|Issue 70||October 2001||Volume 6 - Number 11|
Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.
The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
Be advised. I am looking for someone else to take over the publication of the CANDOER News. This is my LAST edition.
I will continue to maintain the Web site, including the e-mail address list and the Directory of Members, and to notify members of the death of friends and family and send money to favorite charities when deaths occur, until the money is exhausted, unless someone else wants to take that over, too. In that case, l will send them a registered check for the full amount.
I will take new members (free) and add them to the Web site directory, but this publication, unless someone else wants to do it, will now cease to exist.
I have approximately 70 dollars in the Newsletter fund. If any member who has paid in the last few months wants a refund, please contact me and I will refund you money to you.
The luncheons will continue, and when I can find the time, I will also attend.
People, I am tired. Working a FULL time job and putting in another 15-20 hours a week on this project for six long years, is taking its toll. It is time someone else took it over.
I will offer my files and records to anyone wishing to take it over.
Thank you for your support and writing so many interesting stories over the past years.
Please be safe, and keep in touch. It has been fun.
As most of you know, who know me, I am not going to let the chance to express my opinion go by, after the tragic events of September 11.
As I am typing this, it has been more than 10 days since the "Attack on America," and I still have a feeling of sadness that keeps coming over me. Not only for the thousands of death that occurred, but for the immediate and prolonged impact it seems to be having on our way of life.
Some of you, who do not live in the Washington or New York City areas, this impact may (or may not) be as apparent as it is here in Washington.
The terrorists were able to accomplish many of the things they set out to do, besides death and destruction ... and that was, to effect our way of life and disrupt our freedoms. A way of life and the freedoms they long for, but will never achieve.
You can see it in the three hour commutes to work. The large numbers of people that are being laid off. The fear of people to travel, not only by air, but by many modes of public transportation. The uncertainty in the stock market (the highest percentage of loss since the great depression occurred this week).
Some good things have come out of these cowardly terrorist acts; the coming together of our nation; the amount of blood, money, and time that is being donated to relief efforts; the vast amount of people who are volunteering to help with these efforts and a new sense of patriotism.
If you have not done so lately, take time out of your day-to-day lives to appreciate and embrace our way of life, our freedoms, and most of all, your friends and family.
It is with great sadness that I report the death, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, of Ron Johnston. Maureen said Ron had a very infection/virus that took his life, at home, after only a six day illness.
The wake was held Thursday, September 13 at Demaine Funeral Home in Springfield. Funeral services were held at St. Bemadettes Parish in Springfield.
A donation will be sent to the Pentagon Relief Fund in Ron's name.
Thanks to Dave Collins, Gary Bobbitt, and Bob Surprise for furnishing the above information.
It is with deep sadness that I report the death of Russell Ornborn, from a heart attack, on Friday September 14, at his home.
Services were held at Arlington Cemetery on Wednesday, September 19.
It is with deep sadness that I report the death of Audrey Schenk, in Geneva, from leukemia, on Saturday, September 22. Her sister, Barbara, reported that she died peacefully.
Tim and Sherri Taylor are in the process of moving to Lakeland, Florida and have announced a new e-mail address, with a snail-mail address to follow.
Mark Pero furnished a new e-mail address. It may be found in the Pen and Ink section.
Leo Duncan reports that Linda and he have settled in their new house in Doral (Miami). Their new snail-mail and e-mail addresses may be found in the Pen and Ink section.
Carmen Bevacqua notified me of a new e-mail address.
Jim and Carol Steeves have moved to Long Beach. Their new snail-mail and e-mail address may be found in the Pen and ink section.
Welcome new members, Gary and Marianne Bowles. Gary retired in January 1997 and is now living in Manassas. Their bio may be found in the Pen and Ink section.
Welcome new members, Bruce and Sandy Adams. Bruce retired in 1987 and is living in Springfield, VA.
Welcome new members, Bob and Diane Zimmermann. Bob retired and is now living in Burke, VA.
Welcome new members, Floyd and Barbara Wilson. Floyd works in Special Projects at the Department.
Ann and Leo Cyr are in the process of moving from Arlington to Delray Beach, Florida. Their new address may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the web site.
