Thursday, November 15, 2012
Christmas In September
The above picture shows me sitting at my desk just minutes after having been hosed down by a water tanker truck. It requires a bit of explanation, as well as what it has to do with Christmas in September.
After attending Officer's Training School my first commissioned officer assignment was to Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. In North Dakota one freezes in the winter and, without air conditioning, steams in the summer. I don't know how it is now but back in the early eighties, the Air Force authorized the use of work place air conditioning only in certain temperate zones. The Air Force did not deem the air bases in the northern confines of America to need air conditioning. So, often we sat in our offices on a hot and humid summer day and simply sweated through the heat and humidity.
One day everyone in my branch was complaining about the heat. My secretary was known for being outspoken and spouted out her complaint about the heat in a colorful assembly of words. To ease the tension I looked around at my staff and began singing "I"m Dreaming Of A White Christmas". Everyone looked at me like I was daft, but it got every one's mind off of the heat. So all that summer I would periodically break out into a few verses of "White Christmas". I enjoyed the smiles and laughter.
Then, one summer night at the Officer's Club my wife and I sat with our Commander and his wife at a dance to celebrate the 4th of July. We had a nice band and everyone was having a good time. No doubt my boss had heard tales from the office of my "White Christmas" serenades, for he challenged me by saying "I hear you like to break out with "White Christmas" with your staff; I dare you to go up on the bandstand and sing it for the 500 or so of us here".
Since I had already had a couple of Long Island Ice Teas I was game. I walked up to the bandleader after they finished a tune and asked if the band knew "White Christmas". They did...and I startled a room full of officers and their wives with my rendition of Bing's favorite. When I finished I got a lot of smiles and a huge ovation.
Then late in the summer I received my orders for my second tour of Korea. It was a remote tour so my family would stay behind. Within weeks I did all the out processing paperwork and completed arrangements to deploy. Then one afternoon, after coming back from an appointment I pulled into my slot in the office parking lot and was immediately pulled out of my car and hosed down with a water truck from our Fuels Branch. It was an old unit custom.
After they had soaked me good I retreated to my desk where the above photo was taken. Then I was called back to a large room in the back of our building and found that my unit had prepared a cake and refreshments in honor of my leaving. But most touching, my old friend, Chris Yeargan, had led the crew to decorating the area in Christmas decorations and booming out of a music system was "White Christmas". During that party I listened to every rendition of "White Christmas" that has ever been recorded. After the party they presented me with a cassette loaded with 90 minutes of "White Christmas" from Bing to Sinatra to Elvis.
That Christmas I spent alone in Korea. But, I had that cassette tape to play back all those White Christmas tunes that left me with a smile on my face every time I played it.
I still have that cassette, and some warm memories of those who thought enough of me to give me a rousing and beautiful send-off.