Monday, July 31, 2006

8 June -12 June, 1955

Dear Folks

I am in no mood, either physically or mentally, to be writing letters, so this will no doubt be very short. However, as has become my custom, I figured I had best write on the passing of another small milestone (or should I say millstone) in my life—the Navy chapter, at any rate.

This morning I took a short but interesting journey in the cockpit of an SNJ, down two steel ramps and into twelve feet of water. As a direct or indirect result of my trip, I have tonite a beautiful sore throat, for which I think the best remedy would be going to bed immediately, which I shall do at once, & continue this tomorrow.

Well, it is now tomorrow, as so often happens, & I’ve just come back from down town. Also just read your duplex letter, which I enjoyed no end. I’m really sorry if I sound at times like a callous cad, but nothing I said I hadn’t said before, & none of it in my estimation was too far from the truth.

I can see this is turning into another chain letter. I started it Wed. & here it is Sunday already. The time is 0630, & I am up, if not wide awake. I have the dubious honor of being COOD (Cadet Officer of the Day)—another long watch

Yesterday I went to Mainside to watch an air show put on by the Blue Angels, the Navy’s jet acrobatic team. They were terrific. Almost everyone was watching from the flight deck of the carrier Saipan, & the jets would come roaring overhead, & sometimes so low that they were between the flight deck & the water. There are six of these Blue Angels, & some of the things they do are stupendous—they fly sometimes only three feet from one another. Their prettiest maneuver was four of them flying in a diamond shape. Just as they got above the carrier they broke off in all directions, with blue & red smoke trailing from their wing tanks. It looked like a 4th of July fireworks.

Speaking of the 4th—it still isn’t certain about Boston, though very probable—also the Choir is going to New York that weekend to be on Ed Sullivan’s show. They’ll be there for four days!

Finally got the title straightened out—I’m having it registered in Illinois for several reasons, one of them being that Florida registration & plates would cost $21, whereas Ill. Registration only costs 50 cents.

Well, enough for now. Hope to see you soon.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

31 May - 1 June, 1955

Dear Folks

Sorry for the long delay in writing, but I haven’t had much of an opportunity, what with moving and all. I’ll star this letter tonite, May 31, but won’t guarantee having it finished before tomorrow or the next day.

Before I forget—I gave you the wrong address; as a result, I haven’t gotten any mail since I’ve been here. I suppose it will catch up with me eventually, but we’d better get it straightened out. My complete address is—"Me" Bldg 837, Rm. 117, NAAS Saufley Field, Pensacola, Florida. No BTU-2 at all.

Thank God tomorrow is payday. I honestly haven’t been this broke since college (my first year, at that). I have exactly eight dollars, & those I can’t spend because I’m saving them (they’re crisp new bills I got when I cashed my last few checks). Out of this pay must come $37.60 for car insurance. Also, I can get a used rear end & have it put in for around $80.00 I think. Looks like a lean period coming up. No, poppa, I’m not hinting for a slight advance in my defunct allowance.

In thirteen days I will have been in the Navy ten months. That is a long time, & a longer time will pass before I’m a civilian again.

About five miles north of Saufley is a paper mill which, in the daytime, is used by most flyers as a prominent landmark, which also shows by its billowing smoke which way the wind is blowing. At the moment, it is night, & the smoke is blowing due south, bathing Saufley Field not in haze but a stench not unlike Stormy can produce from an upset stomach.

Told you we were going to Miami last weekend. Well, some of us did, & some of us didn’t. The plane I was in was forced to turn back because of a bad fuel line in the left engine. After waiting eight hours to have it fixed, we were informed that we weren’t going to bother going, as the parade we were to march in had ended an hour previously. Many of the guys on both planes had their uniforms & baggage on the other plane, & mass confusion reigned, since nobody could go anywhere without their uniforms.

How the United States ever won the Second World War, or any other war, is a miracle, if the Navy’s speed & efficiency is any indication of the nation as a whole. I suppose it’s just as well I didn’t go to Miami—I couldn’t have afforded it anyway.

The headlines in tonite’s paper deal with the Supreme Court’s ruling on segregation in schools. The South greeted the edict of "as soon as possible" with great satisfaction—this means that they can keep it as long as they wish, which can mean forever. Georgia says it "will not be possible in the foreseeable future," & the other states are putting their Writs of Secession away again for awhile.

To answer poppa, Saufley is about seven miles from Corry—it is the second step in the training command after pre-flight. Cadets from both Corry and Whiting Fields come here. At the present time, there is a terrific backlog of students building up—as a result, it will be at least three weeks before I. can begin flying.

Here we learn formation flying, which sounds like fun but can also be very "hairy"—you must fly twenty feet from the plane ahead; at times even close. This is about twice as difficult as it sounds, because you must keep exactly the same speed and altitude as the guy ahead of you (at Corry I considered myself lucky to be within fifty feet of any given altitude, and ten knots of any airspeed).

Also here we get introduced to night flying, which I look forward to with no great glee.

Oh, yes—in the next two weeks or so I’ll be getting the Dilbert Dunker, which I’ve told you about before.

My camera is broke again, & the company that made it is out of business, so I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Here it is June—WHEN ARE YOU COMING DOWN?? Make up your mind now and let me know!

Enough for now—I’d best study a little Aerology.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

23 May, 1955

Dear Folks

Got back to sunny Florida last night about 9:15—eleven hours after taking off from Los Alamitos, Calif. On the way we ran into some beautifully violent storms—the plane bucked and plunged all over the sky; the clouds were so thick that we couldn’t see our own engines. One time, the plane lurched so violently that luggage, instruments, & everything else was thrown out of the overhead storage racks & all over the plane. My clarinet flew half the length of the plane.

The guy next to me was a marine hitchhiking a ride across country (his first time in a big plane)—a box lunch flew from somewhere & hit him—a small cup of catsup opened up & spread all over his pants & hand. He looked as if he had been in a particularly horrible accident. After dark they turned all the lights out on board, & it was weird & rather exciting to look out the windows & watch the green wing-tip light winking on & off—whenever we flew through a cloud, the light looked twice as powerful, but no brighter. And lightning seen from inside a cloud doesn’t appear in any streaks—just a general glare of yellow-grey, outlining the wings & engines, with the blur of the propellers eating away at the night.

Going out was rough, but not so abruptly so—instead, it took the form of slow oscillations; up & down, up & down, sideways, up & down, etc. After nine hours of this, you can be sure we had some very green NavCads—pre-flight boys; they were miserable. Even a few hardened "advanced" cadets got sick & cursed themselves for it. I was riding in the very rear of the plane, which is the worst place to be under such conditions, & I’ll admit that after nine hours, I wasn’t feeling my peak, either; but I wasn’t sick—I have a very wonderful ability to talk myself out of being sick when my stomach tells me I should be.

I saw mountains & deserts for the first time—and I was glad I was far up above them rather than on the ground. We flew for at least two hours over land I didn’t think existed outside of science fiction books. Any visitor from space, landing by chance on Texas, Arizona, or New Mexico would swear ours was a dead world & return to where he came from. The very clouds over these deserts are a dull sand-red, either a reflection of the land below or colored by dust particles. How our pioneers ever lived to get across these wastes is a miracle.

What is really amazing is when, after flying over miles & miles of dead earth, to suddenly come upon a city—no warning; no farms or little towns. One moment it is desert, & the next is the city. With no trees or rivers, they look scorched brown under the relentless sun. And, as soon as they’ve come, they’ve gone, and there is only the endless sands.

The desert laps at the mountains like a dead sea. First comes a small ridge of mountains, which acts as a reef in the sea, breaking the desert & turning the sands on the other side from yellow to drab & mottled browns & greys.

Arizona west of Phoenix is a monotonous winter brown. Between the ridges the earth looks like nothing so much as dirty snowdrifts.

Well into Southern California the landscape takes on the appearance of the surface of the moon—huge bumbling mountains surrounding a completely flat yellow plain.

Slowly the desert ended—not gradually or gracefully but in well defined patches & chunks. How man has done this without any visible signs of water is amazing.

Somehow I get the impression that Californians believe that when they die, they go neither to hell nor heaven, but to California. I doubt even Texans are as zealous over their home state as Californians. Personally, they can keep both of them—I’ll take Illinois & the Mid-West.

We landed at NAS Los Alamitos at about five o’clock, their time. Getting out of the plane was like walking into an open refrigerator. Overhead the clouds (I could never tell if they were really clouds or just high smog) scampered by, looking as though they belonged there. Sunny California—HAH!!

No Little Lirf in sight. I figured either he hadn’t gotten my telegram, or else he had gotten it &, being Lief, decided he’d rather go to a movie than come & meet me.

We were given liberty almost immediately, & I hurried into my blues (which felt very good) & headed for the gate, to go into Long Beach. However, it seems that Los Alamitos is ten miles from Long Beach, & no busses run from there (only an occasional Greyhound). Even worse, it is not even on a main highway. Fortunately, I got a ride into town with a Negro man who works on the base.

I spent most of that evening looking for Lief. Long Beach is where his ship was docked. The town was crawling with sailors, but none of them was Lief. I considered going down to the ship, but decided against it, since it was a long way, & he probably wouldn’t be on board anyway. I ended up going to see Daddy Long Legs. Now comes the problem—how to get back. Not another NavCad was in sight, so at last I got discouraged & took a cab ($6.45).

Next morning we were informed that we were to play for an Armed Forces Day TV program to be held, by a strange coincidence, aboard the U.S.S. Toledo, Lief's ship. First, however, came the Armed Forces Day Parade in Long Beach. I kept looking around, hoping to see Lief, but finally gave up. About three-quarters of the way through the parade, I caught a glimpse of someone striding along behind the people watching. I could recognize that walk a mine away. Sure enough, it was Little Lirf—he was about twenty feet ahead of us, & marching straight down the sidewalk, in the same direction as the parade was moving. He didn’t look back once, & kept on walking. He was outdistancing us, & I thought "Oh, great!" He stopped briefly to speak to a policeman, & then on he went. Finally comes the end of the parade, & there is Lief, looking about vacantly. He looked at me about four times before he saw me. I was at attention, supposedly, & couldn’t do much but grin at him. He glared back.

