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October Contribution

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  • Bob von Bargen
    Bananas circa 1965 Flying airlift for the Air Force brought fringe benefits to flight crews. Long overwater
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 19, 2005
      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
      Puerto Rico.
      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[1] 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?"

      [1] 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
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