Monday, July 31, 2017


I will be posting one chapter per week of my latest book, ICE DREAMS. Please note that the numerical chapters are autobiographical. The alphabetical chapters are pure fiction. 
In one of my letters in April I said, “There is nothing like bachelor life to make a guy appreciate his wife.” Every break I had to wash my fatigue uniforms and underwear, dry them, then starch, and iron the three pairs of fatigues. The black socks I washed by hand and let them air dry. My boots had to be polished and shined. About once a month I had to dye the boots because walking in the snow and rain caused them to start to get white streaks. Walking in the snow and wet roads often resulted in wet socks. I had a perpetual case of Athlete’s Feet. I bought Absorbine, Jr. everytime I bought shoe polish.
About once a month there was a barracks inspection preceded by a G.I party. The G.I. party was for the common areas – hallway, latrine, wash/shower room, and laundry room as well as policing outside around the building. Before the G.I party, we did our own rooms. I moved everything off the floor and used Brillo pads on the floor to remove the black marks our boots left on the floor. I mopped the floor with soapy water, then several times with clear water followed by a coat of liquid floor wax. When it was dry, I used the buffer. It was shared by all the men in the barracks for their rooms and was used on the hallway for our G.I. party.
After the G.I. party there was an inspection by the barracks sergeant, the First Sergeant, and sometimes the Commanding Officer.
Lorraine sent me a pair of eyeglasses with my prescription lens. They had brown frames and made me look more like a man than the “Clark Kent” black frame eyeglasses I had been issued by the Air Force. It boosted my spirits and I started paying more attention to my personal appearance.
One of the men in our barracks gave haircuts for $1. I decided that rather than trust his skills as a barber that I would have him cut my hair ¼” all over. That is the hair style I kept while out on Shemya.
Sometime in March, we were assigned our first Base Commander. He was a Lieutenant Colonel who was going to retire at the end of his tour on Shemya. Just as we were becoming accustomed to the idea, he was gone. This is what happened. In the middle of April, he was driving the Air Force pickup truck that had been assigned to him. There was another officer and a civilian riding with him. They had been drinking in the airport terminal lounge.
They went out to the truck and watched as the Base Commander drove to the end of the runway. He then went as fast as the truck would go. He was still traveling at top speed when he came to the other end of the runway. He crashed into the big rocks, the truck was totally demolished, and he had to be flown back to Anchorage to the hospital. One of the sergeants told us that the Air Force would make him pay for the truck and all the time he was in the hospital would not count as military service.
The 3D program still kept taunting me. There had been a chance to go to a base in Scotland. I waited too long before applying for it. Then there was an opportunity to be transferred immediately to Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska. I applied for it but was not one of the men who was chosen. One reason these immediate transfers to a base overseas where you could have family appealed to me was “skuttle butt” which said that since they didn’t need our skills in the States, we would be sent to some base and used as Air Policemen for the remainder of our enlistment.
Lorraine’s due date was May 21, so she had quit work in the beginning of April. My mother’s due date had been May 21 also, but it was changed to May 2. Lorraine sent me 50 blue and pink stickers for cigars and I bought a box of fifty cigars for $8 just so I would be prepared if the baby was early. Lorraine was having a lot of aches and pains including trouble with one hip which made walking painful. Sometimes she would go for five or six days without writing a letter and I would worry that something had happened. I reproached her for not writing more often and for letting me worry about what was wrong with her hip. In retrospect, I can see that I was pretty unfeeling about all she was going through. She had to go periodically to the OB-GYN, Dr. Kelly, who was to deliver the baby. To get to his office she had to ride a bus and then a streetcar. Her mother went with her. They would go to her sister’s apartment to rest when the appointment was over. Then Jim, our brother-in-law would drive them home.
I received a federal income tax refund check, but I could not cash it here. I sent it to Lorraine and told her she could cash it or deposit it in the bank using the Power of Attorney I had sent to her previously for the car.
My birthday was in April. I received gifts from my parents, my mother-in-law, and Lorraine’s sister and husband which I opened as soon as they came to me by mail. Lorraine made me promise that I wouldn’t open her present until my birthday. I could tell that it was a book. When I pressed the wrapping paper against the book, I could read “John Calvin” and “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” What puzzled me is that Calvin’s “Institutes” is usually published in two volumes. When I unwrapped the present on my birthday, it was a book by Loraine Boettner which I had told her that I wanted to get sometime. She had wrapped it in an advertisement for Calvin’s “Institutes!”
I received an absentee ballot for the Maryland Primary election on May 16. However, the ballot and the two envelopes in which it was to be mailed had been water damaged in transit. I wrote requesting another ballot, but by the time that I received it, it was too late to vote absentee.
Our woes with the car were not ended. When Jim, our brother-in-law, was taking it to be repaired, the clutch fell out. The cost of repairing it was $60. After the vandalism repairs were completed, the car was towed back to the garage we were renting and locked inside. We would have to buy insurance and tags for the car before sending it to a garage to have the clutch repaired (the mechanic would have to test drive it after he repaired it). If we decided to keep the car after I returned, the car would also need a valve job and tires. The valve job would cost $60.
When I had my physical exam at Elmendorf Air Force Base before being sent out to Shemya, I weighed 210 pounds. I had been fighting the Battle of the Bulge by cutting down on the food I ate. Also, I was very busy all the time. On my 22nd birthday on 20 April, I weighed 187 pounds. I had lost an average of 5 pounds a month on Shemya.
By the end of April, the days were noticeably longer. At 8:30 in the evening it was still daylight. The weather was mild and it was sunny. However, weather on Shemya could change very quickly. One day I was walking along on the road to the chow hall. It was sunny and mild. I unzipped my parka because I was getting too warm. In a hundred feet of walking, the weather changed and there was a freezing wind which was blowing hail and sleet. I didn’t waste any time zipping my parka. The sunny weather sometimes made the barracks uncomfortably warm because the hot air furnace was still on.
May brought a flurry of news and excitement into our world. May 1 is my sister’s birthday. On that day, we became aware that the Defense Readiness Condition had been advanced to Yellow Level 3 which meant the Air Force was to be ready to mobilize in 15 minutes. The DEFCON system had only been adopted by the Defense Department in November 1959. None of us knew the reason for this. We saw officers going in and out of the Comm Center at all hours so we knew that they knew what was going on, but none of the enlisted men knew.
