You wouldn’t believe who taught me to wear make-up. This is me in the 11th grade and the year I joined the Air Force. It was 1975/76 and I was born in 1958. My parents had to sign for me to go in the Air Force cause you had to be 18 to join. I was living in a one horse town and had no future. I was looking for a way out. That one horse we had was your choice of being a furniture factory owner or working at one.
My father was the owner of a furniture factory and I had all of it I could stand in one lifetime. I am glad to be back in NC now and living not too far from where I grew up. But at that point in my life back when I knew all the answers, I wanted adventure.
It was off to basic training with all my suitcases—–
I’m really glad we got the clothes on the line in that picture above. I was off on a journey that would be more remarkable than I can tell you in one sitting. You wanted to know who taught me how to wear make-up, right?
Above is a very secure moment in my pre- Air Force days when I thought pant suits were hot. I wasn’t wearing make-up. I was 15ish and that’s my blue American Motors Javelin in the background. That was a funny car. The high beams wouldn’t work at all. I sold it to another Airman for $1,500 at my first duty station. He later cussed me out cause I didn’t tell him the lights went completely out when you hit the button in the floor board to switch them to high beams. I laughed of course. If I sell you a car, check your high beams.
See that big building behind me? That is our garage. My dad built that for my brothers. He said it would keep them out of trouble. Now that depends on how you spell trouble in my family. It did work to keep them off drugs. It did help them to make good grades. But they built a few bad tush race cars in there and refurbished a model T tractor.
This brings us to my qualifications to join the Air Force. I hung with my brothers and learned my way around a tool box. I could look at a set of wrenches and tell you what bolt it would fit. I could torque a bolt and fine tune a carburetor back before the new fuel injected ones came along. My brothers could tell a lot of good stories and like I have told ya’ll before, if you became invisible you could learn a lot about life. I learned a lot about race cars and engines just by being a member of the family. I’ve driven a 454 4 barrel and blow the skeeters off my windshield. That’s something no car wash can do.
In 1975/76 the government decided to cave to the women’s right movement which I was glad to welcome. My dad had told me to find a man and get married cause he wasn’t wasting his time or money putting a woman through college. I am my dad’s child and didn’t accept that. My dad was very smart and I can say almost brilliant inventor type business man. He had lots of faults with one being women and alcohol. He was also extremely prejudice and I never developed a taste for alcohol or prejudice. It was part of what drove me away from the South.
Don’t ever argue with me as you will not win. I have been trained to win and make you run tail tucked to your own grave. I also acted, played on the varsity softball and volleyball teams. And my favorite thing of all….I left……
Cheerleading. I left the varsity squad in 11th grade to tour the USA with the USAF. I would look back and question my decisions. I don’t regret them now but there were some homesick days that I wondered if I’ve made the wise decision. I’m proudly the one in the back to the right of the Indian. I’m the one holding up one of my very best friends. I’m the only white girl in the trio.
This is me a couple of months later. I’m in shock. I have just completed basic training where my very foundation was rocked. I’m no longer the cheerleader, the debator, the race car driver, the little girl, or the small town girl. I am confident, trained, toned, disciplined, and courageous. I am ready for Technical school. Oh, I forgot to tell you how the Air Force allowed me in to begin with.
In 1975/76, the government answered the plea of the Women’s Liberation Organization and let women in to non-traditional career fields. When the government makes policy changes, they must meet quotas to fulfill those commitments. The needed women. They needed women to be in the roles traditionally held by men. First, you had to take a qualification test just as you do today. You must have a high school diploma and be an upstanding citizen of the USA. I was all but one of what they were looking for. I didn’t have a high school diploma.
When I left 11th grade to follow my dreams, I left without a diploma. At that time, you could graduate early if you took the classes needed to graduate at a local community college. So I did. In three months, I took senior English, a math, and a science. The test was passed and the diploma received. My parents and I presented it to the AF recruiter and he needed me to pass the mechanics test required at that time. Piece of cake really. Lots of questions about what wrench was used where and a short bit about electronics. No problem and the recruiter did a happy dance. I was in! Check me off the quota sheet as I have arrived.
Now this next bit of information has never ever been told and you are the first to hear. I didn’t pass the requirement to lift 75lbs over my head. Why did I get in then?….cause they needed me and I looked strong. When I got to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas, they administered a test as the final step to enter the field of flight-line mechanics. They sent me in to a room with no one in it. In fact, there wasn’t anything in it but a set of weights weighing 75lbs and me.
When I came out of the room, the ask me if I lifted the weight over my head. At 17 and hoping to conquer the world, you say yes and know you just snookered the government. We all winked and I entered 6 weeks of torture. Wondering all the time if I could go back and try that 75lbs again. This time I’d say—are you nuts–that’s 75lbs for fricking sake. I’m 110lbs soaking wet. Are you nuts—was I nuts.
