At the beginning of last year, I started scanning some of my dad’s photos from South Korea in the early 1970s, when he was serving in the U.S. Air Force. I’ve been meaning for a long time to pick up the project again, and just before Christmas, the spark to do so arrived in the form of a surprise email through the Flickr page where I’m archiving the pictures.
Pat Bachman served with my dad from January to December 1972, and said he found the pictures I’d posted through an online search for the 5th TAC Kojin. The radar site, he explained, was a detachment of 5th Tactical Air Command (The Road Runners), headquartered at Clark AFB in the Philippines. Pat also added a few comments to dad’s pictures on Flickr, so I updated a couple photo captions in a previous post. He said he remembered my dad fondly as a hell of a nice guy, and graciously offered to send along a few of his own pictures for the collection.
This is Pat’s shot of the “short-timers’ board” in the 269 Lounge. Pat offered the following notes: Placement on the board represented placement in line for catching the “Freedom Bird” (represented by the helicopter) and rotating out. The Freedom Birds belonged to the Army and were part of the Jolly Green Giants. The name tags under the helo are the 10 who had recently left site – pic shows 11 because two rotated out on same date. Tags at the very bottom-left were visitors (VIP’s or pilots making first trip to the site). Tags on the donkey cart were the “Mule skinners” – truck drivers who routinely delivered supplies.
Sincere thanks to Pat for getting in touch, providing these photos and some background, and for inspiring me to finish scanning dad’s photos in the days and weeks to come.
(Click on any of the photos to visit the full gallery and larger versions of the images.)
And finally, Lifer – the site mascot:
Awhile back, I was reading a flier for a Church Family Fun Day or something like that. Activities for said day were listed like this:
- Balloon Animals!
- Bouncy Castle!
- Face Painting!
- Chip Richter!
And for a moment, that last one really puzzled me, because I didn’t know what sort of chips fit in with the kind of event I was envisioning, nor could I imagine what “richting” them would involve. Does one study to become a richter, or is it a piece of equipment for processing these particular chips?
Yes, a few blinks later, I read the fine print identifying Chip Richter as a musician who’d be performing that day. Still, the absolutely complete confusion in my head for those few seconds was really funny, and at some point not long after, I told Jenn & Kelsey about it, and they immediately latched onto it as a running joke. You know, like we’re watching a movie or something, and I’ll get up to get a drink, and ask if they want anything from the kitchen, and one of them will say, “Yeah, do you mind richting us some chips while you’re out there?” Because that’s the kind of family we are.
Come this past Christmas morning, there’s one present left, in a gift bag behind the tree, and Jenn & Kelsey are adamant about me opening it last. When the time comes, they are extremely goofy and giggly as I reach in, grab the first of two tissue-paper-wrapped bundles, and open it to reveal this:
And while you can see it coming now, at the time, I was very much “Um….OK?” as I looked at this bag while Jenn & Kelsey were just quaking with barely-contained laughter.
So I open the second package.
And I – I just don’t – it’s a kitchen thing…attached to a hardware thing – but…?
Yes, it is painful how slow on the uptake I am on this, and it’s not helping that Jenn and Kelsey have now completely erupted in hysterics, and I look at these objects in my hands, these things that make no sense together; these chips and this –
Oh God They’ve Built Me A Chip Richter.
And the pair of them: They can actually see the comprehension dawn on my face, and it just kills them and breaks them into explosions of joy and laughter, which in turn destroys me, and before I know it I am laughing so hard I can barely breathe and tears are running down my face because I love these two people so much and so absolutely, and this moment is fantastic and permanent and mine and ours forever.
Now, where are the instructions for this thing? These chips aren’t going to richt themselves!
I’ve scanned another couple pages’ worth of my dad’s pictures from Korea. (Click here for some background on this project and the first batch of photos.) Clicking on any of the images will take you to the full photoset and much larger versions of the pictures.
As noted previously, I’d love any feedback, input or insight into the locations and situations captured in Dad’s pictures, so if you know someone who served in this area around this time – or even if you can translate some of the Korean signs in the photos – feel free to get in touch with me through the comments or by emailing booth(at)fieldsedge.com.
My earliest memories trace an elliptical orbit around two places: Lima and Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
If you ask me where the first place is that I remember living, my mind goes to this house on North Main Street in Lima:
That picture’s from sometime in 1972-73. (Here’s what the house looked like in summer 2012.)
But I also have many memories of the farm and house in Upper Sandusky where my mom grew up, since we lived there while my dad was serving in Korea in 1971 and ’72. While I can remember several things about being there, I can’t say that I recall having a sense of home in those memories, the way I do about the house in Lima.
