Into the Air Junior Birdman

When I got to Seattle I was met by an Air Force recruiter and taken to the Air Force facility where they did our physicals. If we passed we were given the Oath to Protect the Constitution. Then as a group, loaded on a bus and taken to SeaTac to fly to San Antonio Texas. It was my first plane ride, on Braniff Airlines, “The Golden Banana”. I remember looking out the window of the plane and watching the wings flap up and down. Another bus ride and we get off on Lackland Air Force Base. There we were formed up in to Recruit Flights. All the time, a couple of guys, who would be our flight leaders, are yelling and getting in our faces. we were marched to our barracks and assigned a bunk and locker. Later we are marched to the chow hall and there had to side step through the chow line. Still being yelled at and rushed to finish. Then back in formation to march back to the barracks, make our beds, and get assignments for guard duty that night. Then Taps, lights out. For a while it is quiet, then you hear sniffling and moans through out the night. The next morning, revelry, the flight commanders going up and down, pulling covers off, yelling to get dressed and fall out for formation to be marched again to the chow hall and then to the barber shop. Here they buzz cut of all your hair. Then yelled at some more as we are formed up again and marched to a warehouse to side step through a line to get our sea bag so we would have something to carry the uniforms we are issued. They ran out of long khaki pants, size thirty two, by the time I got to that portion of the line. But I did get khaki shorts, Bermuda socks and Bush Jackets and short sleeve shirts. As well as fatigues, dress shoes and boroughs. Everything but my long pants. Formed up, we are marched back to the barracks and told to get out of our civilian clothes and into uniform, fatigues and boroughs. All our civvies we packed into the bags we had brought to be sent home. We were then shown how to lay out our foot lockers and how to hang our dress uniforms on the rods next to our bunks.

After that things settled down into sort of a four-week summer camp. San Antonio in July is really hot, usually 95 degrees by ten or eleven in the morning. When it reached that, all outside activity was stopped. We would have had morning exercises and breakfast, then marched to classes or bused to the gun range. Marching and obstacle courses all took place before it reached 95 degrees. Then we would be marched inside for classes. We all had our assigned jobs; clean barracks or latrines, or guard duty, nothing very strenuous. We really had lots of breaks. It was where I was introduced to Dr. Pepper. I think it was the only pop machines we had on base.  Smoking a pipe was a little awkward so I started smoking cigarettes, Parliaments.  The first weekend, we were allowed to go to the Airman’s Club.  I got my club card and bought my first beer, Red Star, a Texas brand.  It was a hot afternoon and after a few beers, maybe two or three, I started sweating and went to the restroom.  I took off my shirt and splashed some water on my face.  Then put my shirt back on and left to go back to the barracks.  I hadn’t notice that when I put my shirt back on, the collar got tucked under.  But the Sargent I ran into on the way back did.  He ordered me to square away my shirt and report to my barracks.  I did, and when I got to my barracks, I tore up my club card.  I think I tore up my club card three times.

We had to take aptitude tests to see what we qualified for.  At the time, the needs of the Air Force came first.  I was given three choices; Air Police, Still Photography and Medics although I came in high for languages too.  I got my last choice, Medics.  So, after four weeks in boot camp, I moved across the base and began eleven weeks of Medic training.  Our flight leaders also participated in the base drill team during their off times.  So we got a lot of drill practice marching to class.  There were times, when marching, we would come up against a flight of Air Force Academy recruits doing their pre-Academy training and we would march through them.  Medic school included a few WAFs from a separate, nearby barracks, that would form up with us in the morning.  Classes included a lot of first aid, field medic prep, both book and hands on.  Evenings we could go to the Airman’s Club or movies.  On weekends we could go into San Antonio.  Our flight leaders warned us that River Walk was Off Limits to recruits and to watch out when we got off the bus and use a buddy system when walking around downtown.  I pretty much stayed on the base and kept my Club card.  While going to class we were given more aptitude tests.  I scored high for Medic, Dental Tech and X-ray Tech.  I chose X-ray, Medic, Dental Tech.  I got Dental Tech, needs of the Air Force prevailed.