We were dismissed & told to get back on the busses to go back to Los Alamitos for dinner. Got a chance to talk to him for a second, & told him to meet me on the Toledo; also told him to write home.

The U.S.S. Toledo is huge, blue-grey, & very formidable looking. It fairly bristles with guns. Although most of the ship is heavy steel, the main deck is covered with wood, for reasons I’ve known but forgotten.

This was the first time I’d ever been on a big ship, aside from the Monterey, & the second time I’ve had to salute the national ensign (flag)—really military. Of course, today the whole place was swarming with civilians & enemy agents, & all sorts of pennants & flags flew everywhere. I was on board half an hour before Lief strolled up casually. He took me downstairs to show me where he lived—my God; at that proportion of space to men, twenty-three people could live in our front closet!

We talked for awhile, back on deck, & then came time for the TV program. We played "Anchors Aweigh" & were told we could quit for an hour while the program went on. Part of it consisted of a demonstration of frogmen, whose job is underwater demolition. Lief & I were rather hoping they’d blow up a giant cargo vessel alongside the Toledo, but were disappointed. After an hour we came back, played the national anthem, & were secured for liberty—we didn’t have to be back till 0700 Monday morning.

Lief & I went to downtown Long Beach, where he changed into civilian clothes. Although it’s against the rules, a lot of guys rent lockers in a private locker store. We then ate supper & hopped a trolley for Los Angeles—an hour’s ride.

After looking around town for a while, we went to see a Japanese movie called "Ugetsu"—Gate of Hell. It had English subtitles & was very good. By the time this got out, it was quite late. I got a room in a hotel & Lief went to someplace like a U.S.O; it was free (& he’s saving money to come home) but I didn’t care to sleep with fifty or so guys—he’s used to it in that hole he lives in.

Sunday morning, bright (HAH!) & early, Lief came over for me & we went trundling off to glorious Hollywood, where I stood on Hollywood & Vine, saw Grauman’s Chinese Theatre & all the footprints of the movie stars, walked by the Pantages Theatre, where the Academy Awards are held, strolled into NBC & CBS to see if we could get tickets to a TV show (we couldn’t—what they had available we didn’t care to see), & meandered about from one place to another. Saw two pictures: "The Little Kidnappers" (English) & "Mr. Hulot’s Holiday" (French).

Later that evening, back in LA, went to Little Tokyo, the Japanese section of town, & to another Japanese movie. It was a double feature—one was a classic, like "Ugetsu," & the other took place in modern Japan. Though I couldn’t understand a word they said, it was very interesting—especially the modern one. It showed, though it was not its purpose, the contrasts in Japan today—the heroine (it was a romantic comedy) wears the latest New York fashions, but removes her shoes in the house & sits on the matted floor.

The hero wears a kimono or a western suit, whichever he feels like.

Stopped in a little Japanese restaurant & had a glass of Sake—which, as you probably know, is a rice wine served warm. It tastes both bitter & sweet at once, & is all right, though I didn’t care for it particularly.

Back to Long Beach, where I walked Lirf back to his ship—it was pulling out to sea at 0700 the next morning (it was now about 12:30). We shook hands (the first time he’s ever volunteered to do so) & made tentative plans to see one another in another year or so. Then he went up the gangplank, & I walked back into Long Beach. It was too late to try to go to bed, so I went to an all-night movie, went back to Los Alamitos at 0600, & came "home."

And there you have my adventures in Sunny California.

Don’t forget, mother—as I told you in the card—that print that Lief sent you is a 17th century original Japanese print on rice paper—unfold it carefully & put it under glass.

Well, I have a bad case of writers’ cramp, so I’d best close now. More later.


Friday, July 28, 2006

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16 May 1955

Dear Folks

I awoke this morning at about five o’clock and, though it was really too dark outside to tell, decided that we weren’t going to fly today. It seemed as though I had been sleeping for several years, and had full intentions of sleeping several more. At five forty-five, though, I forced myself out of bed, got dressed, folded my bedding (I haven’t made my bed since pre-flight), washed, & straightened up my room, which always seems to be in a state of high disorder. By morning formation, at six thirty, the clouds covered about nine-tenths of the sky, but there were still some hopeful-looking holes.

Dual hops were sent out on schedule at seven-thirty, although they held solos on the ground. By eight, the western sky (where we do most of our flying) was getting ominously dark. Mother Corry began getting anxious, & called her chicks home. I stood outside the hanger and watched the little yellow J’s running home, chased by dull, flat-bottomed clouds. As soon as the planes landed, they were tied securely down, and the wind started blowing. On the horizon I could see the rain, a grey curtain hanging beneath the clouds. Finally the rain came, very undramatically, & it has been drooling monotonously ever since. Everyone is sitting around the hanger waiting for the magic words "Secure from flight operations."

Friday was what I consider a beautiful day for flying. I went out on a solo first thing in the morning—the sky was full of huge, billowing clouds that reminded me of mountains of whip cream. We aren’t allowed to fly through them, or even get within five hundred feet of them, but it is fun to know that you could, if you wanted to . I like to dive down toward them & then pull out & skim over them. Also it’s fun to go behind the clouds, to see what’s there. Friday I found a clear spot, like a valley in mountains, completely surrounded by huge puffs of clouds. I played around, doing my acrobatics, all by myself and having a wonderful time.

On the radio, which solo students must have turned up all the time, I kept hearing someone calling the tower at Corry: "Corry Tower, this is Charlie Baker 302 (CB are on all our planes): I am on a B2 solo and would like to know if Magnolia Field is open for Corry planes." Magnolia Field is one of our small outlying surfaced fields, usually used only by Barin Field students, but one of the fields we always use, Summerdale, is being resurfaced, & we’d been allowed to use Magnolia in the afternoon while they worked on Summerdale. B2 students are on their very earliest solos—their second, in fact (A20 is their first—B1 is a dual, & B2 is the second solo). He kept calling & calling the tower, which evidently didn’t hear him, for it never answered. Finally he shut up, and about two minutes later, someone called "Crash! Crash! Crash! Plane down one mile southwest of Magnolia Field." I thought "Oh, oh…." I was sure it as the poor little guy who couldn’t get the tower.

Although you aren’t supposed to go near the scene of an accident lest you get in the way of rescue operations, I headed toward Magnolia, flying down alleys & corridors between the clouds. On the way, I was kept busy listening to the radio—the crash crew from Magnolia had reached the scene…the plane was completely demolished, in at least twelve pieces…they had not yet removed the pilot…Search and Rescue had launched a helicopter from Corry Field….no word yet on the pilot’s condition….

By this time I was in sight of the field. It is a fairly large field, with four runways, arranged so that, from the air, it looks like an arrow pointing to the south. They were using the Southwest/Northeast runway, taking off toward the Southwest & Mobile Bay.

Very close to the end of the S/w runway are a large grove of trees, and beyond them, plowed fields. I had used that runway the day before, & several times just missed the trees while taking off. This guy had evidently hit the trees and crashed into the plowed field beyond. I got close enough to see the crash truck and several cars around, and the tail section of the plane lying on its side, sticking up into the air. I didn’t want to get too close & have them take my number, so I headed back to Corry in a light rain shower. On the way back I learned that it hadn’t been my radio friend but some O.I. from Barin. He wasn’t killed—just broke his hip, several ribs, an arm or two, & severe lacerations. Incidentally, it was Friday the 13th.

I Am

Thursday, July 27, 2006

15 May 1955

Dear Folks

Sorry again for my usual delay, but I just don’t seem to have the ambition to do anything.

Last night I went to see an ice review called "Ice Vogues of 1955"--the same company that we used to see in Rockford every year. It was pretty good, & I recognized several of the people in it—Chet Nelson is back after three years. They had one act that was done on a trampoline & had absolutely nothing to do with skating—I wonder why they did that? Also, one of the acts they billed as being "for the first time in America" featured a guy named Ron Priestly, who had been wandering around before the show selling programs. Even then I was certain I’d seen him before. Does he sound familiar to you, dad?

The show was held in the new Million-dollar Municipal Auditorium, & whoever set up the seating arrangements really goofed. The front of the ice rink, instead of facing the majority of the people, was put toward a side wall, where there were no more than two hundred people, if that. A poor arrangement, you must admit. Pensacola is almost as bad as Rockford as far as applause goes. They had the usual production numbers, but no top act, like the guy on stilts they used to have.

Now for a little bad news—I took the car down yesterday morning to have it looked at; I went to a small but reasonable garage, as you suggested. They took the rear end apart to look at it, & told me that the fluid from the hydromatic leaks down from the front & into the rear end. The fluid, when mixed with the grease in the rear end, forms a sort of acid that eats the gears. There was a good half-inch wobble between the two main gears, which should be perfectly meshed. So, to make a long story short, they said it would cost around $135.00 to have it fixed. After I picked myself up off the floor, I asked if they could just adjust the gears to mesh better. They said yes, & it might stop some of the noise—but then again, it might not; at least the gears wouldn’t tear themselves apart. So they adjusted them, & we took it out on a road test, to see if it had helped the noise. When we stepped on the gas, cars started pulling over to the side of the road—it sounds like an air raid siren! Any suggestions, poppa?

I am nearly broke. Yesterday I also paid out $16.95 for a new pair of trop pants. It was worth it, to keep my set of trops from wearing out. In the summer, we don’t have to wear blouses, & to just wear the pants time after time, & having them cleaned without cleaning the blouse would wear them out in no time, or at least change the color.