A change of address has been received from Dick Kwiatkowski. Dick has transferred from Athens to the "Big PX."
Welcome to new members Van and Cindy Foster. Van retired in 1996 and now resides in Reston, VA.
The following is a somewhat amusing (true) tale from my days studying kendo ("The Way of the Sword") during a Tokyo assignment in the mid-eighties. I had always been fascinated by the martial arts, and had been heavily involved in both judo and karate in the past. I had majored in Japanese/Chinese history in college, and the sword certainly symbolizes one of the foundations upon which modem Japan is founded. Kendo, then, was a logical next step in my martial arts curriculum.
I digress, but please allow me to insert a very short primer for those curious as to what the names of these various martial arts mean. The do after the style name means the way. Thus: ju do means JU ... the gentle - DO ... way; kara te do means KARA ... empty - TE ... hand - DO ... way; and ken do means KEN ... sword - DO ... way.
My first day at post involved the usual run around checking in to the various sections, something we're all very familiar with. George Little, my sponsor, ran me by the Mailroom to see the folks working there and to do the introductions. While meeting Noda-san, the supervisor at that time, I asked him where I could begin my study of kendo. He seemed somewhat surprised by the question and asked me why, being a gaijin (foreigner), should I be interested in something "so Japanese" as kendo. He, nevertheless, pointed me to a Nakamura-san, who was another FSN working in Security, upstairs. I had to check in with the RSO anyway, and Nakamura was one of the stops in that office. Nakamura-san was a very unpretentious looking personage: rather slightly built and wearing glasses. I asked the same question of him as I did Noda-san, and he also registered some amount of surprise. I asked him to get off the gaijin kick, that I had a lengthy background in the martial arts, that I was well grounded in Japanese history, and that I could at least mumble a few semi-coherent sentences in rudimentary Japanese. At that point, Mr. Nakamura loosened up perceptibly and we started discussing kendo, and my possible participation therein.
Nakamura-san was a 6"' Degree Black Belt in kendo, and an instructor at the dojo (training hall) in which he was a member. He asked when I would like to begin, and I replied immediately. This, again, was our first day at post, most of our stuff was still in suitcases in the temporary apartment to which we had been assigned. I mentioned to Nakamura that I did not have the "Darth Vader" type dark blue uniforms and protective gear worn in kendo practice. He asked what I did have available to wear, and I mentioned that I had a karate uniform (karate gi) in one of the suitcases. He replied that I could wear that for the first practices until he could show me where the kendo supply store was and then I could pick up the kendo uniform, minus the armor (you could not buy the armor until you went through a period ... up to six months ... of basic training and was given the green light by your basic training instructor to buy the armor). The first practice was to be THAT NIGHT, so I had to hustle back to the temporary apartment during lunch to dig out the white karate gi. After work, Nakamura met me and we took one of the rush-hour subways (another story in itself!) to a railway station several stops down the line to catch a train for several more stops to the dojo.
The dojo was in a HUGE complex housing judo, karate, kendo, archery, and aerobics training halls. It also had a full-sized running track on the second level, and a huge Olympic swimming pool. The place was modem and very impressive. I followed Nakamura-san up to the second level. As we exited the elevator, we could hear LOTS of noise. The kendo dojo had a small floor-ceiling wall in front of the entrance doorway, so I could not initially see in. Once we rounded that little wall, however, and I did get to see into the training hall, my breath was taken away! Here I was, Mike McCaffrey, OC guy, FAR away from my home in Massachusetts, looking at a virtual army of kendo ka (kendo practitioners), all in dark blue "Darth Vader" looking outfits, whacking away at each other (in pairs) and yelling loudly while doing so. It was like peering back in history to 1300 Japan! I was tingling all over and knew, positively, this is where I wanted to be!
