Reading the first part of Joe’s article on his trip to Christmas Island stirred old memories of 1958.
Although my posting was to the Staging Post at Hickham AFB I had to go to Christmas Island first for ‘briefing’.
5 PDU was at Innsworth and we were accommodated in the old hutted Sergeants Mess. After a couple of days we were taken to Heathrow. Yes, it was one of the
first Charters and we flew BOAC to Idlewild (for our younger members that was what JFK was called back then).
We arrived at New York just after a thunderstorm and I can remember how oppressive it felt driving between the skyscrapers.
Back then the UK was still recovering from the war and things were still a bit drab. New York (now just a short flight away) seemed a different world. The cars, the lights and the noise confirmed the impression given by many Hollywood films. We were given the princely amount of $14 (£5 at the then rate of exchange) subsistence for our time in the USA. You can imagine how much that would buy.
A stroke of luck the Movements WO was an old neighbour of mine from Stanmore and immediately on arriving at the hotel he allocated a room number to me and the Chief Tech. I was travelling with> The hotel was the Governor Clinton, right in the centre of New York and an ideal location for our one night stay.
We went to our room and got out our magnificent KD Tunic and slacks, having travelled in Blues. You can imagine the state, so we rang room service and had them pressed. (I still don’t know who paid that bill!). Now down to dinner at the restaurant next door, while some were still being allocated rooms! Then it was out to see the town.
We fancied a beer but with only $14 in our pockets, and the expensive looking bars, it wasn’t going to be much of a session. We eventually saw one bar, down below street level, which looked more in our price range so went in.
I ordered 2 beers and was totally confused when he asked “What brand?” “Any” was my reply and he drew up 2 glasses of draft. A chap sitting on the next stool said “You fellas Canadian?” “No British” I replied.
It turned out that he had been stationed at Bentwaters and most of the patrons had been stationed in England. We had picked a bar frequented mostly by ex-USAF personnel and from then on we weren’t able to buy a drink (Hard as we tried). We left, not entirely sober at about 2 am. I remember switching on the TV and seeing the “Peacock” symbol of I think it was NBC and that was the last I remember until I woke up ready for breakfast and our onward journey.
An old mate Ron Turner (4th) was posted to the Island at the same time. His flights were by RAF Hastings and he’s told me that his journey was l-o-n-g-e-r. But although the conditions weren’t as good he had some adventures on the way and he saw a lot more of the country than I did.