Summer 1959

Syracuse ANG

Nothing all that memorable this summer. I started work at Crucible Steel after I graduated. This was entirely new to me, as all I knew about the world of work was the work I did in the resorts. I knew what I learned in school, but the actual world of work as an engineer was new. It was quite boring really. The backbone of our department was maintaining a unit based union payment system that was nothing like anything I had ever studied. It was, of course, based on time studies, but varying incentive curves that were supposed to get the employees to initially be paid more per unit than the study indicated, and then after a break even point, paying less per unit as their productivity increased. So the junior man got the job of taking and tabulating the results of theses time studies and incorporating the appropriate curve into the unit payout system. BORING! Then of course, I had no experience with office politics, Inter departmental battles and all that crap that goes with a beaurocracy. So, there went June. Added to that was the threat of a union strike by the Steel Workers. This did in fact take place, but I do not think it was until I was at NYANG basic training(Air Natn’l Guard).

I had to take a leave in July and August for my Basic Training in the NYANG.

The start of the Basic Training was quite an experience for me. I had never flown before, and our entire contingent was flown on a commercial jet to San Antonio. the plane was a prop jet as I recall, and we had steak for our meal. Quite plush indeed.

This atmosphere was changed greatly when we arrived. We were herded into an old USAF bus w/o air conditioning for the ride to Lackland AFB in Texas. We were US government property then,not civilians. We did get sort of a welcome speech as we got off the plane. A sergeant said something like this: “Welcome to Lackland AFB. We know you people are not regular AFB trainees but National Guardsmen. You will do your time here, then go back to being citizen-soldiers, not regular airmen. You have much more college education than most of our trainees, and are a bit older. Just get with the program it won’t be too hard and soon you will be will be going back to your jobs and your women. Got it? I think the next day was spent getting our official fatigues and dress uniforms, buzz cut haircuts, and all that jazz. Sort of a blur to me.

Training itself was pretty dull. we learned to march, get up at 5:15 and do some basic exercises and eat the breakfast slop. After that training movies, policing the grounds for cigarette butts, learning to disassemble the ancient M-1 rifles that we were to learn to shoot, etc.

When we had free time, we could go to “Frosty Freds” for a can of soda from a dispenser. I think the cost was 10 cents. Also, we could take a sun bath on the barracks grounds, but not get burned as that would be damaging Govt property. I recall one guy, very blond and fair and very fat, who fell asleep and got a hell of a burn. He was not given any punishment, but had to wear his fatigues over his scalding flesh for at least a week to learn a lesson.

One time, our assignment was to cross over a slimy pool hand over hand on a rope. for whatever reason, one of my hands slipped and down I went into the slime. The result was that I got severe conjunctivitus in both eyes. I think I got some drops and was on sick call for a day or so as really, I could not see well from either eye.

If the temperature got over 85 degrees F we did not do outside exercises. Instead we went into a theater to see yet another USAF propaganda movie, or return to our barracks to shine our shoes, bullshit to each other or similar fun things.

About halfway through training we had an outside assembly and one of the two sargents told us that the other sargent had a very sick daughter and was with her and this was expensive. If we could chip in at least $1 apiece he would not forget the act of kindness. Of course it was a shakedown, but by then we knew he could find a lot of disagreeable things to occupy us so we tossed in at least a buck. So, as in many phases of life, a little petty graft would smooth things along.

The implied bargain was struck and life in the barracks got noticeable easier after that. What a bunch of crap.

Mail call was the most important part of the day. Since this blog is about both Marge and I, I will add some quotes from her mail to me that I still have. I treasured this mail in 1959, and treasure it still in 2014:

“You are not an eagle, soaring; you are the bright flame the eagle carries. You are the core of the little lonely sadness in me. You are my beloved”

“.. and have I not loved you with my whole heart?”

“It made me very glad, and a little spinning happiness sang inside me when you said you wished we were married. It would make you seem closer – because in the eyes of the world we would be one. We are one now – I belong to you now and forever, until the end of everything, but we must keep that to ourselves, until we can say “See World, this is my beloved!”…A snatch from the Brahm’s Requiem – “my soul and body crieth out” and it is so – for you. Goodnight lover, sleep well, and God keep you, and bring you safe home.”

“Ah, Lover, I go to sleep now in a little lonely bed, narrow and straight – I heard a song today. I was about a girl and the man sings to her “who’s going to kiss your ruby lips? and who’s going to hold your little hand? and whose going to do – well you know what, when I’m down in that promised land? Another song from West Side Story about a girl who must leave her lover. Finally she sings “tonight – goodnight; farewell and sleep tight – when you dream, dream of me tonight …”It is incredibly lovely. sometime I’ll sing it to you in person. I already have, long distance. When you dream…..Marge

Sometimes I hug myself just from the joy of knowing you–it is a precious treasure, that, and to be thought of and delighted in, but not to be given to the whole world, because they wouldn’t understand. People only know what they themselves feel, and only when another person means something too, they can they almost know what that other person is feeling. So it is that I cannot tell others how it is between us, it is to lovely, and too -sacred- Can you tell that I miss you, and that I love you very, very much.THAT is what I’m trying to tell you!

My Love came to me and in his hand was flame, and in his eyes glowed the promise of Dawn. He was tall, and proud, and very fair
And , Behold, the flame he bore to me was Love,


Every once in a while she would add a little teaser such as “Too bad you aren’t here now, Mom is on the 11P to 7A shift.”
Yes, at one time a long time ago and in lands far away (NY-TX) we really did write and send love letters to each other. We meant every word. I still have the words and they mean even more to me now.




About R. F.

I am a retired Professional Engineer who spent my working life in the electric utility industry. I am now a volunteer instructor at the University Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).
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3 Responses to Summer 1959

  1. Allan T says:

    Wow, very sweet, I do mean that in the very best way, I think by comparison to us, you both were better writers then we were, we did our “thing” by adding to our cards to each other. Of course we were never that long distance from each other.

  2. Louise says:

    I recognize the first song quote! It is from the Kingston Trio — if you recall I started listening to your old LPs once when I found them over by the stereo. I believe the song was “Hard, Ain’t it Hard.”

    • Ingrid says:

      Sure enough! I recognized those lyrics as well and you are correct, the song title is “Hard, Ain’t It Hard.” 600 points on the Jeopardy score board for Louise! (I was just now listening to the song again for fun since I have it in iTunes. “Where’d ya learn?” “Juliard!”)

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