There She Is Again

I didn’t know an electron from a pipe wrench when the Air Force enrolled me in airborne electronic school at Keesler AFB, Mississippi. Nor, did I expect the instructors to be so near my age with personalities and emotions to match.

This surprise-filled era occurred so many years ago (56 and counting) that the names of most individuals have faded from my memory, except for one-Airman Andover. This guy was a lanky fellow with features that many females found attractive.

Our classes were divided into three-week phases, each focusing on a particular aspect of electronics. Andover taught third phase-tubes. His creative instruction enabled me to grasp many important principles of signal amplification, especially how distortion could result if two mismatched tubes were used in a push-pull circuit.

“If both tubes conduct at the same rate we call them a “matched pair,” he explained.”This is a classic example…,” his voice trailing off as he pointed to a component of the APS-42 Search Radar System setting on a mockup bench at the rear of the classroom. “I should already have gotten a matched pair for that unit,” he mumbled.

He hesitated, and then turned to study the young faces of his pupils, seventeen of us in all.

“You,” he said at last, pointing an index finger toward the back of the classroom.

Turning, I spotted the airman to whom he pointed. He was a studious young fellow, a North Carolinian with an overly prominent nose and deep-set eyes.

“Nelson. That’s your name, isn’t it?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Good. Do you know where the office is?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Good. There’s an attractive blonde sitting behind a desk on the right as you pass through the door. She’s in charge of procurement. Do you know what procurement means?”

“No Sir.”

“It means she can provide stuff I need. Go down there and tell her to bring me a pair of matched fallopian tubes ASAP.”

Perhaps the glint in Andover’s eyes meant something to others, but I was the second most naive person of the lot. It came as no surprise to me when Nelson bolted and was gone in a flash.

Andover resumed his lecture for another ten minutes, but stopped in mid-sentence when the door burst open. Nelson was back. But instead of tubes, or the young blonde to whom he’d referred, he’d brought with him a burly, middle-aged woman in a business suit. She was a person of authority. At least Airman Andover considered her as such, because his complexion turned ashen.

The glare she cast toward him was so rigid that I could have hung my jacket on it. However she made no mention of the tubes Airman Nelson had sought. Instead, she went into a detailed lecture describing how to fabricate vacuum tubes from sand, should we find ourselves crashed on a deserted island and in need of producing an emergency radio signal. All the while Andover shifted his weight and stayed clear of her peripheral vision. When she was finished she identified herself as an electrical engineer and Vice Superintendent of the Air Force Electronic School. She left the room in the same manner in which she’d entered–suddenly.

Andover recovered his authority and in a few moments he continued his lectures.

Fifty years have passed.

I had totally forgotten about the woman and her tubes. And I might not be thinking of her now, were it not that I sometimes wonder if she may have turned up as attorney general during the last decade of the Twentieth Century.