Archive for January, 2017

A Sense Of Inanition………….#86 (the 60’s)

January 10, 2017

The 1st nuclear missile The Corporal

A sense of inanition prevailed, PFC Willson was the lone exception,  the entire compliment of CEMMC-2 graduates would traverse over-seas to Germany but the soldier would remain,  his new assignment,  a member of the 2nd Firing Battery,  2nd Missile Battalion,  80th Artillery,  one of two corporal missile units stationed at Fort Sill.  His envision of  a world adventure having been banished,  a relatively prosaic province having ascended and commissioned a prisoner.  Reporting for duty,  the new arrival discovering the battalion building almost vacant, being informed the unit was in the field on an exercise, but could find the duty officer in the mess hall.  Gary having little difficulty finding the mess hall knowing that most battalion size barracks have a mess hall at one end and a dayroom at the other.  Sitting in the mess hall was an elderly Warrant Officer,  the WO introducing himself as the firing battery’s technical adviser and that he was aware and expecting Gary’s arrival.  The soldier retrieving his duffel bag following the WO to a large second floor bay assigning him to an empty bunk and locker.  The WO continued his introduction to the unit with a brief walk thru, then requisitioning a jeep, the two traversing to the battalions exercise location on the west firing range.  The jeep coming to a halt,  dismounting they approach a group of officers, Gary surprised at being introduced to the battalion commander, the WO later explaining that Gary’s arrival filled the required compliment of four battalion missile technicians, two for each missile firing battery.

Gary discovering a missile battalion was much smaller than a field artillery battalion with 500 to 800 men, the missile battalion slimmed down to a compliment of less than 300,  the battalion consisting of two firing battery’s, a headquarters and service battery.  In addition to the two firing battery’s electrical maintenance and testing component there was assembly & rail, fueling & erection, fire control and guidance.  The headquarters & service battery are just what they implied, all the ancillary services, payroll, service record, , motor pool, mess, medical, etc..  The one element missing from a missile battalion application that was found in a field artillery battalion was a combat support company giving it the ability to defend  its location. The newly calibrated PFC entertained his new work stations surroundings,  anticipating an aura of proficiency and deference,  instead finding  an avocation of tolerance prevailing.   The trial of Guard Duty and KP once again infiltrated his established routine, spoiled by the 33 weeks of abstention during his missile training.  Tribulation was in possession, the fraternal atmosphere that inhibited the previous months having vanished,  replaced by deprivation of definition known as, ‘Another Field Artillery Battalion’.

PFC Clark was married and living off the post, having completed CEMMC school the previous year and  appeared reconciled to receive PFC Willson the newly acquired 2nd firing battery technician.   Clarke found his daily duty schedule rather mundane, appropriating it to a 8 to 5 job.  Gary could understand why, the cabling up practice drills were without challenge, but the missile battalion unit concurrence was.   After standing reveille at 0600, followed by Mess Call,  an 0800 muster at the motor pool convened and sanctioned the beginning of a day.  Gary finding the NCO’s on coffee and donut duty every morning until lunch.   The battalions field exercises  were coalesce with artillery units presenting a show of force,  capturing the various battalions convoys, their parading numbers generating acquisition of showmanship for an continuous array of visiting VIP’s.

Military License required

Military License required

Army 5 ton with 5 speed, 3 speed brownie, 2 speed axle

Specialist E-5  Crow was the peremptory of the motor pool and was diligent in his duty of insuring every truck returning from the field was properly imbued.   Upon instructions,  Gary was ordered by Crow to facilitate the wash-rack with his and Clark’s assigned  5 ton test-van.   The PFC un-ceremonially having to decline as directed,  the consternation of the E-5 was apparent until being informed by Willson that he didn’t possess a military drivers license and it would be a violation for him to get behind the wheel.   Arrangements were hastily scheduled, finding the Spec-5 Crown instructing the PFC to report for instructions and a driving test on the 5 ton.  Willson, tongue in cheek, having been raised by a truck driving father,  pleading inhibition difficulties with the shifting of the 5 speed, 3 speed brownie and 2 speed axle.   A somewhat frustrated Crow insisting he would render further instruction until achievement was accomplished.   It was during the third journey of instruction the PFC deciding it was time to halt the ruse,  finally relenting,  double-clutching  thru the gears utilizing the 3 speed browning, and engaging the 2 speed axle,  thwarting the ten-wheeler back to the motor pool.  Disembarking from his now assigned washable charge, trying not to acknowledge the look on the face of an astringent E-5 instructor, realizing that he was a marked man on Spec-5 Crow’s duty-list.

