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Bo's Stories, Page 21

THE FAMILY OF BESSIE EDNA BROWN & THOMAS MONNIE WOODS

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“Fleet Logistics

Air Transport Squadron Five

Naval Air Station

Moffett Field California

 

                 The next morning after a fine breakfast in the mess hall, I drove around to the VR- 5 hangar and reported to the Duty Officer, VR-5.  He had an orderly show me to the Aero Equipment Shop where I met the Chief whose name I don’t remember, and a PR1 by the name of Russell.  I learned the Aero Equipment Division was a pretty large one of about 45 to 50 men and headed by a Lieutenant named Larson.  Lt. Larson was a pilot and gone most of the time.  The only function that he really had in the division was to occasionally sign some papers.  The Chief, as is typical throughout the Navy, ran the division.

 

         Our Division complement was one Chief, one PR1, three PR2’s (I was the third), 4 PR3’s, and 36 to 40 Airmen, and of course the titular leader, Lieutenant Larson.  Most of the men were in flight status of one kind are another most every month.

 

         Our hangar was a very large one.  We could have as many as six, four engine transport planes in the hangar for maintenance at one time.  There were two levels of shops, storage, equipment, and training rooms, and offices down each side of the hangar.  Our shop was on the second deck.  We had two compartments on the second deck.  One small compartment with bunks in it for the night crew and then a very large one, about 30’ x 40’ feet where we had four desks in one corner, which was our “office”.  The division Officer, the two top enlisted men and our clerk, Richard Royce Moffat each had a desk.  On one side we had several sewing machines and on the other we had all kinds of survival equipment displays.   Below these spaces we had a large shops/storage area with all kinds of aero equipment stored.

         We had but very few parachutes in the squadron.  The reasoning was there would be no way to safely jump 70 or 80 completely in-experienced people in an emergency from one of our planes.  Probably half or more would have perished if you got them out the hatch.  Too, the transport planes were fairly easy to safely ditch in the sea if conditions were not too rough.  Thankfully we never had to do that in my squadron but we came close a couple of times.

 

         We used the parachutes only on test flights and when we were carrying classified (some level of secret) cargo.  We had a very large number of life rafts and life jackets that we always carried.  Most of our flights were over water and we had to provide for up to eighty-five people on each flight we made.  After we got the new R6D aircraft we carried five, twenty-man rafts on each plane.

 

         The twenty-man rafts were very nice.  There were two different circular flotation tubes stacked one on top the other with a floor secured in between them.  The tubes were about 18” in diameter and the raft was about 12’ in diameter.  Properly inflated the lower tube would hold the raft floor above the water.  All of the gear, of which there was a great deal, was secured in bags and the bags were tied to the raft.  Either side of the raft was right side up.  All you had to do was pull the bags of gear into the raft and you were set.

 

         There was a canopy that could be put up and secured to the flotation tube to protect the passengers from sun, wind and waves.  There was also signaling equipment, first aid kits, food, water, raft repair kits and air pumps.  We never had to use the rafts in my squadron, but I would have felt in pretty good shape in one of those things.

 

         The function of the Aero Equipment Division was threefold.  First was the usual inspection, repair and care for all the aircraft survival equipment.  VR-5 had 12 planes.  When I first joined the squadron, our planes were Douglas four-engine transports, which we called R-5-D’s (Air Force designation was C-54’s).  Soon after, we began to change over to the R-6-D, which was a beefed up version with a pressurized cabin and larger, more powerful, engines.

 

         The second part of our function was to service all departing and arriving aircraft.  Our service for departures was to assure that all survival equipment was in place and in proper order.  And we also had to place adequate food, water and coffee on the plane for the flight.  Our service for arrivals was to remove the coffee and water containers.  Remove all of the trash and clean the plane.  Remove, empty, clean and return the toilet containers, commonly referred to as “honey buckets”.

