Patio Talk 5

Patio Talk 5

Matrimony: A Resume Builder

We just celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary. We don’t know how 60 years passed so quickly but it happened. but As you can imagine, it comes up in conversation. I’m not going to bore you with the details but will tell you how this started.

I got out of Navy boot camp in May of 1957 and went home to Augusta, Kansas on a 30-day leave. My friend, Jack Watson, fixed me up with a date with Pat, a girl he worked with in the Auditing Department of Sears Roebuck in Wichita. On that first date I realized that she was “the one”. She was cute and smart and sassy so I told her I was going to marry her. She probably thought I was nuts.

I sold my car when I enlisted but fortunately, another friend, Johnny Luding, solved my transportation problem. Johnny was working 2nd shift at Boeing and I would ride to work with him, drop him off, and go pick up Pat. At the end of the evening, I would drop Pat off at her place and go back to Boeing and wait for John to get off work. The 30-day leave whizzed by with Pat and I seeing each other as much as possible and getting acquainted.

When my leave was up, I reported to Naval Air Station Glenview, Illinois, located just outside Chicago. I would be there for 4 or 5 months while waiting for orders to school. Upon reporting to the base, I was assigned to the Information and Recruiting Office as my duty station.

There I was, ready and eager to get married, and no money. At that time, you came out of boot camp as a lowly E-2 drawing $85,80 per month. I needed another job.

I’ve always enjoyed working and sometimes had 2 or 3 jobs at a time. If you’ve been reading my stories you know that I’ve had a variety of jobs. During my pre-nuptial days at Glenview I added at least 3 job titles to my resume. The first spare time job was as a Watchman or Security Guard. Like most Navy installations, Glenview had what was called “4 Section Duty Scheduleand every sailor was assigned to one of the four sections and had to stay aboard the base on their duty day. There were a number of jobs that had to be covered, all things that were necessary to keep the base running. Security was a major item and there had to be a duty driver to carry people and paperwork around the base and people had to be available to man the phones. If a sailor had a hot date or some other compelling reason to leave the base, he could hire someone to stand the duty for him. I put out the word that I would stand duty at a reasonable rate and had quite a few takers.

The hardest watch and the one that most guys wanted to get out of, was the mid-watch (midnight to 4:00 AM) at the hangers. It’s hard to sleep for a couple of hours, get up and stand a four-hour watch, and then go back to sleep. I charged $10.00 for the mid-watch and got all the business I wanted. I didn’t mind it because the summer nights were warm, and I could look at the airplanes.

When walking the hanger watch, you had to carry a Watchman’s Clock. It was a large clock, several inches in diameter, with a strap on it so you could loop it around your neck and shoulder. The “post” or “beat” took you around the hangers and at strategic places there were Key Boxes containing a key that you had to insert into the clock you were carrying. This recorded that you were at the right place at the right time as you walked your post. At the end of your shift, the person you reported to could to check the clock and know if you had covered the ground as you were supposed to.


The next job title I acquired was “Baby Sitter”. As I said earlier, I worked in the Information and Recruiting Office. The department head was a LCDR Sanford. Mr. Sanford called me into his office one day and asked if I would like a babysitting job that evening. I immediately said yes, and he filled me in on the details. The Executive Officer (2nd in command) of NAS Glenview was a Commander Valley. He and his wife had to attend a function that evening, and their regular babysitter had been called out of town. Commander Valley and his wife felt much more comfortable having a babysitter for their 15-year-old daughter than just leaving her on her own. The job was located on the base, so transportation wouldn’t be a problem. The Captain and the Exec were both provided with houses on the base.

That first evening went well. We played checkers and watched TV and listened to records. Commander Valley had purchased some kits from Radio Shack and built a terrific hi-fi set. It was a nice evening and the daughter was a very pleasant young lady. When the Commander and his wife got home that evening they told me that they would be busy the following Saturday and they could use my help. Their daughter wanted to play a round of golf and she needed a caddy as well as a babysitter. I carried the golf bag on Saturday and did two more evening stint s before the regular sitter got back. It was a pleasant way to earn a few bucks.