I followed Nakamura in and, as we advanced past the fighters heading towards the far end of the dojo where, I supposed, I was to change, fighters stopped their endeavors and silence was taking over. By the time we had reached the dressing room area, ALL the fighting had stopped and I was VERY conscious of being watched by everyone in that huge hall! I also heard a bit of snickering, but ignored it (the snickering, I found out later, was concerned with how long ... measured in DAYS ... this foreigner would be able to last in studying something "so Japanese" as kendo). Nakamura told me to go into the dressing room and change. He would be making himself ready for practice in the meantime. I changed into the karate gi and went out into the training hall (the snickering was positively LOUD at that point). Here I was: WHITE karate uniform, in the midst of 499 kendo ka in their DARK BLUE uniforms and matching armor! I looked like an absolute LIGHT BULB! Nakamura came over at that point, with a VERY BIG Japanese guy in tow. The other guy looked EXACTLY like "Odd Job," the guy in one of the James Bond movies (you know, the one resembling a Sherman tank and had the nasty habit of throwing his razor-edged hat and making people lose their heads): totally shaved head, arms as big as my body, not a warm 'n fuzzy look on his face (quite honestly, the look one received from your D.I. or T.I. when you arrived for Basic Training in the military). Nakamura introduced Sensei (teacher) Morikawa to me as the person who would be my instructor for basic training (the purpose of basic training was to acquaint the new kendo ka with how to use the bamboo shinai (sword) one used in practice to prevent the new recruit from hurting others with wild swings), and that Morikawa Sensei would now explain everything there was to explain before I actually was to go out into the hall and start my hafting efforts in practice. At that point, Nakamura left us and went out into the horde and I lost track of him. There I was, WHITE karate suit, Odd Job standing (glaring) directly in front of me. I tried a weak little smile, THE GLARE did not change.
Morikawa Sensei immediately launched into a 20-25 minute, non-stop, dialogue about the parts of the shinai ... and a whole lot of, I presumed, other things. He appeared to be as big as a mountain, ferocious in appearance, talking with machine-gun rapidity in Japanese (of which I understood nothing, he was going too fast), and I didn't have the slightest desire of attempting to stop him - he might have killed me, right then and there before all those people. I was sweating, hands all clammy. FINALLY, Morikawa Sensei DID stop. He asked me: "Mike-san, wakari masuka (Do you understand?)?" I was trembling, my eyeballs were about to pop from their sockets! After ALL that talking and explaining what kendo was to this obvious dolt in this WHITE suit standing in front of him, how would this obvious warrior react to my: "le, Sensei, wakari masen.” (No, Sensei, I do NOT understand)? The minute I uttered (against my best ... I want to live(!) ... judgment) Sensei Morikawa put those huge, big as hams, hands in the air, turned to the assembled (and now totally quiet/observing) mob watching us, and started YELLING in his equally big/booming voice: "Wakari masen! Wakari masen!" (this idiot of a foreigner says he doesn't understand all the priceless information I have spent SO much time in giving him). He then turned to me, everyone watching, I was POSITIVE I was looking out of these eyes for my LAST seconds as a living organism on this planet, Morikawa was indeed going to KILL ME right here and now! Then he began to laugh uncontrollably, and everyone in the hall was laughing right along with him! Nakamura came over to explain that the whole thing was a big put-on, that they did this to the few gaijin who had indicated interest in studying this `so Japanese' martial art, and that those subjected to it in the past had quickly headed for the exit, never to return. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I think I was still trembling. Morikawa and Nakamura both hugged me, however, as did a number of the other folks in their battle dress, and that broke the ice. I remained a member of this great group (men and women) until the day I departed Japan three years later. Those truly were the best days of my life, and I miss my 499 brothers and sisters, still practicing back there, very much.
Khartoum, Sudan, in 1957 was still the uninteresting, dusty, hot, Arab-African desert city that it had long been. Located at the confluence (where it becomes 'The Nile") of the White Nile to the west and the Blue Nile to the east it is about 1,000 miles south of Cairo in the center of the Sudan. The U.S. Embassy consisted of the top floor (3rd of a commercial building and had no security. To go from one office to another you had to go outside to the open third floor walkway. There were 17 Americans, counting working wives, who were up against approx. 200 Soviets in their Embassy who were working hard to undermine our efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people of the Sudan There was one hotel in town for Europeans, The Grand, built by the English after they finished taking back the Sudan in 1898 at the Battle of Omdurman. This was fought in the Kerreri Hills just north of Khartoum and adjacent to the river and the large native town of Omdurman. Here, Winston Churchill, as a young Subaltern with the 21s' Lancers participated in what may have been the last Khalifa's army of 60,000 and killed 25,000 with a loss of only about 50 killed in their force. This was mostly due to the use of the many newly invented Maxim machine guns that the British had. In 1957 this battlefield was still as it appeared in 1898. Today, a large Sudanese Army camp occupies the whole area. The country had only the previous year received it's independence and there were still a number of Brits helping run the country in the more technical jobs.
