Operationally, Elmendorf and the '81st were where I really learned to type. My very first "real" job
in the Air Force was as a reporter in the "Data Prep" shop at the '81st. When I arrived I was like a
lot of other guys - could maybe type 20 wpm on a manual typewriter. Within just a few weeks of
working as a reporter, I could type in excess of 60 wpm and was still accelerating. Today, over 40
years later, I'm still rated at around 70 wpm. They (and the traffic volume) taught me well! Work
was done on a MOD-28 teletype, and I was fast enough that I could type on one machine and run the
resulting 5-level baud tape on another machine at the same time, producing a flawless "hardcopy". A
few years later, during my second tour there, I worked in another reporter shop - my typing was put
to good use on a newer IBM Selectric typewriter. It was one of those types with a somewhat delayed
print characteristic - I'd get so far ahead of it that I could go and get a fresh cup of coffee and,
when I returned, it was still printing what I'd typed earlier.
Never will forget when I arrived on-station the first time. My boss was TSgt Bill Wiedemier, he
tried to get me with a little "nuc-em" stunt for the nuke (me). He told me to go find a bucket of
"flight-line" one day when things were slow. He, obviously, didn't know that I knew something about
aircraft and airports. Worked out that at that time the engineers were replacing part of the
East-West parking ramp - I simply bought a bucket at the BX and filled it with some of the old
concrete that they were breaking up. I also had the foresight to have the NCOIC of the engineers fill
out and sign a paper to the effect that the bucket held authentic material from the Elmendorf
I don't think my boss ever forgave me for that one.
|This was it!
My first "real" assignment - Elmendorf AFB,
right next to one of the greatest cities in
North America, Anchorage. This picture is of
the front gate. The inset is of the flyer for
whom the base is named.
|Actually, I had two tours at the 6981st Security
Group, liked it so much the first time I "bribed" the
Air Force into letting me go back again. In exchange
for taking Intermediate Russian at Monterey they
guaranteed the follow-on tour - I, of course, picked
Elmendorf for a second tour. I tried, later, for a third
(probably 20 times) but they wouldn't let me go again.
Shoot, I'd have stayed there forever, if they'd let me.
|Here's a couple views of the "moose cage", as the
AN-FLR-9 antenna was popularly called at the 6981st. In
case you've never seen one live before, consider that this
antenna is so big it takes 15 minutes or so to walk around
the perimeter of it.
|The building with the red roof is the "ops" building (that's
"operations" for you non-military types). This is where all our
"work", if you can call it that, was done. You get a small idea of the
antennas size when you consider that the front edge of it was 200
yards behind the 2-story building. Those outside, thick, white
towers are the size of an ICBM.
|My Elmendorf AFB Assignments and Life Back Then
There are so many really good things that took place during my two assignments with the 6981st, I
hardly know where to start.
But, enough of that. That's work, and this whole website is more about everything else than what I
actually did, operationally, which I still can't talk about in any kind of detail.
The real memories of my tours come in the form of my life OUTSIDE work. Things like fishing for
Salmon, camping, flying model airplanes, touring, strawberry tarts at 2 AM, Chilkoot Charlie's, the
White Spot, midnight dinners on our anniversary (June 21st) on a mountain top in broad daylight --
these are the memories that really make up a good tour.
What can I say? "The worse day fishing is better than the best day at work". I had one of those
"worse days" once. It happened when I was on the Russian River, about 70 miles out of Anchorage,
going for those Salmon. I was enjoying myself immensely one morning, just me and the fish - or so I'd
thought. I got one, pulled it in and dropped it beside myself. A short while later, I got another.
When I got it in and put it next to the first, the first fish was gone. Didn't think much of it, figured
the critter had gotten away while I wasn't looking - no big thing. Yeah, right! When I went to put the
third fish away, the second was also gone. I happened to take a look-see behind me and there, not 10
feet behind me was a Grizzly bear, chowing down on #'s 1 and 2. Needless to say, he got #3 also -
and I beat a hasty retreat out of the area.
There were lots of other trips - none quite as eventful as that one though.
Oh, the camping! I'd imagine that things have changed somewhat now, but back in the late 60's
through the 70's we'd just take our VW camper van out and find a likely place to park for a couple
days. Alaska is SO open! We took that poor van everywhere - even a few places where we almost had
to have help getting back out. My son's first camping trip, he was maybe 3 months old - slept in the
back of the van between Susan and me. Temperature at night was 30 degrees below zero. Who
knows? Maybe that's why he's such a tough cookie today - had a pretty rugged start with us.
Model airplane flying!
I guess that part of it is pretty well covered on my "Hobby Shack" page. Y'all gotta take a look-see
at that. I've got to admit, though, that my model flying activities were at their "most fun" with the
guys in Anchorage.
Midnight dinners on the mountains.
Susan and I were married on the longest day of the year, June 21st. In Alaska, that means that the
sun doesn't go down - it's daylight all night long. Ever try to have a romantic candle-light dinner when
the sun is streaming in your window? Isn't easy. We beat it though, our first anniversary dinner was
actually held on the top of the Chugach Range, right above Anchorage. We set out a picnic type dinner,
candles and all, and had fun reading the Anchorage Daily News (newspaper) via sunlight, at midnight.
That's something a little different!
Strawberry Tarts at 2:00AM
Especially during our first tour there, but really all the time, I had this thing for strawberry tarts. I
just love strawberries - and there was a little "hole in the wall" type of all-night restaurant very near
our apartment that had the best strawberry tarts I've ever had, cheap too. In those days, a 1st
term airman didn't have the sponsorship of the Air Force - we were pretty much on our own. Being
that I cleared $144.00 every two weeks and rent was $140 (fairly cheap in those days), it didn't
leave us a whole lot of money to play with, we HAD to keep our fun cheap.
This was one of the more popular taverns (bar) during my second tour in Anchorage. I only went
there twice and both times the night ended in a bar-brawl, with me ducking out the side door. It isn't
that I was chicken, I was more of a lover than a fighter. After all, that's why I went in the Air Force
- I'm a lover.
The White Spot
This little "greasy spoon" is probably (or at least was then) the BEST RESTAURANT IN THE
WORLD! I'd like to think they're still in business. Susan and I spent a pretty fair amount of time
with the two very nice ladies that ran the place - actually, eating their hamburgers and fries. The
burgers were the size of a dinner plate, the fries orders were served in newspaper to absorb some
of the grease, and between them we didn't have to eat again for a week.
Damn! I miss that place.