SPECIAL TO ME: FEBRUARY 28, 1951
Seven months past graduation from Garfield High School in tough environs of East Los Angeles, California. Dropped out of Pasadena City College. Not ready. Mail Clerk Coast Federal Savings and Loan, downtown Los Angeles. Going no where. Joined Air Force. Smart move.
Took the train to Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas. 1951 Military enlistees didn’t fly to basic training. Was a proud “private.” Soon thereafter, rank of private re-named “Airman Basic” - as it is today. Service was evolving from “Air Corps” to “Air Force.” Then acquired two downward sloping stripes of a “corporal.” Then Air Force corporal rank ensignia changed to two upward sloping stripes of “Airman Second Class” (equivalent rank today is “Airman First Class”). Pay about $76 bucks a month, plus cot in open bay barracks plus good food at chow hall ( extra pay, evening janitor at the base theater ). In 1951 Air Force vintage, brown shoes were optional to black shoes. Ergo, I’m was a member of the “Brown Shoe Air Force” (and I’m proud of it), ‘Taint many of us left.
First assignment after basic training: “apprentice bassoonist,” 541st Air Force Band, Williams AFB, Chandler, Arizona. My bassoon sounds were stopped by popular demand. Returned to playing sax like I did in Garfield High Bulldog Band.
Then up the scale to Band Drum Major. (I think) only baton twirling drum major in all the military bands. Still twirl a baton - only out of public sight. Because I want to be re-elected!
1952: Applied for, accepted by, Air Force Aviation Cadets flying school (staff sergeant pay). 1953: age twenty, high school diploma, silver jet pilot wings, gold bars (“butter bars”) of second lieutenant. December 1976: Retired as Major. Proud of that? Yeah!
Recommend military career to almost anyone. Opportunity, new horizons, came possible when I enlisted February 28th, 1951.