This heightened alert continued. One evening I was working down at the radio station. In about 15 0r 20 minutes it would be time to rebroadcast AFRS news. One of the men came into the station and handed me a slip of paper. “Pritt, here is the frequency for BBC – Hong Kong. They broadcast to the British forces in Asia. When it is time for the news, broadcast their news. If anybody says anything, just say you made a mistake.”  “Why?” “Just do it. You’ll see why.”
I did rebroadcast BBC news that evening. It was all about a U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, being shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile 1300 miles inside Russian territory. It crashed near Sverdlovsk. Powers had parachuted out of the plane, but he was captured.
At first the Russians did not reveal that Powers had been captured and had confessed to the nature of his mission. After the U.S. government issued a cover story saying the plane was on a NASA weather measurement mission and had gone astray, the Russians made the embarrassing disclosure that Powers was alive and had given them the details of his mission.
The plane was not severely damaged when it crashed. Now the Russians had the plane and could copy its design and technology. They had the cameras and knew what he had been photographing.
Tensions were high between the United States and Russia. A Four Power summit meeting had been scheduled before the U-2 incident. The leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union met in Paris on May 15. Khrushchev’s emphasis on the U-2 affair torpedoed the conference. He refused to discuss anything else. Eisenhower would not apologize for the spying mission and insisted that it was for defensive, not aggressive purposes. Khrushchev withdrew his previous invitation for Eisenhower to visit the U.S.S.R., walked out of the meeting, and the conference ended the next day.
An officer came into the radio station about an hour after I had rebroadcast BBC news. I told him that I made a mistake tuning the receiver. Then when I heard what the newscaster was saying I let the news continue.
“Well, officially I am giving you a verbal reprimand, Unofficially I want to thank you. It will do a lot of good for morale now that the men know why there is a heightened alert in place.”
I was born less than a month before my mother was eighteen years old. I have a sister who was born a week before my mother was nineteen years old. I have a brother who was born a couple months after my mother was twenty-four years old. While on Shemya my mother gave birth to a baby girl three days before she was forty years old. Lorraine worried about my mother. She would not have anyone to help her when she came home with the new baby. Lorraine’ s mother would help her. Also, her sister had promised to stay with her for several days or even a week when she came home with the baby.
Lorraine decided to use the crib after all and bought a mattress for it. She had been figuring the costs of diaper service a month ago. Now she was debating whether to pay a flat fee for a pediatrician’s services for the first year or whether to pay him for each visit.
I had just begun to receive magazines that I had subscribed to while in the “south 48.” Somehow the magazines were being sent to Anchorage. Since it was a different APO, the magazines were being forwarded. Lorraine finished straightened all that out with Publisher’s Clearing House. Meanwhile, she had subscribed to “Arizona Highways” for me. The pictures of hot, dry places were really a boost for my morale.
The Presidential election campaign was heating up. The U-2 incident made everyone more aware of the threat of nuclear war and of the reality of the Cold War. Richard M. Nixon who was President Eisenhower’s Vice-President was opposed by John F. Kennedy. We didn’t hear the debates and we did not receive daily newspapers, except for newspapers sent through the mail which were more than a week old. What we did hear was a lot of anti-Catholic rhetoric and that JFK’s father was a bootlegger during Prohibition.
There was a Montgomery Ward catalog in the radio station. I spent a lot of time whiling away the hours and looking at things I would like to have when I returned to the States. I looked at baby carriages and suggested one of them to Lorraine. I knew that we would need furniture when we had an apartment of our own. I looked at unfinished bedroom suites and kitchen suites. I even looked at lingerie Lorraine could wear when she was no longer pregnant.
One item which I wanted while on Shemya was a radio. I wanted a Zenith with at least five tubes. Montgomery Ward did not sell Zenith radios. I wanted Lorraine to look for one. That was a pretty unreasonable request of a wife who is eight months pregnant! However, she found one at a reasonable price - $29.95. She sent it to me.
When it arrived, the box had been badly mangled in transit. She had packed it so well that the radio was unscathed. I wrote her a letter thanking her profusely, telling what a good tone it had and how it worked just as well on batteries as on A.C. Then, like a jerk, I wrote several days later and told her that the man she bought it from had gypped her because the radio was three years old.
About once a month or every other month the Air Force sent us a movie. There was only a 16 mm projector on Shemya. In fairness, the movies were movies that were popular at the time in theatres in the States. In March, they sent “A Summer Place.” There was no movie theatre. Usually the trick that was on break was shown the movie in an empty room in one of the buildings. A theater/auditorium with a seating capacity large enough to hold every man on the Island was under construction and would probably be used within several months.
Dominating the view in one direction were some enormous radar antennas. They were so powerful that birds flying in front of them, even hundreds of feet away were literally fried or even incinerated. We were warned never to go anywhere near to them. There was no way of knowing when they would be turned on. If you were in front of them, you would be killed or even incinerated like the birds. If you were even behind them at some distance when they were turned on, you could be sterilized or get leukemia. This wasn’t based on scientific evidence, but it convinced us. We knew when they were turned on because it caused a loud buzzing sound on our radios.
One of the military uses for Shemya’s airport was as a refueling station for SAC bombers. The refueling tankers would land at Shemya, refuel, then take off to rendezvous with SAC’s long-range bombers to refuel them. If SAC bombers were ever to be on a mission to bomb sites in the Soviet Union, Shemya was only 200 miles away from the Soviet Union. If the tankers landed on Shemya for practice missions, I wasn’t aware of it.
The only vegetation on Shemya Island was the tundra. Tundra is composed of dwarf shrubs, sedges and grasses, mosses and lichens. The ground under the tundra is permafrost. The summer sun melts the top surface of the permafrost. Since the water cannot permeate the still-frozen permafrost layer underneath, it creates pools of water, marshes, bogs and streams under the surface of the tundra. Some plants dry up during the winter and come to life again when there is water and long days of sunlight. 
There are only 1,400 species of tundra vegetation worldwide. There are only about six species of animals that inhabit the Arctic tundra. The Russian blue fox population on Shemya is one of them.
Tundra is usually found in windy areas where there are no trees to break the wind. The plants all tend to hover near the ground out of the wind. There are beautiful flowers on the tundra but they are tiny. Some of the Arctic tundra vegetation – Arctic moss, Caribou moss, Bearberry, Labrador tea (which has beautiful tiny white flowers), and Arctic willow. The latter two are like miniature trees, but no taller than the other tundra vegetation. They both have fuzz underneath their leaves to protect from cold. 