A beckoning friend

The town of Lawton was imperceptible, now devoid of acquaintances, the CEMMC-2 menagerie having departed, Gary as of yet discovering any collective substitutes, but a long neglected friend was available, The Ft. Sill service club and music room with its piano filled the PFC’s evenings several nights per week.  This particular night a well dressed person in civilian clothes entered the enclosed music room, sitting, listening to Gary play a variety of compositions.  Upon conclusion, the person introduced himself as Glenn, addressing the virtuoso, questioning if he had every given thought to performing and its possible financial reward.  The young soldier rising from the piano, declining to enter in conversation, dismissing the question as he exited.  It was only later, something within, an intuitive feeling emerging, recalling a passage he had once read, “the past may dictate who we are,  but we determine what we can become.”

Sequestered Certainty………………….#87 (The 60’s)

January 8, 2017

Corporal Missile Test Station

Air conditioning was a necessity during the many coalescent summer months at Fort Sill ,  the stifling heat and humidity would search out the motorized capsules utilized for transportation, the heat distributing its uncomfortable presence to their  environment.   The 5-ton Missile Test-Station,  a stationary presence when cabled for operation, accommodating numerous test panels, oscilloscope, measuring device gauges and screens all consisting of vacuum tube operated circuitry,  requiring a prostrate of lower temperatures to sustain tolerance levels, air conditioning an absolute requirement.   A quandary developed among the ranking personnel members of the firing battery when Gary was approached by a Warrant Office about security and adjudged to enforce a previous disregarded regulation.   Gary’s and his co-worker PFC Clark having adhered to their predecessor having allowed the NCO’s and Gary’s nemesis Spec 5 Crow to access the Van and partake of the frigid air-conditioned atmosphere.  The Test-Van by directive was allocated to staff securing a secret clearance,  which were predicated officers and the certain accessing personnel.   Upon manifestation of circumstance,  the Firing Battery Lieutenant was allowed aboard, but many of the  line staff NCO’s that erected the missile were not.  The NCO’s were not happy, they could no longer escape the heat or on cooler occasions,  help themselves to the presence of a coffee pot.

8 inch Howitzer

The only time concern prevailed was during the multi-fold field exercises,  a sense of  competition prevailing between the battalions two missile sections.  The 2nd Battalion 80th Artillery was deployed to the west range on a setup station below a 8 inch howitzer battery,  the ground vibrating with every barrage,  sending the  200 pound projectiles hurtling across the expanse.   Gary discerning that his and Clark’s counterparts in the 1st firing battery test van were older more experienced journeyman in their profession,  to exceed their proficiency would require a marked attempt by the younger two of the 2nd firing battery.  The two completed cabling the prone missile to the positioned test station,  Clark opening the thick procedure manual preparing to read the power-up agenda, a step by step check list to verify all testing equipment was activated and functioning correctly.   Gary intervening, suggesting that Clark store the manual, reminding him that he was the most recent graduate of the missile school, having powered up the station daily and the procedure was still indelibly imprinted.  The PFC beginning to activate breakers, levers,  switches from memory, accelerating the equipment to an online status, Clark voicing a disapproval but acknowledging that the equipment was up and running in half the time.  The shortened procedure time didn’t win the competition between the firing battery’s but the shortened procedure was respectable.   The more experienced 1st firing battery test station technicians were analogue,  Gary concluding that it would not be advisable to use the memory hastened power up procedure again, reasoning that expediency should only trump deliberation in sporting events.