In July, 1956 my tour at Istanbul was suddenly curtailed after only 3 months. I was then assigned to be a NEA rover. Being based out of the AmConGen, Nicosia, Cyprus (It was still a British Crown Colony), I went for upwards of 3 months TDY to various Arab posts for the next year. In Aug, 1957 I received orders to immediately proceed for 30 days TDY to Khartoum. Proceeding the next day was no problem but getting there took a week. The Suez War had taken place the previous Oct-Nov and most Arab countries still had no Dip. relations with England. It involved flying on a DC-3 to Beirut, lay-over a day for an Egyptian visa, take a Viscount to Cairo and lay-over for a Sudani visa and then fly to Khartoum only on a Wed. or Sat on Egyptian Air (MisrAir). If you just missed a flight you could spend another 3 days waiting in Cairo, and I did. On a hot afternoon I boarded their Viscount to Khartoum. Having a thirst and having no results with English I then asked in my best polite Arabic for water from the cabin steward several times. Being probably mistaken for one of the hated English I received no water on the flight. After being apprehensive about this TDY from the get-go, I was now starting to have bad vibes about the next 30 days. I was right, the 30 days turned into 8 long months.
Being properly met and escorted to the Grand Hotel in Khartoum, I noticed the hotel was deserted of any activity as it was siesta time. I retired to my room ( with only a Casablanca fan for cooling) and started the custom myself. I did not awake until dark and dinner time. The full board fare here was "you eat what is put before you" food. Here I learned to eat peanut soup, leeks, ocra, and a strange, stringy meat that I never learned from what animal it came. As there was no A/C, dinner was served in the garden on white starched tablecloths by white robed and turbaned waiters with tribal scars on their faces. The only light was some lanterns strung across the eating area. I had noticed that on both sides of the garden were dark bushes and trees. As I raised my first spoonful of soup there came a close roar of a lion? from the side of the garden. The spoon flew over my shoulder as I jumped to my feet. An elderly Brit at the next table then exclaimed: "Nothing to fear, old boy! The city zoo is next door. Welcome to the Sudan!"
Khartoum was a RON spot for two Dip. Courier routes at this time. Weekly one of them would arrive (As per the Dept.'s rules, always in the middle of the night) and often it would be either Jack Glover or Bob LaPlante. I was excused from doing courier escort duty until the Khartoum airport was closed down for three months for runway repairs. The alternate airport would be 10-15 miles to the north on the Nile and way past the adjacent native town of Omdurman where all paved roads ended and then the route became only a dusty camel-Land Rover type track. We had neither, but we did have a few hardtop 4WD Jeeps. The Admin. Officer normally did the night runs and was too hard pressed to take on the extra time required for this change. I was asked and agreed to do it for the foreseeable future. My first trip was at 1 A.M. and off I went into the dark desert. Half way to the old WWII RAF airport that was being used the track entered a thatched hut village of the Hedendoa tribe from Red Sea Province. They are AKA as the famous "FuzzyWuzzys". Both my headlights and motor noise had set all the dogs to barking and the men with their big heads of frizzed hair and wearing a dirty bed sheet around their bodies and holding swords and spears came outside their huts. Not driving too fast nor too slow I looked straight ahead and holding back a cry of utter terror went safely on my way. On the way back, I must have been expected as the men stayed in their, huts. When I related the story to the Admin Officer, a sly grin came across his face. He knew about that village! He and his wife (the C & R Supvr. at the time), Wayne and Juanita Swendenburg, both thanked me for my varied assistance in Khartoum to both of them during my visit in 1997 at their Swedenburg Winery near Middleburg, VA. We also discussed that only one of the Emb. staff was still working and now a FSO last heard of in central Europe, Sharon Hurley. (Good people and good wine and you will find both in their tasting room).
