Castle AFB: The Fun
Anyone who knew me growing up, especially during high school, will know that I was pretty wild at times. Just because I had joined the Air Force did not mean that that wild side had gone away. So here are some memories of the fun…and crazy shit I did…while stationed at Castle AFB.
Not all these events happened in the sequence I describe them. They simply are memories of things that happened during my time in the Air Force. They come to me in no particular order as to first, second, third…etc. etc. Also, names will be changed, or omitted to protect the identities of people I wish I had never hurt.
I soon found out that being in the Air Force was not really that much different than holding a regular job…most of the time anyway. Sure there were the exercises, AND the real possibility that you may be called upon to go to war. But most of the time those thoughts were far from our minds. We went to work, came home, ate, partied, and got into trouble like most other young horny young males.
It may surprise some of you to know that all during this time I did not drink. I had joined the Mormon church because of a girl I went to high school with. That was the only way I could spend any time with her so I joined simply to be near her. But when I joined the Air Force she was gone from my life and I really had no reason not to drink, I just simply chose not to. That all changed at Castle.
Castle AFB was located, I say was because it has closed down since I was stationed there, next to Atwater CA, and down the road from Merced. It was a small farming community, although it has since grown quite a bit. It was pretty rural so there wasn’t much to do as far as going partying went, locally. We did however do a lot of swimming. Much of our spare time was spent near a local stream just drinking beer and swimming, (one of the guys called it a crick, redneck for creek).
One time, as usual, we backed our friends pickup truck to the edge of the embankment so we could swing off the rope hanging from the tree above. Suddenly when Greg, the owner of the truck, grabbed hold of the rope his emergency brake popped loose and his truck began rolling down into the stream. It may have been a crick as far as our redneck friend said, but it was still deep enough to bury Greg’s truck. Funny though, after the tow truck pulled him out that truck started right up and we rode back to Castle and gave it a good cleaning. It was the least we could do for him since he always hauled us around in it.
Not all of our fun happened off base though, much of it was in the dorm, in at Aces Place, (a small bar inside the Recreation Center), or at the Airman’s Club.
Barracks life was, to make an understatement, interesting. There were always parties going on and there was always loud music coming from people’s rooms. But it wasn’t just the partying that was pretty crazy, it was some of the shit we did when we’d get bored.
In my last segment I told you about Manfred, you know the Nazi taxidermist? Well what I didn’t tell you was that Manfred like to pull practical jokes. The problem was that he couldn’t take them. So we made it a point to ‘get Manfred.’
One day, early in the morning, we took one of those cylindrical 20 gallon trash cans and leaned it up against his door. The we began filling it with water. Once we got it pretty close to the top we knocked on his door and ran down to the day room. He opened his door and all that water came spilling into his room. Boy was he pissed! Now Manfred was a stout guy, he lifted weights regularly. So when he got mad you had to make sure he didn’t get a hold of you because he’d simply lose it and pound your head into the ground. I can’t count the times we’d pull him off people, or they’d pull him off me…saving us from a serious ass whipping. Not don’t think we were the bad guys. Like I said, Manfred liked to pull jokes of his own. One time he climbed out onto the ledge outside his window and walked down to another guys room. He then climbed in and began taking apart this guys bed. He then re-assembled it on the ledge outside the window. So don’t feel sorry for Manfred, he got what was coming to him.
Then there was the time I decided to call it a night and go to bed early. My roommate, (and I won’t mention his name in case he happens to be reading this), came home from the Airman’s club drunk off his ass. I heard him stagger in, climb into bed, and fall asleep. Suddenly he jumped up, walked over to a chair, unzipped his pants and pissed all over the chair. He then climbed back into bed. I got up and drug the chair out into the hall and went back to bed. The next morning my roommate woke up and asked where the other chair was. I told him what happened the night before, he said bullshit. So I told him to go out into the hall and smell the cushions in the chair outside. He did, and came back inside shaking his head saying he was gonna quit drinking. Yeah….RIGHT!!! I’d heard that before.
