The pitot heaters were inoperable! It is through these tubes you get air speed indication, so our airspeed indicators went to zero. I remembered that you could use a given power setting which “should” give you a given airspeed, so we did this. Luckily as we descended the ice thawed and the airspeed returned to normal. I was not looking forward to having to land without an airspeed indication.
And the time went by and as baby David became old enough for traveling, I put in the paper work for mother and Donna and Dave to come to Japan. In mid ‘47 they got a notice to “get ready.” They got their required shots from Dr. Squires, across the lake. June also had our car re-painted and made the arrangements for it to be shipped over. They received orders for train travel from Kalamazoo, MI to the west coast. They made this part of the trip in a two bunk bedroom car. After several days they arrived at Ft. Lawton in Seattle Washington. They were here for several days getting paper work done, more instructions etc. Then in Oct 1947 they departed and 15 days later arrived in Yokohama Japan. Having made the trip on the troop ship O’hara with stops at Whittier and Kodiak, Alaska then across the northern Pacific. June reported it was quite a stormy trip. Donna was “sea sick” from the time they left the pier. Dave at 10 months was wanting to walk but couldn’t on the rolling/moving ship. June also had fun going up and down the ladders carrying Dave, as the boat pitched, she’d alternate weighing 500 pounds, then being light as a feather. Also during the survival boat drills, holding Dave in a life jacket and her being in one also and Donna holding onto her skirt! A memorable trip by a spunky gal.
We were assigned temporary quarters near Mt. Fuji in a resort hotel, The YAMANAKA. It was on a good sized lake in the mountains near the base of Mt. Fuji. A very pleasant and quiet area. Mother was assigned a couple rooms where she, Donna and Dave lived, while I spent the work week on base. I was able to come up to the hotel many or most week ends. They were up there until early December when Dave became ill and was brought down to the base hospital. They then found us quarters on base, so we moved into our apartment. Mother had brought our 1939 Chevy over with her so were really set up. We had an both an apartment and wheels.
The supply situation for aircraft parts was a disaster. Much of the left over supplies from the whole pacific area had been brought to a central depot in Japan, which then served the whole pacific area. The supply area was located across the airstrip but on the same field as Tachikawa. They named it JAMA (Japanese Air Material Area) We were having such problems getting needed parts for aircraft that the Commanding General set up “THE AOCP PROGRAM” (aircraft out of commission for parts) He directed that each base assign one officer to JAMA to work on this program. I was picked for Tachikawa. Being only a 2nd Lt. that made me feel quite good. Several bases assigned Capts, and we had at least one Major doing this work. We were all given a jeep (quite a compliment) and went into this great mess of supplies to find what our base needed. The supply area must have been 4-5 blocks long, and 2-3 wide. Boxes stacked 15-20 feet high. Just enough room between the rows to drive a jeep. We’d get a daily list from our home base, showing what they needed. We’d go to the storage area and find the items. If it was something small we’d bring it in for shipment, if not we’d tell the others where the item was, and they’d get it. We’d try to determine how many of that item were there and insert this information into the supply records. Luckily many of the boxes were pretty well marked so we slowly made a bit of progress from the chaos. This was a pet program of the General’s and he came several times to look. That was when I met Lt. Gen. Enis Whitehead, C.G. of the Pacific forces at that time. The requirements for this job was to “assign you brightest young officers,” and with the General keeping an eye on it we had all the assistance we wanted. Our AOCP rate went dramatically down so it did work. I always thought of this duty as a feather in my cap. Since we did well, it looked good on my record. After a while when we had this under control it was turned back over to those normally assigned and I returned to my regular job at the Tachikawa base supply.
We had a few accidents while I was in Japan. One of the 5 officers in our Quonset was Capt. George Fisher. He was pilot on a C-54 flight coming back from Korea (I think) and for some unknown reason flew into Mt. Fuji. Had about 20 passengers on board, killing them all. And one C-46 ditched in the ocean with the crew being rescued. Those were the only bad accidents we had. About the only accident I ever had was on a trip returning to Tachikawa. The weather was very poor, low clouds, rain and lots of wind. We were not able to land there due to weather, so they sent us to Yakota. They had just installed a ground control approach system (GCA) and they were going to “talk us in.” I had received no training on this, don’t think anyone else had either, but we gave it a try. They helped me line up with the un-seen runway and started giving me letdown instructions. Since I couldn’t see the ground and did not have enough gas to fly all night, I trusted them. And sure enough, we broke out of the clouds and were lined up well enough that we could land despite the heavy rain and wind. About the time we settled onto the runway a gust of wind hit that big tail and pushed us sideways. I was not experienced enough to correct quickly enough and ended up running off the runway. Not far, don’t think the tail wheel was more than 25-30 feet off. The ground crew hooked a chain to the tail wheel and used a truck to pull us back onto the runway. No damage done.
When landing at Naha, Okinawa, you came in over a lagoon, part of the ocean. Must have been 30-40 ft of water or so but on the bottom, pretty as you please, was a Japanese BETTY aircraft. Never learned how it got there. I was on Iwo Jima during this period also. We were told to stay away from Mt. Suribachi since there were still some Japs hiding out in the jungle around it. The same was true on Guam. Many holdouts were thought to be hiding in the jungles. I remember the deep black sand on the beach at Iwo Jima. It was the landing beach, and the sand was so deep and slippery you’d sink in over your shoe tops. What a horrible place for an invasion. We lost many Marines there.
Then when returning from a 2-3 day trip to Okinawa, as we taxied to our parking spot, the crew chief hollered up and said “We’re all going to Germany.” The Berlin Airlift had started on 1 April 1948. It was now Aug. Our whole wing of C-54’s was being sent. I was assigned to the departing group as “unit supply officer” a Majors position. Mother had been there hardly a year, after waiting a year and a half to come and neither of us liked the idea of being apart again. But as one learns to do when there is little other choice, we made the best of it. I packed a few things and before long was off. I forget the crew I went with, but we had the flight crew and several ground personnel on each plane. We flew first to Guam, about a 10 hr flight, then to Kwajalein, another 10-11 hours, then to Johnson Island, 8-10 hrs, then Hawaii, 6-8 hrs. We laid over for a day’s rest, then on to Fairfield Suisun, Calif. then to the big aircraft depot at Oklahoma City, OK. where we had wing de-icier boots installed. This took a couple days. From there it was to Westover, Mass, to the Azores, and on to Wiesbaden, Germany. None of our stops along the way were any longer than needed. Since we had 3-4 pilots aboard, we just kept going. And within a couple hours after arriving in Germany our planes were flying missions into Berlin. Since I was the unit supply officer, I and my one Sgt. helper busied ourselves with getting the supply line running.
Jerry Ashcraft was the head honcho for the maintenance end of things, and I had the supply function. He was a Capt. and I a 1st Lt., We were both filling slots that called for Majors, but promotions were pretty well frozen, so it made little difference. We both had Maj. Froelich as our boss . He was a good guy and we all three got along well. They were not too well prepared for the large influx of personnel and planes at Wiesbaden. For instance they didn’t assign us a place to stay. We just looked around and found a room. Most of the buildings still had considerable bomb damage. Some were OK on one end, and rubble on the other. Lt. Jim Berry and I found an empty room with a couple of cots in one of the buildings. We scrounged a couple boxes for night stands and a desk, so that was the home we shared. They did issue us blankets, and I’m not sure if we had sheets or not. We did have electricity and I think a usable bathroom.
My main job at Wiesbaden was to go to the base supply unit and expedite our supply requests. I had one fellow, S/Sgt. Shiflett working with me and he and I pretty well did it. I filled in on flying as I had time and as they needed someone. The flight crews were set up as crews and usually flew together. They would make 3 trips perhaps 4 a day into Berlin. They would work for several days, then have several days break. Being responsible for supplies, I did not get these periods off, so I never got to visit Garmish, the big recreation area, or the places that were further than a few hours away. But it was considered a “feather in your cap” to be a part of the staff so I didn’t mind. I really stayed busy and got to see more of the over-all picture.
On our flying we hauled mostly coal. It was a lump coal, about the size of walnuts. It came to us in old “duffel” bags, each bag weighed 110 lbs. Later they changed to paper sacks, weighing 55 lbs. each. When an aircraft was scheduled and ready to fly, a crew of Germans would bring a large truck load of these filled bags. They did the loading, during which time we’d be checking the route weather, getting the needed clearances etc. Then at our scheduled time, off we’d go.
Each base and on Frankfurt Air Base, where there was an English group as well as a US group flying, each flying unit would have “block times” for take-offs. For instance one group might have from 1300 to 1345, 1510 to 1600, 1710 to 1815 etc. It went on around the clock. These times were set to reflect the number of planes available as well as the time it took to make a round trip. During those flights our schedule called for a 3 minute separation. Enroute, one aircraft would be at 5,000 ft, the next at 5,500 etc. We had a prescribed route to follow and when nearing Berlin we had 3, if I recall correctly, radio stations over which you were to pass. We had times assigned for each spot, which would set up your spacing for landing. By changing speed if necessary, you were to be exact over the last one. When you turned final approach the GCA (ground controlled approach unit, which was just coming into it’s own then) would pick you up and “talk you down.” Much of the weather was really bad and the help they provided was needed and appreciated. Many times without it, few planes would have landed . If the weather was clear it was a “confidence booster” to have them talk you down, since you were able to see how well they did. So we’d land at Tempelhof, in Berlin, and taxi to the un-loading ramp, which was in the shape of a half circle. We’d follow the jeep to our spot, behind the last plane, or if too far back they’d re-start the line in front. The crew chief would open the large cargo door as we rolled into our parking spot and by the time the engines had stopped, another German crew with a truck was pulling into place. There were 10 or 12 workers on each crew and they made short work of the unloading. We had probably 80-100 bags on board. So off went the bags. They’d no more than get the plane empty, when another one or two person team would climb aboard carrying brooms and sweep out any coal that had spilled. This done and off went the truck. Many of these workers were women as well as men. The large door would close and we’d be back in the cycle to go home During this time, which took perhaps 15-20 minutes, the flight crew would get out and meet with the weatherman who came to the plane. He and a clearance officer would be there when you got out, brief you on the weather, sign the return clearance and that was it. All done right at the aircraft. This is also where the idea of “snack wagons” began, so I’m told. A snack wagon operated by the Base Exchange would come by. You could buy hamburgers, coffee, cokes, cigarettes etc. If you did you would eat standing, while getting the weather briefing. With engines started you’d just follow the circle route which took you to the take-off end of the two runways. Landings on the further one, take-offs on the nearer. The landing aircraft would taxi in, passing under the taking off plane. This kept the flow going very nicely. And if for some reason, you did not land on your first approach, you returned to altitude and went back home. There was no slack permitting another trip around the field. This didn’t happen too often but happen it did. It was also during the time between the radio check points, that we’d sometimes see the Russian fighter planes. We were often in and out of the clouds. You’d pop out of the clouds, and off to the side at no great distance would be a Ruskie. They were close enough you could see the pilot. Often we’d wave back and forth. It was here while over Berlin, I took several pictures. Very little clean up work had been done, and there were blocks and blocks of buildings with nothing standing but the outer walls. The streets were still choked with debris. Most of the cargo we hauled was coal, but I recall one flight when we had a load of wine, another a load of cigarettes. Other units carried other food stuffs, flour, canned items etc., but not us. I’d make a couple of trips some days, then back to my job with supplies, which was a 24 hr, 7 day a week job.
We were at Wiesbaden from early Sept. to right after Christmas. The weather continued about the same and at times it did get cold! We had snow which was very damp so the cold wind was really noticeable. Remember most of our ground movements were by foot. And the fog! It would be so thick sometimes you actually couldn’t see more than a couple of car lengths. During very bad fog periods the flying would stop. The days rolled on and during the Christmas season, forget the exact date, Bob Hope brought his show to Wiesbaden. By the time I arrived, the theater was jammed, all seats taken, I watched the show standing in the rear along with a number of others. Jinx Falkenberg, Jerry Colona and others were in the group. Jinx, I think had just been crowned Miss America, and Jerry Coloma was a big attraction. I thought it was a really great show.
Very shortly then we moved north to a base in the British sector named Celle, same as the city. The reason, it was closer to Berlin and further from Frankfurt, eliminating some of the congestion on the southern airway. About this time TEGEL, a new base was opened in the French sector of Berlin. Our Berlin landings were at Tegel when flying in from Celle. So the days followed each other and the routine stayed fairly stable, and the days did pass. During what free time I had, some of us would go to town and look around. I got to see one or two of the nearby castles, one we went into. Most of our eating was done on base. I recall hardly any eating places or pubs open for our use in town. In fact can’t recall seeing any of them, so most of my meals were taken on base. There was some black market going on, but no great amount as far as I knew. The official exchange rate was about 4 marks to the dollar, and you could sell carton of cigs for 25-30 mark, so a lot cigs were sold. I sold a few and got a camera and a pair of bino’s, but with little time off and no eating places I had little need of marks. Oh yes, after we’d been in Germany several weeks someone decided we had to have passports, so we were all photographed and were issued one.