The hotel was a good mile from the embassy and the working hours were until 1:15 P.M. As outgoing cables were dumped on me at 1:10 and having only a slow method for their encryption, it would be some time before I could head for the local PTT office to send them off. (Sudan Govt. did not allow embassies to have radios at this time, except we believed the Soviets did anyway). The hotel stopped lunch at 3:00 and there was no place to get something to eat if you missed it. It would be too late for taxi's and rarely would the Amb.'s driver still be around to give me a lift in the Caddy, with the bumper flags flying, to the hotel (my status with hotel staff and other guests always was improved whenever I did get the lift). There was nobody on the streets besides me and some mad dogs and maybe the proverbial Englishman. Slowly in the 110-120 heat and high humidity I would stagger from shade to shade on the way to the hotel and often I would almost collapse upon arrival in the lobby. When I missed my meal one time too many I decided something had to be done. Would the embassy rent a car for my use? No money for anything like that, was the answer. I was desperate and finally came up with a solution. The zoo was next door to the hotel and there was a stable only a block from the embassy. Every Thursday (their Saturday, remember it's a Muslim country) there was a camel market across the river in Omdurman. I heard I could get an old Omar (I had already named it) that could still make one round trip a day between the zoo and the stable with me on its back. The cost would be about $45. While making inquiry at both the stable and zoo the ambassador got wind of my plan and obviously did not like it. I was quickly offered the rental of the cheapest motor vehicle in town. Having a 1947 MG/TC back in Cyprus I was already a left side of the road driver. I quickly got a local license and rented a black 1955 British Ford Popular. This looked like a half-sized American 1936 Ford and it even had the long manual gear shift coming up out of the floor. It worked just fine and my life took a turn for the better thereafter in Khartoum. Actually, I do not think the camel solution would have come to pass, but I knew that if I acted serious, the car might appear.
At the end of a 30 day extension of my TDY, I was ordered back to Cyprus to close out my affairs and sell my MG (sob!); then to Khartoum until my 2 year tour in the area was over. The night before leaving, I had joined others to go to the only night spot in Khartoum. The outdoor " Gordon Music Hall" was named after Gen. "Chinese" Gordon, slain on the steps of the palace in Khartoum by the Mahdi's troops in 1885. The GMH offered a small off-key band, third rate acts from Europe (may I never hear "Granada" sung again), and a good supply of adult beverages. Good place to go if you enjoyed only male companionship. At 4 A.M. the place closed and the plane left at 9 A.M. Having drunk more than 3 of the local Camel beers, which contained arsenic as a preservative for shipping to the far provinces in lieu of any refrigeration, I was feeling bad as I boarded the flight. Then t noticed that the pilots of this Ethiopian Air Convair (operated by TWA with U.S. pilots at the time), were two of the guys that left the GMH with me a few hours before. I knew the copilot and thought nothing of him at the GMH as I assumed he was on a longer lay-over and surely would not be working this flight. Well, this was Africa and it was 1957 and things were different then and there. After we got airborne, the stewardess came to me and said I was wanted in the cockpit. My friend introduced me to the pilot and as he turned in his seat to shake my hand we dropped 50 feet. There was no auto pilot on these planes as they cost too much. The pilots were in the same shape I was and could not fully see the instruments. Due to the haze they were flying just a few hundred feet above the Nile , knowing that it flowed north towards Cairo. They were WWII pilots and probably felt very secure in this situation, even if I did not. All the way to Cairo I sat in a cold sweat. It was to take a full two weeks to get to and from Cyprus and take care of my affairs before I returned to Khartoum.
It was now the High season in the Sudan. The hotel was full and no room for me. It was run by the Sudan Railways who also ran all the paddle wheel river boats in the country. When the hotel was full they just pulled up as many boats as they needed in the Blue Nile in front of the hotel. Here they put their overflow guests. I was placed in the 5"' boat out. My cabin was 4 feet by 8 feet with 2 bunk beds and a two foot closet. A 3 inch fan was above my head and in the comer was a wash basin with slow running cold water and a bucket underneath the sink to catch the water. In the morning a servant from the hotel would bring me a small pitcher of hot water to shave with. Bathing was in the shower stall way down the deck. This was best used in the evening for the water tank was on the roof and you needed the heat of the day to warm up the water a bit. During the night not only would large rats run up and down the decks, but small boats would pass by and I would wake up seasick from the rocking of the boat. Six weeks later, on Xmas Day, Hanji, the hotel manager, called me into his office and told me he had a room for me. On my knees I kissed his hands. Here, in the middle of Africa, I knew there was a Santa Claus for sure.
