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American Forces Radio & Television Service (AFRTS)
Samsun, Turkey

By Thom Thompson
Stationed at Samsun October, 1968 to December 20th 1969

2004-2011 by Author

Dear Readers:

Thom passed away on October 24, 2008.

We will miss his insightful notes, and we will keep his interesting story of a part of his broadcasting career here, below.

As is eloquently stated in his obituary, Thom was a phenomenal conversationalist, had a distinct voice, and was fun-loving, interesting, entertaining and a pleasure to spend time with. We definitely second that!

Whether you served in AFRTS or not, and would like to send a condolence note, please send it to his cousin, . We are keeping Thom's story online for the enjoyment of our many viewers - American and Turkish alike - who have enjoyed his story of A.F.R.T.S. SAMSUN, TURKEY

A.F.R.T.S. SAMSUN, TURKEY

Airman 3rd Class Thom Thompson arrived in Samsun in Oct. of 1968.  He was 23 years old, newly married, had only been in the Air Force since May of '66 & just beginning to see the world for what it's really all about.  Prior to entering the military & getting married he had been in college at a strict fundamentalist Bible college in Circleville ("round-town"), Ohio, and so was considered a real "straight arrow" by his fellow GI's.

Pictured left to right...Frank Selig, Thom Thompson, & Larry Sturnholm.

Yes sir, that goofy dude in the center of the photo is yours truly sometime early on... during my tour of duty at Samsun Air Station, Turkey, as one of the AFRTS crew. Upon my arrival the "crew" consisted of Sgt. Walt Ebie (station manager) and Frank Selig (from California), Larry Sturnholm, Ron Jones, George Masur (now known as Jay Scott Bacchus), and yours truly (from Columbus, Ohio).  What a wacky & talented - but weird - bunch of guys.  (NOTE:  The photo at left is cropped, but I have another that includes the entire team and I'll post it as soon as I find it).

Prior to arriving at Samsun I'd spent nearly a two year tour at Malmstrom AFB in Great falls, Montana, - too damn cold even for brass monkeys.  I was newly married and after only a year was sent to Defense Information School for Radio & TV at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana.  Then back to Malmstrom where I got my orders for AFRTS in Samsun, Turkey.

My experience of the "trip" from the states to Samsun is much like those of many other GI's, however I had lied to my wife about my departure date, and took nearly a week's "vacation" enroute, laying over in "The Big Apple".... my first experience in New York City, which is an entire other story to tell.  I then flew from Kennedy airport to Ankara, Turkey, with an overnight layover in Ankara. Well guys.... if Ankara is any indication of the tour to come.... "This 'ain't too bad."  Well, little do you know, "Airman Thompson".  Next day a lovely flight via Turkish "tree-top-airlines".  I found this pic (right) of the Fairchild F-27s that were used.

Well guys... "We're not in Ankara anymore"!  What a world of difference.... and what is that ODOR?"  (Burning sheep dung from down the hillside?).  Then the ride on an AF "Blue Goose" over the roughest roads one can imagine to the base.

I checked in at the Admin. Building.  (There's another separate story regarding the Turkish flag that I'll tell sometime later.)

I went from Administration on to the barracks; not bad - two, three, and four-men rooms - and then on down to the AFRTS radio station to meet the crew that I would be working and living with for the next 15 months.  Now I had been lucky enough to work in "professional" & commercial radio back in Ohio & Montana prior to coming into the Air Force and this facility at Samsun looked pretty "rink-E-dink" to me.  A couple of the guys had no commercial radio experience.  One guy, Ron Jones, had been an AP prior to being assigned to AFRTS.  Two or three of us had a better idea what we were doing, HOWEVER, let me say that I've never worked with a brighter and more talented bunch in my 20 years in broadcasting.  BUT....these guys were also totally nuts.

I have fond memories of some of the "work" we did at Samsun radio.  Anyone remember our productions of "As the Stomach Turns" and "Down Our Street & UP your Alley" (mostly written by Larry Sturholm)?  Also, the weekend madness of the "All Night Garbage Can" with Frank Selig?  And who can forget the totally nuts Ron Jones and his favorite sign-off "Remember...you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose...BUT you can't pick your friend's nose".  Obviously loved my stint at AFRTS, Samsun.  I would be thrilled to hear from any of the AFRTS guys (any anyone else who remembers).  I've had contact with Walt Ebie, but nothing from Frank, Ron, or Larry.

