NDCUL 1965 to 1973

Jim presenting to a credit union meeting.

Jim presenting to a credit union meeting..

In last week’s letter Jim had gone through the hard times of an unlikable job. It dragged him through the summer and finally, thankfully, ended in the fall. Then the North Dakota Credit Union League hired him. That turned out to be the best job of his life, and a significant influence on me.

Again, Jim traveled throughout the state, even making trips around the country to Credit Union National Association events. He made good friends, worked for hard-working, energetic people, and helped regular people who needed a financial lift. Compared to his life as a clerk in a Sears catalog store, becoming a full-time consultant was a stretch for him. Surrounded by good people, learning an entire new industry must have been a fascinating challenge.

I was in my prime high school learning years while Jim was at the League. He gave me the opportunity to work there and learn skills that have stuck with me since then … almost fifty years ago.

Fifty years. Really? Fifty?

Jim writes:

Over five weeks elapsed from the time I left the Employment Service until I landed another job. Luckily my recent experience there helped me secure a position with the North Dakota Credit Union League as a consultant or Field Representative. The League was the official organization of the 100 or so credit unions in North Dakota.

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The Job Corps

Jim with the 1952 Cadillac he describes in his letter.

Jim with the 1952 Cadillac he describes in his letter.

Buddhism teaches that the natural human condition is suffering. The Buddha lived a life of privilege but suffered. He learned techniques to accept and overcome the suffering. Jim wasn’t much for religion, certainly not for some Eastern mumbo-jumbo religion, but he understood suffering and how to overcome it.

I was only fourteen and barely knew Jim in 1965. Even then I could understand that Jim was going through a tough time. Something had happened at Cal’s, my favorite Office Supply store, causing him to leave. Jim never told me exactly what went on; how much do you tell a fourteen-year-old anyway? That summer was difficult. We went camping and driving in the Cadillac (I was learning to drive!), but Jim was always talking about work, that there were opportunities and possibilities. He did it in a way implying that there was something better out there.

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NDANG 119th FIG - 1967

NDANG 119th FIG – 1967 – Jim is standing on the right

Does everyone have one persona for public display and another for personal use? 1965 was a long time ago, and I wasn’t terribly perceptive, but I do remember Jim moving from the AFRES to NDANG. Jim exuded confidence. He was ready for the transition, looking forward to weekend drills in Fargo with a larger unit. I didn’t doubt his enthusiasm for a moment.

Today I read through this letter and got a glimpse of the trepidation he felt, sitting across from a superior officer, waiting for a decision. The Captain had probably decided long before the two of them met in that spare office at Hector Field. Jim didn’t know. All he knew was that his future was on the line. Jim’s plans for the eighties and nineties were in the hands of one man.

Jim taught me many lessons in the forty years I knew him, and one of them was a positive outlook and memory. Whatever decision the captain made that day, Jim would survive and succeed. He could look back on the experience and know that he had done his best, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. In this case, everything worked.

I had the benefit of a couple of tours of the NDANG facilities, some weekends in Fargo, and being proud to say that I knew one of the men who kept the Air Guard fighter planes in the air, roaring off the runway past my college dormitory every day.

Jim writes:

Capt. James N. Buzick, Personnel Officer, 119th FIG, NDANG, Hector Field, Fargo, ND … My records were open and before him on his desk. Before the old unit was totally disbanded the command had checked into possible openings other units, especially the Air Guard and at that time there were about 15 or so positions available in various career fields and ranks. Of 75 men and officers about 20 or so were recommended for enlistment in the 119th FIG.

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Demise of the 9523rd AFRES

In this letter, Jim writes about the end of his time in the Air Force Reserves. After moving to Jamestown he committed to the military, primarily to earn the retirement income. After years of active duty, he felt that a regular income was within reach. All he had to do was stay with it to reach the thirty year mark. Now they tried to take it away.

Jim (r) and friend in uniform.

Jim (r) and friend in uniform.

These were stressful times, making it an easy bet that the military would be around for a long time. The Cuban Missile Crisis had been in the papers just a couple of years earlier. Even many of us who lived through that time didn’t really understand how serious that threat was. Recently I heard a B-47 navigator give a talk about his experiences during those tense days in October of 1962. He told us about sitting on the runway with live, armed nuclear weapons. He talked about the route they would take to Russia, refueling over the Atlantic, dropping the bombs in Russia, refueling again over Norway, then returning to somewhere in the States. The most unsettling part of his talk was his description of a talk he had with his wife and young children before he took off. They decided where to meet … “after the war.” They actually made plans to meet at a particular motel in Texas. Gen. Curtis LeMay, who Jim talks about in this letter, wanted to “bomb the hell” out of the Russians. There was a need for these Air Force Reservists.

