Chanute Field Page 2
Before leaving Chanute Field, I had the Buick serviced with new oil, grease job and differential and transmission oil checked. The mechanic left the plug out of the differential, and by the time I reached New York the pinion gear was making noise. I didn't know the plug was missing and figured I'd just try to make it home before it broke down. The passengers got out in New York and I headed west for home. I was passing through Scranton, PA, at about 10PM, when a sudden increase in noise from the rear end told me I had to stop for the night. Next morning I made arrangements for repairs at the Buick garage. It cost $72 to replace the ring and pinion gears. I had to borrow the money from Uncle George Way who lived up the road in Wyalusing, PA.
While at home that December, I was coming home late one night from a date when I approached a slow moving car ahead of me. I was doing about 50mph and started to pass on the left. The reason the car was moving slowly was that the driver was planning to turn left into the brickyard parking lot. He was not using a turn signal, but suddenly turned left. I slammed on the brakes but couldn't avoid the rear end collision. I put a minor dent in the man's trunk and smashed my right headlight. I took the responsibility for the accident and gave the driver $50 to buy a used trunk lid for his '40 Plymouth. I replaced my headlight lens but didn't have time or money to repair the fender, so the light pointed to the ground about two feet in front of the car. (I drove the car with the damaged fender for six months until the military police at Travis AFB required it to be fixed to drive on the base. I hammered out the fender at the base hobby shop.)
On the return trip to Chanute Field with the seven passengers, I was pushing hard to get back to the base on time and I passed a truck on a slight hill with oncoming traffic. When I got back in my lane just in time, I had lots of comments about my driving. I still remember the incident and know I had cut it too close.
Later, as we crossed Indiana in approaching darkness, the weather turned frigid rain. The last fifty miles were driven in flood conditions. Roads near the air base were level with the surrounding fields and were submerged with a foot of water. State work crews were marking the shoulders of the roads with long iron stakes. The water extended into the fields which were level with the highway and the stakes were needed to find the road. On one occasion I drove off the shoulder and got stuck in mud. The passengers had to take shoes off, roll up pants, get out and push. I also ran out of gas money and had to borrow $20 from my passengers to make the last leg of the trip. No one would pitch in except one man who loaned me $20. I paid him back with my next pay. We crept slowly along, arriving at the base two hours after the midnight deadline. I reported to the First Sergeant, explaining the conditions. He sent us to bed with no reprimand. During the night the rain turned to ice. The next day I had to chisel into the car to run the engine so that I could drain the water. The heater core split and I had to replace it. To anyone with common sense the whole trip would have been a nightmare. I just thought I was lucky.
On two or three weekends I hitch hiked 720 miles from Chanute to home in Pennsylvania on the Class A Pass that was actually good for 50 miles. I would leave Chanute Field at 5 PM Friday, arrive home the next day at about 2 PM, leave home Sunday morning, and be back at Chanute at about 1 or 2 AM Monday morning-- about 40 hours of hitchhiking to spend 12 hours at home --all for one evening with my girlfriend.
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