Orders came through to report to Dental Tech School in Montgomery Alabama.  But first I got two weeks leave in route to report in early November 1958.  First I flew home.  An old hand at flying now, I went back to the lounge (they had them in the old days) and sat with a couple of WAFs and the Stewardess to Los Angeles.  During our wait for the plane to Seattle, one of the WAF and I went to the airport bar.  Guess being in uniform, we didn’t get asked for ID and I tried my first martini.  Turns out gin is not my favorite drink.  On landing in Seattle, I took the Greyhound bus to Port Angeles and home.  I pretty much stayed in uniform the whole time at home.  Mom and Dad wanted to show me off and it was kind of a chick magnet.  But time came to head for Alabama.  So I climbed aboard a Greyhound again and headed south, first to San Francisco and then east.  Pulling into Dallas, Texas, I got my first introduction to racism.  Getting off the bus you are greeted with two entrances to the depot, “White and Colored”.  Inside it continued with “White and Colored” restrooms, water fountains and restaurants.  From Dallas, all the way to Montgomery, it was the same thing at all the stops.  In Montgomery I went out the wrong door to catch a taxi.  The Red Star taxis waiting there were for, “Colored Only”.  I had to go back inside and go out the right door and wait for a taxi to the base.  I later learned at the base introduction that it was a $50 fine for a white and colored person to be riding in the same car together.  It was one reason the Air Force didn’t have “Colored” airman going to the advanced medical training base where the dental school was.  Some classes were done across town at Shepard AFB.  And they didn’t want to upset people.

Dental Tech school was twenty four weeks long, so I was there for Thanksgiving.  One of the guys had arranged a blind date for me with a telephone operator downtown.  We got a pumpkin pie from the dining hall and arranged to meet our dates in town.  When we arrived they were sitting in a car and we drove around, trying to find a place open to get whipped cream for our pie before we went to their apartment.  As my date was getting out of the car, she kept unwinding and when finally out, stood over six feet tall.  We had our pie and high tailed it back to base.  Another time I was heading into town with a couple of the WAF that I was going to school with.  They wanted to do some shopping.  We kept getting more and more packages, so when it came time to head back to the base, instead of carrying all the packages on the bus, I went to a used car lot and got a car to try out by taking the two back to the base.  I picked up a couple of the guys and we headed back in to town.  One problem, I couldn’t remember where I had got the car.  We ended up driving around a long time until I found the lot.  I took the car back and told them it wasn’t quite the car I was looking for.  Just before graduating, I found out that I had passed the entrance exam for the Academy, top ten percent from the state of Washington.  I was told that when I got to my next base they would arrange to get me to my next set of tests.  I found out that my next assignment was going too be Fairchild AFB in Spokane Washington.

I wanted to buy a car that an airman on the base had for sale, a 1954 Hudson coupe.  A pretty car, forest green and for that time all the bells and whistles.  It did need a valve job but I thought it would make it to Washington and I could overhaul it there.  Problem, I needed my folks to cosign for the $300 loan it would take to buy it and they said no.  So I climbed aboard a Greyhound and headed North.  Around Chicago three guys from the Royal Canadian Engineers boarded the bus and we rotated the back seat so we could stretch out once in a while and get some sleep.  In Billings, Montana, a morning stop for breakfast, we went out to the parking lot and compared marching techniques, especially “To The Rear March”.  They caught a bus going North and I continued on to Seattle and Port Angeles.  I was home a shorter time because I had to get to Spokane.  I got my 49 Hudson packed and headed East.  Arriving at Fairchild, I reported to the 810th Medical Group.  The hospital was just off the west side of the base.  Our barracks was across the parking lot and the Dental Clinic was on base, near the Exchange and Commissary.  After signing in, I showed them my letter to continue tests for the Air Force Academy.  It turned out they would be being held a t McCord AFB in May.  I caught a ride on a MATS C54 flight for McCord AFB in Tacoma.  After three days there and a battery of tests, physical and mental, I returned to Fairchild on the same C54.  As they approached for a landing you could see the flaps coming down and feel the wheels touching.  All of a sudden, they applied power and took off.  Just the prior year two B52’s had collided on the end of the runway.  You can imagine what was going through my mind as we came around, made our approach and landed.  As we were deplaning we asked what that was all about.  The runway is so long they just wanted to make a touch and go.  A few weeks later I found out that I hadn’t passed Physical Fitness or my English parts of the tests.

Being a male Dental Technician in the fifties and sixties was not a career making position to be in.   Most of the Dentists I worked with were spending their time training and preparing for when they entered private practice so I got to assist in some very interesting projects.  But when I asked about working with them in private practice, they were not interested in having a male assistant.  I persevered on, and enjoyed my time, primarily assisting in oral surgery and dental hygiene.  In these areas I kept a closer, personal contact with my patients.  There were a number of times I went against the norm of rushing my patients through in an assembly line mode.  I was interested in the comfort and care of all my patients and not in the numbers.  This had a tendency to cause friction with senior enlisted and management and it delayed my promotions.  There was so much politics in the Air Force.  At the clinic you had it made if you owned a VW and played pinochle, the senior sergeant did.  I didn’t own a VW and I played better pinochle.  Eventually I was promoted to A1C, not through the hospital but through the Base.  I’m pretty sure that Colonel Freeman, the Oral Surgeon I worked with, was responsible.  While working I started taking evening extension English classes on base through Eastern Washington College of Education and started working out with a personal physical trainer through the base gym.  When I thought I was ready, I applied for the Air Force Academy through the chain of command.  My Squadron Commander, a ninety day wonder Second Lieutenant returned my paperwork, stating I was too average for the Air Force Academy.  I went in the next day, the Air Force was reducing the number of enlisted on base by eight hundred, and requested discharge.  If I was too average for the Academy, I felt I was too average for the Air Force.  He told me those discharges were not meant for someone like me.