That’s me and my maternal grandfather, Reuben Schoenberger. Here’s another one:
The pieces I remember from the farm and the farmhouse are mostly sensory snapshots: The smell of dirt and wood and oil in the barn, and the pile of gravel behind it where I played; sitting on the metal cover to something in the yard (a well, maybe, or a cistern?); the place under the front porch where I crawled with the family dog, Alfie; the pattern on the kitchen floor; the yard and the long driveway tucked into the cornfields.
That’s me and my grandma Joan and Alfie. I can remember that tricycle seeming huge – it had a double-decker step on the back! and needing those block-and-band accessories to reach the pedals. (Those things had a long life: after I outgrew needing them on the tricycle, they went into the box of toy blocks that lasted through me and my brothers.)
Now let’s go back to Lima.
I seem to think this area was just off the kitchen, at the back of the house. I still remember exactly how that rug felt under my hands and knees, and beneath the wheels of my toys. The wooden toy box in the background? My grandpa made it, and I still have it. And I remember taking everything out of it and making a complete mess of the room so that I could sit in it.
This was my parents’ second car (according to the back of the picture). Again, I can remember the texture of the seats. At some point, the Bug developed a hole in the backseat floor, and I wasn’t allowed to ride there. I loved two things in particular about the car: riding with the top down, and pushing the button that made the windshield washers squirt. This latter activity was most fun when carried out unsupervised with my best friend, Alberto – he’s in the middle of the photo below:
Alberto and his family lived next door, and it seems like every interaction I remember between our families involved laughing. Also, I could eat his mom’s homemade tortillas by the dozen. Man, they were good.
Finally, a trio of seasonal pictures, starting with me and mom in winter:
Summer. (I don’t know who that guy is, but I loved that swinging pole thing, and I love the ’70s feel of this picture.)
And fall. Me and my trike and our dog, Punkin.
Punkin got lost for a couple days once. I think I remember dad saying he found her out in a field by some railroad tracks.
Larger versions of these pictures – and a couple others – are in this Flickr photoset.
In addition to diving into my own memories of the early-to-mid 1970s, another project I’ve undertaken for this year is collecting my dad’s photos of his year in Korea, when he was serving in the U.S. Air Force, just a little more than four decades back.
There are several pages’ worth of these black-and-white pictures, unlabeled, collected in one of my mom’s earliest photo albums. I also seem to recall a box of color slides from Korea that used to be in our attic. I’ll have to ask about those and maybe look into getting them digitized. I figure I’ll post them a few pages at a time, publishing smaller images here, and linking to the collected Flickr set of larger versions. (Clicking on any of the photos will also take you to that set and the original 600 dpi scans.)
They’re a regular, everyday mix of scenic photos, posed pictures, and context-free slices of whatever life was going on at the moment.
All of these pictures were taken between July 1971 and August 1972, but not during February 1972, since Dad was home on leave then. Possible locations are near the USAF Osan Air Base and a radar site at Kojin, which seems to have been just south of the DMZ on the east coast, near a body of water named “Hwajinpo.” (I have a baseball-style cap of Dad’s embroidered with “Kamp Kojin Korea” on the front, “Doc” along one side and “Commander USAF Hospital” on the back. Another cap I have says “USAF HOSP Osan ’71-’72″ on it.)
I welcome any feedback, input or insight into the locations and situations captured in Dad’s pictures, so if you know someone who served in this area around this time, feel free to get in touch with me through the comments or by emailing me at booth(at)fieldsedge.com.
This may be my favorite picture of me and my dad:
I had placed this sometime around 1973, but thanks to the incredible archive at Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site, I’ve discovered it’s got to be at least early 1975 which would make me 4 years old. I’m reading the March issue, Dad’s got Super Special #14, and the December ’74 issue is there in the foreground.
I can remember that bedspread and its texture; and the feel and weight of those dark yellow plastic plates that appear to have some bologna sandwiches on them; and the brown plastic bowl, too.
It looks like I’ve got a kids’ book at lower right, but I’d bet I’ve set it aside in favor of Spy vs. Spy.
It’s been two full months since my last “This is Me in ’83” post, and yet the break seems somehow fitting, because man, was my summer of ’83 just packed.
For starters, it was my first full summer as a member of our church youth group, and while I’d attended the weekend winter retreat at Camp Wanake, the week-long summer retreats to Lakeside, Ohio were the stuff of older-kid legend.
Our youth group always rented the same big old three-story house: It was called Rockledge – still is, in fact (although only the second and third stories are available to rent now, and specifically not open to youth groups).
