Chapter 3-5 (1963-1980) Air Force Years

After leaving Virginia, we went to Ohio, where I took a job as an insurance agent with a Health Insurance Company that used very unethical practices of “bumping” competitors’ policies. This was a widespread industry practice, which ultimately cost the consumer. The scheme targeted the elderly. I made 70 dollars in 3 weeks and decided I was not cut out for the job; I could not reconcile the company’s practices with my own sense of morality, so I decided it was time to return to the military.

As stated previously,  I was totally dissatisfied with my work in Marion, Ohio.  I knew that I had to find another line of work.  I applied for a factory position and found I had to take a physical.  I failed it.  The doctor said I had bad knees.  I knew there was nothing wrong with my knees.  I mentioned it to my cousin who worked in a Marion factory and he replied, “Did you slip the doctor the $25.00?  That is a requirement for him to pass you!”  I was so mad, that I decided that I needed to leave Marion.  Since we needed to have medical insurance, Mary and I discussed the problem, and I realized that the military had all the benefits we needed.

 

After making the decision to return to the military, I visited the Army recruiter. I planned to enter the Army. The recruiter informed me that I would have to lose a stripe upon enlistment. Since I was a Corporal E-4 in the Marines, this meant that with over four year’s service, I was entitled to have my household goods shipped. I wasn’t willing to lose this advantage. The recruiter failed to inform me that I would regain the stripe in two weeks and would still have that advantage, so I went to see the Air Force recruiter. The Air Force recruiter said that I could retain my rank and could have my choice of duty assignments and career fields and would not have to attend basic training in the Air Force. I immediately agreed. 

There was a major snag to overcome however. Since I had a summary courts-martial in the Marines, I could not enter the Air Force without a waiver. I didn’t want to wait for the paperwork to go through channels and was told that I could hand-walk the paperwork through Military Personnel Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Mary and I headed out for Washington with the paperwork in hand. However, when I got to Washington, I found Personnel Headquarters almost empty and in complete disarray. The unit was being transferred to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. There was only one officer of any rank left, a Colonel. I explained my plight. He asked me the reason for the courts-martial. When I explained, he laughed and said, “Well, that sounds like the Marines,” and immediately signed the waiver. We went back to Ohio, and I was sworn in at Fort Hayes in Columbus, and was given my orders to the 4754th Radar Evaluation Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. I had requested this assignment so that Mary and I could be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. At that time, there were no LDS temples in the East.

We headed west in our 1956 Ford convertible. Two days later, we found a motel in Ogden for the night. This was the twenty-third of July 1963.  

The next day, we then went out to the base and signed in. The First Sergeant asked me why I didn’t report in uniform. I explained that I had only been in the Air Force three days. He was trying to figure out how I could be a Sergeant E-4. I explained the situation, and he made the arrangements for me to obtain uniforms. I went to clothing sales and received my uniforms and stripes. Mary didn’t realize that the Air Force stripes were applied opposite those of the Marines and sewed my stripes on upside down.  I didn’t notice. That took a while to live down.  

 

4754th Radar Evaluation Squadron – Hill AFB

Base housing was not available when we arrived, so we rented a small apartment on Adams Street in Ogden. 

A new duplex became available in Sunset which was closer to the base and we moved there for a short time until Wherry Housing became available on base. We lived on Vampire Drive. The Wherry housing was on the back-side of the runway, quite a distance from the main part of the base.

We were having financial difficulties. We overextended ourselves spending and by buying a new car. Our financial condition worsened and Mary returned to Maryland to stay with her mom for a while and work. I moved into the barracks temporarily. After a few months, our finances improved, and Mary returned.  We then rented a house on Madison Avenue in Ogden. 

 

 

The 4754th Radar Evaluation Squadron was unique. Hill AFB was a supply base, part of the Ogden Air Material Area under the direction of Air Force Materials Command (MATS) at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. However, the 4754th was part of Air Defense Command, ADC, with headquarters in Colorado Springs, which in turn was part of NORAD, or North American Air Defense, composed of units of both the U.S. and Canadian Armed Forces. Since we were not part of MATS, we were a tenant unit. This meant that activities such as base alerts, recalls, and other inconveniences that could be implemented the Wing and Base Commanders did not apply to us. We had our own command structure and rules. At the time, there were radar installations placed in strategic locations in North America. One group of installations created a protective arc across Northern Canada and Alaska and was known as the DEW line. Other radar installations were placed in Northern Tier locations such as Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, etc. Our job was to visit all of these sites both on the DEW line and in the U.S., take line-of-sight measurements and photos, inspect the radar equipment, and then make reports of the capabilities and levels of efficiency of the units. Since the unit was small, military discipline was lax. There was little separation into Officer and Enlisted classes, a must in the Marine Corps. This bothered me at first. I could  not see how a unit could operate without high discipline. After some time, I realized that the Air Force philosophy was one of cooperation and that the men did not view the Officer/Enlisted separation as a class difference, but rather as a management/worker relationship. This made the working atmosphere of the Air Force much more enjoyable. My direct supervisor was Captain Generale. The Air Force was his hobby. He was actually a multi-millionaire, and the Base Commander gave him a hard time, because he was driven to work in a chauffeured limousine. He was requested to drive himself, so he did – in a Mercedes sports car! He used to throw parties at his house for his staff, complete with tubs of shrimp on ice and filet mignon on the grill.

We had a unit picnic at Red Bluff Park in Ogden Canyon. Once we all arrived, the grills were going, the beer and soda were flowing, and the party was in full swing. It was at this point, that we suddenly realized that we had no silverware. It was quite a sight with over 100 people eating their potato salad and baked beans using potato chips for spoons. 

 

In early 1965, I received transfer orders to the 6952nd Security Group at RAF Kirknewton in Scotland. This was a top-secret assignment with Security Service (USAFSS).  I began the paperwork for an FBI background investigation.  As soon as I received my clearance, Mary and I were issued our passports. Mary could not accompany me to Scotland and went back to Maryland to stay with her Mother.  I left for McGuire AFB, New Jersey and departed for Scotland.

 

 

Passport pictures must be in civilian clothing, never in uniform.  The following is our passport pictures (Smiling was prohibited).

 

 

 

 

I headed for Scotland in July 1965.
 

McGuire and Prestwick Terminals

In July 1965, I flew out of McGuire AFB, New Jersey, headed for Scotland, Mary could not join me right away, since I was going to help close down the base.  I had orders to report to the  6952nd Security Group at RAF Kirknewton, about 8 miles west of Edinburgh. The plane landed at Prestwick Airport in Glasgow where I was met and I took a staff car to RAF Kirknewton.

 

 

 

 
Base Headquarters – My Office was in building to right
My Roomate – Ray Nosko Gate Guard  

RAF Kirknewton Gate – Ray Nosko – My Roomate

Kirknewton Village

Kirknewton Village, Scotland

 

 Butch Garrard, Dee Watt and Me “The Gatekeepers” Hootenany Club, Galashiels, Scotland 1965

While I was in Scotland, I spent most of my leisure time playing the guitar and singing. I had purchased a 12-string EKO guitar from Italy. I joined up with Harold “Butch” Garrard from Miami, Florida who sang tenor and played a six-string guitar, and Dee Watt, a Scottish girl from Edinburgh, and we formed a folk trio named “The Gatekeepers.” We played a mixture of Celtic and American folk. We especially liked the music of the Clancy Brothers and learned most of their songs. We played every weekend in clubs around Scotland. We had gigs in Galashiels, Dunfermline, Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Glasgow, but our main club was the Stockpot just off Princes Street in Edinburgh. We were quite good and became very popular in the folk scene in Scotland. We met many entertainers. There was a private club just for musicians called the Singers’ Club. After gigs, musicians always drifted to the club and would jam until the wee hours. At the club we met Rolf Harris (who wrote Tie Me Kangaroo Down), Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, and many others.

 

 

Edinburgh, Scotland “Arthur’s Seat” July 4, 1965

By January 1966, the base closing was completed and I transferred to the 6950th  Security Group at RAF Chicksands, England. Mary joined me shortly and we moved into a house on Castle Road in Bedford, England.

My assignment at both locations, Scotland and England, was top-secret control. My job was to collect classified intelligence documents and ship them back via courier to the United States for processing. I can’t really discuss where or how these documents were collected, but be assured that these documents were a very important part of the U.S. intelligence effort, and vital during the cold war.

Mary and Me in Bedford, England, 1966

Our base wasn’t particularly large. It was located on a hillside about seven miles south of Bedford in a farming area. To get to the base, you turned onto an unmarked road though woods and down a hill, through a farm and in the gate. There were two gates, a North and South gate on each side of the valley. The farm grew brussels sprouts, and after picking there were always some left in the fields that rotted. In the fall, the whole base smelled like rotten cabbage. At the bottom of the hill were the chapel, the hospital and Chicksands Priory. The priory had been a home for Priests and Nuns in Medieval times. It was said to be haunted by the ghost of a nun named Rosetta who had been sealed up alive in the walls for having an affair with a priest, who was beheaded and buried in the garden. Legend said that she roamed the grounds every Tuesday, but I don’t believe any of us ever saw her. The priory was the officers club and quarters. Going up the hill, you passed the enlisted barracks, the NCO Club, base library and the gym. Finally you came to the BX, Commissary and Post Office. This was as far as you could go up the hill without proper authorization. Further up the hill was the operations and communications building where I worked. On the crest of the hill was a huge antenna array that we called the Elephant Cage. When locals asked us about the antenna, we would tell them that it was the source of a tunnel to America to smuggle English girls, or that it was a giant magnet that would suck in Soviet missiles if they were fired at the United States. If a local asked our mission, we were instructed to tell them that we manufactured ping-pong balls. We were warned to be tight-lipped because Soviet spies were always a possibility.

Our house in Bedford was a block away from the embankment, along the River Ouse. Bedford was an exciting, historic town. Of course every town was historic in the British Isles. Our street ended near the main street at the old Castle grounds. Bedford Castle had long since disappeared and all that was left was the mound where the castle had stood.

Mary Ann Ouse River

 

Near the end of the street was the bridge over the Ouse. The river was wide at this point and in the 1500’s, a prison was on the bridge. John Bunyan, the Puritan preacher was imprisoned there and while incarcerated, wrote “Pilgrims Progress.” There was a lawn bowling pitch on the embankment, just up from our house and a three-hole golf putting green. Boat rides were available on the river, and we rode the boat from time to time. We had a movie theater. The movies were the same as what we had in the states, but there were some differences. We didn’t get popcorn, but we could get soda and candy. People smoked in the theaters. The movies started with previews and ads, just like in the states. I remember particularly the ads for orange crush, and Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bars. Down near the bridge was a farmer’s market. Every Wednesday, we would stroll down. I enjoyed dishes of cockles in malt vinegar.

Scenes in and near the Bedford, England

There were several restaurants in Bedford. Mary and I especially like the mixed grill thatconsisted of a pork chop, a small (2 oz) piece of steak, a rasher of bacon, a fried egg, a roasted potato, and a half tomato. British breakfasts were different. We learned to eat breakfasts with fried toast, baked beans, streaky bacon (which had a bone in the bacon), smoked kippers, and curried rice. Oatmeal was a staple in Scotland, but not in England. Of course, I must mention fish and chips and sausage and chips. There were special fish shops that sold these wonderful treats. When we go to Long John Silvers in America which is a poor, poor substitute for fish and chips, we are not given a choice of the species of fish, and don’t even know whether it is cod, scrod, haddock, or whatever passes for fish. In a British fish and chip shop, you are given a choice, cod, haddock, plaice, etc. This was fish that came off the boat that day. The fish and chips were deep fat fried together in a big vat of lard, so that the chips had a taste of fish. You can’t get that taste in the States. The fish and chips were salted; then placed on a sheet of waxed paper, then onto a couple of sheets of newspaper and then rolled into a cone. You walked down the street munching this treat like eating popcorn. If the Israelites had been given fish and chips instead of manna, they would have refused to leave the wilderness. If there is anything about England that I really miss, it would have to be the fish and chips. I have searched in the U.S and Canada for fish and chips and have always been disappointed. The fish in Florida are the closest, but not quite the same. I also mentioned sausage. The British have a variety of sausages, many of them oatmeal based. Some are good, and others are best avoided such as a sausage called “black pudding,” which is a combination of oats and blood. You could buy sausage and chips at some shops.

There was some resentment against Americans in Britain. There were those who had lived through World War II that stood by the old English attitude toward American servicemen of “Over sexed, overpaid, and over here!” We got a taste of this one night in a restaurant in Wales. A family in an adjacent table finished their meal, stacked up their dirty dishes and set them on our table! I was shocked but thought that maybe this was something Welsh people did, however rude. I asked our waiter later, and he said that the Welsh would never do such a thing. He supposed that it was probably someone who either didn’t like Americans or who was just stupid and rude, probably English or French.

In Scotland, two incidents stood out. Near our base was a brick wall. Someone had sprayed painted “Yankee go home – and take me with you.” Another was at a New Year’s Eve party in Edinburgh. The Scottish celebrate Hogmanay. This is a three-day festival or rather a three-day party. During Hogmanay, the custom is to get a bottle of whiskey and a basket of coal and travel from home to home sharing the whiskey and giving the host a lump of coal. This is supposed to bring luck during the year. Well anyway, I was at a Hogmanay party, and a Scotsman was more than a little inebriated. He decided that it was time to insult Americans. He started with America, the land of the almighty dollar, and moved on to The Statue of Liberty, unloved and unwanted, etc. I held my peace as long as possible, and finally said, “Hey mate, you should not run down America, we have a lot in common with Scotland.” He replied, “Yeh, what?” I replied,  “We both fought the English, only difference was – we won!” Well, this started the brawl, and my friends I quickly found the front door. Hogmanay was certainly an interesting event.

Our house in Bedford was an old row house and every old home had a name carved in the stone lintel above the door. We lived at St Clovius. We lived on the bottom floor, and another family rented the second floor. They had a private entrance. Walking into our house, one encountered a long hallway, and the living room was to the right. The ceilings were about 10 feet high and heating was by fireplace or kerosene portable stoves. Our house was always cold and moldy. The kitchen was very tiny and our appliances were the size you buy for dormitories. Our hot water heater was coke powered. Coke is sort of like charcoal, but is made by cooking the sulfur and other irritants out of coal. It burns very hot and clean. Every morning, I got up early and started a fire under the hot water tank, and got the fires going in the fireplaces. The British call kerosene – paraffin. To Americans, paraffin is a wax that you melt and put on canning jars. We purchased a paraffin stove and when I asked where to buy the paraffin, I was directed to the market up the street. I went in and asked for paraffin, thinking it was a solid, and was asked if I brought a container. I told them to just put it in a bag. After some discussion, I was straightened out and asked for ten shillings worth of paraffin. The owner said, “I don’t sell it in teacups.” I didn’t understand. This was another difference between American and England I had to learn. We are used to going to service stations in America and purchasing by amount, not quantity. For us asking for $5 or $10 worth of gasoline is perfectly normal. The English pumps for petrol and paraffin did not work on price, but on quantity. You put the hose in the tank, and punched for 1 liter, or 2 liter, or whatever by liter, never by price. My request caused a breakdown in communications between the storeowner and me. I learned the British method and all was well.

 Our home on Castle Road, Bedford, England

There were many little differences to learn, many of them were differences in meanings of words. For instance, in England the first floor is what we would call the second. Our first floor is always the ground floor in England. Waking someone up in the morning is done by knocking on the door, thus you are knocked up. Cars (autos) have bonnets and boots, not hoods and trunks. The English have perambulators, not baby buggies. People do not weigh pounds – they weigh stones. A stone equals 14 pounds. Thus in England, I weigh 15 stone, which sounds much better than 210 pounds. An umbrella is a brellie. Now this was just England. Scotland and Wales were another matter entirely. In Scotland, a mixture of Gaelic and English was often spoken. So Hoot Man, it’s a braw, bricht moonlit nicht tonicht, meant, Hey man, it’s a bright, moonlit night tonight. In Wales, the English was spoken with a musical lilt complete with double negatives and reversed adjectives. A conversation between two Welshman might go like this. “Never, have I been here before in the Dragon Red Pub.” The reply, “Me too, neither.” In the old Brythonic Welsh, the adjectives always come after the nouns, not like in English. Thus a Red Dragon becomes a Dragon Red, or a Draig Goch in Welsh. A yellow dress is a dress yellow, etc. It takes a little getting used to, but the Welsh were easier to understand than the Scottish.

There were a couple of gaffs that we soon learned were particularly irksome depending on which country you were in. In Scotland, you never call a Scotsman “Scotch.” He is a Scot, not Scotch. Scotch is a whisky not a man. Celt can be pronounced Kelt or Selt. If it is pronounced Seltic, then it refers to sports teams. The people and the nations of Scotland, Wales and Ireland are Keltic.

We also learned that there are terms that if misused have sexual meanings. I don’t need to mention them, but it was embarrassing to use one of these terms out of context.

When we first arrived, there was a dock strike in progress and our furniture was held up on the dock for several months. Eventually, I had to retrieve it myself from the dock. For a bed, we shared an army cot, and our dining room table was an ironing board. If you walked out our bedroom door, you walked into an attached greenhouse and then into a walled back yard. We liked to barbecue in the back yard. One day, I was grilling a large round steak when a sales lady came knocking on the door. We called for her to come round back. I thought her eyes would pop out. She couldn’t take her eyes off the steak. The reason being that the typical steak served in England is a four-ounce strip and my steak was a two-pounder.

Each day, Mary would go up to the next block to buy food for the day. This meant trips to the greengrocer, the butcher, the fish mart, and the bakery. Milk was delivered to the door. Ours came from the Isle of Guernsey and was a rich yellow color with two inches of cream. I have never tasted better milk than that from Guernsey.

While we were there, we acquired two dogs that we named Sir Nigel Ruff, the Earl of St Clovius, and his Lordship, Sir Basil Rolf, the Duke of St Clovius. They answered to Ruff and Rolf. Next door to us lived a lady with a son named Nigel. She had a very high and grating voice. When she yelled, it was kind of like scraping your fingernails over a chalkboard. She would stand outside and yell for her son to come in. “Nigel, Nigel, time to come in!” So, I would also stand outside and whistle for my dogs, yelling, “Nigel, Nigel, Basil, Basil, time to come in.” That was a mean thing to do.

We lived at Castle Road for over a year, and then a house came available on Cedar Road. This was a much more modern house and more comfortable. The ceiling was lower. Again, this was a row house, but each house in the row was painted a different pastel color. We had a very small lawn, both front and back. The front had a nice white picket fence and gate and a picture window. We had two stories and even though the bedrooms were small, they were comfortable. We converted one bedroom into a study. I laid a dark brown cocoa colored shag carpet, painted the walls bright tangerine and the woodwork stark white. The best way to describe the room would be “blinding and garish.” A funny thing happened years later. We were in the Commissary at Wright-Patterson AFB, and started up a conversation with another shopper. They had also been stationed at RAF Chicksands, and she proceeded to tell us about a house they had rented with the strangest colored room, tangerine walls, white woodwork and a dark brown carpet! Mary told her that I was responsible! 

 

 

 

 

 

Cedar Road – Sister Goodrich and Mary Ann

In England, everyone has a “local.” This is the pub where the family gathers to chat with friends in the evening and enjoy a pint or whatever. Ours was “The Ship.” We went there for a reason other than the pint or the chats. I had a job playing the guitar and singing folk music at The Ship. In addition, I sang at the Bedford Folk Club and at other venues around town.

The Ship, Bedford, England

On one occasion, Mary and I were invited to a village fete to entertain. It was held at the squire’s manor house, and the committee had decided to have an American style barbeque, they had purchased 50 frying chickens and had made barbeque grills out of troughs and some type of metal grill. But instead of charcoal, they were going to use coal! We let them know that the chicken wouldn’t be edible if cooked over coal. Mary and I went back to the base and bought bags of charcoal and returned and saved the barbeque.

We took the time to travel around England as tourists, we visited Coventry, London, Ely, Northampton, Cambridge, Oxford, and of course Scotland and Wales. Gas was very expensive on the economy, but since I received ration coupons for tobacco and alcohol that I did not use, I was able to swap them with other Air Force personnel for gasoline coupons. This allowed me to fill up on the base at American prices saving over $1.00 per gallon. 

London, England

 

Scenes in the Midlands Area, England

 

Scenes – England
 

 

The Bedford Branch of the Northampton District, Central British Mission was a close-knit group. We had plenty of activities together. The branch would have picnics in Bedford Park, where we would barbeque and play softball. Ron Jones and I both played guitars and would always get a sing-along going. We had several single people, but most of the branch consisted of married couples, many with young children. The makeup of the membership was pretty evenly split between military families and the English. Mary and I were spent a lot of time with a family from the branch, George and Glenda Adams, and their four children, Mike, David, Keith, and Karen. The Adams lived in base housing, and it became the branch hangout for the missionaries, all the singles and us. We fit in with the singles because we were young and didn’t have children. We went to the temple almost every month, and served as veil workers from time to time. We started out with branch callings. I was the Sunday School Superintendent, and Mary taught Primary. However, we were soon called to the mission board to be in charge of genealogy and temple work for the mission. We were to publish a monthly mission genealogy newsletter, which we named Kith and Kin. In addition we traveled to district conferences as speakers.

We had many opportunities for church service in England. Besides our Mission callings, we helped build chapels, and attended Youth Conference at Keele University. I attended an Aaronic Priesthood Commemoration Campout at Benbow’s Farm where Wilford Woodruff baptized over 800 people in one day!

The people of England had customs and beliefs that often clashed with church doctrine or procedures. For instance, we in America totally shun Alcohol. The problem in England was that Alcohol was the preservative in soft drinks. In America the preservative is sodium benzoate. Since the alcohol content of the soft drinks was no more than that found naturally in an apple, we as Americans overlooked this and drank the soft drinks. However, the British didn’t consider anything under 7% alcohol as being alcoholic. Our seventies quorum ran a book and refreshment store at the District Chapel. Between conferences, you could purchase snacks and beverages. One of the beverages was 6% Ginger Wine. We had to put an end to that quickly. Occasionally, mission staff was sent to branches to do trouble-shooting. Two incidents in England while we were there come to mind. One branch wanted to split, because they were arguing over the Sacrament bread. One group wanted white, because they felt white symbolized purity. The other wanted brown, because they felt that brown bread symbolized the churches concept of nutrition; in other words, “The whiter the bread, the sooner your dead.” The solution was to have them switch to soda crackers and then lecture them on the meaning of symbolism. Another branch had a more serious problem. The Branch Presidency had adopted clerical robes and had pretty much changed the order of worship. That branch was dissolved.