2007: 50th Wedding Anniversary

The 3rd job title I picked up is a little harder to figure out. The closest I can come is “Ironer”. Probably, the next best would be “Washerwoman” but I didn’t wash anything for anyone and I don’t want to be referred to as a woman. The ironing job was much like taking candy from a baby. One evening at the barracks, I had washed my civilian clothes and was ironing one of the shirts. An iron and ironing board were available in the barracks for anyone to use. Thanks to my Mom, I knew how to use them. When I was a little kid, she said she wasn’t going to turn me loose in the adult world unless I could take care of myself. She taught me basic cooking skills, how to clean house, how to wash clothes and iron, how to darn socks and sew on buttons, and a lot of other stuff. So, as I ironed my shirt in the barracks that evening, two guys came in. They saw what I was doing and one of them said “Hey, I’ve got a date tonight, will you iron a shirt for me?” I said “No, I’m not ironing your shirt, but I’ll let you use the iron.” He said, “I can’t do that but if you will do it, I’ll pay you.” “How much?” “I’ll pay $2.00 a shirt” he says. ‘It’s a deal!’ I say. That’s how I became an Ironer. These spoiled kids I lived with in the barracks didn’t know how to do anything for themselves, so I easily grabbed several customers.

So, there are three little money-making jobs I added to my repertoire. Pat was busy and extending her range also. She was working her job in the Sears Auditing Department and while figuring out our wedding was learning things like “Event Planner” and “Budget Director” and Purchasing Agent. She shopped for wedding rings and with her Sears 10% discount got mine for $12.00 and hers for $10.00.


Pat at 77, G-Grand-daughter,
Quetzal, at 22 months.

In October, I was transferred to Norman, Oklahoma to attend Aviation Prep. School prior to being sent to Memphis to attend Aviation Electronics School. While at Norman, I took and passed the test for E-3 and I think my pay went up to $99.00 per month. Veteran’s Day was coming up and we decided to take advantage of the 3-day weekend and get married. The time passed quickly, and I hitch-hiked home. We were married on November 9, 1957.

After 60 years, I think I’m qualified to say a few words. Marriage is two people doing the best they can for each other, every single day.

Here’s Pat at 78

Dave Thomas
November 14, 2017



Patio Talk: 4

Patio Talk: 4

Pat’s step-dad passed away and she was going back to El Dorado, Kansas to help with the arrangements and attend the funeral. It was a busy time at work so I decided to stay home. Our firefighter son, Doug, said he could work it out with his job and he would be glad to go. Fortunately they could book a flight for the next day. It was September, so they were both dressed in casual warm weather clothing. Pat was wearing tight jeans and high heels and Doug was wearing shorts and a tank top. As was the current fashion on both the east and west coasts, Doug was wearing a fanny-pack containing his billfold, sun glasses and other necessary items.

The flight went without a hitch and they soon landed in Wichita. They rented a car and drove to El Dorado where they spent the night in a motel. The next morning, they went to a restaurant for a good breakfast to start a busy day. Entering the restaurant, they found it busy and noisy. They soon found out what was causing the commotion.

The table next to them was occupied by a bunch of guys having a good time. They all looked to be in their 60’s, deeply tanned and wearing bib overalls and John Deere ball caps. They were busy laughing and razzing each other. Obviously, they were good friends and Pat heard one of them say that this was a weekly get together. They had probably all done a half-day’s work before coming in for breakfast. They carried on, telling their stories and entertained each other and everyone else in the place. Pat noticed that a couple of the guys were watching her and Doug and whispering back and forth. She was aware that she and Doug looked different than the locals. She also realized that they may appear to be an older woman and her boy-toy companion. Doug could certainly play that part. He is good looking (like all our kids) and heavily muscled from years of weight lifting.