At Celle, our landing pattern took us to the west, which meant we came in rather low over a set of railroad tracks adjacent to the base. On week ends it seemed to be big sport for the local teenagers to line up on the track and throw rocks at the aircraft coming in. They seldom hit an aircraft so it was no big deal unless they managed to hit a prop. If they did, the prop would throw the rock violently. If it hit the side of the aircraft a rather large hole would result. I often wondered if any of the rocks went zinging back toward the throwers? Wouldn’t that give them a thrill? We’d radio the MP’s who would go out and run them off, but within 15 min or so, the group would be back.
Since we were to be there for only 180 days, the maximum length of time you could be somewhere “temporarily,” along in late March we were being replaced with most of our group returning to Japan. The Army chartered civilian airlines to fly us back to Japan. Because of the route they took, I made the return by going the rest of the way around the world. My group flew in one of the 3 tailed, four engined Constellation. I think the route we followed was from Celle to Frankfurt, to Istanbul, Turkey to Damascus, to Syria, then Baghdad, Iraq, Karachi, India, New Delhi, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Shanghai and finally, Tokyo. Some of the places were just a quick stop for fuel, others we stayed a day or so. I think we had a day or two at Istanbul, New Delhi, Calcutta, and Hong Kong (which incidentally, means “Sweet Waters.”) We had a one night stop at some, Shanghai was one. And so along in April 1949 I got back to Japan. Mother, Donna and Dave, my entire family was there at the Tokyo airport to greet us. I was glad to be home! We didn’t do too much the next few weeks as we were alerted to return to the US. When orders started coming in, many of us was assigned to SAC (Strategic Air Command) I was assigned to the 9th Bomb Wing at FAIRFIELD SUISUN AFB, CA. Which was renamed Travis Air Base. And to put icing on the cake they decided we had to go quickly, so once again I got on a troop ship with Mother waving from the dock, I departed Japan for the USA, my family did not!
This trip was uneventful and boring also. I do recall the “man overboard” drills which they did ever few days. A dummy would be thrown overboard, and the alarm sounded. The ship would start a tight 360 degree turn. While turning, a life boat would be lowered, inside the circle and the rescuers would embark, pick up the dummy and return. By turning the ship in a tight circle, the wake would cause the center of this circle to be almost calm. The waves could be fairly strong outside but this circle line caused by the ship, dampened the waves very well. I think the crews were graded on how long it took them to recover the “body” Other than that, ‘twas a normal trip. I remember going under the golden gate bridge. It’s about as pretty from the bottom as the top. Soon I got checked in at Fairfield Suisun Air Base. I learned that Mother and the little ones would be coming on the USS. Woodward, arriving in 3-4 weeks. So I looked around for a house, found one in VALLEJO and rented it. It was partially furnished, so I bought some pots, pans, etc. and got ready for their arrival. So after the allotted time, into the San Francisco bay did you all arrive. Again, how glad I was to see all of you. And so we were all set to continue our life in SAC. Living in Vallejo gave me a one way commute of 20-25 miles each day.
I was assigned to the 1st Bomb Sq., of the 9th Bomb Wing (H) We had about 3 or 4 B-17’s and the rumor was that we’d be getting more aircraft shortly. Don’t think I knew what they would be. So because of that we all flew a little just to get in our required 4 hours each month needed to qualify for our flight pay. Because of the lack of flying, we were all assigned other jobs. I was put in the Sq. supply area, and worked there
for a while. Before long I was assigned to the orderly room as squadron adjutant. My job was to see that the numerous reports were completed, were correct and went out on time. I thought this was a pretty good deal, since I worked closely with the SQ. CO. and was sort of a “right hand” man for him. It was here I learned what a poor speller I was. I’d have letters to write and I must’ve really goofed on a lot of words. But luckily, we had a typist clerk who was quite good at spelling and would help me. He gave me hints on how to remember how to get it right, etc. So then I thought I’d best get me a dictionary and start using it. This I did and believe I improved.
It was now near late summer of 1949. Mother and I went looking for a house closer to the base. This is when we found the one at 311 Great Jones, St. in Fairfield. A fellow, EBEN RUST had it and he and wife were planning on going into the reality business and needed some capitol. We ended up buying it for $8,000. Don’t recall how much we gave him down, but we were able to handle it. We moved in time so Donna and David could start school there. Now my drive to base was only 5-6 miles, much better than having to drive the 20-25 miles each way every day. We had to buy a lot of stuff to set up house keeping, and did much of our business with Sears. We bought a “new” foam rubber mattress from them. It was a new product which they touted highly. It turned out to be a real winner since we’re still using it in 2002 at the cabin. And it was from 311 Great Jones St., that the fellow in charge was asked if there was another wandering about, who would like to come on down and live with us. As you might suspect it wasn’t too long until Douglas Scott arrived. I recall taking Mother to the Travis AFB hospital that morning in August, and around 2PM he arrived. At this time, fathers were not encouraged to hang around the ward and of course you certainly could not be in the arena. Too much worry about infections. So now we were five.
About now we started getting the really new B-36s. I recall what a massive aircraft it appeared to be with the six engines, and so BIG. I remember going all through the first one when they had it in the hanger. There was a ground school for flight crews at Rapid City Air base in So. Dakota. It as about a 2-3 week course teaching the many various systems. I attended. There during some of our free time we went to see the fairly new Mt. Rushmore, and saw the four presidents carved into the rock. I don’t believe it had been open very long. We finally got 5-6 of the new B-36s, but they were plagued with problems. The biggest was the fuel leaks. The gas would not stay in the tanks. So after much pooping around trying to fix the tanks they were all taken back to the factory for “fixing.” While we did have them, I had a few flights in them. There were so many problems with them that once they got airborne they stayed up for quite some time. So we’d always fly with 4-5 pilots on board since it was training for all, learning the systems etc. But taking them all back to the factory stopped this.
We were then told we’d be receiving B-29s. About now the nuclear age was upon us and SAC was responsible for all these bombs. To learn how to safely handle and use these weapons, all ACs had to go to nuclear weapons school, a 3-4 week course. I attended this school during the summer of 1950 at Albuquerque, N. Mexico. Where I learned what I needed to know. When I got back to Fairfield, I was checked out as an Aircraft Commander in the B-29s. With responsibility for nuclear weapons, SAC started the training and safety programs that made them among the best trained of all commands. The standardization program really got going. There were correct procedures for most everything and you were expected to know and abide by them. A big emphasis was on flying proficiency. We’d do a lot of practice bomb runs, using a radio signal to score the “hit.” Sites were set up all over the country with us using the ones in the west primarily. You’d contact the radio scoring site, give them your info, crew number, radar man’s name, which IP (initial point) you were coming from etc. They’d track you with radar, putting you track on a plotting table and when near bomb release time, you’d activate a CW (continuous wave) signal. When the signal stopped, it signified “bombs away.” The site would then plot where your bomb would hit, considering wind, altitude and other factors. After a few minutes they’d radio back the coordinates of your hit. You could decipher this to learn how far from the target you were and in which direction. We did many, many of these.
April 4, 1952 we were sent to Guam. This was the beginning of the cold war and Russia was recognized as being a possibly enemy. So that we could strike their home areas we used these “forward” bases. Different units rotated, so one group was there at all times. They did the same thing in Europe, but here on the west coast we always went to Guam. This was in hopes the cold war would never turn into any more than that. It was then we started the inflight re-fueling. We were using the “hose” system. Our aircraft were called MR’s (modified receiver’s) To refuel we’d rendezvous with the tanker aircraft. These were the B-50s modified to a tanker configuration. The B-50 was about the same as the ’29 except it had bigger engines. Anyway we’d join up, then fly along with the tanker aircraft slightly higher, behind, and just a bit to the side. We would reel out a cable on the end of which was a large funnel like device to stabilize the cable. We’d let out perhaps 300 feet of cable. Then the tanker would move ahead, just about even with us and then “slide” across. While doing this, he had his cable out, which had a hook arrangement. By sliding across our path, the tankers cable would “catch” our cable. When the cables hooked, he would pull a bit further forward and a bit off side and his operator would wind in the cables. All this was done from the back end of each aircraft. He’d wind in his cable, until he had ours inside his aircraft. He would remove our “dish” and hook our cable to the end of his hose. I think it was about a 3 or 3 ½ inch hose. He would start reeling his hose out, and when it got to the “correct position” our man would start reeling it in. We’d reel it all the way in, hook the hose to our fuel line and give the signal to start pumping fuel We’d stay in this formation while fuel was being transferred. To unhook, the reverse procedure took place. This wasn’t too good a system, since it took a long time to do, the fuel transferred at a slow rate, and you were so close together for so long, it was somewhat dangerous. You couldn’t do it when there was much turbulence or if there was very cloudy weather. But it was the only system we had and it did work with these airplanes. One “funny” thing I remember was a time at GUAM, we were over the ocean (where else?) refueling. We had finished, and the tanker was reeling the hose back into his aircraft when along in the bend area the hose broke. The hose actually snapped apart! It snapped with quite a whip and by doing so clinched our cable down in among the windings so tightly we couldn’t get rid of it. I told our fellow to drop the cable, but it was jammed. It also jammed the cable spool so strongly we couldn’t reel it in or out. So there we are, flying along with a 100 ft or so of 3 inch cable chasing us. The tanker said it looked so funny. They couldn’t see our cable, just the black hose. It looked like a big black snake chasing us, and ever so often it would snap and a couple feet more would fly off. So what to do???
My concerns were for the landing. Not too far from the end of the runaway was the edge of the “jungle.” It wasn’t really too thick right near the runway, but there were some rather tall trees. Many were shaped like maples, with large limbs running out from the trunk. I thought that when I slowed down to land, the hose would fall further below us and would it catch on one of these large limbs? If it did, what would happen? I thought perhaps it would just break the cable, but I was also concerned that if the cable did break, would it whip-lash up and encircle the aircraft tail? This would prevent me from moving the control surfaces which would be most un-handy. I don’t recall if I radioed in and discussed, but am sure I did. Since this was something different, they could not help. So it was pretty well up to me. To condense what has already taken too long I came in rather high until past the trees then dropped in a bit faster down on the runway. The “snake” followed us home.
Guam is only 30 miles long and about 4 miles wide. At the north end, where the Air Base was located, there was quite a high cliff. We usually took off over this cliff. At the south end of the island is a monument stating it is the place where Capt. Cook landed years ago. Also on this little beach was a Japanese 2-man submarine that had run aground. The beaches were a favorite place to go. We went to TUMON beach most, since it was the closest. The beach had lovely white sand with lots of palm trees, a very pleasant place. The bay was a sorta half moon type, with a reef running the entire distance about 100 yds. out. This gave the bay protection from both the sharks, the waves and the undertow. When the tide was in, the water was about chest deep, except for lots of small 2’X10′ or so holes. The water was clear so you had no problem staying out of these deeper holes. The whole island is coral, and the beach bottom was just littered with living coral When the tide was out, the water level might be down to less that a foot and then you could see the coral very well, many different colors and different types having different shapes. Lots of sea cucumbers, star fish etc. too. Lots of small fish, all different colors. Some were really beauties. So we’d go there when we could. On the beach was a large cave, perhaps 30′ across at the opening, 30-40 ft deep and perhaps 20 ft high. We had a squadron party on the beach once and the native cooks roasted a pig. Dug the large hole, heated many rocks, put in palm fronds, wet them down, put in the pig, more fronds, sand, hot rocks etc. Took several hours (5-6) to cook it this way. We were told we’d be eating around noon, but it took till 4 or so to be ready and by then I was starved, as were many others. We’d been at the beach all day and with no lunch. It was some 6-8 miles from the base and we had to ride the bus, or truck, back and forth. So by the time the pig was proclaimed ready to eat, we were all ready. They cut it into fair sized chunks and served it that way along with the rest of the meal. The piece I got was so saturated with fat, I almost immediately threw up. Suffice to say, grease sopped pig has never been a favorite of mine.
And one time on Guam (I was there 2 times with B-29s and once with B-36s) on a trip with the B-29s a hurricane came in close by. It wasn’t scheduled to hit the island, so we did not evacuated the planes. We did get some heavy winds though, and very heavy rain. It lasted about 36 hrs. during which we had to stay at an aircraft. We had two partial flight crews assigned to each aircraft, so were at the plane for 12 hours each shift. They delivered coffee and sandwiches out to us. As the very strong wind would change direction, we’d release the brakes and the wind would swing the tail around. The idea was to keep the nose into the wind. The rain came straight across, I remember the total as 36 inches in the 24 hr period. Visibility at times was down to a very few feet in the heavy rain.