Issued a 30 cal. carbine

The Test Station armament - a Colt .45

The Missile Test Station armament – a Colt .45

Payback was the suspect, the Firing Battery having blundered with Clark and Gary, failing to issue them weapons upon their arrival and both remaining silent about this anomaly.  Once a month at 1600 hrs, always on a Friday, a cleaning and weapon inspection prevailed, but because the two were never issued a  weapon they were exempt from the roster, conveniently disappearing from sight.  Specialist E-5 Crow,  Gary’s nemesis encountered the discrepancy,  providing and augmenting the electronic technicians with 30 caliber carbines,  but a search of their 201 files discovering that they had never qualified with the 30. caliber carbine but with the 30.6  M-1 Garand in basic training.  The E-5 wasn’t deterred, arranging for the two to qualify with the carbine and the army holster-bearing Colt .45 also required as test van weapons.  Arrangements were made, the two  transported to the post small arm firing range.  The PFC’s with their newly acquired weapons qualification,  having their names now posted on the cleaning and weapons inspection roster but serving double duty with two weapons to service for inspection,  all to the recreational gratification of Specialist 5 Crow.

Glenn Froman

Chester Burke’s’ Diamond Horseshoe Club

The person that Gary incurred at the service club music room months earlier, making reference to his piano nimbleness having returned.   His name was Loren Glenn Froman, an artillery unit supply clerk and soon to be civilian.  Glenn proclaiming music credentials as a lyricist,  drummer and having in the past submitted material to various artist before being drafted in Indiana for his military calling.  Once again In the post service club music room, questioning the pianist about his music interest and a possible consideration to accompanying him to meet a local guitar enhanced vocal talent and a possibility of the three forming a musical group.  Gary was content  with his monogamous conversation and acquired  relationship with the piano,  having never considered propagating it for monetary compensation or for the entertainment of others, but Glenn’s question spurred an interest, the pianist agreeing to accompany him to Lawton on a Saturday afternoon.

Gary was introduced to a Jimmy Clay, a family man with a wife and daughter.  He could sing and play rhythm  guitar, giving an impromptu Neil Sedaka impersonation.  The pianist felt uncomfortable in the small house, just acquainted with Glenn and now introduced to Jimmy deciding to decline Glenn’s offer but the drummer was not taking no for an answer, prompting Gary for a one time rehearsal with instruments before make his decision.   Hesitant but finally accepting Glenn’s proposal out of curiosity, having never played with accompanying instruments and to enlighten the shadow of a long-standing question concerning a possible sequestered music certainty.   The rehearsal was impromptu, but two-fold, Glenn apparently was an anomalous promoter having arranged their rehearsal  attempt at a private club with a piano and included in the Sunday afternoon audience was the club owner.  With the arrival of Jimmy, his rhythm guitar, Glenn on drums, the piano, an impromptu session began, the proprietor was impressed upon hearing the group, making a financial offer.  The three agreeing to perform  the subsequent Friday and Saturday nights and arranging to get some rehearsal time at the club prior to the weekend.  Friday night the three impromptu musicians making their debut at Chester Burke’s Diamond Horseshoe Club, 5 miles west of Lawton.  Gary questioned the turn of events and the apparent new direction it was headed, an unexpected page suddenly appearing in the book of life.


Inducement to Experience………..#88 (the 60’s)

January 6, 2017

Freedom of Expression

   As time progressed, the 6:00 a.m. Army roll-call formation was adhered to but because of his off-post music endeavors the PFC sometimes standing in civilian attire which was permissible, his military activity beginning to assume the portrayal of an assignment rather than a duty.   The new-found music involvement having attracted the scrutiny of the units hierarchy and their disquisition was communicated with an overt direct aversion to his off base participation.  The military superiors instilling  discipline in many forms of accessory duty to compel compliance with their appraisal.   The soldier tolerating the aggravation , accepting  what amounted to calumniatory punishment, finding his name three-fold on the KP and Guard duty rosters, the professional soldiering upper ranks prejudicial about enlistee’s non military activity.

