Memories From Westover

Submitted By Harry Stringer.

Concrete Tracks and The Smudge Pot

     Shortly after SAC took over the air base, there was a lot of construction that needed to be done in order to be able to accept the heavy aircraft that SAC was to send in. The runways needed to be beefed up and made longer, the taxi ways and hardstands needed to be ready for the larger and heavier aircraft. Hangers or Nose Docks needed to be built to accept the B-52’s. So that meant there was going to be disruption to the normal ways of running things.

     There were two incidents that come to mind that I won’t forget and one involves me in a sort of way.

     The first incident occurred concerning adding more thickness to the concrete taxiways in front of the original hangers on Hanger Road.

     This one night, one of the less intelligent members of the Air Police was given a post in front of freshly poured concrete and given instructions that NO vehicles were to drive over the fresh concrete. Any vehicle driving on the fresh concrete would leave deep tire marks and the concrete would have to be replaced. NO vehicles, no exceptions, were to drive across the concrete. How much clearer can you state that directive. I was in the truck when these orders were given to the AP and the Sergeant was very specific knowing the intelligence of the individual. It was not a horrendous or difficult task being asked or ordered to accomplish.

     Well, later in the evening while making the normal rounds of the different posts, we came up to this Air Policeman whose simple job was to prevent vehicles driving across the wet concrete. The headlights glared ahead and found the AP standing at his designated post. Right beside him were a set of vehicle tracks starting right next to him and going through the wet concrete leaving well defined tracks in the wet concrete.

     The Sergeant almost had a heart attack as he looked at the tracks. He then turned his fuming attention to this perplexed AP and asked him what happened? The AP just stood there with a blank stare on his face and responded “I don’t know!” The conversation went back and forth a few times with no good result. I was told to get out and take his place and the AP in question was ordered into the patrol vehicle with the Sergeant. That was the last time I saw the AP in question. I am sure he was relieved of his duties and found sometime else to suit his mentality…..peeling potatoes?

     The second incident occurred during the winter of 1955/1956 while the Nose Docks were being built for the B-52’s and the concrete being poured. The normal gate for entrance onto the flight line was removed for awhile when the roadbed was being prepared. A temporary gatehouse was placed at the entrance. It wasn’t a normal shack. Simply a 4’x4’ sentry house was placed there. It didn’t have a door but it did have a small window on each side so you could see oncoming traffic and a small slat bench inside to park your fanny on when the feet got tired.

This night, it was cold and a nice breeze was blowing creating an uncomfortable wind chill temperature. In these days the use of any kind of warning lights such as red lensed kerosene lamps was not in the best interest of anybody. They used what were known as kerosene fed ball-shaped smudge pots. A little flame alerting any alert driver that something was under construction.

Well, I thought to my self why am I out here getting colder and colder with each passing hour. I devised a curtain for a front door of the shanty out of my poncho. That worked just great keeping out the chilling breeze. Now all I needed was a little heat. Ahhhh…the smudge pot creates a little heat. In a controlled and closed environment that little flame would give just enough heat to make it almost comfortable inside while still keeping an eye for traffic. The smudge pot was brought inside and the idea worked great. Harry, you are a genius.

All was well again with me until I was relieved at midnight and returned to the barracks. My fellow Air Police looked at me and broke up laughing. I asked what they were laughing at? They told me to look into a mirror. I did. Oh my God, I forgot all about the black soot that the smudge pots create and I was covered with it. I did not make midnight chow that night. The cleansing shower felt good.

Now, to finish the story, two days later, the excellent and accomplished Westover Fire Department, was called to that very location to extinguish a shanty fire caused by a misplaced smudge pot. Gee, I wonder how that happened.

Harry Stringer,
Member 4050 APS & 814th APS 1955 - 1958.

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