After nap time I would go in the cooler months out to the large verandah of the hotel and take high tea while waiting for the bar to open at 6. Watching the Blue Nile and a few people come and go would be the normal past time. One day I was watching some natives on the edge of the water on an island that was high and dry during the low water months. At this time of the year a few families would build huts there and grow vegetables and fish the river. A small boy was playing in the water alone and suddenly there was a large splash of water and the boy was gone. A crocodile had taken him and as some of the natives rushed to the waters edge the wail of a mother's cry came to me. I called out to others nearby and both guests and hotel staff were not too much concerned, such was the value of life locally.
Twenty-three March 1958 came and my tour was over. At 1:30 A.M. the South African Air DC-7 took off non-stop for Rome and a cabin aboard the SS Constitution out of Genoa awaited m8 the next day. At sun-up I looked out of the window and down below I could see Bengazhi, Libya, and the Mediterranean Sea. I have heard since that time there are posts in Africa that are enjoyable, but at that moment I said farewell to Africa and promised myself never again and I never did.
Byron Hallman's article in the June CANDOER News was amazing at how closely our career paths paralleled each other. Yet, the reasons were far different.
Since retirement, I have addressed countless civic and educational bodies on potential careers in the Foreign Service. Perhaps the three most recurrent questions asked of me are, "Why did you join the Foreign Service?", "How do you get into it?", and the most frequent, "What was your favorite post?"
When I was in grade school in the 1930-40's, radio was becoming quite popular. While in the Boy Scouts, I was working for a merit badge by building a radio. My first one was a crystal radio. I had to install an antenna. I took a long piece of wire and tied one end to a block of wood. From my upstairs bedroom window, I threw it as far as possible into the upper branches of a tree. Then I climbed the tree, got the wood block and heaved it once more to the next tree. Now I had a long wire antenna of about 50 feet. Imagine my delight and surprise when I connected the antenna to the crystal set and that night heard station WLW in Cincinnati! From Green Bay, that was another world. Reception at night was always best. With my simple coil and tuner, I heard a lot of distant stations. I was forever hooked on electronics and foreign places.
My grandfathers bookcase was in my bedroom. For me it was a treasure chest of really interesting books. The ones on railroads, history and geography of far away places were my favorites.
In my last year of high school, I joined the Wisconsin National Guard.
I couldn't wait until I got my hands on those radios of the 127th Infantry which just returned from World War-II. When the Korean War started, I and several of my school buddies immediately enlisted in the various military services. My choice was the Air Force.
Basic training of six weeks was at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. The installation was overrun with new recruits. Most had to stay in tents erected in the center of what used to be a glider field. With no water or electricity, these were truly field conditions. The nearest water and latrine was about 100 yards away. Conditions were miserable. Hotter than hades in the day and rather cool at night.
Like many others, I was given an aptitude test. It was determined my specialty would be electronics and I was to be shipped out to Keesler AFB, Biloxi, Mississippi in a couple days. I was delighted! Basic training was finished in less than two weeks. I was homesick. Everything was brown and dirty. A troop train took us from San Antonio to Biloxi.
Arriving at Biloxi, everything was lush green. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I could sleep in a building again. The school was nine months duration of rigorous mathematics, electronics fundamentals, and airborne radar maintenance. It was hard, but t loved it. Upon graduation, t was really looking forward to an overseas assignment, for most seemed to be getting them. Not me. They shipped me to the 403rd Troop Carrier Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard at Portland International Airport, Oregon!
Not even an Air Force Base! The 403rd had just recently been activated and was soon to be shipped to Japan to support United Nations Forces in Korea.