The week had a fair amount of structure: One day was spent on a trip to Put-in-Bay, for instance; another included a visit to the beach at East Harbor State Park. Evenings always included some kind of group after-dinner activity. But we also had what felt like a ton of free time to spend playing mini golf or shuffleboard or getting “suicides” (fountain drinks with a bit of each kind of pop mixed in) from the snack bar/video arcade down by the dock. I also liked walking around on the rocky part of the lakeshore, dodging the waves and the spray when the lake was choppy.
We could just wander around the town, checking out the limited book selection in one of the shops, getting ice cream and, in the mornings, fresh donuts. (There’s a place called The Patio – I’m pretty sure it’s the same place I remember – that served up the only cake donuts that I ever really liked. Raised donuts have always been my preference, but fresh baked cinnamon-sugared donuts still warm from The Patio? Dang.)
What I really remember was kind of neat feeling of independence.
The only photos I have from Lakeside ’83 are Polaroid instants of other people: a shot of a cross-dressed singing quartet from our “skit night,” and a picture of my friend Aaron – our junior high youth group years were really where our friendship started – performing a song-and-dance routine doled out each night as punishment to the last person to show up for dinner.
So: No Lakeside ’83 photos.
Later that summer, though, I spent a week in Roanoke, Virginia, staying with my friend Jacob. He and I had been best friends from (I think) third through fifth grades – the entire time he was in our school district. When his family left Hartville, it was the first time I’d had a real close friend move away.
I don’t remember how I got down to Roanoke – maybe our parents each drove halfway or something – but do remember a really fun week.
We spent a day at Lakeside Park (no connection to Lakeside, Oh.); we watched MTV in hopes of seeing the video for “Mr. Roboto” (We didn’t. We had to settle for “Don’t Let It End.” Which isn’t even close.); we saw Return of the Jedi – a repeat viewing for me, but I think it was Jacob’s first time; we drove up to the Mill Mountain Star.
Jake’s parents had a station wagon, and we loved riding in the way, way back, in the rear-facing bench seat. The A-Team had made a big splash earlier that year, and one day on a trip to a department store, Jacob and I had convinced his mom to buy us a couple plastic M-16 rifles with the built-in ratatatat-type noisemakers. We sat in the wayback with the window down and pretended to shoot stuff all the way home. (I know. And this was in the era well before toy guns had to be made in tiger stripes and fluorescent colors. These were solid matte black plastic.) We spent a lot of time that week running around Jacob’s yard, surviving as soldiers of fortune and helping people who had problems that no one else could solve. Jacob took this Polaroid shot of me crouching in wait – and though he warned me that you couldn’t even see my rifle against the dark green bush, I told him to take it anyway:
So that was obviously a great week.
Finally, there was that summer’s annual family trip. We used to caravan to Lake Cumberland in Kentucky with our neighbors, the Millers. Our families would rent a houseboat together, and we’d spend a week on the lake inner tubing and waterskiing.
The summer of ’83, the trip was extended, if I recall correctly: They swung down to Roanoke to pick me up, and then we took a side trip through the Great Smoky Mountains on our way to Kentucky. We did some tourist-y type stuff, visited the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, and stayed at a campground that had a stream running through it, with some rocky rapids ideal for tubing: (Note: Same tennis shoes as in the previous picture, now available in Soaking Wet.)
…and here’s me ruining a perfectly good family photo: Yes. I’m hilarious. And yes, I’m wearing the same damn shirt as when Jacob & I were A-Teaming it up. I like to think maybe Jacob’s mom was kind enough to do a load of laundry the week I was visiting – otherwise, my overly dramatic “something stinks” look here exhibits a painful lack of self-awareness.
Onward, then, to Lake Cumberland. In addition to the waterskiing and inner tubing, the shore was loaded with steep, rocky ledges perfect for jumping from. You could also find crinoid fossils by the handful, and geodes on occasion as well.
Such style. And waving? Living. On. The. Edge.
All part of the summer of ’83, which, in retrospect, was pretty freaking cool.
When last we left our intrepid sixth-grade speller, he had landed among the 14 qualifiers for The Repository Regional Spelling Bee. Judging from the picture in the newspaper’s April 3 bee preview section, he was as shocked as anyone else by this turn of events:
A few things jump out at me from the full page Repository bee preview:
- This is page 48. FORTY-EIGHT. Granted, it’s a Sunday paper, so it would have been big anyway, but seriously, kids, Sunday newspapers used to be fat.
- Another sign of changing times: Each speller’s profile includes their name, parents’ names, grade, school, and home address.