Oh, yes—I forgot to mention about the car—I told you that a hydraulic line broke so that I couldn’t close the windows—well, I had it fixes—for $12.67.

And that’s the way my money goes----

Just think—this Thursday I’ll be leaving for California! I’m kind of anxious about it. As I’ve said, I’ll never begrudge being in the Navy as far as traveling goes. I hope I get to see Lief—but if he’s out on a cruise or something….I sent him a special delivery letter telling him we are leaving Thursday & landing at Los Alamitos, which is just outside Long Beach, Calif. That is all I know—I don’t know what time we’re leaving, what time we’ll get there, or what we’ll do when we get there. I told him I’d send a telegram as soon as I found out for sure--& that if I missed him somehow, I’ll try & stay at the Long Beach YMCA (since I don’t know any hotels there, & everyone can find the Y.).

I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to call home—I’d like to call from California, just for kicks, but it would be rather expensive, I imagine.

Thursday afternoon I spent fifteen minutes on my back under a 1950 two-tone green Chevrolet, talking to a kitten who had climbed up into the undercarriage. It had wandered from somewhere into one of the hangers—a sailor caught it climbing a flight of stairs, & carried it outside. He took it across the wide cement mats that separate the hanger from the Administration building & set it carefully down on the Ad building’s lawn. The poor little guy was scared stiff & obviously lost—it took a few steps in one direction & then a few in another. Then it bolted back across the mat & hid under a parked car. I had been on my way to see if I could get a ride home this weekend (I couldn’t). With cars coming & going all the time, the kitten wouldn’t last long, so down I went & tried to coax it out. It was evidently wild, & not used to seeing people, so it crawled as far away as it could get, up behind the wheels, in among a bunch of greasy crossbars & springs. The poor thing was shaking as if it would fall apart. At long last, after talking & petting failed, I got a hold on it & pried it loose (getting myself covered with axle grease & dirt). A chief petty officer came over & said he’d seen its mother by the Ad building behind some bushes. I carried the kitten over, across the Navy’s well-kept lawn, & saw its mother, watching us through a low bush. When I approached, she scurried away, & evidently dived through a window under the building (none of the buildings here have basements—they’re just set up off the ground like the cottage, with a space underneath). I put the kitten on the window sill & stepped back. It hesitated a minute, looking around, & then jumped in & disappeared in the darkness.

I’m going out this afternoon to see about renting a cottage on Pensacola Beach for you—if it’s too high, of course, I’ll look elsewhere. But there’s no harm in looking.

Hurry up & take your vacation—it’s been six months, almost!


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

8 May, 1955

Dear Folks

Excuse the wine-colored ink, but I just bought a new pen (the old one was left on the plane I took back from Shreveport), and filled it with ink at the drugstore.

I bought a new record today—one I’ve wanted for a long time; the music from The Robe. I got it for only $3.75 (the usual price is $6.00). My roommate Lee bought an album I’d like to get. It’s called "The Confederacy" and has many of the South’s marches and popular songs of the Civil War.

The poor South—how hard & bitterly they fought a war that was lost before it began. I’ve always admired their courage and deplored the North’s ruthlessness in destroying their finest cities and plantations. A simile could be dawn between the South and the early Christian martyrs—they were both doomed, yet met their respective deaths bravely, not afraid to die for a cause they considered right.

I’m afraid I admire people too much, & expect too much from them as a whole. That is why I still boil every time I hear an asinine commercial or song. Why we insist upon degrading ourselves by talking down to ourselves. We have capabilities far greater than we imagine.

I’ve finally decided on my "calling" in life—for some reason it is human nature to resist change. Yet, if there had been no change, we would still be living in trees & caves, & eating our meat raw. Ever hear of an ameba (aomeba, aemeba…?…one celled animal, anyhow)? It moves along by first projecting a little of itself out beyond the mass, & then flowing the rest of the body into it.

Well, to me, that is how Man moves—a little segment moves out from the whole—this is change—any new idea or invention. At first, everyone is against it ("Hmph! I wouldn’t have a TV set if you paid me!"—"I tell you, the automobile will never replace the horse", etc.); but very slowly it becomes more & more common, until its absence is more conspicuous than its presence. That is the way Man has always been, & no doubt the way he will always be. He must be prodded—he cannot be pushed. So that’s what I’m going to try to do—prod people here & there. It is a very unpopular thing to do, & at times quite dangerous, as in great religious reforms. But someone has to start people thinking, even at the risks that may be involved. Like Johnny Appleseed, I’ll go around sowing ideas that will become facts in the future.

As I’ve mentioned, perhaps the greatest and most dangerous field of change is in Religion.. You have noticed, no doubt, my seeming lack of interest in religion. I’ve always had the nasty habit of asking questions where none should be asked—the first sign of Change Advocate. I’ve reached the conclusion that about 2,000years ago, Man got off on the wrong track, & has remained stubbornly on it since that time.

For an analogy, let’s imagine Thomas Edison and his gift of light to the world. Let’s suppose, instead of applying his principles as we did, that we bowed before an unlit light bulb and worshipped this great man who invented it. Our cities would still be lit by gas light & candles, while great temples were erected to a burned-out light bulb.

Oh, well, Reverend Margason, the sermon is about over for this evening. Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast and to set me off on rampages.

However, if I don’t go off on an occasional "rampage", I have very little to say, as nothing much new happens around here.

Oh, yes—tonight, after coming home from the beach, I raised the top, locked it, & pressed the button to raise the windows—but they wouldn’t raise. The motors hummed, but nothing happened. Upon getting out of the car to investigate, I saw a stream of dark & sweet-smelling liquid running from the right door onto the ground. Let’s pray it doesn’t rain until I can get it fixed!

Well, enough for now. I’ll try & write more often & let you know how things are going. I wish you’d hurry on down here—it has already been five months since I’ve seen you; longer than before.

At this point, I leaned forward slightly on the edge of my bunk (where I’m using the stationary box as a desk); the wind blew the window shade, & the wooden bottom hit me in the forehead. I yanked the shade in anger & the whole thing came down & tore off the roller. I spent the following five minutes with a roll of scotch tape, up to my knees in green window shade, trying to tape it back together. I finally got it & put it back up. It’s sitting there now, billowing slightly, & just waiting for me to lean forward again.

And such is the life I lead.

Your Devoted Offspring

P.S. Telephone strikers have just dynamited the telephone relay station so that no calls can come in to or out of Pensacola. Bless them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Monday 2 May 1956

Dear Folks

Well, you can stop chewing your nails (if you were)—I’ve been granted a temporary reprieve---at least until the next check hop. However, I’m never going to worry about any other hop as long as I last in the program. Now that you’ve been alerted to the fact that there are termites in the structure, don’t be surprised if it collapses one day—in other words, don’t expect all to be rosy now that I’ve got one problem behind me.

Started acrobatics today—they seem like they might be fun. Tomorrow I have two solos, & will have a chance to practice some loops & rolls. I blacked out on a loop today—first you go straight up & then come straight down. Gravity does some odd things to you—it can make you weigh several times as much as you actually do. When you’re heading straight down & try to pull out of the dive, all the forces of gravity tend to keep pulling you straight down; all the blood is pulled down, too, & leaves your head—& you may black out. If you attempt to pull out of a dive too very fast, the gravity (or "G"’s as we call them) can tear the wings off the plane.

Get my card from Shreveport? That town is, I believe I said, as dead as a doormouse. No amusement parks, no good movies, no nothin’. Oh, well. We marched in two parades & played in one concert. Did learn something of interest, though. The people of Shreveport are Acadians—remember "Evangeline" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? The Acadians were a group of settlers in Nova Scotia; they were driven out & their settlements burned by the British in 1755. I’d never given much thought as to where they’d gone, but it was nice to find out, anyway.
Louisiana is the only state in the Union that does not have "counties"—they call them "parishes".

We stopped at Barksdale Air Force Base while we were in Shreveport—in fact, that’s where we stayed. It is a huge base, lined with practically miles of B47s (jet bombers) & air tankers to refuel the 47s in mid air. Talk about security! They wouldn’t even let us go to our planes to return to Pensacola without calling somebody on the phone to get clearance. While one sentry was doing this, the other walked around our bus, looking under the body & behind the wheels—I haven’t the vaguest idea what they thought we might be trying to smuggle in or out, but they were taking no chances. Those air corps men almost broke their arms off saluting us until they finally caught on that we were not admirals. Someone mistook me for one of the Blue Angels, the Navy’s crack jet acrobats who were to appear there Sunday.

Well, I have six other letters to write tonite, so I’ll close now. Till then, regards to everyone.
See you soon, I hope

Monday, July 24, 2006

26 April 1955

Dear Folks

Two letters in two days! Will wonders never cease? Just got back from a short bout with the swimming pool & thought I’d drop a line. It will, of necessity, be short, as I told you yesterday, nothing much is new.

I don’t know what it is—must be spring in the air; but guys are dropping out like flies—three more DOR’ed this morning. Tomorrow or Thursday will tell the story for me—I didn’t have to go before a Speedy board; I was given two more extra times & another recheck. Also, they changed instructors on me—gave me one of the instructors who gave me a down. They aren’t supposed to do that, but I’d just as soon have him as anyone.

This morning after our hop he said "I want to have a serious talk up with you." He then said everything but "bon voyage"—all of it very true, & none of it that I hadn’t already discovered or realized myself.

As I said yesterday, I’ve given up worrying about it. If I do drop out, it will be because they wanted me out, not that I couldn’t take it.

Just realized also that if I do get dropped, I’ll only have 18 months to serve!! The way it is I have 40! Now, if I had, as I said, planned on making the Navy a career, or were really wild about flying, it would be different. From the outside, all appears to be glamour—from the inside it looks different. As the old saying goes, the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence—until you get there.

Of course, I will admit I do like the NavCad uniform (it’s a lot sharper than regular navy blue). Oh, well, we shall see what we shall see. I’m not out yet.

