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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Our Kennedy experience

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lieutenant you have a choice. Move to Forbes AFB or Schilling AFB both in Kansas, or to Otis AFB on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Being the clever new guy in the squadron I wrote the Kansas choices and left the third line blank. We were stationed at Great Falls, Montana at the moment and my squadron was closing after just six months of duty there.

This young Nebraska farm boy could feel no kinship to the strange people on the East Coast and was not really interested in becoming acquainted. Sure enough the squadron commander called me in to tell me that others had taken my first two choices and as I left the third choice vacant he was sending me to Otis. The Air Force packed our few household goods to ship; Ann and I loaded our baby daughter into our 1959 Ford Galaxy and headed east.

We found a nice almost new house in East Falmouth, right next door to the charming town of Teaticket. The rent was a whooping $125 per month. No air-conditioning and warmed by circulating hot water heated by fuel oil. It was sited on a small rise only a hundred yards from a salt water estuary.

Our arrival to Otis was mid summer 1961. Six months earlier John F. Kennedy had been sworn in to become the 35th President of the United States. Massachusetts is Kennedy country and Cape Cod is definitely Kennedy country. The famed Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port was only about 20 miles east of our home in East Falmouth.

This was a more innocent time in America and TSA did not exist to keep the president safe. Many times over the next couple years I flew big Air Force KC-97s past the Kennedy Compound whether the President was present or not. I became a civilian rated flight instructor in the base aero club and also flew low over the Kennedy's. No one seemed to care and my students were respectfully curious to see how the upper half lived.

Many of those memories of living on Cape Cod came flooding back recently when I read "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Dugard is the son of my last and best Wing Commander, Col. Alan Dugard) They tell it like it was, warts and all. Grannie Annie was a bit appalled to learn of the peccadillos of our youngest president.

Those antics were common knowledge to my Squadron mates and his neighbors on the Cape. It wasn't that we approved, it was just the way we understood the elite lived.

The President used the Base at Otis to land Air Force One on his many trips to visit his family getaway on the Cape. When the weather was nice a crowd typically gathered along the flight line for the Presidential arrival. He then went by helicopter to Hyannis Port or most usually by shiny black limousine. Graciously, President Kennedy would work the crowd while Jackie and children discreetly stayed in the background. We have pictures of our little family standing next to the rope not four feet from the President. Seeing his face always reminds me of how much he resembled my own dad.

JFK and Jackie had a third child born in the Otis AFB hospital in August of 1961. Sadly little Patrick Kennedy only lived a few days.

The birth was a national sensation as one would expect. In O'Reilly's book, it was mentioned that Jackie was given a 10-room suite there at the base hospital. That sentence tickled us because that hospital was the normal ticky tacky thrown-together quickly building style of World War II.

It was yet a rambling one story structure of long hallways and many wings. For the expected occasion it had been spruced up a bit but was in no way the exquisite suite implied by the book.

Our next door neighbor Dr. Leo LaRow was an internist serving at the base hospital. He for sure didn't want any part of helping to deliver the First Lady that summer. Leo lucked out as he was off duty when the momentous event took place.

Today is Election Day, probably one of the more pivotal elections of our lifetimes. It may mark the time when this country continues in the liberal concept of ever bigger government intrusions into our lives or a turn back to our past tradition of more liberty and individual freedom.

It was a choice that JFK never got to make. Sadly we know he was assassinated while campaigning for a second term. The country was yet in love with the couple from Camelot and so most likely we would have seen them a shoo in for a second Kennedy term. JFK had already sewn the seeds that grew and bloomed into the Vietnam War. The whole country was in an internal upheaval with the civil rights movement.

One can only speculate what would have happened had the Kennedy dynasty continued.

For us living the good life on the far Eastern Coast little changed.

We had embraced the opportunity to enjoy fresh seafood with gusto. On one of our first evenings on the Cape still living in transient quarters we went to a Howard Johnsons Restaurant for dinner -- supper in Nebraska. Ann ordered fried clams and I steamed clams both mystery selections for us. The fried clams were delicious and we both would love some today. Now the steamed clams were a different experience.

The large bowl arrived with shells partially open and the clam foot protruding outside. Alongside came a large bowl of cloudy hot water. I pleaded neophyte to the waitress and she solved the mystery. Take your fork (or your fingers) and bring the cooked clam out of the shell.

Swish it a bit in the bisque to rid it of maybe a few grains of sand, dip it into the small cup of lemon flavored hot drawn butter -- delicious. At the end of the meal tip the bowl of bisque and drink it all except for the sand residue at the bottom.

I learned to rake the sand underwater just off the beach behind our house to harvest quahogs and little neck clams. Boiled or stuffed and baked stuffed with sage dressing they became favorites. Take a glass bottom bucket and dip net bay scallops swimming in deeper water a little farther off shore. We purchased live lobster off the trawlers in port close by. Bluefish and stripers were fun to catch but not nearly as tasty as the smaller bay flounder we caught with rod and reel. The whole tour of duty was an epicurean delight and I am so thankful to have married an excellent cook.

We made friends with summer people that had a cabin (actually a story and half 2500 sq. ft. Cape Cod Bungalow) on the cool Cape for the summer in addition to their year around home in Boston. The natives seemed a bit standoffish at first, but quickly warmed and became fast friends.

After four and a half years we had to leave the place we came to love. Two babies came to live with us there, both born in the old wooden base hospital but not in Jackie's 10-room suite. Cool summers on the Cape and not too bad winters, a climate tempered by the ocean on three sides. We explored nearby Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket plus attended the World Fair in New York, ballet and live plays in Boston.

We climbed mountains in Vermont including the tallest in the East Mount Washington. I flew the Atlantic many times to pull duty in England as well as Greenland. Life can be a great adventure when one runs at it with gusto.

That is how I saw it.

Dick Trail

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Petraeous is the elite??

-- Posted by hulapopper on Fri, Nov 9, 2012, at 8:10 PM

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Dick Trail
The Way I Saw It