I brought back several pieces of the coral. Took them from the ocean floor, right there at Tumon beach. At that time there were no restrictions, and no one thought a bit about taking a “sample.” To get them home without breaking, I packed them in sand. Weight was no problem and it worked well. When the tide was low we could go out onto the actual reef and find all kinds of shells. Many still had the animal in them. I took several that I thought were worth of bringing back and took them to our Quonset. We would put the shells near an ants nest, which were all over in the lawn. Just find their hole, about the size of a pencil, lay the shells nearby and the ants would clean out the “animal.”
Our tour over, we returned to Fairfield Suisun. Soon the wing was flying a night mission involving several planes in which I was not involved. Gen.(one star) Travis was aboard the first plane to take off. An L/C, chief of the standardization board, was the pilot. During their take off an engine quit producing power during this critical phase of flight. They were heavy, and tried to turn around and come back to land. During the turn they crashed just south of the base main gate. Several were killed. The base was later renamed TRAVIS AFB after the dead general.
Things progressed normally when Douglas arrived in August. He wasn’t too old (probably the next summer) when we took our vacation and went by train back to St. Louis. We had a little folding cot that Doug slept in during the train trip. Donna and Dave had a great time on the trip, getting water, running up and down etc. We all enjoyed the trip. My folks lived in Vandalia, Ill. some 50 miles away. They met us at St. Louis and we spent some time with them. They let us use their Buick, to make the trip to Michigan. At Michigan there on PICKEREL Lake, the Donna and Dave would push Doug in the walker up to the little store and buy BROWN COWS, a caramel candy sucker on a stick. They were good and you kids thought you’d found heaven. Anyway, once a day, up there you’d be.
Back in California I went on my first survival training trip. We went to the Nat’l Forest near WASHINGTON, CA. I thought it was such a pretty place that later we loaded everything we thought we’d need and went back for a week end campout. We did this several times. Once the Kaplans, friends who lived close by, went with us. We had no sleeping bags. Think we bought the Coleman stove (we now have) then. So we’d pack up and go some 30-40 miles north of Sacramento. We had a great time, the daytime weather was warm but boy did we have trouble at night! It got very cool and with only blankets it was very hard to stay warm. Also we did not have air mattresses. One time we tried sleeping on the sand. Someone said to fix a depression for your hips, and it would be pretty good. But we found you don’t lay in one position all night. Then we tried piling up a bunch of pine needles. This wasn’t too bad except they mashed flat too quickly. One night June got so cold she took Doug, got into the car, and ran the engine to warm up. From such experiences you learn.
So we talked it over. We knew we’d either have to get sleeping bags for all, plus a tent, mattresses etc. or perhaps we could get a small trailer for not too much more. We also were sure we’d be much more comfortable in the trailer. So for one we did look and found one at WALNUT GROVE, CA. 40-50 miles from us. We went to look and fell in love with the little 16’ TERRY. It had a gas stove, an oven, ice chest and an oil heater. So we bought it. Don’t recall exactly how much we paid for it, but I was only making about $275 a month, so the $3-400 we paid was a fair investment. We pulled it home with our 1949 Ford and had no trouble pulling it. Before we could use it there we were alerted for the move to Mt. Home, “you’ll be sorry”, Idaho. The military wanted to move the bombers from Travis and make it completely a transport base. Since passenger travel and air freight movement were growing, they needed the room. Mt. Home was a base that had been in use during the WW11, had been closed and was being re-opened. It was to be a SAC base and the 9th Bomb Wing Heavy was to occupy it. So in early spring 1953, things began humming to get the outfit moved. Some of the people moved up rather early, but those of us with kids in school went later. We had several B-29s to take up and when the time came to start moving aircraft, I got to fly the lead ship of a 3 ship formation, (the first to arrive there). To let the people in Boise know we had arrived, we flew a circle or two around the town then back south to Mt. Home and landed. I rode back on another plane, and we packed up and left 311 Great Jones St.. We advertised the house for sale, and before we left had it sold. In those times no one helped on getting rid of houses, it was all on your own. We sold it to a young man who was going to move his folks in with him. I think we got $8500 for it, a profit of $500. We accepted a second mortgage on the place for our equity. He never missed a payment. The payments were quite low, seems like it was $25 a month but it proved to be a good investment since he was so faithful in his payments. We didn’t use a bank to do the escrow work just kept the records ourselves and he never once questioned our figures. I do hope they were correct! Soon moving day arrived probably in June and we loaded our “goodies” onto a MAYFLOWER truck and waved good by. We got into the car with the trailer securely fastened behind and off we went. Up to Sacramento over Donner Pass and to Winamucca, Nev. Headed north and east from there. The highway over the Donner pass was one lane each way with no pull-outs and always had construction or repair work going on. You’d get stuck behind 3-4 trucks, and pull in low gear for miles. The trucks never thought of pulling over to let you pass. But we ground our way up and over, had no problem with the car or trailer. Spent a night out in the sage brush, in south Idaho where we lost our two cats. Both had litters when we left, so we had them in the car also. We let them out at night, and they failed to be present the next AM. We think the coyotes must have gotten them. But on to Mt. Home we went. Being an A/C, I was assigned one of the few pre-fab houses on base. If you didn’t live on base you went to Boise, a good 50-60 miles each way. We were both pleased to get the shack on base even though it was SMALL It was 16X40 we believe and for a while my Mother lived with us, so we had it pretty well packed. We put some of our furniture in storage while there. Shortly then we discovered FALL CREEK. We all fell in love with that place. We took the trailer there and left it during the week with the people who ran the little resort. Many week ends, when I got home at noon on Sat (we seldom had the full Sat off) June would have all the stuff packed, Donna and Dave would bring it out to the street at the time I was expected, and boy did the dust fly then. I’d rush to change clothes while June loaded the goodies in the car and as soon as I was ready we were off. We’d eat crackers, cheese, braunschweiger, apple slices etc. while driving. Soon we’d be to “snot hill” so named because one trip it was wet. June asked if it was slippery, and I said “yes, slippery as not” Donna and Dave caught that and thought it worth repeating, so that stretch of the road was so named. Of course there was the famous 9 miles of constant curves. But get to the resort, we did. We’d hook up the trailer and go another 2-3 miles and set up in the same spot each time. (our spot!) We had some grand times up there. Dave sold worms to the fishermen 10 cents a doz. (give them 13 Dave, so they think they’re getting a good deal). We had a sign out on the road and usually sold quite a few. And the blazing camp fires and tying up the frog for the snake! Many a happy day and evening up there. Sunday evening we headed home. Mom Potter went camping with us on some of these week ends.
And it was warm at Mt. Home. Hot out on the flight line. One day when we were taxing, getting ready to fly, the crew chief pointed to our left wheel. With sign language we asked if we should stop but he shook a “no” so on we went. After landing we found that just before we taxied, a rattle snake had climbed in between the spokes of the left wheel. We looked and sure enough he was still in there. What a ride he had, spinning around in that wheel up to 100 MPH! And being at altitude where it was quite cold for several hours. Wonder how long he was dizzy?
From Mt. Home I took other trips. SAC started the standardization program really in earnest. They had a central evaluation center set up at MacDill AFB, Fla. My crew and I went there a couple times. You got tested on everything, both written exams plus 4 flights. You had evaluators on board and everything was watched and graded. I think I and my co-pilot always did fairly well, don’t think we ever flunked, but my radar man, never did make it. I had a couple different radar men, but Capt. Toler was one that consistently flunked. This of course flunked the crew. Capt. Toler was the first black officer assigned to the 9th. He was put on my crew because, as I was told, they thought I could get along with him better than most. We got along all right, but he was never too sharp in his job. Some time later, we received another black officer, Lt. Harmon a co-pilot. Since I had the one black, they put Harmon on my crew too. The thinking was that the two could get along together and help each other. But, I noticed Toler was always giving the new black a hard time or just ignoring him. So one day I said to Toler, “what’s the problem between you and Harmon?” I told him they put the two together to see if they couldn’t support each other. Toler’s reply was “I’m not going to have anything to do with that Nigger.” I said, “what’re you talking about, you’re as black as he is” but they never did get along very well. I really think Toler disliked having to share the limelight with a second. When he was the only black, every one was careful not to hurt his feelings and tried to make him welcome, so it gave him a special place. I think he did not care to share this spot. My crew then was called the “Dixie Special.”
One time a base general, I forget his name, had to go to Omaha Neb (SAC Hdqrtrs) for a day or two meeting. I was an B-29 instructor pilot and my crew was picked to take him. (Generals had to fly with and instructor pilot then) We flew to Omaha with no problem, although the General was sorta “forceful” I just ignored most of what he said and we got along just fine. Then when leaving Omaha, he said he was going to make the take-off. This was OK. I didn’t mind since they always expected to. But the runway there was shorter than at home and when we had our crew discussion before take off he said he wanted me to do this and that etc., (normal co pilot. duties) but he also said he did not want me touching the wheel or reducing power. Said he’d do that. So off we start down the runway, and at the appropriate time, he pulls the wheel back and the nose comes up. But he pulls the nose too high and in an attitude that would take a lot more distance to get airborne. We were doing 100 MPH or so by now and twice I said on the interphone “General, you’ve got the nose too high, lower the nose” or some such. He showed no sign of hearing. After the 2nd or maybe 3rd warning I looked at him and could see a very composed look on his face as if pre-occupied. And I could also see the end of the runway rushing towards us. So I grabbed the wheel and pushed it forward, lowering the nose. We got airborne shortly before the end of the runway which ended on the top of a small hill. I expected him to hit the ceiling after we got squared away but he never mentioned it, and of course neither did I. But that just reinforced my contention that you shouldn’t completely trust any one in this game, and since I was the IP, I had the last word. The flight went well after that. Also took a B-29 down to NORTH ISLAND Naval Air Station at San Diego for a static display on Armed Forces day in May, 1954. While there we went through an aircraft carrier, The HORNET. Also had a quick trip through a submarine.
In the fall of ’53, we were again sent to Guam. We flew the same route each time, Hawaii, Kwajalein and then Guam. Each leg was from 10-12 hours. We laid over 24 hrs. in Hawaii, then pushed on to Guam. It was a normal trip and deployment until we headed home. We were scheduled to leave Guam shortly before Christmas 1953. I was scheduled as about the 5th aircraft to take-off. Believe we took off in 30 min intervals. As we were nearing our take-off time, we heard a previous plane report he had shut down one engine and was returning to Guam. Since our take-off time came time came before he returned, they cleared us to depart as scheduled. We got off all right and had an uneventful trip, landing at KWAJALEIN about 10 hrs. later in the late afternoon. The SQ. C.O. was already there, being on one of the earlier planes. We refueled and were about to depart when he came and said “We had a crash back on Guam.” He didn’t know too much about it, but said some were killed. A fellow named OGDEN was the AC. The C.O. said we could go on to HAWAII if we wished, or we could stay on Kwaj overnight, saying “If this shakes you up, better stay.” So I asked the crew and they agreed, it was unfortunate but there was nothing we could do to help or hinder, so I said we’ll go. Because Kwaj is such a small island, the runway isn’t very long and taking off with a full load required it all. Since you were immediately over water you had no “horizon reference” visually after dark. So we were restricted to daylight takeoffs. We fired up and got airborne just before dark, another 10-12 hours to Hawaii, an overnight trip. We had been airborne for 5-6 hours when we received a radio message from Kwaj saying they thought they had perhaps filled us with ‘”contaminated fuel.” We took it to mean there might be water in the gas or some other impurity which the engines wouldn’t like. I had a really sharp flight engineer M/Sgt. Thomas Banks, so I talked it over with him. He had all engine instruments on his panel. He said they were all running good, not too hot etc., so I said “We’ll go on to Hawaii.” Our only alternative was to return to Kwaj, or try a night landing at Johnson Island, some 500-600 miles closer than Hawaii. But I thought if the engines were running OK when we passed that point to Johnson (it is not on a direct line) we’d go to Hawaii. If we were having any troubles, we’d stop. So, on to big H we did go. No problems. There were 3 aircraft that made it to Hawaii on schedule. Two, including the CO, had stayed on Kwaj. Those behind the crash were delayed a day or so. We spent our required 24 hr. layover and then we three got ready to leave Hawaii. While taxing out, one had an engine problem and went back to the ramp. That left two of us to take off for the US. Inflight we were close enough we could talk to the other plane, and a few hours before arriving at the US coastline PHIPPEN the other AC, called and said he was feathering an engine and would land at TRAVIS, 2-300 miles closer than Mt. Home. So that left only us “on schedule.” We had no problems and landed on schedule at Mt. Home. Seems we got in around noon. Since we were the only aircraft to arrive, and because of the crash, there was hardly any “welcome home” type arrival. But again, I was glad to be home.