Then there was the night I lost my virginity. Yep, up until that point I was a virgin. It’s not that I was planning on saving it for marriage, it was just that I never got lucky…until this night. There was this woman I was stationed with who I really hit it off with. I won’t mention her name because I know she later got married and I don’t want to ruin her reputation. Anyway, she and I loved to play pool, drink, and listen to the Doors.
One night we had gone to the Airman’s Club and ended up back in her dorm room. I don’t remember how it started, or who initiated it, but we ended up in bed. I told her I was a virgin and she said okay, just pull out before so she wouldn’t get pregnant. As had most young men of my era, I had read Playboy and Penthouse. So I had always wanted to try oral sex. This was my chance, so I crept down and began to do what I thought it was that I was supposed to be doing. She asked me if I was sure I was a virgin and I said yeah, I just read about this and wanted to try it.
Anyway we ended up sleeping that night in her room. The next morning she woke me up early and said I had to leave before all the other girls woke up. So I got dressed and went back to my room. I then got ready for work and headed off to the chow hall to eat breakfast. I sat with a guy in one of the shops in my squadron. I can’t remember his name, but his nickname sticks with me…BooBoo. Don’t ask me why, he was just BooBoo. Anyways, I couldn’t resist telling him about the previous night. BIG MISTAKE. BooBoo, it turned out, was as loose lipped as they come. By lunch time it was common knowledge that I had spent the night with this woman.
I truly regret ever mentioning it to BooBoo. I really liked this woman and after that she would hardly speak to me. I hope if somehow this makes its way to her computer screen that she can forgive me for being young and stupid.
Then there was the time our whole squadron gathered together at Ace’s Place to celebrate the end of an exercise. We drank and drank and drank until they chased us out at 2 a.m. The next morning our Commander called us to formation and chewed us out for leaving Ace’s Place a disaster. He said there was 2 inches of beer on the ground when we left. CE always had a reputation for working hard and playing hard, our nickname was the Castle Easy Skaters, (CES, Civil Engineering Squadron). Sorry Mr. Ace…won’t happen again…
Then there was the night I became a Turtle. No, I didn’t change into a turtle, I became a Turtle. Supposedly Turtles are kind of a secret society of drunkards. To join was simple, you simply had to memorize 10 tongue twisters. However, there were rules. First, once you started you couldn’t quit. Second, the initiator would say the first tongue twister and everyone had to get it exactly right before they would say the next. If you messed it up they wouldn’t say how, you’d just take a drink, the it would go to the next person until everyone got it right. ONLY THEN would the next tongue twister be revealed.
There were four of us trying to become Turtles that evening. Two of them couldn’t hold their booze well. One passed out and the other kept screwing it up so we all kept drinking, and drinking, until the wee hours of the morning. BUT, we finally succeeded. As hungover as I was the next day, and this being almost 33 years ago, I still remember every single tongue twister. I Google them to see if there were any results for the Turtles, and found similar matches, but these are the tongue twisters as I was taught them: One red hen, a couple of duck, three brown bear, four running hair, five fat females farting on friday, six simple simon smoking cigarettes, seven sinbad the sailors sailing the seven seas, eight elongated elephants being elevated on an elevator, nine nibbling nublicants nibbling on a gnat, ten transcontinental trailways pulling into tublico texas at two a.m.
Thirty three years and many hangovers later and I STILL remember them all. Am I a Turtle? You bet your sweet ass I am!
But not all the fun happened on base. Castle was pretty centrally located so we weren’t too far from the Bay Area, Yosemite, and bigger cities like Fresno or Modesto. I saw a lot of concerts while stationed at Castle. I recall going to a Day on the Green in Oakland by myself once and running into some old high school buddies from Oroville. One of them was so wasted on shrooms that he didn’t even recognize me.
While I was at Castle I saw the Bon Scott version of AC/DC, I saw Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath with Dio, ZZ Top on their Deguellos tour, (still one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen), but there are three I’ll never forget.
The first was with Mike Keppler and a couple other guys. Mike had this ride, I can’t recall the model, but it was like a caddy, just not as expensive. We decided to go see Fleetwood Mac at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Now Mike was from a small town in Nebraska, he’d never been to San Francisco before, let alone a big concert.
