The old man sits at his desk, like a kid receiving that special gift from Santa Clause, he pulls the tab that secures the packaging. It was Saturday, the day after Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days after Thanksgiving. Thursday’s newspaper was loaded with ads for toys, and electronics, something most every person in the country looked forward to.
Scanning through the brightly colored pages, the long since discharged Petty Officer looked for something, anything, that would make getting up at 3 a.m. a logical thing to do. Unexpectedly the ShopKo sales brochure catches his eye, what is this device called a Film & Slide Converter.
Technology is a wonderful thing, we progressed from 8-tracks, through cassettes, and Cds. Now we can load print and pictures into portable little devices much smaller than a pack of cigarettes. “Heck, I thought the bulky Boom Boxes of the late 70’s were still pretty cool”.
Folding the paper and setting it aside, the old veteran ponders the possibilities, “Maybe I could digitize those old slides from when I was overseas”? Plans for an early morning rise are set in place, the sale is only good between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m.
The gas fireplace in the corner of the living room complicates the already sleepy affect of his turkey dinner, he drifts off to slumber land in his recliner. In no time he is reliving moments of his past.
“Yes Sir, the load is balanced, the fuel is calculated, we’re ready for take off”. A qualified Loadmaster, the Petty Officer is responsible for assuring the proper balance of the loaded freight. If the aircraft was unable to maintain airspeed, due to improper loading, it could mean death for the whole crew. Pilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Mechanic, Navigator, and himself, the Load Master.
Pilot, Commander Hoyland, runs the start-up checklist. “Power on, check, magnetos off, check, mixture full rich, check, propeller clear check “. He engages the starter…
Slowly the Pratt & Whitney R2800 radial motor turns, “One, two, three, four” is counted off as the propeller blades pass just a few feet from the cockpit’s window. As the ninth blade, or third revolution, of the engine is completed he calls out “Number one magneto on”.
With ignition power supplied, a cloud of black smoke belches from the exhaust stack about 18″ behind the blades. With a loud cough, followed by 3′ of flame emanating from the exhaust, the motor roars to life.
In short order the right engine is started as well. The Petty Officer, who was maintaining fire watch outside, climbs in the side door towards the rear of the plane and takes his position in the cargo bay. Takeoff is accomplished shortly thereafter and this twin engine C-123B painted in bright red, white, and blue Coast Guard colors is airborne. Today the crew, home based at Naval Air Station Agana Guam, is headed to Palau, a small nation of South Pacific islands much closer to the equator. They will be landing at Angaur International Airport. Nothing more than a narrow runway with a corrugated tin shed housing a couple of large rolling fire extinguishers.
“What the hell is that warning buzzer, Sir is there a problem in the cockpit”? With a start the Petty Officer snaps awakes from his dream, to the sound of the oven timer ringing. A female voice calls from the kitchen “Are you ready for some left over’s dear”?
Darkness has arrived, and temperatures continue to fall. By bedtime any notion of getting up early for the Black Friday sales are cast aside. A nice warm bed, complete with electric blanket, makes a lot more sense to his weary old bones.
Come Saturday, the Misses wants to pick up a few things at the mall. After laying around for 2 days her mate decides a little exercise would probably be a good thing. Off they go to ShopKo to pick out a Christmas gift for her Mother.
“While you’re looking at house coats, I’ll wander down to electronics”. The sly old guy has something he wants to check out. Usually “Door Buster” specials are limited quantity, and long gone before sunrise of the first day.
“Humph, they’ve still got some left”. He picks up the box, turning it over in his hands a number of times. Naturally there’s a more expensive model sitting next to it, but for $59 this one will work just fine.
Later that night, after everyone had gone to bed, he dug through the drawers in his crowded and disheveled office. He knew exactly where it was, the one memento from the 4 years he spent in the Coast Guard that he has always cherished. His Gold Wings, they were always pinned on the left side of his dress uniform.
He didn’t serve in a war zone, there were no battlefield commissions, fame and glory weren’t part of his military history. He was a simple E-4, 3rd class Petty Officer, fortunate enough to be stationed in paradise for 18 months. More interested in having a good time, he never made any attempt to advance.
All he had to show for his time abroad was that simple gold pin, a 3″ wide set of Gold Wings with the letters A-C (air crewman) in the middle. Now, 40 years later, those wings are all that is left… Beyond a box of 35mm slides that he has occasionally held up to the light to get some idea of what was in the picture.
He opens the box, sliding the contraption out onto his desk. It’s simple, quite straightforward, plug and play technology makes it a snap to install. His digging through the closet finally produces a small white cardboard box, inside are memories, never forgotten experiences of his youth.
The rest of the night, is spent feeding 4 paper encased pieces of Kodak film at a time into the compact piece of equipment, and reliving the experiences of his youth.
(Be sure to look at all 4 pictures)
Aviation Electrician 3rd Class