© 2009-2011 by Author
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From day one at Lackland AFB until I got out of the service I was known as 'Chester' or 'Chet' supposedly due to my accent and resemblance to that Gunsmoke guy. I usually had a guitar with me although I really couldn't play it that well.
I went through the Russian Language course at Syracuse from March '59 thru November '59 then took a 3 month training course at the National Security Agency before going to Samsun. I'm not really sure what months I was there 1960-61, but it was about 3 months longer than a normal tour. Probably from March or April '60 thru August or September '61. I had decided to re-enlist for two more years and do a three year tour at Chicksands, England. I received my third stripe for doing so.
Here are a few things that I remember (sorta) during my stay at Samsun: (Please understand that I was young, naive and generally out of it psychologically so my life at that time was not registering in my brain to have any importance. Consequently, trying to remember anything at this time---well things are kinda sparse.)
Does anyone remember the tunnels? We found an entrance to the tunnels just about a quarter mile down the road from the entrance to the base on the left side of the road as you're going into town. It was hands and knees as far as I went, but enough room to turn around. I only went in a couple of times - and not alone! We had heard that the tunnels we found were all honeycombed into the hill we were based upon and exited by the sea. The first time we followed a branch that led to a hole that looked like it went straight down and didn't go any farther. Some of the guys went back several times and one guy found a human skull. (For a more detailed story about the Tunnels, see George Durman's Turkey Story.)
At "work" inside Ops, I guess I was kinda vocal, being clownish and pretty obnoxious a lot of the time. Always a lot of 'looks' from the NCO's but they never got on my case. Somebody must have squealed to the Looie though.
I think the lieutenant didn't like me too much for some reason. He made me "clean up" the incinerator just outside the Ops building.The inside walls had been gathering soot from the day it was born. I soon discovered after several hours that it was impossible. I really don't remember how the heck I was trying to clean it nor how long I stayed at the task but I do remember that I just quit. When I got back to the barracks and started to get cleaned up I discovered just how covered with soot I was. There was not a speck of exposed skin that was white (Oh, yeah - I'm a Honky). Looie never mentioned anything about my work or my leaving it.
I don't remember if this was before or after The Incinerator, but he had me clean the urinals until they were spotless which required scraping of the hard, caked-up dried urine from every bit of surface. I was not having fun.
Removal from the workplace
Then the Looie had me get out of his hair by moving me to the other Ops building for a few weeks. It was an assignment that should have gone to a more competent airman in my field, but it was one way to calm things down a bit.
Crazy Rick Allen
Rick Allen - I think that was his name - was weird but I liked him a lot. He played Bach on the NCO club piano and broadcast a jazz program on the base radio. He also wrote stream-of-thought pieces that greatly influenced my philosophy. Anyway, we were in his room playing chess and drinking wine one day when a surprise inspection group dropped in. I thought we'd had it, but none of the officers said anything. I gained a bit of respect for Officers then. (Aside) One great thing about that time period, the wine they sold at the PX (I wasn't old enough to buy the hard stuff) was '57, one of the greatest years ever for French wine, and they had some wonderful brands. I acquired a palate that could distinguish the different wines and enjoyed greatly testing them out. Those same wines are selling now for hundreds of dollars a bottle.
One story goes about him that he was with a group of guys just hiking and exploring around off-base and accidently fell off a cliff. One of the guys (there's a photo of him - can't remember his name, but he's the one who was going to be a highway patrolman when he got out), who was always calm - nothing fazed him - called out to the others that Allen had fallen. "There he goes again" he states calmly as Allen continues down the cliff after a brief hiatus. He wasn't hurt too bad, but they say he told the doctor that he was trying to commit suicide. Trying to get out on a mental discharge. Didn't work.
The Civilian's Club
I believe that's what it was called anyway. I'd take the shuttle truck into town to go there and have a great meal of real shish-ka-bob. Tender meat and bread with real goat's butter. Once I tried 'drinking the menu' when I was particularly depressed. I didn't get past the sixth one...
Somewhere in the same area I found a pachinko. I played a while with a few coins and remember hitting some kind of jackpot. There were several kids around and I gave all the winnings to them. Seems there was a crowd of them while I was tossing the coins to them and when I was through they had all disappeared.
One day about 4 of us guys went into town and bought Turkish robes. They were garishly colored, thick, heavy and warm. I still have the two I bought - nearly 50 years old now and still beautiful. We stopped at one shop and had chai with the proprietor and checked out his merchandise. For some reason everyone just got up and left. I must have missed something as the proprietor and a couple of other Turks seemed very offended. I let the other guys go and stayed to look over some more robes and bought two.
A Trove of Treasure
Many shops had gold and silver trinkets of all kinds. In one I noticed a basket full of odds and ends and I bought a - musta been - pure silver chain that was two feet long doubled. The links were fashioned so I can't even explain how it looked. Also bought a heavy, thick silver medallion, about 2 1/4 inches across that I translated later as a medal of honor from the King of some obscure European country and several old Roman coins - all for a mere pittance. They're all lost or stolen now. Who knows how much they would be worth now. And why didn't I invest all my money into buying gold and silver then?
Dropped in one jewelers shop and greeted the proprietor and other clientele with a "Salaam Alaikum" They seemed surprised and returned a "Alaikum Salaam" back to me. The mood of the place changed to a very friendly atmosphere. I bought a 24 karat tiger's-eye ring for $20 bucks there. Fantastic.
About ten of us chartered a truck to take us to Amasya. For some reason we first went to see the Mayor in his office and he arranged a guided tour of the town, part of which was their museum. We later trundled up the path to the top of the mountainous cliff where there were ruins of a Roman fort. We were out of breath before we got halfway up and we were told a really old guy walked up there every morning to raise the flag. There were also kids running around us, up and down, laughing at our slowness and having all kinds of fun at our expense. Fantastic view when we got to the top! I took a few photos, but didn't know how to work my camera and they were all severely over-exposed. We had to tell a couple of 'Ugly American' guys to quit throwing rocks off the side of the mountain that could hit houses and people down below. On the way back a Turk bummed a ride back but our driver made him hang on to the back of the truck instead of letting him ride inside with us.
I remember them passing out some kind of rations at the mess hall once - really old Lucky Strike cigarettes was part of the deal. Also remember getting hauled out of bed to unload a truck full of "butter". Heaviest crates of "butter" I ever lifted...
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