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  • Writer's pictureLee Weaver


Updated: Jan 3





Back in the glory days (18 years old), there was a nationwide educational and travel group seeking folks my age to come in and sign up for potential free trips.  A friend of mine two years older had signed up and got an extended stay in San Antonio.  So, I dutifully signed up and went back to school to wait for a call.  Nothing happened for a couple years, so I transferred up to Texas Tech University and was studying Petroleum Engineering.  My grades were terrible that semester (my first time away from the discipline of home), so in June 1953 I went out to Carlsbad, New Mexico to work in the oil fields.  Being farther from San Angelo, naturally, I got a call to come back there for some additional qualifying.  I took a couple days off, drove to San Angelo, passed the next set of qualifying okay, drove back to Carlsbad.  Since my grades had been unacceptable, and thinking my trip might be called at any time, rather than re-enrolling at Tech for the Fall semester I just stayed on my job in the oil patch.

Well, it took a little longer than expected, but the next call informed me that I could pick up my ticket in San Angelo on December 18 (1953).  I went to the bus station early that morning and found that 15 or 16 other winners were scheduled for the same first leg of the trip.   After a long night in which the bus stopped at every hamlet between San Angelo and El Paso, we arrived at the border city like five A. M.  We disembarked at a training facility and finally got some food.  After checking to see if everyone made it, we were taken to a clothing shop, and every one fitted out with new clothes (at first it seemed rather strange that grown young men would have to wear school uniforms but that was the norm).

Our first schooling would take place at a sprawling complex, where the living quarters were six-man cabins with upper and lower bunk beds.  This being mid-winter and those cabins not being insulated, we had some really cold sleeping.

I never was able to figure out how I was chosen but I missed some parts of the schooling – I was appointed to clerk for the drill sergeant.  As an assistant, I didn’t really have any leadership responsibility, it was more record keeping.  We had two six-week teaching sessions, then a short break as we were assigned to long-term classes.  I was assigned to a nine-month electronics course.  We did not have classes on Saturday and Sunday; Carlsbad was only about three hours’ drive so that became our “take-a-break” place on weekends.  Since I had a car on campus I was running a profitable shuttle service.  It also helped that I had lived in Carlsbad for several months and knew the territory.   The big entertainment was the Eddy County Barn Dance on Saturday nights.  (Carlsbad is in Eddy County, NM.)  The event occasionally featured some of the bigger names in country music, along with some up-and-coming artists and some over-the-hill.  Regardless of the music it was a good place to meet girls! 

After I finished electronics school, I had a break at Christmas 1954, then continued my travels.  The day after Christmas, I left San Angelo to fly to Seattle/Tacoma.  I embarked in early January 1955 on a large ship capable of carrying approximately four thousand (4,000) passengers with a crew of 500.  It took about fourteen (14) days to sail to Yokohama, Japan, bypassing Hawaii.  Most of the passengers preferred board games; being a voracious reader, I read every book on the ship the first week, then slept the rest of the trip.  Many of the passengers debarked at Yokohama; I continued for a three-day cruise to Inchon, Korea.  While I was living in Korea the next year I made a couple vacation trips to Japan, seeing more of Tokyo, and visiting a resort at Mount Fujiyama.  It was Spring, Fujiyama was snow-capped, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, and the countryside was beautiful!  

By the way: the “cruise ship” was actually a Navy transport; and those school uniforms on all the young men: every one of them had a patch over the breast pocket denoting “U S ARMY!”  Uncle Sam treated me to an all-expenses paid cruise and eleven months in the Orient!

© Lee Weaver


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