The rest of the men kept talking and laughing and were telling wild stories, probably to see what reaction they would get from Pat, Doug, and the rest of the crowd. For example, one guy says “I baled and stacked hay yesterday and I’m sure stiff and sore this morning. Guess I’m getting old.” “I know what you mean,” the guy next to him said, “I’m only having sex with the wife 3 or 4 times a week now. Old age is hell!”

Pat and Doug finished their breakfast, got up, paid the check, and were leaving. Suddenly, the loudest guy at the neighboring table jumped up. “Hey,he yells, “That guy forgot his purse!” Mortified and red-faced, Doug retrieved his fanny-pack and headed for the door. Apparently, a fashion statement on the west coast can be misunderstood in the Midwest.

Dave and Pat Thomas
October 28, 2017


Patio Talk: 3

Pat reminded me of this story. She told me about it when it happened and as one of the participants remembers it better than I do.

It was probably 1997 or 1998 and we were on vacation. It was Pat and I and our grand-daughter, Michelle. Michelle would have been 11 or 12 at the time.

Pat’s friend Charlotte and her family had a beach house in Galveston that they graciously let us enjoy for a week. We had flown into Houston, rented a car, and driven on down. We were looking forward to a few days of just hanging out on the beach and vegetating. When we went into town, we tried to see and do things that Michelle would enjoy like Moody’s Gardens, Joe’s Crab Shack, and the seawall. Our days at the beach house were relaxing and fun and we re-charged our batteries while there.

We drove back to Houston and caught a flight to Wichita. We planned to visit Pat’s aunt and cousins and drive on to Augusta and visit friends. Our flight to Wichita would be in a commuter plane, one of those 10 or 12 seat puddle-jumpers. We climbed aboard and got on our way. When we got close to the Wichita area, the pilot’s voice came over the intercom telling us that an electrical storm was passing through Wichita and we would have to circle for a while before we were allowed to land.

Pat says that after we had been in the holding pattern and making circles for quite a while, Michelle leaned over and whispered “I have to go to the bathroom.Pat pointed out the restroom which was up forward, just behind the pilots. Michelle went forward but immediately came back. “What’s the matter?” asked Pat. “There’s a big window right beside the toilet and anybody can see inwhispers Michelle. Pat whispers back Who do you think is going to be looking in?” “Oh” says Michelle as her face turns red and she heads back to the restroom.

Dave and Pat Thomas
October 16, 2017


Patio Talk: 2

We were talking about the latest Geico Insurance commercial. It’s about a guy playing a triangle solo while dancing around and gyrating like a rock star. It’s a hilarious performance. I commented to Pat that I remembered the kindergarten music class try-outs. Everyone wanted to play the triangle because it was the only thing that had a musical sound. I guess I was a total loser because when I finished my try-out with the triangle, the teacher took it away from me and gave me a wood block. Pat confessed that she was a loser too. The teacher took the triangle from her and told her she would be playing the sticks. We can’t help wondering how different our lives might have been if we could only have played the triangle.

Dave and Pat Thomas
October 13, 2017

Patio Talk

During the summer months Pat and Izzie and I like to sit on the patio after supper until sundown. Isabella (Izzie), being an indoor cat wears a harness with a five-foot leash attached. We also have a reel for pets that is about fifteen feet long. We snap the reel onto the leash and Izzie has about twenty feet that she can move around in. While Izzie looks for lizards and wishes she could get to the two hummingbird feeders, Pat and I are sitting in the swing. We swing and hold hands and talk and keep an eye on Izzie. (I think there are about 10 stories about Izzie that you can find under the “Cats” category on the blog.)

I’m 81 now and Pat will be 80 next month. If you are wondering what old people talk about, its kids, grand-kids, great grand-kids, and “stuff”. I’ll give you some examples of the “stuff”.

We listen to the airplane noises. We are just a couple of miles west of the Miramar Marine Corps Air Facility. It’s a training base so some days are a constant stream of after-burners. When the Blue Angels are here for the annual air show we get blasted out of our seats and it scares the devil out of Izzie. We have no complaints though. This is where the world’s best pilots are trained and was the setting for the movie, Top Gun.

