Senior Memoirs - Information + reading for this month
- The Senior Memoirs website is: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Seniormemoirs/The e-mail address to use when sending your monthly reading is: Seniormemoirs@yahoogroups.comThe subject for next meeting (June 18): "JOBS & CHORES"My reading for this month follows:
During my years in the Strategic Air Command I spent a good deal of time in alert. My crew lived in the alert barracks for one to two weeks – one week if at Pease AFB, our home station in New Hampshire; two weeks if we went reflex to Goose Bay in Labrador. Going to Goose was an adventure. We would usually refuel a B-47 enroute and land there on a Wednesday evening. Our aircraft was positioned on the alert force line and we would report to the Alert Force barracks early on Thursday morning
Alert duty was tedious. Card games, billiards, military studies, reading and listening to music filled the days. The tedium was broken occasionally by the blast of the alert claxon. Then we would race to our airplanes and prepare for takeoff as we learned whether the nation was under actual attack, or if it was just another drill exercise.
At Goose Bay in the early 1960’s there was no television. We received the world and national news by tuning in the short wave radio in the briefing room and listening to Radio America, the BBC or the local AM station in Happy Valley, the small town outside the base. Mail was nonexistent for alert crews. We would be on our way back before any mail made it up the “The Goose”. Information at Goose Bay was usually received via the telegraph machine. These noisy “clickity-clack” automated typewriters would spew out text continuously. Messages from the Air Force, the Strategic Air Command, Flying Safety Bulletins, weather reports, and news stories from the press services (AP,UPI, etc.) would be torn off the machine, categorized and then attached to legal size clip boards. These boards were hung on large wall hooks in the hall outside the Command Center, where the Alert Force Commander had his office.
The commander of the alert facility, or “The Mole Hole”, as it was commonly called, was Major Lynn Stean. Major Stean was a tall lanky man who resembled the actor Gerald McRaney who performed in the early 1990’s TV sit-com “Major Dad”; a show that featured the family life of a Marine Corps officer. Major Stean was a cross between the facade of John Wayne and the behavioral characteristics of Don Knotts. Outwardly he appeared to be a man in total control; once you got to know him you realized that he was a world class “grandma” who worried incessantly about everything. Needless to say, he was an easy target for devious, bored crew members with too much time on their hands. It was the perfect recipe for mischief.
We drove the poor man wild. We took his diminutive Morris Mini automobile and lifted it inside a dumpster. It was interesting to see him struggle to get it out. We stole his hat! Every morning he would report with a new hat and someone would steal it. This went on for the entire two week tour. On the day we rotated back to our home stations we returned all the hats. We put one in each of his desk drawers - and into every drawer of his filing cabinet.
On one occasion he was nervously awaiting the arrival of General Curtis Lemay. Stean knew General LeMay from an earlier assignment. The General, then Chief of the Air Force, was coming to visit the alert facility. He was to arrive in a KC-135 and preparations were made for his plane to taxi right up to the ramp outside the alert facility. Major Stean was to greet him when he came down the stairs from the aircraft. We stole Major Stean’s hat just as LeMay’s airplane touched down. Stean went wild trying to find his hat. As he whirled around the office looking for the hat, we removed the oak leaf Major’s rank from the hat and replaced it with the gold bar of a Second Lieutenant. As time ran out a co-conspirator, a devilish Lieutenant Colonel, popped the hat on Stean’s head and shoved him down the tube leading to the ramp door saying, “There’s your hat Lynn, now get a move on before LeMay chews you a good one!” Stean, now terrified, streaked down the tube and up to LeMay’s aircraft just in time to salute the General as he descended from the stairs. LeMay saw the gold bar on the hat and snarled: “Dammit Lynne, where the hell did you get that hat?” … the tone for the visit had been set!
As Stean’s tour at Goose Bay was nearing an end he talked frequently about his next assignment. He had been at Goose Bay for almost two years and had received orders to go to his next duty station in the states. As we prepared to leave for home, we decided to depart with an appropriate hoax on our long time target. One of our members, a silver haired Lieutenant Colonel, was retiring soon. This guy had been around for many years and he knew almost everyone. He had a friend in the base communications center, where the central teletype was located and distribution of telecoms and mail originated. He went to the Distribution Center and prepared a phony military order on the teletype machine. The message canceled Major Stean’s stateside assignment and extended him at Goose Bay for an additional year. He then placed the printed bogus teletype into the distribution system where it would show up at the Mole Hole with all the valid incoming correspondence.
We completed our flight preparations and flew south to our homes. I never learned what happened when Major Stean received the fake teletype that would have extended his Goose Bay adventure. He had departed before I returned for my next alert tour at “The Goose”. How could he leave? After all, he had that enviable job of nurse maiding over-aged adolescents in the frozen north? We missed him … alert duty at Goose was not the same without Major Stean!
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