So we got to the Cow Palace…barely…Mike wouldn’t listen to directions and damn near missed the exit. As we were walking to the arena people were walking around selling drugs. Some guy came up in a tuxedo with a tall top hat and asked if we wanted some acid. Mike freaked out, screaming, “THIS GUY IS SELLING LSD!” The guy told us to calm him down or he was gonna get hurt. So we drug Mike off still yelling about the proliferation of drugs.
The concert itself was great. Fleetwood Mac is not the typical brand of hard rock that I normally listened to, but there was something almost magical about that performance. It was on the way home that things got exiting.
During the concert fog rolled in as was usual for that time of year in the Bay Area. Mike had never seen, let alone driven, in fog. He wouldn’t go anywhere unless one of us sat on the hood of his car giving him hand directions to turn left or right. We rotated so that none of us would die from the cold sitting on Mike’s hood, but we made it home…5 hours later. Last time I’d let Mike drive me to a concert.
Then there was the time Larry Coffman, Doyle Palmer, and I went to see Molly Hatchet and the Outlaws at the indoor Oakland Coliseum. We had to leave late because of work that day so when we got to the Coliseum the parking lot was full. We ended up parking on a side street outside the Coliseum’s parking lot. The show was hot, Molly Hatchet was a new band and blew the Outlaws off the stage. But again, it wasn’t until we went to go home that things got interesting.
When we got to Doyle’s car the front windshield was broken. We did a quick check inside and the only thing missing was a first aid kit, if you can believe that. But just across the street were about 15 Oakland Police Cruisers with cops milling about. So we went over and told them what happened. They didn’t care. They told us to get into the car and get out of there or they’d arrest us all. So we drove the two hours back to Castle with the heater on high and a broken windshield.
But my most memorable concert was Rush at the Cow Palace. I went with a guy named Mark, (can’t remember his last name) from Michigan who was a HUGE Rush fan. We got there late again, that happened a lot when you have to work late, so we missed most of the opening act, 38 Special. But we didn’t care, as we were there for Rush.
Rush put on, what I still consider to be, the best show I have ever attended. I was lucky to see them on their Hemispheres Tour, back when their songs were the long storytelling songs that made them great. They played 2112 in its entirety, as well as Xanadu, Cygnus X-1 Books 1 and 2. Plus they played all the older classics, Bastille Day, Working Man and By Tor and the Snow Dog. It was a night I’ll never forget. In fact, I have a poster blown hanging on my bedroom wall right now, taken from that show. If I could never see another concert I wouldn’t care, because that night I witnessed the best at the top of their game.
Nothing exceptional happened on the way home, capping off a perfect evening, and that made it even more memorable.
But, my time at Castle was not always full of fun and excitement, there was tragedy as well. One day we were having a squadron picnic in a park off base when suddenly we saw a plume of black smoke coming from the direction of the base. Suddenly radio’s started squawking and we all had to go to work…something was up.
When we got to work we found out that a KC-135 had been coming in on approach to the runway. The trainee pilot had been coming in listing off to one side. The instructor pilot had tried to make a correction and the trainee thought the plane was going out of control so he jerked the stick back in the other direction. The plane’s wing tip hit the ground and the plane cart-wheeled off the runway and burst into flames. I think only two people survived, the boom operator and the boom trainee, as they were in the very back and jumped out when the plane hit the ground. The cockpit had been shot off the front of the plane like a cannon ball and landed a good ways away, killing all inside.
For weeks the wreckage lay there, a stark reminder of the seriousness of the business we were all in.
And then there was the time some buddies and I came back from the local mall to find cops and OSI, (Office of Special Investigations), outside a room down the hall. Come to find out a friend had gone down to Yosemite and decided to try and scale down a cliff. He didn’t make it. He fell and impaled himself on a tree below.
We were all interviewed as they wanted to know our friends state of mind prior. I guess they thought he may have committed suicide. But it was a sad day for us all.
Anyway, those are just a few of the memories I have from Castle AFB CA. If you recall my mentioning the dream sheet, the paper you fill out with your assignment preferences. Well during my time at Castle I updated mine. I’d spent all my life in California and wanted to go see the world. So I put down extended long tour overseas as my preference. They granted my wish, as I would soon be on my way to Spain for 3 years.