 

         The third part of our function was to supply Flight Orderlies for all departing flights.  This was somewhat of a scheduling nightmare that became my responsibility soon after arrival.   I found I was pretty adept at it.  My Division received around $2500.00 monthly for “flight pay”.  This was the first job I ever had where I was involved in budgets and finance management.

 

         About flight pay.  In the Navy the men assigned to flight duty receive extra pay because of the hazards of flying.  The amount paid per month was a flat rate of $50.00 per enlisted man who was assigned to fly as a non-crew member.  Those assigned to fly as crew members were paid on the basis of rank (I suppose the higher the rank, the greater the risk).  Men who flew outside the continental U.S. also drew sea pay.  Just one flight would qualify a man to draw sea pay for three months.  I believe it was $21.00 per month.

         So, you can see there were some incentives for flying.  In addition, the men also enjoyed going to Hawaii, Japan or Alaska.  Because of these enticements, I had little trouble out of the troops.  They knew I had the purse strings, and they would do whatever, within reason, that I asked of them.

 

         Soon after my arrival at Moffett Field they asked me to fill out papers for a “Top Secret” security clearance and I did it.  Mr. Grady Dunn who ran a general store at Fairplay, which was the closest business to our farm, told me that an agent from the FBI came in and talked to him about me.  Asked him all kinds of questions about my family and me.  I guess Mr. Grady gave the right answers because I got the clearance. 

 

         Moffett Field was a very nice base.  The barracks were old, and here as in other places the barracks complex was known as “Splinter City”.  New barracks replaced them a few months after I arrived.  The other facilities were good and the mess hall served the best food that I ever had in the military.  The good food could be attributed largely to our Commissary Officer, Lieutenant Leach.  He was a good one.  Mr. Leach frequently stood at the exit of the mess hall checking trays.  If you had food left on your tray there had better be something wrong with it; otherwise you were going to eat it.  I once saw him make a guy eat 4 or 5 pats of butter without anything to go with them.  Another time a man had a potato about the size of a golf ball on his tray and Mr. Leach asked him why he hadn’t eaten it and the sailor said, “it’s not done”.  Whereupon; Mr. Leach picked the potato up and bit it in half.   “You’re right,” he said.  

 

         By making his mess hall door inspections, Mr. Leach had reduced the amount of food thrown away to almost zero.  That allowed him to spend less on food purchases and give us choice foods and plenty of them.  It also let him know when there was a problem with the food that could be corrected in the kitchen.  His motto was, “Take all you want, but eat all you take”.  It was a working philosophy.  He had the mess cooks give moderate sized servings.  If you ate all of that and wanted more, just go back and they would give you more.  Milk was self-service and we could have all we wanted.  Most places, milk was in cartons and rationed.  Here it was in bulk in large refrigerated tanks with a spigot.

 

         We frequently had those small potatoes, I mentioned above, peeled and baked in the oven until they were brown on the outside.  I ate many of them but don’t think I’ve had one since then.  On Fridays we always had fried shrimp and oyster stew and the mess hall did a big business.   Another day of the week we had the best spaghetti that I have ever had and I’ve tried it from here to Rome.  This was accompanied by garlic toast, which I had never had before.  On occasion we had pizza and that was another thing that I had not eaten before that time.  The guys in Lakehurst used to rave about the “pizza pie” at some place outside the base, but I never went there and tried it.

 

          Many of the “Brown Baggers” at Moffett bought their meals.  A brown bagger was a sailor who lived off the base and drew a monthly allowance in lieu of rations.  He usually brought his lunch in a “brown bag”, hence the name.  In 1953 the allowance was $31.50 per month or $1.05 per day broken down as follows: Breakfast $0.25, Lunch $0.45, and Supper $0.35.  For the food we had there, that was a great buy.

        

         Our hangar at Moffett Field was wired for an intercom system and it was a good one.  Much of the business of the squadron could be handled over the “squawk box”, and I really came to appreciate that means of communication.  Shortly after my arrival, when the Chief gave me the scheduling responsibility, I had several large boards made and hung on the wall to keep track of everything.