Both the band & the choir are going to Shreveport this weekend. It will take about four planes to get us all down there.

I’ve been offered a commission as rear admiral in the new Confederate Navy. I’m considering it. One thing you’ve got to admit, these Southerners never give up.

Till later, then, I am
Your obedient (bell-bottomed) Son

Sunday, July 23, 2006

25 April 1955

Dear Folks

Well, here I stand, neither with my heart in my mouth nor my hat in my hand. I still don’t know what is to become of your loving son—I am not yet anywhere near getting kicked out of the program, but there is always the possibility, in my case heightened by four "downs." To be perfectly truthful, I don’t care, really.

Oh, I will care—it would be hard to go white-hat after being a NavCad, but the mere fact that I’d only have two years to serve would act as a soothing medicine to any wounds I might have.
Were I planning to make the Navy a career, or if I were really "gung-ho" over flying, it would be different.

As I’ve said, my problem is quite simple—they want precision & I am not precise. I can fly the airplane with no difficulty, but I can’t fly it to suit them. Father’s attitude of
"other guys made it; why can’t you?" doesn’t help matters. Of course other guys make it—other guys also make atomic physicists and trench diggers—that doesn’t mean that I can make an atom bomb or dig a Panama canal. I’m satisfied that I’ve done my best—that’s all I can do.

However, & be that as it may, I’m not out yet—but if I do get the boot, you can be prepared for it. Also, a letter from me saying I’m going white-hat is considerably better than a letter from the government ("regretting to inform you…."); at least I think so!

The guy next door was on his last check ride here at Corry, before moving out to Saufley; he got a down on it, & DOR’ed today. That I’ll never do—they can kick me out if they want to, but I’m not going to leave voluntarily.

My, this all sounds depressing, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t supposed to be. I’m not in the least depressed; just sensible.

I’ve already had the grease & oil changed ($4.70)—went to see about getting the upholstery sewn up. Don’t have any idea how much that will run. I’ll also stop in & see about the rear end—it sounds like a charging rhinoceros. There is a hole in the roof—very small one, though; it hasn’t rained lately so I can’t tell if it will matter or not.

It drank $4.00 of gasoline Sunday. I don’t know how many miles per that is, but it sounds pretty expensive—it will have to spend most of its time here at Corry.

Nothing much else new—never is, it seems. I go swimming just about every day—just got back from the pool, in fact—I don’t like swimming at night—you can’t see under water. I still can’t hold my breath under water for more than ten seconds. It must be psychological, ‘cause I can hold it for over a minute above. Oh, well, such is life.

Well, I’d best close now. Just wanted to let you know the score in the ninth inning. Don’t be too shocked, Poppa, if things don’t turn out—wouldn’t you rather start supporting me again in two years than in four? I’m still planning on being on being a professional civilian.

Till later then, I am
As Usual

Saturday, July 22, 2006

18 April, 1955

Dear Folks—

Surprise, surprise—two letters from me in one week; aren’t you lucky? Before I forget, if the movie "A Man Called Peter" hasn’t shown up there yet, see it when it does. It’s a good picture, but the reason I want you to see it is for a short scene taken at the church services at Annapolis—they sing that song I like so well—of course, they don’t sing the part about "the men who fly."

For lack of anything better to do, last night I went down to the U.S.O. It is a squat, almost fortress-like building of red brick, one story high. It is on one of the side streets—two blocks in back of the main drag, & situated beside Fire House No 1.

It is a fair-sized building, though by no means large. As you enter through the arcade & come into the main room, there is a sign on the door requesting all girls to kindly register at the information desk, which is just to the left as you enter. To the right is the registration desk for those who want to spend the night in the dormitory. A snack bar leads from the registration desk, where they serve sandwiches, milk, malts & the like (for a profit). Several tables clutter about by the snack bar, & there are no stools at the bar itself. Off to the left of the room are two typewriters, some writing desks, and a pin-ball machine. Leading from the main room are the library & a "recreation room" (TV set).

Also off the main room is the large dance hall, where they occasionally show movies.

In the library, a nice little lady of about fifty-five reads fortunes for whoever wishes it. She is always neatly dressed, wears glasses, & wears a pair of Navy wings. Her voice is soft with a definite but pleasing Southern accent. She is an interesting conversationalist, very interested in Masonry, is a member of the Eastern Star. She was telling me about the pyramids & telling why one dollar bills have so many series of 13—very interesting..

She has been there every time I have; it’s very nice of her to donate all her time like that.
In the main room is a piano—there, too, is a lady who is always there. She, too is in her early fifty’s; she always wears a brown tam far back on her grey hair, & invariably has on a brown tweed jacket. She was once a concert pianist, & can still play beautifully, although she is familiar with only a few of the composers. Her hands now are almost gnarled—not quite like arthritis, but obviously not as they once were. She, too, is very friendly, inviting everyone to come & sing—there is usually a good-sized group around her, singing popular songs & others from mimeographed, tattered copies of songs evidently left from the war (Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, etc.)

When I was there once in November, we were singing Christmas carols ("It’s never too early to sing Christmas carols," she’d say).

Corry Field used to be known as a sort of resort hotel. Recently, the Admiral has decided that we could use a little military instruction to keep us in shape. So now, every Monday, we go out & "march" for the 5:15—only we have quite a bit less discipline. Tonite we were being our own casual selves when we happened to be observed by the Marine major who runs our batts.

I suspect he fancies himself somewhat of a Nero & we NavCads as a mixture of Christians & Praetorian guard. He called all the platoons together, then climbed atop the steps leading to the Batt. I had noticed him in eager conversation with several of his cohorts, in this case playing the role of Cassius. Perhaps I only imagined the beady gleam in his eyes as he said "Well, tonite we’re going to have a little fun." I could imagine who would have the fun & at whose expense.
Benevolently he eyed the huddled populace & said "Who has soloed recently?" Nobody said a word, but several of us flinched. I glanced at the newly opened swimming pool with apprehension. Ours is a land of custom, as I’ve said, & one of those quaint customs is that whoever solos gets thrown in the pool. Until recently it has been drained, & quite a backlog of solo students had been built up. Need I say more? He smiled, & said, gold-leaf crown slightly askew—"Throw them in."

The mob scenes from "The Last Days of Pompeii" have nothing over what happened then—everyone who hadn’t been thrown in broke ranks & began running off in all directions, quickly pursued by those who had already received the water treatment & those who hadn’t soloed yet.
Though I was in one of the outer platoons, I didn’t start running soon or fast enough. All-too-eager hands snatched me up & carried me, like Ophelia’s corpse, to the edge of the pool. They removed my shoes, watch, & wallet.

And then, very unceremoniously, I was flailing my arms & watching the pool come up to meet me. By the time I came to the surface, the water & air all around me were filled with NavCads in various stages of entering the water. Oh, yes—they wait till you’re almost out, & then throw your hat in, as far as they can throw it—you have to swim out & get it, & with full clothes on, this isn’t too easy. Oh, well, it was fun.

Well, more Adventures of Roger in Blunderland later.

Till then, I send

Friday, July 21, 2006

16 April, 1955

Dear Folks

Yes, it’s me—your long-lost son. It is Sunday (Easter Sunday, at that). You will no doubt be very surprised to hear that I did not go to church today. I am very ashamed of myself.

See—I have written you (or started to). I began this one Easter Sunday, as you may have gathered. It is now the following Friday. I got my first down today—I deserved it; flew a lousy hop—did everything wrong. Oh, well—I don’t feel too badly—my two other roommates have a total of eight. The third roommate hasn’t been here long enough to get any.

One of my buddies went home this weekend to Connecticut—his wife is having a baby. He had a heck of a time getting a pass, mainly because you can’t be married & in the program too. Oh, well, more power to him.

If I’m very lucky, I should be back here at Corry by July—via Suafley & Barin.

Out of my original section (Dog) of about twenty-five guys, only five are left in the program—all the rest have DOR’ed.

See what I mean about time? Here it is Saturday—a beautiful day, & nothing to do, as usual. I can’t wait till I get the car down here; boy will that be wonderful! I can go anywhere I want anytime I want, & not have to rely on someone all the time. I always feel guilty about bumming rides anyhow.

I also can’t wait till you can come down—there is so much to see—New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola, Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, the base, Miami, & all of Florida on the way, plus all of the U.S. on the way down here. You’ll really be experienced world travelers when you get back home. Of course, dad’s seen most of it already, but it will be new to mom. And if you get half the kick I do out of seeing new things & going new places, you should enjoy it. I wish you didn’t have to wait until August to come down, though.

There are two swimming pools here on base—enlisted men’s & officers’ (we use the officers’). We can’t use the enlisted men’s since the officers’ opened this morning. It was open for two hours & they closed it because they found out that they’d neglected to put in chlorine. So we can’t use either one.

I suppose I’ll get dressed & wander downtown—without a car, there is nothing to do but go downtown & go to a show.

And then comes the three-hour wait for a bus back. Oh, I got a letter from Gary the other day. He is going multi-engine & is being sent to Oklahoma this week for training. That gripes me—he went in two months before I did, & already he’s in advanced training—it will take me at least four more months before I can even think about it!

Well, I guess I’d best close now & get this mailed. I’ll have to take it downtown with me—mail isn’t picked up around here on weekends.

Till I hear from you, I am

Thursday, July 20, 2006

April 12, 1955


Since I am unable to be here in person to give you a running commentary on these pictures, please read each explanation before seeing each roll. Note that explanation no II comes on a different page than nos. I & III.

I hope you enjoy them.

P.S. They’ll be along in a few days (I HOPE!) Don’t read the explanations till you get the film—it’ll spoil it.

