- Bananas circa 1965
Flying airlift for the Air Force brought fringe benefits to flight
crews. Long overwater cargo missions to locations throughout the
world provided a unique shopping experience for airlifters of the
Military Airlift Command (MAC). This occurred during the years when
the dollar was "King" and the monetary exchange rate provided
excellent deals for men wearing baggy flight suits. The homes of many
MAC aircrew members were so loaded with furnishings from oversea
trips that their décor was derisively referred to as "Early MAC".
Missions to Frankfort in Germany provided Hummel figurines; Lladros
were available in Spain; Hibatchi Pots, Noritake china and Seiko
watches made their way from Japan; carved monkey pod wood from the
Philippines; jewelry from Thailand; pineapples came from Hawaii or
Bananas were the good deal in Panama.
The Maintenance Line Chief at Howard AB in the Canal Zone ran a very
efficient banana distribution business from the ramp of the airfield.
A Sergeant Bilko type, he would meet incoming airplanes and take
orders from the crew for delivery at departure time. An entire stalk
of bananas cost five dollars. A pickup truck delivered the bananas
when the outbound cargo was loaded onto the aircraft. We secured the
bananas in the cargo compartment for the trip home, and then I would
hang the stalk in my garage before we ate them, or gave bunches away
to our neighbors there was no way that our family could eat that
many before they over ripened.
On one occasion I had a three foot long banana stalk hanging from the
ceiling in my garage. It was clearly visible from the street in front
of our home, as the garage door was open. As my wife worked inside
the house, she noticed a small boy, about six years old, looking at
our house from the foot of the driveway. Shortly thereafter the
doorbell rang. It was the neighbor boy she had seen from the window.
She smiled at him. He looked rather sheepish as he said to her: "I
know what you have!" Confused, my wife asked him what he meant. He
pointed over to the garage door and said in a whisper: "I know what
you have. You have a monkey. Can I see it?"
 Sergeant Bilko was a television show popular in the 1960's. It
starred comedienne Phil Silvers as a fast talking Army Master
Sergeant who was involved in humorous entrepreneurial activities