After Jim defended our country against the Japanese empire, this must have been a simple extension of his duty, with the added benefit of a possible retirement check. Assuming we were all still alive.

I was only fourteen when all this happened, so was oblivious to much of the drama. I focused on the fact that he had friends in the unit and wanted to stay with them.

This was a big deal, Jim had several really good friends in the unit. This was shortly after I met Jim, and I was pretty young, and did not understand the concept of retirement or career, I just knew he thought it was important. I saw that some of his best buddies were in the reserves, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

Jim writes:

The future of the 9523rd AFRES was doomed …. the unit to become another relic of the past. We were to be disbanded. Following studies and evaluations by the Air Force it was determined that there was no foreseeable future military need for these units. This move involved about 8,000 reservists in 44 states and the District of Columbia. This was to be a forerunner to the merger of the Air Force Reserves into the Air National Guard.

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My first “real” job

IBM Model B Executive Typewriter

IBM Model B Executive Typewriter

A couple of years after my not terribly successful attempts at selling newspapers and other goodies, I was ready for my “real” first job. At the time it wasn’t obvious to me how to get a job. Apparently you had to know someone. My job came about because my buddy Don N had just gotten a new job and needed someone to take his old one.

This was one of those jobs that convinced me to apply myself at school, go to college, and get a professional job. Mine was a janitorial job at a local dress shop. Three times a week I’d come by the store for an hour or two, sweep the floors, and assemble dress boxes. Apparently they didn’t sell too many dresses, as I could put together a dozen or so cardboard boxes and they’d be good through tomorrow.

Working at the dress shop didn’t last terribly long, as my friend Jim (if you read this blog you’ve seen his letters) worked at the North Dakota Credit Union League. He recognized my frustration and their need for someone in the mail room. This was the job for me.

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First Taste of Flying

Eric writes:

When I was in about the third grade I got my first taste of flying.

Pat and Grant Knowlen at Fanny's, 1980.

Pat and Grant Knowlen at Fanny’s, 1980.

It was over the Fourth of July week when Jamestown had the Stutsman County Fair. Out at the airport, the Fixed Base Operator gave airplane rides for a penny per pound. Since I weighed about 40 to 50 pounds, my fare was under fifty cents.

I remember taking off and flying around the city and over the fair grounds. It was beautiful. All I can remember was that I wanted to fly again.

My second taste of flying came when my Cousin Grant Knowlen came to town. He flew in with his very own Cessna 1132. He took us for a ride in his plane and once again it hooked me. I knew that some day I would have to learn to fly.

— Eric H

Nursing Home Performance

A couple of weeks ago the children’s choir sang in church. Their rendition of “Beautiful Savior” immediately took me back to a Sunday afternoon in Jamestown, North Dakota. Those of you who know me today might be surprised to hear that I was playing a Hammond console organ in the chapel of a nursing home accompanying my good friend Wes’ older sister Lynne T.

Guy, channeling Elvis

Guy, channeling Elvis

You may remember my love of music, as I talked in an earlier post about my record collection. Two of my best friends owned guitars and were learning to play them. Dances at the KC hall and other places filled our weekends, and Sundays in church I loved listening to the pipe organ. I loved music, and desperately wanted to develop whatever talent I had. Maybe I could buy something that would help?

There were two record shops in Jamestown. Marguerite’s, and a smaller one whose name escapes me now. Marguerite’s sold guitars, amps and instruments to every garage band in the state. There wasn’t a better place in town for the musician.

The little store sold Lowrey organs. (Mark remembers that the store was named Lowrey, too.) Little electric console jobs that sounded cheap, especially compared to the standard of the day, Hammond. The best part about them was that I could afford to rent one, according to the clerk. Soon enough, the delivery truck showed up at our house and I was learning to play the organ on my own. I didn’t have the money to afford lessons, nor did I have the sense to know they were necessary.

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St. John’s Lutheran Church

There’s a memory so vague in my mind that I sometimes wonder if I made this up. I remember an evening in the Pink House when I was six or eight years old. My brother Linn was there, maybe Eric, too. Mom and Grandma had to have been there, but the one other guest I think I remember was Pastor Keller.

St John's Lutheran Church from a postcard by King Studio

St John’s Lutheran Church from a postcard by King Studio

There wasn’t much religion in Grandma’s family. Of her four kids, only my mother caught the church bug, and I think this was the night that marked their transition to Christianity. Pastor Keller baptized all of us that evening, and it started my long term relationship with St. John’s Lutheran Church in Jamestown, ND.

The church wasn’t the center of our life, but a lot of my activities took place there. We went to church most Sundays, and Sunday School was a big part of my education. I sang in the kids choir for a time, much to my friend Mark’s consternation. I still can’t carry a tune. There were a couple of key events that have stuck with me, events that taught me a lot about life. Continue reading