We traveled monthly to the London Temple to do work. Mary and I were veil workers and took root beer to the workers. We also took root beer and Tootsie Rolls to the Mission Home in Sutton Coldfield.

 

 

 The one great disappointment amid all of the blessings we were enjoying, was that we did not have children.  We had been informed by physicians that we would never have children.  We decided that we should adopt.  We applied for adoption and were informed that we met all the qualifications.  We anxiously awaited the arrival of our child.  Then, the most cruel bomb was dropped unto our hopes.  The adoption agency said that they could not let us adopt, because we were Mormons!  This was so hard to accept.  We were living the gospel, we had the means to support  a child and we wanted one so badly.  Many a tear was shed and many questions were asked in our prayers.  But we remained true to the faith in spite of the adversity.  

Because of our desire to do family research, I gave up singing at the Ship, and we started traveling almost weekly to Wales. My Air Force job gave me three-day weekends every week, and every over week, I also was off at noon on Thursday. This was because our courier plane only came in once a week and that was Thursday afternoon. We shut down our operation on Friday, because we didn’t have that many documents to collect. By noon Thursday, we were finished for the week, and we took turns meeting the courier. So, as soon as I could get back to Bedford, we headed for Wales. We had purchased a new Ford Anglia for traveling. Gasoline was very expensive on the economy, and my gas rations were insufficient. However, I was also given tobacco and alcohol ration coupons, which I could always trade for more gas. Thus we had the gas needed for the research and church assignment. Since our callings were at the mission level, we also received a monthly stipend for gas from the Church.

The Welsh National Library had the entire Bishop’s Transcripts for Wales, and was the repository for wills and most Welsh legal documents. We would drive to Aberystwyth and find a bed and breakfast for the night. The next day was spent in the library. Mary and I did a great piece of genealogical detective work. I knew from Ohio historical records that my 4th Great-grandfather, David Penry, was from Breconshire County, Wales, and his wife, Mary Pugh, was from Radnorshire County. We first looked at wills, and when we found a will with either of their surnames, we stuck colored pins in a map. A pattern of migration along the Wye River Valley soon appeared. We were also keeping track of will dates, and were able to pinpoint the probable location of the family at the time of emigration to America. We then started searching the Bishop’s Transcripts. Every year, the Bishop’s clerk would ride the parish circuit, copying the births, deaths, and marriages from the Parish registers into a Bishops Transcript Book. A separate book was kept for each Parish and supposedly duplicated the information from the Parish Register (assuming that the writing was legible.) The problem was that some Vicars were not good record keepers and the night before the Bishop’s clerk arrived, would be frantically trying to remember all of the past year’s events. We were methodically searching the many registers for the area, when Mary felt the spirit inspire her to skip over some of the names on the list and look at a particular transcript, that of Llandeilo Graban in Radnorshire. All of a sudden, she gave out a yell “I found it.” This of course, caused many heads to turn in a very quiet research library. But we did not care because we were both elated. Mary had found the marriage of my 4th Great-grandparents. We then traveled to that area of Wales and finished our research in the actual Parish Registers, finding many more of my ancestors. We would again stay at local bed and breakfast lodging in the area.

One night was interesting. We got a late start from Bedford and by the time we reached Aberystwyth, which incidentally was on the Welsh Coast, all of the hotels and B&B’s were closed for the night. We had to sleep in the car, so we drove to the top of the mountain overlooking the city and went to sleep. Above 4:00 in the morning, a light was shone in our window and it was a bobby (British policeman). He asked what we were doing and we explained. When he found out we were Americans, he told us he had a cousin in America and kept us up the rest of the night talking. We were really tired the next day doing research.

Longest town name in Wales

Thlan-Vair-Pullth-Gwin-Gilth-Go-Gerick-Wiern-drobilth-thlan-tie-sillio-go-go-gock. This is fairly close, but unless you are Welsh, you will not be able to say it perfectly!  Say it fast without taking a breath.

Beautiful Wales – The Land of My Fathers – Cymru am Byth 

We traveled into the Black Hills region of Central Wales and drove up a narrow road into the mountains until we came to Cefn Brith, a farmhouse built 1100 years ago! This farm was the birthplace of the Welsh Martyr – John Penry who was put to death in London in 1598 for treason.  But in reality, this was not the real reason.  He was a Puritan Minister who opposed the theology of the Church of England and Bishop Whitcomb wanted him stopped.  He had written a series of tracts under a pen name which were critical of the English Church and the Queen’s support.   In addition, he had lobbied to have the Bible printed in the Welsh language.  He was taken from the Clink Prison in London and hung and drawn and quartered.  He left a wife and four daughters.  His congregation escaped to Holland and sailed to America on the Mayflower!  I am sure he is a relative since our family came from that area, but I have not been able to make the connection.  

Cefn Brith was located in the Devynock Parish, who’s Vicar was also a Penry. Hugh Penry, Vicar, lived here in the year 1611 in a mansion in the village of Llangamarch Wells.  The Penry coat of arms is located above the door and indicates that our family are descendants of Elystan Glodrydd, who was ruler over this area in the ninth century.  At the time the area was known as Fferligs and he was the Prince of Fferligs – or Ferlix in Latin.

 Home of Hugh Penry, Vicar of Devynock 1611 with Penry Court of Arms Above Entrance

 

 
 We really lived Wales and the people. They were so friendly, especially when they found out that we were of Welsh descent. We visited the farm “Maesclyttwr” which means Farm on the Clyttwr creek (pronounced Mays Cletter). This was my ancestral home, the farm my ancestors had left to come to America. We introduced ourselves to the lady of the house, who showed us the house and insisted we stay for dinner. When her husband came in and she explained that our family had lived in the house nearly 200 years before, he asked, “Is this the first time you have been home?” He was serious. I was so touched that tears came to my eyes. What a wonderful greeting!
 

 

 

Gwenddwr, Maesclyttwr – Penry Farm  (Farm on Clyttwr Creek)

We decided to take a month-long trip to visit Scotland and Northern England. We checked out a tent and camping equipment from the base, and were joined by our friend from church, Ron Jones. We tied our luggage on top, Ron shared the back seat with our guitars, and away we went. Our first stop was Youth Conference at Keele University. We chaperoned the activities. From there we headed to Liverpool, and visited the place where the Beatle’s got their start. We took a ferry across the Mersey, and visited the docks of Liverpool. We then became victims of a local prank. Liverpool was named after a mythological bird, the Liver (pronounced Lyver) bird. The Liver building has big statues of liver birds on the roof.  An old man told us that these birds were mechanical and flapped their wings every hour. After sitting on a park bench for over two hours, we realized that we had been duped. I’m sure he had a good laugh at the expense of three gullible Yanks. We traveled north into Yorkshire and stayed one night in a farm field. The owner said he had campers from Denmark, Germany, and France, but we were the first @&*% Yanks. He charged us two shillings (about 24 cents for the night). We then headed to Scotland and visited Gretna Green, took the ferry to the Isle of Skye and camped at Portree, and stayed a night in the Vale of Glencoe which was nicknamed The Valley of the Shadow of Death, because of a clan massacre that had taken place there. We attended the Edinburgh Tattoo, which was a military presentation of pipe bands from all over the British Commonwealth, and demonstrations by military units. It was thrilling, especially the finale. After the mass bands had played, all of the lights went out. Then a single spotlight was shone on the top turret of the castle, and a Black Watch piper came out and played. Shivers still go up and down my spine at the recollection. We also went to Loch Lomond and viewed the highland cattle, and took the ski lift to the top of Ben Nevis. We went to Loch Ness and visited the ruins of Urquardt Castle. Unfortunately, we didn’t see “Nessie” but I think we had her for lunch at a local pub. We visited a number of castles and lochs. Edinburgh Castle was especially interesting. We looked out over the town, visited Margaret’s Chapel, and the room where Queen Mary slept. We learned all about the intrigue and life of Scotland’s early rulers. We visited the home of John Knox, who started the Presbyterian Church.

Beautiful Scotland

We then crossed the Firth of Forth to see Dunfermline Abbey, the burial place of Scottish kings. We also visited the cave where Robert the Bruce received his inspiration to continue fighting after watching a spider spin a web across the mouth of the cave. This was a fun but tiring vacation.

In 1968, we received the greatest news since we were married. Mary was pregnant! With her pregnancy came the usual morning sickness. She seemed to pick the most awkward times for the morning sickness to strike – at bus stops or on the bus. We were riding the bus, because I had already taken our car to Southampton for shipment to the States. We started packing up to return to America.

On January 23, 1968 The North Korean Navy captured an American ship, the U.S.S. Pueblo, commanded by Commander Butcher. I knew from my assignment in Security Service that this was a highly classified communications intelligence vessel. This was not a warship and its capture could prove to be disastrous to the intelligence community. This proved to be true after the crew was released. The boarding of the Pueblo was so fast, that the crew didn’t have time to destroy the classified documents. In the intelligence community, we were issued special magnesium grenades that we could drop into file drawers. These created a temperature hot enough to totally destroy the contents. The crew was taken by surprise and didn’t have time to react. Later on, North Korea made some of the documents public, which caused the military to have to change a number of special COMINT identifiers. In addition, North Korea published photographs of the crew supposedly “confessing.” What they didn’t realize that in the photo, Commander Butcher was giving the interrogator the bird.

Our three years in England came to an end in June 1968.

I received orders to report to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas. We flew out of Mildenhall/Lackenheath AFB in June 1968.

 Leaving England and arriving at McGuire AFB Terminal

When we arrived in McGuire AFB, New Jersey, we were met by my Brother-in-Law Jim Gladden, who took us to Washington, D.C. As soon as I received word that my automobile had arrived in Brooklyn, New York, I took a bus and retrieved the car. It was sitting in a vast parking lot of vehicles that had been shipped from Europe. But there was a big problem. The car was a customized racing Anglia. The racing carburetor had been replaced with a stock carburetor; my racing bucket seats were gone, replaced by a couple of standard seats. The racing headlights had been stripped out, and there were just two vacant holes. The windshield wipers were gone. I filled out paperwork indicating the damage and theft. I had to get back to Washington D.C. before dark since I had no headlights, and it was pouring rain. I headed south with no wipers, and somewhere in Maryland, the rain got so heavy, I was forced to turn into a parking lot. Unfortunately there was a chain over the entrance that I could not see. I hit the chain and dented the front fender. I eventually got to Washington and got the car fixed so that we could proceed to our new assignment. We visited our families in Virginia and Ohio. It was now evident that Mary was pregnant!

Mary pregnant with our first child
 

 

But then came the day our vacation was over and we had to head to Texas.  We loaded up our little Ford Anglia and headed south.  We spent our wedding anniversary in Texarkana, Arkansas. The motel had a great outdoor swimming pool and we swam until nearly midnight. We then drove on to San Angelo. In San Angelo, we rented a small house just off the base.

 

We then acquired a little brown, long-haired dog of mixed breed. We named her M’lady. In England, we watched a TV show called “Thunderbirds.” The actors were puppets and it was a militaristic sci-fi and spy combination show. The show still airs sometimes on children’s channels, as “Thunderbirds are Go.” In this show, the head of the agency was called M’lady by her butler, thus the name.

 

M’Lady

M’Lady was a cute little dog. One of her games was catching horned toads and bringing them in the house. Since Mary was expecting our first child, we realized that I had no experience at all with infants. I didn’t know how to fasten a diaper, and this was in the days of pins – Pampers were a future invention. Poor M’Lady became our practice doll. The tail was a problem however. It’s hard to apply a triangular diaper to a baby with a long bushy, wagging tail!  We were beginning to get anxious awaiting the arrival of our first child.

Awaiting the new arrival – Summer of 1968

 

 

 

Front Gate, Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo, Texas

 

Goodfellow AFB Academic Library 

 

My job at Goodfellow AFB was to work at the Academic Library. Just outside of the library was the base flagpole that had a ship’s mast with an anchor at the base.  No one seemed to know where this came from and its significance, since the base was named for a World War I pilot who flew missions in France!

Goodfellow was a Security Service training site. At this base, men and women from all branches of service learned how to be radio operators and to interpret codes. We also had linguistic specialists. In the library, my job was to receive the newspapers and magazines from Communist countries and catalog them for use by interpreters. In order to do this, I had to learn to recognize the Chinese characters so I could catalog in English. I also learned to transliterate Russian. I had a special typewriter that had Cyrillic keys. I would type in Cyrillic, but the print was in Arabic letters. While working there, several things happened. My co-worker was bitten by a black-widow spider and I had to cover his work for a while.

There was a lot of wildlife around San Angelo including black-widow spiders, not just on the base, but also in our yards and around town.  Texas Coyotes are brown, not grey like those in the north.

Coyotes, Road-Runner, Horned (Toad) Lizard, Grey Fox, Tarantula

The tarantulas were especially creepy.  They would cross the road by the hundreds and you could hear them crunch as you ran over them.  They actually could make the road slick!

At the time, there were restrictions on trading with certain nations, such as Red China and Cuba. As intelligence operators, we needed access to publications from these countries, so we established third-party buyers in Hong Kong and Berlin. I would tell them what I needed. They would do the purchases, ship them to me, and bill the government. My Hong Kong buyer quit and my new buyer was unfamiliar with all the procedures. He made a mistake and sent one of my purchase orders directly to Peking. Imagine my horror when the Peking Daily News showed up on my desk addressed to Comrade TSgt Robert Penry. Once China had my name, it was like it had been sold to every Chinese periodical. I received photos of Chairman Mao, and magazines and invitations to visit. Thank goodness, we were in a top-secret facility and none of this leaked out at the time. One magazine called China Reconstructs was having a contest to commemorative the 50th anniversary of Chairman Mao’s famous march to Anyan Province where he reportedly gained the inspiration for his little red book of quotations. I submitted an entry into the contest as a gag, but the Chinese took it seriously and thanked me profusely for the wonderful suggestion of a painting entitled “Chairman Mao and His Close Comrade in Arms, Lin Pao, join with the Marxist-Leninists of Albania in Singing and Dancing the Mao Tse Dong Polka! They sent me an autographed picture of Chairman Mao and a calendar that I hung in the office.

Picture of Mao Tse Dong

We immediately became workers in the San Angelo Ward of the Church. I was called to be Scoutmaster. Our ward was unusual, being split between Anglos and Latinos. My home teaching district was in the Latino quarter. My companion was Brother Alvarez. I loved visiting the Spanish families. We were always given food. One sister made the best burritos that I have ever eaten. For Latino boys, cooking was not macho. We had to practically force them to work on the cooking skill awards and merit badges. Our Scout Camping trips on the Concho River were unique. Since other troops would be their, our boys were not going to be seen cooking. So their mother’s came too. All cooking at scout camp for Latino boys was done by their mothers.

  Hayride at Brother Taylor’s

During Sacrament Meeting, either the opening or closing prayer would be in Spanish. One Sacrament Prayer was Spanish and one talk was Spanish. Brother Alvarez and I loved to switch the prayers. He did the English and I did the Spanish. Being Texas, the dress for Sacrament Meeting included dress cowboy boots and Stetson hats. We had a wonderful time in the San Angelo Ward. The picnics out at Brother Odie Taylor’s ranch always included barbequed pecans, tubs full of cantaloupe and many, many gallons of ice cream. We also had a hayride as part of our activities. I don’t believe I have ever known someone who liked ice cream as much as Brother Taylor. Our Stake Center was in Midland, about 80 miles to the north. Stake meetings were on Saturday every month and Baskin and Robbins was an obligatory stop. Brother Taylor always started with a quart of mint chocolate chip and finished with a pint of mint chocolate chip for “dessert.”

Our bishop had been newly called when we arrived, and wanted to make an impression on the Latino members, so he asked Brother Hernandez how to say the word “Been” in Spanish. Brother Hernandez misunderstood and thought he had said, “Bean” and told him “frijoles.” Well, our bishop ended up asking one of our sisters in Spanish, either “Where are the beans, or How are the Beans.” She told him the beans were just fine and walked away with a puzzled look on her face. Those of us that knew some Spanish had a great laugh and the poor bishop was totally clueless.

San Angelo was an interesting city.  It was divided into two parts – the Anglo part on one side of the railroad, and the barrio or Latino section on the other.  When you crossed into the barrio, the streets weren’t paved.  It was almost like driving into Mexico.  I suppose there was a lot of prejudice, but we didn’t see it in the Church, and we did not harbor any such feelings ourselves.  We found the Latino members of the Ward to be especially friendly and gracious. 

One of our favorite locations was a steakhouse outside of town near the twin buttes.  When you came into the restaurant, you choose your steak out of a display case.  It was then cut into chunks, grilled and served with potatoes and Texas toast.  It was brought to the table in a big platter.  If the platter became empty, they brought another one.  No one ever left hungry!

A big event in San Angelo was the annual Rattlesnake Roundup.  There were lots of rattlesnakes in the area, and men would hunt them during the roundup, bring them to town, where they were killed, skinned, cut up, cooked and served for the public.  Pretty tasty!

 

 

 

 

Scenes in and around San Angelo, Texas

We had many friends, but special couples were Bob and Kathy Frome. Frank and Jackie Cowan, Paul and Becky Maxfield, and Mark and Marcine Evans. We were a group that hung out together. Eventually, all of us except Frank and Jackie had children in Texas. Unfortunately, after discharge from the Air Force, Paul and Becky moved back to Utah and they and their two children were killed in a head-on collision near Provo on Nov 10, 1970. Bob and Kathy and Mary and I went to San Antonio together for the World Fair called the Hemisfair in late 1968. The Church had a large pavilion and many of the General Authorities were there. We especially liked the boat ride on the San Antonio River, and the exhibition halls at the fair.  Do you recognize Gordon B Hinckley in the top left picture?

 
 

 

San Antonio, Texas – The River Walk and the Alamo

David Aaron Penry, born 23 November 1968, San Angelo, Texas 

Finally the big day arrived and Mary went into labor. I took her to Tom Green Hospital in San Angelo. The nursing staff said that it would be several hours before we could expect further development, so I headed off to the chapel to conduct my scout meeting. When I told the Bishop that Mary was in labor, he told me to get out and get to the hospital. I went back to the hospital and later that evening, Mary gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, our first child David Aaron Penry, named after ancestors on both sides of the family. I am not going to say much about my children in this chapter. I am putting stories of my children and grandchildren in their own chapter.

After the birth of our son, the Anglia seemed too small and just didn’t have the power needed in the U.S. We traded for a new 1969 blue Chevy Nova. This was a sharp looking and powerful car. At the end of my enlistment, I realized that I had been in the military for 10 years, and I didn’t feel that my career was going anywhere, so I decided to leave the Air Force. After my discharge we headed back to Ohio.

Next came the big question of what to do for work. I found out that the Carpenters’ Union local 785 in Marion was looking for a veteran in order to meet a quota. The union also needed a minority, so they took a young black man and me as apprentices. This apprenticeship also included a free education in carpentry techniques at Lima High School. Every week, we apprentices drove to the high school where we used its advanced shop facilities to learn how to saw, join, sand, polish and do cabinetry. Some skills such as carpentry measurement, use of tools, etc., would be on the job. I was sent out to a number of jobs that were interesting. These included installing siding on a high school in Marion, building a U.S. Department of Agriculture Laboratory in Delaware, Ohio, building salt sheds for the Ohio Highway Department, and laying floor tile in High Schools in Columbus.

We rented a farmhouse in Byhalia for $25 per month. The house was cold and drafty and the water was undrinkable. The water actually came out of the faucets containing crude oil and smelled of sulfur. We couldn’t bath in it. We would go to my parents to bathe. This picture is after it became abandoned.  But it didn’t look much better when we lived there!

Work was good and the pay was good at first, but it was during the Nixon administration and a major reduction in federal funds for construction was announced. I was laid off, and times got rough. I went to work for Harris and Jolliff Lumber Yard in Byhalia building pole barns for almost basic wages. My parents helped us, but I didn’t want to depend on either my parents or church welfare. There was another reason. Mary was pregnant with our second child, and I had no idea how we could afford the medical costs. I knew that something had to be done. So I contacted the Air Force recruiter and reenlisted in late September.

My Birthday Gift from my Mom – Martin D28 Dreadnought Guitar
 

 We received orders for Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. I would be retrained into the Personnel Career Field. This meant that I would need to go to school at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, reporting in October. Since we were leaving, my mother had bought a Martin D-28 guitar for my birthday, and since I would not be home for my birthday in January, she gave it to me on Mary’s birthday, September 28. Of all my earthly possessions, the Martin Guitar from my Mom is the most precious.  I can’t begin to tell how much pleasure it has given over the years.

Since I had to leave for Keesler AFB, I left Mary and David with her Mother in Tennessee and headed south.

 

Mary’s Aunt Rose’s house in Soddy, Tennessee –

 

Mary stayed with her Mom in a trailer behind the house
 

 

 

I was already a Staff Sergeant and the rest of the classes were just out of boot camp. The school asked if I would mind serving as a Training Instructor (TI) while there. This came with perks such as a private room in the TI barracks and lots of free time. My shift for school was the “C” shift, 6:00 p.m. until midnight. My duties as TI were to take charge of the class. I would pick them up at their barracks, march them in formation to the school and return them. Once a week, I also had to prepare them to pass in review. One night, a very scary thing happened. Our route back to the barracks was across an unused runway. There were barriers and signs warning vehicles to stay out. I had my squadron marching, when a car came barreling down the runway without lights and swerving from side to side, being hotly pursued by the police. I yelled at the troops to scatter and they took off in every direction. The car careened though the formation and fortunately missed everyone. We were shaking so bad, that I simply dismissed the troops and told them to go straight back to their quarters. The car was stopped about a half-mile down the runway and the driver arrested. I stayed and filled out reports. The driver was a drunken serviceman and I was told that I would have to testify at his courts-martial. The problem was that class was nearly over, and I did not want to have to stay. The prosecution decided that my written testimony would suffice. They said that they could always have me flown back if necessary.

