Personal History, Part 5a

Post Syracuse with Uncle Sam.

I can’t begin to tell you everything here, and do you really want to know?  But, here’s the short of it, anyway.

During my last year at Syracuse, my father left the ministry and the family moved from Stittville back to Pleasant Valley.  So, when I left school, I moved back there, too.

After dropping out of college, I decided to join the USAF before the Army got me in the draft.  I’d always loved the Air Force, ever since my Uncle Hap (Dad’s brother) would give me his leftover Aviation Weekly magazines.  But, I had a deferred start date of January (1969) and it was only September.

So, in the meantime, I picked up some work at the IBM plant in Poughkeepsie working in the data center handling the output from the printers and mounting tapes as requested.  It’s where I learned how to curse.  And I got really good at it.  I could curse out two full sentences in one continuous burst of profanity.  And, since I now *had* to drive, I finally got my driver’s license.

So, now I was completely ready for military life.  Sure thing.  Except for my “learning disability,” which proved to be an issue there, too.  Lots of things happened in those four years of service: far too many to detail here.  So, here are the highlights.

First and foremost of all my experiences is that I picked up the guitar in earnest and started writing songs.  That I’ll cover in the other section.  So, here are the specifics.

Basic training (Lackland AFB) was a near bust.  They almost forced me to go through it twice … that’s the learning thing getting in the way.  But, I made it through.  Then, I had wanted either missiles or jets to work on and I got reciprocating engine aircraft (prop planes) as my MOS.  But, that was good.

At training school (Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, TX) I found out I was pretty good with tools and figuring out what was wrong with things (I had always loved taking things apart and putting them back together). Plus, I had the free time to start writing songs (other section).

Then it was down to Florida (Hurlbert Fld in Ft. Walton Beach) for a year and a half of working on planes older than I was: the A-26 in particular.  I also worked on the O-2.  Lots of stories there, but I’ll spare you.

A few of us got together to rent a place off base to hang out on weekends.  That’s where most of the juicy stories (that I’ll spare you from, also) happened.  But. The short list is …

  • bought a 250cc Yamaha street bike and tooled around on that for quite a while.
  • Met three young women who each taught me something different about … well, women.
  • Upgraded my bike to a 650cc which taught me a little about speed (it’s OK … I survivied).
  • Gave up my last Silver Certificate (remember them?) as a tip to a waitress because, well, it was all I had left in my wallet after I paid for my coffee and roll.
  • Enjoyed taking the same (above) waitress on rides on my 650. Just rides.  We were friends. And, yes, she was one of the three.
  • Wrote about 50 songs down there. I think only about 5 survive to the present.

Soon, the USAF decided they needed me over in Vietnam.  I tried to tell them I was a pansy when it came to war things.  But, they didn’t want to hear it.  Besides, they needed to send me for training on my new bird.  So, it was off to Abilene, TX, and Dyess AFB.

[I’ll finish the story in the next Post.]

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