I This first roll is mainly an introduction to Corry Field, showing you something of how the other half lives. The scene opens with a shot of the door of the building in which I live. These barracks are just like the ones at Mainside; only those were yellow & these are green (not shown).
Looking down the street toward the hangers (up one block) & the main gate stand Corry’s two water towers, which are about as inconspicuous as a hippopotamus in a bird bath. Now comes a quick switch to the field itself, where we see a taxiing J, then up into the sky to see one flying over.

I can’t tell if the next shot is a J or an R4D (DC3 like we rode to Chicago). No explanation is needed for the next few, which were just taken at random. Again, due to my inability to see microscopic details, I can’t tell if those two white splotches are planes or not.

Next I give you a view of some of our planes, all lined up—imagine them all in the air at the same time. The yellow thing is a Search & Rescue helicopter—the building in back is the administration building. Behind that are the gym (white bldg.) & PX. The next big building is the enlisted men’s barracks. Notice how much it looks like the ones at Mainside? Then comes the power plant & the two water towers. The hanger prevents seeing our batts. More whirly-birds.

The guy wandering all over the J is pre-flighting it. Every time we go out on a hop, we have to check the plane over very carefully to make sure a wing won’t fall off in flight. Last Friday the side of a J fell off at 5,000 feet—it didn’t crash, but I’ll bet the pilot & student (one of my classmates) were plenty shook

Now comes the half taken at home

III Before showing this roll, turn the projector over on its side. The guy who took these for me held the camera wrong & everything came out sideways.

This is the parade at Mainside. The reason everyone’s wearing blues is that someone was making a procurement movie ("You too can be a NavCad") & everyone had to wear them—I think you get a flash of their rig (the photographers’) in the background. I haven’t the vaguest idea who the little girl belongs to. Look close—here comes the band. We’re passing in review. Thank god this wasn’t a sound movie; dig that marching.

Comes two or three feet I loused up—it’s supposed to show the Florida Boondocks—I took it through a fence. The road runs all around the base & is made of that red clay I’ve mentioned before.

The plane landing is an AD—though you can’t tell from this distance. Now comes the wrecked planes—I still wonder if it was accidental that so much film was ruined. Oh, well.

That’s an R4D landing. Finally, all these J’s belong to BTU-4—just shows how many planes we’ve got around here.

II More Corry Field. First, we get a scenic view of the field itself—a grey Dempster Dumpster (where we dump trash); a yellow gas truck—the hanger is the one next to the one where I spend most of my time. This is the one where they repair J’s. All the cars belong to instructors.
These gas trucks hold 3,000 gallons & have to be refilled at least twice a day There are three of them. The one photoed is just gassing a plane.

That squat, serpent-like plane is a Search & Rescue PBY—I’ve got more shots of them somewhere.

My roommate is in the SNJ taxiing past a parked PBY. I think the next PBY is taxiing, but I can’t tell without a projector. It gets pretty hairy on those taxi ways at times. The little red thing in the corner is a fire wagon—we’ve got them all over the place. We need them.

The big plane with its nose in the hanger is the R5D we take on all our trips. They haven’t found out what was wrong with that engine; they finally changed it but it still a large part of its time in
the hanger.

Those S&R helicopters are the weirdest looking things. Notice the side saying "REMOVE CHUTE’—that’s for picking guys out of the water; with your chute still on, the wind from the blades will billow out the chute & blow you away (they could chase you all over the ocean & never catch you).

Ah yes, next comes yours truly—first thing I’m doing is pre-flighting the plane—next I’m "helping" them fill one of my gas tanks. If it seems like I’m taking a long time getting in, I was. Havin’ a devil of a time with my backpads (I use them so I can reach the rudder pedals). The guy who took these for me got his finger in the way for about five feet, during which time I’m starting the engine. Se my instructor in the back—poor guy. And away we go! There are two different planes taking off into the wild blue yonder—one of ‘em’s me—I’m not sure which one.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sunday, 3 April, 1955

Dear Folks

I’ll start out by answering dad’s questions--#1. I’ll be at Saufley for eight or nine weeks, then I go to Barin for eight or nine more, then back to Mainside for five or six. #2. I think I’ll be given a certain length of time to get there, so I’ll be able to drive. #3. All the other guys at Saufley have cars—at least 9/10 of them do—the other 1/10 either don’t go anywhere or have to rely on someone else with a car. #7 Ask someone there if I have to have my lisence renewed at all—in some states, members of the Armed Forces needn’t renew their lisences till they get out.

Absolutely nothing new or exciting has happened since I last wrote. Friday was lousy weather, but I went up on three "D-Stage" (Instrument) hops with my instructor. As I’ve probably told you, our training here is divided into four stages: A (Primary), B (Precision), C (Acrobatics) & D (Instruments). I’m now in B stage. Instruments can be given anytime in B or C stage. During these hops you sit in the rear cockpit, pull a white canopy over your head, & fly the plane just by looking at the instrument panel. It was a lot of fun, but hard work. When you’re in a plane & can’t see the ground or anything with which to orientate yourself, you suffer from an ailment (if it can be called that) called vertigo. It has something to do with the sense of balance, which is located in your ears, & tends to make you think you’re doing things you’re not. I was sure I was going in circles; sometimes you think you’re climbing, or gliding, or turning one way or another. Because you think you’re turning (although the instruments say you aren’t) you try to stop the turning, & instead of flying straight, you wander all over the skys. It’s real weird. What they’re trying to teach us, though, is to believe your instruments—too many guys have been caught in clouds or at night & crashed because they thought they were climbing & pushed their nose over to get back to level flight.

Guess I’ll go downtown this afternoon & see a show or two (or three). Haven’t been off base all weekend. They should be filling the swimming pool soon—this is both good & bad. Good because I can go swimming whenever I want, & bad because I’ll have to go once when I don’t want to.
It is a custom around here, as I’ve probably told you, to take people who have just soloed & throw them into the pool (fully clothed). Well, they drained the pool just before I soloed, & though I’ve had my tie cut, I haven’t been thrown in. But they have memories like elephants around here, & I’ll no doubt go in the first day.

Have you gotten my solo picture yet? Or was it in the paper? By the way, the paper expires April 8.

Well, I’d best close now & get dressed. Till next time, I am

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

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23-29 March, 1955

Dear Folks

As of today I am the proud possesser of a small gold bar about 1 ½” long, with a small silver oval in the center adorned with an anchor & twisted rope. This is my reward for seven months & ten days service; I believe I’ll wear it to bed with me.

This morning began just as the preceeding five days had—I woke up at 5:45, dressed, washed, & ate breakfast. At 6:30 we mustered and marched to the hanger where, at 6:45, another muster was held. Upon checking the board, I found I had been assigned an instructor—Lt. Ashbridge. As he is a new (to Corry Field) instructor, the usual floursihing grapevine, which supplies all data on moods, temperments, & generosity of all instructors, could not help me.

At 7:15 I had the L-11 lecture for the third time. This lecture is given every day you are assigned an A-20 (first solo) hop, & you keep taking it until you finally get the hop. Subject matter is a summary of all the other lectures you’ve attended; what to do when, if & how.

(FIVE DAYS LATER) The lecture was over about 0815. I raced out to the board & met my instructor—a short man with greying hair. I told him I hadn’t flown for five days; he said he didn’t expect too much & that he’d take the five days into consideration. He said “Climb on up to 8,000 ft & do a spin, then we’ll do some high work & go on over to 8-A & let you take it.”

Our plane was CA100—a plane borrowed from BTU-4. It was parked as far away as it is possible to be. I pre-flighted it (checked to see everything was OK), got in, started it, & went to report over the mike to my instructor—but when I reached for it, it wasn’t there. Since we were parked way out in the middle of nowhere, & had to take a bus to get to the plane, someone would have to run all the way back & get one. We sent a plane captain (enlisted man who helps strap you in & stands by with a fire bottle while the plane is starting), but he took too long, so the instructor said to taxi the plane to the hanger & get one.

Lt. Ashbridge is new here at Corry—he’d just come over rom Whiting; so he wasn’t certain of our taxi patterns. As a result, he had me taxi against traffic to get to the hanger. Fortunately, no other planes were coming toward us, because those taxi-ways are not wide enough to let two planes by comfortably.

After about fifteen minutes of delay, we took off. He was very nice & didn’t yell at me like most instructors do. We climbed on up, did a spin, some stalls, & did some cross-wind landings at Wolfe field. Cross-winds are tricky & dangerous—you’re always supposed to land into the wind, but sometimes that is not possible. At Wolfe field, everyone always lands on a runway that isn’t directly in line with the wind. As a result, you’re always being blown off to one side or the other, & you must make corrections for it, or else.

After that, we headed up to field 8A, a huge grass field where everyone solos. We shot three landings; two ½ flaps & one full flaps (flaps slow the plane down—the degree of flaps determines how fast or slow you’ll land). On the full flaps landing, he told me to taxi off the field & stop. Then he got out of the plane, came up to the front cockpit & said “All right, you’ve got it—go out & bust your ass.” (Instructors are noted for their poetic phrasing.)

I waited for a signal from the yellow crash truck which always is parked beside the runway in use, got a thumbs up, & took off. As I said on the phone, after five days of waiting & sweating & getting all keyed up for nothing, when it finally did happen I felt almost nothing. I did two ½ flap landings, which a buddy told me he watched & said were beautiful; then did a full stop, full flap landing & went back to pick up my instructor, & we came home.

No sooner had I said so-long to my check instructor, I looked on the board & saw I had an A-20 immediately. A-20 is your first real solo hop—you do everything yourself. The plane I was given was number 227.

I checked out a parachute & two back pads (otherwise I have a hard time reaching the rudder pedals & brakes) & went out to the plane. I secured the rear cockpit—strapped everything down so that it can’t flop all over & hit the instruments, took the instructor’s stick & secured it in a special holder (also that it wouldn’t whip around and hit anything).