But not me! The commanding officer said the unit had too many airborne radar mechanics. I was directed to remain and report to the commanding officer of Base Communications for duty. Arriving there, the 1st Sergeant asked if I could type. "Yes", I said. "Good. Report to Sgt. Hemingway. He's going to make a cryptographer and cryptanalyst out of you!" I hadn't the foggiest idea of what he was talking about. I soon learned and loved it. But I still wanted to go overseas.
I applied regularly for overseas assignments, but the CO told me in so many words, "As long as I'm here, you are going to be here!" And so it was for over three years.
At the end of my third year on the job, still not having had any formal cryptologic or cryptanalytic training, they sent me to school at Scott AFB, Illinois for three weeks. One of the instructors was Sgt. Larry Meyers. It was a most fortuitous meeting. We became friends.
One night after class (classes were at night), we stopped for some refreshments in a cafe. I expressed my disappointment at never getting an overseas assignment, now that my four year enlistment was drawing to a close. He said, 'Why don't you join the Foreign Service? You can do basically the same work for them and it is all overseas."
Again, I had no idea of what he was talking about. He went on to explain about the Foreign Service. Not only that, but he had been in the Foreign Service before joining the Air Force! He was a diplomatic courier assigned to the European regional courier office then in Paris, France in the late 1940s. After leaving the Air Force, Sgt. Meyers went into the Marist Fathers' seminary and subsequently was ordained a priest! How’s that for a string of unusual career changes?
Taking Sgt. Meyers advice, I wrote the State Department, promptly received an offer, passed the usual examinations, and seven months after my discharge I was on my way to Washington and finally, a long series of postings overseas covering 36 years. The rest is history.
If I had to do it over again, I would not change anything.
I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch - holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
I was a summertime kid. I loved summer most of all. I still do. But summer days were a lot longer then than they are now, and summer itself went on and on.
By the time it was over, I was almost ready for school to start. Almost. Now it seems the summer season is gone before you know it. I'm sure it has something to do with the theory of relativity of Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion. It certainly can't be old age!
Now, once again summer is upon us, and as usual, my thoughts are turning back to my childhood summers. My fondest memories are not of big events, but rather those little day-to-day things in my old hometown of Waterford, Pennsylvania.
I spent the first 10 years of my life in a neighborhood with no other kids nearby. And being an only child meant that I had to depend on myself for entertainment.
There are advantages to that situation. Not only did I develop an imagination, but I also learned independence and self-reliance. And, most importantly, I didn't have to share my toys! When I was very little, I used to spend hours playing in my sandbox in our backyard on East 2nd Street. It was fun to haul sand in my toy dump trucks and cultivate sandy fields with my toy farm machinery.
Then, we got a cat.
While roaming around the backyard one day, the cat made an amazing discovery. She found what she determined to be the biggest litter box in the tri-state area. She must have been ecstatic! Soon after, I lost interest in that sandbox.
When Dad's car was home, I spent a lot of time pretend-driving in the driveway. It was safe. The driveway was fairly level and Dad always made sure the key was not in the ignition. The car I liked best was the old Model-A Ford that was used for a delivery car at the Red and White Store where Dad worked. It was known as the "store car" (pronounced as one word: "Storkar).
I'd fold the back of the front seat down and sit on that so I could see though the windshield. Of course, I couldn't reach the pedals, but that didn't matter. All I really needed was the steering wheel. I "drove" for miles and miles in the old Storkar.
Cars of that vintage were also good to climb on if they hadn't been sitting in the sun too long. The front fenders made good slides. However, the door hinges did present somewhat of a hazard to the knees and head. Another neat thing was my swing in our yellow transparent apple tree. I'd swing sitting down, standing up, sideways, comer-ways -- you name it. On hot days, it was a way to generate a little breeze. Sometimes I'd wind myself up and then spin like crazy to see how dizzy I would get. I never got sick, but I did have trouble getting back to the house!
This was during World War II, so most often my swing was a fighter airplane - a Curtiss P-40 to be exact. My middle name is Curtis, so that plane, despite the extra "S", had a particular appeal.
I always loved little toy cars and trucks and spent hours and hours playing with them. In 1948, we moved from 2nd Street to a great place way up on Cherry Street. Here I found a kindred spirit. Bud was just my age and lived next door with only a narrow strip of cornfield separating our houses. Bud liked cars and trucks, too, and we played most of the summer making roads and towns and hills and valleys in what would eventually become our side lawn.
