Monday, December 22, 2008

Infinite Wisdom of the Military

Before I got half way thru my hitch, I knew the military wasn't for me. A couple of examples of the military intelligence that led me to that conclusion are as follows. They sent us a guy who was a painter. We needed an aircraft painter and they sent us a house painter. This guy had about a dozen years of working in Civil Engineers as a painter, painting buildings, houses and other things around the base. When he arrived and was told he would be painting aircraft, he said OK give me a brush and a roller and I'll get at it. Aircraft painting is almost all done with a spray gun. After trying it for a few months and deciding that that type of painting was not for him, he got another job. They put him temporarily in Training. After some months in Training, he got orders that would cross-train him and he would be permanently in Training. When he got those orders he decided to get out of the military even tho he was more than half way to getting in the 20 years needed for retirement.

Another example was the guy that helped me learn what I needed to pass the SKT test for the next skill level in my job. He was what they called a squared away troop. He would spend half the night working on a plane that needed to be fixed immediately and go home for a few hours sleep and put on fresh fatigues and shine his boots and be back first thing in the morning. He really knew his stuff when it came to doing sheelmetal work on aircraft. That's why the Coonass sent us over to the SAC (SAC Sucks) sheetmetal shop for him to teach us more about aircraft sheetmetal than the basics we had learned in Tech School. It's about the only smart thing my supervisor did. One day out of the blue, he got orders saying he would be cross-trained into missiles. He was smart enough that he would have done a very good job at whatever he did, but the guy loved the job he was doing and no way did he want to change jobs. He decided to get out even tho he only needed a hitch or two to get his 20 in. These are a couple of examples of the infinite wisdom of the military.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Learning New Words

I was an innocent young 19 year old when I got to Dow Airplane Patch. I learned many new things including many new words and phrases. I don't think I had ever had a sub before and there they were called 'guinea grinders' or just grinders. After being called a 'jabroni' a number of times I learned that it meant 'fucking asshole' in Italian. I have never been able to figure out why Italians are called guineas. Worked with a guy back in the nineties that called himself the 'Mini Guinea'. He said that somewhere along the line lots of Italians were working for a guinea a day and that's why they were called guineas and the name stuck.

I learned that a 'Coonass' was a Cajun from Louisiana. My supervisor was a Coonass and so I didn't have a very good opinion of Coonasses because of that. Let's just say I didn't think he was the brightest bulb in the chandelier. They sent us another Coonass straight out of basic to become a welder and he was an even dimmer bulb.

Learned about Down East, which is a direction. According to Wikipedia it refers to the Maine coast from Penobscot Bay to the Canadian Border. Another is when sailing from Boston to Maine, you would go downwind to go East and on the return you would go up to Boston.

When I was there the people were Mainiacs, now they prefer to be called Mainers. I still like Mainiacs and the Air National Guard unit at Bangah (Bangor) still called themselves Mainiacs when I was back there in the mid-80's. While I was stationed there the Guard had F-89's that were pretty much useless. I heard that when our F-101's were flying target for their F-89's, they would sometimes get on the radio and say slow down so we can catch you. When I was back in the 80's they were a tanker unit. I got one of their decals and put it on my toolbox.

I learned how to talk like a Mainiac, and could do a passable Down East accent. A friend (a Mainiac) turned me on to the records Bert and I. If you click on the link you can listen to several of the bits on the Bert and I records. These records helped me get my Mainiac accent right. When I was about to go back there in the 80's, I used the accent to talk to the guys I was working with who were going up to Bangah. They said I was bullshitting them, that nobody talks like that. After we had been there awhile and the leadman had meet the family of waitress he hooked up with, he said, not only did they talk like I had, their accent was so thick he couldn't understand it!!

Aiyah, ain't no sonuva whorah in Bangah can beat my caw!! Aiyah!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Common Knowledge

It was common knowledge when I was in the Air Farce, no wait, that's a show on Canadian TV. Anywho, the common knowledge was that when someone flunked out of tech school they became either a cook or a skycop. One example that may prove this was when a guy I knew was removing the engine from his Volvo 544. It had a rod knock or some other problem that required a tear down. With the help of several friends he disconnected everything from the engine and four guys picked up the engine and removed it from the car. As they were about to remove it, a skycop (Air Police) walked by and said, "You know you are not allowed to do major maintenance in the parking lot." The owner of the car said, "I'm just going to overhaul the engine." The skycop said, "OK" and walked on. They carried the engine and later the transmission up to the guys room where he tore the engine apart to see what was required to repair it. We had weekly barracks inspections and before the inspection he put the engine, trans, and related parts in an empty locker. Later he took everything to the Auto Hobby Shop and rebuilt the engine.

