Saturday, March 27, 2010

A four month Marriage No-No

In the early 1950's General Dynamics produced the intercontinental bomber, the B-36.
It had six pusher-type propellers and four jet engines and was big - certainly in aircraft dimensions of the day. A lot of people have seen the movie "Strategic Air Command" starring James Stewart and June Allyson and the B-36 was one of the planes featured in the movie.

What a lot of people don't know is that General Dynamics also produced a cargo version of the B-36 and it was known as the C-99. Even by today's standards it was big - almost the same dimensions as a Boeing 747 in use on many airlines with intercontinental routes. In 1954 it was huge.

In 1954 the C-99 was flying cargo between several Air Force depots - Kelly Field, Texas; Spokane and Tacoma, Washington; and McClellan AFB, California, outside Sacramento. The XC-99 was big and heavy and was limited in the fields it could operate from. Because of this, relatively few people ever got to see this huge airplane in operation.

In 1954 Joyce and I were assigned to McClellan AFB on a temporary assignment. Housing was hard to come by for for TDY (temporary duty) personnel and we were fortunate to find an apartment made out of a retired railroad refrigerator car. Our bedroom window looked out at the end of a major runway and thus we heard (and could see) every aircraft landing or taking off. That included World War Two propeller-driven fighters, Military versions of the Lockheed Constellation, and -- the XC-99.

The B-36 and XC-99 both had unusual sounds - nothing sounded like them. One time I heard that special sound - a kind of a hmmm - hmmm --- hmmm or vroom-room-room grumble. It was early in the morning and I jumped out of bed. The sound got louder; then I decided this was a momentous sight and I called to Joyce, "Wake up - wake-up. Come to the window." Thinking there was a disaster, Joyce jumped out of bed and came to the window and asked, a little breathless,"What's going on?" I pointed out the window just as the XC-99 came into sight and said, : "Look, the XC-99!!!" Very quietly, and with deep emotion, she said, "You mean you woke me out of sound sleep to see an AIRPLANE?"

As indicated in the title of this blog, there are some things you wake a wife up for. A fire in the kitchen. A tornado coming across the field to your house. But never, never, wake a wife up to see an airplane pass by the back window. No matter how big. No matter how rare a bird.
Especially when you have only been married three or four months.

Today we live on a former Air Force base in which a major industrial portion of the facility has been converted to repair and maintain 747 cargo aircraft. They have a unique engine sound as well. And my love of airplanes has never waned. If we hear one of the 747's taking off I still run to a window or into the back yard to see it take off into the wild blue yonder. Only thing is, she does the same thing. Maybe time mellows a person - or maybe she has figured over these almost six generations that it's not worth fighting some things - it's easier to join in. Just so long as a husband does not run to the bed, shake her, wake her out of a sound sleep, and say, "Come to the window; you gotta see this."

Yes, dear, I've learned my lesson!

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