The story on the crash I learned later. They had taken off and a short time out had developed engine trouble and shut down one engine. We had no way to “dump” fuel then, so you had to fly circles to burn fuel to get the landing weight down. He had a full load on along with the crew of 10-12 and perhaps 15 passengers. He decided he had to land “right away” rather than try to burn off fuel and with the one engine out was quite a bit heavier than desired. When turning final to line up with the runway he overshot and instead of doing an S turn to recover he banked more steeply. By doing this he stalled and was too low to recover, the plane hit the ground. Forget just how many were killed, but I believe most on board. The co-pilot and wife were our next door neighbors and she helped June with the girl scout program, so we felt a special loss.
One interesting thing to see while flying the prop jobs, was the St. Elmo’s fire (static electricity discharges) we used to get. This happened when flying in warmer, moist, unstable air. We’d get a lot of this while flying the C-54, the B-29 and the B-36. The static electricity would run all over the nose, jumping from metal to metal. The B-29 and B-36 nose was mostly glass, held together with metal stripping. The whole nose would glow and streaks would just run wild. It would be light enough to read by it sometimes. There was no danger from it and other than ruin your night vision it was no problem. During these periods of flying through very moist warm clouds the discharges would also form around the prop tips. I’ve seen a “donut” around the props that was at least 3 feet wide, all around the path of the prop tips. Would remind you of a giant 4th of July spinner. It was always spectacular to see. Early day cockpit instruments were lit with fluorescent lighting. The instrument needles had a coating of luminous paint which reflected the ultra violet light. They kinda glowed.
Spring and summer of ’54 found us spending as much time camping in our new trailer at Fall Creek as we could. We did enjoy that place. One time the Game Dept. brought a tank load of trout to our camping spot and unloaded them into the creek. Fish came out of the truck in a steady stream. Dave and I never had better fishing than that week end! Also that spring we were in the conversion to jet aircraft program. We were to get the all jet, 6 engine B-47. We were formed into 3 man crews and plans for the conversion started. All crews were to go to MacDill AFB, Fla for instruction and check out. Since I was an instructor I was in the last group scheduled to go. This left me at Mt. Home to fly people to get their 4 hours in, and to ferry the B-29s to their new bases. So I spent many days flying 4 hr. in the morning getting people their requirements. Then with a new group, doing the same in the afternoon. About June an order came to send 3 ACs and 3 CPs to Travis and the same number to Fairchild. That levy would take about all the checked out ACs still there. Since we had just come from Travis, and I had heard that Fairchild would get the “new” B-52 jet bombers I asked to go to Fairchild. The B-47 had been around for several years by now. In mid July we had several weeks of vacation time and went back to Michigan and Illinois. We bought our new 1954 Ford Station wagon there in Kalamazoo. Mom Potter, now widowed came along to live with us. Back at Mt. Home we went to Fall creek, picked up the trailer and headed north, arriving in Spokane in mid Aug. We parked the trailer in a trailer park out near Geiger field, checked in at the base and started house hunting. There was nothing available on base, so we looked all around. (little help on this back then) This is when we found the “pink palace” in Airway Hgts. We moved in and it was so cool the first night, I walked to the nearby filling station and bought 5 gallons of stove oil to get the floor furnace going. We used the heat constantly almost from arrival and wondered what we had gotten into, with this weather. Little did we know then how much the year or two we spent in that house would affect the rest of our lives. We hadn’t been there long when we learned that the nearby SUNSET GRANGE was going to sponsor a SQUARE DANCE beginners’ group. We thought that would be fun so looked into it, and met with the group doing the planning. It as then we met CICEROs, ADAMS, OSWALDs, EYERS and the rest of the group. Later it was the Adams who introduced us to Lake Pend Oreille where we learned how much fun water skiing was.
Back to work, the wing here had B-36’s and were getting ready to do a tour on Guam. Since I was not checked out, I was to stay here with a small detachment to get checked out. They would leave one or two planes here. Nothing much happened during the time they were busy getting off to Guam. Shortly after they left, they started firming up new crews out of the new arrivals and others already here. They initially put me down as a co-pilot. That didn’t suit me too well since I had come on orders as an AC. I was also afraid if nothing was said I’d be shoved back on the AC list. There was a real “click” here. Many had been together for quite a while and an outsider had a rough job breaking in. Also the whole wing was very heavy with spot promotions. Many AC’s were spot Lt. Cols. and most others were Majors. co-pilots were spot Majors and Captains. Since I was only a Capt., I was on the short end of the rank list. But I thought I had nothing to lose by speaking up, so I went to Hdqs. There I talked to Lt. Col. Chase, who was somewhat in charge of developing the crews. I told him I was unhappy about being listed as a co-pilot. I had come up here filling a spot for an AC, I had been an AC in the B-29’s, I had so many hours as a AC and an IP and I didn’t think it was right to be assigned as a co-pilot. I had attended the nuclear school for aircraft commanders and was qualified in that. I also suggested that if they couldn’t use me as an AC, I’d like to be transferred to a unit that could. I guess that had some effect as I was immediately placed in an AC’s slot. A group was put together to form a crew, and we started our check out. Again going to prove, the Lord only helps those that help themselves. With the spot promotion program many co-pilots with spots were glad to stay where they were, and draw the extra pay. If they upgraded to AC, they would loose the promotion and have to start over.
So I started my check out in the B-36. I had several flights, as my training was piece meal, a couple landings on this flight, some instrument work on another etc. Trying to train several pilots on each flight, you had to pass around the time. But it didn’t seem long until I was a “qualified” Aircraft Commander! I was assigned a gaggle of others, and we were considered a crew. It wasn’t a bad group, just a bunch of young inexperienced fellows but we did all right. During these early days I drew lots of little extra duties. For instance A.O. (airdrome officer) We had to meet any transient aircraft, check the runway a couple times during the shift etc. We also pulled “run-up” officer. Any time the maintenance crew had to run an engine, perhaps just when they were going to go to full power, there had to be a qualified pilot in the seat. This in case the aircraft jumped the chocks. So when I had this assignment I had to run out a time or two from home (Airway Heights) to do this. It seemed to me that some of us pulled these duties more often than some of those with the spot promotions. I mentioned this to the fellow who did the scheduling, but he claimed not. He always had a reason why others couldn’t. This seemed especially true on long week ends. Shortly after the group returned from Guam, Maj. MORRISON, (not a spot) was reassigned from being an A.C. to being the Squadron Operations Officers. This put him in charge of flight and training scheduling etc. He had a pretty fair crew, and they assigned me as the A.C., replacing Morrison. This is when I met Capt. Yohannon. He had been here a while but did not have a spot promotion, Sgt. Al Green was one of the gunners on the crew. So I took over this crew. We started to click right off. Yoh was great as the radar navigator. He was a hard worker, smart and willing to put out, so I left the other 2 observers up to him to get into shape. I had 2 more pilots to be concerned about along with the crew in general. I had a couple very good flight engineers, so we weren’t a bad bunch. We started doing pretty well on our accomplishments, so was considered a very dependable crew. I had asked a time or two about being made an instructor, but it seems we had “the quota” already. So one day I was looking through some papers and saw where the squadron safety officer should be an instructor. I don’t think anyone was assigned this duty right then, so I asked the C.O. if I could be the squadron safety officer. About all it meant was I had to give a “safety talk” at our sq. meetings a time or two each month. (always on Saturday) So to condense again, I was put on orders as the SQ. Safety Officer. After a while I pointed out about the IP bit and they said OK and put me on IP orders. The crew did well, and I took to writing up our accomplishments and turning it in to the SQ. for consideration for the Crew of the Month award. Since it had to be written and sent into the wing. I guess the others didn’t care, or were to lazy to bother, but my crew started getting named Crew of the Month quite often. I don’t know how many knew I was writing the recommendations myself, but it seemed to work. It was about this time when we had an especially interesting mission. We shut down a couple engines had some other problems etc., and came on home and landed ok. I wrote it up, perhaps amplifying a bit and it was sent all the way to SAC HDQS just about the way I wrote it. Because of this we were named the “SAC Crew of The Month.” This made the local papers too. I don’t recall a SAC crew of the month ever being named from here before. Of course this looked good on the rest of the crew also, we felt we were working right along toward some spot promotions. But that proved to be a tough cookie, and we never did get any while in B-36’s. For us to be awarded one, we would have to be rated higher than a crew that already had them. This wasn’t done too easily.
Had an interesting experience in the B-36. My crew had been sent to the base at Ft Worth, TX for the big evaluation there. Something like a super stanboard. This procedure was fairly new and they were really a bugger to get through successfully. We had to fly four missions I believe, and during all four, plus the ground testing phase, they watched like hawks. On this flight we had the pilot evaluator on board. The flight had gone pretty well I thought. We returned to base, did an instrument let down and landed. I thought we did fairly well. Imagine my surprise when at the mission critique, the evaluator said I had violated my instrument clearance. This was a horrendous NO NO! No excuses for this. He said I let down from 4,000 ft. to 3,000 ft. without being cleared to do so. I just couldn’t believe this, and asked my co- pilot (Bergstrom) and he remembered it just as I did. He thought too, we had been properly cleared. We had a day or two before we had our final critique and would be officially passed or failed. This meeting was always in the form of a board where were given a chance to refute or explain anything the evaluator said. Of course, it didn’t happen often, but if you could show there had been a mistake, it was considered. So during this free day I thought a lot about it, and finally it dawned on me to call the traffic control agency and see if they had a tape of our clearance instructions and may I hear it. This I did, they did, and yes I could. So Bergie and I went to their office, and sure enough clear as a bell, it said “so and so, descend to 3,000 ft.” So I used one of their typewriters and copied off this portion of the tape, got the fellow to certify it as correct and went back to the base, very smugly waiting for the critique. I felt pretty good, kinda felt that I had a hot poker I could goose the evaluator with when the time was right. Sure enough, at the finals when the evaluator critiqued we two pilots we had done pretty well, passed other wise. But we had this one violation, and because of that had failed. He went on to explain what it was etc. I should note, the evaluators had a small disadvantage, in that they had to use a “split” headset. That is they heard the interphone talk with one ear and the radio talk through the other. Of course when both channels were being used it could be hard to distinguish it all clearly. Anyway he finished and they were all looking gloomy when the officer in charge asked “if I had anything to say, any explanation?” I got up and said he had done a good job during the evaluation etc. and I was sure he was telling the story as he saw it. But due probably to his split headset, he had failed to hear the clearance come through. I told about hearing the tape and presented the letter which pretty well settled it. They asked him if it were possible he failed to hear it, and what could he say? So that was removed from our records and we pilots passed. A funny twist to this. The evaluator was Major Downs, who later as an Lt. Col. was the squadron commander of the 325th B.S. at Fairchild. He is the person I relieved when I took over the squadron. This taught me to be absolutely correct in my evaluations and if there was any doubt it was better to discuss and iron it out in “our” critique rather than waiting for the formal one.
On Apr 16, 1956 we flew to GUAM for another 90 day tour. In the B-36 we were able to fly direct. It took us 30 hr. 20 min. We took off very heavy, flew out over the coast heading west. We flew for several hours at 5,000 ft. Then as we reduced weight (due to burning fuel) we would climb to the next higher level. We stair-stepped all the way arriving there at around 25-30,000 feet. We had 30-35 people aboard and with only one bunk forward and six aft, there were people sleeping on their bags all over the plane! Think of all the flight lunches we had to have for that many, and the trash they made. Quite a logistic problem. And NO, you do not feel the bump when you fly across the international date line, nor the equator either! We arrived there around noon and found the right main gear would not unlock. So one of the engineers went out into the wing and pulled the manual unlock handle. The gear came down then and we landed without further incident. While there I bought a “scooter” from someone leaving, so had wheels. I sold it to a replacement when we left. Again the deployment was normal. Hot muggy weather, some flying, other training and trips to the beach. Movies in the outdoor theater at night. Take your poncho, since it showered most every night and the showers were really heavy, short ones! Eating in the Officer’s club with the huge mounds of cleaned shrimp on Sat. nights. I’d get a plate full, a dish of hot sauce and pig out. Bet we could eat at least 100 apiece! They were good. Nothing more eventful happened that trip.
While there, Jack Beaman was assigned to my crew. Jack had come to Fairchild from Puerto Rico. He came as a new A/C on a newly formed crew. They came to Guam to be checked out there. During the evaluations, Jack had problems, especially with flying instruments, and was not passed as an A/C. He said later much of it was his poor hearing, he could not hear the signals. So he was taken out of AC training and sent to my crew replacing Capt. Bergstrom who had been my co-pilot for several months. Bergie was good, he really knew his job, was reliable and dependable, but he had no desire to upgrade so remained a co-pilot. So Jack joined my crew at Guam, and stayed as my co-pilot through the B-52 training at Castle, where we were checked out. Jack was a good worker, as good as Bergie, so we made out OK on the deal. I was getting the reputation as being a pretty good instructor, and was good at instrument flying so I caught several of these chores. We returned from Guam on July 5th. Flying time this way was 26:45, non-stop. Col. Campbell, the wing CO, came back on our aircraft so we were first off and first back. When we arrived, we parked right in front of base operations, where they rolled out a red carpet for the Colonel. The press was there also, and this is where the picture of June and I hugging in front of the aircraft was taken, appearing in the Spokesman Review the next day.
