Friday, January 30, 2009

More About Getting Home

I usually would wait until the beginning of May before trying to drive into the Ranch UP on the tundra when the driveway (or road) hadn't been plowed all winter. If memory serves me right, at the time my car died it was snowing. My brother who lived UP on the tundra was following me the last 30 miles from his house to the Ranch when the '58 T-Bird died. He tried to tow it with his car, but because it was snowing, he wasn't able to pull it up the hills and we left it about 5 miles from home. Later I used my dad's pickup to tow it home. (Re: the Ranch, one of my teachers in high school started calling the place the Ranch. I told him that it was a farm and he said anyplace with acreage is a ranch out west, so I figured 'What the Hell' and have been calling it the Ranch since.)

It seems like most of the time when I would come home from farther away it would snow unless I came home in July. But it has snowed in July and every other month of the year at one time or another. My roommate at K.I. bitched about how it had snowed every month the previous year.

Anywho, the first week of May was the time I would plan on so as to be able to drive in without getting stuck in the snow. Sometimes there would still be snow in the shady areas of the driveway and it would take several tries to make it thru the snow.

At this point in time I have moved the timeline up to April. It would depend on what kind of winter it was as to whether it would be the middle of April or earlier.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Some Adventures at K.I.

This is a picture of a F-101-B with the 62nd markings on it. I ran into one of the people involved in repainting the plane last year. He said it isn't one of the original 62nd planes, that when it was decided to get one for static display at K.I. none of the planes that had been there was available anymore.

As I mentioned in the post about when I got orders for K.I.Sawyer that I thought I would be able to spend time in the old stomping grounds, or so I thought. That summer I had 3 full weekends off where I could go home. Whenever someone would ask how far home was from the base, I would say it depends on whether it is Summer or Winter. They would say what difference would that make and I would say that they don't plow my shortcut in the Winter. It was about 80 miles in Summer and 100 miles in Winter. What ruined most of my weekends was practicing for ORI or TAC-EVAL on most Saturdays and I didn't feel like driving all that way for just one day. Oh, those 3 weekends, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day (Labor Day only because one of the guys in the shop covered my stand-by for me.) Stand-by was where you were on call if they needed someone from your shop at night or on weekends.

ORI and TAC-EVAL were supposed to be surprise inspections to determine how well you can play War Games. The times for these were supposed to be secret so that it would be a surprise when the inspection team came to the base. Rumor had it that the Squadron knew almost to the minute when the inspections would be held. Because of all the practicing I didn't have many free weekends.

One memorable event was when I broke my leg when I fell off the wing of one of our planes. I got called out one night to remove some screws from a panel that the flight line guy couldn't get out. (I was on stand-by that week and got called out at night.) On the Squadron level, screw removal went to Sheetmetal because we didn't have a machine shop whose job screw removal would normally be. When I got up on the plane and asked what screws were the ones that wouldn't come out, the guy pointed at a couple. The panel only had a few screw removed and probably 95% of the screws hadn't been touched. I asked if he had tried getting all the screws out and he said no because he knew that sheetmetal would have to get called out because he had a couple that wouldn't come out. I told him I wasn't going to take all the screws out because he found a couple he couldn't get out. Told him to try getting the rest of the screws out and then call me again. The flightline guy had leaned a ladder used to get into the cockpit of a T-33 against the wing of the F-101 and when I went to get down from the wing it slipped out from under me and I came down tangled up in the ladder and broke my leg. (Did I mention before that we used call Crew Chiefs [flightline types] glorified gas station attendants. Fill up the gas, check the oil, and change tires.) I should have refused to go up on the wing until there was a proper stand to do so, but I just wanted to get it over with and go back to the barracks and back to sleep.

When the ambulance got there, they had me hobble out to the ambulance between two guys instead of on a stretcher. They put me up front, probably because I had to give directions to the driver on how to get off the flightline and back to the hospital.