Monday, July 24, 2017


I will be posting one chapter per week of my latest book, ICE DREAMS. Please note that the numerical chapters are autobiographical. The alphabetical chapters are pure fiction. 

At the beginning of March, I was moved out of the makeshift barracks and into a building that was like the trick barracks in that it had two man rooms. It didn’t have the furniture that was in the rooms in the trick barracks. At first I had a bench with a three shelf bookcase sort of affair on it and a basket beside it. Next to the open closet (upright boards with a board on top and a pole on which to hang clothes) there were three shelves and bag with three pockets to hold such things as dirty clothes, cleaning supplies, etc. Gradually, I was able to scrounge a dresser and a desk to replace these hobo furnishings.
One of the things I lost in moving from the makeshift barracks was the ability to make coffee. There were two kerosene stoves in the makeshift barracks on which we set our canteen cup filled with water and a couple spoonsful of coffee. After the water came to a boil, it began making coffee. When we took the cup off the stove, we put just a little cold water in it and all the coffee grounds settled to the bottom. The new building had hot air heat.
Back Home: Around the middle of March, someone broke into the garage and vandalized our car. The windshield was broken and I don’t remember what other damage was done to it. The responsibility for handling all this fell on Lorraine. There was a lot of pressure put on her to just let the finance company repossess it and let them handle fixing it up. She held firm that we wanted to fix it up so that we would have a car when I returned. Also, if the car was repossessed, it would ruin our credit at the beginning of our married life.
 Our insurance agent had said that the insurance we had from the finance company would have comprehensive coverage. Lorraine had to find out if it did. She had to handle finding someplace to have it repaired, submitting a claim, etc. Our brother-in-law who was a claims adjuster for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company told her she might not be able to sign the release forms or other legal papers because she was only 19, a minor in Maryland. However, my minister, Dr. Reed, who was also a lawyer, reassured her. He said that when I gave her a Power of Attorney she would be signing for someone who was not a minor. (I was 22 years old.) As soon as I heard about the car being vandalized, I had gone to the Orderly Room, filled out a Power of Attorney, and put it in the mail to her
With the help of the brother-in-law, my father, and Dr. Reed, the car was repaired and locked away in the garage. I gained a lot of respect for Lorraine by the business-like way she handled the whole affair, and the firm way she stood by the decisions she made in our best interest. Also, I was proud of the way she handled our money and business affairs. I told her in one letter, that it wasn’t until this time apart that I began to see and appreciate her as a woman and not as a girl. From my letter to her on 1 March 1960:
“It is difficult to explain to you the change that began in my mind about you the day I left. I think that was the end of my thinking of you as a girl. I think that is the day I became a man. Do you understand? I think this was probably a tremendous step forward. I realized with a shock one night that this portrait was that of a woman, a lady, a mature adult. I can sense too the big responsibility you have shouldered has changed you wonderfully. Now what do I mean by mature? I mean simply that you are no longer a daughter living with Momma, but a wife who is away from her husband. Do you see what I mean?
“I thrill to your growing self-confidence. Even more to your capable way of handling things. Oh, honey, I don’t know how to express what I mean. Each day I am more married to your every facet. How can I say how much I love the way you can be so calm, efficient, and capable one minute and full of fun and mischief the next?”  
I was putting in long hours at the radio station. Altogether, there were about twenty men who worked at the radio station, but at least half only worked occasionally. I would work six, eight, even ten hour shifts. In order to get a certificate from Armed Forces Radio Service Bering Pacific Network, you had to put in at least 200 hours. I was determined to put in enough hours to get a certificate. At the end of my year on Shemya, I had logged 400 hours.
During a long shift at the radio station, there were times when you could take a break and go for a bite to eat, for instance when a half hour transcribed program was being played. “Polka Party” was one such program. If a mail plane came in, one of the other announcers would come and relieve me so I could pick up the mail, go to the mail room, and “put up” the mail in the boxes.
There were a few men who had reel-to-reel tape recorders. Occasionally, I would have one of them tape me when I was my own show. The Base Exchange sold small reel-to-reel tapes with mailers. I would send the tapes to Lorraine and she knew several people with reel-to-reel players who let her play them.
I was an Airman Second Class and I received $80 pay at the end of each month. I would send $65 to Lorraine and she received $91.30 “Quarters Allowance” plus $60 allotment from my pay. Here is how I spent the $15 remaining from my March 31 pay:
1 box soap powder                    $ 0.37
1 bottle of starch                           0.37
5 pkgs. cigarettes                          1.00 (pay back pkgs I borrowed)
3 bars Dial soap                              .18
1 ball point pen                               .70
1 box stationery                              .70
1 billfold (Lord Buxton)               3.08 (old one fell apart)
5 cigars                                              .50
1 Saturday Evening Post                .15
Money order fee & 2 books of
            Air Mail stamps                 2.00
Lighter fluid                                      .13                  
Used Zippo lighter                        2.00
Mailable reel recording tape       2.00
½ pizza and a can of beer            1.14

