Planes were not all that common when I was a kid but that began to change in the ’50s. First Brother Bill went into the Army and for the first time in my lifetime, as far as I knew, someone actually flew in an airplane. It was a tail dragging DC-3 (C-47) and it landed and took off at the old Austin airport (two before the current one) on Airport Boulevard in Austin Texas. Later on leave, he came and went on a tricycle landing geared DC-4 (C-54) (I think anyway but I only remember two engines and the plane has four so…).
A common sound was the Dinky as it made the trip from Cameron (Milam County Seat) on the SAP railroad to Giddings (Lee County Seat). It was a steamer and had that characteristic sound of the engine and whistle and that whistle would be blown as he crossed what is now County Road near Hicks, Texas – a community across Highway 77 from where I grew up. In retrospect, it was a wonderful sound.
My earliest remembrances of things automotive are a late 1940’s Willis Jeep, a green Ford pickup with a rusted out bed, a ’49 Ford with a flathead V8 engine and overdrive and two tractors – one at 1950 or so Ford 8N ( I think) and a very similar 1947 Ford Ferguson.
I will go into each topic a bit more in the following.
Certainly we had airplanes fly over but usually they were high and small single engine planes. On two occasions that was not true. First was when I was quite young and I was in the front yard of the old house when an H-21 Shawnee Helicopter flew over the garden and fairly low to the ground – low enough that I could see people inside. The helicopter was also known as the “Flying Banana” for the shape of its fuselage. It was an ugly thing but so far as I know was the first operational dual rotor helicopter in the US Army. To this day, I could not tell you why it would have been in our neck of the woods other than Fort Hood was only about 60 air miles or so from home. I believe this was the first for real helicopter I had ever seen. It became the subject of much conversation the following week at school.
Second was an up close and personal view of a B-52. In the 60’s, the Strategic Air Command had a train they would drive around the US and set up on a siding. The train was outfitted with equipment that allowed it to be used as an electronic target for the training of B-52 pilots. One such train was set up on a siding in Thrall, Texas when I was about 20 or so. I was at the old cistern at the new house setting up to burn trash; one of my chores as a kid. In the distance coming from the approximate direction of Rockdale ALCOA smelter I could see something smoking headed in my direction. It continued to come and got bigger and bigger as a B-52 passed over our house not more than 200 feet or so above the ground. Every number was plainly visible and I swear I could see rivets in the skin of the plane. I had no heard so much noise before as the eight jet engines on that plane made as it passed over the house. I have been around B-52’s since, having lived with them in Thailand, but no run in with them has ever been quite as impressive as that first awesome view of American air power at its best.
The only other mention I will make of airplanes is a list of those I parachuted out of: C-119, C-47, C6. C-141 and an H-34 Choctaw Helicopter. The latter was at RAF Greenham Common Air Base in Newbury, Berkshire, England but I do not recall if it was a US or British Helicopter. I was there in 1969 as part of the Flintlock series of exercises with the 10th Special Forces Group. There may have been others I have jumped. Somewhere in the house is my jump log and it will give the date and time and aircraft that I leapt out of.
Besides all of the stuff that put me in various kinds of planes and helicopters, there was one assignment that actually allowed me to fly. In 1973-74 I was assigned as a Ground Liaison Officer from the 2nd Armored Division to the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB, NM – where Paige was born. I was able to fly in the back seat, mostly as a passenger in the F-4D, one of the hottest planes in the Air Force at the time although its days were clearly numbered. I worked out of the Wing Operations shop but flew with the 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Some coffee cups and a few pictures are all that remain of those times. I got about 50 hours total in the back seat including one live bomb run from Holloman to Nellis AFB, NV, hitting a inflight fuel tanker on each leg of the trip. Fun times.
My experience with trains is rather small. I remember riding the train when my Aunt Myra took me on the Dinky for a trip to Cameron and Back. The Dinky ran on the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway Co. (SAP) tracls and was a small railroad that ran from Cameron, Texas (Milam County Seat) to Giddings, Texas (adjacent Lee County Seat). It was part of a larger system but I never rode a train outside of that. I remember little about the ride.
My next train adventure was on a Texas A&M Corps Trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where our team would eventually get outscored (Aggies never lose, they just get outscored) by the LSU Tigers. Being part of the Texas Aggie Band, once we got to Baton Rouge, the work was just beginning because we had to offload all of the instruments, do the halftime drill and then load up again. Freshmen were the beasts of burden and cheap labor for the entire process. I don’t remember much about that trip except that we were in a Diesel locomotive, not a steamer.
I have uploaded a video taken by Sue McNiel Davenport (sister to my best friend growing up) of Union Pacific 844 as it came through Milano and later it went on through Rockdale. If you listen to the sounds of the engine and the whistle, you will understand why those old steam locomotives held so much fascination for us kids.
Let me try to list those automobiles I have been around/driven, as close to in order as I can;
1948 Ford Pickup 1949 Ford Early 50’s Willis Jeep 1955 Chevy Pickup 1957 Chevy Bel Air
1960 Renault Caravelle Mid 60’s Ford LTD Late 60’S Chevy Pickup 1967 Ford Galaxy 500 XL
1969 Ford Galaxy 500 XL 1971 Ford LTD Country Squire 1972 Ford Thunderbird
1968 Ford Torino GT 1974 Ford Pinto Squire 1963 MGB GT 1976 Volvo 244 DL
1968 VW Bug 196X VW Bus 1978 BW Bus 1984 Toyoto Pickup 1983 Volvo 244 DL
1986 Volvo 744 (Diesel) 1988 Volvo 744 Turbo (Gas) 198X Toyota Van 1996 Toyota Camry
1995 Toyota T100 Pickup 2002 Toyota Avalon 2005 Toyota Sienna 2005 Toyota Tacoma