 

         We had a division clerk by the name of Richard Royce Moffat from New Orleans.  Moffatt was a natural born artist.  He could visualize and draw free hand; just about anything he wanted to.  I asked him to layout the boards for me and he did a beautiful job.  We used heavy white posterboard, on which Richard drew off the items we needed, and then we covered them with clear Plexiglas.  Entries were made with a grease pencil and erasures were made with a rag.  Quick and easy to keep current!

 

         On these boards we kept a running record of plane movements (arrivals/departures), manpower (where each man was and his assignment), and the status of all our equipment.  I can’t begin to tell you what an effective tool those boards were.  The “old hands” who were very skeptical of the idea to begin with, quickly embraced the system.  After a short time, one could walk into the shop and quickly discern the schedule of everything and everyone in the Division.

 

         My status quickly went up in everyone’s eyes except for Lieutenant Larson, who seemed to be peeved that it was not his idea.  He never liked me from the beginning, and although I tried very hard to change his mind, it just never worked.

 

         I had been a PR2 (Parachute Rigger Second Class) since April of 1952, and was qualified to take the exam for PR1 on April 1, 1953.  There were 13 PR2’s at Moffett Field, taking the exam for PR1.  As I mentioned earlier, the test scores were weighted to provide an edge to those with longer service.  One of the PR2’s in my shop had 17 years of service and 13 years in grade.  That meant that I, still short of 4 years in service and with 1 year in grade, would have to out score him by 27 points on the test questions to beat him.

 

         I studied very hard for the exam.  I reviewed all of the Technical Manuals and Bulletins available in the days before the exams were given.  I am happy to say that I made a very high score on the exam.  I was the only PR2 at Moffett Field that was promoted to PR1.  Within a month, the Chief and PR1 Russell were gone, leaving me as the senior Petty Officer in the Division.  Mr. Larson did not like that one bit, although we had a happy crew and a smooth running Division.

 

         About a month later, a Chief Aviation Machinist Mate transferred into the Division.  There was no doubt in my mind that Mr. Larson arranged that, so he would not have to deal with me.  Little did he know that I was tickled pink to have someone to share the burden. 

 

         The new Chief was named Smith.  Some time in the past he had been nicknamed Snuffy, which he hated.  He thought he had left the name behind him in his travels, but an old acquaintance came through and saw Smith.  Before he left he told me about the nickname, and I, with great relish, began calling the Chief, Snuffy.

 

         Smith and I became great friends, but strictly on a professional level.  He and Richard Moffat took care of the administrative end of our business, and I took care of everything else.  It worked out great for us both.  There were a few guys who were cool toward me for passing them up on the promotion list, but they soon got over that.

 

         Everyone in the Division went out on flights as Orderlies, including Snuffy, Richard Moffat and me.  This time in my Navy career was some of the best for me.  I had a great bunch of guys in the Division, and everything was running smoothly.

 

         Right after I made First Class I went out on a flight to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas.  Commander Fred Wright who was the squadron Operations Officer was Plane Commander.  I don’t recall the names of the other crewmen, but there was another pilot, a Chief who was the flight mechanic and a radioman of some rank.  The purpose of our flight was to take an old worn out plane to the “Heavy Maintenance” Facility at Corpus and turn it in for a refurbished plane.  At that time in the Navy, transport aircraft engines were overhauled after 1600 hours of service.

 

         We had several hitchhikers on the flight.  These were people going on leave or returning from leave or in some cases under orders on new assignments.  We left out of Moffett about mid-morning on a beautiful spring day.  We had no oxygen equipment on the plane and it was one of the old R5D’s and not pressurized.  There was wind whistling through the cracks and you could see daylight around the hatches.