By March I wasn’t writing letters every day and the one I wrote were not long. In addition to working eight hour shifts for six days and then two days off, many hours at the radio station, working in the mailroom, I had to work on various work “details” such as policing the outside, shoveling snow, cleaning up the barracks (sweeping and mopping the hallway, cleaning the latrine, wash and shower room, and laundry room). There were inspections, Commander’s Call, and linen exchange. When the sergeant came through the barracks with fresh linen, even if you had just gone to sleep after working all night, you had to get out of bed, strip the sheets and pillow case off, make a bundle out of them, take the fresh linen and make up your bed (even if you were going to get back into it) and try to go back to sleep).
I learned to shoot pool and spent some hours at it. I liked to walk when the weather permitted. As anyone who has lived in a barracks will understand, I also spent a lot of time “jaw-boning”, “shooting the bull.” In addition to all that I was taking a correspondence course in Classical Greek through the University of Kentucky.
Stemming from the bull sessions, I tried to involve Lorraine in playing Cupid in a couple instances. In one case, there was a young man who had been dating a girl from Baltimore. He had a number of pictures of her which she had given him. On the back, each one was signed “Love” and the girl’s name. She had promised to write him and to wait for him. However, he had not received a single letter. He wanted Lorraine to call her and find out if maybe she didn’t have his address (in which case Lorraine could give her his address because it was the same as mine) or if she was going with some other boy.
In the other case, I must have told the young man about this friend of ours. He wanted to write to her. She worked at a mental hospital. He had worked in another mental hospital doing the same work she did. I asked Lorraine to call Lee, find out if she was willing for him to write to her and, if so, to find out what Lee’s mailing address was. I don’t know if Lorraine made either call. She did try to contact a couple of the wives of my friends on Shemya. One of my friends, Jon, had taken pictures when we were walking along the beach. I was in a half dozen of the pictures. He sent the roll of film to his wife to develop. Lorraine wanted to see if Jon’s wife would have copies made of the pictures I was in or else send her the negatives of them.
Nearly all the books I had on Shemya were cheap paperback editions, even if they were literature. When I would read a chapter or a poem that piqued my interest, I would tear it out and mail it to Lorraine. Then for several letters back and forth we would discuss it. I even made a few attempts at writing poems about her or our situation or our hopes and dreams.
There were wild foxes on Shemya. You could hear them at night. In the winter especially they were a nuisance. They would get into the trash cans looking for food. In the process of looking for food, they scattered trash all over. Of course, we had to clean it up. They tried all kinds of ways to secure the trash cans so the foxes couldn’t get into them. Most methods would work for a while, but then people would get careless, and it didn’t take the foxes long to discover it.
Shemya Island is called “the black pearl of the Aleutians.” A genuine black pearl is produced by the black lipped oyster found only in Tahiti (which is a long way from Shemya). I don’t know who gave Shemya that name or why. Maybe it is because it was formed by a volcano erupting out of the ocean floor and is composed of hard, black lava rock.
I gave Lorraine an engagement ring on Christmas 1958. We had known each other for most of 1958. We were both in a Sunday School class at Port Mission in Baltimore and both of us went out on street meetings with the same team from Port Mission. Our first date was on her eighteenth birthday. I didn’t know beforehand that it was her birthday, but she came running down to my car with a large slice of birthday cake. I had already enlisted in the Air Force, and I shipped out a week after that.
I called her on the phone from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas several times a week and then almost every evening. A month or so later, I was transferred to Syracuse University. I had about ten days delay enroute and I saw her every evening and most of the day on week ends. I was in love with her from the beginning. She was so different from any girl that I had ever dated. When I was with her, I felt at peace.
When I came down to Baltimore from Syracuse, New York on a short Thanksgiving break, I proposed to her and she accepted. We planned to be married the following spring. Lorraine would save as much money as she could from her pay and I would do the same. We did not want to burden her parents with an expensive wedding. While in Baltimore, we went to see a jeweler who I knew. Lorraine told him what style ring she liked and he measured her finger.  Then he and I worked out the business details. He was going to make the ring himself, using a diamond from a brooch he bought in an estate sale.
After I went back to Syracuse, I had an idea. What if we were quietly married at Christmas time? I could put in the paperwork to the Air Force, Lorraine would get quarters allowance each month which would be a big boost to the money being saved for the wedding for family and friends. When I came home for Christmas leave, Lorraine and I went to see Reverend Reed and told him about my idea. He thought it was a fine idea and told us that there was going to be a wedding on New Year’s Eve. We could come an hour or so after that wedding was over and have our private wedding. The church would still be decorated for a wedding.
We would need a marriage license and that would cost $20. I didn’t have $20. I borrowed it from Lorraine’s mother. I lied and said that we were getting it now so we would have it. When the time came for our wedding I might not be able to get down from Syracuse in time to do it. On New Year’s Eve, I came for Lorraine in my father’s car. She was dressed in a beautiful white dress trimmed with a blue ribbon.
On our way to the church there was an ominous thumping noise. We went on to the church, but I was worried sick about that thumping noise. The only people who attended our wedding were Dr. Reed, one of the elders he enlisted to act as witness, Lorraine and I. After the wedding, we went on to my parents’ home. I had borrowed the car ostensibly to bring Lorraine over for New Year’s Eve.
As soon as I told them about the thumping, my father and brother hurried out to examine the car. My brother discovered the cause of the sound. One of the tires had a bulging knot the size of a lemon on the inside sidewall of a front tire. While they were outside, my mother came up to Lorraine and asked, “Did you two get married tonight?”
“Why, no. What made you think that?”
“The way you are dressed.”
“I just wanted to look nice coming to see you.”
We didn’t have a honeymoon. Lorraine came over to my parents’ house the next day and helped me pack to go back to Syracuse. The next day I left and returned to Syracuse University.
The Air Force unit lived and had classes in a World War II married students housing area called Skytop. The housing complex had been converted into barracks and classrooms. The buildings were old and the wiring was old. The night after we returned there was a ferocious wind. In one of the barracks buildings, a fire started from the wiring over the ceiling. The wind whipped the fire into a firestorm which roared down the hallway. Men who tried to escape by the hallway were caught by the fire. Those who kept the door to their room closed had better chances. The windows could not be opened, but some used their oak desk chairs to bust out of the room. Altogether seven men died and many more were hospitalized with burns, smoke inhalation, and injuries incurred in trying to escape.
It was the early hours of the morning when we were wakened by someone wanting donations of clothes for the ones who had escaped into the bitter winter cold, snow, and wind barefoot and wearing only their skivvies. That is when we learned of the fire which was only about a quarter of a city block away from our barracks.
Lorraine and her family learned of the fire on the evening news, but they could not reach the number in my barracks because the University had blocked all calls into Skytop. They finally found out from the Red Cross that  I was not one of the dead or injured in the Skytop fire.
Lorraine had been keeping a diary since her high school days. She wrote about our marriage in her diary. Several days after the fire, she inadvertently left the diary open on her dresser. Her mother went into her room and found the diary and learned about our marriage. That night her mother called me on the phone in the hall way of my barracks. She said, “Hello son-in-law! Are you surprised?” I was speechless for a moment, then said, “Not as much as you were I’ll bet.” We both had a good laugh.
Lorraine’s family did not think much of our plan. They said that if she was married, it would be a sham to have another wedding. So, we began to plan how and when she could come to Syracuse and join me. Early March seemed the soonest we could gather enough funds for her fare, to ship her clothes and other things, put down a deposit and the first month’s rent on an apartment. That is what we planned. Meanwhile, Lorraine’s friends and family had several showers for her.
When I went into the Orderly Room to apply for Lorraine’s quarters allowance and get papers for an I.D. card for her, the First Sergeant blew a gasket. “What do you think you are, a civilian? You have to have the Commander’s approval to get married and since you are an E-3, he would never approve it.” He sent me in to the Commander who was equally stern. Finally, he said to the First Sergeant, “The deed has been done. We can either kick him out of the Air Force or give his wife a quarters allowance.”
Lorraine’s mother was a long time forgiving Dr. Reed. It wasn’t until he helped Lorraine with the car that she began to soften toward him.


Monday, July 17, 2017


I will be posting one chapter per week of my latest book, ICE DREAMS. Please note that the numerical chapters are autobiographical. The alphabetical chapters are pure fiction. 

