Winter in Berlin
by Gary Anderson (62-63)

From the 11/15/03 BIA Newsletter

After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Octoberfest and Thanksgiving, the Berlin winter came on with a vengeance… COLD, WET, SNOWY, FREEZING!!!!  To an Oregon man who lived where it rarely got below freezing, this was Syracuse, New York all over again!    I never got used to it.   Seems like I was always cold! 

Images of that winter will always be with me… Old men and women in layers of heavy, ragged clothing chipping the ice off the sidewalks… Little children bundled up against the wind and cold waiting at the bus stops with their parents.  The little old women who sold Rosen und Brötchen in the bars seemed a little more forlorn than usual.

I couldn’t afford cold weather clothing on the pay of an A/2C so my street clothes consisted of a pair of penny loafers, white cotton socks, wool slacks, a corduroy sports coat and a London Fog rain coat that had seen better days.  Naturally, none of us would be caught dead in the AF issue double-breasted overcoat that must have weighed 40 pounds dry!

We didn’t waste a great deal of time outdoors when we hit the streets… get as many guys in a taxi as we could squeeze in and head for the bars.  Have a big spending contest to see who could get rid of their paycheck the fastest and then head for the little all night café a couple of blocks from Tempelhof for a bowl of hot Hungarian goulash soup.

It was during one of these outings where a phrase was uttered that is still in use in the airline industry today! 

We were at the Crazy Horse raising hell when Douglas “Lightning” Fleming who was setting on one of the high barstools went to push himself away from the bar.  One leg of the stool caught on a tiny piece of something on the normally immaculately clean floor and Lightning went over backwards with a full half-liter glass of his favorite brew in his hand.  He never spilled a drop of the elixir of life!  Some wag shouted, “Please move your seat to an upright position!”

Christmas came.  Had a picture taken at the Army PX for my folks and sent some cards to friends.  Got a couple of cards and a little cash from home.  Not many decorations on the 2nd floor.  I can’t even remember how the orderly room was decorated. It was strange to have a Christmas with only white lights for decorations in the city.

Baker trick was off for three days over Christmas, so I wrangled a 3 day pass from Sgt. Boyd, got my papers in order and caught the evening train to Frankfurt and Rhein Main AFB to enjoy the holiday with Carl Grisso and Eddie Pearthree, two old buddies from the Syracuse class of 090661 who had generously shared their Christmas and families with me in 1961.  I don’t remember much about the time spent there; I was either sloshed all the time or blitzed 3 times in 2 days.  I  still have the beer stein dated Christmas 1962 from the Rhein Main Airman’s club as part of my memory box. I got back to Berlin in time to start swings and get ready for New Years Eve.

Our New Years Celebration was cut short as Baker Trick worked mids on New Years Eve.

The highlight of the celebration on the second floor of Tempelhof revolved around an Airman First who shall remain unnamed and the cleaning lady who had gotten together for a celebration.  As the evening progressed the celebration got a little out of hand.  It ended up with him chasing her down the hallway.  Both were on their hands and knees and completely out of uniform so to speak.  But, since the airman was appropriately attired for the sport in which he wanted to be engaged, no charges were brought!

Things were very quiet on the shift. Most of the married guys got to stay home with their families. The singles filled in.  The box lunches were pretty typical except the dry sandwiches were made with turkey rather than ham or chicken.

Winter also brought on marathon poker games with me, Bill LaChance, Vic Keithley, Howie and Hugh Forton  preying on any pigeon who wandered by.  High low split, five and seven card draw, Indian poker, high low screw your neighbor, nickel dime quarter, three raise limit and NO checking and raising!  If you didn’t know how to play poker, ahem, we taught you.

We cursed the weather and prayed for an early and glorious springtime! It came as it always did, sunshine, spring showers, clean streets and window boxes full of flowers.


 © 2005, The Berlin Island Association

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