 

         Commander Wright was an older guy and I guess near retirement age.  He was an easygoing man and was my favorite officer in the squadron.  When we approached the Grand Canyon he took the old plane up to 10,000 feet, which was the maximum authorized altitude.  At that altitude the air is thin enough that a flat-lander like me begins to get light-headed and any exertion is almost too much.  I want to tell you here a little about the effect of a shortage of oxygen on a human being.  It doesn’t work like it is depicted in the movies where you see people gasping for breath.  I once was tested in a decompression chamber and saw a vivid demonstration of this.   Each of us in the chamber was given a paper and pencil and told to write our names on the paper.  As air was pumped from the chamber to simulate an increasing altitude we were asked to write our names again at each simulated 1000 feet of altitude.  It appeared to me that I wrote my name exactly the same each time.  It felt that way and looked that way to me.  In truth, as we went up in altitude my writing became worse and worse.  When I looked at it later, I couldn’t believe what had happened.  The reason for this is; the first organ affected by the lack of oxygen is the brain and one’s judgement quickly deteriorates.  There is absolutely no problem in breathing and everything appears to be perfectly normal while your body is starved for oxygen, this is known as anoxia.

 

         On the R5D there was a pretty large open area near the rear of the cabin and on the starboard (right) side there was a “Mack” stove.  This was not a stove at all but a kitchen cabinet with brackets to hold several 1-gallon thermos jugs of coffee and water and it was wired for four electric hot-cups.  These cups were 1-quart size and had two large prongs sticking out one side.  When you wished to heat something, you put it into the cup and plugged the prongs into a special electric socket.

 

         About the time we got to the Grand Canyon a couple of guys got up and came aft, where I was, to get coffee or water, I don’t remember which.  As the Orderly I was the steward and had to see to the needs of the crew and the passengers.  I was about to get whatever it was the guys were after, when suddenly the floor dropped out from under us.  It dropped and dropped.  I grabbed onto the Mack stove.  The two guys that had been standing there were up against the overhead (ceiling).  It seemed we would never stop, but when we did it was sudden and dramatic.  I went to my knees; the two guys against the overhead hit the deck.  They never did get what they came after, but beat it back to their seats and buckled in.  Commander Wright told me later that we had dropped several hundred feet in a down draft.  The old plane popped, creaked and groaned but held together somehow.

 

         We landed at NAS Corpus on a warm muggy late afternoon.

I went to the mess hall and ate supper, then called my sister Nell in Houston and talked to her.  Later I went to the transit barracks, found a bunk and got some sleep.  The next morning after breakfast I went out and began transferring all of our gear from the old plane to the new one.  We were scheduled out at 9:00 AM.  Commander Wright, the other pilot and the flight mechanic were checking the plane over and running the engines up as I got our gear stowed.

 

         When we got ready to take off we had about a dozen hitchhikers on their way to California and we had a pretty day for it.  After we were in the air though, Commander Wright called me to the cockpit to tell me that we had new orders and I should tell our passengers that we were going to drop them off at Kirtland Air Force Base about 40 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I told them, but they were not happy.  We went in to Kirtland and it was cold, windy and overcast.  They parked us at a remote ramp way out near the end of a runway, like we were contagious or something.  A bus met the plane to take the passengers to the terminal.  I headed for the bus, but Commander Wright called to me and had all the crew get into the Cadillac staff car with him.  That’s what I liked about Commander Fred Wright.

        

They took us to the mess hall for chow and then to a briefing room.  The Base Security Officer came in and checked our ID’s against a list that had been dispatched from Washington.  Then the Base Commander came in and briefed us on our mission, which was to take a load of atomic weapons from Kirtland Air Force Base to the North Island Naval Air Station at San Diego California.  After the briefing I realized why they had parked us so far out in the boondocks in the first place.

 

         We went out to the plane and the air Force guys began bringing the weapons.  All the weapons were in steel canisters.  Three or four were on heavy-rubber tired trailers; others were in upright canisters of different sizes.  I had rolled and tied the seats up out of the way and they filled the cabin with the cargo.  We didn’t know it then, but the Air Force Sergeant in charge of the loading didn’t know what he was doing and he had the load poorly distributed. 

