Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chapter 24

The next day we went to Payson where my family and friends had planned an open house reception where my family and friends could get acquainted with Syl. It was very nice. Archie Williams, a teacher and personal friend gave a hilarious, original reading and another friend, June Butler, a girl that I had grown up with sang. And we received a whole car load of gifts for us to pack into our little car for the return trip to California the next day.

After arriving in California, we had another wedding reception in Merced for all our mutual friends there.

Before we left Utah, my father asked us if my younger brother Alvie could go live with us. Dad was completely unable to control him because every time Dad tried to correct him, Mother had a fainting spell which we supposed was a heart attack. Little brother, who was six foot two and weighed 192 pounds, became our ward and our responsibility. Sybil was willing to undertake this problem, even though it may have been complicated our adjustment considerably. So little brother joined us on our return to Merced. He lived us only about a month when Mother sent him the money and he left us to return home.

I suppose no adjustment of two people learning to live together was totally harmonious, but ours was wonderful. Sybil only left once to go home, and I soon learned. I had tried to teach her fry pork chops, but she wouldn’t let me. Then I went hunting the weekend after we got back to Merced. A group of my friends flew up on a cross country, and then on Thanksgiving weekend, I took another cross-country to Cheyenne, Wyoming to fly Dr. Yoder, my friend, the flight surgeon home for a day. She learned that flying was my business and that I would fly away from time to time. The first Christmas I bought her a nice piece of jewelry for a present, but I wrapped it in a series of boxes until it was a great big box under the Christmas tree. When she un-wrapped it, she learned I was a practical joker, and I learned not to be a practical joker.

Back in the flying business, I had graduated to be a senior instructor and a flight commander. As such, it was my responsibility to give the check rides to each of the cadets in my flight. I soon found myself doing stalls, spins, and acrobatics 4 to 5 flights a day and found my stomach couldn’t take it. It got so I was airsick most every day until the flight surgeon started me taking Benzedrine tablets [a stimulant in the amphetamine family—similar to methamphetamine] before I flew. This worked wonders until one day I was working with a larger number of cadets than usual and took a couple of extra pills and I was high as a kite. Then the doctor prescribed another pill which worked wonders until someone invented Dramamine. The doctors wouldn’t give me the little pill anymore because it was a narcotic. But through all the pills, I was able to continue to fly until about the first of March [1943], when a Col. Rogers visited Merced Field recruiting a cadre for a new P-38 wing. After an interview with the good Col. I was accepted to be a squadron commander and was allowed to pick a man to become the operations officer. My professional dream had always been to fly those beautiful P-38s. The wing was being formed at George Air Force Base at Victorville, California, and I assured that orders would be coming within a few days. Sure enough in about a week or two, I received orders to Albuquerque, Kirtland Field, for bomb pilots approach school. “Well,” I thought, “They are going to teach me to be a better bomb dropper so our Squadron can be more proficient at fighter-bomber type missions.” So we prepared to go to New Mexico for training.

We had to give up the house, of course, and pack all of our possessions in the old black Chevrolet. The speed limit had been established at 35 miles per hour to save fuel. All of the guys that had been selected for Col. Rogers’ P-38 group were so assigned. We drove separately from the others, although we all had to report at the same time. To make driving easier, we prepared a picnic basket full of goodies to make lunches from. Syl cooked a huge ham to eat on the way, which she put in a basket, with a cake, and stored it in the window deck of the car.

The first day of travel went pretty good. We were careful because Syl was five months pregnant with our first born. We stayed the night in Kingman, Arizona. The next morning we started east from Kingman on the old road toward Williams. The road wound up a terribly crooked canyon up to the high desert of central Arizona. The windy road and the smell of the ham in the window getting warmed by the beautiful Arizona sunshine were too much for Syl’s stomach. So we had to stop many times before we reached the top for her to fertilize the desert.

We finally reached Albuquerque and found an apartment near the center of town. We then sought out the Church and found they had just completed a brand new church across the road from a beautiful new park. The church had a new organ and that was the first time Syl had belonged to a ward with an organ. She promptly arranged lessons from one of the good sisters and was soon playing the organ for meetings.

My work in Albuquerque consisted of checking out the twin engine beach AT-11 type aircraft and learning to operate the Norden Bomb sight in the ship. In addition, since were classified as students, we were given the business by the locals.

First we each had to be assigned a BOQ Room for which they assessed us $15 a month for cleaning services even though we had no furniture and didn’t live in the room. We also had some classroom activities and supervised physical training. None of us got to upset because we were all looking forward to our new fighter groups. It took only a couple of weeks to complete the transition and the course then rest of the time we flew bombardier students.

Albuquerque was a new experience for both of us, although we were both from the West. The Indian culture around Albuquerque was different. The whole town seemed to live by capitalizing on Indian artifacts. This was apparent in the d├ęcor of most buildings. One night at the movies, we were waiting for the show to start and were talking about this fact, when Sybil said, “Indians, Indians, Indians, everywhere.” Whereupon a big man sitting in front of us, turned around, and just glared at us, then turned again and sat down—another Indian. We were both embarrassed for we really had nothing against Indians. But it was funny afterwards.

During our short stay there, we became good friends with Jim and Nadine Burton, a local couple of young kids, about our age. They were really active in the Church and helped us feel at home in the new crowd.

After a month, each of the 60 students was directed to return to his original base. So we packed up the car again and headed back to Merced. But this time, by way of Utah where we stopped a couple of days to see my folks.

While we were there, we found my younger brother had forged his birth certificate and joined the Navy although he was 15 years old.

No comments:

Post a Comment