The photos of the plane and the Samsun Admin. Bldg. are from the net and both from George Campbell's Tuslog 3-2 site at:  www.osomin.com/TUSLOG3-2.htm.  (NOTE from manager of the Merhaba-USMitilary.com website:  George's website doesn't work.  Does anyone know how to contact him?)  These photos sure served to bring back a flood of memories of my days in Samsun.

A.F.R.T.S. SAMSUN
"Another Episode"

AFRTS RADIO STAFF, SAMSUN, 1968

Pictured left to right:  Frank Selig; Thom Thompson; Larry Sturnholm; guy in white shirt & tie (unknown); Tech Sgt Walt Ebie & George Masur (now known as Jay Scott Bacchus).  The head & hand behind Walt Ebie is Ron Jones (he'd like you to think he had a girl back there... not so)

Despite my bad experiences when I first arrived at Samsun, I really got into spending more time downtown than time on base.  I discovered the people were really friendly and offered a great hospitality & began to learn and to appreciate the food & music.  I hope to share more of my experiences and memories as time goes on here on Merhaba Turkey.  I'm hoping to locate and/or learn more about the other AFRTS guys pictured above.  I have had contact with Sgt Walt Ebie & another AFRTS guy David Seaton (not pictured above).


 

Street of merchants.  There were streets devoted to jewelry, brass works, fabrics and tailors, etc.

Upon arriving at the base in Samsun and meeting the other guys at the AFRTS radio station, the guys decided that I needed a proper introduction "and initiation" downtown that night.  Now that was one eye-opening experience to say the least!  I later realized that the plan was to get me totally "boomed" and laid at the "Compound" that night.  We hit several clubs, drank a little of everything that Turkey had to offer (killer hang-over the next day), watched the belly dancers until the whole bunch of us were as horny as "three dicked dogs" then off we went to "The Compound".  Being newly married and drunk to the gills the guys were not successful at getting me laid (that would come months later) but the experience only served to cause me not to leave the base and venture downtown again for several weeks.  Damn.... looking back on it all, I guess I really was a "straight-arrow" back then.

It took several months before I began to realize that I'd ended up in a Country that held the opportunity to experience events of a lifetime.  I met a young Turkish guy on base who worked in transportation as a dispatcher for base taxis.  His name was Yenar (not really sure about the spelling) and he had gone to the English-speaking High School so his English was rather good (far better than my Turkish).

Well, Yenar befriended me and introduced me to real Turkish life downtown & as luck would have it he also had a 21 ft. sailboat downtown in the harbor.  That sailboat served the party vessel as time went on during my tour in Turkey.

GQ Fashions in Samsun, Turkey?

Street of merchants.
There were streets devoted to jewelry, brass works, fabrics, and tailors, etc.

I was getting GQ magazine while stationed in Turkey and was a bit of a "clothes-hound" in those days.  Yenar had given me a tour of the downtown in the merchant areas and introduced me to his tailor friend downtown known as "Good Morning the Tailor".  This guy could see a picture of a garment and copy it, and at the low prices of the Turkish economy of the '60s.  Well, I cut out photos from GQ and took them to Good Morning and had some great suits and leather coats made over the months I was there.

The one experience I remember most involves myself and two guys from AFRTS.  In GQ magazine we found one of the latest men's fashions back in the states.  Remember those brightly colored bell-bottomed pants of the '60?  Well, we cut out the photos, took them to Good Morning the Tailor to have some made for ourselves.  The day came that they were done and downtown we went, to claim our new bell bottoms.  They were perfect and bright!  Like idiots we tried them on and decided to wear them back to base.  Well you can just imagine the sight we created strolling down the streets in Samsun, Turkey.  We had a bunch of Turks following us all the way laughing, pointing, and who knows just what they were calling us.  Needless to say, we never wore those bell bottoms back downtown again.

Fish market in Samsun, Turkey

 

Push cart merchant in Turkey


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