As you can imagine, I became very disillusioned with the Air Force.  I continued doing my job, I enjoyed that, and continued doing it my way.  I decided to find an after hours job and went looking.  I can’t remember how, but I found a part-time job as a Car Hop at a local Drive In called Baker’s Beacon.  To have an extra job, not connected to the Air Force, you have to ask permission.  I did, and received permission to have a part time job as long as it didn’t interfere with my normal duties.  Being a Car Hop was a lot of fun.  Of course, I was kind of burning the candle at both ends and maybe sometime even the middle.  After working until five PM at the clinic, I would go down and work at the drive in, sometime to midnight or later and then maybe go partying.  Getting back in the morning to shower and go to work at the clinic.  Do that a day or two and then have a day off and sleeping twelve or fifteen hours.  Then starting all over again.  I got temporarily transferred to an extension of Fairchild, Deep Creek, where they kept their nuclear weapons.  The first day I reported there, I walked through the door of the building where the medical facility was located.  As I enter I glanced over and asked this guy standing there where the dental clinic was.  Embarrassed, I realized I was talking to myself in a mirror on the wall.  Being at Deep Creek was kind of a whirlwind period.  Most of the time I didn’t have a patient show up, so the Sargent in charge of the medical clinic wouldn’t wake me up till about noon.  I would drive over to the base in the ambulance and get the mail.  Then on nice days go out to Clear Lake and the Base Resort, go swimming or check out a boat and go pick up a girl at the civilian resort and go water ski.  After, down to the Beacon and party.  My more impressive dates were to take a girl out to Natatorium Park, a special occasion.  On the way to pick her up I would stop by a florist and buy a white rose and pin it to a card.  It seemed to impress the girls and their mothers.

I took some time off and drove over to Port Angeles.  Pop and I went to Seattle to look for a new car for me.   We found a used 53 Austin sedan.  It was actually a cute little car.  The gear shift was on the column, but backwards; first was where second would be on a American car, 2nd/high, 3rd/reverse, 4th/1st, and reverse pull out the handle push all the way back and down.  Driving home we went around Hood Canal and found out it used oil faster than gas.  One curve I came on had said slow to 25.  I hit it about 50.  Dad was behind me and thought I was going to wreck but I bounced around and finally stopped.  We put more oil in and made it in to Port Angeles.  Pop and I overhauled the engine.  Then decided to also paint it, white with turquoise fenders.  One of the places I visited a lot in Spokane was the Sports Car Dealer on Monroe, now Silver Auto Auction.  Back then they dealt in Mercedes, MG and Austin, and Midgets.  I became very interested in an Austin Midget that they raced.  After every race they would bring it back to the shop and completely tear down the engine, polish and rebalance it as they put it back together again.  They offered it to me for $1500.  I called Pop and tried to have him loan me the money or cosign a loan but he wouldn’t so I never got it.  Mr. Baker became aware I was looking for another car.  He had a 60 MG Magnet Mark III, black with red and white leather interior.  We by-passed Dad and he took my Austin in trade and my trumpet as one of the payments.  I got to be pretty well known in that car.  Use to race the motorcycle cops up Division on the way to work.  One night, after getting off at the Beacon a friend stopped in and asked me to drive him around, looking for his girl friend.  We found her and was chasing her around on some of the streets in Spokane, when I took a left turn too  fast.  The MG went up on two wheels.  I fell out of the driver seat and as I was trying to get back under the wheel she slowly rolled on to her right side in the middle of the street.  Duke and I and a guy that came to check what had happened, muscled the car back on to its wheels.  I checked oil and water, and we took off.  This time with his girl friend.  Since I had a close relationship with the police that came to the Beacon, I asked if they thought I needed to report the accident.  They felt, since there wasn’t any property damage, that it probably wasn’t necessary.  The next day though, I was called into my Commanders office and ordered back to the base.  He asked about my car and I told him.  It was his recommendation, almost an order, that I report the accident.  I respectfully declined his recommendation.  It didn’t go over well.