 

         About the time the loading was finished it began to snow.  We secured everything and began to taxi to the proper runway for take-off.  As we were just about to cross another runway, the tower told us to wait. We stopped just short of the runway just as a plane whistled by us as it landed.  You could hardly see it in the heavy snow.  A near miss!  We knew we were overloaded aft because of the difficulty removing the post under the tail that is placed there while the plane is parked. 

 

         Commander Wright had all of the crew get as far forward in the cockpit as we could for take-off.  As soon as we took off it immediately became apparent to Commander Wright just how tail-heavy we were but he thought we could safely make the flight to San Diego and we did. This plane was much nicer than the one we turned in at Corpus and didn’t leak air nearly as bad.  I served the crew coffee in the cockpit and then all alone in the cabin for this leg of the trip, I kicked back to relax.  When I did I noticed a spewing sound and got up to investigate.  I discovered the sound was made from air escaping from around small plugs screwed into the weapons canisters.  I was alarmed and immediately went forward to alert the crew.  Commander Wright and the flight Mechanic came aft to take a look.  None of us knew what to make of it.  None of us had ever seen any weapons like these.  We didn’t know whether to be alarmed or not.    I surmised the air was coming out because of the pressure differential as we gained altitude.  Was it harmful?  Was it radioactive?  We didn’t know.  We had no Geiger counter.  This was a secret exercise so Commander Wright couldn’t get on the radio to talk about our cargo, so the decision was made to do nothing and that is what we did.  My hair didn’t fall out and so far as I know I was not harmed.

 

         As we made our approach to North Island we hit a rainsquall and it got real bumpy up there.  That made me a little nervous.  For the landing, all of us again got into the cockpit.  I leaned up between the two pilots and put my hands just under the windshield and stayed there until we were on the ground. 

 

         As we neared the end of the runway on our approach we saw all of the emergency vehicles take off from the terminal area and head out to pace us down the runway.  They weren’t taking any chances.  If there was a crash and/or a fire they were going to be on top of it.  Somehow that didn’t make me feel very good.  Commander Wright was an old and experienced pilot and cool as a cucumber.  As they say in the Navy about a smooth landing, “he greased it in”.  Not a bump or a bounce! 

 

         They parked us in the most remote place on the airfield.  We had to shinny down the emergency exit line at the cabin hatch to exit the plane.  We chocked the wheels and then couldn’t get the tail post under the tail it had sagged down so far.  Our Second Pilot had to climb back into the plane and fire up an engine to lift the tail enough to get the post under it.  We had the plane secure when a Jeep and a staff car showed up.  Again Commander Wright had all of us get into the staff car and the Jeep went back empty.  We had chow and spent the night.  The next morning our plane had been unloaded and we returned to Moffett Field.  About two weeks later at Barbers Point I ran into one of the guys that got bumped off the flight at Kirtland.  The Air Force had bused them into Albuquerque where he caught a train or bus to California.

        

In late summer or fall we conducted a large airlift of weapons from the Red River Arsenal near Texarkana.  We loaded them at Barksdale Air Force Base Shreveport, Louisiana.  This airlift required several of our planes and we flew out of Moffett Field with two crews on each plane.  One was a, so-called, deadhead crew that rode as passengers and then brought the plane back as soon as it was loaded.  The crew that took the plane out laid over until the first crew returned from California. 

 

         On being assigned as members of this operation we were given a briefing by Commander Wright.  Each crewmember was to procure and take with him a parachute.  None of our planes were equipped with parachutes and they were required when flying classified cargo so each crewman had to provide for himself.  I had an adequate number of chutes for the operation available in the Aero Equipment shop and instructed my guys to log the chutes out as people requested them.