Gary’s introduction to the anomalous world of Glenn Froman and the subsequent forming of a musical trio continuing.  With Glenn’s active military duty about to expire he entertained a joint partnership with Gary to lease a small vacant entertainment nightspot called the Baltimore Club located in the basement of the Baltimore Hotel located on the SW corner of 1st & C.  The club was borderline to the negro section of Lawton which was located south of 1st street, Lester Prestige the owner allowing the two to operate the establishment on his 3.2 beer liquor license.  One of the attributes of the club was an old upright piano, the pianist updating his repertoire from the jukebox.  When questioned about his ability he referred to himself as an apprentice professional, knowing that an apprentice professional is a misnomer but still an accurate chronicle of self appraisal, the  assessment of a non-existent product until realized  should be perpetually addressed,  instinctively corrected,  consecrated without interruption to the ambiance.  The young musician finding this a precedent in his musical ambition,  freedom of expression wasn’t commissioned  but structured,  he was a novice to the vocation,  but authoritative in his craft,  waiting for the edict to emerge.

The tall lanky sandy-haired musician Troy Elledge and his lead guitar player Jerry Willis introducing themselves to Gary at the Baltimore Club.  Troy mentioned that they had sampled the pianist ability one night while he was performing with Glenn and Jimmy Clay at Chester’s Golden Horseshoe Club and was wondering if he would be willing to sit-in with them,  explaining that Troy’s band,  The Rythm Tamers’ was competing in a talent contest broadcast on Lawton’s  KSWO  TV,  Channel 7,  Saturday afternoons.   The band having prevailed in the first preliminary contest and the addition of a pianist would enhance the band in the next round of competition.  There was  no hesitation from Gary, affirming confirmation, it was an inducement to experience a degree of professionalism with a local but imminent established  band.

Jerry Willis , Troy Elledge and Floyd Davis

Wenly and Floyd


The Rythm Tamers’,  with Gary’s addition,  now a  sextet, winning the second series of the televised talent contest, but on the third and final competition losing the write-in ballot vote.  The Pianist discovering a new resolution having the opportunity to play with this accomplished group, making an inquiry about the Rhythm Tamers’ base of operations and how often they performed.   The community of Frederick being the residential home for Troy and Jerry, the band engaging  musical enterprise mostly weekends but with an occasional week day gig, their music expertise centered around country,  blues and of course Rock.   Troy the featured vocalist playing rhythm guitar,  accompanied by a Chuck Berry Fender-man emulator,  lead guitarist Jerry Willis,  Floyd Davis on bass,  Wenley a serviceman stationed at Altus Air force Base on tenor sax and an accompanying drummer.

Frederick grain elevators

  The experience of playing with the Rythm Tamers’ weighing heavy, Gary awarding a decision to journey southwesterly to confer with the Troy in person about the addition of piano to his band.  From Lawton and the Frederick turnoff having no trouble finding a willing rural farmer to provide transportation to the small rural Oklahoma community of Frederick. Oklahoma community.  With towering grain elevators  blossoming on the horizon, the small township coming into view, the town once a bustling Mecca during the second world war, a home for  The Frederick Army Air Base,  a training facility for twin-engine aircraft pilots, this once prestigious town now just a small sleepy rural agricultural placard like many others in Oklahoma.  On his arrival, finding a pay phone at what appeared to be the remnants of a once vibrant bus station and knowing  Troy was steadily employed and a family man with children, Gary deciding to place a call to Jerry Willis the Rythm Tamers’ lead guitarist.  He was somewhat hesitant in calling Jerry the two having only worked together on the television talent show.   Jerry answering the call offering to pick him up relating that they would have to wait until Troy returned home from his day job to answer and questions.  The two returning to Jerry’s parents residence,  Jerry living at home since completing his navel enlistment.  Meeting in the late afternoon with Troy, Gary professing his admiration for the band and his desire to play with the Rythm Tamers’,  the Band Leader without hesitation giving an affirmation never questioning Gary’s proposal.

A Derailed Conclusion………#89 (the 60’s)

January 4, 2017

video at:

Troy Elledge & The Rythmn Tamers

Frederick Train Depot

It was a night off for the Rhythm Tamers band in Frederick, Gary, guitarist Jerry Willis and a wanna-be vocalist named Harry Babich, were  somewhat indecisive of how to spend the evening.   The town of Davidson, two miles from the Texas line, was an exiguous twelve miles south and the Oklahoma hamlet of Manitou, eight miles north,  both on Highway 1 83,  the musicians were not interested in the boulevard that aphotic night,  but in the spur line of the M-K-T, better known as the Katy Railroad.   They were planning an escapade,  contingent upon Jerry’s 1952 Oldsmobile and the M-K-T railroad tracks.

