Sunday, October 23, 2016

Touching History

I often get asked if I have a bucket list of things I want to do before I die. In fact, I’ve had a bucket list of widely disperse things I wanted to accomplish since I was a teenager, and because I’ve had it so long, it is mostly filled; at least the top items are filled; learning to SCUBA dive, flying a jet plane and being a DJ on the radio. I was fortunate; all of these were done before I turned 30.

This past week was one of those times when everything converges into a perfect few days.

This past Saturday, the South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation (SCHAF) held an Aerofest and Hangar Dance at Hamilton-Owens Field a few miles from here. As I wandered through the static display of old war-birds and aircraft I realized that I was touching history; especially when I approached the modified North American B-25 Mitchell World War II bomber. This particular plane was recovered from nearby Lake Murray where it crashed during a training mission. Not just any training mission, this was a training mission for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo that followed in the months after Pearl Harbor. It dawned on me as I ran my hand over the leading edge of the left propeller that if this plane had not crashed during training; it would have wound up in China with the rest of the raiders. I was indeed touching history.

I ran into two guys from my past at the Aerofest; Larry Yon was a fellow flight instructor whom I haven’t seen since the 80s. He is doing well and still is actively flying. It was good to catch up with him. The other old friend was the reason I was at the Aerofest in the first place. David McIntosh is the news director at WPUB FM in Camden, SC. He is a member of the SCHAF. He and I never worked at the same station together but knew each other as members of the broadcasting community. Notice to all other SC Broadcasters, if your ears were burning on Saturday we are the reason why. We were talking about you. It was great to see David and Larry!

On Wednesday, I was out at the AARP Pavilion at the South Carolina State Fair, DJ’ing their Dance Party. There was a crowd of folks coming by and visiting the agencies that provide services to the aging community. Everybody from kids to grandparents were sharing time and listening to the oldies that filled the air with the sound of our lives. Quite a few times, someone would come by and tell me that they used to listen to me out at Doug Broome’s Drive In or the Nightbeat Show on WCOS back in the 60s. We would share memories of some favorite song or of a request that they made back in the day.

As I stood there talking with them, my mind’s eye would see their teenage faces excitedly asking for their favorite song. I’m sure they were seeing the younger me as well. The best part of seeing them once more was being able to play their song again, an “Instant Request” just like back in the day. Reconnecting with them was worth all the work involved lugging speakers, amplifiers and computers to and from the fairgrounds.

Thursday afternoon I attended the Naval ROTC Pass in Review Ceremony on the Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina. As I sat in the shade of the magnificent trees and watched the young men and women march in the ceremony, I was transported to my own time in the unit, marching in parade across Davis Field. The field used to lie in front of the Undergraduate Library and was used by both the Navy and the Air Force ROTC units every Thursday afternoon. Eventually Davis Field gave way to a reflecting pool in front of the library and the extension of the West Wing of the Russell House Student Union.

It was warm on Thursday, much too warm for the Midshipmen to be decked out in their winter dress blues. I really felt for them sweating in the temperatures. But I felt pride also in this long line of blue that was connected across history not only through the time I was in the ranks but also back to WW II when the battalion was young and many of them interrupted their college careers to go to sea in defense of our country. History touched again.

At the reception that followed the ceremony, I re-connected with others who were in the unit at the same time I was. Of course there were plenty of sea stories passed around; stories of rough seas, near collisions, and action in theaters of war, and events on the high sea during the cold war. As I drove home afterwards, it dawned on me that even though the stories were about things that happened, they centered on the people that were involved; that submarine driver who turned left instead of right or that commanding officer who was tough as nails (not the words used in the story) but was the best ever. History may be about events but more importantly, it is about people, people like you and me. We have all touched history. Oh MY!

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