Keesler AFB was in Biloxi, and had just been devastated by Hurricane Camille. Being a carpenter was great financial blessing. Since I didn’t have to be at work until 5:30 p.m., I was able to work in Biloxi. Since I was a union member, I was paid union wages and on Saturday’s I received double pay. I earned as much a week as a carpenter as I made in a whole month in the Air Force. Hundreds of carpenters were heading to the Gulf Coast, and had I known this, I could have done so myself. Work was available for years. But, in the end, every thing worked out for the best.

 

 

Rebecca Ann Penry, born 10 November 1969 Chattanooga, Tennessee

Mary gave birth to our second child, Rebecca Ann in Erlanger Hospital, Chattanooga, in the same hospital where Mary was born. This was on November 10, 1969, which was also the Marine Corps birthday. I received a phone call and the Squadron Commander gave me a three-day pass so I could head to Tennessee. Becky was a beautiful baby. She looked like a little doll.

Erlanger Hospital, Chattanooga, Tennesee –

 

Both Mary and Becky were born here
 

 

 

On the way back to base, I was stopped by the sheriff in Mile Straight, Tennessee, just down the road from Soddy-Daisy. The whole scene was so surreal; it could have been an episode from a comedy. The speed limit was 60 mph. I was doing the speed limit and came up behind a teenager driving a Dodge Daytona with a California Tilt and big drag-racing tires doing about 45 mph. The driver had two heads (He and his girl friend). I pulled around him and he realized he had been passed and of course, this was not cool. So he gunned it and came screaming around me with smoking tires. A deputy pulled out of a side road and stopped me! He looked like Jackie Gleason in “Smoky and the Bandit.” He had a pearl-handled revolver, an all-white suit and Stetson, Polaroid reflective glasses and a swagger. He said, “What’s your hurry, boy? You Yankees think you kin come down here and burn up our highways.” I told him that I wasn’t speeding. He replied, “Don’t give me that. I clocked that sumbitch doing 90 and I see’d you pass him!” He saw my uniform cap in the back window and said, “You a G.I. Boy? This is gonna cost you!” I told him what really happened and he told me I could tell it to the judge. He made me follow him down to a local hole-in-the-wall service station. The service station attendant, complete with greasy rag in back pocket came in, got behind the counter, and announced, “Courts in session.” He was the Justice of the Peace. I told him my story and he said, “Well, maybe you jist might be telling the truth and I’m only going to fine you two dollars.” He told me to pay the young lady sitting at the desk (His 15 year-old daughter). I handed her the two dollars, and she said, “that will be $29.50.” I told her the judge said two dollars, and she told me that there was $27.50 court costs. I bid a fond farewell to ole Tennessee and headed back to Mississippi, poorer by almost $30.

I had no sooner gotten back to base, then we were hit by another hurricane. There were so many hurricanes and tropical storms that year, that I don’t even remember their names. My car was parked in front of the barracks, and stone from the roof peppered it, scouring off the paint and glazing the windshield. Because of the prior hurricane, insurance work was backed up for months. I found a piece of plexiglas the size of my windshield and taped it on instead and headed for Tennessee to pick up Mary, David and Rebecca.  

We headed on to Idaho. As soon as we arrived in Mountain Home, I stopped at the State Farm Insurance Office and related the situation. They sent the car around to a local shop and replaced the windshield why we waited. This was great service. A week later the car was repainted. 

I reported into the Consolidated Base Personnel Office (CBPO), my place of duty. I was assigned to the unit that prepared orders for transfer – outbound assignments. I did this job for a while, and my experience in both the Marines and in the Radar Evaluation area, made me qualified to work in the area of force readiness. I was assigned to the Mobility Unit. My job was to help run a processing unit for troops being deployed to needed area around the world. These movements were practiced often and were called Operational Readiness Inspections (ORI). The command was Tactical Air Command (TAC) and the unit was the 366thTactical Fighter Wing. The planes were F-4 Phantom Fighters and F-4C Reconnaissance Aircraft. My office was in a hanger, and while there I designed and built a processing center, with special counters and equipment areas. This processing center was called the “Showplace of TAC,” and an Air Force Training Film was filmed there. This was my one and only time of being a “movie star!” Before the movie, we decided the hanger floor needed painting and so I got my team together and we painted and entire aircraft hanger floor with gray paint. We used rag mops for brushes. We had a problem in the hanger with black-widow spiders. I caught one and kept her as a pet and fed her flies. She lived in a jar on my desktop.

We started our tour at Mountain Home by renting a house in the village. Mountain Home wasn’t really in the mountains, although you could see the mountains on the horizon. It was originally called Rattlesnake Junction and in the 1800’s the town fathers wanted to attract the railroad. A railroad through Rattlesnake Junction would boost the economy. However, they decided that no one would want to visit such a place and they needed a more attractive name. They felt that everyone would want to visit Mountain Home, so they renamed the town. Did it work? No, the railroad passed by about twenty miles to the south. As soon as base housing became available, we moved onto the base. Our next-door neighbors were members of our LDS Branch, Brother and Sister Kennedy.

 

 

Scenes of the Mountain Home area.

 

In a few months, base housing became available and we moved onto the base. Once again we were in Wherry Housing.  Our building was in a court with a building on each side and a building at the end. We had a corner unit on the left side and Brother and Sister Kennedy were in a corner unit at the end of the court.

 

 
 
 

 

 

Mountain Home AFB, Elmore County, Idaho

In December 1970, we went to Ohio and Tennessee for the holidays.  In Tennessee Becky was ill and we took her to the same doctor that was Mary’s childhood physician.  He gave her two days of penicillin shots before we could leave Tennessee.  After we left Tennessee, heading west, we stopped at a military base in Texas because David was ill.  So now we had two children on medications with different schedules.  We hit bad weather across the Texas panhandle.  The roads were icy and we almost got hit head-on when a car came speeding down the wrong side of the interstate.  We stopped in Farmington, N.M. for the night, and headed out towards Utah the next morning, but the road was blocked, because a twin-engine plan had made an emergency crash landing onto the highway.  We waited until the plane was towed off.  We endured all this with two sick children and Mary pregnant with our third child.  

  

At Gilliam Farm, Somerville, Ohio 1970

Because we were rated the top unit in TAC, I was offered a position on the 12th Air Force ORI team based out of Bergstrom AFB, Texas. Our job was to pull surprise ORI inspections on Air Force bases both active and National Guard around the U.S. On some Thursday mornings, usually twice a month, I would take an Air Force flight from Mountain Home to Denver, where I would switch to a commercial airline and fly to the team destination. When I arrived, I would sign out a GSA car, make hotel reservations for the rest of the team and pick them up at the airport when they arrived. On Friday morning about 5:00 a.m., we would head to the base in the GSA car. We would stop at the main gate, leaving a man there to make sure that the base was not alerted about our presence. We then headed to the Command Post, where we announced our presence, directed the military police to pick up our teammate at the gate, and called a base-wide alert and recall. For the next 48 hours, we inspected response times and combat capabilities. The team was not large. There were six of us. Even though nothing would prohibit me giving their names, I have a very good reason not to. The names were hilarious in combination. Whenever we would check in at hotels, the clerks would often ask us what our real names were. I can only say this, the combination of names made us sound like we were stars in an X-rated movie! Late Saturday night I would fly back to the base and wait until time for the next ORI. Some of the bases we inspected were National Guard sites in Louisville, Indianapolis, Denver, Wichita Falls, Las Vegas, and Reno. We also inspected TAC regular bases such as Nellis AFB, Nevada, Holloman AFB, New Mexico, and several others. On one visit, I was getting ready to relax in my room at the hotel, when the team commander called for me. I supposed that he had some paperwork that needed my help, but when I got to his room he informed me that I would be spending the evening baby-sitting! It seems that he met a lady who had two small children and they wanted to go dancing, but she needed a baby-sitter, so he volunteered me! I protested, but when he offered me $50, I gave in.

While at Mountain Home, I began to realize that my future after the Air Force was limited. I didn’t possess the professional skills that would give me a good job in civilian life. I didn’t want to go back to carpentry or selling insurance, and work on the farm wasn’t even a consideration. So I decided that I needed to go to college. I had taken a couple of courses at Weber State College in Ogden while stationed at Hill AFB, but I knew it was time to get serious. I enrolled at Boise State College through the Base Education Office and started taking courses on base. The professors and some base personnel with higher education were instructors. I wanted to major in history and took some very good courses in both history and literature. I then applied for the Bootstrap Program. This Air Force educational program gave up to a year off with paid education on campus. You would continue to draw your salary, but attend college full-time as long as the degree furthered your military career area. I changed my major to Personnel Management and started full time at Boise State. This was really tough. I would get up at dawn and get ready to make the 60-mile drive to the campus. My first class of the day was at 7:40 a.m. I wanted to get the most for my dollar, so I signed up for 21 semester hours. This load meant that I attended classes five days a week from early morning until late in the evening. I stayed with friends in the Church, Mark and Marcine Evans for a couple of days each week. They lived in Meridian, just outside of Boise. My math skills were so poor that the college recommended Math 190, a non-credit course. But I refused and signed up for Algebra 1 instead and bought a self-learning workbook and spent the summer before studying and preparing myself. I got through the course with a B+ and was elated. I did my studying in the LDS Institute and took an Institute Course on the Doctrine and Covenants. This was a very successful education period and I was always grateful to the Air Force for the opportunity. It paid off handsomely in later years.

Mary gave birth to our third child Karen in March of 1971. This was a traumatic time. In Ohio, Mary was treated at the Smith Clinic in Marion. Our pediatricians partner, Ed Charnock needed to fill a military obligation and when we got to Mountain Home, Dr. Charnock was now Captain Charnock. Because we were from the same town in Ohio, Ed and I had a closer relationship than with most doctors. I had dropped Mary off at the hospital because she was in the very early stages of labor. I had gone home to take David and Becky to a baby-sitter and had stopped off at the office for a few minutes to let my supervisor know and then headed back to the hospital. By the time I got back, it was all over. Mary had given birth. When I got there, they had called for Doctor Charnock, the base pediatrician. They wouldn’t let Mary or I see the baby, and I knew something was wrong. The other pediatrician was on call and Ed was on his way, when I was informed that Karen had been born with a bi-lateral cleft palate. When Mary woke up she was informed and we were permitted to see the baby. This was very traumatic, seeing our child so deformed. We were then told that this would require a plastic surgeon to correct. Karen had trouble eating and couldn’t be nursed normally. She was fed though a tube and syringe. We learned how to care for her and Ed let us know that regular military channels didn’t apply. If we needed him, we were to call him at home and he would come to our quarters. House calls in the military were unheard of. I don’t think he will ever know how much we appreciated and loved him for his service.

 

A plastic surgeon, Dr Call, was found in Boise and he did the corrective surgery. Everyone at Church and on the base was so supportive. The surgery was wonderful and a beautiful little girl emerged. Karen was extremely active and loved to kick. One Sunday morning she was lying on Mary’s lap in Church, her nose and mouth all in bandages and gave a mighty kick and propelled herself right off Mary’s lap onto the floor. She screamed! Mary broke into tears! Off to the hospital we rushed! No real damage was done except for our pride. We were so embarrassed.

By this time, our oldest child was a toddler and starting to talk.  One day, he was looking out the window saying “doggy, doggy.”  We didn’t have a dog and looked out onto our patio.  His doggy was a coyote!

David’s “Doggy” 

The Church at Mountain Home was different. We were totally military. This is the only place we have ever been in the Church that had a problem with rank. This problem didn’t exist with the brethren. We left our rank at the Church door. However, several of the sisters that were married to officers, formed an exclusive group and were standoffish. Oh well, why not tell it like it was. They were snobs! Our Branch President was a Master Sergeant, and they just didn’t think that this was proper. The Branch President should have been an officer in their minds. One sister in particular was married to a Lieutenant and her father was a full Colonel. When she bore her testimony, she never failed to say “My father, the Colonel.”  We tolerated it and ignored it as much as possible. We had another sister who was a disciple of the teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith. I think she had memorized every thing he had ever written, and she managed to quote him in every Gospel Doctrine Class we attended.

The men and boys decided that we needed a winter outing. So we took our sleds and tubes and snowmobiles up to Sardine Canyon above Brigham City on the way to Logan. This was a great winter recreation area. We were having a great time, until disaster hit. We were sledding and tubing over a saddle between two hills when the Branch President and his son, who were riding together on an inner tube, lost control and went over the side of the saddle. There was a twenty-five foot drop onto the highway. A pickup truck was parked along the side and they landed in the bed of the truck. The Branch President broke his back, and his son had a broken elbow. They were airlifted out, and shortly thereafter, the Base Commander outlawed tubing.

Actually, this was not the only disaster. A member of our branch, a dentist, broke his hip on one of our scout campouts, when he drove his snowmobile into a ravine. We had been warned about traversing a slope horizontally because there could be filled gullies, but he did not heed the warning. Another time, we were tubing and sledding near Sun Valley. We were on the mountain and stopped to look out from a scenic overlook, when someone decided this looked like a good spot to tube. It was steep and fast and fun. We spent several hours tubing, and I started down through the twisting gully on a very large truck tube. On a turn, I over corrected and shot out of the gully about 10 feet in the air and flew over a rock outcropping. When I hit the ice slope on the other side, the tube went one way and I went head first down the slope out of control. I plowed a small furrow with my bottom teeth and looked ahead and saw that I was going to hit the top strands of a barbed-wire fence. I managed to turn sideways and tuck and hit the fence. It was like a slingshot. It stretched and tossed me back about six feet. My shoulder was twisted, my lip was cut and my dignity was definitely bruised. I crawled back up the slope and we headed home.

Just to show that I did not learn my lesson, I will relate an incident that happened some years later. We were stationed at Hill AFB, and gone tubing as a family. Karen was seven years old and sitting on my lap going down a slope, when the tube slipped off the intended path and went down a step grade, over an embankment, and we landed in a frozen streambed. Karen was terrified and has never been tubing again. My bottom was sore for a week! 

While we were at Mountain Home, Mary decided she needed to lose weight and joined the local TOPS club.  She did a great job!

 
Mary and TOPS and KOPS
 

 

As a family, we often went to Boise, especially to the Hogle Zoo and Julia Davis Park.  Our kids loved the trips and so did we.

 

Scenes from Boise, Idaho and area

 

 

 

Hogle Zoo, Boise, Idaho

 

 
Kids in Idaho
 

I knew that I was due a remote assignment. The Vietnam War was raging and I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would have to go. I received orders for Danang, Republic of Vietnam, leaving in June. We were shipping our household goods back to Ohio where Mary would stay for my year in Vietnam. The moving van was just about out of sight at the end of the street, when a staff car came up to the house moving fast. It was the out-processing supervisor who informed me that my orders had been cancelled. The unit that I was to join had been moved from Vietnam to Thailand and that manpower was being reduced. We were in a panic, the car was packed, we had just vacated base housing, and our furniture was on its way east. What were we to do? I went back to the personnel office and we called headquarters in Randolph AFB, Texas. They immediately opened up a slot in the 49th TAC Fighter Wing at Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand instead, and we headed east.

We rented a house in Marion for Mary and the three children. Mary drove me down to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, and I left for South-East Asia (SEA). Mary needed a pediatrician again, and who do you suppose had been released form the Air Force? Yes, it was Ed Charnock.

 Saying goodbye – Wright Patterson AFB, Fairborn, Ohio

 

 

 

 

The Air Force –1965-1968

 

 

McGuire and Prestwick Terminals

In July 1965, I flew out of McGuire AFB, New Jersey, headed for Scotland, Mary could not join me right away, since I was going to help close down the base.  I had orders to report to the  6952nd Security Group at RAF Kirknewton, about 8 miles west of Edinburgh. The plane landed at Prestwick Airport in Glasgow where I was met and I took a staff car to RAF Kirknewton.

 

 

 

 
Base Headquarters – My Office was in building to right
My Roomate – Ray Nosko Gate Guard
 

 

 

RAF Kirknewton Gate – Ray Nosko – My Roomate

Kirknewton Village

Kirknewton Village, Scotland

 

 Butch Garrard, Dee Watt and Me “The Gatekeepers” Hootenany Club, Galashiels, Scotland 1965

While I was in Scotland, I spent most of my leisure time playing the guitar and singing. I had purchased a 12-string EKO guitar from Italy. I joined up with Harold “Butch” Garrard from Miami, Florida who sang tenor and played a six-string guitar, and Dee Watt, a Scottish girl from Edinburgh, and we formed a folk trio named “The Gatekeepers.” We played a mixture of Celtic and American folk. We especially liked the music of the Clancy Brothers and learned most of their songs. We played every weekend in clubs around Scotland. We had gigs in Galashiels, Dunfermline, Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Glasgow, but our main club was the Stockpot just off Princes Street in Edinburgh. We were quite good and became very popular in the folk scene in Scotland. We met many entertainers. There was a private club just for musicians called the Singers’ Club. After gigs, musicians always drifted to the club and would jam until the wee hours. At the club we met Rolf Harris (who wrote Tie Me Kangaroo Down), Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, and many others.

 

 

Edinburgh, Scotland “Arthur’s Seat” July 4, 1965

By January 1966, the base closing was completed and I transferred to the 6950th  Security Group at RAF Chicksands, England. Mary joined me shortly and we moved into a house on Castle Road in Bedford, England.

My assignment at both locations, Scotland and England, was top-secret control. My job was to collect classified intelligence documents and ship them back via courier to the United States for processing. I can’t really discuss where or how these documents were collected, but be assured that these documents were a very important part of the U.S. intelligence effort, and vital during the cold war.

Mary and Me in Bedford, England, 1966

Our base wasn’t particularly large. It was located on a hillside about seven miles south of Bedford in a farming area. To get to the base, you turned onto an unmarked road though woods and down a hill, through a farm and in the gate. There were two gates, a North and South gate on each side of the valley. The farm grew brussels sprouts, and after picking there were always some left in the fields that rotted. In the fall, the whole base smelled like rotten cabbage. At the bottom of the hill were the chapel, the hospital and Chicksands Priory. The priory had been a home for Priests and Nuns in Medieval times. It was said to be haunted by the ghost of a nun named Rosetta who had been sealed up alive in the walls for having an affair with a priest, who was beheaded and buried in the garden. Legend said that she roamed the grounds every Tuesday, but I don’t believe any of us ever saw her. The priory was the officers club and quarters. Going up the hill, you passed the enlisted barracks, the NCO Club, base library and the gym. Finally you came to the BX, Commissary and Post Office. This was as far as you could go up the hill without proper authorization. Further up the hill was the operations and communications building where I worked. On the crest of the hill was a huge antenna array that we called the Elephant Cage. When locals asked us about the antenna, we would tell them that it was the source of a tunnel to America to smuggle English girls, or that it was a giant magnet that would suck in Soviet missiles if they were fired at the United States. If a local asked our mission, we were instructed to tell them that we manufactured ping-pong balls. We were warned to be tight-lipped because Soviet spies were always a possibility.

Our house in Bedford was a block away from the embankment, along the River Ouse. Bedford was an exciting, historic town. Of course every town was historic in the British Isles. Our street ended near the main street at the old Castle grounds. Bedford Castle had long since disappeared and all that was left was the mound where the castle had stood.

Mary Ann Ouse River

 

Near the end of the street was the bridge over the Ouse. The river was wide at this point and in the 1500’s, a prison was on the bridge. John Bunyan, the Puritan preacher was imprisoned there and while incarcerated, wrote “Pilgrims Progress.” There was a lawn bowling pitch on the embankment, just up from our house and a three-hole golf putting green. Boat rides were available on the river, and we rode the boat from time to time. We had a movie theater. The movies were the same as what we had in the states, but there were some differences. We didn’t get popcorn, but we could get soda and candy. People smoked in the theaters. The movies started with previews and ads, just like in the states. I remember particularly the ads for orange crush, and Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bars. Down near the bridge was a farmer’s market. Every Wednesday, we would stroll down. I enjoyed dishes of cockles in malt vinegar.

Scenes in and near the Bedford, England

There were several restaurants in Bedford. Mary and I especially like the mixed grill thatconsisted of a pork chop, a small (2 oz) piece of steak, a rasher of bacon, a fried egg, a roasted potato, and a half tomato. British breakfasts were different. We learned to eat breakfasts with fried toast, baked beans, streaky bacon (which had a bone in the bacon), smoked kippers, and curried rice. Oatmeal was a staple in Scotland, but not in England. Of course, I must mention fish and chips and sausage and chips. There were special fish shops that sold these wonderful treats. When we go to Long John Silvers in America which is a poor, poor substitute for fish and chips, we are not given a choice of the species of fish, and don’t even know whether it is cod, scrod, haddock, or whatever passes for fish. In a British fish and chip shop, you are given a choice, cod, haddock, plaice, etc. This was fish that came off the boat that day. The fish and chips were deep fat fried together in a big vat of lard, so that the chips had a taste of fish. You can’t get that taste in the States. The fish and chips were salted; then placed on a sheet of waxed paper, then onto a couple of sheets of newspaper and then rolled into a cone. You walked down the street munching this treat like eating popcorn. If the Israelites had been given fish and chips instead of manna, they would have refused to leave the wilderness. If there is anything about England that I really miss, it would have to be the fish and chips. I have searched in the U.S and Canada for fish and chips and have always been disappointed. The fish in Florida are the closest, but not quite the same. I also mentioned sausage. The British have a variety of sausages, many of them oatmeal based. Some are good, and others are best avoided such as a sausage called “black pudding,” which is a combination of oats and blood. You could buy sausage and chips at some shops.

There was some resentment against Americans in Britain. There were those who had lived through World War II that stood by the old English attitude toward American servicemen of “Over sexed, overpaid, and over here!” We got a taste of this one night in a restaurant in Wales. A family in an adjacent table finished their meal, stacked up their dirty dishes and set them on our table! I was shocked but thought that maybe this was something Welsh people did, however rude. I asked our waiter later, and he said that the Welsh would never do such a thing. He supposed that it was probably someone who either didn’t like Americans or who was just stupid and rude, probably English or French.

In Scotland, two incidents stood out. Near our base was a brick wall. Someone had sprayed painted “Yankee go home – and take me with you.” Another was at a New Year’s Eve party in Edinburgh. The Scottish celebrate Hogmanay. This is a three-day festival or rather a three-day party. During Hogmanay, the custom is to get a bottle of whiskey and a basket of coal and travel from home to home sharing the whiskey and giving the host a lump of coal. This is supposed to bring luck during the year. Well anyway, I was at a Hogmanay party, and a Scotsman was more than a little inebriated. He decided that it was time to insult Americans. He started with America, the land of the almighty dollar, and moved on to The Statue of Liberty, unloved and unwanted, etc. I held my peace as long as possible, and finally said, “Hey mate, you should not run down America, we have a lot in common with Scotland.” He replied, “Yeh, what?” I replied,  “We both fought the English, only difference was – we won!” Well, this started the brawl, and my friends I quickly found the front door. Hogmanay was certainly an interesting event.

