The BB Stacker
A shipmate who'd lend you his '41 red Ford convertible can't be all bad, right? Well, that's what Hugh (nmi) Norris did for me back in '47 at NASGI. He did it so I could participate in style at a Chicago buddy's very formal wedding . If I remember it rightly, that convertible and my dress blues didn't even get me a smile from one of the gals at the wedding. Probably, I had the most feared social disorder of that time, halotosis."Even your best friend won't tell you", was the pitch for a mouthwash. At any rate, it sure wasn't Hugh's fault that things didn't pan out for me at the big to-do.
Hugh was an Aviation Ordnanceman 3/c and wore the wings of a Combat Air Crewman. Prior to NASGI, he was assigned to a TBM squadron, one that had trained for night carrier operations and had arrived in Hawaii just before WWII ended in the Pacific, but early enough for Tokyo Rose to announce the squadron's "top secret" arrival.
Hugh went on active duty at Grosse Isle not too long after he was bilged out with points following the War. It was he that put my cousin Dick , an Aviation Metalsmith striker, and me onto the possibilities at the NAS. Of course, Hugh worked in the Ordnance shack ,under a Chief Walker, the head BB stacker. Over time, I got around the base and observed what other groups did to look busy ,and I have to say the Ordnance crew struck me as the hardest working group of them all, with Aerology a close second. A copy of a record forwarded to me by his wife shows that Hugh was part of that crew from Sept. '46 to April '49.
The reason Hugh left was that he just made AO2 and he understood that the newly formed USAF would jump him a grade to get his experience. Well, he signed and joined up, only to learn that the Air Force was not going to jump him a grade "because he hadn't been in grade long enough to justify the jump." The door only swung one way, so Hugh plowed on ahead and ended up spending most of his career in SAC at an AFB in Roswell, NM. And knowing Hugh and what mayhem he was capable of , I immediately thought it was Hugh who pulled off that UFO/alien story surrounding Roswell.
My cousin Dick and Hugh had been friends since grade school and lived not far from one another around Greenfield and Plymouth Rds. in Detroit. Hugh's destiny was ordnance, no two ways about it. One fine day the two of them came by a shotgun shell and they decided that it be fun to hear the mighty explosion it would make when thrown into a fire. So they built a fire at their hideout, tossed in the shell and --surprise-- it exploded. "I'm shot, I'm shot", yelled Hugh. Sure enough, a birdshot had lodged just under the skin of his left lower leg. This called for emergency medical treatment. So Dick ran home , sneaked out one of his mother's crochet hooks and a bottle of iodine, ran back to the scene, removed the shot and poured iodine on the wound, accompanied by more yelling from Hugh. With this experience in his resume , Hugh just had to become an AO ; and one would think Dick would be destined to be a Corpsman not a metalsmith.
During his AF career he upped and married a Texas gal named Georgia and they elected to stay in Roswell when he retired. In time , I moved to Lubbock, TX, and we caught up with one another in the late 60s. Gone was the wildman known to all at NASGI. Georgia, plus his nerve-wracking duties with SAC, and the aging process, all had done a pretty good job of bringing to heel Hugh's wild ways, something I harbored small hopes for since the first day I met him back in the '30s. For all that, I think I'll remember him more for his generosity in lending me that '41 red Ford convertible.
Hugh died April 4, 2000, in Roswell. Dick and I showed up and his widow, Georgia, unexpectedly asked us to say a few words before the preacher got on with it. Dick went first and I followed. While his generosity was dropping down from the attic of my mind, the best I could come up with was, 'Hugh, you are cleared for takeoff.'