- The seven-paragraph story – “National title is goal of 44 spellers” – was written by M.L. Schultze, who went on to become the paper’s managing editor and oversaw a lot of impressive investigative projects. I still hear her work several times a week on WKSU. Her husband, also a former Repository editor, once interviewed me for a reporting job and later recommended me to the Independent over in Massillon.
- Recognizing that not everyone would be thrilled to find their middle-school selves on the internet, I chose not to scan the entire page. Laugh at me all you want, but know this: I am far from the only guy in this bunch sporting plastic-rimmed glasses and a not-quite-mop of barely-controlled hair.
- There is also a fair amount of hair feathering by both genders. I would not attempt the middle-parted ‘do for at least another year.
A few weeks had passed since the Stark County bee, and I had continued to study and obsess with as much focus as a sixth-grade nerd could muster when there was Atari to play and Dungeons & Dragons to learn. (One concrete memory: Dad reviewing my study guide with me, and making up a mnemonic device for remembering “abundance” which I have never forgotten. “Remember,” he said, sticking his butt out behind him, “it’s A BUN DANCE,” throwing his rear from side-to-side stressing each syllable – and cracking me the heck up. And now you need never wonder where my cheesy sense of humor comes from.)
The Thirty-Seventh Regional Grand Final Spelling Bee sponsored by The Repository was thirty years ago today, at 1:30 p.m., in the auditorium of the former GlenOak High School East Campus. My parents went to their seats while I got a number to hang around my neck – I was speller number 30 – and stood nervously in line with the few dozen other spellers. And man, were those eighth-graders intimidating. They were the oldest kids allowed to compete, and they occupied 28 of the 44 spelling spots. (Although I will confess that middle school is where my “Smart Girls Are Hot” crush tendencies really took hold, and about two-thirds of the field here was female. So, there was that.)
Being thirty spellers in was a relief. Even in the first round, by that point a few kids had already bowed out, and the bee had settled into its rhythm.
I don’t remember what my first-round word was, but I can easily recall the stomach butterflies that took flight when it was my turn to step up to the microphone, and the sense of relief when The Pronouncer spoke my word … and I knew it.
For me, there was a very particular sense of hellish anticipation standing at the front of the stage, and a crazy relief that washed over me each time I was given a word that I knew. And though it came with its own little razor-edged “Okay-now-don’t-rush-and-don’t-screw-it-up” moment, and there was still that eternity to wait after completing the word to see whether the judges would tap their tiny, soul-crushing desktop bell signaling an error, hearing a word I knew was a glorious, near-tear-inducing thing. I was never one of those kids who could think through word origins and usage to make a highly-educated guess if I didn’t know a word. Either I knew it or I didn’t. I was either solid, or full-on guessing.
And then it was back to my seat to stare out into the darkness of the auditorium and look for mom and dad and wonder how many more rounds I could last.
Mom kept score in the bee program, noting in ballpoint pen the order and competitive round of each spellers’ exit.
Unlike the county bee, of course, with its 14 qualifiers, here at the regional, There Could Be (Bee? Nah. Too easy. – jb) Only One.
Fourteen kids dropped out in the first two rounds, and another eleven over the next two. After six rounds, there were less than a dozen of us left, and the competition had gotten tougher: The field only contracted by one in round seven.
Round Eight: “Balletomane.”
Well, dang. Never heard that one. Got the first half right, swung wildly at the second, and went down as the seventh-place finisher.
Four spots off the podium, as they say in the Olympics. (Instead of silver and bronze medals, second- and third-place regional finishers got, respectively, an electric typewriter and Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus; and The World Almanac. And if I couldn’t go to D.C., I really wanted that electric typewriter.) And although I don’t think I realized it at the time, if mom’s scorecard is correct (there’s a little confusion in spots – looks like dad handled scoring at a few points), I was the last speller standing below seventh grade. Of the six kids who beat me, four were eighth-graders – the highest grade allowed. And the fourth-place finisher was a fellow Lake Middle Schooler, making ours the only school with two top-ten finishes. Go us.
But no prize for me, other than this:
I have never bought another dictionary, nor felt like I needed to.
And so ended my ’83 Bee Season. The kid who had won the previous year’s regional repeated his feat, went to D.C., and dropped out on a word I knew – either “kudzu” or “menorah.”
I competed three more seasons, accumulating something like five or six of the “younger reader”-type dictionaries awarded at the middle school and county level (one of which is still around), and two Repository-presented American Heritage dictionaries. I think the other one may be at my mom’s house, or belongs to one of my brothers, or was maybe given away during college.
