Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas 1969

I enlisted in the US Air Force March 7, 1969. After basic training and an extra stay in fabulous Lackland Air Force Base (AFB) outside of San Antonio, Texas I was given orders for electronics training at Lowry AFB, Denver, Colorado. When the ten of us graduated from the training, we were ranked in order of our grades for selecting our first assignment. Starting at the top, they gave each a choice of, one, going into airborne and later in Japan, two, depot maintenance McClellan AFB near Sacramento, and Edwards AFB, southern California.

There was one exception which was for headquarters in Alexandria, Virgina where one electronics technician was hand-picked. It wasn't a surprise he was from Virginia. Anyway, I was fifth in the class as I only had one year of college studying mechanical engineering, and those ahead of me had either degrees in electrical or electronic engineering or technical college degrees in electronics. I was the best of the rest after these four guys.

There were six assignments to Sacramento, three to transfer to airborne and initially stationed in McClellan AFB, Sacramento before going to Japan and three for depot maintenance. There were three for Edwards AFB and one for Washington D.C. In short when the Sacramento assignments were gone the last three got Edwards AFB, which meant the first six of us took the fomer as we knew Edwards was in the middle of the southern California desert.

Of the Sacramento assignments, within a year one, my roommate in the enlisted troop housing, went to Chang Mai, Thailand. The three in airborne went to Japan after finishing their flight training, but until then the six of us became good friends. We didn't always hang out together after work but we didn't forget the others. My closest friend then was one who eventually went to Japan, but we shared some off-hours interests, namely exploring Sacramento and many people's favorite hobby then, drugs.

Yes, a lot of young serviceman explored drugs. Of the six of us, only Rick and I were single, one was married, two engaged and eventually married, and one was too quiet and reserved to try, let alone enjoy, drugs. And as you may guess, drugs in California in the late 1960's weren't that hard to get, and one in the dormitory was a small-time dealer for marijuana and some non-hard drugs, like mescaline, etc.

But this essay isn't about my drug experiences, that's another story, it's about my first Christmas away in a strange place. Rick and I were out exploring Sacramento. We liked to see how far we could get on days off riding the bus, catching rides or walking. On Christmas day we got back too late to eat dinner at the base chow hall, they had an early one so everyone could get home for the holiday. So there we were at about 6:00 pm hungry.

We looked outside the base where there were some restaurants and they were all closed. So, we decided to try the flight line diner, and after getting some general direction (try the control tower and flightline area), we started walking. And after wandering around a lot of hangars we arrived at the flightline diner about 8:00 pm. Only to find the kitchen was closed and all they had were pre-made sandwiches, chips and drinks.

So, my Christmas dinner was a sandwich, chips and coffee. After a few hours of talking with anyone there, we got a ride back with a newly arrived flight crew and were being transporting to the overnight housing. Somehow, all these Christmas dinners since then, this one sticks in my memory as one of the best. Who would have thunk it all these years later.

Rick eventually finished flight training, went to Japan, married a wonderful Japanese woman, and came back to the States. I saw him when Linda (my then wife) and I were living in Sacramento. Both Linda and I were working and going to school. Rick and his wife did a tour of the western US before coming to Sacramento. He eventually joined rejoing the Air Force to study nuclear physics. That was the last I heard from them.

But for awhile life was interesting exploring California, drugs and life, a memorable Christmas dinner.

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