Old Stories

I haven’t written a personal story for awhile. I was over at Daddy Bear’s blog reading about his time visiting an artillery battalion and it sorta triggered a memory.

I was in the Air Force in the late 60s and early 70s. My last base was at Richards-Gebaur AFB (now closed) and the base housed a reserve MAC wing. At that time they flew Korean War vintage C-119s and C-124s. They later transitioned to C-130s but that hadn’t happened at the time of this story.Anyway, it was in December. I don’t remember which year but I do remember it was COLD! My wife had gone back to Illinois for Christmas and New Years. I would join her later but I had on-base duty and couldn’t leave until Christmas Eve.

My plan was to hitch a ride on one of the reserve transports to Scott AFB, IL where my in-laws would pick me up. My wife and I would drive back to R-G AFB after New Years.Now many service veterans have, from time-to-time, caught rides on military transports on a space-available basis. The R-G reserve unit flew a circuit each Friday to a number of bases picking up Reservists who would do their monthly weekend duty at R-G. My plan was to go down to Flight Ops and get on the manifest for a ride to Scott AFB.

When I arrived, I noticed I wasn’t the only one who planned to hitch a ride. Fortunately, a C-124 is big and had plenty of room and as Reservists got on board, there were passengers getting off so the number of bodies never exceeded the maximum for the C-124.

One pair was an Army captain and his son who appeared to be six or seven years old. Before boarding I overheard him say he was stationed at Ft. Leavenworth was taking his son to join the rest of the family.We finally boarded but headed for Offut AFB in Nebraska first to let a front clear Scott. Reservists hate having to flush out the cargo bay after a bunch of travelers have been airsick.

The C-124, known as “Old Shaky,” isn’t pressurized—at least in the cargo bay where the passengers sat. In the picture above you can see the tube and strap “bucket seats” we sat in for takeoff and landing. On the tarmac, I could see numerous streams of lights crossing the bay from all the cracks and missing rivets in the fuselage.

Once we were aloft, the crew chief passed around some thermos bottles of coffee and some sandwiches. The flight deck contained a small galley and while the crew may have had to fly on their weekend, they didn’t plan of eating poorly. Someone made a deal with the mess-hall and had gotten a bunch of beef, turkey and ham sandwiches plus some egg and potato salad on the side.An hour or so after take-off, we all began to feel those normal bodily urges that comes from chugging down coffee and other liquids. The C-124 did not have latrines/rest rooms like airliners. No, they were strictly spartan. If you got the trots or were female, there was a honey-bucket. The men, and boys, used a “piss-tube.” For the uninitiated, a piss tube is an aluminum tube about an inch or so in diameter rising from the floor to waist height. It was high to facilitate your “aim.” When you needed to whizz, you walked back to the tube, unbuttoned your fly (yes, our wool winter uniforms had buttoned flies in those days,) took careful aim and let fly. The passage of the aircraft through the air also created a small “vacuum” in the tube that helped to improve your aim. 

Just about all of us had made a least one trip to the tube when the boy just couldn’t wait any longer. His dad told him what to do and off he went to the rear to take his turn.

Did I say it was cold? Yes it was COLD! Those of us in the Air Force wore our arctic parkas. The temp was in the low 30s when we took off and it didn’t get any warmer as we reached our max altitude of 10,000 feet.

A few minutes after the boy departed for the rear we heard him squeal! The height of the tube was a bit low for us adults, but not for the boy. In fact, he had to tip-toe a bit to make sure he hit the tube and he got a bit too close.

Need I repeat what happens to warm moist flesh that touches sub-freezing metal? I thought not.

Off went the Dad only to quickly return seeking the crew chief. Off went the crew chief only to quickly return and ascend to the galley and return with a thermos. A few more squeals erupted then silence. In a moment the crew chief returned barely holding a grin and ascended to the flight deck. A couple of minutes later the dad and boy returned, both red-faced. The boy’s pants were still unzipped and his dad’s bloody handkerchief protruded. Obviously he’d lost some skin. They both sat and remained there until they left at our next stop. I heard the crew chief say later that the boy was now circumcised whether he wanted to be or not.

I do have to give the boy credit. After he returned to his seat, he never cried again although it was apparent that he had while in the back. It was also a lesson to the rest of us to be very careful whenever we had to made that trip back to the dark rear of the bay to answer nature’s call.

It also made a great story to tell when at the Club.

3 thoughts on “Old Stories

  1. we always had fun using the "relief tubes" on the SH-2's to initiate new people to the squadron. we would tell them that the plastic funnel attached to a tube under the front seats was a "backup communication system" and we needed to test it..so yell into it REAL LOUD and we'll see if we can hear you in the back!

  2. Allen, I flew on those C-124s a number of time. Some did have a flexible hose and funnel instead of the metal tube. Most did not. I was always careful whenever I had to make a visit to the back for "relief!" 😉

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