In the Beginning

Instead of writing a book about my Military history, I am going to start again with what got me to where I was and now am.  This the first chapter or Genesis part of the story.  Fasten your self in for this journey.  I will sugar coat some stories because that's the way I remember most things.  I will not try to make up too many things but read the warning at the side of my blog and you will be reminded that a lot of the memories have been filtered through time and by being told again and again.  Some of the truth has been distorted to make the truth funny rather than tragic.  But if you want absolute fact, write your own book.

Somewhere in the time building up to WWII, my Mother and Father bought a house in the shadow of the  Beech water tower on east Central in Wichita.  The name it was given was Travel Air City but it morphed into Dog Patch later on as the preponderance of the houses and trailers were filled by people from Missouri and Arkansas came to Wichita for Jobs.  Just this last month, I drove by 544 Byrd street and for a house build almost 75 years ago it is in fairly medium shape.  A lot of the neighborhood to the west has been bought by Beech or whatever it is called now and turned into a parking lot.  In fact, there was probably 9 houses on that side of the street where only three now exist.  Our backyard was the big parking lot for beech and the lights there lit our yard Monday through Friday until after the Second Shift workers went home.  The kids there played outside on most days in the summer.

The best way to describe most of my friends is to tell you that our Daddies came home from the war ready to go to work and raise families.  As Birth Control was limited to condoms, there were a lot of births in the post war era and we were called Baby Boomers.  There was never a shortage of someone to play with or things to do.  I would tell you that mine was a fairly normal childhood, but it was normal only in the context of that neighborhood.  I am not sure that my parents were laid back about what I did or if they gave up trying to make me conform to any vision of normal.  Most of us were outside from first light and because of the parking lot lights, we were sometimes out very late.  I would think that I was considered an urchin because most of us traveled in shoeless packs and wore shorts that were in different conditions of clean.  But hey, I had as much fun as we could cram in our days there on the east side of Wichita.  I think of my childhood in terms that I would occasionally report in and tell Mom and dad where I was going and not particularly to get permission.  I grew up fairly fearless as I could out cuss, out fight or outrun mot of the kids I grew up with.

Probably because of her concern that if we didn't get a bath on occasion we would infect her kids, Mrs. Sawyer took us swimming at one of the city pool once or twice a week.  Mrs. Sawyer was a teacher and had the summers off and had a car.  She was the bonus Mom that a lot of us didn't have at home.  The funny part about the swimming lessons was that I had been swimming in lakes and ponds and could out swim or out float most frogs.  I remember that her son Ron never got much beyond the beginning section where I went almost right to the advanced swimmer classes.  I could hold my breath and swim across the pool and back underwater. 

I think about the time we started to hear the tales of our father's War time activities, we became a guerrilla Army and played all sorts of war games.  Because we had cap guns a plenty, we played cowboys and Indians, a Lot.   For some reason the Civil War was a popular theme and once the majority of us became cub scouts, our blue shirts and neckerchiefs just made us think we were the cavalry.  I am not sure who'd mother censored our wars on Japs and jerries' but they slipped in to the battles only when the parents were not monitoring us closely.  The BB gun phase also fit in there a lot but BB's were not allowed  in the battles.  They were for shooting sparrows and things. 

I think this playing war gave most us the idea that it could be fun to do battle and because it was not fatal, we thought of ourselves as great warriors.  Combine that playing with the competitive nature of our sports and you can see how we were easy prey for the Vietnam War that erupted just as we got out of High School.  I can't imagine that there was any thought of running off to Canada to avoid the war in any of 'My Gang."  I do know a couple of guys that went to Australia from the rich neighborhood but it didn't phase any of us or change the way we thought or fought.

I would like to tell you about my great love and how we were childhood sweethearts and got married.  The good news is that her father got transferred to Seattle and we just drifted apart.  She married some sailor she met in her Navy training and I met and married the love of my life (46 years last February) while stationed at Fort Irwin,  California.  OK, I took a  step or two ahead right there.

I started my college career at Wichita University.  It wasn't called WSU then.  I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do but I started out taking Business classes but mainly that first year took the electives that were required.  History of Western Civ, Biology, some English Lit class and an Art Appreciation class.  The last class introduced me to a lot of foreign films I would probably never seen had it not been a requirement to enroll in a workshop that had a weekly film.  Wichita University had a great schedule.  Because of the large number of workers enrolled you could take about any class day or night.  I loved that school. 

My first semester I earned a 2.0 average as I just would rather play pool and drink beer with the guys. I think a lot of evenings you could find us at Scotty's Uptown recreation (A pool hall) on Douglas Ave just west of the Arkansas River bridge.  Pool was 15 cents a game and beer was the same.  I think they had bologna and cheese sandwich that was a quarter so for a couple of bucks you could have a great evening.  It wasn't until I learned to play 10 point pitch in the basement snack bar of the Campus Activities Center that I really stopped going to class and dropped out prior to failing all my second semester classes. I found a partner that loved to win as much as I did. We worked out a system to cheat by the way we held our cards and won a lot.  I don't remember playing for money much so it was mostly for the thrill of Victory.  I went to work early that spring of 66 doing construction and did that until the draft notice came in August.  That was probably the most fun I ever had in my life.  I had money, a car and in Kansas we could drink 3.2% beer at 18.  

On my 19th Birthday, I was sent a notice to appear for a Pre-Induction Physical and went by bus to Kansas City.  We spent the night on Bunk Beds in the Center and the next day in our underwear going from station to station having things and places prodded that most of us thought were private. The Military did not have those same ideas.  That physical ended with a Doctor telling us to come in to his office and have a seat.  He looked at the paperwork and signed his name to some sheet of paper.  Mine said 1-A with 1's in every category.  Guess who was prime Cannon fodder?

I think about the time that report was returned to Wichita, I got the notice to appear for induction.  On the 5th of September 1966, we were bussed to Kansas City to see if anything had measurably changed.  Nope, go stand over there and raise your right hand.  Thankfully, the group was split into two groups just behind me and those guys were told to do an about face as a Marine Officer swore them in.  We were sworn in by an Officer and to the best of my memory no one did a Mohammed Ali and refused Induction.  We were given five minutes to gather our stuff and get on the bus out front for a trip to Fort Leonard Wood, MO. 

I am not sure if the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end but until next time.

Private to Be, US Army

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