Things continued normal for a while back here. We flew missions all the time. Mostly training type. Did a practice flyover preparatory to the opening of the new Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, CO. There were 3 B-36s in that formation. Another local flight we took 18 ROTC cadets up for a joy ride around the area. Showed them Mt. Rainier, Grand Coulee, Coeur d’Alene etc. They all seemed to like it. Late in 1956 we started getting rid of the B-36s in preparation for the new B-52s. New crews were formed using the present crews although the B-52 did not need engineers or so many gunners. So my crew was whittled down. Jack was to be by my CP, Yohannon the Radar, Al Green the gunner etc. The winter of ’56 saw us delivering a B-36 periodically to a different base. We took one of the last ones to Biggs AFB, TX. in late March. I think it was on this flight that I was scheduled to give my copilot an instrument check during the flight. These checks required an hour or so. We had requirements to do “at altitude” such as a holding pattern etc. Then about 3 approaches to a base. One was an ILS, one a GCA, and the last just a normal instrument approach. This co-pilot was one that had been assigned to me for help with his proficiency and to help prepare him for upgrading to AC in the B-52. Because of this I was not about to disregard any of the requirements. (this we would do, under some conditions. If the fellow had a ground job and had to fly with an instructor or if he was getting out, we’d pretty well just give them the pass.) But for those whose primary job was flying, I didn’t think it was right to expect any less. So when mission planning I said to him, “We’ll have to work in time for your instrument check” and he says “OK.” Didn’t ask what I had planned or make a suggestion or anything. So we got the flight underway. We left Fairchild around 9 or 10 PM so we’d arrive at the other base at a specified time. We always flew these flights getting in requirements at the same time. So off we went and all was going well. About day break, light streaks just popping up in the east, I told the co-pilot to call the “center” (the controlling agency) and ask for an hour and one half delay in the Las Vegas area. (I forget the exact town, but it was in that area) The CP asked, “what for?” I says “so you can get your instrument check.” He kinda came unglued. Said something like “Hey, I don’t think that’s fair,” and I asked “Why?” He said “I’ve never practiced there before.” So I said, “Where would you rather go, pick any spot along our route.” He said again “No, that’s not fair.” I asked “What did you expect, you knew you were to get a check,” he replies “Yes, but I thought we’d do it at Fairchild right after take off.” I said “What are our weight restrictions for a practice approach?” He replies with a figure and I said “You know we were quite a bit over that weight.” He says, “Well yes, that true, but I’ve never practiced flying here.” So I said, “What’s the difference?” This radio range is just like all others, the approaches are all the same, just modified for the locality.” I also said “What if you were checked out, and diverted to a different base, you’d have to do it. And possibly in much worse weather.” He said, “I still think it’s being “chicken —–” So, I finally told him, “We’re getting closer, I think you should be looking at the books, getting the pattern in mind etc.” So he calmed down. I believe I passed him. But didn’t feel it was asking too much at all and was surprised he’d fuss. So the B-36s were phased out. Some went to the grave yard at Tucson, some to other bases. My crew took the next to last from here to El Paso.
On Sept 12th, 1956 we flew a “sniffer” mission. When the Ruskies were thought to have, or thought ready to detonate an atomic unit we would go to near the end of the Alaskan island chain and orbit for hours taking air samples. We never knew what we had collected, for it was analyzed back at the base. We were there doing this, had been there several hours awaiting a message telling us to depart. When the call did come we didn’t have enough gas to return to Fairchild, so diverted to Eilson AFB, near Fairbanks, Alaska. When departing, I was having our new 3rd pilot, 1/Lt. Tilly make the take-off. Capt. Jack Beaman my regular co-pilot was along also. He said it was Tilly’s first B-36 take off. As we started down the runway I felt the aircraft pull towards the right. Over the interphone I told Tilly to put in some left rudder. The speed was increasing and the pull towards the right was also increasing, I said again, “Get on the rudder.” I looked over and could see his left leg quivering, he was pushing so hard. So I got on the rudder too but it wouldn’t move. We were just about “nose up” and I knew if we continued we’d lose control when the nose wheel left the ground. Until then I had control of the nose wheel through a steering wheel just to my left, but it cut out when there was no weight on it. The runway was built through a wooded area. The trees had been cleared for perhaps 100 yd. on each side so there wasn’t too much room to play with. I called for an abort, and since we didn’t have much runway left, I reversed the six props while still at take-off power. You would normally reduce them to idle, go into reverse, then add power. But I didn’t think I had that much time. Jack was riding between us and reached up and cut the 4 jets. We got it stopped all right. By doing the reversing at high power it made a heck of a lot of noise. We taxied back and to end the story, we found the actuator that locked the rudder had failed to release. They sent maintenance people up, who disconnected it and we came on home three or four days later.
By Christmas 1956 most, if not all, the B-36’s were gone. We had been formed into 6 man crews and were to go to Castle AFB for training. I was in the 3rd group to go which meant we would be going around the end of April. While there was no flying here at Fairchild the runway was repaired and extended from the 8,500 ft to 13,500. I believe the first B-52 arrived in June ’57.
Early March, Jack and I went to McCONNNEL AFB, KANSAS for “jet indoctrination.” We were to get 4-5 rides in the B-47 to get aquatinted with the difference between jets and recips. The jet engines were much simpler to operate and the speed was so much greater it took a bit of getting used to. For instance we used to come back from a mission in the B-36, say at 18,000 ft. We’d come into the Spokane area, and it would take an hour to get on the ground. You had several different things you had to do with the engines during the descent and you had to descend at a given rate, etc. This all took time. On the jets you just pull the throttles to “idle” and that was it. The jets were much cleaner drag wise, so you could come down at a higher airspeed. We used 280KTs, for descent. And the jets were designed to operate at a higher altitudes, so we’d come back at 35,000 or so and could be on the ground in 10-15 minutes. But moving faster kept you much busier. Several check lists had to be run and they came fairly fast, this took getting used to. So Jack and I went to Kansas to be indoctrinated. It was quite a change from the B-36. I was given a chance to practice refueling a time or two but did poorly at it. You really had to “learn” to see the movement, since you had a fairly small envelope and with the delay in response, it was a trick you had to learn.
In early April it was our time to go to Castle AFB near Merced, Calif. for the training. All our family went. That’s when we rented at the Midvale apartments. I was kept pretty busy during the week with the schooling but we were done most days around 4 or so. June and our kiddos would come to the base and use the swimming pool. We’d meet there, swim and cool off, and that was our day. On week ends, we got around and saw some of the country and went to Disney Land. We watched the crop-dusters spray the fields, (a first for us) Donna graduated from 8th grade and I Dave and I went to the ocean and fished once. The training went well. I had a Maj. JENNINGS as my IP for the flying part. He thought I did fairly well and recommended me for IP status. We got home on the 4th of July, returning to our home on Fort Geo. Wright. While we were in Calif. we “loaned” our house to Jim and Doris Nugent. We’d known them since Airway Heights and there was some reason they needed a place to stay for a short while. So it worked well for all of us, they took care of the place rent free, fed the cats, and we didn’t have to worry about it being vacant.
After we returned we continued flying, finishing our check outs, training as a crew etc. Also started re-fueling practice.(did not do this at Castle) Then we were refueling with the KC-97s, a prop driven tanker. Because of this we had to refuel at a lower than optimum airspeed. This made our ship wallow and was quite a bit harder. It was a real bugger, but I finally caught on and was able to pass the requirements. It was a year or so before the jet KC-135s started arriving. What a difference! We could re-fuel at 28-30,000 feet with a higher airspeed which made both aircraft much more stable. It then turned into fun.
On Dec 12th, 1957 we were scheduled to fly with a take off around 4:30PM. Another airplane was to take off about 30 minutes before us. And to condense again, this earlier flight had Col. Neely the Wing CO, on board. This was the aircraft that had the stabilizer trim motor that was wired backwards. So during take off, they thought they were putting in “nose down” trim, when in effect they were doing the reverse, causing the aircraft to stall. They crashed just past the end of the runway to the west. We had finished filing our flight plan at base ops and were back at our plane. We’d be starting engines soon when it happened. I did not see it but heard the “boom” and saw the flames, smoke etc. All but the tail gunner were gone. He managed to bail out. All the fire trucks went roaring out but all they could do was watch. The command post (the control center) called and said we’d be held until some of the fire trucks returned to the flight line. So after a 30 min delay we took off, going almost over the burning plane. Sgt. Bill Goins who had been a gunner on my B-36 crew and was now working in maintenance had told me he would like a flight in the B-52. So I arranged for him to go with us on a flight and it turned out to be this one. He was with us on the ramp when the accident happened. One of the ground crew said to him “Are you going after that?” “You’re not even getting flight pay.” He said “I’ve wanted a flight in this new plane and if Capt. Potter says it’s safe that’s all I need.” So he did not chicken out! By now the press was there and the paper the next day showed us taking off near the burning plane. The commentary went something like “While the firemen were still fighting the fire, another plane came roaring down the runway. Thank God, they got off safely.”
After getting checked out my crew did very well. We participated in some of the supposed fun things, such as a 3 ship fly over at Ramey AFB, Puerto, Rico. in Feb ‘61. President Kennedy was attending a meeting of the heads of state for the Central American countries. We flew from here to Miami Fla. and joined 2 other B-52s from an eastern base. We flew trail formation to P.R., then a 3 ship formation for a few low altitude passes over the base. We then came back to Miami and split up. We were scheduled to land at Albany GA for some reason and spend the night, returning the next day. Then on the 2nd of Dec, ’62 we flew to Eglin AFB, FL and attended ground school (needed to fly carrying the HOUND DOG missiles). We returned on Dec. 7th and brought back two missiles, one under each wing. The first air to ground missiles to be at Fairchild and the first crew qualified to carry them.
In early ’58 I was checked out as an IP. We flew quite a bit then, guess we’d run 3-4 crew flights a month, plus I often went as IP with other crews. About then we started the “ground alert” business. You all know what it was and why, so I won’t go into that. They tried a couple schedules, one was a 4 day on, 3 day off type, and once they went to a full 7 days on. The shorter time worked best for the crews, so that is what it settled into. Our quarters on alert were right at the “alert pad” with the sleeping quarters underground. My crew continued to do well. We had quite a few “competition” type missions, and Yoh always had good results on his bombing. Bernie Jansen was my navigator and he was good. They always ranked high in these missions. They were the ones that could make or break the crew effort. Didn’t matter how good the pilots were, if you were lost half the time or couldn’t find the target you weren’t rated too high. Both of them were good so we progressed nicely. I was getting a good reputation as an IP, too.
In early 1962, our wing was given the job of checking out the AIRBORNE ALERT concept. Idea was to see if we could keep a certain number of planes fully loaded for war in the air around the clock. We ran that from spring unto late fall flying nine aircraft every day. We would take off around 2 PM, with a full load of fuel, bombs etc. We flew a designated route, which at first was entirely here in the west., We’d go up into Canada, back to Montana and back here etc. Forget the exact route, but it was all out here. Each flight would last about 24-25 hours with two refuelings using the KC 97s which made it interesting since the altitude they were at was often in the clouds and turbulence. We’d sometimes have an extra pilot, sometimes not. Most of the flying was done on auto pilot, but it still made a long day. We ran a schedule like, fly Monday, off Tue. and Wed, mission plan Thur., fly Friday, off Sat and Sun etc. We’d do this until we had 4 flights in. Then we had a longer time off. The test proved it could be done and SAC put it in the “plans.”
Then SAC decided they didn’t want too many planes (we had 3 squadrons here) at one base. Too good a target. So two squadrons were moved. One moved to Moses Lake and one to Glasgow, Mt. I was in the 327th Sq. which was to go to Moses Lake. Before the move the wing CO asked if I’d like to stay here. Naturally I said “yes” and was transferred to the 325th. It was somewhat hush-hush since it was not normal to transfer someone just because they didn’t want to move, but stay we did. By now Jack was checked out, had his crew, and went as an AC with the 327th to Moses Lake.
