January 18, 1949 was a typical cloudy cold winter day in Connersville, Indiana, when a skinny teenager ran across the street from his high school to catch the bus just pulling up to the stop.
“Well hello, kid,” the driver grinned as the young man dropped his nickel fare into the coin box, “It’s only noon; are you playing hooky from school this afternoon?”
“No, Butch, I’m not going back there anymore. Today is my 17th birthday and I’m off to see the world.”
“Well, this bus will take you downtown.” Butch was laughing now, “That’s about all I can do for a world traveler.”
“Well, that’s all I need to get to the Greyhound Station, catch a bus to Richmond, walk into the recruiting office, and join the Marines.”
A few hours later, a dejected young man was riding the bus home. Much to the painful disappointment of the adventurer, he would not be able to realize his dream that day, one that he had kept in his head since he commanded an army of tin soldiers in his backyard sandbox – the Marines had a temporary freeze on enlistments. Back home it was tedious waiting time, holding on to the promise made by the recruiter that as soon as the freeze was lifted, they would call him and he would be sent overseas very soon thereafter.
Connected with his desire to be a soldier so he could travel was his belief that a military life would give unlimited opportunities for gambling, a passion he had pursued, influenced by two much older brothers, since he was a preschooler. So during this wait to be called by the Marines, he became more impatient as he heard all the exciting military gambling stories told by the veterans at the card tables in the pool halls and cigar stores where he continued to hone his gambling skills.
In June, he gave up on the Marines, who still hadn’t called. He went to the Army recruiting office, took his test, and was ready to sign on the dotted line when the Air Force recruiter in the same office offered a deal to the Army recruiter. “How about a trade? I have a recruit here but he didn’t achieve the higher test score the Air Force requires but it is good enough for the Army. Let me trade for your guy since he had a higher score.”
The Army recruiter looked at his enthusiastic wannabe soldier, “What do you think of this idea?
The Air Force recruiter looked at him and saw by his face that he would need some persuading, “In the Air Force you won’t eat meals off a tin tray. They’ll be served on tables with white tablecloths.”
And that is how this adventurer ended up in the Air Force, started his world travel by being stationed in Japan, and was put in charge of base supply where he could run a daily blackjack game in the back room behind his office.
Happy 85th birthday, Brad, from your loving traveling and gambling companion who joined your adventure for these last 31 years.