I heard skycops would get so bored walking around guarding the airplanes that they would count the rivets on a panel on the plane. I can think of better ways to spend the day or night than walking around an airplane with a rifle in all kinds of weather.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Photo

Just put a picture at the bottom of the blog. It is the F-117A built by Lockheed in the Skunk Works. The Skunk Works were started and run by Kelly Johnson (originally from UP on the tundra) and was where many aircraft were developed and made, starting during WWII and continuing to the present day. He had retired by the time that I worked there. Some of the planes are the U-2, the SR-71, the F-104 and the Stealth Fighter among others. I worked on building the first 7 or 8 of the F-117A's while working in Beautiful Downtown Burbank.

What was ironic was that at the Lockheed Employee Store you could buy jackets, t-shirts, caps and other stuff with the Skunk Works Logo or ADP (Advanced Development Projects) on them, but those of us that actually worked there were told not to buy or wear anything with those on them. That way no one would ask questions that we could not answer.

This was another cool aircraft that I worked on. While working on it I could not tell my family about it. The Old Lady swears that while we were in La-La Land that our phone was tapped. Sometimes while talking to a friend, the connection would not be clear and her friend would ask what is wrong with the phone. The Old Lady would say, "Lockheed has a tap on the line, so we can't talk about state secrets, but we can talk about the drug deal that's going down". There would be a click and the phone would clear up!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


This is a picture of a F-101B after landing with the drag chute deployed. This is the type of aircraft I worked on while at Dow Airplane Patch and at K.I.Sawyer (which I will get to after I get done with my time in Maine). This is not one of the planes that I worked on, but it is one of the better photos I was able to find on the intratubes.

This is a picture of a T-33A. Again this is not one that I worked on. We had F-101B&F and T-33A aircraft in the unit. It was on these types of aircraft that I learned the ins and outs of aircraft repair. We did less work on the T-33's than on the F-101's but the F-101's were flown a lot more than the T-33's. What was interesting about the T-33 was that when the jet engine needed to be removed for maintenance, the whole tail was removed, and then the engine was removed.

Behind the engines under the tail of the F-101 were titanium shingles because of the heat from the exhaust. This was my first encounter with titanium, but not the last by any means. About the only thing I had to do with these titanium panels was to punch holes in new ones when one needed to be replaced.

At the time I thought these planes were old as the F-101's were around 10 years old and the T-birds were older yet. Today some of the planes the services are using are 20 years old or more.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Picture In The Header

These aircraft are the coolest that I ever worked on. They were made almost totally of composite materials. The fuselage was graphite and the fairings, leading edges and control surfaces were Kevlar. There were metal (titanium and aluminum) parts but mostly it was composite. While working on these I used to joking say I was working on a plastic airplane. It was put together like a small plastic kit airplane in that it had several large pieces (sides, top, and bottom) that were glued together to make the fuselage. All the composite pieces were glued together and the metal was bolted or riveted on. But that is all 14 years down the road from where this narrative is at this point.

H/T to Chris Hanisko for putting the picture on the intratubes where I could find it. I googled "Lear Fan" and this was one of the hits that came up.

Driver's License

While I was home on leave on my way to Dow Airplane Patch, I renewed my driver's license because it had expired, or so I thought, while I was at Basic and Tech School. I found out much later, maybe after I got out of the service that my license would have been good until 30 days after I got out of the service. Anywho, I renewed my license while home on leave. After I was at Dow I received a letter from the Secretary of State's office that had been forwarded saying that they could not issue a license because of glare on my glasses. This was when they first started putting pictures on the licenses in that state. It said to re-apply at my local office but I was about a thousand miles away from the nearest one, maybe a little closer it you went through Canada. I started the process to get a Maine license and then wrote back to the Secretary of State's office saying I was stationed in Maine and could I re-apply the next time I was on leave? When it was time to go for the tests to get the license, one of the guys in the shop talked the supervisor into letting him accompany me. He could have just let me use his car, which he was willing to do, but he wanted to goof off for the half a day or however long it took for me to do the tests to get my license. He said that because my temp license was expired that I risked getting a ticket if I drove myself. I passed the tests (questions and road test) and got a temporary license. About the time I got my Maine license, I received a license from my home state with the picture area whited out and Valid Without Photo in the white area.
As long as I had that license, sometimes when I would get carded, I would get told that it wasn't any good. I'd ask why not and they would say it says valid without photo. I would ask them what the hell did they think valid meant??
So for a few years I had licenses from two states at the same time.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Dow Airplane Patch

On my last post I mentioned how when I arrived I was told stories about how bad the winters were. This photo shows what it was like after one of the worse snowstorms while I was there. When I put this photo up, I noticed my car is in the front row, the second one to the right from the guy walking in the snow. The car is a '58 T-bird so this was taken during the last winter I was there as that is the car I drove when I left Dow Airplane Patch.