I became one of the announcers on the AFRS radio station on Shemya. All the announcers were volunteers. At the end of my tour on Shemya, the Armed Forces Radio Service gave me a certificate for 400 hours service as an announcer. A copy of it went into my personnel file. All of the announcers worked at the radio station during the two days their shift was off duty.
The radio station was contained in a standard metal office desk. On the left side, where drawers would normally be found, there was a 5 watt AM radio transmitter. On the right hand, where drawers would have been there was a crystal oven. On the surface of the desk were two turntables and some switches. Going across the desk at eye level were various gauges and knobs.
Mounted in a rack to the right of the desk was an old short wave receiver (an RD-600). On the walls on either side of the radio station desk were bookcase like shelves with hundreds of 33 rpm records standing on edge. In another room, there were more cases and many more records.
We had a program schedule we had to follow. There were nationally known programs, like the Jack Benny Show, quiz shows, radio dramas which had to be aired on certain days at specified times. These programs were on a large size 33 rpm record which was mailed to the station by AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Service). Also at certain times during the day and night (the station was on the air 24 hours a day) we had to rebroadcast the news from AFRS. That is what the old RD-600 short-wave radio was for. We looked for AFRS on several short-wave frequencies and picked one with good reception. We connected the radio output to our transmitter. As the news began “at the top of the hour” we were rebroadcasting it.
On the schedule were a number of segments of one to six hours wherein the announcer played records, aired requests, talked, or read interesting items out of magazines. The one hour segments were a little restricted. One was devoted to country and western music, another to Broadway show tunes, and so on. After midnight it was “Katy left the barn door open.” When I was the announcer and had free-lance time, I called myself “Your roly-poly, bouncing ball of blubber.” I was overweight.
Even though the station was only 5 watts, the ocean waves carried the radio waves considerable distance. The sailors at a naval station a couple hundred miles east listened to our station and liked it better than their own. They sent messages to us by radio teletype.
The teletype was in the orderly room and generally received administrative messages from Elmendorf AFB and messages from higher headquarters. Some were messages that were put on the bulletin board. That is how I found out about the College GED testing. Also, the Red Cross used it to notify our Commanding Officer about family emergencies, birth, and death announcements.
The messages from the sailors were requests for specifuc songs to be dedicated to certain persons. The dedications were usually “coded” insults or poking fun at other sailors and sometimes at their officers. About once a month a high-ranking officer from the naval station would call the orderly room and demand to speak to the Base Commander. Most of the time that I was on Shemya, we were still a detachment and there was no base commander.
 The First Sergeant would beckon to someone who was shooting pool or playing ping pong in the recreation room to come to the phone. This person would listen to the navy officer’s tirade and keep saying, “Yes, sir.” The First Sergeant didn’t want to hear any of it because he wanted the radio station to be left alone.
Just as the radio waves traveled a couple hundred miles east, they  also traveled west and the station could be heard on the Kamchatka Peninsula of the U.S.S.R.  Periodically the Russians would “jam” our station with a powerful transmitter. When that happened, the announcer would turn off the radio transmitter, remove the radio frequency crystal, and put the crystal for another frequency in the crystal oven. It took forty-five minutes for the new crystal to reach safe operating temperature. After forty-five minutes, the new crystal was placed in the transmitter. The station began broadcasting on the new frequency. The Russians kept jamming the old frequency, unaware that we were now broadcasting on a different frequency.
During that year there were some hit songs in the States that the wives and girl friends would write to us about. Naturally, the men wanted to hear these songs so they would know what the girls and women were talking about. The most popular songs during that year were “El Paso” by Marty Robbins, “Running Bear” by Johnny Preston, “Teen Angel” by Mark Dinning, “Theme from A Summer Place” by Percy Faith and His Orchestra, “Stuck On You” by Elvis Presley, “Cathy’s Clown” by The Everly Brothers, “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” by Connie Francis, “Ally Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles, “I’m Sorry” by Brenda Lee, “It’s Now Or Never” by Elvis Presley, “The Twist” by Chubby Checker, “My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own” by Connie Francis, “Mr. Custer” by Larry Verne, “Save The Last Dance For Me” by The Drifters. “I Want To Be Wanted” by Brenda Lee, “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles, “Stay” by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by Elvis Presley.
There were two very popular songs that year which AFRS banned and did not send us the records. “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton was banned because it was offensive to the British who were our allies. “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” by Brian Hyland was banned because it was considered too risqué. However, the guys received copies of both of these records in “care packages” from home. We played them all the time. They were on 45 rpm records, but we could change the turntable speed and we had an adapter for the spindle.  
One item that dominated the AFRS news and also bull sessions in the barracks was the Presidential election campaign that year. The Vice-President Richard M. Nixon was running against John F. Kennedy. The major talking point against Kennedy was the fact that he was a Catholic. The assertion was made, by those arguing against him, that the Pope would be telling him what to do. In fact, one guy was passing out a leaflet against Kennedy which focused negatively on his religion. The guy could have been in a lot of trouble if someone had complained. Men in uniform are not supposed to participate in politicking and electioneering. They also are not to participate in attacking a religion.
Also in the news that year, a number of former European colonies in Africa gained their independence: Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar, and Zaire.
Another major item in the news was the U-2 incident and its repercussions for the Paris summit conference. More about that later.
Shortly after I began to be involved with the radio station, I was appointed by the Shift Supervisor to be one of the two mailmen on our trick. He wanted someone who had recently arrived so they would serve a long time. The first thing I had to do was read all the postal regulations which concern a unit mail room. Then I had to take a test.  I don’t know who graded the test, but in a couple weeks I received in the mail a wallet sized card with my name, rank, serial number, and military unit. The card authorized me to handle the mail.