Silverhill is a paved-runwayy field; the farthest one from Corry. It is used only by solos for landing practice. I decided I’d try a few. I entered the traffic pattern, lowered my wheels & ½ flaps; did everything necessary. Made a good approach, & landed.

There is a big difference in the handling, especially in the landing, of a plane when it is 160 lbs lighter—but I didn’t know that. The first landing wasn’t too good; the second was worse. On the third, I landed wheels, bounced, turned a little to the left, hit again, bounced again, & started to flip over on my left side. God, but I was scared! I thought for sure that I’d had it. But somehow I made it. I wanted to go home then, but thought I’d be afraid next time if I quit now. So I shot two more, neither one of which was too good, & came home.

So there you have the long story of the day I soloed. Hope it didn’t bore you; I rather enjoyed it , in retrospect.

Last Friday morning, as you know, the band went down to Miami again. It was very hot, as I said in the card. Friday night we marched in a parade in Hollywood, Florida. For such a small town it certainly had a large parade. The occasion was some sort of festival or other, & the main street was lit up like a thousand Christmas trees. They had an almost solid ceiling of colored lights over the street. Ten minutes after the parade started moving, every light in the downtown area went out. Nobody probably thought of the terriffic overload all those lights would cause.

The streets were jammed with people. Then, to top everything off, one of those Amvet “trains” started to backfire with loud booms, getting everyone thoroughly shook. I think they suspected it was all a Yankee plot, & that Sherman was on the march again.

Some forty-five minutes later, the lights came on & the parade resumed. Oh, yes—during the lights-off episode, while everything was in slight confusion & the Hollywood city fathers were tearing their hair out, the Goodyear blimp floated over, flashing “Best of Luck to Hollywood’s Fiesta Tropical Parade---Goodyear.” I’ll bet that made the city fathers happy!

And so my days pass, with nothing much happening (except on those occassional trips). I always resent the fact that so much valuable time is wasted on doing nothing.

Well, enough drivel for now—I’ll be sending the films home, along with an itemized manuscript. I’d best send this off tonight, or you’ll never get it.

Till next time, I am

P.S. By the way, we’re going to Calif. On the 26th of May.

Monday, July 17, 2006

21 March 1955

Dear Folks—

I was planning on waiting till I soloed to write you. Well, at that rate, you’d never hear from me. Since I’ve been here, I’ve averaged one hop a week. I’ll still be here next Xmas.

Absolutely nothing has happened of importance—except that I’ve just been skipping from one frustration to another. Believe me, which I get out of this Navy, I am going to be one of the most bitter & pessimistic people you can ever imagine. And no condolences, please—I’m not mad or disheartened or anything—just so bitter at life in general that I can’t see straight. Of course, I’m making it sound much worse than it really is, but if you knew how it is to run madly down to the hanger every morning & have to sit around all day wondering if today might be the day. And it’s triply maddening for me, since I can’t stand to wait for anything. With all my heart & soul, I hate the Navy!!!! That, incidently, is not an emotional outburst—merely a calm statement of fact.
Well, onward--….

Friday we’re going to Miami again. Hope we’ll have all day Saturday liberty—maybe even Friday night. We’ll be coming back Sunday at 4:00. Of courseI can’t afford it, but last time I was there I only spent eight dollars, & this time I plan to break that record.

Found out anything about the Corvette, poppa? Listen, if that deal doesn’t go through, don’t try to get me a car up there—I’ve really got to have one as soon as possible. By the time I get to Saufley, everyone I know will be well on their way to Corpus Christi. So I will have no way to get out to Saufley. If you can’t get the Corvette, all I want is a ’46, ’47, or ’48 Ford or Mercury. And if I had to wait till you came down, I’d never get out there—besides, I hate to be stranded out there for weeks with no way of getting into town.

Weather down here is hot & lousy. Every morning the sun comes up in a beautifully clear sky—by the time we get to the hanger, there are a few wisps of cloud on the western sky. Fifteen minutes later & the clouds are everywhere.

Never rains here—well, almost never; when it does (at night) it is like someone had pulled a plug somewhere. Clouds, always clouds, but never rain. I miss it.

To keep from slowly going bats, I’ve been reading a little. Right now I’m on "A Short History of American Diplomacy," "Greek Made Easy," & "Windows for the Crown Prince," which was on the best seller list last year.

Well, I’d better close now—I have so much to do! Oh, yes, I’ve also been writing a little.

Till next time, I am
Your Disillusioned Son

Sunday, July 16, 2006

9 March 1955

Dear Folks

At the moment, I am seated on a marble doorstoop inside the base barber shop waiting, along with fifteen other guys, for a haricut. Tomorrow is the Admiral’s annual inspection, & of course we all must look out best. So here I sit, waiting for a haircut I don’t need.

Now, about the car—I don’t know how long it will be till I get to Saufley, but the week before I go, I’m definitely buying a car! As I’ve tried to impress upon you, Saufley is 25 miles from anywhere, & I most certainly have no intention of walking back & forth every time I go somewhere. Also, how do you think I’m supposed to move out to Saufley? The Navy doesn’t care how you get there—they aren’t going to take you. So please talk to Clarence about having my insurance taken care of & the policy sent down here so I can show it to them. Besides, poppa, I’m not planning on buying a cadillac—just something that will get me where I want to go.

Pensacola, without a doubt, has the lousiest bus service of any city in the South , which is noted for its casual transportation system. They have one bus serving a ten-mile stretch, & it goes & comes whenever it pleases. No matter what time you try to catch it, you’ve just missed it.

Weather down here has been clear, fluxuating from winter cold to summer heat. No clouds to speak of, but lots of smoke from burning forests & swamps. This morning at one of the outlying fields we were shooting landings, & could hardly see the runways.

Finally saw the film I’ve had down here. I won’t send it home till I can get it spliced—even if you saw it you couldn’t know what everything was without a running commentary from me. They turned out pretty good, considering. I do jerk too much, though. One half-roll I had a kid take for me of the Friday parade at Mainside & the band. They came out very well except that he held the camera sideways so you’ll have to lay the projector on its side to see them. Most of the footage I took of the wrecked plane was ruined by sunlight. The ones of me in the plane came out very well, but for about five feet there, you can only see half the picture—the other half is the guy who took its’ finger.

While watching the first roll I took down here, all of a sudden the picture became very dark, but you could make out a woman in a white dress bending over doing something—I thought "My God, they’ve switched film on me during developing." Then there was a large woman in a blue & white apron & three small kids. I recognized the apron right away—it was Aunt Thyra—then there was a shot (all dark, of course) of Cork carrying Mom. Then came one of you (both) & me. Real nostalgic—it was nice to see you again, though.

If all goes well (which it probably won’t) I can solo Friday. That will be a day for great celebration & joy. Of course, I’ll probably get a "down" on it, but if I do I won’t worry too much—I’d rather take a couple extra hops rather than solo & get myself killed.

Well, enough for now. I’ll write again soon.

Till then, I am

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Monday, 28 February 1955

Dear Folks

Somewhere in a very remote section of the mountains is a secret, & yet very well fortified, cave. Inside this cavern are miles & miles of gleaming machines, boiling vats & steaming test tubes. In the middle of all this is a four-foot high stool. And on this stool sits a little green mad scientist. An dall he does all day long is invent menus for the Navy mess halls.

I never have been overly fond of rice, & have developed even a greater dislike for it while in the Navy. Whenever they serve rice, I look at the meat suspiciously—I have anasty feeling they’re trying to hide something.

Now don’t get me wrong—I’m crazy about this military life. I’ve always wondered how an ant colony functioned. And the horrible part about it is that the NavCads have it head & shoulders above the other services. I don’t think I could stand it now to go white-hat (regular navy swabbies).

Actually, when you come right down to it, I guess it isn’t so very bad—but I can not stand to have people tell me what to do & how & when to do it. Captain Zagrodsky from Pre-Flight had the right idea when he would say "Tonite is the Smoker (boxing competition between Battalions, held once a month). You will go to the smoker. And you will enjoy yourselves." So we all went (we were locked out of the Batt.), but a few of us cheated & didn’t enjoy ourselves—I felt very guilty.

We’ll soon be moving again—some people play chess; our Captains play "let’s move the cadets." This time we get to lug all our gear from one building to another.

Sunday I decided I’d wander around the base—so armed with my trusty camera, I headed out into the boondocks. Naturally, being a military base, Corry has been completely surrounded by a ten foot high wire fence, with a barbed-wire top. Its purpose is, to the first impression, to keep people out. But it also serves marvelously to keep people in.

The wilds of Florida, as seen through the fence, are very wild & amazingly uninviting. It’s one of those "pretty-to-look-at-if-you’re-not-too-close" situations. I imagine that tall, straw-colored grass hides a wonderous multitude of unattractive beasties, & hundreds of colorful but dangerous members of the reptile family.

During my wanderings, in a far off corner of the field, I came upon a sign saying "Restricted Area—Do Not Enter." So, naturally, I entered. I could soon see why they had no desire for eager young NavCads to come browsing about. Like the African explorer (as I somewhat fancied myself) who comes upon the burial ground of the elephants, I stumbled onto the burial ground of the airplanes which have met an untimely end. With only a bleached & twisted tail assembly to act as a tombstone, three planes (their remains) lay about the field.

One, the most complete of the wrecks, sits upon a concrete platform, reminding me of a mounted fish over a mantlepiece. I took some shots of it--& if the Navy ever found out about it, they would take a few shots of/at me.

Landed twelve times today—once good. I’m getting so that I can even take off without weaving all over the runway. But I still do little things like switching gas tanks from a full one to a near empty one, or taxiing into the wrong chocks. He (my instructor) said today that my flying was improving but my headwork was getting worse.

Oh, well.

Saw pictures of Franson’s accident & read the report on it. He got fifty feet into the air, stalled, spun to the right—hit on his right wingtip, still turning plowed a hole one foot deep & eight feet long with his prop, bounced seventy-two feet, landed upside down ("in an inverted position") at a 45 degree angle, flipped over forty-two feet, landed on its belly, & skidded backward twenty feet!