This photo shows what winter was normally like while I was there. Everywhere I was stationed I heard stories about cars being buried in snowdrifts. I believed the stories at K.I.Sawyer because my car was buried a time or two while stationed there. What helped me find it was the orange Styrofoam ball atop the antenna. I also heard stories like that on Cape Cod at Otis, but the most snow I saw there at one time was about six inches.

This is a photo of the first car I bought in Maine. I got suckered because it was over ten years old and didn't have rust. I bought it from another guy stationed there who had brought there from the south. The car never was very dependable, when I first got it I had to have a head gasket replaced and the car had such low compression that when it had been run for over half an hour it didn't have enough compression to start. I would have to wait until it cooled off enough to start. I could have overhauled the engine at the auto hobby shop, but I didn't want to tackle such a major job. I either gave it away or abandoned it after getting another car. While I had this car, I bought another car, a '57 Plymouth from someone I worked with and fixed it. When I bought the Plymouth it had a broken torsion bar. I got another from a junkyard and did a couple of other repairs and then sold it for what I had in it. Didn't even get anything for all the work I did on it. Then the guy I sold it to kept bitching about all the things he found wrong with it after he bought it. I kept telling him that he only paid $40 for it and couldn't expect it to be perfect!! In hindsight (being 20/20), I should have got rid of the Ford and kept the Plymouth. Later I bought a '58 T-bird and fixed it up. That is the car that I drove when I left to go to my next base.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dow Airplane Patch

I arrived at Dow Airplane Patch in Oct and the ground stayed bare right up to Xmas. I thought I'd see my first green Xmas. Xmas Eve it started snowing and by morning there was six inches of snow on the ground. What a relief, I was spared the horrors of a Xmas without snow!! I spent two winters there and kept hearing stories about the huge amounts of snow that they would get. One story I heard was about was how people were hearing a noise when walking on one spot on a path. When the snow went down, they saw that they had been walking over a car buried in a snowdrift. I thought the winters I spent there were rather mild compared to what I was used to.

One of my memories is that when we had a squadron party they would fill the back of a pickup with ice and cans of beer. Too bad the beer wasn't of a quality to make it drinkable. Black Label beer was one that I could not choke down when sober. Once I was drunk I could drink Black Label. Narraganset beer would slide down my throat just barely. It seemed like those were the only choices, maybe the officers got better stuff, but I don't know. Anywho, we got the cheapest beers.

I learned many things while there. I learned how to work on aircraft (F-101B & F-101F and T-33's). I learned that prejudice is a two-way street. The most prejudiced guy I ever met was a black guy that I worked with. He hated whites with a passion. Also working in the shop was another black guy who would do whatever he could to help you out and it didn't matter whether you were white or black. One day the two of them were razzing me and saying that where I was from they still thought blacks were nightfighters. I slowly looked over both of them and then said, "Say, you guys would be good in the dark."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Charlie Tuna's outfit

At the end of tech school I got my orders for Dow Airplane Patch in Bangor, ME. During basic we got to pick what state we wanted to go to and I put down California for the state and Germany for overseas. When I told my instructors where I had put in for and where I was going, one of them explained that they use a large map of the country and throw darts at it to determine where you go. I said it looks like it landed a long ways from where I picked. He said no you probably landed right on CA and then they sent you as far away from where the dart landed as possible.

Anywho, I was assigned to the 75th FIS at Dow AFB, ME. Because of the tiger shark on the patch, some of us called it Charlie Tuna's Outfit, also that FIS stood for Frigging Idiot Squadron. As soon as I got there I was told that I would only be there for about 20 months because they were shutting down the base.
The link has pictures and history for the 75th. When I googled 75th FIS I was surprised to see that it appears that the 75th is still around. It has been deactivated and reactivated numerous times since I was in the unit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Journey Continues

When I went to Milwaukee for the Draft Physical, they had some pullman cars on the train and we got sleeper berths. When I went to enlist I rode in coach and was put up in a hotel when I arrived in Milwaukee. The next day I had another physical and it was at this one or the one when I got to basic that I learned that I had a problem with colors. There is this test of circles with colored dots that have numbers in them. When I got half way thru the numbers disappeared. That meant that I couldn't chose any job that required perfect color vision. Anywho, I raised my right hand and swore my freedom away. I got to choose the base for Basic. Normally the Air Force did basic at Lackland AFB, TX. I chose Amarillo AFB, TX and got to spend almost 5 months there for basic and tech school.

