Tuesday, July 04, 2006

10 December 1954

Dear Folks

Let there be music & singing in the streets—I have just graduated from Pre-Flight. Though I haven’t yet gotten my diploma, eight of us were informally but uniquely graduated. The usual procedure is for the sixty or so members of the graduating class to line up on the parade ground, in front of the assembled battalions, march up onto the reviewing stand, take their diplomas, shake hands with the captain & march off—a mechanical process, turning out Officer Candidates at the rate of ten a minute.

This afternoon we drew flight gear—the apex of a Pre-Flight NavCad’s career: it means the end of groveling beneath sergeants’ heels; it is one rung higher on the ladder of military evolution. With the drawing of flight gear, the realization springs into the NavCad’s mind that, at last, he is actually going to get near a real honest-to-goodness airplane. Oh, he sees airplanes every day—from a respectable distance, & he knows them intimately—he’s played around with carburetors, & feeder springs & magnetos. But they are as unlike a real airplane as the preserved specimens in a biologist’s laboratory.

The magic words "Flight gear" consist of several items, all quite awesome in their own way. First, you are issued gloves. At least that’s what I think they are—perhaps they are just glove lining—they are tight fittings & of a car chamois (spelling?) material. Then come the goggles. Next the "summer suit"—an ingenious piece of clothing that covers the entire body except for the head, hands, & feet, & has more zippered pockets (upper left arm, both legs below the knees, etc.) than you can imagine. Its closest counterpart in civilian life would be the full coveralls mechanics & sometimes factory workers wear.

Next comes a leather jacket with a fur collar—mine looks a bit like a worn rug. And then—the helmet. That large, faded gold helmet that makes the head appear twice as large; & on it the Navy wings. Actually, the helmet is in two parts—the inner lining, which contains the earphones (which are like large flattened donuts—or huge powder puffs with the centers depressed). This inner lining fits & looks a bit like a 1924 bathing cap—looks something like the helmet Amelia Erhart always wore in her photographs. Onto this part fits the connections leading to the radio & transmitter.

The outer shell is of some hard material—I don’t think it’s metal, but it most likely is. It looks like a football player’s helmet, only more so.

And there you have it—what the well-dressed NavCad will wear.

As soon as I finish this letter, which will be almost immediately, I shall run down to the telephone & call you. I’ll probably repeat myself quite often, especially from here on out.

Tomorrow morning, dark (0615) & early, we shall leave scenic Pensacola for glorious New York—where, it is rumored, there is an odd substance called snow (a sort of atmospheric dandruff, I believe). I’m afraid I shall spend far more money than I should, but then I usually do, much to father’s dismay. Oh, well, you know I have a champagne taste on a water income.

Well, enough for now. I’m going down to call & I’ll mail this at the same time. It is 7:30 & poppa should be home by now. If he isn’t it’s his own fault.

Bye Now

P.S. My new address (which I’ve already told you on the phone—or rather will have told you by the time you get this) is

BTU1-C (Basic Training Unit
NAAS CORRY FIELD (Naval Auxiliary Air Station

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