Because of the broken leg, I got to watch the Olympics on TV. The break was a bad one in that it broke on a spiral instead of straight across. Not one of the base doctors knew how to set a bone because basically they would have been Interns or Residents in a civilian hospital. It took them 3 weeks to figure out what they were going to do with my leg. Finally they had an Orthopedic Specialist come out from the Medical Center in town and operate on my leg. He broke the bone again and set it and put a bolt through both bones above the ankle to hold the short piece of bone in place. A couple of months later an Air Force doctor removed the bolt under a local. First he cut open one side along the scar and found the nut. He started to turn the nut and wondered why it wouldn't come off.(Did I mention I was screaming in pain all the while and someone was holding me down on the table.) I think I told him it's a bolt and you need to get at both ends. He snipped the nut off and cut open the other side of my leg to pull the bolt out. When it was installed, there was a bolt, nut and two washers all stainless steel. What got removed was a bolt, nut, and one washer. When I went back to have the stitches removed, they took a X-ray of my leg and the washer showed up on the X-ray. The doctor said he wasn't going back in to remove it and I said "You damn right you ain't"!! As far I know it is still there just above the ankle.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Musical Cars

This is the car I left Maine in. The picture was taken at my brother's house in Taxachuesetts while on my way home from Maine. It's a '58 T-Bird that I paid $50 for and put another $50 or so into it and some time to fix it to the point where it was drivable.
This is the garage on the Ranch UP on the tundra where the T-Bird got parked after it died and had to be towed the last 6 miles. 200 miles from home one of the mufflers fell off and helped to keep me awake thru the night. 100 miles from home the transmission lost Drive and I had to drive in 2. About 6 miles from home it died with a bang and a cloud of smoke and had to be towed the rest of the way. It sat in the garage for about a year and a half until it got replaced with another car that died while I was on the way home from Cape Cod. A couple of years after the T-Bird died I swapped junk cars with a friend and he changed engine&transmission in the T-Bird, patched some of the rust on the body and drove it up the AlCan to Fairbanks,AK and back.

This is the car I used when I went to K.I.Sawyer. I had bought this car the year before while home on leave. The reason the parking/turnsignal lights look to be covered by the bumper is that when I bought the car it didn't have a front bumper and the base required a front bumper on which to place the sticker that got you waved onto the base. I happened to have a front bumper for a '57 Ford but obviously there were changes and it didn't fit quite right on a '56 Ford. While at K.I. I bought a '64 Corvair and parked the '56 Ford. While my brother was rebuilding the engine on his car, he borrowed the Ford. Afterwards he said he would go broke buying oil for that car as it used so much. He brought a 5 gallon can of SAE 30 motor oil home from the mine where he worked. I used that oil in everything that required some kind of oil. (Engine, Automatic Transmission and Power Steering.) I eventually sold it for what I paid for it, $50. I have bought more cars for $50 than any other price!! At the time that was a popular price for beater cars.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Orders For My Next Base

When I arrived at Dow Airplane Patch, I was told the base was going to be shut down in less than two years. Six or seven months before the scheduled closure of the base we all got to put in for base of choice and country of choice. When I was finally notified of where I would be stationed next, I was very surprised. It was K.I. Sawyer AFB, MI. I thought, cool I'll be close to home and get to spend some time on the old stomping grounds. (Turned out to be a lot less time than I had hoped.)
Above is a decal of the 62nd, the Squadron that I was assigned to at K.I. The bulldog was named Tige and I heard that at one time they actually had a dog for a mascot.

After our aircraft were gone, we spent some time going through our inventory of equipment and trying to come up with all that was on the list. If we had extras then we would dispose of them somehow. I wound up with some tools to take to my next base. I packed them along with the uniforms I would not need for awhile in my duffel bag. It weighted over 100 pounds. I had it shipped by the military (when I found out I could ship it for free courtesy of Uncle Sam, I decided to ship it rather than haul it myself), but hindsight being 20/20 I should have thrown it in the trunk of my car and hauled it myself. After I dropped my duffel bag off to be shipped I never saw it again. I didn't miss the uniforms, as a matter of fact I never replaced the lost uniforms. What I did miss was the tools and stuff I had managed to scrounge before leaving.