This was the first time I flew in a airplane. The first part was in a 707 and when they served the meal(back then almost every flight had meals), when I was asked if I wanted more coffee, I put my cup on a small tray and watched as she spilled some on the tray. I think the second leg was in a DC-3 and the meal was placed on the pillow on my lap. When asked if I wanted more coffee, I was told to hold out my cup. I had a window seat so when I held out my cup it was over the lap of the guy next to me. She didn't spill a drop and I had several refills just to see if she would spill some coffee.

After getting to basic, we got to pick what job we wanted to do during the enlistment. Because of the color thing my choices where somewhat limited. I did get one that was on my list but not the first choice. When basic training was about to end, most of us got orders for where we were going next. Mine were that I got to lug all my stuff (duffle bag, suitcase etc..) several blocks down the street to a barracks that a couple of months before they had pulled the condemned signs off. Then I spent several months going to school to be an Airframe Repairman.

They say that most people lose weight in basic training, well, I gained 10 pounds because I was eating 3 meals a day!! I was down to 175 pounds (the lightest I have been in my adult life if adulthood starts at age 18) when I went to basic and I weighted 185 at the end of basic.

There were a number of things people would say about Amarillo. Like, it's the only place you can stand knee-deep in mud and have dust blow in your face. Stand knee-deep in snow and have dust blow in your face. The trees are beautiful, both of them. My sister-in-law told me about 20 years later that one of them died.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hiatus is over

The hiatus is over and I will continue the story of my journey down the road as a wage-slave at a later date. I need to find a couple of pictures of the planes I worked on in the Air Force. While on hiatus I had a chance to get a picture of one of the planes but kept forgetting to go over and take a picture when I was over in the area.

Friday, May 23, 2008


This blog will be on hiatus for the summer also.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More About that Spring

I got a notice from the draft board to go to Milwaukee for a pre-induction physical. On the overnight trip down I was in a Pullman Sleeper and on the way back I was in coach. After I got the notice that I was 1A, I decided to join the Air Force. My senior class in high school took the Air Force entrance exam as an aptitude test and I had high scores in all areas. While in high school I had thought about going in the Army and try to get into some kind of construction unit and learn how to operate bulldozers and graders and other heavy equipment. When LBJ and Congress decided to do a huge troop build-up in 'Nam, I changed my mind about the Army. I figured if I was to go to 'Nam, I would like to be in the service that gave me the best chance of coming home alive. I didn't consider the Navy because I didn't like their uniforms. Like I said I had taken the test for the Air Force, so about all I had to do was to sign the papers.

While waiting to go into the Air Force I got a job on the pipeline. It was with a sub-contractor that was clearing the right-of-way. My job was burning brush. It was easy as about all I had to do was to get the pile burning and then walk around and pick up pieces that the dozer missed and throw them on the fire. This was the first job I was fired from. I wanted to fix my car so I could out drinking Friday night and I lied about why I needed to take the afternoon off. When I went back to work on Monday I was told I was fired. That was the first time a so-called co-worker ratted me out to the boss. It didn't bother me because I was to go into the Air Force in a couple of weeks. When I went to get my paycheck, we were told that they would give us the checks next week. The checks didn't arrive before I left and I made arrangements for someone to pick it up and cash it at Old Charley's store and pay off my bill at the store. For some reason the check bounced and had to be redeposited or something. After hearing about the problems with the paycheck, I was glad I didn't work there very long. Because I didn't get my check before I left, I had to borrow $20 from my uncle so I would have money for food and cigarettes until I got paid in the service.

If working for someone else was being a wage-slave, being in the service at that time was more like being a slave. You got room and board and a small amount of money for incidentals and you could not quit.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Trip down South

After all the cold weather the beginning of March, when I got my income tax refund I bought a round-trip bus ticket and went to visit my brother and his family in GA. When I left there was several feet of snow on the ground at home. When I got to Georgia the flowers were starting to bloom and the trees were starting to leaf out. I had been at my brother's place for a couple of weeks when one day the phone rang and I was told it was for me. I picked up the phone and said hello. The voice in the phone started speaking Finnish to me. I went "What?" Then the woman said don't you speak Finn? I said yes, but Georgia was the last place I expected to hear someone speaking in Finn to me. Then she asked me how things were in Pelkie and who did I know in Pelkie. I told her I wasn't from Pelkie. Then she said that my name had been in the local paper under Pelkie news saying I was going to visit my brother in GA. Even tho I wasn't from Pelkie, she invited all of us to have coffee with her and her husband. They lived fairly close and we drove over on a Saturday and had a nice chat and coffee.