One really memorable night in Sep.‘58 the ECM overhead hatch came off, so lost our cabin pressure. I had a newly assigned Major on board who had been flying B-47’s. He had been through the school at Castle, but did not qualify on refueling there so he was with me to get practice at night refueling. The mission had gone well. We had left the tanker and were climbing out on a westerly heading, to our cruise altitude to do a night navigation leg. For some reason Sgt. Green was riding forward with us, he may have had a student in the tail, but he was riding up front. So there were he, the Maj. and maybe one more extra up front, making it somewhat crowded. To help with the navigation leg, the electronics warfare officer (EWO) had gotten out of his ejection seat and Sgt. Green had gotten in. Sgt. Green was checked out on these ejection seats, but his normal position did not have one. He was strapping in as we climbed through 36,000 ft. when all of sudden we lost our cabin pressure. I was on oxygen as was required during the climb out and I remember hearing a loud “whooshing” sound. I had the sensation of being hit in the chest with a 2 X 4 knocking all the air out of me. At the same time the cockpit fogged up so thick I couldn’t see the instruments for a few seconds. It all happened so fast, my first thought was that something had hit us. I thought perhaps a fighter had skimmed over or under us causing this. Quickly though the fog cleared and by seeing the flight instruments and looking outside, I could see we were not out of control. So as we were to do in such cases, I called for a “crew report”. There was a set sequence for answering such a call and the response was “Radar OK”, unless you had a problem. But with the rapid pressure change, which at that altitude caused the oxygen system to go to a pressure system, this made you breath backwards. It took very little effort to breath in, but you had to force the air out against the pressure. That along with the noise etc. it was difficult to hear on the interphone. It took a few seconds but I thought we got all the calls in. About then Maj. Baldrige came on the interphone and said “AC, we’ve lost the EW hatch, and the gunner has lost his helmet and mask.” I asked if everything else seemed OK and he said “Yes, just a big hole in the plane,” so I told him “I’ll descend, but put an oxygen hose in Sgt. Greens mouth.” At that altitude you have only seconds of consciousness. I told the Major who was in the right seat, to start a descent and I called the center declaring an emergency telling them I was descending. The center is to clear all traffic out from under you when you call “MAYDAY” and declare an emergency. I asked the navigator for a safe altitude. I knew we were over mountains and wasn’t sure just how low we could go. I wanted to get down to 10,000 ft if we could. Also told the Nav., to plot a course for Fairchild which I was sure was the closest B-52 base. All of this just took seconds. I then returned my attention to the instruments. (the new Major had been doing the flying) And he had begun descending with out retarding the throttles. This they did sometimes in the B-47, but never in the B-52. I saw the throttles were still forward and we were about to the “red line” on the air speed indicator. If you exceeded the red-lined airspeed, and it varied with altitude, you were in danger of structural failure. So I pulled the throttles to idle, raised the air brakes and slowed the descent down. (We were supposed to use 280 Knots. for descent.) We descended to the lower altitude and came on home with nothing more happening. On the instrument panel right in front of me was a red light that glowed if any one the panels were not closed. I vaguely remembered seeing it flash for just an instant, but since it did not stay lighted I didn’t catch on. We were met by the maintenance men, the safety people etc. The “explosive decompression” had sucked the insulation off the wall around the hatch, had taken some of our books as well as Sgt. Green’s helmet and mask. On the ejection seat the right handle was the firing handle. It was normally in the down, stowed position. We had a “safeing pin” we put into a hole which kept this handle from accidental moving. We always put the pin in while out of the seat or in the seat and unbuckled. Sgt. Green had buckled in and pulled the pin when he noticed his oxygen hose hooked under this handle. He says he pulled on the hose and the handle lifted. This action was all that is needed to blow the hatch. If you squeezed the trigger then, the seat would go. It seems doubtful that this handle could be raised with such little effort, but that was his story. A rancher found the hatch and returned it some time later. During the investigation I made mention that I “thought” I saw the hatch un-lock light blink. I later found I was correct. The way the light was wired, it would glow when any hatch was unlocked, but if the hatch became unconnected from the aircraft, as ours did the light would go out. Because of my report, the system was changed so that this “little red light” would stay illuminated if any hatch was unlocked or missing.
We had a system in SAC that when something unsafe happened, and the cause was found, or a way to prevent it, they would issue a SAFETY BULLETIN. We used to get them every little bit. All flight crew members had a copy of the aircraft manuals that outlined each crew members duties, emergency procedures etc. These were always being up-dated with new or more correct information. The new ideas would be incorporated into our flight hand book, with the next revision. One day we received a safety bulletin which alerted us to the possibility that the transformer that provided power to the AC’s artificial horizon might fail. The problem concerned a transformer manufactured by a certain company that might overheat and catch fire. This would cause the instrument to fail. During take-offs and landings this was the primary instrument for telling the aircraft’s attitude and was even more critical during instrument conditions. The C.P. had a separate, similar system. The bulletin stated that the only way to stop the fire, if one occurred, was to turn off the electrical power to the transformer. This could only be done by pulling the circuit breaker, located on the panel, to the left and behind the AC. You had to “scrunch” around in your seat to see this panel which of course meant you could not be seeing your flight instruments. So when I read this I went out to an airplane and located this CB. It was near the center in about the 3rd or 4th row from the bottom. I located it and spent several minutes practicing reaching around without looking, and pulling it left handed. Then I’d look to make sure I had grabbed the right one. I practiced several times and felt comfortable that I could reach it quickly if needed. On the next few flights I’d do this a few times, getting more confident about doing it. And wouldn’t you know. We took off one afternoon, must have been around 2 or 3 PM, weather was stinking. Rain and a ceiling of 200-300 ft. which isn’t too high. We were told the first top of the overcast was about 5,000 ft. I made the take-off and called for the gear to be retracted just as we entered the clouds. I then saw my artificial horizon start a slow roll to the left. If correct this meant I was banking to the left, otherwise the instrument was failing. I looked over at the CP’s instrument which indicated a level, climbing attitude. About then, the EWO called and said there was smoke and flames coming out of the electric panel just in front of him and behind me. This is where this transformer was located, so at once I knew what it was. But in just these few seconds the whole flight deck was filling with dark heavy smoke. I reached back with my left hand and pulled the CB while still flying the plane. I had an inexperienced CP along for training and didn’t think his instrument flying should be trusted with the stress and commotion going on. A short time later we broke out on top of the clouds and the EWO said it was still burning. I told the navigator to give me a course for Moses Lake. Their weather was better than ours and it was our abort alternative. Since the fire would not cause structural damage, I thought I could get back on the ground there, without instruments if necessary. In the meanwhile I had the CP call the controlling center and get us cleared for a change in our flight path. I called our command post (which is normal ) and told them of my problem. They always had an officer on duty there, but he was not necessarily too well qualified in flying the plane. He told me just to circle in the local area until they could contact the commander. I told him negative, we still had the fire, we had a fair amount of smoke in the cock-pit and were going to Moses Lake and would land as soon as we got there. So off we went at about 5,000 ft. My flight indicator instrument still inoperable. Soon the fire went out and the panel cooled enough that the smoke subsided. Our normal ventilation system got rid of the smoke, so we came back to FAFB. We circled a while getting our weight down and then landed. The electrical system in the aircraft was a 400 cycle, 208 voltage system. Because of the high voltage, they used transformers to reduce the voltage near the area where it was used. The reason they used the higher voltage, you can get more power from a smaller motor by doing this. So, another incident turned out well and was informative!
In March ‘59 we started flying airborne alert again, but this time using the “standardized route” SAC had developed. This was a flight path that any B-52 base could and did use. We went into this program and flew it all summer and fall that year. The route would take us to Montana where we had a “loiter” time built in. This was in case you were late taking off, you could cut this time short and remain on schedule. Timing was necessary since aircraft from other bases could be in the stream also. From there we’d go on east, passing over lake Michigan, on to New York City, passing just north of it, and out a couple hundred miles over the Atlantic. We’d then turn northward and rendezvous with a tanker from one of the eastern bases, take on 125,000 lb. of fuel and keep going north. Up past Thule, up past the arctic circle, then head back south westward toward Nome, Alaska. From there we’d turn south toward Fairbanks, Alaska and soon meet a tanker from there. Again, another 125-130,000 pounds of fuel would be transferred. This would take only 12-15 minutes if you didn’t have too many disconnects. From there out toward Attu, back in to King Salmon AK and then down the coast to home. For a while we were flying three planes each day. We’d fly a trail formation, each 500 feet higher and one mile behind. We’d change lead several times, so each navigator could get some rest. There were also times we’d fly the route by ourselves, and have to do all the navigating, reporting etc. by ourselves. I think I wound up with forty seven of these long missions. I made a couple trips with newer aircraft commanders to make sure they could get the fuel needed to complete the route. I believe I had to help one fellow, but they were all pretty good. I often could get the fuel without a dis-connect. We called this a one-gulper! Made it much quicker and less tiring to do it this way.
I recall another unusual incident when flying these missions. It was night time and we had refueled off the east coast and were over the ocean heading north. Later we were north of THULE, GREENLAND around midnight or later. When Sgt. Green used his spot light to see how the tail and the wings looked. We couldn’t see them from the front, but by looking into a “front-view” mirror he could. So during one of these checks he noticed and reported a square hole in the top of the left horizontal stabilizer-a part of the tail. We were flying on auto pilot and hadn’t noticed any problem. So I took the plane off auto pilot and felt the controls. They felt normal. I did a few shallow turns and could feel no problem. I got out my technical book and figured it was one of the “inspection” panels that someone had not closed properly. So then my problem was “what to do?” We were really supposed to report things like this as soon as discovered. But I knew if I did, I would be told to land and since we were already past THULE I figured they’d tell me to continue on and land in Alaska, 4-5 hours away. I also reasoned if the plane would fly that far, and if the hole did not get any larger, why worry? I could fly it all the way home, since there was no control problem? So we said nothing and continued on. We met our 2nd tanker as scheduled south of NOME, ALASKA and took on our load of fuel. We usually finished refueling about the time we neared FAIRBANKS, ALASKA. We’d leave the tanker and normally the base would be just a bit ahead and to the right. So we finished refueling and continued on. After another hour or so at daylight, I called in and reported the panel missing. Since we had passed EIELSON at FAIRBANKS they told us to continue on home This we did and had no more problems. The wing was graded on our completion rate on these missions, so there was nothing ever said about things like this as long as they turned out all right. It’s one of those cases where you can’t afford to ask, you might be told NO.
One of the greatest things they did to help us when flying in bad weather was when they installed the STROBE LIGHTS on the runway. I had a ‘GREEN’ card instrument rating (the highest one) and with that my minimums for landing, if I remember right, was 200 ft. ceiling and ½ mile visibility. Coming in at our normal approach speed of something like 130-135 kts. (app 150 mph) things happened pretty fast and when you know that the “round out sink” could be 50-100 feet (altitude lost in going from a landing attitude to a go-around attitude) you didn’t haven’t much room to mess around. So when we finally got the strobe lights, what a difference! They could be seen from 100 ft or a bit higher through the fog. This gave you an extra 100 feet or so, depending on the density of the fog. The strobe light system is a line of lights leading to the landing end of the runway. They were extremely bright, I’ve been told 1,000,000 watts each. Each light would be on for just an instant running from the outermost toward the landing runway. If there was a sound to these lights, it would have been a “brrrrrrrrrt” sound repeated very rapidly. So during bad weather before you could ever see the ground, you’d see these lights glowing through the fog. Made the landings so much easier. Today most airports world wide have them.
When Jack graduated to his own crew, I got a new co- pilot, Capt. LEPIC. Had him until he was checked out then, Maj. GRANT, until he left for a different job. Then Lt. FORNELL, (later a 2 star general) plus a few others that I’d have for training.
It was not all work in those days, we had another life. By joining the square dance group we got to know some of the local people. And it wasn’t too long until Don and Marie ADAMS invited us all up to their lake place for a summer week end. It was up there we started learning to water ski. Mike Oswald had a pair of red skis which he called “slabs.” Don Adams had a boat at the lake with a 35 HP motor. It was there we started water skiing. And of course we all fell in love with lake Pend Oreille. Then Mike and Enie decided to buy a lake lot. They looked around, checked out several lakes and decided that Pend Oreille was the best. In early 1958, the Batty’s opened up ten lots just north of Adams. Mike and Enie bought one paying $2,000 for it. We spent several weekends that year at their lot, helping clear brush, rocks etc. By now Mike had bought a 14 ft aluminum boat with a 30 or 35 hp Evenrude motor. We all skied up there behind it. He brought it home during the week. We would sometimes meet at Silver lake in the evenings for swimming and skiing. It was there at one of our picnic suppers that Dave drank the yellow jacket into his mouth! The darn thing had gotten into his can of pop. So we learned about yellow jackets!
And with so much fun going on, June and I talked it over and said “Why don’t we buy a lot up there too?” So in late summer ’58 we bought two lots. We bought one as an investment. By then the price had gone to $2250. It so happened my crew was scheduled for our leave time in either Sep or Oct that year. Our kids were in school, so a trip was out of the picture. We looked around and found lumber at a mill outside of Sandpoint. They said they’d deliver so we ordered and started thinking we’d build a cabin. The mill had bundles, about four feet square with various lengths. Most were 2×4’s a few 2×6’s and some 2×10 or 12’s. Lengths varied from 10 ft to 20. These we needed for the framing. I think these bundles sold for about $50.00 each. All were “rough” cut lumber, no polished sides. We bought four bundles. We also ordered siding boards and the 1×4 batts to use with them. The week end after the 2×4 lumber was delivered we found they had dumped it all behind Martins. So we spent the weekend getting that lumber back to our lot. We’d load the station wagon full and drive back, letting the ends drag. It took two tossings to get it down the hill where we put it into piles according to lengths. Took all week end but we got it moved. So we were ready to get started. The rest of the lumber was delivered later and went down the hill the same way!