Our house in Bedford was an old row house and every old home had a name carved in the stone lintel above the door. We lived at St Clovius. We lived on the bottom floor, and another family rented the second floor. They had a private entrance. Walking into our house, one encountered a long hallway, and the living room was to the right. The ceilings were about 10 feet high and heating was by fireplace or kerosene portable stoves. Our house was always cold and moldy. The kitchen was very tiny and our appliances were the size you buy for dormitories. Our hot water heater was coke powered. Coke is sort of like charcoal, but is made by cooking the sulfur and other irritants out of coal. It burns very hot and clean. Every morning, I got up early and started a fire under the hot water tank, and got the fires going in the fireplaces. The British call kerosene – paraffin. To Americans, paraffin is a wax that you melt and put on canning jars. We purchased a paraffin stove and when I asked where to buy the paraffin, I was directed to the market up the street. I went in and asked for paraffin, thinking it was a solid, and was asked if I brought a container. I told them to just put it in a bag. After some discussion, I was straightened out and asked for ten shillings worth of paraffin. The owner said, “I don’t sell it in teacups.” I didn’t understand. This was another difference between American and England I had to learn. We are used to going to service stations in America and purchasing by amount, not quantity. For us asking for $5 or $10 worth of gasoline is perfectly normal. The English pumps for petrol and paraffin did not work on price, but on quantity. You put the hose in the tank, and punched for 1 liter, or 2 liter, or whatever by liter, never by price. My request caused a breakdown in communications between the storeowner and me. I learned the British method and all was well.

 Our home on Castle Road, Bedford, England

There were many little differences to learn, many of them were differences in meanings of words. For instance, in England the first floor is what we would call the second. Our first floor is always the ground floor in England. Waking someone up in the morning is done by knocking on the door, thus you are knocked up. Cars (autos) have bonnets and boots, not hoods and trunks. The English have perambulators, not baby buggies. People do not weigh pounds – they weigh stones. A stone equals 14 pounds. Thus in England, I weigh 15 stone, which sounds much better than 210 pounds. An umbrella is a brellie. Now this was just England. Scotland and Wales were another matter entirely. In Scotland, a mixture of Gaelic and English was often spoken. So Hoot Man, it’s a braw, bricht moonlit nicht tonicht, meant, Hey man, it’s a bright, moonlit night tonight. In Wales, the English was spoken with a musical lilt complete with double negatives and reversed adjectives. A conversation between two Welshman might go like this. “Never, have I been here before in the Dragon Red Pub.” The reply, “Me too, neither.” In the old Brythonic Welsh, the adjectives always come after the nouns, not like in English. Thus a Red Dragon becomes a Dragon Red, or a Draig Goch in Welsh. A yellow dress is a dress yellow, etc. It takes a little getting used to, but the Welsh were easier to understand than the Scottish.

There were a couple of gaffs that we soon learned were particularly irksome depending on which country you were in. In Scotland, you never call a Scotsman “Scotch.” He is a Scot, not Scotch. Scotch is a whisky not a man. Celt can be pronounced Kelt or Selt. If it is pronounced Seltic, then it refers to sports teams. The people and the nations of Scotland, Wales and Ireland are Keltic.

We also learned that there are terms that if misused have sexual meanings. I don’t need to mention them, but it was embarrassing to use one of these terms out of context.

When we first arrived, there was a dock strike in progress and our furniture was held up on the dock for several months. Eventually, I had to retrieve it myself from the dock. For a bed, we shared an army cot, and our dining room table was an ironing board. If you walked out our bedroom door, you walked into an attached greenhouse and then into a walled back yard. We liked to barbecue in the back yard. One day, I was grilling a large round steak when a sales lady came knocking on the door. We called for her to come round back. I thought her eyes would pop out. She couldn’t take her eyes off the steak. The reason being that the typical steak served in England is a four-ounce strip and my steak was a two-pounder.

Each day, Mary would go up to the next block to buy food for the day. This meant trips to the greengrocer, the butcher, the fish mart, and the bakery. Milk was delivered to the door. Ours came from the Isle of Guernsey and was a rich yellow color with two inches of cream. I have never tasted better milk than that from Guernsey.

While we were there, we acquired two dogs that we named Sir Nigel Ruff, the Earl of St Clovius, and his Lordship, Sir Basil Rolf, the Duke of St Clovius. They answered to Ruff and Rolf. Next door to us lived a lady with a son named Nigel. She had a very high and grating voice. When she yelled, it was kind of like scraping your fingernails over a chalkboard. She would stand outside and yell for her son to come in. “Nigel, Nigel, time to come in!” So, I would also stand outside and whistle for my dogs, yelling, “Nigel, Nigel, Basil, Basil, time to come in.” That was a mean thing to do.

We lived at Castle Road for over a year, and then a house came available on Cedar Road. This was a much more modern house and more comfortable. The ceiling was lower. Again, this was a row house, but each house in the row was painted a different pastel color. We had a very small lawn, both front and back. The front had a nice white picket fence and gate and a picture window. We had two stories and even though the bedrooms were small, they were comfortable. We converted one bedroom into a study. I laid a dark brown cocoa colored shag carpet, painted the walls bright tangerine and the woodwork stark white. The best way to describe the room would be “blinding and garish.” A funny thing happened years later. We were in the Commissary at Wright-Patterson AFB, and started up a conversation with another shopper. They had also been stationed at RAF Chicksands, and she proceeded to tell us about a house they had rented with the strangest colored room, tangerine walls, white woodwork and a dark brown carpet! Mary told her that I was responsible! 

 

 

 

 

 

Cedar Road – Sister Goodrich and Mary Ann

In England, everyone has a “local.” This is the pub where the family gathers to chat with friends in the evening and enjoy a pint or whatever. Ours was “The Ship.” We went there for a reason other than the pint or the chats. I had a job playing the guitar and singing folk music at The Ship. In addition, I sang at the Bedford Folk Club and at other venues around town.

The Ship, Bedford, England

On one occasion, Mary and I were invited to a village fete to entertain. It was held at the squire’s manor house, and the committee had decided to have an American style barbeque, they had purchased 50 frying chickens and had made barbeque grills out of troughs and some type of metal grill. But instead of charcoal, they were going to use coal! We let them know that the chicken wouldn’t be edible if cooked over coal. Mary and I went back to the base and bought bags of charcoal and returned and saved the barbeque.

We took the time to travel around England as tourists, we visited Coventry, London, Ely, Northampton, Cambridge, Oxford, and of course Scotland and Wales. Gas was very expensive on the economy, but since I received ration coupons for tobacco and alcohol that I did not use, I was able to swap them with other Air Force personnel for gasoline coupons. This allowed me to fill up on the base at American prices saving over $1.00 per gallon. 

London, England

 

Scenes in the Midlands Area, England

 

Scenes – England
 

 

The Bedford Branch of the Northampton District, Central British Mission was a close-knit group. We had plenty of activities together. The branch would have picnics in Bedford Park, where we would barbeque and play softball. Ron Jones and I both played guitars and would always get a sing-along going. We had several single people, but most of the branch consisted of married couples, many with young children. The makeup of the membership was pretty evenly split between military families and the English. Mary and I were spent a lot of time with a family from the branch, George and Glenda Adams, and their four children, Mike, David, Keith, and Karen. The Adams lived in base housing, and it became the branch hangout for the missionaries, all the singles and us. We fit in with the singles because we were young and didn’t have children. We went to the temple almost every month, and served as veil workers from time to time. We started out with branch callings. I was the Sunday School Superintendent, and Mary taught Primary. However, we were soon called to the mission board to be in charge of genealogy and temple work for the mission. We were to publish a monthly mission genealogy newsletter, which we named Kith and Kin. In addition we traveled to district conferences as speakers.

We had many opportunities for church service in England. Besides our Mission callings, we helped build chapels, and attended Youth Conference at Keele University. I attended an Aaronic Priesthood Commemoration Campout at Benbow’s Farm where Wilford Woodruff baptized over 800 people in one day!

The people of England had customs and beliefs that often clashed with church doctrine or procedures. For instance, we in America totally shun Alcohol. The problem in England was that Alcohol was the preservative in soft drinks. In America the preservative is sodium benzoate. Since the alcohol content of the soft drinks was no more than that found naturally in an apple, we as Americans overlooked this and drank the soft drinks. However, the British didn’t consider anything under 7% alcohol as being alcoholic. Our seventies quorum ran a book and refreshment store at the District Chapel. Between conferences, you could purchase snacks and beverages. One of the beverages was 6% Ginger Wine. We had to put an end to that quickly. Occasionally, mission staff was sent to branches to do trouble-shooting. Two incidents in England while we were there come to mind. One branch wanted to split, because they were arguing over the Sacrament bread. One group wanted white, because they felt white symbolized purity. The other wanted brown, because they felt that brown bread symbolized the churches concept of nutrition; in other words, “The whiter the bread, the sooner your dead.” The solution was to have them switch to soda crackers and then lecture them on the meaning of symbolism. Another branch had a more serious problem. The Branch Presidency had adopted clerical robes and had pretty much changed the order of worship. That branch was dissolved.

We traveled monthly to the London Temple to do work. Mary and I were veil workers and took root beer to the workers. We also took root beer and Tootsie Rolls to the Mission Home in Sutton Coldfield.

 

 

 The one great disappointment amid all of the blessings we were enjoying, was that we did not have children.  We had been informed by physicians that we would never have children.  We decided that we should adopt.  We applied for adoption and were informed that we met all the qualifications.  We anxiously awaited the arrival of our child.  Then, the most cruel bomb was dropped unto our hopes.  The adoption agency said that they could not let us adopt, because we were Mormons!  This was so hard to accept.  We were living the gospel, we had the means to support  a child and we wanted one so badly.  Many a tear was shed and many questions were asked in our prayers.  But we remained true to the faith in spite of the adversity.  

Because of our desire to do family research, I gave up singing at the Ship, and we started traveling almost weekly to Wales. My Air Force job gave me three-day weekends every week, and every over week, I also was off at noon on Thursday. This was because our courier plane only came in once a week and that was Thursday afternoon. We shut down our operation on Friday, because we didn’t have that many documents to collect. By noon Thursday, we were finished for the week, and we took turns meeting the courier. So, as soon as I could get back to Bedford, we headed for Wales. We had purchased a new Ford Anglia for traveling. Gasoline was very expensive on the economy, and my gas rations were insufficient. However, I was also given tobacco and alcohol ration coupons, which I could always trade for more gas. Thus we had the gas needed for the research and church assignment. Since our callings were at the mission level, we also received a monthly stipend for gas from the Church.

The Welsh National Library had the entire Bishop’s Transcripts for Wales, and was the repository for wills and most Welsh legal documents. We would drive to Aberystwyth and find a bed and breakfast for the night. The next day was spent in the library. Mary and I did a great piece of genealogical detective work. I knew from Ohio historical records that my 4th Great-grandfather, David Penry, was from Breconshire County, Wales, and his wife, Mary Pugh, was from Radnorshire County. We first looked at wills, and when we found a will with either of their surnames, we stuck colored pins in a map. A pattern of migration along the Wye River Valley soon appeared. We were also keeping track of will dates, and were able to pinpoint the probable location of the family at the time of emigration to America. We then started searching the Bishop’s Transcripts. Every year, the Bishop’s clerk would ride the parish circuit, copying the births, deaths, and marriages from the Parish registers into a Bishops Transcript Book. A separate book was kept for each Parish and supposedly duplicated the information from the Parish Register (assuming that the writing was legible.) The problem was that some Vicars were not good record keepers and the night before the Bishop’s clerk arrived, would be frantically trying to remember all of the past year’s events. We were methodically searching the many registers for the area, when Mary felt the spirit inspire her to skip over some of the names on the list and look at a particular transcript, that of Llandeilo Graban in Radnorshire. All of a sudden, she gave out a yell “I found it.” This of course, caused many heads to turn in a very quiet research library. But we did not care because we were both elated. Mary had found the marriage of my 4th Great-grandparents. We then traveled to that area of Wales and finished our research in the actual Parish Registers, finding many more of my ancestors. We would again stay at local bed and breakfast lodging in the area.

One night was interesting. We got a late start from Bedford and by the time we reached Aberystwyth, which incidentally was on the Welsh Coast, all of the hotels and B&B’s were closed for the night. We had to sleep in the car, so we drove to the top of the mountain overlooking the city and went to sleep. Above 4:00 in the morning, a light was shone in our window and it was a bobby (British policeman). He asked what we were doing and we explained. When he found out we were Americans, he told us he had a cousin in America and kept us up the rest of the night talking. We were really tired the next day doing research.

Longest town name in Wales

Thlan-Vair-Pullth-Gwin-Gilth-Go-Gerick-Wiern-drobilth-thlan-tie-sillio-go-go-gock. This is fairly close, but unless you are Welsh, you will not be able to say it perfectly!  Say it fast without taking a breath.

Beautiful Wales – The Land of My Fathers – Cymru am Byth 

We traveled into the Black Hills region of Central Wales and drove up a narrow road into the mountains until we came to Cefn Brith, a farmhouse built 1100 years ago! This farm was the birthplace of the Welsh Martyr – John Penry who was put to death in London in 1598 for treason.  But in reality, this was not the real reason.  He was a Puritan Minister who opposed the theology of the Church of England and Bishop Whitcomb wanted him stopped.  He had written a series of tracts under a pen name which were critical of the English Church and the Queen’s support.   In addition, he had lobbied to have the Bible printed in the Welsh language.  He was taken from the Clink Prison in London and hung and drawn and quartered.  He left a wife and four daughters.  His congregation escaped to Holland and sailed to America on the Mayflower!  I am sure he is a relative since our family came from that area, but I have not been able to make the connection.  

Cefn Brith was located in the Devynock Parish, who’s Vicar was also a Penry. Hugh Penry, Vicar, lived here in the year 1611 in a mansion in the village of Llangamarch Wells.  The Penry coat of arms is located above the door and indicates that our family are descendants of Elystan Glodrydd, who was ruler over this area in the ninth century.  At the time the area was known as Fferligs and he was the Prince of Fferligs – or Ferlix in Latin.

 Home of Hugh Penry, Vicar of Devynock 1611 with Penry Court of Arms Above Entrance

 

 
 We really lived Wales and the people. They were so friendly, especially when they found out that we were of Welsh descent. We visited the farm “Maesclyttwr” which means Farm on the Clyttwr creek (pronounced Mays Cletter). This was my ancestral home, the farm my ancestors had left to come to America. We introduced ourselves to the lady of the house, who showed us the house and insisted we stay for dinner. When her husband came in and she explained that our family had lived in the house nearly 200 years before, he asked, “Is this the first time you have been home?” He was serious. I was so touched that tears came to my eyes. What a wonderful greeting!
 

 

 

Gwenddwr, Maesclyttwr – Penry Farm  (Farm on Clyttwr Creek)

We decided to take a month-long trip to visit Scotland and Northern England. We checked out a tent and camping equipment from the base, and were joined by our friend from church, Ron Jones. We tied our luggage on top, Ron shared the back seat with our guitars, and away we went. Our first stop was Youth Conference at Keele University. We chaperoned the activities. From there we headed to Liverpool, and visited the place where the Beatle’s got their start. We took a ferry across the Mersey, and visited the docks of Liverpool. We then became victims of a local prank. Liverpool was named after a mythological bird, the Liver (pronounced Lyver) bird. The Liver building has big statues of liver birds on the roof.  An old man told us that these birds were mechanical and flapped their wings every hour. After sitting on a park bench for over two hours, we realized that we had been duped. I’m sure he had a good laugh at the expense of three gullible Yanks. We traveled north into Yorkshire and stayed one night in a farm field. The owner said he had campers from Denmark, Germany, and France, but we were the first @&*% Yanks. He charged us two shillings (about 24 cents for the night). We then headed to Scotland and visited Gretna Green, took the ferry to the Isle of Skye and camped at Portree, and stayed a night in the Vale of Glencoe which was nicknamed The Valley of the Shadow of Death, because of a clan massacre that had taken place there. We attended the Edinburgh Tattoo, which was a military presentation of pipe bands from all over the British Commonwealth, and demonstrations by military units. It was thrilling, especially the finale. After the mass bands had played, all of the lights went out. Then a single spotlight was shone on the top turret of the castle, and a Black Watch piper came out and played. Shivers still go up and down my spine at the recollection. We also went to Loch Lomond and viewed the highland cattle, and took the ski lift to the top of Ben Nevis. We went to Loch Ness and visited the ruins of Urquardt Castle. Unfortunately, we didn’t see “Nessie” but I think we had her for lunch at a local pub. We visited a number of castles and lochs. Edinburgh Castle was especially interesting. We looked out over the town, visited Margaret’s Chapel, and the room where Queen Mary slept. We learned all about the intrigue and life of Scotland’s early rulers. We visited the home of John Knox, who started the Presbyterian Church.

Beautiful Scotland

We then crossed the Firth of Forth to see Dunfermline Abbey, the burial place of Scottish kings. We also visited the cave where Robert the Bruce received his inspiration to continue fighting after watching a spider spin a web across the mouth of the cave. This was a fun but tiring vacation.

In 1968, we received the greatest news since we were married. Mary was pregnant! With her pregnancy came the usual morning sickness. She seemed to pick the most awkward times for the morning sickness to strike – at bus stops or on the bus. We were riding the bus, because I had already taken our car to Southampton for shipment to the States. We started packing up to return to America.

On January 23, 1968 The North Korean Navy captured an American ship, the U.S.S. Pueblo, commanded by Commander Butcher. I knew from my assignment in Security Service that this was a highly classified communications intelligence vessel. This was not a warship and its capture could prove to be disastrous to the intelligence community. This proved to be true after the crew was released. The boarding of the Pueblo was so fast, that the crew didn’t have time to destroy the classified documents. In the intelligence community, we were issued special magnesium grenades that we could drop into file drawers. These created a temperature hot enough to totally destroy the contents. The crew was taken by surprise and didn’t have time to react. Later on, North Korea made some of the documents public, which caused the military to have to change a number of special COMINT identifiers. In addition, North Korea published photographs of the crew supposedly “confessing.” What they didn’t realize that in the photo, Commander Butcher was giving the interrogator the bird.

Our three years in England came to an end in June 1968. I received orders to report to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas. We flew out of Mildenhall/Lackenheath AFB in June.

Last Updated Jan 30, 2013
 

The Air Force –1968-1972

I received orders to report to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas. We flew out of Mildenhall/Lackenheath AFB in June 1968.

 Leaving England and arriving at McGuire AFB Terminal

When we arrived in McGuire AFB, New Jersey, we were met by my Brother-in-Law Jim Gladden, who took us to Washington, D.C. As soon as I received word that my automobile had arrived in Brooklyn, New York, I took a bus and retrieved the car. It was sitting in a vast parking lot of vehicles that had been shipped from Europe. But there was a big problem. The car was a customized racing Anglia. The racing carburetor had been replaced with a stock carburetor; my racing bucket seats were gone, replaced by a couple of standard seats. The racing headlights had been stripped out, and there were just two vacant holes. The windshield wipers were gone. I filled out paperwork indicating the damage and theft. I had to get back to Washington D.C. before dark since I had no headlights, and it was pouring rain. I headed south with no wipers, and somewhere in Maryland, the rain got so heavy, I was forced to turn into a parking lot. Unfortunately there was a chain over the entrance that I could not see. I hit the chain and dented the front fender. I eventually got to Washington and got the car fixed so that we could proceed to our new assignment. We visited our families in Virginia and Ohio. It was now evident that Mary was pregnant!

Mary pregnant with our first child
 

 

But then came the day our vacation was over and we had to head to Texas.  We loaded up our little Ford Anglia and headed south.  We spent our wedding anniversary in Texarkana, Arkansas. The motel had a great outdoor swimming pool and we swam until nearly midnight. We then drove on to San Angelo. In San Angelo, we rented a small house just off the base.

 

We then acquired a little brown, long-haired dog of mixed breed. We named her M’lady. In England, we watched a TV show called “Thunderbirds.” The actors were puppets and it was a militaristic sci-fi and spy combination show. The show still airs sometimes on children’s channels, as “Thunderbirds are Go.” In this show, the head of the agency was called M’lady by her butler, thus the name.

 

M’Lady

M’Lady was a cute little dog. One of her games was catching horned toads and bringing them in the house. Since Mary was expecting our first child, we realized that I had no experience at all with infants. I didn’t know how to fasten a diaper, and this was in the days of pins – Pampers were a future invention. Poor M’Lady became our practice doll. The tail was a problem however. It’s hard to apply a triangular diaper to a baby with a long bushy, wagging tail!  We were beginning to get anxious awaiting the arrival of our first child.

Awaiting the new arrival – Summer of 1968

 

 

 

Front Gate, Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo, Texas

 

Goodfellow AFB Academic Library 

 

My job at Goodfellow AFB was to work at the Academic Library. Just outside of the library was the base flagpole that had a ship’s mast with an anchor at the base.  No one seemed to know where this came from and its significance, since the base was named for a World War I pilot who flew missions in France!

Goodfellow was a Security Service training site. At this base, men and women from all branches of service learned how to be radio operators and to interpret codes. We also had linguistic specialists. In the library, my job was to receive the newspapers and magazines from Communist countries and catalog them for use by interpreters. In order to do this, I had to learn to recognize the Chinese characters so I could catalog in English. I also learned to transliterate Russian. I had a special typewriter that had Cyrillic keys. I would type in Cyrillic, but the print was in Arabic letters. While working there, several things happened. My co-worker was bitten by a black-widow spider and I had to cover his work for a while.

There was a lot of wildlife around San Angelo including black-widow spiders, not just on the base, but also in our yards and around town.  Texas Coyotes are brown, not grey like those in the north.

Coyotes, Road-Runner, Horned (Toad) Lizard, Grey Fox, Tarantula

The tarantulas were especially creepy.  They would cross the road by the hundreds and you could hear them crunch as you ran over them.  They actually could make the road slick!