My seventh-grade year I was an alternate for the regional, having slipped up on “taupe” at the county level. I’d never heard of it. In my final year of eligibility, I placed sixth at the regional, missing “restauratrice” because again, I had never heard the word, and also because it makes no freaking sense at all that there’s not an “n” in a word with “restaurant” at its core. I mean, really.
(Another of dad’s annual bee suggestions: “Hey, if you miss a word, instead of leaving the stage immediately, you should grab the mike and holler, “Anesthetist! A-N-E-S-T-H-E-T-I-S-T!” Because that was his job, and he knew I loved telling other kids that was his job, because it almost always led to, “He’s a what?” “An anesthetist. He puts people to sleep.” “What?!? Like you put a dog to sleep?!?”)
As a pretty skinny kid with state-mandated-minimum athletic talent and little real competitive sports drive beyond the backyard, I really enjoyed my bee seasons, despite what my mom may tell you about how much I complained about studying for them. I liked being good at spelling, and I liked that for a few weeks every year, it was “my thing,” the way some kids were talented in sports, or others built models or drew cartoons or solved Rubik’s Cubes.
Also, if there are any spelling errors in this entry, I made them on purpose. As a test.
This letter is 30 years old today:
I had Bee Fever, man. And the only prescription? More Bee.
The year before, I had won the Lake Elementary fifth grade spelling bee, earning me a spot in the Lake Local bee and planting the seeds of my obsession with reaching the national bee in Washington, D.C. My teachers gave me a slim, stapled Official Spelling Bee Study Guide booklet, and every night after dinner, I’d spend time studying and having my mom and dad quiz me.
I remember the nighttime competition in the Lake Middle School cafeteria, feeling strange in this bigger, newer building, and going up against the older kids in grades six, seven and eight on their home turf. I seem to think I made it several rounds in, and that a place in the Stark County bee was within my grasp, since the school sent the top five or six kids, as I recall.
And then: agate.
Which I spelled “a-g-g-o-t,” since that’s exactly what it sounded like when the teacher read the word to me.
Agate had been in the study guide, but the booklet didn’t include pronunciations, and my parents and I, not being familiar with the word (to be fair, there were a lot of words in there we didn’t know), had thought it rhymed with “inflate.” I even checked the dictionary when I got home just to make sure it didn’t have an alternate pronunciation.
So: One year later. Late winter, 1983. I don’t remember how the sixth grade representatives to the Lake Middle School bee were chosen, and I don’t recall much of that bee other than it was in the cafeteria again – which was now my home turf – and how it felt when there were just the county qualifiers remaining, and I was sitting among them.
The Stark County Bee was Saturday, March 12, in one of the larger local school districts – I’m thinking it was Perry Local, down between Canton and Massillon, but it could have been in Jackson. And it was even weirder being on someone else’s school auditorium stage than it had been competing against the older kids the previous year.
There were 65 of us there. I don’t remember a single word I had to spell, but I also don’t remember worrying about any of them or feeling like I had to guess.
Regional qualifier, baby! One step from the Big Bee itself! I’m the skinny, thick-rimmed-glasses blur wearing the plaid shirt in the front row. And I’m holding a dictionary, because that’s what they always gave the winners at these bees. I think I had one from the Lake Middle School bee already.
Another girl from my school, who was a year older than me, also qualified.
As the letter up there indicates, I had a little less than a month to study for the regional at the old East Campus of GlenOak High School – directions to which were indicated with this wonderfully simplified map:
It was time to buckle down and keep on spelling.
I watched a lot of M*A*S*H when I was a kid, although I admit I have no recollection of differentiating between new episodes and reruns airing in syndication. Much of the show’s serious themes went over my head, I’m sure, but I loved the characters and the snappy dialogue and the humor. (Another admission: On a visit to my grandma’s once, I tried to watch the original movie, but I lost interest when I saw that it had different actors than the TV show. I never have watched it.)
When I thought of my dad serving in Korea in the early 1970s, I always imagined it being like M*A*S*H.
I seem to remember my parents liking the show, too, so it was kind of a big deal when the final episode aired – thirty years ago today – Feb. 28, 1983. I was 12 years old, so I literally could not remember a time when M*A*S*H was not on TV.
The whole opening sequence of Goodbye, Farewell and Amen – with Hawkeye in psychiatric treatment and relating the story about the bus and the chicken and the baby – really threw me off, because it wasn’t like the M*A*S*H I was used to watching at all.
It did settle back onto more familiar ground. And this was my first “big finish” to a TV show, so I got really caught up in the emotions of all the characters saying goodbye and wrapping up their storylines, and when it was over, I felt a little sad.