How the Civil Air Patrol rescued me.

Recently I was contacted by a Civil Air Patrol squadron. They wanted to buy a bunch of my Dr. Zooch Rockets Space Shuttle kits so that they could launch them in a multi-squadron event. Cadets of the Lone Eagle and Curtiss-Wright Squadrons in New Jersey got together on Sept. 29th, 2012 and made 105 Shuttle flights. That’s exactly 105 more than NASA can presently do. Everyone had a good time and in exchanging messages with the group it brought to mind something that I had almost forgotten- it was 40 years ago, this month, that I joined the CAP… damn, am I old.

I have to state that the CAP saved me from some of the worst months of my life. At age 15 I was in my third miserable year at a stinking rat-hole called Webber Junior High School. This was a crummy public “school” on the wrong side of Saginaw, Michigan where the workin’ class kids were herded together with the non-workin’ class kids in a rude mixture. I learned fast that you never wanted to make the honor roll- you’d get beat up. You always carried your lunch money in your shoe. The term “Borrow me a nickel” actually meant give me the coin or I’ll punch you in the gut. You never wanted to be late for school- not by a single second, because when that bell stopped ringing, the doors were locked and buzzards hanging out around the building would rob you, beat you or worse. Every single day there was a fight, or some sort of trouble. Very often there were disturbances in the class room- so often, in fact that anyone not wanting to witness it, again, could simply ask for a library pass- which was always easily granted. Mr. Parr, the principal, was proud of the fact that in a fire drill he could empty the building inside of three minutes, that when there was one of the frequent bomb threats “at two o’clock the building is gonna blow up” that he would hit the fire drill at five minutes before the bomb, and wait for the school to blow up, which, unfortunately, it never did. The school never had a dance, you could never attend a full football game or a basketball game- because sometime during that event you would be robbed. Thus, there were no extracurricular activities for kids who didn’t want to rob, beat, do drugs or be arrested.

I had survived two full wasted years at that place, often by taking my all-consuming passion for the space program and aviation and pulling it over my head like a security blanket and spending lots of time in the 629 section of the Dewey Decimal System. I also always had a nickel in my pocket and never touched a basketball. Then, one day a pal of mine came into class and was telling me about going to a CAP meeting. Knowing that I was into aviation he encouraged me to go with him to the next meeting. I attended that single meeting and I was hooked. At long last there was a constructive after-school activity that I could do and it involved aviation. Soon we had four of us from Webber Junior hole in the CAP- Saginaw Valley Composit Squadron 7 dash 2. It was terrific- SAR (Search And Rescue) CAPs, CD (Civil Defense) training, orientation flights, camp-outs, canoe trips, First Aid classes and Red CAPs (actual search and rescue missions). I made friendships that last to this day. One of the other cadets and I even ended up flying together for the DNR when I was fresh out of college with my new commercial certificate.

Joining the CAP was one of the best things that I did in my youth. It saved me from a sizeable portion of the suffering that my third wasted year at that stinking school would have inflicted. Thus, when I was contacted by the CAP about the Shuttle kits I was more than happy and willing to help. The CAP is about search and rescue- and it sure as hell rescued me.

1 comment:

  1. Wes, thank you for the inspiring story. I never was able to pursue my aviation dreams (it is might expensive) and now have a 20 month old at home. I hope someday to share with him Klyde comics and my love of aviation. You are an inspiration (never though you would hear that, now did you?)