Well, as usual, I shall end on a happy note.

Till next time, I am

Friday, July 14, 2006

Saturday, 26 February, 1955

Dear Folks

Well, here I am at long last—my "$70.000 hat" in my hand, pawing sheepishly at the ground with one foot, & trying to look as apologetic & humble as possible

I am one of America’s children. She’s a loving parent, but very strict & demanding. Like the mothers of ancient Sparta, she sends her children off to war & expects them to return with their shields or on them. Around her spacious house she assigns her sons & daughters various chores, & she is meticulous about them, even though there are cobwebs in the corners & several skeletons in the closets. My duty is to learn to fly. So I do my best. But, like learning to count or to read, learning to fly can put the student in a form of lethargy wherein he doesn’t much care if school keeps or not.

So there rests my case—when I’m not flying (which is most of the time) or studying for a flight (which is not as often as I should), I must be doing something—but I’m not sure what.

Also, when I’m down here, I don’t have a home or a family or a pair of dogs—I have a battalion & a bunk & a paycheck every two weeks. A sort of Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde type of existence. You’d be surprised how odd it seemed to be home at Xmas—at least right after I’d gotten off the plane. It’s like changing channels on TV to a program you used to always watch but hadn’t seen for a long time; it’s familiar yet strange.

The moral to that little story, my friends, is that I should see you more often (hint!). Oh, well….

Now, about the band—the first inkling we got that all was not as it should be was Monday morning at formation in the hanger. Mr. Barnes made several thinly-veiled allusions to the outcome of a meeting that afternoon at 1520 with somebody at Pre-Flight. At 1615 we all arrived from Corry, walked in the band room, and were greeted by a new director & Cdr. Logan, who was smiling & being overly-friendly as usual. Cdr. Logan had been appointed Liaison Officer for the band about three months ago. We’d seen very little of him, but when we did he usually went out of his way to be nice ("Any time any of you boys have any problems about anything, you just come on over & see me—my door is always open")

Ensign Barnes, it seemed, had too much to do, & they thought it only fair to take the load off his shoulders. (Actually, in Miami two of the band members had been talking with Mr. Logan at the officer’s club; Logan was half-potted & was boasting about how much he had done for the band & how it was his band & he didn’t want "any damned Ensign" to try & run things.) He ushered us all into the band room, introduced Lt. Stokes as our new director, said "Well, you can take it from here, Bob," and with a wave of his cap & a big buddy-buddy smile, beat a hasty retreat. Mr. Stokes thereby informed us that it was a Pre-Flight band & only a Pre-Flight band; that we at Corry weren’t worth the powder to blow us to hell, but that we could, if we really wanted to, come over & play anytime until they got the band built up at Pre-Flight, & then we could go jump.

I don’t think he (poor guy—he didn’t know what was going on—he was just singing the song written & composed by Cdr. Logan) or Mr. Logan expected our reactions. We nearly had a riot on our hands & told him Pre-Flight could take their precious band & shove it. The Pre-Flight cadets in the band were ready to walk out because the word had been that no-one else from the band would go to Corry—they only had the honor of being in the band with no privileges attached.

Somewhat taken aback, Mr. Stokes promised to try & get someone down to talk to us Wed. And with that, we all stormed out of the building.

Came Wed. afternoon, & every member of the band arrived on time for a change. And everyone carried their gloves & leggings, ready to turn them in. I was all set to pack up my clarinet & send it home.

So who should be there to greet us? Cdr. Logan popped in for a moment, mumbled something to Lt. Stokes, to which he replied "If they say the right thing, we’ll have a band—if they dont…", & ran out. When we entered the band room, the brass & gold braid made us almost blink. Stokes, it appeared, had called out the militia in the form of Captain Strean (in person) & a full Commander whose name I can’t recall.

The tune they played was entirely different from Monday’s battle. All was forgiven, & Corry welcomed back into the fold with open arms. We were, as appeasement, offered two trips to California—one to Hollywood on March 25. Still, a lot of the guys dropped out. I’m staying in only for what I can get out of it. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw an SNJ.

Friday I took off well for the first time—the hop was going very well until my right earphone went out on me &, since I couldn’t hear a word my instructor said, we had to run back to Corry.

I’m sure you’d enjoy some of the maneuvers we do in that thing—especially the spins, where the plane heads straight down & turns around like a top. You’ve got to recover from it before you’ve done an absolute maximum of five turns or bail out. It’s the oddest sensation when pulling out of a dive—all the forces in your body tend to keep pulling you down, & when the plane starts coming up, you feel compressed—everything gets grey in some of the worst ones. But it’s fun (I guess).

Well, I am going to close now—I’ll try to write oftener, I promise. Till then, I am
P.S. I’ve got to get a car. Pensacola has the worst bus service in the entire South, which is noted for its slow traffic. I’ve got $120 saved, but I’ll have to get insurance & plates, etc. Oh, well….

Thursday, July 13, 2006

13 February 1955

Dear Folks

Somewhere in one of the photo albums around the house is a picture of yours truly taken about fifteen years ago. There are three kids in the picture---I think I’m the one on the left. I was wearing a genuine imitation Army Air Force jacket; my pride & joy. At the time, war was a vague word, but to be in some branch of the United States armed forces was comparable to a minor god, or a knight in shining armor. I hadn’t then the slightest idea of what I’d be doing at the age of 12. I doubt that I thought about all—to me (then in third grade) the very peak of mental & physical maturity was the eighth grade.

Nevertheless, here I am fifteen years older & quite a bit wiser. I’ve always thought it unfortunate that the mind lives in the past & the soul in the future, while the body must live only in the present. It’s like riding backwards in a train—you can’t see the view until it’s passed, and by then it’s too late to enjoy it.

Sorry I haven’t been writing as regularly as I should have been, but as I said on the phone, I have been busy. The band is giving a concert at Mainside early next month, & I’ve had to write the script.

Also, as I’ve said, I’ve been flying every day, & it takes up a lot of time—you must know exactly what to do & how to do it before you get into the air. Providing everything goes well, & I don’t get any "downs" (extra time given because you don’t do something right) I should be soloing a week from this Friday! Of course, this means that every day must be good flying weather. One of my classmates got a "down" the other day because he tried to raise the wheels while the plane was still on the ground (which, you may imagine, is rather hard on the plane—especially on the propeller). Fortunately, his instructor caught it before the plane belly-flopped.

I’m laying here trying to listen to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, while one of my roommates is plunking away on a ukulele—he’s currently giving a slightly off key rendition of "Baby Face." When he makes a mistake, he goes back to the beginning & starts over
At the rate I’ve been saving money, I should be able to afford a second-hand tricycle about the time I get my commission.

Code is driving me slowly nuts! I just can’t seem to get it. Oh, well.

Well, at least this is something, even though not much—I’d better sign off for now. I’ll try to keep up a little better than I have been.

Until I hear from you, I am,
As Always.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

February 1, 1955

Dear Folks:

Yesterday I saw a movie called “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” a real Gung-Ho-Three-Cheers-for-the-United-States-Naval-Air-Force type thing that will make a tremendous impression on the public in general and a rather adverse one on the young gentlemen who are currently training to be Naval Aviators. As the picture fades out on the teary-eyed fatherly old Admiral, he looks into the screen & says dramatically to himself, the camera, & several thousand viewers—“Where do we get men such as these?” I could tell him!!

Be sure you see it, though—it’s quite good, in spite of making all the NavCads DOR-minded.

Today was a beautiful day—all the planes were out—all but one, that is. Number 229 was sitting calmly on the sidelines waiting for me & my instructor. I was scheduled for a 1230 hop—I’d signed out the plane, filled out all the necessary forms, & waited. Well, I waited…& waited…& waited. He never did show up, so at 1415 I called it quits & went home. Saturday afternoon I saw a guy in my class (34) who was out at Whiting—he’s on his A-15 & here I am on my A-2. So tomorrow, if I haven’t gotten up, I’m going to have to request a change of instructors; & when I say I can’t afford it, I mean it—every day extra I spend here, I lose $10 a day that I’ll be getting when I get my commission

Mother, are you still not smoking? If not, I’m very proud of you—if you have started again then you’d better quit, cause you promised me.

Saw the pictures of dear old NISTC in the paper & felt real nostalgic.

We’re through with ground school as of tomorrow, but I’ve still got 34 hours of Code to put in. I’m having one heck of a time with Morse code—I remember that it is one of the things that kept me from making Second Class boy scout.

As to my “rank”—which father is always inquiring about, I am now a third class cadet; which, comparatively, is about the rank of a snail compared to an ameba—not a very high step up the ladder of evolution, but a small one nevertheless.

Got to study now. I’ll write again sometime.

Till then, I am
As Always
Your Son

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

29 January 1955

Dear Folks

Well, here I am per order. I’m afraid I have neither the time to make it a short novel nor the talent to make it a literary masterpiece. Nevertheless, I am doing my best to keep you informed as to my life & hard times.

Enclosed find a gem from Time Magazine—its coverage of the Shah’s arrival. They seem to have taken a rather dim view of the Sans Souci’s valiant efforts. One or two slight mistakes slipped in in the rush—he didn’t drive up in his $23,000 Rolls Royce—it was there when he got there. I didn’t notice the red carpet, but then I didn’t notice much of all. Fortunately, there was no mention made of the band. Oh, by the way, the Marine Commandant (Lemual Sheppard) was the one we played for at Birmingham..

I think I did see the frantic press agent, though. He was bouncing up & down & waving like mad, evidently to get their attention.