At the time, there were restrictions on trading with certain nations, such as Red China and Cuba. As intelligence operators, we needed access to publications from these countries, so we established third-party buyers in Hong Kong and Berlin. I would tell them what I needed. They would do the purchases, ship them to me, and bill the government. My Hong Kong buyer quit and my new buyer was unfamiliar with all the procedures. He made a mistake and sent one of my purchase orders directly to Peking. Imagine my horror when the Peking Daily News showed up on my desk addressed to Comrade TSgt Robert Penry. Once China had my name, it was like it had been sold to every Chinese periodical. I received photos of Chairman Mao, and magazines and invitations to visit. Thank goodness, we were in a top-secret facility and none of this leaked out at the time. One magazine called China Reconstructs was having a contest to commemorative the 50th anniversary of Chairman Mao’s famous march to Anyan Province where he reportedly gained the inspiration for his little red book of quotations. I submitted an entry into the contest as a gag, but the Chinese took it seriously and thanked me profusely for the wonderful suggestion of a painting entitled “Chairman Mao and His Close Comrade in Arms, Lin Pao, join with the Marxist-Leninists of Albania in Singing and Dancing the Mao Tse Dong Polka! They sent me an autographed picture of Chairman Mao and a calendar that I hung in the office.

Picture of Mao Tse Dong

We immediately became workers in the San Angelo Ward of the Church. I was called to be Scoutmaster. Our ward was unusual, being split between Anglos and Latinos. My home teaching district was in the Latino quarter. My companion was Brother Alvarez. I loved visiting the Spanish families. We were always given food. One sister made the best burritos that I have ever eaten. For Latino boys, cooking was not macho. We had to practically force them to work on the cooking skill awards and merit badges. Our Scout Camping trips on the Concho River were unique. Since other troops would be their, our boys were not going to be seen cooking. So their mother’s came too. All cooking at scout camp for Latino boys was done by their mothers.

  Hayride at Brother Taylor’s

During Sacrament Meeting, either the opening or closing prayer would be in Spanish. One Sacrament Prayer was Spanish and one talk was Spanish. Brother Alvarez and I loved to switch the prayers. He did the English and I did the Spanish. Being Texas, the dress for Sacrament Meeting included dress cowboy boots and Stetson hats. We had a wonderful time in the San Angelo Ward. The picnics out at Brother Odie Taylor’s ranch always included barbequed pecans, tubs full of cantaloupe and many, many gallons of ice cream. We also had a hayride as part of our activities. I don’t believe I have ever known someone who liked ice cream as much as Brother Taylor. Our Stake Center was in Midland, about 80 miles to the north. Stake meetings were on Saturday every month and Baskin and Robbins was an obligatory stop. Brother Taylor always started with a quart of mint chocolate chip and finished with a pint of mint chocolate chip for “dessert.”

Our bishop had been newly called when we arrived, and wanted to make an impression on the Latino members, so he asked Brother Hernandez how to say the word “Been” in Spanish. Brother Hernandez misunderstood and thought he had said, “Bean” and told him “frijoles.” Well, our bishop ended up asking one of our sisters in Spanish, either “Where are the beans, or How are the Beans.” She told him the beans were just fine and walked away with a puzzled look on her face. Those of us that knew some Spanish had a great laugh and the poor bishop was totally clueless.

San Angelo was an interesting city.  It was divided into two parts – the Anglo part on one side of the railroad, and the barrio or Latino section on the other.  When you crossed into the barrio, the streets weren’t paved.  It was almost like driving into Mexico.  I suppose there was a lot of prejudice, but we didn’t see it in the Church, and we did not harbor any such feelings ourselves.  We found the Latino members of the Ward to be especially friendly and gracious. 

One of our favorite locations was a steakhouse outside of town near the twin buttes.  When you came into the restaurant, you choose your steak out of a display case.  It was then cut into chunks, grilled and served with potatoes and Texas toast.  It was brought to the table in a big platter.  If the platter became empty, they brought another one.  No one ever left hungry!

A big event in San Angelo was the annual Rattlesnake Roundup.  There were lots of rattlesnakes in the area, and men would hunt them during the roundup, bring them to town, where they were killed, skinned, cut up, cooked and served for the public.  Pretty tasty!

 

 

 

 

Scenes in and around San Angelo, Texas

We had many friends, but special couples were Bob and Kathy Frome. Frank and Jackie Cowan, Paul and Becky Maxfield, and Mark and Marcine Evans. We were a group that hung out together. Eventually, all of us except Frank and Jackie had children in Texas. Unfortunately, after discharge from the Air Force, Paul and Becky moved back to Utah and they and their two children were killed in a head-on collision near Provo on Nov 10, 1970. Bob and Kathy and Mary and I went to San Antonio together for the World Fair called the Hemisfair in late 1968. The Church had a large pavilion and many of the General Authorities were there. We especially liked the boat ride on the San Antonio River, and the exhibition halls at the fair.  Do you recognize Gordon B Hinckley in the top left picture?

 
 

 

San Antonio, Texas – The River Walk and the Alamo

David Aaron Penry, born 23 November 1968, San Angelo, Texas 

Finally the big day arrived and Mary went into labor. I took her to Tom Green Hospital in San Angelo. The nursing staff said that it would be several hours before we could expect further development, so I headed off to the chapel to conduct my scout meeting. When I told the Bishop that Mary was in labor, he told me to get out and get to the hospital. I went back to the hospital and later that evening, Mary gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, our first child David Aaron Penry, named after ancestors on both sides of the family. I am not going to say much about my children in this chapter. I am putting stories of my children and grandchildren in their own chapter.

After the birth of our son, the Anglia seemed too small and just didn’t have the power needed in the U.S. We traded for a new 1969 blue Chevy Nova. This was a sharp looking and powerful car. At the end of my enlistment, I realized that I had been in the military for 10 years, and I didn’t feel that my career was going anywhere, so I decided to leave the Air Force. After my discharge we headed back to Ohio.

Next came the big question of what to do for work. I found out that the Carpenters’ Union local 785 in Marion was looking for a veteran in order to meet a quota. The union also needed a minority, so they took a young black man and me as apprentices. This apprenticeship also included a free education in carpentry techniques at Lima High School. Every week, we apprentices drove to the high school where we used its advanced shop facilities to learn how to saw, join, sand, polish and do cabinetry. Some skills such as carpentry measurement, use of tools, etc., would be on the job. I was sent out to a number of jobs that were interesting. These included installing siding on a high school in Marion, building a U.S. Department of Agriculture Laboratory in Delaware, Ohio, building salt sheds for the Ohio Highway Department, and laying floor tile in High Schools in Columbus.

We rented a farmhouse in Byhalia for $25 per month. The house was cold and drafty and the water was undrinkable. The water actually came out of the faucets containing crude oil and smelled of sulfur. We couldn’t bath in it. We would go to my parents to bathe. This picture is after it became abandoned.  But it didn’t look much better when we lived there!

Work was good and the pay was good at first, but it was during the Nixon administration and a major reduction in federal funds for construction was announced. I was laid off, and times got rough. I went to work for Harris and Jolliff Lumber Yard in Byhalia building pole barns for almost basic wages. My parents helped us, but I didn’t want to depend on either my parents or church welfare. There was another reason. Mary was pregnant with our second child, and I had no idea how we could afford the medical costs. I knew that something had to be done. So I contacted the Air Force recruiter and reenlisted in late September.

My Birthday Gift from my Mom – Martin D28 Dreadnought Guitar
 

 We received orders for Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. I would be retrained into the Personnel Career Field. This meant that I would need to go to school at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, reporting in October. Since we were leaving, my mother had bought a Martin D-28 guitar for my birthday, and since I would not be home for my birthday in January, she gave it to me on Mary’s birthday, September 28. Of all my earthly possessions, the Martin Guitar from my Mom is the most precious.  I can’t begin to tell how much pleasure it has given over the years.

Since I had to leave for Keesler AFB, I left Mary and David with her Mother in Tennessee and headed south.

Mary’s Aunt Rose’s house in Soddy, Tennessee –
Mary stayed with her Mom in a trailer behind the house
 

 

I was already a Staff Sergeant and the rest of the classes were just out of boot camp. The school asked if I would mind serving as a Training Instructor (TI) while there. This came with perks such as a private room in the TI barracks and lots of free time. My shift for school was the “C” shift, 6:00 p.m. until midnight. My duties as TI were to take charge of the class. I would pick them up at their barracks, march them in formation to the school and return them. Once a week, I also had to prepare them to pass in review. One night, a very scary thing happened. Our route back to the barracks was across an unused runway. There were barriers and signs warning vehicles to stay out. I had my squadron marching, when a car came barreling down the runway without lights and swerving from side to side, being hotly pursued by the police. I yelled at the troops to scatter and they took off in every direction. The car careened though the formation and fortunately missed everyone. We were shaking so bad, that I simply dismissed the troops and told them to go straight back to their quarters. The car was stopped about a half-mile down the runway and the driver arrested. I stayed and filled out reports. The driver was a drunken serviceman and I was told that I would have to testify at his courts-martial. The problem was that class was nearly over, and I did not want to have to stay. The prosecution decided that my written testimony would suffice. They said that they could always have me flown back if necessary.

Keesler AFB was in Biloxi, and had just been devastated by Hurricane Camille. Being a carpenter was great financial blessing. Since I didn’t have to be at work until 5:30 p.m., I was able to work in Biloxi. Since I was a union member, I was paid union wages and on Saturday’s I received double pay. I earned as much a week as a carpenter as I made in a whole month in the Air Force. Hundreds of carpenters were heading to the Gulf Coast, and had I known this, I could have done so myself. Work was available for years. But, in the end, every thing worked out for the best.

 

Rebecca Ann Penry, born 10 November 1969 Chattanooga, Tennessee

Mary gave birth to our second child, Rebecca Ann in Erlanger Hospital, Chattanooga, in the same hospital where Mary was born. This was on November 10, 1969, which was also the Marine Corps birthday. I received a phone call and the Squadron Commander gave me a three-day pass so I could head to Tennessee. Becky was a beautiful baby. She looked like a little doll.

Erlanger Hospital, Chattanooga, Tennesee –
Both Mary and Becky were born here
 

 

On the way back to base, I was stopped by the sheriff in Mile Straight, Tennessee, just down the road from Soddy-Daisy. The whole scene was so surreal; it could have been an episode from a comedy. The speed limit was 60 mph. I was doing the speed limit and came up behind a teenager driving a Dodge Daytona with a California Tilt and big drag-racing tires doing about 45 mph. The driver had two heads (He and his girl friend). I pulled around him and he realized he had been passed and of course, this was not cool. So he gunned it and came screaming around me with smoking tires. A deputy pulled out of a side road and stopped me! He looked like Jackie Gleason in “Smoky and the Bandit.” He had a pearl-handled revolver, an all-white suit and Stetson, Polaroid reflective glasses and a swagger. He said, “What’s your hurry, boy? You Yankees think you kin come down here and burn up our highways.” I told him that I wasn’t speeding. He replied, “Don’t give me that. I clocked that sumbitch doing 90 and I see’d you pass him!” He saw my uniform cap in the back window and said, “You a G.I. Boy? This is gonna cost you!” I told him what really happened and he told me I could tell it to the judge. He made me follow him down to a local hole-in-the-wall service station. The service station attendant, complete with greasy rag in back pocket came in, got behind the counter, and announced, “Courts in session.” He was the Justice of the Peace. I told him my story and he said, “Well, maybe you jist might be telling the truth and I’m only going to fine you two dollars.” He told me to pay the young lady sitting at the desk (His 15 year-old daughter). I handed her the two dollars, and she said, “that will be $29.50.” I told her the judge said two dollars, and she told me that there was $27.50 court costs. I bid a fond farewell to ole Tennessee and headed back to Mississippi, poorer by almost $30.

I had no sooner gotten back to base, then we were hit by another hurricane. There were so many hurricanes and tropical storms that year, that I don’t even remember their names. My car was parked in front of the barracks, and stone from the roof peppered it, scouring off the paint and glazing the windshield. Because of the prior hurricane, insurance work was backed up for months. I found a piece of plexiglas the size of my windshield and taped it on instead and headed for Tennessee to pick up Mary, David and Rebecca.  

We headed on to Idaho. As soon as we arrived in Mountain Home, I stopped at the State Farm Insurance Office and related the situation. They sent the car around to a local shop and replaced the windshield why we waited. This was great service. A week later the car was repainted. 

I reported into the Consolidated Base Personnel Office (CBPO), my place of duty. I was assigned to the unit that prepared orders for transfer – outbound assignments. I did this job for a while, and my experience in both the Marines and in the Radar Evaluation area, made me qualified to work in the area of force readiness. I was assigned to the Mobility Unit. My job was to help run a processing unit for troops being deployed to needed area around the world. These movements were practiced often and were called Operational Readiness Inspections (ORI). The command was Tactical Air Command (TAC) and the unit was the 366thTactical Fighter Wing. The planes were F-4 Phantom Fighters and F-4C Reconnaissance Aircraft. My office was in a hanger, and while there I designed and built a processing center, with special counters and equipment areas. This processing center was called the “Showplace of TAC,” and an Air Force Training Film was filmed there. This was my one and only time of being a “movie star!” Before the movie, we decided the hanger floor needed painting and so I got my team together and we painted and entire aircraft hanger floor with gray paint. We used rag mops for brushes. We had a problem in the hanger with black-widow spiders. I caught one and kept her as a pet and fed her flies. She lived in a jar on my desktop.

We started our tour at Mountain Home by renting a house in the village. Mountain Home wasn’t really in the mountains, although you could see the mountains on the horizon. It was originally called Rattlesnake Junction and in the 1800’s the town fathers wanted to attract the railroad. A railroad through Rattlesnake Junction would boost the economy. However, they decided that no one would want to visit such a place and they needed a more attractive name. They felt that everyone would want to visit Mountain Home, so they renamed the town. Did it work? No, the railroad passed by about twenty miles to the south. As soon as base housing became available, we moved onto the base. Our next-door neighbors were members of our LDS Branch, Brother and Sister Kennedy.

 

 

Scenes of the Mountain Home area.

 

In a few months, base housing became available and we moved onto the base. Once again we were in Wherry Housing.  Our building was in a court with a building on each side and a building at the end. We had a corner unit on the left side and Brother and Sister Kennedy were in a corner unit at the end of the court.

 

 
 
 

 

 

Mountain Home AFB, Elmore County, Idaho

In December 1970, we went to Ohio and Tennessee for the holidays.  In Tennessee Becky was ill and we took her to the same doctor that was Mary’s childhood physician.  He gave her two days of penicillin shots before we could leave Tennessee.  After we left Tennessee, heading west, we stopped at a military base in Texas because David was ill.  So now we had two children on medications with different schedules.  We hit bad weather across the Texas panhandle.  The roads were icy and we almost got hit head-on when a car came speeding down the wrong side of the interstate.  We stopped in Farmington, N.M. for the night, and headed out towards Utah the next morning, but the road was blocked, because a twin-engine plan had made an emergency crash landing onto the highway.  We waited until the plane was towed off.  We endured all this with two sick children and Mary pregnant with our third child.  

  

At Gilliam Farm, Somerville, Ohio 1970

Because we were rated the top unit in TAC, I was offered a position on the 12th Air Force ORI team based out of Bergstrom AFB, Texas. Our job was to pull surprise ORI inspections on Air Force bases both active and National Guard around the U.S. On some Thursday mornings, usually twice a month, I would take an Air Force flight from Mountain Home to Denver, where I would switch to a commercial airline and fly to the team destination. When I arrived, I would sign out a GSA car, make hotel reservations for the rest of the team and pick them up at the airport when they arrived. On Friday morning about 5:00 a.m., we would head to the base in the GSA car. We would stop at the main gate, leaving a man there to make sure that the base was not alerted about our presence. We then headed to the Command Post, where we announced our presence, directed the military police to pick up our teammate at the gate, and called a base-wide alert and recall. For the next 48 hours, we inspected response times and combat capabilities. The team was not large. There were six of us. Even though nothing would prohibit me giving their names, I have a very good reason not to. The names were hilarious in combination. Whenever we would check in at hotels, the clerks would often ask us what our real names were. I can only say this, the combination of names made us sound like we were stars in an X-rated movie! Late Saturday night I would fly back to the base and wait until time for the next ORI. Some of the bases we inspected were National Guard sites in Louisville, Indianapolis, Denver, Wichita Falls, Las Vegas, and Reno. We also inspected TAC regular bases such as Nellis AFB, Nevada, Holloman AFB, New Mexico, and several others. On one visit, I was getting ready to relax in my room at the hotel, when the team commander called for me. I supposed that he had some paperwork that needed my help, but when I got to his room he informed me that I would be spending the evening baby-sitting! It seems that he met a lady who had two small children and they wanted to go dancing, but she needed a baby-sitter, so he volunteered me! I protested, but when he offered me $50, I gave in.

While at Mountain Home, I began to realize that my future after the Air Force was limited. I didn’t possess the professional skills that would give me a good job in civilian life. I didn’t want to go back to carpentry or selling insurance, and work on the farm wasn’t even a consideration. So I decided that I needed to go to college. I had taken a couple of courses at Weber State College in Ogden while stationed at Hill AFB, but I knew it was time to get serious. I enrolled at Boise State College through the Base Education Office and started taking courses on base. The professors and some base personnel with higher education were instructors. I wanted to major in history and took some very good courses in both history and literature. I then applied for the Bootstrap Program. This Air Force educational program gave up to a year off with paid education on campus. You would continue to draw your salary, but attend college full-time as long as the degree furthered your military career area. I changed my major to Personnel Management and started full time at Boise State. This was really tough. I would get up at dawn and get ready to make the 60-mile drive to the campus. My first class of the day was at 7:40 a.m. I wanted to get the most for my dollar, so I signed up for 21 semester hours. This load meant that I attended classes five days a week from early morning until late in the evening. I stayed with friends in the Church, Mark and Marcine Evans for a couple of days each week. They lived in Meridian, just outside of Boise. My math skills were so poor that the college recommended Math 190, a non-credit course. But I refused and signed up for Algebra 1 instead and bought a self-learning workbook and spent the summer before studying and preparing myself. I got through the course with a B+ and was elated. I did my studying in the LDS Institute and took an Institute Course on the Doctrine and Covenants. This was a very successful education period and I was always grateful to the Air Force for the opportunity. It paid off handsomely in later years.

Mary gave birth to our third child Karen in March of 1971. This was a traumatic time. In Ohio, Mary was treated at the Smith Clinic in Marion. Our pediatricians partner, Ed Charnock needed to fill a military obligation and when we got to Mountain Home, Dr. Charnock was now Captain Charnock. Because we were from the same town in Ohio, Ed and I had a closer relationship than with most doctors. I had dropped Mary off at the hospital because she was in the very early stages of labor. I had gone home to take David and Becky to a baby-sitter and had stopped off at the office for a few minutes to let my supervisor know and then headed back to the hospital. By the time I got back, it was all over. Mary had given birth. When I got there, they had called for Doctor Charnock, the base pediatrician. They wouldn’t let Mary or I see the baby, and I knew something was wrong. The other pediatrician was on call and Ed was on his way, when I was informed that Karen had been born with a bi-lateral cleft palate. When Mary woke up she was informed and we were permitted to see the baby. This was very traumatic, seeing our child so deformed. We were then told that this would require a plastic surgeon to correct. Karen had trouble eating and couldn’t be nursed normally. She was fed though a tube and syringe. We learned how to care for her and Ed let us know that regular military channels didn’t apply. If we needed him, we were to call him at home and he would come to our quarters. House calls in the military were unheard of. I don’t think he will ever know how much we appreciated and loved him for his service.

 

A plastic surgeon, Dr Call, was found in Boise and he did the corrective surgery. Everyone at Church and on the base was so supportive. The surgery was wonderful and a beautiful little girl emerged. Karen was extremely active and loved to kick. One Sunday morning she was lying on Mary’s lap in Church, her nose and mouth all in bandages and gave a mighty kick and propelled herself right off Mary’s lap onto the floor. She screamed! Mary broke into tears! Off to the hospital we rushed! No real damage was done except for our pride. We were so embarrassed.

By this time, our oldest child was a toddler and starting to talk.  One day, he was looking out the window saying “doggy, doggy.”  We didn’t have a dog and looked out onto our patio.  His doggy was a coyote!

David’s “Doggy” 

The Church at Mountain Home was different. We were totally military. This is the only place we have ever been in the Church that had a problem with rank. This problem didn’t exist with the brethren. We left our rank at the Church door. However, several of the sisters that were married to officers, formed an exclusive group and were standoffish. Oh well, why not tell it like it was. They were snobs! Our Branch President was a Master Sergeant, and they just didn’t think that this was proper. The Branch President should have been an officer in their minds. One sister in particular was married to a Lieutenant and her father was a full Colonel. When she bore her testimony, she never failed to say “My father, the Colonel.”  We tolerated it and ignored it as much as possible. We had another sister who was a disciple of the teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith. I think she had memorized every thing he had ever written, and she managed to quote him in every Gospel Doctrine Class we attended.

The men and boys decided that we needed a winter outing. So we took our sleds and tubes and snowmobiles up to Sardine Canyon above Brigham City on the way to Logan. This was a great winter recreation area. We were having a great time, until disaster hit. We were sledding and tubing over a saddle between two hills when the Branch President and his son, who were riding together on an inner tube, lost control and went over the side of the saddle. There was a twenty-five foot drop onto the highway. A pickup truck was parked along the side and they landed in the bed of the truck. The Branch President broke his back, and his son had a broken elbow. They were airlifted out, and shortly thereafter, the Base Commander outlawed tubing.

Actually, this was not the only disaster. A member of our branch, a dentist, broke his hip on one of our scout campouts, when he drove his snowmobile into a ravine. We had been warned about traversing a slope horizontally because there could be filled gullies, but he did not heed the warning. Another time, we were tubing and sledding near Sun Valley. We were on the mountain and stopped to look out from a scenic overlook, when someone decided this looked like a good spot to tube. It was steep and fast and fun. We spent several hours tubing, and I started down through the twisting gully on a very large truck tube. On a turn, I over corrected and shot out of the gully about 10 feet in the air and flew over a rock outcropping. When I hit the ice slope on the other side, the tube went one way and I went head first down the slope out of control. I plowed a small furrow with my bottom teeth and looked ahead and saw that I was going to hit the top strands of a barbed-wire fence. I managed to turn sideways and tuck and hit the fence. It was like a slingshot. It stretched and tossed me back about six feet. My shoulder was twisted, my lip was cut and my dignity was definitely bruised. I crawled back up the slope and we headed home.