Besides the jets from Miramar, we sometimes hear small private planes coming out of Montgomery Field which is only 3 or 4 miles away. There is one small plane we hear every night about 6:15 as it climbs out and heads up the coast. We are guessing that it is either a flying lesson underway or a sight-seeing tour. We get a lot of helicopters, too. We live in what is called “The Golden Triangle”, an area that is bounded by freeways on 3 sides. Naturally, the freeways are patrolled by the traffic choppers from the TV news programs and by the police and the sheriff. All together, we hear a lot of aircraft noise when we are on the patio. The funny thing is, that it is not that bothersome but adds to the flavor of the patio experience.

I talked about my first ride in a small plane. It took place one Saturday morning in 1954 or 1955. I was driving back from Wichita. Normally, I worked at the garage on Saturdays from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM so I have no idea why I had been to Wichita. Anyhow, I was just leaving town, heading east on Kellogg, when I spotted a kid who was hitch-hiking. Back then, we frequently picked up hitch-hikers and this kid looked clean and intelligent and I was bigger than he was. I stopped and picked him up and as we headed for Augusta, he told me his story.

He said he was 23, was in the Air Force, and was stationed at McConnell AFB in Wichita. He went on to say that before joining the Air Force, he had earned a pilot’s license and he had just recently saved enough money to by an old airplane. The plane was an old single engine Taylorcraft and looked really beat up. However, he bought it for $700.00 and that made it look a lot better. He had parked his plane at the Augusta Airport because it was small and cheap and close enough for him to get to it easily. Also, Al Guy, the airport manager had promised to help him put a new skin on his airplane. This Taylorcraft was old enough that it had a canvas skin rather than a more modern skin of aluminum. The kid (I can’t remember his name) and Al Guy had re-skinned the plane and it looked good and was ready to fly.

At that time, the Augusta Airport was on the north end of town. It was at least a half section of land stretching from Ohio Street eastward to Custer Lane and north to the county road. The southwest corner of the property in later years became the site of Augusta’s first Wal-Mart. The interesting thing about it was that it was a multi-use property. Besides being the airport, it was the golf course and country club, the skeet shooting range, and the archery range.

I’m tired of saying “he” so I’ll call this kid “Joe”. I helped Joe push his plane out and he performed a pre-flight inspection of it. We climbed aboard, taxied out and took off. We flew around for an hour or so and Joe taught me how the controls worked and let me fly for a while. Joe told me that when we went in for a landing we would have to be careful as there might be golfers on the landing strip. The landing field was a wide grassy strip right down the middle of the golf course. Sure enough, as we came in, there were golfers crossing the fairway. Joe gunned

the engine to let them know we were coming and took the plane around for another try. The golfers cleared out and we touched down easily and rolled out across the grass. I enjoyed the ride and the experience and was happy that I had stopped to give the hitch-hiker a ride.

Pat said she had a story about her first ride in a small plane. She had just moved to El Dorado from Eureka and since she was 13 years old, that would make it about 1950. She was looking through the El Dorado Times and saw a notice that one of the local organizations was holding a fund raiser in just a couple of weeks. They would be giving rides in an airplane and charging just a penny a pound. Pat got all excited! The ride would cost just over a dollar and she had that much in her piggy bank. Of course, with the event being 2 weeks away she nearly drove her Mother crazy.

Pat and I had to take time to discuss the fare. A penny a pound isn’t much money. Pat pointed out that regular gasoline was selling for only 13 cents a gallon so a penny a pound would surely be a profitable venture. The price of gasoline really put things in perspective.

The big day finally arrived and Pat couldn’t have been more excited. The temporary air strip was a pasture on the outskirts of town. Pat’s Mom drove her out there and since there was no seating, stayed in the car to watch. She would be happy to experience the thrill of flight from ground level.