M-K-T Locomotive makes a good tow truck

1952 Olds

It was a little known reality, the 1952 Olds wheel base was compatible with the width of the rails addressing the Missouri Kansas Texas line.   The three harlequins were about to accost a crossing in Frederick and attempt to position the four-wheeled transport, the 1952 Olds, on the tracks, either heading south towards Texas,  or north to Manitou.  A discussion deciding that it might be better to remain in Oklahoma,  the decision being confirmed,  Jerry aligning the vehicle on the tracks in a northern direction.   A final procedure remained,  lowering the tire pressure to allow the tread to better augment the tracks, the car fitting perfectly.

All three aboard,  the Oldsmobile making that clickety-clack sound reminisce of the rhythmic posturing of a train.  The three vagabonds traversing north, the scenic view of the farming landscape all bathe in the twilight of the setting sun passing in review.   Jerry, hands clear of the steering wheel, leaving their four wheel transports acuity to the amaranthine rails.   The group knowing there were six mile-section crossing between Frederick and Manitou, a discussion about exiting before entering the Manitou trivial station was entertained.  A more novel approach would be to cruise thru Manitou, waving and sounding the horn, seeing the reaction of the station master,  but a decision was already applicable.

Then it was noticed, looking down the tracks the brilliance of a large approaching light, its  distance was closing, an oncoming train.   The next mile-section found the opportunity to disembark from the tracks, but hesitating they noticed that the suspected locomotive had chanced to a standstill.   It was discerned,  the engine must have paused at the Manitou station, the three acknowledging it was either time to get off the tracks or remount the rails heading south back to Frederick.  The decision was made, remounting the tracks once again, the clickety-clack resonated as the Oldsmobile picked up speed and all seemed well.   Suddenly there was a jolt and all that could be seen was tall grass advancing by the car door windows and then an eery silence as the Olds came to a halt.

Gary and Jerry

Jerry and Gary opening their doors the two surveying the situation and it appeared arduous,  the rear of the car extended over the tracks,  the front reclining against an embankment.   There remained no driveable exit, the car was caught between a rock and a hard place.  Jerry was anxious, walking back and forth repeating several times,  “the train, the train.  Searching the horizon, a light in a farm-house was determined just across the bordering pasture, Gary suggesting to Jerry that he arouse the occupants and inquire if there might be a tractor available to extract the car from its precarious position. Jerry hasten up the slight embankment and immediately headed toward the country abode.  It was then Gary noticed, the large arrested light down the tracks was again acquiring adjacency, the train had resumed it travel.

The derailed Oldsmobile was about twenty yards from the mile-section crossing and it was apparent, the lower profile of the tracks in the intersection more than likely contributed to the derailment.  In the moonlight Jerry could be seen returning,  crossing the field with another person,  Gary going to the mile-section crossroad waiting to flag the slow-moving freight to a halt.  The approaching train coming to a standstill, the farmer and Jerry arriving as the engineer and fireman disembarked, both appraising the circumstances with a humorous grin.  Not the case with the conductors’ arrival, a harden look on his face, commencing a dissertation on the legal infractions and threatening a radio invitation to the highway patrol.

The Katy-line crew huddling, the conductor instructing the engineer to maneuver the locomotive to within ten feet of the car,  producing a length of chain from the train, fastening one end to the Engine the other to the rear bumper of the Olds.  With the car in neutral, the lumbering locomotive slowly backed toward the intersection,  dragging its captive.  The conductor continued with his articulation,  penning Jerry name and information in a notebook,  finally the forlorn auto was clear of the off-road tracks now residing at the intersection.  The conductor serving notice that if he ever confronted them again the results would be different.

The M-K-T diesel locomotive with it host of cars once again resuming its journey  south,  the two musicians thankful there were no casualties.  But still something wasn’t right, with all the excitement they suddenly remembered, they were missing someone, having totally forgotten, a questionable look on their face, “Where’s Harry!?  From out of the bushes a disheveled Harry Babich appeared, having remained in hiding throughout the precarious incident.   Later with some forethought about the episode,  Gary concluded,  irresponsibility can accommodate a derailed conclusion.

