Two Journeys to
One Wondrous Life.
A friend in the squadron shared my passion for flying. We would go to a small, well-maintained airfield in Kent, Washington, on weekends for lessons in a Piper Cub. The little town of Kent was then on the far outskirts of Seattle.
I can still remember the thrill of that virgin takeoff and landing. There were rituals involved in doing your first solo flight. For example, if you were wearing a tie, which was quite normal in those days, after you landed, it would get cut in half, right across the middle. And tucked away somewhere, I still have my “short snorter,” which is a dollar bill that’s signed by everyone who witnessed my solo. Best of all, I still have my pilot’s license from that memorable day. On my first leave home to Nebraska, my big family of nine came to a small airfield near Lincoln to watch me fly. This was the beginning of my long journey to becoming a naval aviator.
After I was discharged after World War II in 1946, I enrolled on the GI Bill at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, my hometown. My childhood buddies there were members of Phi Gamma Delta, and they encouraged me to join them. They were active members, along with Johnny Carson, who would become my chief tormentor. I was a townie, still living at home, not at the fraternity. So even though I was a new pledge, I could, unlike my fellow pledges, escape Carson and the rest of the actives overnight.