We leveled a spot as well as we could by hand and using Batty’s small tractor, so the cabin size depended on the flat space we had available. I drew up plans, probably while on alert, and that was to be our “lake home!” During vacation that fall, I spent several days there, and got the foundation and floor put in. We did not have electricity yet, so Mike Oswald let us run a long line from his cabin (now his pump house) over to our lot. Ange was available some of the time and was a big help. By keeping at it, Ange and I got the walls and roof beams up, so we had the skeleton. The whole family helped in putting the side boards and batts on. We bought 8 ft by 26 inch aluminum sheets for the roof but had to cut it into half lengths to fit it in the station wagon. That is why each side of the roof has two pieces of roofing for each length instead of one. June helped a lot on the construction. Don Adams “loaned” us his circular saw, which June manned and did a lot of lumber cutting while I was on the ladder nailing. Before we finished that fall we had it boxed in and the roof was on. Quite an accomplishment! We were still thinking of a sleeping loft, running the entire length of the back side. Then June thought it would be nice to have it so the girls could be alone, so we decided on two lofts. It was easy to change since we just had the outside hull done. Other ideas and changes came about. As the wooden floor dried out we had cracks as much as ½ inch between the boards. We thought “just leave them and we could sweep the dirt down through them.” Come to find out the cold air came in too strong so that didn’t work. Also we did not think we’d need windows, just screened openings. We soon found out it was too cold for that. We had no running water, used water from the lake for everything.(it tested OK then) So we learned a little as we went. The biggest goof was when we carried all the rocks off the beach and threw them as far out as possible. Naturally that helped the bank erode like mad, so the next year we started carrying them back. And the saga of the docks! We built 3 or 4 before we learned how to build them to survive the storms. We soon found we had to do something to keep the beach from eroding too. We had cleared the shrubs and rocks away and the storms were taking a foot or more of our beach each year. So in 1960 we began to think of a concrete wall. No one else had a wall then, and if our beach hadn’t been so cleared it might not have been needed. In 1961 we started on the concrete wall. Would take up 2-3 sacks of concrete, mix it by hand, on a flat piece of tin and pour as much as we could all on our days off work. We soon saw we were not going to be done that fall, so we hired Lyle Battey to finish it. He did a lot of the work on the initial wall. We had to buy the cement but we used the sand and the gravel off the beach. By the end of ’61 we had the wall in. Our next big chore was to fill in behind the wall. Here we had this wall 4-5 ft out from the previous water’s edge and 2-2-½ ft high, leaving a big gap behind it. So using the old green metal boat, we started hauling rock We finally got it filled.
Another big chore was putting in the biffy. I spent many an hour in that hole chiseling out rock. Finally I got it deep enough for one summer’s use. Then I’d have to clean it out each year. We knew we might be transferred and have to leave so we planned to keep it the cabin simple. Something we could lock up and leave. Dave and I took a sprayer up in Oct.1959 and put the first coat of paint on while Mother and Doug were back in Michigan. Later June put on the blue trim, inside and out, to make it look nicer. A few years later after continued gravel wash-outs from behind the wall we realized the wall was too low. On almost every visit much of the gravel would be washed out by the storms. Waves would slap over the wall, and as they washed back, would take the gravel with them. Our first job on many trips was to shovel the gravel back up out of the lake. A big chore.
After I retired we decided to add the upper part of the wall. By then John was here and helped with the concrete work, glory be! I bought a concrete mixer at a farm sale for $35. What a buy! Forget how we got it up there, but we did. John helped us several week ends and we got the upper wall in. We’d go up and get the form boards in place and braced, and as John had time he’d come up and we’d pour concrete. I hauled a pick-up load of sand in and we took gravel from the beach. A time or two, Ben and Tim came along and helped by filling 5 gal. buckets with gravel. The first year we put in the side nearest Oswalds. That part of the original wall had deteriorated badly and had broken, so we re-did it as one wall. Took it just to the north side of the dock. The next year we finished it to the boat house. June had the idea and took care of putting on the flat rock to “dress” it up. An excellent idea.
I originally thought we’d build a year round place up on top when we retired. I thought we’d live up there from Apr to Sep or Oct. But as you age your ideas and desires change. Over the years we’ve made the cabin more “user friendly” with running water, hot and cold, indoor plumbing (when the sewer became available in 1978) improved the heating, replaced the 44 steps with a path, installed a circuit breaker electric panel
About now, I got assigned to the FLIGHT STANDARDIZATION SECTION. This called for me to evaluate other pilots on how they followed procedures, their proficiency etc. This in addition to our normal crew flying. I was getting the reputation as one who really knew the “book” as our flight manuals were called. I did spend a lot of time reading and studying them, and I could remember what I’d read. Also I spent time on the sections other that the main two, NORMAL PROCEDURES and EMERGENCY PROCEDURES. Many just spent their time on those. I read them all. So often when someone would have a problem of some kind, I’d be called in for consultation to see what could be done. For instance we were on one of our long airborne alert missions when one of the other planes called and said they had lost heat in their cabin and asked if I had any ideas? I said, “Let me think about it.” I recalled that back on the upper deck, inside the flooring was a sensor that had to do with cabin heat. It had a perforated plate over it. On these long flights we had a lot of extra junk, and I suspected they had covered the plate. I thought this might be the problem. So I told them to clear off this area and see. Sure enough it worked, they got their heat back. Several times things like this happened, made everyone happy. In early 1960, I got a spot promotion to Lt./Col. I had been promoted to Major in 1959, so it was a big surprise to all, especially me. Not to brag, but this meant I was a Capt. in ’58, a Major in ’59 and a L/C in ’60. Didn’t get promoted again for a couple years then. ‘Course the “spot promotion” depended on the crew continuing to do well Yohannon soon got a spot; Baldrige, my electronic warfare officer got one; Sgt. Green too. Think Bernie Jansen, the navigator, got one to Capt. also. So we were doing well.
In late Nov.1959 we took an B-52 to the far east. It was a training exercise for the maintenance troops out there. We flew to YAKOTA JAPAN, taking 13:30 hrs. Col. Beck, Deputy CO of the wing went along (it was a fat cat trip, one that didn’t come around too often) He was in the pilot’s seat when we were coming into the Japanese area getting ready for landing. ENGLISH is the universal language used the world over for flight control, so the Japanese controller was talking his version of English. He’d
say something like “Wover 21 (our call sign was Rover) zeecends to zoo zoo zousands. Col. Beck’d ask “What does he want” and I’d help out. Having been there, I kinda understood so I told the Col. to descend to 22 thousand (feet). We landed ok. We had 2-3 days there while the training was being done, then we flew to GUAM for the same reason. We were there when the PHILIPPINES celebrated their independence day. Since we were the only B-52 in the Pacific, we were scheduled to do a one-pass flyby over MANILA INTERNATIONAL airport, then return to Guam. Col. Beck got outranked on this flight by 3 star GEN. ANDERSON who was the big chief out there. The B-52s were new then and he said he was going along. We flew this on Nov 29th, 1959. Leaving Guam we were above the clouds most of the way. When we entered the Manila area we let down through several thousand feet of clouds. We were assigned a control time to depart the tip of land on the far outside of MANILA harbor. Leaving that point we flew across the large bay and were to come across the airfield following the Philippine Air Force which flew over first. We would lead the allied forces in the area. I think Bernie hit our control time within about 15 seconds. Excellent! We had already let down to about 1,200 ft or so and started our run eastbound, across the harbor. We let down to 1,000 ft or less and accelerated to 325 kts (about 365 mph) The bay must be 30-35 miles wide but it took only minutes to cross. About half way across I saw a blur just ahead and almost at once thought I heard a “splat-splat-splat” (really couldn’t have heard it) We’d flown through a small flock of ducks and hit them with the fiberglass panel just under the nose, but caused us no damage. By now I could see the runway, so lined up and went right down it. I could see there was a humungus crowd there, just scads of people. And with us being that low and that fast, the plane’s noise was really something terrific. We reached the far end of the runway, added power, pulled up and almost sky rocketed to 10,000 ft. There we leveled off to a normal climb attitude and speed and continued back to Guam. The radio person on the ground called and said “Thanks for a really good show” or some such. The General was impressed also. Think it was his first ride.
We were at Guam a day or two then came home taking 12:15hrs. I had the “brass” riding with me lots of the time then. One night, our Wing CO, Col. MILLER was along on one of the alert missions. For the refueling our knuckles in the refueling receptacle, would not grab onto the tanker’s equipment. The boom would not stay into our receptacle which meant we could not take on fuel. I thought we might try something a bit different, and asked the boomer to “go to a stiff boom.” By doing this it was held extended and would not slide in and out like normal. If the bomber pushed it in too far, it would damage the boom. The tanker crews always knew who was on board the bomber, and I guess knowing Col. Miller was along they didn’t argue. He went “stiff”, and I was able to keep enough pressure on to permit the fuel to transfer. We got enough fuel to continue even though it was a chore. When we finished and had departed the tanker, Col. Miller was very enthusiastic and wound up saying something like “If you can do this, why can’t the others? Most of them would have aborted.” All I could think of to say was “I’m sure they could if they’d have thought of it.” Had to be modest, you know. But these things didn’t hurt especially with the boss looking on. When off base VIPS came often they’d fly with our crew. Our reputation was good.
We were picked to fly for a training film about how to deliver nuclear bombs at low level. We flew to Flathead Lake in Montana, descended very low and made a pass from the north to the south over the lake, approach the hills on the south end, do what we called a “pop-up” and simulate bombs away. They were using an old propeller aircraft, a C-54 and a P-80 single engine jet to do the filming. Since we were so much faster than the C-54, he’d get in position, we’d fly by. He’d move down the lake, we’d fly by again, etc., Must have moved 3-4 times to record it all. The other jet would take pictures too, when flying along with us. We flew this twice while being filmed. They seemed pleased with the results. I never saw the resulting film, nor did I ever hear anything more about it.
While all this was going on we lived in the Pink Palace in Airway Heights from the time we arrived in late ’54 until the summer of ’56. From there June made a trip back to Michigan to attend the funeral for Charles, our brother in law. While she was gone I bought an electric clothes dryer. That’s when we “fixed” up that special letter to her containing the “hurry home” photos, remember?
Jack Beaman was my co-pilot and one day he asked if I’d heard about the housing at the Fort? He had learned about them and had been assigned one of the duplexes. So I went to the housing office, and by gum, the big single home had just become available. So it was assigned to us. In Aug. 1956 we moved to The Fort. What a big house we had with 12 rooms used daily! Later Col. Miller (wing CO) was showing a visiting dignitary the Ft Wright grounds. They drove by our house, the VIP saw the name sign, “Capt. Potter” and said something like “How come you let a Capt. have this large a house?” Col. Miller replied, “Oh, he’s got a big bunch of kids” which seemed to settle the question. Col. Miller told me about it later and we both had a good laugh. Another good reason to be well liked. We lived there until they closed the Fort housing in the summer of 1960.
When that happened we looked around for another place and bought the house on Audubon St. We moved there before school started that year. Either that winter or the next June broke her ankle (ice skating, remember?) Had it in a cast from late Jan. until early Apr.-had to hobble around with crutches. Here we started having the Sunday evening fireplace dinners, during the winter. We also bought a load of “slabs” to burn in the fireplace.
My crew was named “crew of the month” several times. We also always did well in competition flights, so retained our spot promotions. In early 1964 I received my “regular” promotion to Lt. Col. My date of rank went back 4 years due to the spot time, so I was immediately one of the older L/Cs on base. Policy was you were then moved into a staff job which I did. I was assigned Chief of the Plans and Scheduling Section. We did all the overall planning for the flying and training activities. About mid summer ’64 we got a new wing CO, Col. Arnold, shortly after we had an ORI. (operational readiness inspection). The inspection team checked all activities on base with special emphasis on the flying portions. The result was a disaster. Almost every section flunked. The flight crews did poorly. All in all it was a poor wing showing. Col. Arnold was very upset especially over the way the crews had done. Lt. Col. Downs was the Sq. CO. To shorten the whole story, Downs was fired. Col. Arnold called me to his office. He and the director of Operations, Lt. Col. Rund and possibly some others were there. He told me “Downs is out.” He told me to take over the squadron. Said I was the CO right then, and he wanted that “Miserable bunch of no goods, etc.” shaken up. The squadron offices were in the alert building. So I went there where all available crews were and told the flight leader I was the new CO. I said I wanted the crews all standing outside in so many minutes for an announcement and inspection. I had the orderly room clerk go with me and when they were all lined up I told them about the change and that I was now the C.O. I then conducted a personal inspection. Quite a few were sloppy, several needed haircuts, many shoes weren’t shined etc. I told them to correct these things and to not show up this way again. I think I got their attention.