Entertaining Transgression……………#90 (the 60’s)

January 2, 2017


Frederick Oklahoma’s Cal Rector was an itinerant big man, 6′ 2” 298 lbs, with a good portion of his weight displayed around his waist.  The Rhythm Tamers bandleader Troy Elledge and  lead guitarist Jerry Willis having known the local man forever.   Big Cal was a town fixture and sometimes would accompany the band as a roadie, helping load and unload the musical equipment.  It was 2:00 a.m, Gary and Jerry consummating a Saturday night engagement at the Pink Elephant club in Altus.  Troy and the other members of the Rythm Tamers having departed, Big Cal joining the two for a ride back to Frederick.


It was a typical warm summer Oklahoma night,  Jerry chauffeuring the 52 Oldsmobile with windows down,  traversing  the zig-zag coarse thru Tipton, turning  south then east towards  Frederick.  The pungent smell of fresh-cut hay filling the moonlit night sky,  the mellow silence broken by the hushed  muffled sound emitting from the cruising transport.   The steady drone of the muffler was broken  as Jerry slowed the car,  volunteering a question, “Do you smell that?”   the aromatic bouquet engulfed the effulgence shrouded  night,  bequeathing recognition to its source,  the perception was answered,  “watermelon”.




The plan was simplistic in satisfying their new-found appetite,  the only obstacle was the presence of a farmhouse 100 yards up the road.  It was decided the two musicians would disembark to retrieve the flavored melons,  Cal was to drive past the farmhouse, up the slight raise, turning around out of sight and returning to recover the performers with their agricultural gifts.  Jerry and Gary exited the car,  Cal now  occupying the driver seat, the conception was initiated,  but immediately the two encounter a problem.  The fence surrounding the watermelon endowed field was barbwire and difficult to traverse.  The two finally entering the field,  hastily securing the assets,  but then it was noticed,  although Cal had bridged the rise to turn about, the cars headlight beams struck the farmhouse reflecting a presence.  The sound of a dog barking pierced the muted night and the farmhouse lights suddenly appeared given notice of an awakening.   Muscling their water melon burden thru the barbs,  the musician noticed a figure emerging from  the farmhouse, haste was of consequence.   With the cars arrival,  their bounty secure, they drove a hastily exit towards Frederick,  mission accomplished.

On the way back a brief discussion ensued, the decision was affirmed, the three would journey to Troy’s house in Frederick and share the fruits of their labor.  Troy and his family were quartered as caretakers on a large farming estate a mile north of town.  They resided in a two bedroom abode above a six-car garage adjourning the vacated manor-house.  The Oldsmobile entering the long sweeping drive into the estate grounds, the lights from Troy’s residence a sign that they were still up.  With their arrival the group assembled,  Troy and his wife Shirley joining the outside festivities to partake of the ill-gotten gains,  the juice from carving of the melons spotting the pavement.   The atmosphere was convivial, exuberance reigned in relating the episode of retrieving the melons, when they noticed a pair of headlights turning off the highway entering the long sweeping drive entrance.   It was a Black and White,  the Highway Patrol.

Immediate pandemonium, watermelon chunks,  rinds,  pieces, all hastily gathered and deposited in the bushed out of sight from the approaching eyes of the law.  The hard evidence was dispersed, but the tell-tale liquid from slicing the rinds was visible.   The hesitant group stood disconsolate as the police cruiser halted, the car door opened,  the officer approached to relate his presence.   The two musicians suspecting,  that somehow the melon farmer had noticed the license plate on the Oldsmobile and reported their actions.   Expecting the worse, the patrolman smiled and politely began disclosing, a neighbor noticing the lights and activity was concerned about Troy’s wife Shirley,  knowing that Troy was absent weekend nights.



The highway patrolman culminating his explanation.  As the patrol car traversed up the sweeping drive,  the groups exuberance for watermelon had been quenched, Gary concluded from the experience, a subtle reminder that transgressions brings consequences.