There were 2 planes giving rides that day and it was a good thing. When Pat got in line there were at least 40 people ahead of her. All of them were excited and a little nervous so they were all laughing and jabbering. The time passed quickly and Pat was soon climbing into a Piper Cub and anticipating the flight. The pilot gunned it and Pat was amazed at the speed with which they rolled across the bumpy pasture. Then, suddenly, they lifted off and left the bumps behind. She was elated as they gained altitude and she could see farther and farther. The cars and people below began to look like miniatures. It was a magic ride but it didn’t last long enough. They were soon back on the ground and everything looked normal again. Pat has retained her fascination with the elevated view. When we fly, she gets the window seat so she can look out.

Dave and Pat Thomas
October 11, 2017

7-11 Or Maybe A Million

After supper, one evening, our son, Russ, who was 16 at the time, decided to walk to our neighborhood 7-11 store, a block away, and look at the motor magazines. He knew that his friend, Russ Turley, was on duty that night and would let him browse as long as he liked.

Russ got to the store and started scanning the magazines. He enjoyed all of them that had to do with cars and engines…Motor Trend, Road and Track, Hot Rod, and the rest. Meanwhile, Turley is busy straightening up the counter displays and getting ready for the business of the evening.

Both boys happened to glance out the front window at the same time and were curious at what they saw. Three young men were coming from the intersection and were headed straight for them. The guys looked out of place, like they didn’t belong there. The three men entered the store and immediately fanned out. The first guy stays near the cash register, the second guy goes all the way to the back and stops beside the milk case, and the third guy goes to the last aisle and takes a spot about half way down.

Russ is pretty savvy and immediately figures out what is going on. He starts edging toward the door. Just as his hand touches the push bar, he gets a chill as Bad Guy Number One presses the business end of a revolver to his forehead. “Back up”, he says to Russ. Russ moves back to where he was standing and waits to see what will happen next. The bad guy is starting to get nervous and fidgets a little and then tells Russ Turley to empty the cash register. The intensity of the moment had increased to to the point that Turley was fumbling around and couldn’t get the register open. By now, the bad guy is freaking out and starts yelling. Turley keeps stabbing at the keys with his fingers and finally gets the cash drawer open. The bad guy is both surprised and disgusted when Turley pulled out what little cash there was and handed it over. “Where’s the rest of it?” I just started my shift and it’s been kind of slow tonight”, says Turley. The would-be robber absorbs this news and orders the boys to empty their pockets. This exercise just yields a few cents and makes the atmosphere even more tense.

Finally realizing that this caper is a lost cause, Bad Guy Number One starts waving the gun around and herds the boys toward the back of the store. There is an office back there with an entrance just behind the beer cooler. He pushes the

boys into the office, orders them to sit down on the floor and says they had better not move until they count to one hundred. Turley just nods, but our Russ says “I’ll count to one million!”

The robbers left and Russ Turley called the police and called his boss. When the cops arrived, they interviewed the boys to get descriptions and any other meaningful information the guys could come up with. Fortunately, in his perusal of the magazine rack, Russ also looked at the hunting and fishing and gun magazines. This made it possible for him to identify the pistol as a Colt revolver rather than a Smith and Wesson.

The police came back around the next day. They had caught the three guys and said they were responsible for a number of robberies in small towns around the county. They concentrated on convenience stores that were located close to freeways so they could get away quick. Russ was asked to look at some photos and and help identify the bad guys. One quick look was all it took for Russ to tell the police he couldn’t help them. For one thing, he didn’t have an opportunity to stare at them. Next, one guy had a curly beard, one had a scraggly beard, and one had a full blown Afro. The photos the police had with them were of three clean shaven guys with fresh haircuts. The cops said it was okay because they had enough evidence to put them away.

