Friday, August 13, 2010

1962 Major Sam Forbert(Steve Forbert's Father) and I Get Into A Big Argument Over Which Is More Important Buttons or Blisters.

Click on the photos above to enlarge them.
This is another in my posts about my life in the USAF in 1962. My National Guard Unit was called to active duty on October 1, 1961 and we stayed on active duty to August 20th, 1962. See my other posts below on this subject. August 20th, 1962 was the happiest day of my life when we were released from active duty and went back to our civilian lives. It meant I could return to college and finish my senior year. I went back a better student and starting making the Dean's List.

Later I also got my Honorable Discharge from the USAF. That is important since I was often not a happy military man. I felt more like a prisoner. I recently read George Carlin's last book about his life in the USAF and he had trouble adjusting to the military just like I did. He parted ways with the USAF early. He got a general discharge. That is what they used to do with those who wanted out and could not adjust to military life. He had to convince several people he was crazy in order to get out.
Here is the page on LAST WORDS by George Carlin. The reviews mention Carlin's difficulties in the USAF. It is an excellent book.
This story begins on a day they needed some extra KP(Kitchen Patrol)workers. I worked in Headquarters as a clerk typist but back in 1962 the lower ranks still pulled KP from time to time. I think it was used as punishment also.

Well they had me and some others go to the chow hall for KP and as I recall they had a potato peeling machine which was somewhat interesting. It was a small metal machine and you could throw the potatoes in there and something inside spinning around would peel the potatoes. No more hand peeling. The new machine did however leave great piles of potato peelings which had to be gotten rid of. Now I dont't know or remember exactly what the deal was but great mounds of red dirt were delivered outside the chow hall and they proceeded to tell us to shovel the dirt under the chow hall and cover up the potato peelings. At least that is the best I can remember. So we were given shovels and told to get with it. It was a very hot and humid. We worked at this for several hours as several officers stood by and watched and told us how to shovel.

My hands were used to typing and office work and not physical labor so in short order the wooden handle of the shovel caused blisters to appear on the inside of both hands. 10 blisters in all. As the day wore on the blisters popped and broke open.
Finally the work day ended. I was not in fatigues. I was still wearing my office AF uniform of summer khaki tan pants and short sleeve shirt. I was tired and dirty and worn out. We finished around 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon. I put the shovel down drank some water and headed for the main gate to go home. I was living not on the base but in my grandmother's house downtown.

But when I got to the gate as I was leaving the AP(that is Air Police)at the gate yelled at me to button the buttons on my shirt. That was a reasonable request since I would be going off base and downtown. However I was not in a reasonable mood. I was tired and dirty and my hands hurt from the open blisters. So I ignored the Air Police guy and he said if I didn't button my buttons he would report me. I told him to go ahead. I left walking out the gate and proceeded home.

The next day I was told the Commander wanted to see me. The Commander was Major Sam Forbert. A short man who years later turned out to be the father of musician Steve Forbert from Meridian,Mississippi. Steve would have been about 6 years old when this incident happened. As this was a National Guard base no one really lived on the base. Everyone(officers and enlisted)lived off base in Meridian.
Here is something about Steve Forbert early in his career that mentions his father.,,20077900,00.html

I still find it hard to believe that the Commander of the base would involve himself in a matter so trivial. Maybe he had other complaints about me to discuss.
So I reported to his office that next morning. I was dressed cleanly and looked sharp in my regular khaki office uniform.

He proceeded to tell me that it had come to his attention that I had left the base with my buttons unbuttoned. My shirt tail may have been out as well I now remember. Though I think I did tuck in my shirt tail as I left the base. But the Commander was not happy about the unbuttoned buttons. Being only 21 years old and not very smart I did not do the right thing which would have been to plead not guilty and just say the Air Policeman must have been mistaken because my buttons were surely buttoned when I left the base. But I was so caught off guard by such a petty thing as unbuttoned buttons after a hard days work that I did not deny the charge. Instead I told him I had been working hard all day shoveling dirt in the hot sun and I was dirty and tired and had worn blisters on my hands and wasn't thinking about buttons.
He wasn't buying it. He most likely even tried to calm me down but I got mad and the more I thought about it the madder I got. Finally I asked him, "Which is more important buttons or blisters?" And as I did this I held up my hands to show him all the blisters on my hands. He replied, "Buttons". I replied "Blisters". Pretty soon we were shouting the two words back and forth at each other. Most likely loud enough for all the others in the office to hear.

He also said that he had heard I was living in a house downtown that had no furniture in it. I told him that it was none of his business. He replied he could make me live on base. Now that was a real serious threat. No one lived on base except one alcoholic who was from Pa. Why he was in Meridian,Ms. I never understood. He was not part of our National Guard Unit and was the only non guard person there on active duty.

I should have explained to the Major that my grandmother had moved to Mobile,Alabama to live with my mother and that since I thought we were going to deploy overseas I had moved into her empty house temporarily. Since we never deployed anywhere I continued to live there having rented a rollaway bed. I did have the electricity turned on and heat also.

Actually I had moved into my grandmother's house after the old couple who rented me a room when I first got into town went through my trash and read some of my early attempts at writing and were not pleased with what they read.
The Meridian cops came by my grandmother's house one night and knocked on the door. The asked me who I was and I told them and that it was my grandmother's house. They were satisfied and went away and never came back.

Meridian is and was a small town full of gossip like any other small town. So the Major must have gotten wind of my living arrangements through some small town gossip out to get me because I was "different".
I felt where and how I lived was none of his business. He did not push the issue and I remained happily living off base.

Finally he gave up on the buttons matter and told me to leave and don't do it again.
I certainly didn't intend to. I went back to work typing.

The next day someone told me Major Forbert had spoken to the other office staff after I had left for the day and told them to leave me alone that I was crazy.
I never heard anymore about the incident.
Then many years later I learned of Steve Forbert and realized the Major Forbert is his father. It is interesting to me that the military man has a singer songwriter son. Not what I would have expected. But then Jim Morrison's father was an admiral.
In due time August 20th 1962 arrived and we were released from active duty. See posts below. That was the happiest day of my life. Just like being released from jail or prison. There is one rank higher than General and that is civilian citizen.