It was late summer 1961, and I mentioned to Mom that I would probably be bringing a girl home with me for Christmas.  Then forgot about it.  In November I was riding around with Duke and his girl friend, Karen, and we stopped by this house on Olympic and picked up a friend of Karen’s.  She was introduced to me as Joyce, Mary Joyce Bell, and climbed into the back seat with me.  I can’t remember exactly what we did that day, but we had a great time.  After, when I wasn’t working, Joyce and I spent a lot of time together.  We had been dating about three weeks when the subject of marriage came up and we decided to do it.  On the morning of December 9, 1961, we drove to Coeur D’ Alene Idaho with Duke and Karen and went the Hitching Post.  First we had to get a blood test, $5.  Then take the drawn blood to the lab, $5.  The results were carried across the street to City Hall for a license, $5.25.  That was taken back across the street, where the minister married us, “For the great and Glorious State of Idaho”.  The idea came up that we should head to Port Angeles so my folks could meet Joyce.  Who thinks of money at a time like that?  About three o’clock in the morning we pulled in to Seattle and realized we had no money and I had to be back to the base Monday morning.  There weren’t ATM’s in 1961 and at three in the morning no place open to cash a check.  So, we headed over to Grandma Dailey’s house.  I knocked on Grandma’s door, she was surprised to see me.  I told her I had gotten married and we were trying to get back to Spokane. I asked if she could cash a check for us.  She told me to go get my bride and bring her in, “And bring in the marriage license too!”.  Grandma wondered if Mom and Dad knew and when I said no, she decided to call them.  When I got on the phone after just waking them up, I said to Dad, “Hi Pop.  How’s it feel to be a father-in-law?”  “Talk to your mother!”  “Hi Mom. How’s it feel to be a mother-in Law?”  “Where are you?”  “At Grandma’s.”  “MOOMMMM!”  Grandma Dailey explained she was looking at the license and Joyce seemed to be a nice girl.  I got back on the phone and told them that I had to get back to the base and we would see them at Christmas.  After promising to hold the check until the 15th, Grandma gave us enough money to get back to Spokane.

Back then you were supposed to ask permission to get married, before you got married.  So Monday I went to see the Group First Sargent and asked him for permission.  He asked when and I told him, “Last Saturday”.  The First Sargent asked if I was trying to get into trouble.  This was the second time I hadn’t followed a regulation or advise from a superior.  I really wasn’t trying to get into trouble but I reminded him about being too average and all I wanted to do was finish the rest of my enlistment and leave the Air Force.  I got permission to get married and now could get credit for a dependent, pay, housing and medical.  Later that morning I got a phone call at the clinic from Tech Sargent Oscar Bell.  He had read the wedding announcement in the Sunday paper.  “Guess I’m your father-in-law.” “Yep.”  “Guess we should meet.”  “Yep”  So we set up a time for him to come to the dental clinic.  Then I went to the front desk and told all in the rooms around mine to come running if they heard a commotion.  At the time I had my own room as a Hygienist.  I went back to my room and adjusted the dental chair so he wouldn’t be able to get out of it fast.  A while later Tech Sargent Oscar Bell arrived.  He was a monster in his winter parka.  I invited him to sit down.  He invited me to come meet his wife and the rest of the family, but I couldn’t bring Joyce.  I told him that was impossible and he left.  I didn’t meet Anna until the following Easter.

That Christmas, we drove over to Port Angeles.  As we pulled up in front of my folks home my cousin, Dennis Buggy, came running out to the car.  He had a clip on tie and all day long he was taking it off and putting it on when ever a car drove by, waiting for us to drive up.  He was the first to meet Joyce and then we went in to the house.  The whole family was there; Mom, Dad, Aunt Kathy (Mom’s twin), Sam (her husband then), Dennis and Richard and I can’t remember who else.  Mom pulled me aside and told me I should have said something about marriage when I told her I was bringing a girl home for Christmas.  I told her this wasn’t the girl.  That evening we were given the couch to sleep on.  We whispered and giggled a lot, until someone told us to shut up and go to sleep.  The Christmas weekend went pretty good, we got a lot of Wedding/Christmas presents.  All loaded and ready to head back to Spokane, Pop told Joyce, “If you have any problems you come here.”.  He looked at me, “I don’t know where you will go.”.  Back in Spokane we found a little apartment on lower South Hill.  Actually it proved very convenient because the MG was having battery problems and living next to a hill I could coast and get it started.  In the cold winter it was much easier than using the hand crank.  Later, in the spring, we moved next door to friends of Joyce’s Mom and Dad.  The only problem was when they came and visited next door, Joyce and I had to keep out of sight and quiet.  I did finally meet her Mom and brother and sisters on Easter, when we joined them for Mass at Saint Stevens Church.  Later I was called into the First Sargent’s office again and asked about my intentions to re-enlist and told them no way.  It was suggested it would be best if I take what leave I had coming and they allowed me to be discharged in June of 1962, a month early.  Anna heard we were leaving Spokane and invited us to come stay the night before we left.  She gave Oscar kind of an ultimatum, he could stay and visit or get a motel room.  We were welcomed back into the family.


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