 

         When we left Moffett there was a brief flap because one crewman, on the plane I was on, did not have his parachute.  Guess who that was?  My aloof leader Lieutenant Larson!  He thought since he was Division Officer that someone would take care of that little chore for him.  He made that point to me and clearly thought that I should have done it.  Before I could respond our squadron Executive Officer whose name I forget, spoke up and told Mr. Larson that the orders were clear that each man should procure his own parachute.  That settled that!  I hoped we didn’t need to use the chutes, but I determined that if we did Mr. Larson was not going to get mine.  He could go down with the ship or try to fly, but that was his problem.  But as it happened we didn’t need the chutes anyway.  That was another black mark against me though.

 

         Barksdale was a pretty nice place, but while I was there it was overrun with people.  There was a hurricane threatening the Gulf Coast and all of the Mississippi, Alabama. And Florida Air Force bases had been evacuated to Barksdale.  Every bed was full and the mess hall was working overtime to feed everybody.  We sailors wore khaki flight suits, black shoes and white hats.  The sailor hat is so distinctive that everyone should recognize it, but those airmen at Barksdale insisted on saluting us.  I guess they were abiding by the axiom, “if in doubt salute it”, but I got a little tired of it anyway.

 

         We flew over Marshall Texas in late afternoon on our trip to Barksdale.  We were making our approach into Barksdale and were pretty low.  It was a clear day and I had a good view of the town.  When we landed I was amazed at the level of security at Barksdale Field.  I had never seen anything like it.  There were tanks parked along the runways and they were manned around the clock.  We parked the planes in a remote area and as we disembarked we were surrounded by a rifle platoon as though we were from a foreign country and they were demanding our surrender.

 

         They hauled us into the office compound under guard and delivered us to the base security officer.  He and his aides checked our identification against a list they had received from Washington photographed us and made security badges that were good for leaving and entering the base and for movement around the base except for in restricted areas.  The hangars, ramps and runway areas were off limits and we could go there only with an escort.  Once we were cleared we were briefed on our mission and the base facilities and then released.

 

         I was a member of one of the deadhead crews and after chow we went back out to our plane which was being loaded.  When that was finished we took off for Alameda Naval Air Station in Alameda California.  The weapons were destined for ships and bases in the Pacific.

 

         As it transpired, my crew took the first and last loads of weapons out of Barksdale with a total of four loads.  The other crews took only three loads each.  On the last load instead of flying directly to Alameda we stopped off in Texas at a base I had never heard of before or since and that was Gray Air Force Base.  I still don’t know for sure where it is.  We went in there on a blistering hot day.  The place was almost deserted.  As we landed we could see armed guards on sentry duty along the runway perhaps 100 yards apart.  There were a few buildings clustered near the end of the single runway.  One of them was a mess hall where we had lunch.  I saw no more that half a dozen men there besides the guards.  A strange place!  We off-loaded some weapons and then went on our way to Naval Air Station, Alameda, California.

 

         Our Commanding Officer, Captain Lloyd H. McAlpine, was a decent guy.  I went flying with him two or three times.  Mr. McAlpine was also a volleyball fan, and he decreed that each of the divisions in the Squadron would field a team in intramural competition.  He had a court painted on the hangar deck and a net put up, and the competition began.  We went “O fer” as the sportscasters call it.  That meant we lost all of the games we played.

 

         The problem was that all of the people in my Division were on the go.  We never fielded the same team.  Frequently we would have two or more guys in the game that had not played in a previous game. Captain McAlpine was displeased with me, and I’m sure he never really understood what the problem was.  I was a little embarrassed, but there was nothing I could do about it.  I fielded what I thought was the best group of guys that I had available.  We played hard, but volleyball is a very “team oriented” game. Without a well-coordinated team approach, you lose, and that is what we did.

 

         Sometime during 1953 I went flying with Captain McAlpine.  We left Moffett about daylight one morning, flew up to Alameda and picked up a load of men and gear from an aircraft carrier and took them to Naval Air Station, Fallon, Nevada.  Their planes and pilots had flown to Fallon the day before.  After unloading at Fallon we went back to Alameda and got another load.  We delivered the second load and then went back to Moffett in the late afternoon.