We then formed a group within the wing that reviewed each flying person’s records. How well they did on the Standardization Board rides, their on time take-off record, the proficiency of the navigation team etc. It was a pretty thorough look at the flying crews. There were several changes made in crew assignments and we started really emphasizing “the rules.” As we knew would happen, after several months the inspection team re-appeared. Same thing. Go through everything, especially the previous failure areas. This time we did very well. Don’t think any of the crews flunked. It certainly wasn’t due to just my doings, but I like to think I helped. Of course to be put in charge when the unit is way down is the way to do it. There is only one way to go. So we all started doing better and I got some of the credit. Col. Arnold was happy and the wing hummed. I got pretty close to Col. Arnold. He’d come to our outfit and he and I would sit around and talk about things. I was careful to never say anything derogatory about anyone else but when he asked what I thought of something or someone I answered as honestly as I could. He seemed to appreciate that. Some others I’m sure would tell him only what they felt he wanted to hear. All this resulted in him rating me as the number one L/C of the 20 (app) other L/C’s on base. I thought this quite a compliment. With taking over the squadron came the requirement to move on base. So we moved into a house on Palm Drive. In the spring of 1965, astronaut Major Buzz Aldren paid a visit to Fairchild. He was here about 3 days making public appearances. I was assigned as his escort, so spent the three days with him. A very likable fellow who went on the be the 2nd man to walk on the moon. We lived on base until Dec ’65 when we were transferred to BEALE AFB, CA. I had been here for several years, and was picked to fill a slot down there. W again lived on base there. I was made CHIEF OF TRAINING. This had to do with all the flying and training scheduling. We did well I had good people working for me and we did well in getting the requirements accomplished. An ORI or two came and went, all showing up well.
In late summer ’66, the annual competition between the bomber wings was held back at Fairchild. All bomber wings were involved and each was to set up a base booth, something to describe the base. I was in charge of setting this up for Beale. We had one bomber and one tanker crew involved. I used the idea that Beale was the “Pot of Gold” at the end of the rainbow since we were in gold mining country. Had some pictures and other displays. It went over pretty well.
While June and I were here for this competition we stayed with the Cicero’s. At their house one night, about 4:30 AM, a call came telling me that I was on the just- released full Colonel’s list! I hadn’t really expected this promotion, only 1 in 50 or so get it. But I’m sure the excellent ratings Col. Arnold gave me had a big part in my being selected. There were 5 of us at Beale that were on that full bird list, which is unusual. Usually not that many from one base. Most others selected were connected with the SR-71 program, a real gung-ho outfit. By being promoted we were eligible for another move. There were no jobs at Beale open for that rank. So while we waited for a different assignment, we enjoyed our California living. We had our boat up at Englebright Reservoir. Many evenings after work, Mother, Doug and I would run up there and water ski a couple hours. Also at Beale Donna and her two came and spent time with us, while John was on patrol. Ben was born at the base hospital there. The girls had a little cowboy suit for him, so we called him “Two-gun Pete.” In early summer we were told we were being sent to Minot, No. Dakota. We had a ‘59 Ford station wagon and a ‘60 or ‘61 Rambler sedan along with the boat to move. So we saddled up and with Mother and I pulling the boat and Doug driving the Rambler, we headed out. Of course Dolly, our Brittany went along. I found they required an estimated arrival date of those of this rank- had never required that before. We arrived with no problems and were assigned a nice 3 bedroom house on base. I was the Deputy Base Commander working for Col. White. This is where we spent our next year and a half. We got into the square dance group there. June got interested in ceramics. She made the beautiful gold and silver chess set there. One thing about Minot, the wind never seemed to stop blowing. Lots of stories, “only one strand of barb wire between No. Dak and the north pole” etc. I stayed busy and thought the base was nice. To help boost morale, they had adopted the phrase “ONLY THE BEST COME NORTH” as a slogan. They also liked using the phrase “Why not, Minot?” Then several years later on the train to Minot to visit with Dave & family, one of the train workers told us the answer. According to him the answer is “Freezings the reason!” We drove around the countryside as we had time. Was up north of the base once and saw this humungus flock of snow geese. Literally thousands in one field. Also did some fishing for walleyes at one of the lakes. The Souris (nicknamed sorry) river ran a few miles to the west and was the center for several wildlife refugees.
Dave spent Christmas with us on his way to report to the COAST GUARD Officer’s training center in Connecticut. Somehow we got confused on when his plane was to leave and arrived at the civilian airport in Minot after his plane had left. We RUSHED to Bismarck, some 115 miles away and was able to catch it there.
Monthly parades were started in the spring/summer of ’68. I was in charge of that program, and led the first big parade around the area. At the head of all military parades, the commander is in front with two others one step behind who are “his staff.” There is a lot to remember as there is a sequence for every command you give. I picked two really sharp young Lt.s to be “my staff” for the parade and they were big helpers. We didn’t goof on a thing. We had four or five parades that year and it seemed most people enjoyed them. We usually had a good turn out of families to watch. When Col. White was away, which happened several times, I would take over as Commander.
Dave graduated from the Coast Guard OCS program in the early fall, ’68. at New London, Conn. I managed a flight there and attended his graduation. Dave and I then hopped a flight to Charleston, So. Carolina and spent a day or two with Donna and the kids, John was on patrol. We then caught another flight back to Minot. We had a good time making the trip. Dave being a really new Ensign said he liked being with a Col. to travel.
In July that year June started to have shortness of breath problems while square dancing. After a time or two we thought she should “see about that,” so she went to the hospital for a check. It was there they found she was having heart problems. They kept her in the hospital there for about a month, thinking the rest and medication would be all she needed. When she was discharged she and I came over to the cabin for our delayed leave. While at the cabin she had another spell of troubled breathing etc., so we knew her problem was not taken care of. Down to the Fairchild base hospital we came. To shorten the story, she was admitted, spent several months hospitalized and wound up having open heart surgery in town here at Deaconess hospital.
When she was admitted at the base hospital I had to go back to Minot, so drove back by myself. June’s mother came out to Minot then and stayed until we learned the diagnosis. After June had been in the hospital here a month or so, I managed to get a T-33 (single engine jet trainer) flight over and spent several hours with her. I was also able to be here for her operation in October ‘68. They said it would take her 6 weeks more hospitalization to recover. The Doctor told me then that “With luck, she should have 5 good years.” They also said that with June’s prognosis she should be seen by the same medical team if possible, the Doc’s recommended she should stay here for several more months.
During this time I was picked to go a school back east. It was a school preparatory for advancement which would take about a year. It also gave me another 3-4 years commitment. June was not at all anxious to go and with all that was going on, I agreed, so put in my request to retire. I asked for and got a retirement date of 1 Oct 1969. Col. White was Base Commander here so I put in for a “compassionate” transfer back to Fairchild. This was approved. I In early December ‘68, Mrs. G. and I loaded up the station wagon and came over here. Our furniture was also moved. We were assigned quarters 8116 Palm, on base. We moved in on the 10th of Dec’68, and it began to snow on the 13th. Seems it snowed for 35-40 days straight! One of our heavier snow years, some 40 inches on the ground. We still had Dolly then and during that winter her eating pan was lost so we replaced it. After the snow melted we found the pan out near the street where a snow ploy had mashed it flat!
Having a short time before retiring, I was given odd jobs to do. Working with Col. White again as his deputy for a while, then Col. Forman came in and was given that job and I was moved to “Special assistant to the Base Commander” and did a variety of jobs. I was in charge of the “open house” for the base the spring of ’69. I had several people helping and I thought we set up a pretty good show. I was especially pleased we were able to have parachutes jumps, “every hour on the hour,” my idea. I got several nice letters of thanks for putting on that show. We were to have the SAC bombing competition here that year. Col. Forman was in charge of it, since I would be gone. Then I moved back to being the deputy Commander. It stayed like that until I retired the end of Sep. 1969.
I ended up with 8774.7 hours of flying time, of which 4028.4 were in the B-52 During these hours lots of things happened but for the most part they were all things we had practiced in the simulator or read about. These included various engine failures, a few engine fires, a time or two when the flaps would not retract, once when they “split” (that is only one portion of the flaps would retract). One time all on one side stayed down. Loss of electrical power, loss of hydraulic power etc. On the engines, I never shut down more than 2 at a time on the B-52. On the electrical power plants, we had 4, so I never lost them all. So even though some things were unusual, they weren’t too traumatic. The uneven flaps would have been a bother had I retracted fully those that would, but I could tell it was happening by checking the gauges and by the feel of the aircraft. So you would stop the retraction and if you couldn’t fix it, you’d land and have the problem fixed. These were all things we practiced in the trainers so I never felt unusually concerned. Also had a windshield crack in flight, (did not lose cabin pressure) and had tires blow out during both take off and landing. No big bother except the blown tire would usually catch fire when the aircraft slowed. The burst tire would beat itself to a frenzy during the landing roll, heat up and catch on fire. The fire would never occur until we slowed and the wind slacked. We’d stop as soon as we could and the fire dept. would “foam” it. I can recall hearing the “pop” when one blew, but it was no biggie.
Knowing we were retiring, we looked around for a house. We decided we wanted to stay here, since we had the lake place and the area suited us fine. We still owned the place on Audubon, but we did not want to settle into that for the long haul, so we started looking and talking to real estate agents. June and Mrs. G. did a lot of the looking, I did when I had the time. We looked at a lot of places, but most had 4 to 6 bedrooms and were just too big, more house than we needed or wanted. We weren’t too sure how June would be feeling or how well she would recover so we thought a smaller place was more to our liking and needs. A real estate lady was showing houses one day when they drove by this Highland place. June reports she was able to see “through” the house and caught a glimpse of trees behind. She felt this was IT almost immediately. So we came to see it and the rest is history. The basement was only the concrete outside walls, with the inside bearing walls just the 2×4 studs. Also had hardly any lawn, just a small patch in front. Side and back yards were a mess lots of rocks and hunks of concrete. But we thought we could handle these things, so in late May we bought it. Think we paid around $20,000. You all know how the house was finished, changed etc. We put on the aluminum siding, finished the basement, added the downstairs bath, later the sun room etc. It has proved perfect for us in usability and location-we were blessed.
The summer of ’69 we also bought the trailer. The previous owner delivered it while we were still on base. I towed it out here. The previous owner had it parked on a bay on lake Coeur d’Alene. It was only one year old, had been used very little and still had the new look. The first time I filled the system with water, I found he had not drained it correctly, and one line had burst. So I had a copper tube line to repair. Had to take the floor out of the shower to get to it. Oh the joy of toys!!
In the fall of 1969 at the age of 48 ¾ I retired. We felt we had enough income so that I never sought other work. Spent much time the first several years getting the house finished. Finished the basement, put on the aluminum siding etc. We went to Mexico a time or two, took several winter trips with the trailer and traveled all over the world. Have done a lot of volunteer work, etc. It has proven we made an OK decision.
To summarize: I had little education. I did finish high school, but don’t think I learned very much then. Perhaps I did. I’ve always been able to “see things” and have been fairly lucky in making decisions. While in Calif. in the mid ‘50s, the Air Force began pushing for all officers to have or obtain at least 2 years of college credit. I took advantage of that program and had my military training “evaluated” which gave me a set amount of credits. In addition I had to earn some from the college (Community College of Sacramento). So I took several night courses and got the credits needed. Think it was something like 8-10 credits. But whatever, I did and was awarded a certificate saying I had the equivalent of 2 yrs. college. This stood me in good stead for the rest of my time. It was a smart move. As a kid I never learned to read well. We had a small library there in Ashley, but I never used it. Don’t know why, but I never read any of the usual children books. It’s been my loss, I’m sure.
June and I feel we had a pretty good system during all these years. We always felt her job was to take care of the home and to be there while our kids were growing up. We both felt a mother was needed during that time, and the way things turned out it was a smart decision. She has never cared about handling the finances, so I’ve always been the one in charge of the check book. She did a good job of it while I was away but we both preferred I take care of it and I enjoyed doing it. We have always discussed our investments, our big-buys etc. so she’s always been involved. But I did the writing of the checks. It seems to have worked well for us.
I’ve always felt you needed absolutely to live on less than you made. I started saving some of my earnings way back at Ashley. After we were married, we set some aside every month, and have continued that to this day. As years went by and I got an increase in pay we always put “around half” of the raise into our saving plan. Paying yourself first is the answer. I’ve also always thought that you needed to take care of yourself and you pretty well earned what you got. I’ve always thought honest, consistent work habits paid off. Those you work for can see honest effort and I’ve always tried to give that. I think I succeeded.
Francis H. Potter