Just to show that I did not learn my lesson, I will relate an incident that happened some years later. We were stationed at Hill AFB, and gone tubing as a family. Karen was seven years old and sitting on my lap going down a slope, when the tube slipped off the intended path and went down a step grade, over an embankment, and we landed in a frozen streambed. Karen was terrified and has never been tubing again. My bottom was sore for a week! 

While we were at Mountain Home, Mary decided she needed to lose weight and joined the local TOPS club.  She did a great job!

 
Mary and TOPS and KOPS
 

 

As a family, we often went to Boise, especially to the Hogle Zoo and Julia Davis Park.  Our kids loved the trips and so did we.

Scenes from Boise, Idaho and area
 

 

Hogle Zoo, Boise, Idaho

 

 
Kids in Idaho
 

I knew that I was due a remote assignment. The Vietnam War was raging and I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would have to go. I received orders for Danang, Republic of Vietnam, leaving in June. We were shipping our household goods back to Ohio where Mary would stay for my year in Vietnam. The moving van was just about out of sight at the end of the street, when a staff car came up to the house moving fast. It was the out-processing supervisor who informed me that my orders had been cancelled. The unit that I was to join had been moved from Vietnam to Thailand and that manpower was being reduced. We were in a panic, the car was packed, we had just vacated base housing, and our furniture was on its way east. What were we to do? I went back to the personnel office and we called headquarters in Randolph AFB, Texas. They immediately opened up a slot in the 49th TAC Fighter Wing at Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand instead, and we headed east.

We rented a house in Marion for Mary and the three children. Mary drove me down to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, and I left for South-East Asia (SEA). Mary needed a pediatrician again, and who do you suppose had been released form the Air Force? Yes, it was Ed Charnock.

 Saying goodbye – Wright Patterson AFB, Fairborn, Ohio

Last Updated Jan 31, 2013
 

Chapter 7 Part 4 – The Air Force 1972-1973

I received orders to report to the 49th Tac Fighter Wing at Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand.

I flew to Travis AFB, California, the jumping off point for all flights to the Pacific. Since we were flying a combination of military and leased civilian flights, everything was overbooked. We were told that the wait could be up to a week, and I was assigned to transmit quarters. I went to San Francisco sightseeing for one day. I wanted to see the hippies.

 

We were told that we had two options, one to wait in the transmit barracks until a flight became available, or to hang around the terminal, hoping to catch a hop to SEA. It was about 2:00 a.m., and an Army Master Sergeant and I were waiting, when an announcement came over the loudspeaker calling our names. We were asked if we would mind going on a USO flight. We said “No,” grabbed our bags and headed out to the tarmac to a waiting Boeing 727.

 We went aboard, and noticed that most of the people in the plane were beautiful young women. We had just joined the Miss America tour. For several days we visited Anchorage, Guam, Manila, and Tokyo acting as escorts. I was assigned to Miss America, Laurel Lea Schaefer from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and Julia Nebeker, Miss Utah, who was LDS.
 
 
 
 
 Miss America 1972 – Laurel Lee Schaefer from Reynoldsburg, Ohio

 

 

When we arrived in Tan San Nhut, Vietnam, we were greeted by “Charlie” (the Viet Cong,) who were shooting at us. The plane rolled right up as close to the terminal as possible; a vehicle was placed between the plane and the terminal entrance to provide cover. Everyone ran into the terminal. I dove under a bus and rolled out the other side and dashed inside. After a few minutes, the firefight ended. I said goodbye to the girls, who wished me luck on my tour, and caught a flight to Thailand on a C-147 Hercules.

My flight went to Don Muang Royal Thai AFB in Bangkok into the most confusing mess I had ever encountered. There were Sergeants shouting directions. Thai men who wanted to take your luggage, kids begging, and the heat and smell were horrible. We were ushered into a briefing room, and given the standard Army lecture on VD, and a briefing on country customs. We were then assigned to hotels in Bangkok and warned to make sure that our luggage went on the right bus. My luggage went on the wrong bus anyway and I figured that I was going where my luggage went, so I got on the wrong bus too. I remember that a garbage dump was being burned, and the smell was so bad, we were trying not to breathe! Instead of going to the enlisted hotel, I ended up in the posh Officers lodging. No one seemed to really care.

 
Bangkok, Thailand
 

 

The next day, a bus took us back to the terminal, where I caught the “Klong” to Takhli. The country of Thailand is laced with a system of canals called “Klongs.” Because the C-130 “Klong” made a round-robin flight daily to all bases in Thailand, it was given the same name. The C-130 is a four-engine camouflaged cargo plane. We sat on web-seats and enjoyed the very noise, bumpy ride to our destination. We flew to U-Tapao, Korat, Udorn, Ubon and Nakhon Phanom on the Laotian border before arriving at Takhli.

There were a handful of us that were headed to Takhli and we landed in early afternoon at the base Aerial Port and a bus transported us to the CBPO for processing. Since I was a member of the CBPO that was assigned to the 49th Air Base Support Group, this was an easy transition.

 

49th TFW Patch

 

 

I was assigned to a “Hootch” across the street from the office. In World War II, Thailand was occupied by Japanese troops. They built barracks which were long buildings built up about two feet off the ground on stilts. These buildings had five rooms on each side of a central partition and a veranda down each side. This veranda had louvers that blocked the sun from shining directly into the rooms. Each of the rooms had a privacy panel that came up about 3½ feet from the floor and then had screen to the roof. The walls of the rooms were about 7 feet high and the space above was open throughout the entire building. Up in the eaves were ceiling fans that circulated air throughout the building.

We called these barracks hootches. This is a variation of the Japanese word “uchi” which means house. At the end of each building were vending machines. I had an end room that meant that my wall on one side went all the way to the roof. This was kind of neat because I was able to build high shelves, which gave me more storage than the other rooms. Unfortunately, just outside my wall at the end was a beer vending machine. The price for a can of beer was fifteen cents and I had to listen to the darn thing going Ka-Ching, Ka-Ching day and night!  We all had maid service.  Very expensive – $5 a month!  My maid’s name was Cheep (pronounced Jeep) from Laos.  Her husband was a Thai Master Sergeant and she made more money than him.  She cleaned my room, shined my shoes, washed my clothes, took my laundry to the cleaners and brought my lunch (usually steamed rice and vegetables).  I would reimburse her for the cost of the cleaners and lunch.  The base cleaners put so much starch in our uniforms that you could actually stand the trousers up!  You had to physically open the legs and they made a crunching sound as the starch separated!  Our maids cleaned our clothes by beating them on the stones at the stream bank.  We were constantly buying new socks and underwear.  

One of my greatest shocks was the first night I arrived at Takhli.  It was hot and I needed a shower.  Several of us were in the shower washing, when the maids came in, undressed and joined us!  Talk about shock.  Only in the big cities were there separate restrooms for men and women.  It was very difficult at first getting used to common restrooms and public baths.  

 

 

My roommate was an old Master Sergeant named Jess. He was 53 years old, 2 years out of mandatory retirement. He was a grandfather, and an alcoholic and would come in drunk almost every night, singing country and western songs. He wasn’t a good singer, and his favorite song was a Charlie Pride tune “Is Anybody Going to San Antone.” Unfortunately, he only knew one verse, which he would sing over and over until I told him to shut up and go to bed. We had fans and a refrigerator in our room. He kept a supply of beer in the fridge, and would open one up and flop into bed. He would drink about half of it, fall asleep and in the morning, wake up, reach down and drink the other half of a warm beer before getting up. I got tired of this routine and went to downtown Takhli and purchased a stuffed cobra. It stood about two feet high with the hood spread. One night after Jess had gone to bed, I sat the cobra next to his bed by the pillow. From my bed, I said, “Don’t move Jess!” He said in a drunken slur, “Huh?” I repeated, “Don’t Move Jess!” He turned his head and looked straight into the eyes of a cobra. The sweat started pouring down his face and he was frozen, not moving even an eyebrow. I’m lucky he did not have a heart attack. I told him that I would try to hit it with my shoe. He would have made a great ventriloquist, as he managed to talk without moving his lips at all. He was saying, “No, No, Don’t do nuthin!” Finally, I jumped out of bed, grabbed the cobra and told him it was stuffed. Talk about mad, he chased me about two blocks. But he was old and fat and had no chance. He would not speak to me for about three days. Then he started telling everyone about the great practical joke, and all was well.

Venomous snakes were a problem.  We were very careful to avoid walking in tall grass or reaching inside of a banana plant.  Bananas grew everywhere and you could pick and eat a banana anytime you wanted.  Our bases had been closed for several years and while reopening, three men were bitten by snakes the first day while clearing the tall grass.  We tried to stay on sidewalks as much as possible unless we were in a mowed area.  

The Russell’s Viper was the most feared.  We called it the “three-stepper” because that is about how many steps you managed after being bitten.

In addition to snakes we had many other “critters”.  There were monkeys, little frogs we called “re-up frogs” because that is the sound they made “re-up, re-up.” and a big lizard called a Tokay Gecko, that lived in the rafters of our hootch.  It makes a sound that has to be heard to explain.  It would suck air then make an explosive call that the natives said was, “To-Kay!”. We thought it was saying something a lot more vulgar in response to the “Re-up.”

 

We had several choices of places to eat on base. We had the regular chow hall that was OK and since I was married cost me $1.95 per day to eat there. Another place was the NCO Club. Many of the NCO’s ate there because they could get beer with their meal. Since I did not drink, this did not really appeal to me. Another reason I did not like the club was because it always had topless dancers.

I ate most of my meals in the Thai Restaurant on base. It was less than a block from my hootch and was an outdoor restaurant. I could get a large platter of Thai Fried Rice that was loaded with chicken and beef and fried egg, and accompanied by cucumbers, green onions and tomatoes. It was delicious and cost twenty-five cents. For another dime, I got an ice-cold Pepsi.

The water in Thailand was not drinkable. We drank only bottled water. When we traveled away from the base, we were instructed not to drink the local water. If bottled water was not available, we were directed to drink iced tea that had been boiled. Since this was a military directive, and local water was contaminated, we told by our branch president that it did not constitute a violation of the Word of Wisdom. In the town of Takhli, were several very good restaurants. A T-bone steak dinner complete with dessert and side dishes cost $1.00, which might be beef, but sometimes was water buffalo. We could not eat salad because it had been washed with local water. The problem with Thai water was that it often came from the klongs and reservoirs, not from deep wells. It was always loaded with bacteria that gave us a terrible case of “Montezuma’s revenge,” or could even carry Typhoid and other tropical diseases. We took quinine regular to prevent Malaria and there would be occasional outbreaks of hepatitis and we would all have to take gamma globulin shots.

Thailand was a beautiful country and the people were very handsome. The architecture was unique, especially the Buddhist Wats (Temples), with the carved dragons, elephants, and devil-dogs in bright colors, or perhaps covered with gold. I managed to travel to Chiang Mai in the North to see the elephants work, and to see the Thai Dancers. Chiang Mai was a tourist area, and was located in the mountains that were actually the foothills of the Himalayas where the air was cool and fresh. Besides regular buses, a popular form of transportation for long distances was the “one-baht bus.” This was a brightly decorated Toyota pickup with a canvas cover over the back of the truck, the bed that had benches for passengers. We paid a total of $5.00 each for a round-trip to Chiang Mai a 300 Kilometer trip each way. It was long and uncomfortable, but the result was wonderful.

 
Chiang Mai 
 
 
 

Orchid Market – Chiang Mai

Thai Traditional Dance – Chiang Mai

 

Buddha – Chiang Mai

Wat Interior – Chiang Mai

Costumed Dancers Chiang Mai

 

Most the Thais were able to speak English – sort of. We found ourselves conversing in this same dialect adding Thai words. Even though I was never proficient in Thai, I was able to speak enough of the language to make my conversation understandable. The written language of Thailand is not like ours. The alphabet and characters are entirely different. This made it impossible for we Americans to read anything written in Thai. Because of the enormous military presence in Thailand during the Vietnam conflict, most signs were bi-lingual. Here is a picture of the Thai alphabet.

 

My name in Thai was particular funny. The natives pronounced it as Pen-Lie. They were unable to annunciate the letter R. Thus words like sorry become solly, America was Amelica, etc. Unfortunately Pen-Lie means no sweat, or don’t worry. Thus I became Sergeant “No Sweat.” Another problem was the word Sir. Even though the Thais could do a passable job with Sir, they usually said Suh. However, Suh in Thai means stupid. Storekeepers would say, “Yes, Suh.” And then giggle.

The Thai language has a very peculiar trait. Almost every sentence ends with a word that has no meaning in and of itself. It is almost like a spoken punctuation mark. The problem is that men use one sentence ending, and women another. Men say the word “kup” at the end of the sentence and the women say “Ka.” It is important not to mix this up. If a man uses “Ka” it means he is gay!

Thais have a number of taboos.  Many involve touching.  Men and women are never seen showing affection in public.  But it is common to see people holding hands walking down the street – women with women and men with men!  For Americans, seeing men holding hands was rather strange.  Another is touching sacred things.  Buddha statues should not be touched or spirit houses, or old, old trees, which will be inhabited by spirits of deceased ancestors.  Under no circumstances is a woman to ever touch a Buddhist monk!  Our female airmen were warned about this.  We pat a child on the head as a sign of affection.  This insults the spirit in Thailand, where people believe a person’s spirit dwells in the head.  Other taboos deal with royalty.  If you should drop a coin with the King’s image, never step on it to stop it rolling.  It would be a grave insult to step on the head of the King.

Bringing up King Bhumibol Adulyadej or Queen Sirikit in conversation was a definite no-no. They were considered sacred and any familiarity about them was strictly taboo. Up until the 20thcentury, to look at them resulted in death. When they passed, the Thais had to prostrate themselves with their faces down. 

 

Since the foot touches the dirt, it was considered an unclean part of the body, and to point your foot at someone was the height of rudeness. We were instructed to never sit with our legs crossed. This points the foot. The Thais didn’t normally use chairs. They sat with their feet under them, actually squatting and sitting on their heels with their bottom on the ground, or eat in a Lotus position. Americans just couldn’t get into that position. This was something that had to begin almost in infancy. A visit to a Thai home for dinner was usually pretty uncomfortable. We learned to sit on mats to eat and usually just had to put our legs out to the side. Thais understood that we didn’t have the physical ability to sit like them. Notice the Americans on the right.  

 

 

Thai Market – Note how the man is sitting

When greeting someone, men will say Sah Wah Dee Kup, which means Hello, or Nice to See You. Women respond with Sah Wah Dee Ka. The greeting is accompanied by a gesture called a “Wai.” Thais do not traditionally shake hands because of the touching taboo; the wai is the usual greeting. The hands are placed together as in prayer, and raised upwards towards the face, while the head is lowered in a slight bow. The height to which the hands were raised depends on the status of the person to whom you wai. In the case of monks, dignitaries and old people the hands were raised to the bridge of the nose, with equals only as far as the chest. Young people and inferiors do not receive a wai, but receive a slight nod instead. You were regarded as a little foolish if you wai to them, even though they will present you with a wai out of respect for your age.

The monetary system was called Bhat. A baht equaled about 2.5 cents. Thus a dollar was equal to about 38 baht. Since Baht came in decimal denominations, we soon learned to make rapid mental calculations. However, everything in Thailand was so inexpensive, that it really wasn’t a problem.

 

Thai Currency

Another taboo was indecent dress. Thai men were seldom seen shirtless and we were expected to do the same. The dress for women was very modest with full-length sarongs. However, little children often ran around naked.

But the modesty in dress didn’t extend to bodily functions. Thais didn’t have separate restrooms. Everyone used the same restroom at the same time. When traveling, busses would stop along the road and everyone would go use the ditch. I mentioned my first night on the base. We had just opened the base, and they didn’t understand our customs. Eventually, they began to sense that their presence made us uncomfortable and stopped using our restrooms and shower.

Thai religion was a mixture of Buddhism and Animism. Thais believe in ghosts and have little white houses on posts in front of their houses that look somewhat like a birdhouse. This house is for the ghosts of their ancestors and they put gifts in these houses. They believe that spirits live in many places. A large tree standing alone would certainly house a spirit and should be treated with reverence. The populace supported Buddhist monks who, each morning, would walk around with their rice bowls. People would give them rice. Small boys spent at least a year as an apprentice monk. You would see them at the Buddhist school in their red robes and shaved heads.

Boys at Thai Village School. The shaved head means
that he just finished his Monk apprenticeship
 

 

Thais played a game called takraw where they kick around a small woven ball. It is very similar to hacky sack. The Thais would get in a circle and kick the ball around for hours without it touching the ground. I tried it a few times, but it was very, very difficult.  In Thailand, Takraw is a competitive team sport as popular as baseball in the U.S.

 

Probably, the best-known sport of Thailand is Thai Boxing.  Both feet and hands are used.

 

Thai Boxing

Thai children were very cute. Unfortunately they knew it, and knew that they could beg change from Americans. It was impossible to walk around town without being continually accosted by little beggers.

 

 

Another problem was prostitution. As soon as you stepped off the bus or from a taxi, you were immediately propositioned. You soon learned that the best thing to do was to look over the head of the children and prostitutes and just ignore them. If you didn’t acknowledge their presence, they would leave you alone.

America’s shame – Thai half-American orphan.  These children were shunned in Thai society.

There is a sad story behind this child, 4 years old.  I wanted to adopt her and bring her back to America, but couldn’t get the mountain of paperwork processed in order to do so.

When we traveled on the dirt streets around the town of Takhli, we usually traveled by samlor. This was a pedi-cab – a bicycle attached to rickshaw type seat. The word samlor in Thai means three-wheels. It could seat two and the cost for a ride was a baht (equal to five cents) regardless of the destination in town. For five baht (25 cents) you could rent a samlor for the day. 

 

Very rare white elephant on base

The sites in Takhli were the orphanage, the school for Buddhist Monks, the regular student schools, and the movie theater that showed Chinese Kung-Fu movies. The Thais could never figure why we would sit in the movies and laugh at the stunts that were so ludicrous. One of the favorite techniques was to show a scene backwards. This meant that the hero did a back flip backwards from the ground to the top of a 10-foot wall.

Water Buffalo – Very Tasty!

 

We were relatively safe in Thailand, although we were hit by guerillas from Burma a couple of times. They attacked the base one night and killed the guards at the gate. They were in a truck and tried to get to the flightline to attack the planes. Evidently, their intelligence gathering was limited. They did not know that the road to the flight line was lined with machine-gun bunkers. They were blown apart before they even got close to the planes. Another time, they had set up mortars and rockets on one of the hills overlooking the base. Our base operations officer was doing a routine fly-over and spotted the activity. An F-111 was scrambled and took them out.

While I was there, the 49th TFW rotated stateside and was replaced by the 474th  TFW from Nellis AFB, Nevada. The 49th had been an F-4 unit, and the 474th  flew the F-111.

47th TFW Patch

 

 

 F-4 Phantom 

 

 

 

F-111 Aardvark 

 

F-111 at Takhli.  Notice the bombs already loaded. 

The F-111 was been previously tried in SEA, but had been pulled out because of mechanical difficulties. The monsoon type rains that were so frequent would drown the engines on landing, which caused a two million dollar replacement. General Dynamics had redesigned the engine intakes that diverted the water downward on takeoff and landing and solved the problem. The 474th was the first unit back in SEA with the F-111. We lost the first flight out. The wing executive officer flew into a mountain in a monsoon rain. The problem was that the rainfall was so dense that the terrain-following radar was unreliable. Pilots soon learned to avoid monsoon rains and usually planned the missions around the rains. The monsoons in, October, were very predictable. It rained promptly at 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. for 30 minutes. During that time, the water on the base became 8 inches deep. Thus all of our sidewalks and buildings were elevated. The North Vietnamese soon came to fear and respect the F-111. It had the ability to fly radar-controlled 200 feet above the ground at mach 1. It was impossible to see or hear it coming and it was gone before the enemy could react. It targeted SAM missile sites. Since the SAM’s used proximity fuses, which detonated at a certain distance from the target, the F-111’s came in low, the missiles would launch and immediately explode, destroying the launching site. The speed of the F-111’s had them safely away from the explosion. The F-111’s also carried smart bombs that were either laser or TV controlled. They had the ability to actually put a missile through an open door in a building, guided by the Weapons Systems Officer in the plane. During Linebacker-two, a bombing mission late in the war, a combination of F-111’s and B-52’s were credited with almost total destruction of North Vietnamese combat capability. They virtually destroyed all communications, transportation and supply capabilities of Hanoi. Our biggest fear was that Red China would enter the conflict actively instead of just lending material support. This was one of the reasons that we were not permitted to totally bring North Vietnam to its knees. We had the military capability, but the political ramifications made total destruction impossible. This is why the military hates it when politicians fight wars instead of generals.

My Air Force specialty was 73270 – Personnel Technician.  I was assigned to the Central Base Personnel Office (CBPO).  My job in the CBPO was force accountability. I managed the reports that tracked who was at Takhli, which units/individuals were TDY from Takhli and where, and dependents in country and where they were located.  Our base was the central point for tracking all troops in South East Asia, Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines.  Attached to our building was an air-conditioned semi-trailer with keypunch machines, storage cabinets and primitive wire-board reporting equipment.  We had a card for every single service man and dependent in Thailand, Vietnam, and some places where we did not officially send personnel.  I sent information to this operation, but a group that stayed by themselves, had separate quarters, and did not wear uniforms manned it.    I don’t know if they were civilians, part of the CIA, or black ops types.  I do know that they knew the location of every single American and perhaps other supporting countries too.  They tracked leaves, deaths, rotations, combat operations, etc.  If a dependent came to visit, they would know what hotel that person was staying in.  Why?  Our biggest fear was Chinese invasion of SEA.  If this occurred we would have to get people out of SEA quickly to safe havens.

