Monday, April 16, 2012

Missing: One B-36

My WW (Wonderful Wife) says I have a tendency to dwell on the past at times. I don't call it dwelling on the past - I prefer to look at it as treasuring good memories. And so we decided to escape the 'closing-in-walls' of our apartment and just go somewhere.

Somewhere turned out to be Rantoul, Illinois, our home away from home off and on from 1953 to 1959. In some ways it was much the same as we remembered, but like most towns we remember from fifty years ago it has changed a lot. The Methodist church is much bigger - there's a lot more shopping but the old Air Force Base - Chanute AFB - is shut down - has been since 1993. Maybe it was time for it to happen - it was one of the oldest bases in service.

As we drove around the base many things were changed - wooden barracks were gone - newer brick dormitories were in  state of decay - and even the roofs of the giant hangars were showing their age. The "new" (new in 1957) hospital our middle daughter Amy was born in - is falling by the wayside. But I recognized the building I worked in and the base headquarters. Some things didn't seem to have changed. But the static display B-36 was gone. Or at least I couldn't find it. Even with the excellent display of aircraft at the Chanute Museum It wasn't in sight. Where was the B-36?

Well it wasn't at Chanute. Probably before the Museum was opened it was dismantled and shipped in pieces to what was Castle AFB in California where it was reconstructed and stands on display there. Probably makes sense when you think about it - Chanute AFB was not a B-36 base and Castle was the home of the big birds - I think they called the the 'Peacemakers." I remember them flying in Texas when I was in basic training, and I remember the cargo version of the B-36, the XC-99, flying in and out of McClellan AFB in California. (If you go back a way in my blogs you'll find a story about the XC-99.

I guess, like old soldiers, airplanes don't always fade away - they just go on display in some museum. And that makes good memories

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