1951: From Khaki to Air Force Blue

While a war that wasn't called a war raged in Korea, segregation, which existed in the South, presented problems on James Connally, a fully integrated Air Force base.
My story had its inception in the mid-'50s, when I wrote a novel about my life in the Air Force. That novel was packed away until three years ago. After reading the original story, I decided it was worth revising. It is fictionalized-fact and written in a journal format. Rather than using description or narrative to introduce my characters, I used dialogue which allows the reader to know my characters by the way they talk, think and react.
To tell my story about life as a WAF stationed at James Connally Air Force Base in Waco, Texas, during the Korean War, I created Airman Lucy Leigh Simms. I've tried to be as factual as my memory would allow me to be. The story includes a little history of the early '50s, a little geography of the base and Waco, and, as might be expected, a little romance. With few exceptions, everything that happened to Lucy happened to me, although not exactly as written. The three Air Force doctor stories and the panty raid at Lowry actually did happen as written.
Not only were we at war in the '50s, but segregation also existed in Waco and caused several disturbing and upsetting incidents for Lucy, a young woman born in Pennsylvania and not accustomed to segregation. Back in the days of segregation, black people were either properly called Negroes or improperly called 'n.....s'. In the North that word had a hard 'er' ending sound. Due to the Southern drawl it had a much softer 'ah' sound in the south. Purposely, I avoided using the 'n' word when I revised the story. In the original story I used the 'n' word because I had been called a 'n' lover by those airmen who favored segregation and didn't approve of an integrated Air Force, which it was in 1951.
My story takes the reader back to the days of wooden barracks, not brick; no air conditioning just fans; no phones, just a pay phone in our dayroom; no computers just typewriters; no copiers just carbon paper; and no TVs in our barracks, just radios and the newspaper. It depicts a laid-back lifestyle that is very different from the frenzied lifestyle of today. Come, take a leisurely stroll with me down memory lane.

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