The mail room was in the building with the Orderly Room. We did not handle money. Stamps and money orders had to be purchased and packages sent in a tiny one-room post office. When a plane came in with mail, the sergeant in charge of the post office went to the plane and pick it up. A mailman from the trick that was off duty would get the bag of mail for our unit. He would take the bag of mail back to the mail room. One wall of the mail room was plexiglass. The mail boxes for each man were fastened to this plexiglass.
The two mailmen from the off duty trick opened the mail sacks one at a time and put the letters in each man’s box. The crowd of men outside the mail room could see when they had letters. Inside the mail room we would be working as fast as possible to put up all the mail. Of course, when I was new at the job, I was slow. I had to look for each man’s name on the box. In time, I knew where every man’s box was located. At first, I had to look for each box.
Meanwhile, the door was locked from the inside and the window was closed. We could see everyone through the plexiglass and they could see us. We were not allowed to give mail to anyone until every piece of mail was out of the sacks and in a box. The men knew that, but still they would pound on the plexiglass and on the door alternately begging and demanding that we open up and give them their mail.
When we finally did open the window, and begin to distribute the mail, one of us would be running back to the boxes to get someone’s mail while the other was handing one man his mail and asking the name of the next person. It was an exhausting job, but no one understood better than I did, the importance of letters from home.
There was a bus to work and return which stopped at the barracks buildings. However, when we were off duty or going someplace besides work, such as the mess hall, the mail room, the Base Exchange, chapel, radio station, we had to walk. In the winter, it was gray and gloomy even at midday. The weather was very changeable. It could be mild when you left the barracks and then there would be a ferocious wind with specks of ice from off the snow blowing around. The temperature would drop. Of course, there were icy patches on the ground. When you were walking in a strong wind, it was hard to be watching the ground where you were walking. I had several bad falls while walking someplace. They said the weather was very changeable because the Island was between the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. Their currents met there.
The only medical care was out of the Corpsman’s bag. If you had a cold or cough you were given turpenhydrate and two aspirin. If you had a sore throat he told you to gargle with warm salt water. Whenever we had to work two shifts at work, the Corpsman walked around to the work stations passing out “pep pills” so we could stay alert. I’m glad that I never broke an arm or leg when I fell. It would have been a minimum of two days before I could have reached a clinic or hospital 1500 miles away.
The fall scared me. I felt uneasy about being so far from everyone that I knew, so far from Lorraine. My initial bravado had gone and a lot of realities hit me in the face like an icy snow ball. I wouldn’t be with Lorraine when the baby was born. The baby wouldn’t even know me. He/she would be seven or eight months old before hearing my voice or being picked up by me. So many decisions would already have been made.
The fall on the ice made me afraid for Lorraine. It was also snowing and icy in Baltimore. She was going out to work every day. She had a ride to work, but she had to walk across the parking lot. One of her friends fell on an icy patch on the parking lot.  I wanted her to quit working, but she wanted to pay off the car and build up a nest egg before the baby was born. Every time that she was paid at work, she would send an itemization of how she had used the money.
When she went to work, there were two other women and Mrs. Sauders, the supervisor, to do the work. Then one woman retired and the other was transferred to another department. That left Lorraine and Mrs. Sauders to do all the work. Budgetary cut backs meant that Mrs. Sauders could only hire one person to replace the two departed women. She interviewed four girls, with Lorraine assisting in the interviews. They both agreed none of the girls were qualified.
Then Mrs. Sauders was told that she was to interview a man who had cerebral palsy. The man was coming with a call from the Governor’s office urging that he be hired. With many misgivings and under duress, Mrs. Sauders hired him and told Lorraine to train him. He was a quick learner. Despite a complete lack of manual dexterity, he was soon working so well that he more than replaced the two women who had left. He was very pleasant. He would go with them to the cafeteria or their favorite restaurant to eat lunch. He would stumble and fall down, grin, and get back up. He was a Jewish man, was married, and his wife was pregnant.
Lorraine’s best friend in school was Alma. Alma lived close to Lorraine and came from a large family. We went to her wedding and the reception afterward. It was the first Polish wedding I had attended. Alma lived across the city but came back one Saturday to see her family. She confided to Lorraine that she was pregnant, but was waiting to see the doctor before she told her husband or family. A couple months later, Lorraine learned that Alma had had a miscarriage.
Lorraine’s letters contained a lot about the baby. Sometimes two pages would be devoted to an itemization of supplies and clothing she would need for the baby, in another letter things she was making for the baby, and in another letter things other family members gave her or loaned her for the baby. I was surprised that she estimated fifteen diapers per day for the baby. She had decided to use a diaper service and she sent me brochures from the three services that she could choose from. She planned to buy her own diapers rather than have the diaper service supply their diapers. It was much cheaper that way in the long run. She decided to buy enough for seven a day when she saw they were on sale at one store. She would wait and see how many diapers she might receive at baby showers before buying the remainder. She told me that diapers are a popular gift at baby showers. She had already been to three showers. In fact, she was in charge of games at my cousin Darlene’s baby shower.
One of the Air Force programs that attracted my attention was the     “3-D” program. Under this program, you reenlisted at the end of your first overseas tour, received a bonus for reenlisting (in my case it would have been $650), were promoted to Airman First Class (which would have been a raise in pay for me to $162/month), were given 30 days leave, and then were sent to another overseas tour where you could have dependents.
In my case, since I would not have four years time in grade as an Airman First Class, I would have to pay air fare for Lorraine and the baby, shipping costs for their luggage and other belongings overseas, and we would not be eligible for base housing.
Lorraine was not in favor of the idea. Her reasons were that we could not be sure the baby would be born altogether healthy. Suppose it would need hospitalization or specialized care. How could we be sure such care would be available overseas? What if there were a war or some crisis and the dependents were shipped home? We would be separated again. The air fare would be as much as the enlistment bonus. Where would we get the money to put down when we found a place to rent overseas? Think of how lonely she would be living in a foreign country where she couldn’t speak the language and I would be gone all day.

