Thursday, December 29, 2016

CFN - AFRS Canal Zone 1954-55

I’m Tom Moore ex-CFNer.  Enjoyed your blog and work re: CFN (as I knew it in 1954-55)  I was at the radio station (no TV yet) for about a year.  I was a part of the bunch you list:  Maj. Morrissey, Gary Hannes, Jim Anderson, Dick Heymeyer, Al Lohman Jr., Ski from Chicago, Timmy Coombs, and some other guys of the day.  Want to read my story?

I was  an Airman 2nd class (read NO class) sent to Albrook AFB in 1954.  I had been a crash-rescue fireman at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas… I volunteered one day to go to Panama, CZ , to fight crash fires, and just to get out of the hell hole that was SAFB.  At this point my good luck and the intelligence of the military system will dictate the story.

I arrived in the paradise that was the Canal Zone. Remember?  I had been stationed in Wichita Falls Texas at the time, hardly a paradise by any stretch of imagination... scorching heat and freezing cold.  My word, how wonderful those stately Royal Palm trees looked with the bright green plastic looking upper trunks lording over the main street of Albrook Air Force Base.  Especially after a 12 hour prop plane ride from  Montgomery, Alabama, my debarkation point in the states. 

I reported in for duty at Albrook.  The 1st Sgt. at receiving and transit told me there must have been a mistake to transfer me to Albrook AFB. 

"Oh, really?"  I said, “Well here I am Sarge, ready or not!” 

His response was ( he was a tropical laid back Dude), “But we don’t need any firefighters or Flight Rescuemen.  We don’t have aircraft or any flights here .” 

I reminded him that I had just arrived on a flight.  His answer, “But that was not our aircraft, we don’t have any aircraft.  And besides it didn’t crash… did it?”

I was getting worried about my whereabouts and sanity at this point.  “Not our aircraft?  But the plane said United States of America on the side in black paint.”  I wondered aloud, “What if it HAD crashed on landing.  Would there have been no one with my untried skills but loads of knowledge willing to save the victims?  Like me.” 

The 1st Sgt. replied, “That would been against regulations, son.  Air Force pilots are ordered to not crash the aircraft we let them  fly.” 

I liked this guy.  He thought he owned and was the boss of all the aircraft.  The 1st Sgt. directed me to the transit barracks and told me to report each morning to check on a possible assignment, and arranged a first-class pass, told me where I could catch a bus (Chiva) to Panama City after a 5 day quarantine, "if I wanted to go down to that hell hole,” he said.  And he told me where to get a “partial payment”. ($$ now we’re cookin’)  So I wandered around Albrook AFB $40 in my pocket and saw the base bowling alley. Met some guys sitting around smoking and drinking beer waiting out their quarantines.  So I did too.

After two weeks of reporting in and getting no assignment for work, except duty, policing up fallen leaves.  Most mornings I had only one fallen plam leaf to pick up.  I was beginning to really love the military, bowling, palm leaves, and beer.  After leaf duty I explored the crown jewel of the Republic, Panama City.  Every day for a couple of weeks I bowled for 5 cents a game and drank beer 20 cents a bottle on base (legal for 18 year olds).  Boy, so far, I loved Panama.  I loved the Air Force.  I loved transit status at a sort of Air Force Base, especially this one with no planes to crash and no people to save from fire.

But after too short a time the assignment Sgt. smiled when I arrived one morning for my morning check-in.  “Okay, Airman Moore, I’ve got it sorted out.  Your 201-file reads that you once worked as a radio announcer (very young and very part-time when I was at boarding school).  There is an AFRS radio station here in the Canal Zone, just up the road at an Army Post, Fort Clayton.  You want to go over there and see if they need an announcer?” 

I was out of partial payment money, tired of bowling and riding the bus down to Panama City in the Republic and walking Central Avenue’s more naughty side streets.  “Yes First Sgt. I will go over to see if the Army wants to give me a job.”  I was 19 years old at the time and not much of an announcer… The  program director at CFN (Maj.  John P. Morrisey) gave me an audition and seemed a little dubious as to my not-very deep voice, but perked up when I said I would be happy to help around the station… re-type the news stories they recorded from other sources (one news announcer was ‘Air Force Airman Bob MacDonald’) and outlets for their own announcers to re-read, put recordings back in the library..etc  Besides, I told him, no body else wants me down here.  I related my insane binge with bowling and thoughts about defecting to the San Blas Indian Air Force. 

The Major was sympathetic...  “OK Moore, you can come on staff as a News Writer and a standby announcer.”  The classification Sgt. at Albrook was very happy.  I was very happy.  Then I went to CFN, the Caribbean Forces Network at Ft. Clayton.  Moved into the three story barrack/studio/office.  Stayed there until I went home for discharge.

That is my military history, and my contribution to the military might of the USA in a nut shell.  I must have been of some help… we had no crashes at Albrook or Fort Clayton and no one in the Caribbean declared war on us while I was in uniform.

I was discharged in 1956, a few months before my regular time as an early-out compassionate discharge.  My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and I needed to return home to enter the family business.  Since I had a non-essential job classification, and the Air Force was trying to give early discharges at the time to save peace time dollars.  I returned to the USA to enter the newspaper business.  My wife's family owned two small weekly news papers in Forrest City, Arkansas.  I returned to help with the family business.  After a year I returned to the broadcast field with jobs at various radio and television stations in the south and southeast.  I eventually began work for TelePrompter Corp. in New York.  TelePrompter had contracts with the Army Guided Missile Command and NASA at Redstone Arnsnel.  I worked as a Producer-Writer-Director for 5 years.  During this time I heard from Gary Hannes (from the ol’ CFN days).  Gary was a TV producer in Mexico City and contacted me and offered a job as Director of the Mexican version of the TV show “To Tell The Truth”.  I was thrilled for the offer, but it was a bad time to make such a big international move.  But, Gary and I did keep in touch for a time.  That was nice.

 I was offered a job to work in East Africa as a commercial director for Radio Tanzania.  This job I took, and moved to Dar es Saalam, Tanzania where Beverly and I had our third child.  It was a great experience but when we were offered another contract, we decided that the International life was too much and we returned home (USA) to Texas and TV work.  Thru these years I was a TV announcer and a film producer living in Dallas and visiting Hollywood.  I eventually made several theatrical films as Producer and/or Director.  Actually that rounded out my career as a Director.  I guess I am retired now (you get a clue when the pay checks stop rolling in ;).  We still live in Dallas.  Two of the kids also live here and a third in Huston.  That’s about it Thom… That’s all for Uncle Jim/Tom and Tinker!

 If you get in touch with Gary Hannes, as you gather all this information, tell him to WRITE ME!!!!!  Jeez, that Mexico country living in Juan-a-what-toe must be the bees knee’s.  (At least it's slower than Dallas!)
Hope all this rambling has helped.  Let me please have a copy of all you gather or publish as a report/bathroom-book/important paper… or what ever.

 Cheers, Thom.  Ciao. Feliz Navidad y Prospero Nuevo Ano.

Truth or Dare.  Sincerely,

Tom Moore
Dallas, Texas, USA
December 2016

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