Six weeks Basic Training have passed quickly. Sewing on my new A3C stripes, I packed up my duffle bag, borderd the USAF bus for the Union Pacific Railroad Station in Oakland. I should have been excited to be assigned directly to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Every other member of my basic training flight was assigned to a technical school...another 6 months of training before they entered the real Air Force...but, I was not.
During mail call a two days before boarding the bus, I received a letter from Sam (yes, 'MY" Sam). Bruce...I have awful news. David and Bernie both died yesterday in a car crash. They were on their way to register for college.. Their car flipped and rolled many times. Both David and Bernie were killed...
Dave and Bernie - we were the Kennewick High School Tennis Team - were on their way to fulfill the dream that I had been denied...to go to college...; and now, both were gone. Why, I ask myself have they been taken...I'm the criminal...I should be the one to die. This thought has stayed with me to this day. I have found no answer.
I boarded the train in Oakland. My seat was in first class on a Pullman Sleeper Car. Two sets of seats faced each other during the daytime. My seating companion was a pretty girl a bit older than me. She started many conversations...I, being abominably shy, was unable to look her in the eye...certainly, I could not possibly carry on a conversation. She finally gave up and ignored me the rest of that first day on the trai;n.
At night, an overhead berth was pulled down, filling the top half of the open space. Sliding curtains formed four separate sleeping areas - two below; two above. I was assinged one of the top berths...the girl was in the other top berth.
I was already asleep when I felt someone move my bunk. The girl had climbed the ladder into her own bunk...separated from mine by the sliding curtain...she had accidentally moved my bunk. Her light came on. I lay still; I heard the curtain slide, light falling on my closed eyes. Opening my eyes, my companion, sitting only inches from my feet, smiling hugely at me, was completely nude. I could only stare. She put two fingers to her lips, blew me a kiss and clicked out her light. I lay wide awake all the way to Green River, Wyoming, waiting for the curtain to slide again...it never did.
In Green River, I changed trains.
My train arrived in Wichita Falls that afternoon. I boarded the waiting US Air Force Bus, which took me to Sheppard Air Force Base. Reporting in to the Orderly Room, I was assigned a bunk in an enlisted men's barracks. The next morning, I reported to work at the Staff Judge Advocate Office. Without any further training, I began reporting Courts Martials...writing all that was said; then, typing the transcript.
Free at last from the tight controls of basic training, I was free to spend my evenings without duties. I caught the bus into Wichita Falls. After walking around town, I stopped at the offices of a Lawyer, asking if there was an opening for a transcript typist. I was immediately given a part time job typing from the shorthand notes of the civilian court reporter. Each page I transcribed and typed - double spaced -, I received $1.00.
Having worked since 6 years old, I had no social skills. I let the girl on the train get away. I was determined to do something about it. Walking the streets of Wichita Falls, I came upon a ballroom dancing studio. I got up my nerve, walked in and asked about taking dancing lessons. From September through Christmas, I took two lessons a week. Dance class became my most important existance. Not only did I learn the Foxtrot, Waltz, and Tango, but I also got to hold my gorgeous teachers - I had two teachers - in my arms all the while.
All too quickly, it came to an end. Two days before Christmas, I received new orders: I was to take two weeks leave, and report to the embarkation center in Oakland, California...from which I was to board a MSTS ship bound for Korea via Yokohama, Japan.
I again packed my duffle bag, boarded the train for Kennewick via Denver, Colorado.
Arriving in Kennewick on Christmas Day, I was informed I could not stay home. I spent the next four days in the Public Library, returning home after dark. On December 30, 1952, I again boarded the train for Oakland.
Dad and Mother stood together on the station platform...I could have sworn Dad was crying. Also standing on that platform was Jeannie B.., now a Senior, and a long time friend of Sam. As I climbed aboard, Jeannie ran up to me, gave me a hug...my first ever real hug...and said goodbye.
I began to wonder what I had missed working day and night for years in the trucking business instead of learning some social skills.
I was not to see Jeannie again...I have, however, located her within the past two years.
* * * * *
Took a nice long walk through Bellingham today...my first in over a week. Already getting itchy to be on the road. Settling back in is proving to be no cake walk.