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Chapter 53

Intentional Spins Prohibited

Another lengthy chapter in this collection of stories. This one is about my short but illustrious career in the Civil Air Patrol. If you have read other chapters, then you know where and when I learned to fly. I moved to Weatherford, Texas in April, 1948 where I completed my sophomore year. I was working at the Weatherford Airport west of town by the time school was out and was Johnny on the Spot and knew most of the senior pilots when the new Civil Air Patrol Squadron was formed.

The Air Force did a bang up job of equipping squadrons with surplus gear. Radios, training aids such as a small working wind tunnel, cameras, a Link Trainer and best of all, a new L-4 Piper Cub. With all those airplanes, every cadet got in quite a bit of flying time.

The senior members were a varied and entertaining lot. Most of them were WWII veterans and owned some sort of aircraft. I will not use some of the last names in this tale to protect the innocent. Bud, who worked for the City of Weatherford Electric Company owned a surplus PT-19. His favorite trick was to take an unsuspecting person up for a ride and fly under the old suspension bridge at Tin Top, Texas, a few miles south of the Weatherford airport. His running mate was a pipe smoking commercial photographer who allowed us to use his studio to develop and print our films just for the price of a piece of 8 x 10 paper....about ten cents. More about this gent later.

Doc, a chiropractor, was Senior Commander with the rank of Captain. There were a couple of Luscombes, one Aeronca sedan, Champions, Cessna's and Preacher had a 40 horse Cub. Preacher was a bit on the heavy side and the Cub had a set of weak bungee cords on the right gear. He always landed on the left main but my favorite thing was watching him prop the airplane from behind with his left arm inside on the throttle. From this position he could reach up, give the prop a quick snap with his right arm and be on his way.

I am relying on my memory here but I think a Cadet had to be fifteen years old. I do remember the Captain and several other members holding a recruiting drive at a high school assembly one morning. Since I worked at the airport, I was one of the first signed up and was appointed Cadet Commandant with the rank of Lt. That is me in the photo, Lt. Billy F. Worden.
Civil Air Patrol Cadet, Lt. Billy F. Worden, 1948
Civil Air Patrol Cadet, 1948

On meeting nights we had classes on aerodynamics, photography, weather, radio, military customs and drill team competition. We also spent time in the Link Trainer which was fully operational and a great training aid. In short, we were having a lot of fun and learning a lot of things not taught in school. Several pretty girls joined also and my counterpart was a sweet young thing named Martha.

We had enough surplus gear to start a war. Little hand held "walkie-talkies" and another chest pack model that the operator wore around his neck. The microphone was a funnel looking device sticking out of the chest pack hooked to the transmitter through a coax cable which was mounted on a pole that stuck in the ground with a long whip antenna sticking out the top. Any time we had the radios out, you could hear, "Able Baker this is Charlie Dog. How do you read me?" This conversation would keep up until the two operators were face to face a few feet apart and still asking the question.

We had a couple of camping trips that were fun. Here again, the Army supplied tents and cooking gear. The senior members would go to some depot, probably the one here in Fort Worth with a shopping list and come back with all these goodies for free! We camped on a member's farm that had a landing strip. During the day, we practiced map reading and search and rescue with some of us playing the saver and others the savee. We also had flour sack bombing contests. We filled small paper sacks with flour and dropped them on a target laid out on the runway. We didn't plan to use this skill to sink ships or knock out tanks. In case a downed airplane happened to be hard to spot, we could drop flour or some other marker making it easier to see. Preacher and I took first place in that competition in Mineral Wells. Preacher could fly his Cub so slow over the target we couldn't miss. Almost like bombing from a helicopter.

Things went well for a couple of years. Then a couple of events caused a break up of the squadron. My buddy Lee and I were in the commercial photographer's studio one afternoon developing and printing some black and white photos we had taken. Printing paper was stored above the tanks in the dark room and as Lee reached up for a blank sheet of paper, he picked up the wrong one. It was an eight by ten of his girl friend and she didn't have any clothes on. The next picture he picked was that of a popular girl in high school. We went through the stack and found pictures of a lot of women we knew. It seems the photographer was trading really good portraits for poses in the buff and near buff.

Lee was all for trashing the studio and whipping the photographer but I convinced him to just take the photos of his girl friend which he did. When he confronted her with the photos, she called the photographer and we were persona non grata after that.

I don't know all the details but the squadron seemed to slowly melt away. It was a learning experience.

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