Bud was a pretty good pretender, too. We used to play a lot in the little woods at 6th and Chestnut Streets. Most of the time, we were explorers. At the edge of the woods were the remains of an old gravel pit. We would tie ropes to trees and scale the walls of the pit. Looking at it today, it appears one could easily take a single step from bottom to top. Ever notice how small real estate becomes as we grow older?
Down at the comer of 7th and Cherry streets, a tiny creek ran through a tile under the road. There were always a few minnows in the deeper places, but much more interesting were the crayfish (or crabs, as we called them). Bud and I caught many crayfish there on summer days. We didn't do anything with them - just let them go. The "catching" was the thing! If you have not spent an afternoon squatting in ankle-deep water trying to catch crayfish that seem smarter and faster than you are, well, you've missed some fun.
Bud and I had bikes that we rode whenever and wherever we could. One of our favorite things to do was half-ride, half-push our bikes through the cornfield to the top of the hill. Then, we would turn and ride mell-pell down the hill between the rows of com. The cornstalk leaves would slap the living daylights out of us. Why we weren't cut to ribbons by those stiff, sharp-edged leaves I'll never know. I don't even remember bleeding - very much.
Most summer afternoons required some refreshment to make it though the heat of the day. Across the street from Bud's house and mine was an open field. Crossing that field on a well-worn path brought us to Cook's Gulf Station on High Street. Mr. Cook's candy, pop, and ice cream cases were well stocked. At least they were until we got there!
Our choices were usually Popsicles or Eskimo Pies, although Popsicles often proved to be terribly unreliable.
Walking back home we found that an open field with a hot July sun beating down was a rather harsh environment for Popsicles. That is not their natural habitat. We tried to eat our Popsicles at the same rate as they melted, or faster. But we weren't always successful. Everything would be all right up to the last bite, and very often that last bite would suddenly melt enough to fall off the stick, and with no warning. Sometimes it could be salvaged if there wasn't too much grass or dirt on it.
Eskimo Pies were a lot more dependable because they gave some warning of impending disaster. When the chocolate coating cracked and started sliding off the ice cream onto my fingers, I knew I had to hurry, forehead pain or not! I never lost the last bite of an Eskimo Pie!
Days and nights
Unlike many kids, I always liked to mow the lawn. When I was around 12, Dad bought a power mower. It was a big reel type that weighed almost as much as I did. It dragged me around the lawn for a good many summers, occasionally nipping off a small tree or something in the flower bed before I could stop it.
Reel-type mowers discharge cut grass from the rear. In other words, onto your feet, which, if bare, turn green in no time. Some folks had grass catchers on their mowers. I didn't. My grass catcher was on me. In those days, most of us kids wore dungarees with pants' legs long enough to roll up into two-inch cuffs. The cuffs were the grass catchers. The amount of grass dungaree cuffs can hold would feed a cow for a week.
Summer nights were great experiences, too. When we lived on 2nd Street, and if there was nothing good on the radio, we would often sit on the front porch in the evening. Some nights we could hear the organ music from the roller skating rink nearly a mile away. Up on Cherry Street, I usually went out in the backyard in the evening after or during a rain to pick up night crawlers. That in itself was fun, but better yet, it meant that Dad and I would probably go fishing the next day.
But I think the most enjoyable nighttime activity was catching lightning bugs. Running around through the cool, dewy grass trying to anticipate where the next blink would be was great fun. The captured insects would be placed into a jar that would sit on my nightstand to keep me company after I was in bed. Trouble was, I always went to sleep instantly and never got to enjoy them.
Last summer, I tried catching lightning bugs. I found they fly a lot faster than they used to.
Many years have passed since those summers of long days and soft nights. But you know, some of those things I've written about still sound like fun.
I wouldn't mind swooping around in a swing, if I had a swing. And I might even like to ride a bike through a cornfield, if I had a bike ... and a cornfield.
There's a little stream down the road a ways. And if some summer day you're driving by and you see an old geezer hunkered down in the shallow water like a 10-year-old making frantic grabs at scurrying crayfish, honk your horn and wave. I'll be sure to wave back.