Dave, Pat, and Russ Thomas
May 2, 2017


Breaking It In

I seem to have reached the age where everything reminds you of something. We were watching TV last night and a car commercial came on that showed a family accepting delivery of a new car. That’s a big event in the life of any family and certainly evokes happiness in all those involved. Unfortunately, I once witnessed the delivery of a new car that started out as a happy occasion but then turned to worms before once again becoming a happy time.

It was the fall of 1952 and I was a Junior in high school. I was lucky in that I was taking part in an occupational training program that allowed me to get out of school every day at 2:00 PM and go to work. I was working at Howard Motors, our local Chevrolet/Buick dealer. I was doing a little bit of everything…washing and waxing cars, lubricating them, undercoating, sweeping the shop, cleaning the restrooms, and waxing and buffing the showroom floor.

One day, a man named Harold came in and talked to one of the new-car salesmen. I knew Harold and knew that he was a successful farmer who lived a few miles south of town. You could drive past his place and everything always looked fresh and new. The house and barn always seemed to be newly painted, the yard was mowed, and the fences were tight and in good repair. What’s more, he was a very nice man.

Harold spent an hour or so with the new-car salesman, talking and then taking a test drive in a demonstrator. Then, they got the Used Car Manager to appraise his trade-in. I don’t remember what kind of car it was but do recall that it was several years old but looked well cared for. They made a deal that afternoon and Harold got in his trade-in and drove off.

A few days later Harold and his family came in to take delivery of their new car. They had purchased a new 1952 4-door Chevrolet sedan with automatic transmission. Chevrolet didn’t offer a V8 until 1955 so this was an in-line 6 cylinder engine. As I recall, the car was white with a gray top.

I finished cleaning the windows of the new car and was transferring tools and other items from one trunk to the other. Again, I was impressed with what a nice family they were. The parents were well dressed and the two kids looked like they had on their Sunday best and they were well mannered.

Bud, the salesman was busy giving last minute instructions on the importance of breaking in the engine correctly. At that particular time in automotive history, alloys and the machining process weren’t as good as they are today. After driving 100 miles, the oil pan and motor oil might contain some minute metal shavings that had been dislodged as the engine wore in. To combat this problem, the engines came from the factory filled with a “break-in” oil. It was said to be imperative that you change this oil after 100 miles of driving so that no errant metal shavings could damage the engine. New owners were also exhorted to drive carefully and at reduced speeds in order to give the piston rings an opportunity to seat properly and function as they should. These instructions for breaking in the engine were given in detail in the Owner’s Manual and were an important part of the salesman’s delivery spiel. Bud finished his instructions, ending with a final warning to take it slow and easy. Harold and the family waved and drove off. Another happy customer hitting the road.

Normal work continued and after a while I saw the Service Manager, Kenneth Markley, get in the wrecker and drive off. Kenny was back in less than an hour and pulled into the shop with Harold’s new ’52 Chevy hanging on the hook behind him. The car didn’t appear to be damaged as if in a wreck so we were curious to find out what had happened. We crowded around Kenny as he started telling the bad news. Harold and his family barely got back to the farm before the Power Glide transmission gave up completely. Driving carefully and not wanting to overtax that new engine, Harold had put the car in “Low” and driven 20 mph all the way home. By the time they got there, smoke was coming from under the car and it smelled as if the whole thing was burning up. Harold called the shop, told Bud what had happened, and probably felt like an idiot.

After hearing the story, the guys in the shop thought it was a dumb thing to have done. However, as they talked, they realized that none of them had felt real sure of themselves the first time they drove an automatic. The sales manager finally decided they may have been a bi overzealous in their warnings about driving too fast and harming the engine. He determined that the shop should pay for a new transmission.

The replacement transmission was ordered from Chevrolet and arrived in a couple of days. The Shop Foreman, Kenny Dickinson, jumped on the project and in a couple of hours had the car back in “new car” condition. Bud, the salesman, and the Sales Manager delivered the car to Harold’s home. They spent some time talking with Harold about the Power Glide transmission and the other new features of the car. Harold and his family appreciated the efforts of the Sales Department and the company and returned to feeling good about their new car.