 Aerial Port – Building on Left

I was in charge of meeting all flights of incoming personnel to Takhli and processing out those going home out at the Aerial Port.  The Aerial Port was located at the end of the runway, several miles from the main base.  If an aircraft was incoming from CONUS (Continental US), I would be notified, would gather my crew and head out.  This could be anytime in a 24 hour period.  We would catch a ride on a base bus and turn on the lights at the Aerial Port and get ready for processing inbound or outbound troops.  One night we couldn’t find the bus driver.  He was a native and was probably off somewhere smoking pot.  Anyway, we had to hoof it for the three miles with our gear and arrived after the plane.  The troops could not deplane and were sitting in the 100 degree heat.  The Military Air Command (MAC) Pilot was furious.  The next day, I got called on the carpet by the base commander.  I explained the situation, and he called in a Major and asked, “Have you been assigned a jeep?”  The Major replied “Yes, Sir,” and the General said, “It belongs to this Sergeant now.”  Anyway from that point on I had my own transportation. 

While working at the Aerial Port, there were several interesting things that happened.  One night we were heading down the road and a huge Burmese Python was laying across the road.  He was as big around as a telephone pole.  If I had hit him, it would have wrecked the jeep, so we waited for him to cross.  

Another time, an F-111 crashed on takeoff about 100 years out from where we were working.  The rear-wheel assembly had failed and caused it to skid about 300 years down the runway and burst into flames.  It was mission-loaded with 500 pound bombs.  We had MP’s that worked with us to provide security.  They jumped into an armored personnel carrier (APC) and drove right through the flames to the side of the plane.  Jumped out of the top hatch, and pulled both the pilot and weapon systems officer into the APC and headed back to the Aerial Port.  About 30 yards from the plane the bombs exploded.  The APC bounced about 15 feet in the air, came down and kept coming.  All were safe.  The MP’s were awarded Silver Stars for heroism in a combat situation.  

Another situation occurred one night which had me worried.  One our of squadrons was rotating back to Nellis AFB in Nevada.  They partied at the Officer’s Club and were pretty wasted when they got to the Aerial Port.  Instead of being in regulation uniform, they were in either flight suits or party suits (these were bright colored one-piece suits you could buy locally.  We all had them).  I told them they had to change into regulation uniforms or they couldn’t depart on a MAC flight.  They stripped and changed.  However, their commander, a Colonel, was belligerant and giving me a hard time.  I told him he would have to leave.  Finally, I had the MP’s arrest him and take him away.  They next day, I was called into the Wing Commander’s Office.  The General asked me “Did you have a squadron commander arrested last night?”  The Squadron Commander was standing there also.  I replied “Yes, Sir.” He asked me to explain the situation which I did.  He then said.  “Good job Sergeant, I like a man who has b****!”  He made the Colonel apologize.  

Here is a typical scene at the Aerial Port.  The plane lands and I walk out to the plane carrying my megaphone.  I get on the plane and say.. “Good morning, and welcome to sunny Takhli, Thailand.  The time is 0315 local and the temperature is currently 104 degrees.  A bus is waiting outside to take you to the CBPO for in processing.  Many of you have friends here already, who may be waiting outside to greet you.  Under no circumstances, may you ride in any vehicle but the bus, regardless of rank.  Make sure you check overhead compartments and under your seats for personal items.  If you have trash, please deposit it in the trash can by the exit door.  See you at the CBPO.”  I then went back to the Aerial Port, dismissed the MP’s, turned off the lights, and my crew and I headed to the CBPO where we in-processed the troops and housed them in overnight transit quarters if necessary.  For outbound troops, we checked shot records, health-clearance forms, orders, and made sure they were in proper uniform before releasing them to board the MAC Flight.  Why health-clearance? No one was allowed to depart country if they had certain health problems.  We did not wish to transmit hepatitis or STD’s back to the states.  Every person departing was given a health check then restricted to base for 30 days prior to departure.  There were no exceptions.  Married personnel who had dependents in country were expected to have them depart before the 30 days.  

One night, when we finished in processing, someone had left a very expensive SLR camera.  I turned it into the MP’s.  Anyway, when I got ready to go home myself, the MP’s returned the camera to me, informing me that no one had ever claimed it.  I used it for years.  

My area of expertise was the processing of troops and accounting for them. Congress had put a ceiling on the number of troops that could be in SEA. Our job as assigned by President Nixon was to find a way to circumvent the congressional decree. Nixon wasn’t called Tricky Dick for nothing. I would track the troop locations, in Korea, Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, Guam, and Hawaii. This included all services and dependents. We played a shell game with the statistics. The amount of troops in SEA could be up to three times higher than what the paperwork showed. Most of us didn’t like the subterfuge and were not really loyal to our Commander in Chief. Comments at Takhli about Nixon were very unfavorable. During the impeachment hearings, the expression “Hang him high,” was heard frequently. I also worked in the base library in the evenings.

CBPO Officers

Because of my expertise in processing, and because I had demonstrated the ability to write documentation, I was sent TDY to Hickham AFB, Hawaii for two weeks while in SEA.  While there, I authored a Mobility Processing Manual for PACAF.  They asked me to document what I had learned during my tours.  They had been informed that I had designed the methodology for Tactical Air Command (TAC), both on the base and while assigned to the Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) Team from the 13th Air Force, Bergstrom AFB, Texas, and that my performance was rated the highest in this area in both TAC and PACAF.  

My Office in the CBPO.

As recognition of my expertise and performance, I was awarded a Commendation Medal and received an outstanding fitness report that helped my promotion to Technical Sergeant.

Base moral was always a problem. This was the “Golden Triangle” region, the source of much of the drug import to the U.S. This of course affected the base. This was the early 1970’s and drug use among the troops was heavy. Marijuana was as common as tobacco. We had a Thai janitor who used to sit under my window in the office and smoke weed. It would get so thick that I would start to get light-headed and make him move. Fortunately, drugs were never a problem for me. I can truthfully say that I have never in my life used any type of drugs except medications properly prescribed. On our base, we had an officer in charge of the drug problem. He was supposed to stop the problem but instead, he ended up in an opium den in Chiang Mai for three days. He then began to believe he was Count Dracula, and had a vampire robe made. You would see him walking the streets at night dressed in this black robe with a red lining and the high collar and chasing girls. He finally headed back to the states. We could never figure out if he was really crazy or not.

We also had a problem with racism on the base. There was a great deal of friction. One of the problems was that some of the black servicemen had brought with them a form of greeting that was alien to most of us. They called it “dapping.” When they met, they had a ritual of slapping hands and fists. This was OK except they took it to the extreme, with this dapping ritual sometimes taking several minutes. When you were trying to board a bus or check your mail, or standing in a chow line, this was extremely irritating. In opposition, the white servicemen would start with “Patty-Cake, Patty-Cake, etc.” when dapping was going on. This resulted in several fights. Finally the Commander outlawed the practice of dapping while in uniform, saying it was not acceptable military decorum, and made a declaration that if the problem didn’t cease he would ban the wearing of all civilian clothing. It worked.

While at Takhli, the end of the Vietnam was announced. For us this meant nothing. All we did was shift our area of operation from Vietnam to Cambodia and Laos. Our missions actually increased. We had a detachment of Air America on our base. This was the military arm of the CIA and they flew black C-130’s. At night, they dropped anti-communist literature and radios over Cambodia. This was an interesting unit. They were supported by the Air Force who supplied their cooks, security, etc. They lived in a separate compound, and if you were assigned to them, you left your rank behind. You started wearing orange flight suits and because Mr. instead of Sergeant. The problem was that those who were assigned got big heads. The CIA unit used the officers club and facilities and we knew that many of those privileged were not officers, especially the cooks and clerks. There was a lot of resentment and ill feelings between the regular troops and the Air American staff.

Random Memories:  I remember how I used to lounge in the hammock on the porches, drink pop and just B.S.? I had a pet dog that had pups under my hootch, but the M.P.’s shot her and the pups died. A good friend was robbed in Takhli and shot because he wouldn’t give up his watch. He died at Clark AB. I remember the cockroaches that most of us managed to accidentally ship back home in our luggage. We used to take a can of aircraft insecticide and spray them. They would do circle-eight patterns, flop over and then we would sweep them through the cracks in the floor – great entertainment! Other memories are of the one-bhat buses. We actually took one all the way to Chiang Mai and back. I loved to ride around the countryside in one of those bicycle rickshaws (samlors). Visited a lot of tourist attractions  and met some interesting people. I Remember friends drinking Thai coffee, the consistency of syrup, and Singhi beer. In the village of Takhli I remember the kids begging, pigs on leashes, festival of lights or the orphanage with so many Thai-American children. It was run by the Catholic Chaplain, don’t remember his name, but he was Irish-American. Also the dried squid, the rice bugs on grills (gross!), and all the things made with bananas, and the bugs and lizards. 

At last my year ended and I received orders for Grissom AFB, Indiana. I flew back to the states in a C-141, via Guam, landing back at Travis AFB, California and was chartered on a commercial flight to Columbus, Ohio, where my wife and children met me.

C-141 – My Ride Home

 

Chapter 7 Part 5 – The Air Force 1973-1980

At last my year in Thailand ended and I received orders for Grissom AFB, Indiana. This base was located near Peru and Kokomo and was a small SAC base, housing KC-135 tankers. I worked in the command post. Because of my background in deployment processing in TAC and because I was one of the authors of the mobility deployment manual for the Pacific Theater, I was assigned a similar job in SAC. We were on a high state of alert at all times, and I was asked to produce a deployment document for Grissom. As a tanker unit, we needed to be able to scramble on a moment’s notice in order to do air-to-air refueling for B-52 bombers for SAC and fighter aircraft for TAC.

 

I spent a good amount of my time on this document-writing project, with the occasional deployment exercise. One of my jobs was to receive incoming alert messages on the teletype, evaluate them and deliver them to the Officer of the Watch. Occasionally, we received a “Flash” message, which meant that I had to immediately rush it to the Status Board for evaluation. These indicated that either a military or political crises was occurring somewhere in the world. Usually these pertained to either the Middle East, or South-East Asia and China. In October, a major Arab/Israeli conflict, the “Yom Kippur War” occurred. It seemed likely that the whole middle east could erupt into warfare. We went onto high alert status. I was called to the Command Post at 2:00 a.m., briefed and told to recall my processing team. We scrambled our KC-135 tankers and maintained increased force readiness for several days. I had to sleep in the processing hanger until we stood down.  The following is an exert from a Wikipedia article about the Yom Kippur War

  • The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War, or October War also known as the 1973 Arab–Israeli War and the Fourth Arab–Israeli War, was a war of aggression fought by the coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria against Israel from October 6 to 25, 1973.
  • The war began when the coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which happened to occur that year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed ceasefire lines to enter the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights respectively, which had been captured and occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War. Both the United States and the Soviet Union initiated massive resupply efforts to their respective allies during the war, and this led to a near-confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers.
  • The war had far-reaching implications. The Arab World, which had been humiliated by the lopsided rout of the Egyptian–Syrian–Jordanian alliance in the Six-Day War, felt psychologically vindicated by early successes in the conflict. In Israel, despite impressive operational and tactical achievements on the battlefield, the war effectively ended its sense of invincibility and complacency. The war also challenged many American assumptions; the United States initiated new efforts at mediation and peacemaking. These changes paved the way for the subsequent peace process. The Camp David Accords that followed led to the return of the Sinai to Egypt and normalized relations—the first peaceful recognition of Israel by an Arab country. Egypt continued its drift away from the Soviet Union and left the Soviet sphere of influence entirely.

We were assigned to very nice base housing and we were in the Peru Ward of the church. 

 

 

Our House at Grissom AFB

Our House and Street, Grissom AFB – Christmas time

The Peru Ward had two really good fund raisers. One was the sale of Pork Tenderloin dinners. One night a year, people called in orders and we delivered all over Peru. This dinner consisted of a nice-sized deep-fat fried breaded pork tenderloin, bread, butter, a tomato and an ear of corn. It was very tasty. A trailer with the fryers to do the cooking was set up behind the chapel and the preparation of the meals was inside the cultural hall. This netted about $10,000 dollars for the budget.

The other fund raiser was the making of Tiger’s Paws at Circus City Days. Peru was the youth training home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. This was the training ground for the youth who would one day move into the circus itself. Each year they showed off their techniques in a three-day circus event.

 

 

Tiger’s Paws are often called Elephant Ears at fairs today. These were invented by a sister in the Peru Ward and we had exclusive rights to their preparation. Later on, the recipe was given to the Bowling Green Ward who began to call them Elephant Ears. So when you enjoy one of the treats at a fair, remember that they started out in the Church. Just for your information, the recipe base was pizza dough with sugar and powdered milk added. We always had the base mixed by local pizza parlors and stored the dough in cans in a cooler until needed. These were then hand-rolled, deep-fat fried and then dipped into a mixture of sugar and cinnamon and eaten hot. Today, they sometimes have fruit put on them, but these are not the traditional Tigers Paws

Just outside the base was the small village of Bunker Hill. Originally Grissom AFB was named Bunker Hill AFB, but it was renamed to honor Gus Grissom the astronaut. Bunker Hill had a great pizza parlor. The recipe was unique, instead of pepperoni, it was covered with about a pound of hamburger. It was really, really good. We managed to order pizza occasionally.

 

I began to plan for my future after retirement. I wanted to finish my degree and enrolled at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and began to take courses. All of the courses were taught on base, and I never visited the main campus in Muncie.  Enrollment was through the Base Education Office. This time I was able to concentrate on my areas of interest in literature, and accounting. I made straight A’s and had some of the highest accounting scores ever recorded at Ball State.

I watched the listing of up-coming assignments, and one day saw that there was going to be an opening for a personnel specialist for Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 620 at Bowling Green State University. I applied and was accepted. We arrived at Bowling Green and what a change this made in our life style.

The detachment was very laid back. We had a full colonel, Colonel William Weiss, in charge who didn’t really want to be there. Most detachment commanders were Lt Colonels. Colonel Weiss had been an AWACS Commander and Pilot and had been grounded medically and given the AFROTC assignment until he was completely healed from open-heart surgery. He was anxiously awaiting his medical clearance to go back as a pilot. AWACS is an airborne command post; a highly sophisticated electronics plane that can run a war from the Air. It was part of SAC, and based out of Pope AFB, South Carolina. The Lieutenant Colonel, Bill “Hoot” Gibson was second in command and didn’t much care for military discipline. As long as the job was done and done right, he was happy. The two Captains were instructors, one a regular and one a reserve officer. One of them, Captain Richard Preston left the Air Force and continued as a high school teacher in the area at the end of his commitment. Colonel Gibson eventually became the Detachment Commander and upon his retirement took over as manager of the Bowling Green Airport. The rest of the staff included the Detachment Sergeant Major whose position I assumed when he left and two lower-ranking sergeants.

I was in charge of the Cadet Records. We received the highest inspection ratings in all of AFROTC, nationwide for all of the years that I was in charge. I made sure that every single thing in the cadets records was perfect. One year, we were one cadet short of making our recruiting quota, and I found out that an airman who had worked for me at another base, was now a student at Bowling Green. I talked him into joining AFROTC and we made our quota. He was probably the worst cadet we had ever seen, received his commission, and to my utter horror, when I arrived at Hill AFB, following my AFROTC assignment, I found that he was my supervisor. This was total irony. He had worked for me, I had recruited him, taught him, helped him to become a Lieutenant just to keep up our quota system, and then to have him be my supervisor? This was too much. I didn’t want to work for him. I explained this to the Commander of the CBPO. He thought the situation was hilarious and told me to live with it. However, it didn’t take long for the Lieutenant to mess up and get kicked out.

As part of my AFROTC assignment, I had to take cadets to Wright Patterson AFB for medical reasons. This was an 180 mile round-trip. It was great, because I could shop at the BX and Commissary while there. Occasionally, I would take them to the Federal Building in Cleveland and shop at the Coast Guard Commissary. In the summer, the cadets had to attend summer-camp at Wright-Patterson for three weeks, and I would be sent with them. I would stay in Temporary Lodging at the base with the other staff members and we would operate the summer camp.

 
 
Top to Bottom – WPAFB:  Gate, Temporary Lodging, Hospital; 
Cleveland Federal Bldg
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1976, I attended the NCO Academy at Richards-Gebaur AFB in Missouri. It helped me get promoted to Technical Sergeant from Staff Sergeant. It was an interesting experience. It involved inspections and intense study of political history. This was right up my alley and I really enjoyed it. I organized a study group in my flight. We took notes and made 3 x 5 cards for study. We took first place in every single category. The only problem was that the grading used the Stanine method and we blew the curve! This destroyed a grading system that had been in place for over 20 years. In one way the school was glad that we did so well, but they also wished we had scored just a little bit lower.

 

 

 

Anderson Arena – My office is the window at the bottom right.

Our AFROTC detachment was housed on the campus in Anderson Arena. We shared the area with the Army ROTC detachment. We all got along well and occasionally our cadets would transfer to the Army and vice-versa. We had a secretary named Sally, and we also had some practical jokers in the unit. We were as crazy as the M.A.S.H. 4077. A series could have been easily filmed about us.

Captain Preston was always on a diet. We would go out to lunch and for dessert he would have pecan pie with a Diet Pepsi. Captain Sovacki was always playing jokes on Sally. We had a janitor named Don, who had a crush on Sally and asked Captain Sovacki for advice. He told Don that Sally really liked hot cars, and poor Don withdrew his life savings and bought a Porsche. Captain Sovacki was aghast. He hadn’t expected this. Since three days hadn’t passed, he took Don and the Porsche back to the dealer and made them take it back. He then told Sally that if she would go out with Don just once, that he would be satisfied. Wrong! Don then made Sally’s life miserable. Every time she turned around, there was Don. Sally finally married someone else and Don moved on.

We had two sergeants, Savko and Perry. One day we went to a restaurant. Savko was on a diet, so he told the waitress to bring him plain hamburger without a bun. She said, “OK, but I’ll have to charge you for a hamburger steak.” He looked at her like she was crazy and said, “Can I get a hamburger the way I want it?” She (chewing and popping her gum, pencil behind ear) said “Sure.” He said, “Give me a hamburger, hold the lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, catsup, onion, pickle and bun.” She replied, “OK, but I’ll have to charge you for hamburger steak.” He was defeated. He said, “OK, just bring me a plain hamburger.” When it came, he used the bun as a frisbee, sailing it across the restaurant, and ate his hamburger, grumbling all the time.

One day, I came into the office and Savko said “Hey Bob, did you hear about Pete?” This was Pete Perry the other Sergeant. I told him “No.” Savko told me that Pete wanted to learn to dance, but was so bashful that he talked his sister into being his dance partner. When Pete came in I asked him how the dance lessons were going. He said “What?” I said, “I heard you are taking dance lessons…with your sister,” and laughed. He looked at me and said. “My sister lost both legs in a car wreck.” Oh gosh, I felt two inches tall. Pete didn’t speak to me all day and wouldn’t listen to my apology. At the end of the day, he walked by my desk and said “By the way Bob, I’m an only child.” I could have killed him. These were typical shenanigans in our office. You learned to always watch your back and look at your seat before you sat down.

Parking lot outside my office and my truck. You will notice that I am parked at a meter.  Since I had a faculty sticker, I didn’t have to pay parking.  The round building was the student union.  This is where we bought and sold text books.  The gift shop and student government was also housed there.  The building in the far right back is a dormitory.  

Some years earlier a group of male cadets in a Texas university decided to form a fraternity, the Arnold Air Society.  A sorority, the Angel Flight was organized as an auxilliary to the Arnold Air Society. This idea spread through AFROTC.  In our detachment, the Angels filed, ran errands, helped planned social activities, etc.  Three of the Angels asked to be my assistants.  They files, made appointments, and were a big help.  Because there were three of them, the detachment  nicknamed them “Bobby’s Angels.”  One of them, a girl named Robin, was six feet tall and could have been a double for Linda Carter (Wonder Woman).  Everyone called her WW instead of her real name.  The Angels even baby-sat for the staff so we could enjoy an occasional night out with our wives.  Our children would ask “Is Wonder Woman coming tonight?”  The really like Joyce. 

Our Commander was great. Since my work was top notch, he told me that I could take a college class during the day and another at night, just as long as my work didn’t suffer. I started taking classes, signing up as a full-time student. I knew the staff in registration and the bursar’s office and they evaluated my transcripts and accepted every course from Weber, Boise State, and Ball State plus gave me 18 hours of credit for my work in the military. I was over half-way home to my degree! I finished all my coursework except for student teaching. This would require being away for a semester. The colonel told me that if I would do my regular work in the evening, that he would let me student teach. This was totally against regulations and policy, but he was a super commander. I started student teaching at Penta County Joint Vocational School in Perrysburg, Ohio about 25 miles north of Bowling Green. This worked out fine. It was difficult, but I was able to keep up the detachment work also.

In June, 1978, I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Education with History and Literature minors. I received my Ohio Teaching Certificate in Business and Office; and in both Comprehensive and Intensive Office Education, and in Computer Technology. My parents, my Grandmother Helen and of course Mary and all the children attended the graduation ceremony in the stadium. Our graduation speaker was Erma Bombeck.

 
BGSU Graduation – 1976
 

College always has its humorous and interesting aspects. One of the social problems of the time was “Streaking.” Streakers would strip to the buff and wearing nothing but a pair of sneakers run from one point to another. The game was to do so without getting caught. You would think that this was a fraternity thing only, but it affected both boys and girls. We had one streaker who was older. He would run naked through the campus wearing sneakers and a ski mask. They tried for months to catch him. He even managed to streak a football game at the university stadium. This was a national phenomena and even affected the military. We had streakers later when I was at Hill AFB. I have always wondered if the mystery streaker was Colonel Gibson, who was an avid runner.

Some of my classes were a bit unusual too. For my law class, my professor was Bud Wilson. Dr. Wilson had been one of the trial lawyers for the Sam Sheppard murder trial, a very famous trial that had inspired the TV show, The Fugitive. Dr. Wilson smoked cigars in class, even though the university had a no smoking policy. He threatened to throw out anyone in his class who complained. No one ever did. His classes were fascinating. He used to tell stories, about a couple who ran around on a motor scooter. They were the examples for all of us anecdotes. He was very funny and very smart. I was so interested in his class that I read the entire law textbook the first two weeks of class. When the mid-term came, my grade came back “F.” I knew this wasn’t possible, so I made an appointment with Dr. Wilson. He asked me why I answered some of the questions wrong. I told them they were not wrong, they were different than what he had covered in his lecture and pointed out that later in the text book, further rulings had invalidated earlier findings and had become the examples used in trials. He asked me why I had read ahead and knew more than I should. I answered back that there was something inherently wrong with an educational philosophy that would bring a punishment for being smarter than expected. He told me I would make a great lawyer, but that grading on a different scale than the rest of the class was also unfair to the other students. So we compromised. He threw out the mid-term and graded me only on the final. My score on the final was a 98%.

