Clerk School

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Underwood Typewriter, with all its keys.

I did my basic training at Lackland, AFB in the spring of 1948. At the end of my stint there, they lined us all up in formation and counted us off for different assignments. I was in the right place for mechanics. Suddenly, a paper pusher ran out of the office with a piece of paper, yelling they needed sixty clerks. They counted off the next sixty guys and I fell within that unlucky number. My “mechanic”ing ambitions went right down the drain.

They gave me orders to show up at the Clerk Typist School at Lowry, AFB by Denver at the end of our 15-20 day leave. In the meantime, they moved the school to Fort Warren, Wyoming. We all showed up at Lowry, hung around there for a few days, then they bussed us off to Wyoming.

There were 10-15 desks in the classroom, saddled with big Underwood typewriters for us to pound away on. A corporal walked around, chanting what letters to type – trying to help us find our rhythm for even and accurate typing. (“Even, accurate typing” didn’t matter to me. I hated typing. I didn’t want to be no typist!)

The Corporal would do his “two-letter-chant” for five or ten minutes. Then he’d slam a ruler down on someone’s desk to let us know he was moving on to the next. It was loud, annoying, and we all hated it. I boasted that if he ever banged that ruler down behind me, I’d throw that typewriter as far as I could.

Of course, the day came that he slammed that ruler down behind me. I didn’t actually pick up the typewriter and throw it, but I did flip it off the desk. I figured it would bounce and skid across the floor.

It didn’t. I will never forget how that thing splattered. The basic structure broke into pieces and keys skittered in every direction! I was as surprised as anyone. (Looking back, I laugh at the comical picture, that I had never envisioned, but can still see. I sure didn’t laugh then.)

My next assignment: permanent K.P.