Dad and Mom had bought a baby crib for her from their neighbor across the alley and Dad had brought it to her. She had pretty well decided not to use it for several reasons. It did not have a mattress; she would have to buy one. There was another single bed in her old bedroom in her family’s house. She would have to take it down to have room for a crib. Her mother said NO to that. She decided to get crib rails for the other bed and use it for a crib.            

Monday, July 10, 2017


I will be posting one chapter per week of my latest book, ICE DREAMS. Please note that the numerical chapters are autobiographical. The alphabetical chapters are pure fiction. 

Several weeks after my harrowing experience at the beach and crossing the tundra, I decided to go again. This time I took a strong flashlight with me. Several times I stopped, bent down and looked closely at the tundra growth. It was really fascinating. Even though it was brown and dead looking, I could see the variety of plants. It was almost like a forest in a miniature world. I thought of Gulliver’s Travels. I was like Gulliver.
I reached the beach and sat, as before, watching the surf crash against the enormous black, hardened lava rocks. The waves hit, surging almost to the top. If I had been closer I would have been drenched by the spray. The pounding surf began to take on a beat, a rhythm. It was a lullaby for me that made me doze at times.
I was about to leave when I saw a young lady by one of the rocks. There were no women, military or civilian, stationed on Shemya! This young lady was wearing a white blouse with puffed material at the shoulders, a bright vest of many colors and a full skirt. She had long brown hair. She was motioning to me. Hesitantly I walked toward her, expecting her to disappear as I came nearer. I wondered how she could stand to be out in this cold January air in only a dress. She beckoned to me more urgently. Maybe she was getting cold.
As I drew nearer, I saw that she was very attractive. She was speaking and her words were happy and musical, but I couldn't understand them.
She was standing at the mouth of a cave. Warm air wafted out of its mouth in the largest rock. She took me by the hand and led me down a slope that went on forever. Down and down we went. The tunnel or shaft, whichever it was, showed the marks of having been hewn out with tools. It was only wide enough for one person to walk in it, and only high enough to walk by bending at the waist. If anyone had been approaching us, they could not have passed by us.
I wondered what language she spoke because I couldn't understand her. Just then the thought came into my mind, “No, you cannot SPEAK our language, but you and I can communicate with our thoughts.”
“Where does the heat come from?”
 “There is a pool of water which is heated from under the earth by the same volcano whose lava once formed this island.”
“How can your people survive living in a cave all the time?”
“We have always been resourceful. We fish and garden in the summer. We are excellent scavengers and craftsmen. You would be surprised at the wood, metal, and military gear we find lying around. When we run low on supplies, usually in winter, we can sometimes “liberate” some food intended for the mess hall. We find many useful items around the terminal building at the airport. After the War, what was dumped during the day or was left to be dumped the next day, we took for our own use.”
“They haven’t caught you?”
“They don’t know to look for us.”
The tunnel led into a large natural room. It reminded me of the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. I saw no evidence that this big room had been hewn by human tools. In the center was a large oblong pool at least twelve feet across. The ceiling above the water was covered with stalactites. From the pool there emanated light that illuminated the whole room.
My “guide” spoke in a Slavic-sounding language, though I did not recognize half of the words as Russian. I did gather that her name was Tatyana. Beside the pool sat an older man whose name was Evgenij. Tatyana explained to him why she brought me into their cave. Most of the time she addressed him as “Starshij” (Elder).
While they were speaking, several women walked quickly through the room. They came out of a side tunnel, and went across to another side tunnel. Starshij motioned to one of them to join us. The women were attired like Tatyana. They were dressed like Russian peasant women.
Tatyana left and the other woman, Gretchen began translating for the Elder. “You are wondering what language we speak and why Tatyana brought you here
“Our ancestors were Cossack soldiers who fought on the side of Czarist troops during the Russian Revolution. The battles brought them to Siberia and the Kamchatka Peninsula. It would have been suicide to cross the broad expanse of Russia, now ruled by Bolshevics, in order to return to their native land. They decided to buy a fishing boat and sail to Alaska. There were already many Russians in Alaska. Russians settled in Alaska before your own Civil War. One of our Czars sent a fleet of ships to keep California from being retaken by Spain. There was even a Russian fort in Northern California.”
“Starshij” told me that they loaded the fishing boat with seeds and implements just as our pioneers loaded covered wagons to travel West. Many Russian and Japanese fishing boats sailed into these waters and returned with rich catches of fish. Some, however, floundered and wrecked in the cruel sea. That is what happened with the boat loaded with their ancestors. The boat was driven by the winds and sea currents and smashed into the huge rocks at the entrance to the cave.
Some people perished from injuries or the cold. The more resourceful found or made shelters for themselves and their families.  They discovered warm air being wafted from a large crevice in the rock and built a shelter around it large enough for the survivors. Then the men set to work making the hole wide enough to crawl into. In time, they found their way into this large underground room.
It then became a priority to make a tunnel to access the underground room. It was not livable until even women and children could go in and out each day. Humans need sunlight each day to stay healthy.
“How have we sustained our colony for generations now?” Starshij continued answering my questions, “Let me show you our workshops.” He took me to several underground rooms. In one room, men and women made material from scavenged items. Men took packing crates and pallets apart, straightening the nails, smoothing the boards. Women made glue and leather from the remains of whales. On a shelf, I saw boiled-clean whale bones and jars of screws, nuts, bolts, and rivets.
A small room was the design room. Men and women with Montgomery Ward, Sears, and other catalogs cut out pictures of items to possibly make in their shops. Another room was a carpentry shop. Women sewed in the dormitory. Finally, we reached their stock room.
“When we have a large supply of goods to sell or barter, and the weather is not terrible, we flag down a fishing boat and offer to pay him to take us to Japan, Russia, or one of the Alaska islands. We don’t go to cities or even towns because we have no passports or identity papers. We go to Indian villages or the villages of poor people in Japan or Russia. We have a long history with them. They eagerly barter food supplies, other things we need, or even pay us money for our handcrafted goods. They know they can sell them in the towns for more than they have given us. Maybe they sell them as native craft. Everyone wins.”
“Why did Tatyana bring me down here? There have surely been many other soldiers and airmen who have visited the beach.” I asked.
“Tatyana is the only virgin in our community. Unfortunately for her there are no unmarried men in our community. She could go on a fishing boat that takes our crafts and several of our men who will trade them. She could meet an Alaskan native or Siberian native or Japanese peasant young man. I think she would rather meet a young American military man. Her parents are dead so she could move away from here.
“I see that you wear a ring, so you are married. I’m sure that she did not know that you were married when she invited you down here. Maybe you wore gloves and she didn’t see your ring.”
“Yes, I am married. The Air Force sent me to Alaska on our first wedding anniversary. We are expecting a baby in five months.”
“That is wonderful. You can leave now. I ask you for your solemn oath that you will never tell anyone what you have seen and learned today.”
He extended his hand and we shook on it.

