It was Christmas Eve, 1956. I had joined the Air Force in July and was stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, attending Intelligence Training School. This was to be my first Christmas away from home. It was 3 p.m. on the 24th, and the Commanding Officer (CO) said we were off duty until the 26th. I was sitting in the barracks, feeling very low about not being home for Christmas. One of my buddies said he was scheduled for Kitchen Patrol (KP) duty on Christmas Eve from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. He said he was not feeling well, and he would pay me $5 if I would work his KP. I agreed, thinking this might keep my mind off Christmas at home.
I went to work at 6 p.m., and they had 15 ovens going with a turkey in each of them. Our job was to baste the turkeys continuously so they would cook properly.
At 11 p.m. we got a break, and they gave us eggs, toast, and coffee before we went back to basting turkeys. At 3 a.m. we heard music and singing. The double doors to the chow hall opened, and in came Santa Claus, playing a guitar and singing “Here Comes Santa Claus.” We all laughed and clapped. He gave each of us a candy cane and said “Thanks for your service.” We basted turkeys for four more hours, and I walked back to the barracks. I was so tired I fell asleep immediately. I woke up at 11 a.m., dressed and went to lunch.
Our duty was not hard, but it took my mind away from not being home for Christmas.