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….

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