I actually got to fly (once) last week. Thursday I couldn’t because my instructor had some duty or other; Friday he had to go to Los Angeles. I have hopes for next week. You know, I like to watch the weather around here. Usually it comes up fast—the day will be perfectly clear & all (or almost all) of Corry’s 208 planes will be out. Then, in the northwest, black clouds will start rolling in, & all the SNJs will flock in, like yellow chicks hurrying home to the mother hen.

And when you do get into the air & look around, all you can see are varying size yellow blobs. It’s a wonder they never collide in mid air—especially since the instructor sits in the rear cockpit and can’t see a thing.

My phonograph is on the blink—I’m going to have to take it down town today & see what’s wrong. Also have to buy another needle, & an O.D.Jacket. And you wonder why I don’t save money!

Yesterday afternoon while on our way to band, we noticed a huge, billowing cloud of smoke rising from somewhere in the city. It looked like pictures you see of volcanic eruptions. When we got to Mainside (Pre-Flight) we could look across the bay & see flames. Several freight cars of chemicals had exploded in the railroad yards—firemen who knew a lot about fighting wood fires but very little about chemical fires, poured water on the flames which only made the chemicals burn more fiercely. The reaction caused by the water on the burning chemicals (Sodium-something-or-other) threw another chemical into the clouds of smoke. It turned out that the result was a dust which could eat paint off cars. So all that night the radio kept broadcasting to the area residents to wash their cars & put them away. Fortunately, though, most of the smoke blew out over the gulf—the government would have been very unhappy if the smoke had blown over their pretty yellow SNJs.

Tonight, lucky me, I have a watch from 0200 to 0600 (a.m.) And I also get it next weekend; same hours.

Oh, in case I forgot to tell you—I passed both my finals (just barely). I don’t get it—I’m not stupid, yet I just can’t get some things right.

Well, short as it is, this will have to do for now. I’ll try to write again soon.

Till then, I am

P.S. I’ve decided I can’t wait till I get my wings to get a car. When I get to Saufley Field & Barin, I won’t have any way at all of getting into town. So I’ll just have to start saving my money & buy some old heap—anything that will run

Monday, July 10, 2006

22 January1955

Dear Folks

Well, I’m writing, like I promised. However, don’t expect it to be too long, as I’ve got to go to band later this afternoon. Ground school has been cut to just three weeks! Before it was eight or ten! So that means next week is my last week of ground school out here. I’m not exactly broken up about it, but it will be hard to have to take those finals so soon—I’ve got a Navigation quiz Monday, & I’ve got to get a good grade in it or else. We’ve dropped our Aerology course altogether & instead are having a recognition course. We have to learn practically every ship & plane in the United States or any foreign country. They have slides which they flash on the screen at 1/50 of a second, & we’ve got to tell what they are. 1/50 of a second isn’t very long—about as long as it takes you to blink.

I’ve decided that when & if I ever get out of the Glory Boys, I’m going to become a professional Collegian. I’ll go to school for three more years to get my degree in Journalism, then I’ll go four more years & get a degree in something else, & so on. That way I can become one of the most well-educated people in the world. Believe me, when I get back to school, my attitude is going to be completely different from what it was—after all, I’m paying them to go to school—they don’t own me. I can do anything I want any time I want.

The routine around here would probably be of very little interest to you, but I’ll tell you anyway. Reveille sounds at 0530. The COOD (Cadet Officer of the Day) goes on duty about 0500. He picks up the mike that is connected to both barracks, & says "Reveille". Period.

Now, most of the guys around here don’t like the squawk box blaring at them, so they either disconnect it or stuff it full of paper; so when the COOD calls reveille, nobody hears it. Everyone starts milling around about quarter of six, stumbling off to chow (which is just across the street, to the left). The sky is just beginning to get light in the east, over the hangers.

The routine in my room is somewhat different. We never get up until six o’clock. Since we have only one half hour until muster, I never eat, though the chow hall is so close—I don’t mind, though: it’s usually horrible anyway. Well, we all dash around, washing, dressing, making the beds (or "stacking" them—folding everything up & placing it in the middle of the bed). The floor is given a very hasty sweeping, someone runs out with the papers & trash, & there is a general air of ordered confusion. At 0625 or thereabouts, we tumble down the stairs, book bags & plotting boards under our arms, & out the front door. Directly in front of the barracks, which faces east, we have our muster—small groups of ten or twelve with one guy taking roll.

Then we all march the two & a half blocks to the main hangar. This is the center of all the flight operations. On the floor just as you enter through the huge sliding doors (which are only open a crack on cold mornings) is a painted copy of the Standard Field Entry pattern, which everyone must learn & obey if he doesn’t wish to end up running into or being run into by another plane.

In the center of the hangar is the operations desk, where you sign in & out. Large plastic boards tell who the instructors are, & under each instructor the name of his students. After each name is a large area divided into squares for each hour. If you are scheduled for an A-1 hop, this is where you find it & also what time. Also watches & lectures are scheduled on the same board, so that just by looking at it you know what’s going on.

On one side of the hangar are the numerous offices & mail room (stuck away in the Southwest corner, near the sliding doors). On the other side are the Officer-Students & Navcad Ready rooms, where you sit most of the day.

Well, muster is taken again at the hangars by classes—all band members muster by the Safety Notices board. Then, at 0645, we leave for ground school, which is located in barracks just about at the bottom left hand corner of the paper. At 1035, ground school is over. We go & eat dinner (I eat at the Gedunk—bottom right corner) because I’ve usually got a hop scheduled for 1115.
Then we go back to the hanger & sit around till either a) we go on our own hop, b) they secure us (which happens on bad days about 1:00), or c) until 2:30, when everybody goes home. I haven’t had a hop all week, & it gets pretty boring just sitting.

Enough for now—my handwriting is getting progressively worst!

Till next time, I am

Sunday, July 09, 2006

5 January 1955

Dear Folks

After our rather hurried farewells, I dashed onto the plane (which, incidentally, was not a super constellation, just an ordinary one), turning twice as I climbed aboard to see you at the window. When I got to my seat, directly behind the wing, I again looked for you but you were gone. I surmised that you had gone to the roof to watch my plane dashing down the runway & winging its way dramatically into the sunset. I hurriedly fastened my seat belt & waited for the coughing roar of the engines. So I waited. And waited. I looked out the window to see if I could see you, but a rival airliner inconsiderately blocked my view. So I waited. And waited. The stewardess came by with magazines. I took one. And waited. The pilot used the intercom to apologize for the delay, visualizing Eastern’s customers rushing to rival air lines next time they went anywhere. It seems that one of the baggage doors in the belly of the plane wasn’t shutting properly—a small light in the cabin that told the crew when the door was safely shut hadn’t gone on. Fifteen minutes later they came to the conclusion that the light (costing approximately 10 cents at any leading dime store) was burned out.

Long before this discovery, the plane that had been blocking my view had taken off & should, about then, have been over Saigon, & I saw your wind-swept little crew atop the building.

So we took off—I waved like mad, but you didn’t see me. When the stewardess announced that we would arrive in Indianapolis in forty minutes I had a peculiar (but familiar) feeling in the pit of my stomach. My knowledge of geography had failed me for a minute & I thought I was on the wrong plane.

Came Indianapolis, & the man beside me, who had been working on a crossword puzzle diligently ever since he got aboard, left, & a woman of about fifty or so got on & sat beside me. She was flying to Miami for the winter & had just closed her apartment—she’d been flying down for the past eight years; before that, she drove, but driving is so tiresome, don’t you think?

At Birmingham, where we arrived an hour & a half late (neatly lousing up everyone’s plane connections), the steward said there was a plane for Pensacola leaving in ten minutes—there was a mad stampede as everyone who had missed their planes tried to get a seat on it. However, we were informed that a heavy layer of fog was flowing in from the Gulf & may close Pensacola & Mobile, forcing the plane down at Montgomery. I thanked Heaven that I’d decided to come back a day early (Many didn’t make it back till Tuesday morning). We who already had reservations decided we’d just as soon be stranded in Montgomery as in Birmingham, so off we went.

The Montgomery airport building evidently was constructed from two old chicken coups—a cheery place, you can imagine. Fortunately, they said the fog had either dissipated or gone back out to sea, & we arrived back at dear old Pensacola at 9:00.

Pensacola without the Navy is a seaport without a sea. Much as they may dislike us, we have a certain charm they can’t resist—money. The west is not the only place with ghost towns.
Our plane unloaded the first NavCads to return to the city—among the first, at least. We wandered down the streets; a few white-capped blue waves running across the bare shore. By the next day, a small stream of blue & white was again flowing through the town; by night it had become again the familiar river, swirling around the street corners, running into the stores, & bringing with them the ever-welcome green. A waitress where I ate supper admitted that it was dead around town, but added that it was also peaceful.

Monday night the fog was back, making haloes around the streetlights; it was really pretty—the neon lights looked as though they were painted—they had no sharp outline, but just melted & faded into the grey. I took a cab back to the base.

Today is Wed. & the fog is still with us—it comes at night & stays until around noon. Then the sun comes out & the day is beautiful; no need for a jacket at all. Now that’s the way I like it!
At last we’ve started! I still haven’t been up yet, but I got into one & was showed how to raise & lower the wheels. The instructor sits in the rear seat at all times, & though he can control & fly the plane, he can’t raise or lower the wheels. Even a simple thing like that is complicated. First you press a lever which is on the floor on your left side, about even with your thigh. Then, by your left knee, there is another lever with a head like a gas cap. It slants to the front of the cockpit. You pull forward on the cap & then pull back on the lever. This brings the wheels up. To make sure they’re up, look out the cockpit & on both wings there is a small window—through these you can see a pin (or should see it) which tells you they are locked. To put them down, press the cap-lever forward, look at the two wing-windows, watch two little tabs beside the lever to see if they move back, & listen for the "wheels down" buzzer.

And so it goes. Tomorrow I go to the bail-out trainer. I’ll tell you about it after.

Got to get to bed now.

Till later, I am