 

         I’ve mentioned the Flight Orderly assignments, and I need to explain the duties for that role.  Our Division crew took care of the planes leaving Moffett Field, but at other bases, that fell to the Orderly.  He was responsible for giving pre-flight briefings, much as the stewardesses give them now.  The difference was that we gave them in the Terminal before boarding the flight. 

 

         The Orderly saw to all of the paperwork of the flight, such as manifests for passengers and cargo, Customs Declarations and Agricultural Inspections.  He also saw to the loading of food, water, and coffee.  He made sure the plane was clean and that all equipment was on board and in good condition. 

 

         The crew always stayed together for the duration of the flight.  We had two Hawaii “turnarounds” each week.  These were flights that went to Hawaii and returned a day or two later as opposed to going on west.  We had one or two Western Pacific flights each week.  We called these WestPacs wherever they were going if they went beyond Hawaii. And then each week we had two Alaskan flights and sometimes a Whidby Island, Washington turnaround.   Then there were some special unscheduled flights such as the weapons airlift.

 

         All of the WestPac flights did not take the same route.  Usually they would fly from Hawaii to Kwajalein.  From there to Guam and then to Japan, stopping two nights in Hawaii, one in Guam and two or three in Japan. There were no hard and fast rules and we went where there was a need for transport of one kind or another.  Our planes had seats that could be folded up against the bulkheads (walls) to make room for cargo.  We frequently hauled cargo in one direction and people in the other.  Usually on the return trip from Japan, we would fly directly to Midway Island and make a refueling stop, then fly directly to Hawaii from there.  On one flight we flew into the Philippines and Formosa (now Taiwan) on our way to Japan.

 

         On the return flight we again stopped in the Philippines and loaded the plane with Rattan furniture.  Our Plane Commander on this flight was Captain McAlpine and the story I got was that he and his wife had bought a beach house someplace and wanted to furnish it with Rattan.  One of the pilots said the Captain paid $1100 dollars for all of the furniture we could cram into the plane.  Rank Has Its Privileges!!  I wonder how many people rode a ship home while we filled their seat with furniture?

         I had a guy working for me by the name of Eugene L. Gathright from Mississippi.  Gathright came to me once and asked for a three-day weekend off.  Our guys didn’t get routine days off because of our erratic schedule.  Instead they got flight crew time off.  When they came in off a flight they would be given two to four days off, depending on the duration of the trip.  In this case, I asked Gathright what he needed the time off for and he said to go duck hunting.  I said, “Sure, if I can go with you”.  He said, “You’re welcome if you want to go”.  The upshot was that he took me to meet the host of the hunting trip and I was included in the plans.      

        

         I needed a gun, so I went to Sears and opened an account and bought a “J.C. Higgins” 12 gauge with a ventilated rib and a poly choke for $72.00.  I still have it and have used it many times, if not always successfully. 

 

         Our host was a building contractor in Mountain View, California where I lived.  He did a lot of fishing and hunting.  We drove about 200 miles north to a ranch where some of his family lived.  This was a large family and a very large ranch house with a bunkhouse.  Gathright and I were relegated to the bunkhouse, which was comfortable.  In the main house there was a large dining room with a long table.  At meal times there were about 20 people seated at the table that was loaded with food.  I never did learn all of the relationships, but there was an elderly couple, who were the grandparents, the parents, who were our hosts, several children, some with spouses and then some grandchildren.  Talk about one big happy family; they certainly seemed to be.  It was a noisy joyful occasion and I enjoyed it very much.

 

         The elderly gentleman asked if either Gathright or I played cribbage and I told him that I did.  I had taken the game up in Hawaii and it became a favorite game of mine.  When we weren’t hunting, I played cribbage with the old man.  He was a very skilled player and we both enjoyed the games immensely.  He was sorry when we left to go home and so was I.

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