After several weeks of almost summer, like a fool I decided to head back up to the tundra. I called my cousin to let him know when I was arriving so he could pick me up from the bus at 5am. Well, my cousin and a couple of other guys got drunk the night before and passed out. When the bus arrived, I stepped out and into about 6 inches of snow and slush. Ah Spring, don't you love it?? This was typical spring weather and I knew I was home. Luckily the Laundromat was open 24/7 or I would have had a cold miserable wait. About an hour later my ride finally arrived with a couple of hungover people to take me home.

Seems like most of the time when I went home something strange happened. This was just one of many times when a homecoming didn't go as expected.

Monday, May 5, 2008

30 Weight Oil

After the Ford job I found another job. This one was at a small plant that made folding table and bench combinations for schools and other places. Some were portable and when they were folded up could be wheeled away. Some were to be built into the wall. After a few weeks I got tired of Detroit and decided to go back up to the tundra.

Before I left Detroit I had the oil changed on my car. It was a nice day in February, temp in the 50's so I had them put in straight 30 weight oil. This was an old car and had only had non-detergent straight weight oil. My dad years before had switched from straight weight oil to detergent and that car used so much oil after that that he had to get rid of it. Anywho, I went back up to the tundra in late Feb. with the heavy oil in my car. The first week in March the temp went down to 52 below zero one night and was at least 40 below for a week. My car was parked outside and would not start for three days. On the third day I put some kerosene in a large can with a rag to act as a wick. I lit it and put it under the oilpan of the car. After awhile the snow was melting off the hood and then I tried to start the car. It fired up like it was Summer. That night I drove it into a snowbank and covered the front half of the car with snow. It went down to 45 below zero that night and the next morning the car started with no trouble and without having to do anything other than shoveling the snow away from the door to get in.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Little Farther Down the Road

The job on the Soup Line ( as some of the guys called it ) lasted for a little over 4months and I got laid off just in time for Deer Season. So I went deer hunting and had a good time. Around the end of the year, I went down to Detroit with Screwloose to seek my fortune. Screwloose had relatives there so we had a place to stay and shortly after getting there we both got jobs at Ford's Wayne truck plant where they made pickups, Broncos and medium bus chassis. I worked there 3 nights (6pm to 4:30am) and on the 4th night I quit twice. I couldn't keep up with the assembly line. Where I started was at a transfer point and when the guy doing the transferring would get behind he would shove the frames down the line to lessen the gaps. That meant I had even less time to do my job. I went and talked to a HR person and he talked me into staying. The next job wasn't any better. The guy showed me how to do each frame and then sat back and let me do it. The guy won't do a thing to help me no matter how far behind I got. Finally I told the guy that I hadn't had a break yet and he took over. I went and got my jacket and left. Went back on payday and got my check.

While I was living in Detroit, I happened to do something that gives me a small claim to fame. I worked for the man that put the first ice machines in Hell. One Saturday I was asked if I would help a friend of the people I was staying with, the guy had an ice plant that he wanted to empty so he could do some work on it. I spent the day driving around Detroit with him filling ice machines until the ice plant was empty. I found out later that he had put the first ice machines in Hell, MI. So when someone tries to end an argument with "And the people in Hell want ice water too." Now you can say "They have ice machines in Hell, so it is possible for them to have ice water."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What Flavor Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream are you?

You Are Marsha Marsha Marshmallow Ice Cream

Outdoorsy and gluttonous, yup, that's you!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008



Of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Soo Line Ore Dock in Marquette, MI

This is where I started down the road to being a wage slave. My first job after high school was as a carpenter's helper on the Bridge and Building crew on the Soo Line RR. This ore dock was originally the DSS&A RR ore dock until the merger with Soo Line. Most of the guys were still muttering about the merger and this was 5 or 6 years after the fact. They still considered themselves as DSS&A. Anyhow the first couple of weeks on the job were spent up on this ore dock. When I would ask what I should do, most of the time the other guys on the crew would tell me it would be quicker for them to do it themselves than to explain how to me and for me to stay out of sight and out of their way so they could finish the job and move on. They had been working on the ore dock for the last 6 months and they wanted to finish and move to a job somewhere else down the tracks. So I spent a lot of time at the far end of the dock throwing iron ore pellets at the seagulls.
The ore dock shut down in the 70's when the last mine supplying ore to it shut down ( the Tracy ). Several years ago the approach to it was removed. There has been talk of converting it to condos. Question; what would they do to get rid of the iron ore dust, encapsulate it?

Sunday, April 27, 2008


This is just a post to start the blog. Will do more to set up the blog.