The Cleaver Incident

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     It wasn’t long after that I had a set-to with a First Sergeant and Company Commander. Whenever I picked up the food for that week’s menu, I’d hunt through the walk-in freezers and see what they had that was good. I saw boxes of steaks in there so I grabbed two – enough to feed my whole squadron. Figured I’d have a Friday Night Steak Fry.

I set them boxes of steaks on the counter, back in my kitchen. When the First Sergeant went through, he saw them and grabbed one.
“You can’t do that. I need those to make a meal.”
He ignored me and started to walk away with my steaks.
I grabbed a cleaver that was hanging overhead and whacked his arm with the flat side. He dropped that box of steaks.
“I’ll have you thrown in jail!”

By that time, I’d learned a few things. I knew that I didn’t have any pull. I had to be sharp enough to stay abreast of things, so I responded off the top of my head, “Well, I’ll tell ya, Sergeant, every time that you and the Commander have come in here and taken food out of the Mess Hall, I wrote it down. I can tell you what you had for supper last night. When you charge me, just remember that.”
He never did ask me if I had it all written down. I didn’t have nothing down, but I knew I could figure it out. They’d taken a lot of food out of the Mess Hall.
I waited for the police to come and pick me up but nothing happened … at first.

Promoted to K.P.

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Ft Warren was Army before it was Air Force. Actually, it was an old calvary base. They still had the stables, full of manure, still standing there.

About a week after I washed out of Clerk Typing School, I got my assignment of permanent KP.

I didn’t know what to do that first morning, when I showed up. There were no dishes to wash yet, so I just stood there, watching the Mess Sergeant fry eggs. I saw a dozen eggs and a turner on the other end of the grill, so I started breaking eggs and frying alongside him.
After we were done, the man asked, “Where’d you learn to cook?”
“I was second oldest boy, so I had to help Ma.”
“Well you’re gonna be a cook from now on.”
So I got promoted first day, first thing. I never did a lick of K.P.

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.

My Hitchhiking Days

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37 Chevy (hotrodsbyhg.com)

My next car was a six cylinder, “37 Dip Rod Chevy.” It was an old car, nothing really special. It had a really nice sounding engine, but before long I started hearing this little “tick,tick,tick.” Pretty soon it was a “bang,bang,bang.” I think they must have doctored the rods. Soon thereafter, I was afoot.

They moved us from Camp Stoneman, which was an army base, to Treasure Island. It was YBI actually, between San Francisco and Oakland. I was hitchhiking back and forth from our place to work.

One time, I was coming back from Oakland. I had gotten a ride through the tunnel and there was some kind of little town, four or five miles from the tunnel. The railroad track ran right along the road there. There was a brakeman, switching cars.
I got to talking to him. I asked him where they were going. He said they were going to Pittsburg, which was just down the road from Oakley.

“Could I ride with you?”
“Ya,” he said, “just get on the caboose. When I get through switching, we’ll just go.”

I got on the caboose and rode with them. Another couple of towns and they switched cars. When I got to Pittsburg, their time was up. I got off and hitchhiked the six or seven miles it was to Oakley. It was pretty amazing to me, how I got home that day.

One of my good friends who used to work in Pittsburg gave me a ride to work once in a while. A week after my train ride, I was hitch hiking and I saw this car rolled over, wheels up, alongside the railroad track there. It looked like his car.

I went over there and, sure enough, it was his car. About twenty feet away from the car, he lay there, deader than a door nail. The wind was lifting his hair and he looked like he was sleeping. That was a hard trip.

The radio was still on. That was what caught my attention, otherwise I might not have seen the car at all. It was pretty far off the road.

That was a little tough.

Taking My New Wife “Home”

     The next memorable occasion was almost a year later. It was in the spring. Sandy had been born and we went to see my folks.We got to where Dad and Milly lived, in Cornell, without any mishaps.


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     I had met Milly but we never spent time together. That day, when we came in there, I introduced Betty. Milly said, with Betty and Dad standing there, “Why didn’t you wait and get a girl from home?”
Nancy told me later, that Milly was slow. (My mom died in 1949 and Milly finished raising Nancy, so she knew Millie pretty good.) But, that just turned me off to her. I don’t know how I even spent time there.
We went and seen other relatives. Lawrence and Rachel, an aunt and uncle on my mother’s side, still lived in Cornell. Bea and Don lived out in the country, between Medford and Cornell.
We got everyone visited, but it wasn’t a particularly good time for me. Milly’s words colored my whole visit.

Our First “Family Swim”

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The next thing I remember is taking the family swimming at the San Mateo River.
Larry was old enough to enjoy playing in the water. Shirley liked it, but she didn’t have any idea about swimming. She was only about two or three.
We were playing in the water. Betty didn’t go into it very much, but she did go out a little. There was a tree there with a rope in it. Larry couldn’t swim, but I’d swing him out over the water and bring him back to where the shallow water was and drop him off into the water. He really enjoyed that.
We had a picnic lunch and weren’t watching Shirley. She had a toy in the water. It started going out in the water. She just went right after it. When I looked around, all I seen was her hair piled up on top her head. That’s all that was out of the water!
I run and pulled her out of the water and she had never taken a breath at all. She knew to hold her breath. I realized you had to watch kids a lot closer than I was. That was one of the lessons I got that day.
We started swimming again, after an hour or so.
I was playing with both kids. I swung out on the rope. I swung out wide and when I came back in, I noticed Betty was looking at us. I caught her with my legs as I came in and swung back out over the water.

She liked to beat me to death before I got back. I finally dropped her in the shallow water. I never even thought she didn’t know how to swim. Course, I spent the next hour and a half, or two, explaining why I did that.