They had no clue what to do with us non-traditional women. They didn’t know if we needed feminine products or tissues. They didn’t have the proper uniforms. The first three weeks of basic training we wore the women’s uniform of that time. We had a light blue shirt and navy blue cotton trousers. We looked pretty and I loved that uniform. We were sent off to make-up classes;) and taught how to wear our hair. Gosh we were drop dead gorgeous.
That didn’t last as the Air Force knew our jobs would rip those clothes to shreds. Here came green fatigues and combat boots. I kid you not….I was in the first graduating class from basic training to wear combat boots. They had to special order many of our boots cause we all wore a size 4 mens. For the last three weeks of training, we wore those hot fatigues and we no longer went to make-up school. We looked trained but not so pretty. Looks like they could have figured out how to be pretty and prepared. Maybe they do that now. Times have changed since 1976.
We marched, marched, marched until our combat boots rubbed blisters on our feet and we kept on marching. We fainted from the heat. We lived all 50 of us in one room without killing each other. We learned to bounce a quarter on the bed, learned to skin our knuckles on the bed springs making it happen. We learned to survive the obsticle course and run our designated distance in the time they needed—I think.
We graduated lean, strong, victorious, proud, and finally beautiful. All 50 of us went in different directions off to train in the non-traditional roles we had been assigned. We would face more challenges but had survived basic training and could meet those challenges too. We did! We met them and exceeded. My technical training was long. I learned how to maintain and operate 75 pieces of equipment.
I thought technical school was a breeze except for the bitter cold. Why do you people live where there is frozen fog? Are you nuts? My final destination on the journey was Williams AFB, in Phoenix AZ. But to get there, I had to go through 8 months of Chanute AFB, Rantoul Illinois. Go fighting Illini! But boo hiss to the bitter cold. This NC gal will not be going back to reminisce about the good old days in Illinois. I made it and excelled cause excelling was directly un-predicting what my dad had foretold to happen. I was going to be a success if it killed me. I would show him.
I had to learn how to put out fires in case an airplane or piece of equipment spontaneously combusted and the fire department called in sick. Good thing I didn’t get in the AF on my fire fighting ability cause I could not move in all this garb. I forget what it weighed with the boots on? but I nearly fell over and then they handed me the hose. So I stood by the fire truck with the hose still attached to the engine so they could snap the picture for the government. The government needed to see I could fight fires.
Then I got to Williams AFB, in Gilbert Higley Arizona on the outskirts of Phoenix. You can read about my arrival on my sidebar under Mr. Delicious. This is my room mate Sandy. Sandy talked me in to playing softball for the base women’s team. I made it and was the primary pitcher. I was good at picthing cause they needed one and women at that time in the AF didn’t fail at nothing. The coach made sure by rigging me up with two sets of boxes. Every day I would pitch to those boxes until my arm would fall off. The Air Force let me keep my day job:) They let me travel with the team cause it made us look like a fun bunch of Air Force Women! That was good PR.
So there you have it. I was good at it all. I was good at being away from home. I was good at being a woman in a man’s world. In fact, it was down right awesome being one of the only women amongst all that testosterone. Thank you Lord. Thank you dad. Thank you mother nature.
I went on to win…Most Professional Looker. Good grief…this was a good name when the base was all men. But I got a lot of razzing about this title of Most Professional Looker. It was honest to gosh…a real award and here is the proof. An unattractive picture of me pulling a piece of equipment and hooking it to a tug.
A tug is a torture vehicle used to haul equipment around on the flightline. Affectionally knows as the hemmorhoid maker. We pulled little things and big things. You have to be real careful when pulling a plane. Can you imagine the calculated turns and manuvers? I can and only missed once. I towed the airplanes to and from various hangers for maintenance and washing. One time..hehehehe, I was thinking about MrD and hauled that bad boy right over a curb. I learned that you can not dislodge the wayward wheel back up over the curb with a tug. You must enlist the help of a crane and several hundred slap happy men to get it back on track. I know cause I looked in to the eyes of every jovial man on that flightline…that day. I lived and laughed too.
And because I learned to wear make-up correctly, I met and married MrD. This is what we looked like when we married in 1978. I would continue to be an Airman until I was 4 months pregnant and in 1980 I left the Air Force to be a mom and full time wife. That is when I stopped looking back and have continued to look forward. I look forward to seeing this brave journey right to the end. I’m not done living it. I’m not done being a brave and courageous woman. I do it for you and I do it for me. I do it for every little girl or boy who gets told they won’t amount to much.