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
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
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.