Column: Remembering carefree days of yesteryear

Farm Forum

Reminiscing about those days of glory when we were young men and were by nature, 10 feet tall, bulletproof and immortal, is always a grand old time.

Those were carefree days of seeking out the best way to make a living. In the case of a young farm lad born in the dirty ’30s, there was the military draft to look forward to. We engaged our thoughts on defending our country.

I was always looking to the skies, seeing or hearing an airplane and dreaming of one day piloting those great, graceful beasts.

I remember back in the late ’40s and early ’50s, seeing those giant B-36 bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base probably 35,000 feet above our farm and wishing I could be up there with them. My dream of flying has never left me. Even after being retired for many years, I enjoy reliving those glorious years when I got to fulfill every one of my boyhood dreams.

If you can dream it, you can do it. And I got to do it all. I got to be a jet fighter pilot, flying fighters faster than the speed of sound. I got to land and take off from a ship. I got to fly the largest airplane in the world — the Boeing 747 — and finally, I got to be in command of an airliner.

Remembering my early days is so pleasant. I turned 22 and the draft was upon me. My number was about to rise to the top with a greeting from then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower. But I beat him to the call and joined the Navy a few weeks before he sent the letter. I was free to pursue my dream of becoming a naval aviator.

I was sworn in at Naval Air Station Minneapolis and sent back home for a week because classes for Navy cadets were full.

Then I began the long drive to Pensacola, Fla., where I was ordered to report for Navy preflight on Sept. 6, 1958. I drove with another cadet from South Dakota. We hit Pensacola about 3 p.m. and didn’t have to report until midnight. We thought we would drive in and investigate the place. Wrong. As soon as we handed our orders to the officer, we were in.

And in we stayed. All I got to do was go park my car and I was in for a rigmarole that lasted 18 weeks. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect such a rigorous regimen. Right off the bat, we were belittled until we thought of ourselves as the lowest of the low.

We had Marine drill sergeants, and we were scared to death of these mean-looking, rough-talking human beings who constantly uttered: “I hate you peeeeepul!” They certainly showed us how much they disliked us, until graduation day, when we received our preflight diplomas and our commission as an ensign in the Navy.

So many memories remain unprinted, yet so vivid.

’Nuff said.

Gerald “Jerry” Krueger is a retired educator, coach, commercial pilot and farmer. Write him at His column publishes Mondays.