I walked up the sloping tunnel to the cave’s exit. It was pitch black outside and soon I was beyond the warm air of the cave’s entrance. I was grateful for the flashlight. I could see the path back to the mess hall and our barracks. The further I walked away from the beach, the less sure I was that what I had seen and experienced was real.    

Monday, July 3, 2017


I will be posting one chapter per week of my latest book, ICE DREAMS. Please note that the numerical chapters are autobiographical. The alphabetical chapters are pure fiction. 

We left Elmendorf Air Force Base on January 18, 1960. During the time we were there, Lorraine was receiving my letters in four days time. I was also receiving mail from her since she began writing me the day after I left. When we arrived on Shemya Island, the mail did not come and go  regularly. During January a plane carrying the mail to us and returning to Anchorage with our outgoing mail came only on Fridays unless the weather was too bad and it was delayed a couple days or more.
The temperature hovered around the freezing mark in January. During the daylight hours it might go several degrees above freezing. At night it was almost always below freezing. There was also a lot of snow. During the month of January there was about fifteen inches of snow. It did not melt! On Shemya, in an average year 225 days of 265 had some form of precipitation.
In one letter after I had begun duty on Shemya, Lorraine complained that she had not had any letters from me for ten days. So she had pulled out old letters I had written to her in 1958 before we were married and 1959 before she joined me in Syracuse. In another letter she said that she had received a large stack of letters from me. She was debating whether to read them all that day or to ration them out and read only one letter a day. Reading them all that day won out.
Much in her letters concerned the baby we were expecting. She was sure it was going to be a boy because of the energetic kicks she received. She told me about a game the baby played with her. When it was kicking she would pull up her top to see if she could see the kick from the outside. The baby would quiet down. She would lower her top after a few minutes and in a short time the baby would start kicking again. She said that happened on repeated occasions. She was never able to SEE the baby kick. Whenever her mother saw her pull up her top and look at her stomach, she would chuckle because she knew the baby was playing its game with Lorraine.
Lorraine told me about some maternity tops that she made or was making. She didn’t have a sewing machine so she was doing all the stitching by hand.
She registered for a class in “natural childbirth” sponsored by some doctors at Johns Hopkin Hospital but taught at the YWCA. She met with several problems. When she went to register for the class, which met one evening a week, at first they refused to register her. They said she was supposed to have a letter from her doctor. Someone interceded and they said she could register if she would bring the letter the next week. Once in the class, she had another difficulty. She wrote:
“During my class on Wednesday (last night) at the YWCA the instructor went into (what I now believe) decisive detail of the importance of a husband during a woman’s pregnancy. Looking back, I realize she dwelled so on this subject because she feared losing the one male pupil she has (he seemed to be getting little from the course). However, I didn’t expect this and allowed myself to lose all perspective. Why I didn’t is because I never thought one way or the other. You were going away and that was that. I felt bad but soon accepted it.
“Well, here was a good chance for me to pity myself. I began feeling sorry for myself and suddenly felt helpless. Luckily, some good sense began to work. Soon I was back on the ground and feeling quite foolish (although no one knew of these thoughts). I was shaken by this incident, however.
“Now I believe that I wasn’t disturbed because of the talk, but of a feeling I’ve had that my instructor thinks I’m not married. Strange and silly I know. But I feel very strongly about this. She even calls the other girls Mrs. but me Miss. Well I’m not going to worry myself over that. I know the truth. I’ll just make a mental note to correct her the next time she forgets to address me properly.
“Well, as I said, I was shaken by this incident. When I arrived home, I quickly prepared for bed and took your letter with me to my room. You can’t imagine the joy and comfort that letter brought to me. A few times I shed some relieving tears. I felt as though you were right with me; I had told you my troubles and you were oh so gently soothing me. You couldn’t have been closer if you had been sitting on the edge of the bed. Your love has meant so much more to me since you have gone. I’m trying to figure out if this new rich love has always been with us or if it has developed because of our separation. Darling this separation is paying off.”
During that first month that I was away, we decided on a name for the baby if it was a boy, Paul Troy, and a name for the baby if it was a girl, Elizabeth Ruth.
By the end of the month, Al had still not returned the car despite several phone calls to him. The promised $25 had included the stipulation that he was to Simoniz the car. He had not even started to do that. Then one night, past midnight, Al called. He had been driving all over Canton looking for the garage. All he could remember was that it was #12 in a row of garages. Lorraine gave him the address of the man who rented out the garages. With that information he was able to find the garage. His father had followed him to take him home. He had Simonized the car after all, cleaned the interior of the car and even lubricated the door hinges.
That was not the end of Lorraine’s problems concerning the car. The car insurance premiums jumped about 50%. She wanted to drop the car insurance since it was not going to be driven until I returned. However, she had to make a decision before she could get an answer back from me. Her sister’s husband advised her to drop liability and collision coverages and just keep comprehensive.
When she called our insurance agent, he told her to cancel the insurance altogether because comprehensive insurance was included in my car payment to the finance company. Cancelling the insurance also meant that she could not renew the car tags which would expire soon.
She wanted me to do the federal and state income taxes, so she was gathering all the receipts, W-2s, and the forms I would need and was going to mail them to me.
We were paid on the last day of the month. I was broke. In one letter Lorraine had enclosed $1. In another letter, she enclosed $5 but because of delays in the mail, I did not receive it until several days after we were paid.
We were paid by check. After I moved into one of the trick barracks I met a man who lived in a room diagonally from mine. He was strange. He had a stack of pay checks that he had never cashed. He would awaken about a half hour before anyone else, go into the shower room and wipe the soap residue from the soap holders in the shower and wash basins in order to wash and shave. He collected cigarette butts out of ash trays, stripped them and salvaged the tobacco from them which he put in a little cloth bag. Then he rolled his own cigarettes. He was forever “borrowing” (bumming) things he needed. I heard that he came from a well-to-do family and that he owned a number of rental houses.
I finally moved out of the makeshift barracks and into a barracks building in which men from different tricks and day time workers all lived. The barracks buildings were wooden, one-story buildings with a hall way going down the center of the building. There was an outside door at each end of the hall way. Once outside there was a stairway going the height of the building up to the road level on one end and at the other end, really a fire exit, the stairway went up onto tundra. In the center of the building there was a laundry room with washers, dryers, and laundry tubs. There was a latrine with toilet stalls, and there was a washroom with sinks and showers.
On either side of the hall way were two-man rooms. The rooms had   two beds (a little narrower than a single bed), two dressers, and a wall locker on either side of the room. On my side of the room there was a window over my dresser. Lorraine told me to send her the measurements of the window and she would make curtains for it. I sent them to her and in a little over a month I received a package from her with curtains and a matching dresser scarf which she had sewn by hand.
My roommate had a fishing net hanging all across the wall above his bed. The net held a collection of glass floats. These were old because now the fishing boats use cork or rubber floats. The clear glass floats were beautiful – various colors and different designs. He was not in the room for much more than sleeping or getting ready for work. He liked to comb the beach for items of interest the waves brought ashore. He also scoured the tundra for artifacts from World War II. He told me that in addition to the runway that was now being used, there are several other runways on the Island that have not been maintained and thus are unusable. However, they were good places to scrounge for souvenirs.
There was another man in the barracks whose wall was decorated with snapshots. He had written to TEEN magazine’s pen pal column and said that he was being sent to a remote island in Alaska for a year and he was going to be lonely. He asked for pen pals. Every time the mail came, he received a bushel of letters, mostly from teen age girls. Most of them enclosed a snapshot of themselves. Some were wearing bikinis. His wall was solidly covered with snapshots. When the wall was completely filled and he was still receiving snapshots, he began editing the wall, taking down mediocre pictures and replacing them with new, more striking pictures.
The mess hall was located near one end of the runway which ran alongside the mess hall. Although the plane carrying our mail was only coming out to Shemya once a week, there was a variety of other users of the airport. Northwest Orient Airlines had leased the airport from the government after World War II. They flew daily passenger planes from Seattle to Japan, landing at Shemya to refuel. Other airlines had to fly via Hawaii to reach Japan. This was several hundred miles further. Northwest allowed SAS passenger planes to refuel on Shemya. They also permitted Reeves Aleutian Airlines to fly into Shemya from Anchorage. They allowed Flying Tigers Airline to refuel in Shemya because it carried only cargo.
There were a number of military planes that landed on Shemya. One interesting plane was a Navy cargo plane. It serviced Navy personnel on floating ice floes who were doing meteorological and oceanographic measurements. These planes were equipped with JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) so that they could take off in the short space allowed on an ice floe. Sometimes, planes flying from an air base in Japan or Korea to Eielson AFB near Fairbanks, Alaska would land to refuel. (There was a cocktail lounge in the terminal building. It was OFF LIMITS to enlisted personnel but flight crews and our own officers knew of its existence and patronized it.)
We would stand alongside the runway and gawk when we heard a plane overhead preparing to land.
The Reeves planes would sometimes unintentionally put on an exciting show. Their planes were old. Many times the pilot couldn’t get one or two of the engines to start no matter what he or the ground crew tried. As a last resort, he ordered everyone off the plane, even the other crew members. Then he took off and slowly made a circling climb above the airport. It would take him a long time to reach the altitude he needed. Then he put the plane into a steep dive. The propellers of the engines that were not running would be screaming as the dive spun them at high speed. At the last minute, the pilot switched on the ignition for the sick engine(s) and they would fire, spraying engine oil all over the ground. He would pull out of the dive only hundreds of feet above us. Such a roar they made and you could hear the metal plates on the wings rattling.
We had an air show in our back yard and it was free.
Sometime after we had all moved out of the makeshift barracks it was put to use again. An Air Force plane based in Japan wandered off course and into air space over a part of the Pacific Ocean with territorial limits claimed by the U.S.S.R.  Soviet fighter planes scrambled against the plane. It evaded most of the fighters but one of them managed to badly damage one of the plane’s wings. Shemya was much closer than Japan and the winds were favorable for trying for Shemya. The plane just did make it. The plane was placed in a hangar in order to work on it.
There were about a dozen men on the plane. They were wearing flight suits over their underwear. You can imagine their reaction when they were shown the only living accommodations available. That was only the beginning of sorrows. They had no American money. It wasn’t allowed in Japan. They only had military “scrip” which our Base Exchange couldn’t accept. They were each given $40. Our Base Exchange had men’s underwear and socks but no jeans or shirts. The First Sergeant went around collecting donations of clothing from the men. Base Supply loaned them parkas.
They could not believe that there was no phone service, no movie theatre, no enlisted men’s club where they could buy beer. They couldn’t wait to get home to Japan. Some aviation mechanics had to be flown out from Elmendorf Air Force Base. Until they arrived to remove the damaged wing, it couldn’t be known what parts had to be ordered for the repairs. They arrived, removed the damaged wing, sent it back to Anchorage, and waited several days for a new wing and the necessary parts. Then it took a couple days to install the new wing and make other repairs. The crew of the plane walked around the Island scowling or sat in the mess hall drinking gallons of coffee and smoking endless packs of cigarettes.

Finally, the day arrived when the plane was ready to fly. The crew boarded the plane in the hangar. A tow tractor was attached and began pulling the plane out of the hangar. When it was halfway out of the hangar, a powerful gust of wind caught hold of the plane and whipped it to one side. It ripped it off the tow bar, twisting the forward landing gear strut and ripping the new wing off the plane. The crew disembarked and returned to the makeshift barracks for another five days.