My next post I will show the car I left Maine with and the car I arrived at K.I.Sawyer with.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wind Chill Factor

All the talk lately about what the wind chill temp is in different parts of the country reminded me of what they used back in the day. They didn't bother breaking it down to the degree, instead it was grouped in 'Wind Chill Factors'. There were 4 Wind Chill Factors with 4 being the most severe. The chart would have various shaded areas for the different Wind Chill Factors. The one below is almost like the ones I remember as it is the only one I could find that had 4 zones as to 3 on the other charts I was able to find.

One amusing tale from my time in the land of Mainiacs concerning the Wind Chill Factor. One time they decided to play war games (practice how long it would take to load weapons on our fighters) when the Wind Chill Factor was 4 in which exposed flesh freezes in seconds. As my specialty as a tin tacker (tin bender, whatever) wasn't needed for anything on the airplanes, they had me manning the speedy dry cart. Speedy dry or oil dry is like cat litter and used to soak up oil and other liquids that may spill on the ground so people won't slip in it. On this particular day there wasn't an ounce of speedy dry on the entire base let alone on the speedy dry cart I was manning. If I remember correctly, I even had to go thru the motions of using the imaginary speedy dry while I was out there freezing my ass off!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Doing the post about flying home reminded me of something. Northeast Airlines used the base runway and had what looked like a shack off to the side of the base near the street that ran along one side of the base. Anywho, there were many days when the B-52's and KC-135's of Sac Sucks and our fighters weren't flying because of the weather. The cloud ceiling would be too low or it would be foggy and the military planes would be grounded. Then we would hear either a Northeast DC-6 or DC-9 come in for a landing and taxi over to their terminal? Then a little while later it would take off again, all the while the military planes sat on the ground.

We used to joke about how we had all-weather interceptors and fair-weather pilots. We were sure that in Squadron Operations they had an index card with a hole in the middle and colored blue on one side. Someone from Ops would come outside and hold the card up and if the sky in hole in the card matched the blue on the card, then it was OK to fly.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Flying Home

While I was stationed in Maine, I flew home on leave. The first leg was on Northeast Airlines.

At the time they were calling these planes "Yellowbird" and used a song about a yellowbird in their commercials. The plane I flew on was a DC-9 like the one pictured. They also used DC-6's to fly in and out of Bangor. After flying from Bangor to Boston, I flew to Chicago on one of the major airlines, which I don't remember which one anymore. I do remember I was flying stand-by and as a result got to fly this leg First Class as those were the only seats left when it was my turn to board. Had my first Vodka Martini and enjoyed it, especially when drinks in First Class were free!!
From Chicago to UP on the tundra, I flew on North Central Airlines. They liked to call themselves the Blue Goose, but some who worked for them and some of us passengers called it the Ruptured Duck!! This plane is a Convair 580, which is the type of plane that I flew on this trip. Eventually all of their fleet was DC-9's before becoming Republic Airlines when they merged with Southern Airlines. Later they bought Hughes Air West which also had DC-9's. The Hughes Air West planes were solid yellow and after Republic bought them, they did an ad saying they were peeling the top banana in which they peeled off the yellow Hughes Air West colors to reveal the Republic colors underneath. (This was about 15 years after my trip.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Promotion That Wasn't A Promotion

While I was at Dow Airplane Patch, I went from Airman Second Class to Airman First Class, but never received any more money each month. When I enlisted, the ranks were E-1 Airman Basic; E-2 Airman Third Class; E-3 Airman Second Class; E-4 Airman First Class. Between the time that I made E-3 and E-4 they changed the titles for the lower ranks. Then E-1 was still Airman Basic, but E-2 became Airman; E-3 became Airman First Class; and E-4 became Sergeant. The rationale was that there were no Third or Second Class Airmen. Also the E-4's were allowed membership at the NCO clubs and by calling them Sergeant, it made them the same as the rest of the NCO's.
My life has had a number of little ironies and this is one of them.