I made mostly A’s in college with a few B’s and one C in Marketing 300. I had been warned against taking that particular class since it was a lecture pit and the professor was very boring. Being the arrogant fool, I took it anyway and fought to stay awake. I was two points out of a B and considered myself lucky to have passed at all.

I had a great History Professor for World History, Dr Rock. He reminded me of Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. Dr. Rock would show up in togas, or dressed as a Roman gladiator, or as a medieval monk. He would run up and down the aisles and jump on the desk and lecture. He made history come alive. Students lined up to try to get in his classes.

I was told that I had to take a course in basic COBOL Programming. I told them that I worked writing COBOL. They said that there was no waver for the course, it was required in my degree program. So I showed up the first night and the professor gave us the syllabus and a handout containing six scenarios. We were to write COBOL programs, compile and run them for each of the six problems. During his lecture, he gave us a lab handout which said the precision of the compiler in the lab was to 65,536 places. Someone asked him why, and he wasn’t sure. I raised my hand and said that 65,536 written in base two represented the 64th binary position which indicated that the computers in the lab were 64 bit machines and this established the computers precision. He gave me a funny look and said, “OK…Thanks.” I left the class, headed over to the lab and wrote, keypunched and compiled the six programs, ran them off on the printer and the next night at the beginning of class handed them in. He didn’t believe it. He said that this was a full quarter’s assignment and asked how I accomplished it. I explained that while in the Air Force, I had programmed COBOL for years, and I told him that they wouldn’t let me waive the course. He remembered the night before, and realized that I knew more about the topic than he did. He made me a deal. If I promised never to come back to his class, he would give me an A. What a deal!   The following is an example of COBOL Code.

000100  IDENTIFICATION DIVISION.
000200 PROGRAM-ID.       PENRYPAY1.
000300
000400*
000500 ENVIRONMENT DIVISION. 
000600 CONFIGURATION SECTION. 
000700 SOURCE-COMPUTER.  RM-COBOL.
00800 OBJECT COMPUTER.  RM-COBOL.
00900
001000 DATA DIVISION.
01100  FILE SECTION.  (Here we describe the file layout, field names, lengths, data types)
100000  PROCEDURE DIVISION 

 

 

A good amount of my time was spent in the campus library.  There were study rooms and many floors of books and documents needed for my degree.

 

  
BGSU Library
 

 

My economics professor was Emma Funderburk. She was an avowed Socialist and ran for State Senator every election on the Socialist ticket. She might have been a little strange, but she was the only person that I have ever met that could make economics fascinating. She was an excellent teacher and her door was always open for further discussion or to answer questions. I considered her one of my best teachers.

I had one teacher that was good, but one that I hid from. That was Dr. Bright in the Business Education Department. One of the fun activities of all students was to try to avoid him. He was in charge of the Ohio Office Education Association and was always looking for “volunteers” to stuff envelopes, prepare mailings, run off newsletters, judge contests, etc. Since you knew that you were going to have to take his courses eventually, you didn’t dare say “No” when he caught you.

When we first moved to Bowling Green, we rented a house on Sand Ridge Rd. This was a nice Cape Cod with a beautiful landscaped back lawn.

 

 

The house abutted Kenwood Elementary School, and the kids kept coming over the fence into the back lawn. The fence belonged to the School District and my calls of complaint did no good. One day, I was working in the yard and found poison ivy growing in the fence. I checked and found out the city had an ordinance requiring owners of property with noxious weeds to remove them within 72 hours or be fined $100 per day. I filed a complaint against the School District, and two days later, the old fence was removed and a beautiful 8 foot chain link fence was installed instead.

Our fourth Child Cindy was born in January of 1975 at Wood County hospital in Bowling Green. She was a pretty baby just like all the others.

  

Wood County Hospital, Bowling Green, Ohio

The summer of 1977 was a disaster for our daughter Karen. Becky had a good friend Cherise Smith. Becky was home sick and Karen was playing at Cherise’s house, when they bumped into each other on the monkey bars on the swing set. Karen slipped and instead of letting go, swung a full circle hanging on and twisted her elbow into a splinter fracture, one of the worst kinds. The doctors performed surgery putting pins into her elbow and she hung in traction for several weeks. The doctors were afraid that she had broken through the growth plate and would end up with an arm that wouldn’t continue to grow. Fortunately, this did not happen. She got out of the hospital and the cast was finally removed.

While on Sand Ridge, we became victims of the “Blizzard of 78.” For those who weren’t there, this was the mother of all blizzards. We went to bed on a fairly warm January evening, January 25th. Sometime during the night, I awoke to what sounded like a freight train. I went downstairs, the power was off and I looked out the front window. Tree limbs were going past the window horizontally! This wasn’t just a blizzard, the National Weather Service defined it as a severe blizzard. Winds gusted to over 100 miles per hour, with steady winds in the 45-60 mph range. Up to 30 inches of snow fell in a matter of hours and low barometric pressure records were shattered.. The cause was that two low pressure systems had formed; one in the Western Gulf of Mexico and one in northern North Dakota. The early predictions of the path of these two systems indicated they would pass harmlessly though the states, but on the morning of the 25th, something ominous happened. The North Dakota low began to track southeast and the barometric pressure dropped rapidly from the Gulf northward. Meteorologists soon saw that the two systems were going to collide, most likely over Ohio. Forecasters issued blizzard warnings for the entire state at 9 p.m., January 25th. The weather conditions at this time, however, were misleading, and those conditions are blamed for many being surprised by the storm. Rain had spread over Ohio and temperatures were in the 40s across most of the state. The wind increased slightly as midnight approached, but conditions were more typical of an early spring rain storm, than those preceding a disaster. Midnight passed, however, and wind speeds continued to increase. It swiftly became evident that a storm of unprecedented magnitude was imminent. But then the two storms met and did something that even the meteorologists….who had expected a blizzard….did not foresee. The two low pressure centers twisted together….a very rare and dangerous occurrence. Warm air began to flow into Ohio from the north and colder air into the state from the south. The rain abruptly changed to snow, spreading northeastward and gaining in intensity. Wind speeds, by that time, had reached the 70 mile per hour range and gusts of more than 100 miles per hour downed power lines, billboards, mobile homes, and tree limbs. And then the snow….caught by the strong winds….began to form deep, deep drifts. An entire semi-trailer truck was buried in one snow bank near Mansfield. The driver was not rescued until nearly a week later. Hundreds upon hundreds of motorists were stranded in their cars along nearly every highway in the state. The Ohio Turnpike, for the first time in history, was completely shut down. Interstate highways were, for the most part, impassable. Smaller roadways in nearly every county were invisible beneath the snow. Visibility was often reported at zero. Electric service to thousands of homes across the state was disrupted. Many persons were forced to leave their frigid homes. Suffering, discomfort, and danger were, by then, commonplace. Deaths occurred. Officials urged all Ohioans to remain at home as temperatures dropped to near zero. Wind chill factors across the state plummeted to near 60 degrees below zero. In all, 35 persons died during that storm. The Blizzard of 1978 was, in fact, the worst storm to ever occur in Ohio.

We were trapped in our home. We had no electricity or running water, and since our gas furnace had an electric thermostat, it wouldn’t work. Fortunately we still had our gas range and oven, and our fireplace in the living room. We had an attached screened porch. I had it full of firewood and we had a barrel of kindling on the porch. We hung curtains over the hallway going upstairs and over doors and windows, where possible, to trap the heat from the fireplace in the living room. We slept on the couch and the kids on the floor in sleeping bags for three days. Since we had the gas stove and oven, and had followed the council of the Prophet and had in a good supply of food, we were both warm and well-fed. We popped popcorn and played a lot of games and sang songs. Cindy was just three months old and Mary was pregnant with Andrew, our fifth. The kids thought this was great fun and enjoyed being out of school. Poor Karen had recovered from her broken elbow, and the day before the blizzard was coming down the stairs holding a pillow so she could lay on the living room floor and watch TV. She fell and broke her other arm. On the day before the blizzard, we had the choice of leaving her in the hospital overnight or bringing her home. We brought her home. So there was Karen in a cast in the middle of the blizzard.  We lived in front of the fireplace for three days.

After the blizzard stopped, I walked over to the school over the snow. I tripped and dug into the snow and found I had tripped on the top bar of the school swing set! That was the depth of the snow. Those bars were least 10 feet above the ground! All of the kids in the neighborhood were in heaven. They dug tunnels and snow caves. We were snowed in at the house, but someone from the detachment had arranged for my truck to be dug out and a plow took care of the problem. This meant I had to report back to the detachment. Without electricity, there was little we could do and once everyone was accounted for and found safe, we headed back to our houses, but on call. My other car was a Dodge Colt station wagon and was buried under a drift. I wasn’t able to dig it out until May! The snow was still on the ground nearly four months. The snow had melted away from the car, but the engine was still caked with snow. I dug it out and it started on the first turn of the key! 

One of the radio DJ’s had managed to get a small transmitter and antenna to his home. He broadcast around the clock throughout the entire disaster, giving instructions and relaying messages. Listeners were told to put a blanket on their front lawn if they needed assistance.

We began to call Church members. The Eunice family lived about two miles south of town, and he had a furnace that was still operating. Everyone in the neighborhood was in his house. They had plenty of food, but had run out of toilet paper. I took the missionaries, and drove to the end of his road. We carved steps up the face of a 12 foot drift and took a sled with the supplies to the Eunices. As we came back to the truck, an ambulance was there. A man was trapped at the end of the road and had a heart-attack. The medics borrowed our sled and brought him out. The neighbors wanted us to check on one elderly woman. They told us where her house was, but we couldn’t find it. It was a one-story and was completely buried. We dug down and found the roof had collapsed under the weight of the snow. The emergency squad chopped through the roof and she was in a four-poster bed which had supported the roof and was snug and warm with her four cats. They rescued her and the cats.

The National Guard was called out and the Army air-lifted heavy road equipment from North Carolina. North of town on U.S. 25, was a drift that was twenty-five feet high, over a quarter of a mile thick and over two miles long. Snow moving equipment was ineffective. Plows would just get buried. They tried backhoes, but nothing worked. The Army used demolition experts and started blasting the drifts and using heavy equipment. After two days, they managed to reopen the road.

The schools and the university were closed. Students at Bowling Green took advantage of the deep snow by skiing off dorm roofs and otherwise having fun.

The biggest problem for most people, besides no heat, was hunger. Within hours after the snow stopped falling, the store shelves in Bowling Green were empty. Most people did not have sufficient food on hand, and this became a priority with food being dropped by airlift into many parts of the area. Since we were in the church, we were able to share. One good thing came out of this. People in the area became aware of the need for food storage and disaster preparation. The Church held a number of seminars in February that were packed.

In August of 1978, our youngest child was born at Wood County Hospital in Bowling Green. Andrew was a chubby baby, we called him the Michelin Man.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

The children had started school in Bowling Green, attending Kenwood Elementary. We moved from our home on Sand Ridge road to Manville Avenue just before the end of the school year in 1978 because our landlord, Don Hilty, who was also our Branch President, decided to sell the home. He had a dental practice in the area. The kids were able to finish out the year at Kenwood, and were allowed to start at Kenwood in the fall just before we moved west.

While we were in Bowling Green, we built a new chapel. In those days, much of the work was done by the members. I stained a lot of wood, and laid the tile in the Cultural Hall myself. We started with a phase 1 building and the tiled part was a combination chapel and cultural hall, with folding chairs. Later we added the chapel and the tiled area became just a cultural hall.

The people in our ward were quite diverse. Our best friends were the Eunice family who had children close to our children’s ages. We had picnics frequently at their house. Another couple was Clyde and Marie Brooks. Clyde operated the John Birch bookstore in Pemberville. You learned quickly not to discuss politics with the Brooks. Our Elder’s Quorum President was named Louie, and I had an embarrassing incident with him. One day, I was going to lunch and Sergeant Savko asked me to pick up a pack of cigarettes for him. At first I resisted. I didn’t even want to handle them. He persisted and while I was at the service station, filling my car, I asked the attendant for a pack of Marlboro’s. He turned around and there stood my Elder’s Quorum President. I told him they weren’t for me, and he said, “Sure…”

We had a young couple that raised dogs. We called them Duppie Puppies for some reason. This couple were Mike and Emmy Hamblin. He was a great-grandson of Jacob Hamblin and she was either President David O. McKay’s granddaughter or grand-niece. Another couple were Jerry and Gail Argetsinger. They were in the theater department at the university and were costume and stage designers. Because of them, we produced award-winning road shows year after year and always had winning floats in the 4thof July Parade. Jerry went on to become a well known playwright, and wrote a number of plays for the Church and became Director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Gail became Assistant Professor of Theater at SUNY Brockport.  

Bowling Green Parade

 

 

Ward Winning Float – 1975 – Egyptian Theme

 

 

Winning Float – 1976 (Bicentennial Float – Mormons’ West) 

 

The ward and stake had built a number of handcarts for the 1976 U.S. Bi-Centennial.  The wards then met in a parking lot outside of a campground near Findlay, Ohio where we were organized in companies and assigned Captains of Ten and Captains of Fifty.  We loaded all of our tents and equipment onto the handcarts and then pulled our handcarts, helped by our Boy Scout troops, two miles into the campground, where we set up camp.  We had black-powder demonstrations, music by the Black Swamp Folk Singers, campfire activities.  What a great time it was.  We went in on Friday and came home Saturday evening.  We kept our handcart for some time and traded it to the Walbolt family for a Thai chess set.  She then converted it to a flower garden in their front lawn. 

I had previously mentioned the Hilty Family. We used to get their phone calls. Our phone numbers were the same except for the last two digits which were reversed. Another family, the Browns, named every one in the family and name starting with “D”, There was Don, Debbie, Denise, Danielle, etc. Another member, Monica Lewis had been married while Skydiving. We also had a member Ben Saunders who lost both a wife and a son while we were there. He remarried a sister many years his junior who had young children They moved to Bountiful Utah and had children of their own. Later on we were in a Ward in Columbus, Ohio with his brother Jerry.

After Bishop Hilty was released, our new Bishop was Tom Jensen. He and his sons lived for basketball. If you went to his home during a televised basketball game, he wouldn’t even speak to you. The Jenson kids always seemed hungry. The family was thin, and only the boys who were in athletics were allowed to eat meat – or so it seemed.

I was called as Scoutmaster for our Ward Troop. One scouting trip stands out in my memory. We had a regional LDS camporee at Paul Bunyan Scout Reservation in Michigan. We were assigned a camping area on an island in the middle of the lake. We shared the island with two other troops. To reach the island, we walked across a causeway of stone about 15 feet wide and the distance to the island was approximately 300 feet. One night, we were attending a fireside. I had prepared a dutch-oven cobbler before the fireside which needed to be cooked. I left the fireside and went back to the island and started the fire and started cooking the cobbler. I realized that when we had left the island, it was daylight. Now it was pitch black and my scouts didn’t have flashlights with them. I decided to take a light and bring my scouts back. I very seldom use a flashlight at night, because it destroys night vision. This was a lesson from my Marine Corps days. I was strolling back along the causeway, enjoying the night air, when I heard voices coming the other way. I sat down on the edge of the road in the cattails and waited. I recognized the voices as belonging to my Senior Patrol Leader and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, Pete Walbolt and Tom Mortensen. They were talking, and I heard “It sure is dark, there could be bears here!” And, I heard another voice, “I’m scared.” Well, I sat there and down came my two fearless scouts. At first I thought they were holding hands. Then I realized they were holding onto a Book of Mormon. When they got abreast, I jumped out and yelled like a bear growling. Aaargghhh! I turned on the light and Pete was frozen in a Karate stance, and Tom was on his face on the ground, with his arms over his head. We rescued the rest of the troop and all evening, Pete and Tom sat by the fireside shaking.

Another day, I took my troop to a sink-hole. Michigan has many of these sink holes where the limestone has caved in and created bogs. Farmers often grow potatoes in these holes. This particular bog was full of frogs and the water was black because of the tannic acid from the decaying vegetation in the bog. The water was about 4 feet deep. We were going to catch frogs and have frog legs for dinner. We had an old pillow case to keep the frogs in. I had the scouts wear old clothing instead of their uniforms. At first, they crouched at the edges trying to catch the frogs. Then they waded in a few inches, then a foot, then to the knees, and of course they all ended up swimming in the bog. We did catch a bag full of frogs which we cleaned and cooked for dinner. One boy had to be coaxed to try one. Finally, he tried one and ended up eating over 20 frog legs! That boy was Merrill Jensen.

We also had friends outside of the Church. We became good friends with the Gideons who lived across the street. They were a Catholic family and he was a Professor at Bowling Green. Our children spent much of their time playing with their children. Mark was David’s age, Christopher (Topher) was Karen’s and Samantha Cindy’s. When we came back to Bowling Green for my Master’s degree, they were neighbors once again and we remained friends.

My assignment at Bowling Green was coming to an end and I announced I was going to retire at the end of twenty-years. I was given a choice of assignments, and I chose Hill AFB, Utah as my final assignment. 

Karen and Cindy with their Grandpa Smith in Tennessee

We now had five children, and our vehicle was a Ford Supercab. It just didn’t have enough room for Mary and I, a newborn, and four children. So I put a cab over the bed, carpeted the bed and installed carpeted benches. We left Bowling Green in October and David, Becky, and Karen liked to ride in the pickup bed with the luggage, and by switching out kids, we had a fairly quiet journey visiting family and friends on the way. 

We reported in at Hill AFB in October and were immediately assigned to base housing and we enrolled the children at Hill AFB Elementary. We had a very nice four-bedroom on Yorktown street on the base. The principal at the elementary school was a member of the Stake Presidency and most of the teachers were LDS.  Even though the school was not on the base, it was adjacent to base housing and backed up to a chain-link fence which had a gate where the base children could exit onto the school property.

At all other bases where we lived in base housing, we were in older quarters, usually Wherry housing.  At Hill AFB, because of my rank and family size, we were moved into a Capehart Duplex on Yorktown Street.  It wasn’t fancy, but it was better than what we were used to.  We  had good neighbors, a nice lawn with a great sledding hill in the backyard and a wonderful view of the Wasatch Mountain Range.  The children could walk to school and our chapel was just outside the gate about a half-mile away.  The Commissary and BX were close as was the base hospital.  It was a good place for get ready for retirement.

 

 

 

Base Housing – Our Home on Yorktown Ave

My CBPO assignment was a little different. Instead of out-processing for relocation which was what I usually did, I was assigned to Officer Separations, preparing DD-214’s and separation documents. This was the same type of work I had done in the Marines. My career had come full circle!

 

Office in CBPO, The arm behind the partition is me!

I was having trouble with my eyes. The left eye was partially crossed and the base sent me to the Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver for surgery. This helped a little, but the left eye gradually began to partially cross again. I do not have stereo vision and the visual acuity between my eyes is so different that glasses or contact lenses cannot correct the problem. I have checked into the possibility of laser surgery, but the opthomologists do not recommend it. The left eye is very nearsighted and the right eye is far sighted. My brain has learned to view the eyes independently. When I read or use the computer, I use the left eye and the brain turns off the image from the right eye. When I am driving or viewing things at a distance, the opposite occurs.

 Fitzsimmons Army Hospital – Denver

We were in the Clearfield 9th Ward. Mary was a Primary Teacher and I taught the teenagers in Sunday School. Our temple was the new Ogden Temple. Every Thursday morning, the Elder’s Quorum met and did a 5:00 a.m. session before work. We would arrive at the temple in uniform. Some old-timers thought that uniforms were not proper attire and wanted us to come in suits and ties, but the Temple President disagreed. I’m not so sure that tradition is not another word for pride. Tradition certainly doesn’t promote humility. While in the 9th Ward, I was asked to play a part in the play “Because of Elizabeth.” This was a story of a girl who left her family in England and came to Zion to be with the saints. I played the English father. Elizabeth was played by Dana Thornock the Bishop’s daughter-in-law. Her husband, Neal, was later killed in an automobile accident. She then fought a constant battle with her weight and wrote a popular diet book about her struggles Lean and Free 2000 Plus, and is President of Danmar Health.

Clearfield Stake Center

There was a popular TV show for kids out of Salt Lake called Hotel Balderdash. The cast came to the base and our children attended. We also had an air show on base which featured the Shuttle Enterprise. We told the children, that we were going to see the Enterprise and they got much more excited than we expected. Imagine their disappointment when they didn’t get to see Captain Kirk and the rest of the crew of the Starship Enterprise!

 
Shuttle Enterprise – Hill AFB, Utah
 

Layton High School

Each year in the Air Force, thirty days leave (vacation) is accrued. Upon separation or reenlistment unused leave can be sold. However, there is a limit. I accrued enough leave that I would be able to sell the limit upon retirement and take ninety-days before retirement. This meant that since my retirement date was April 30, 1980, that my last duty day was actually 31 January.

For those three months, I worked in the Davis County School System as a substitute teacher assigned to Layton High School teaching History.  I had a teaching certificate from the State of Utah.  My plans were to stay in Utah and start teaching full-time in the fall.  I had applied to a number of school districts and was offered a position at a new vocational high school west of Salt Lake City.  The construction was to start in late spring with school starting in September.  However, the Governor vetoed the bill that provided the funding and construction was delayed.  This meant that I was suddenly out of a job.  I planned to find another position in Utah.  However, I was offered an opportunity to receive my Masters Degree which I will discuss in the next chapter.  

I retired on April 30 after 20 years in the military with the rank of Technical Sergeant.  I had been offered a promotion to Master Sergeant if I would stay another two years.  However, since I had my teaching certificate, I could see no real benefit in staying longer.

 

 

 

 

Presentation of Meritorious Service Medal 

 

Retirement Ceremony

 

 

 

Medals – AF Meritorious Service, AF Commendation (2 awards),
Air Force (5 awards) and Marine Corps Good Conduct

 

 

 

Ribbons: AF Meritorious Service, AF Commendation(2), AF Outstanding Unit (4) w/ Combat V, Air Force Good Conduct (5), Marine Corps Good Conduct, National Defense Service, Vietnam Campaign w/Battle Star, Air Force Longevity Silver, NCO Academy Graduate, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Palm, Republic of Vietnam Service

 

Marine Corps Rifle Sharpshooter and Pistol Marksman Badges