Vet ‘slings hash’ from England to Africa
“Eggs or eggs – you didn’t have a choice of what you ate.”
Feeding 2,500 men per day with three meals each, there were no choices until you got without the trainees. Two eggs per a person, at least, that makes 5000 eggs
“It was edible food,” Don Peveto, Air Force vet said a little jokingly, “We prepared it – no choices…”
Don was in the Air Force “slinging hash,” as it were called, for five years, six months, and 29 days. He counted down.
Retired now, but never without a job, this cook volunteered in the late 1950’s because he was having trouble getting through school. “Back then teachers didn’t have time to fool with you…” So he went into the military at 17.
He didn’t want to go to school any more but in a year Don didn’t know what to do with himself when he got out, so he got his GED.
Don was in basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where women also trained. Lackland is the only one in the United States were the Air Force does basic training.
“They get you up in the morning and march you up and down, up and down.”
After finishing basic training, November through January, he developed pneumonia and was sent to the hospital and had to restart basic training. Because of this, air craft maintenance school was full, so he had to go into Food Service.
“There’s no schools in Food Service. They threw you in the kitchen you learn it. We had a lot of civilians in there. It was a beach on rainy days when [we] cleaned up.”
After basic training he signed up to go over seas, so he picked the three worst places, because, as he said, “they never send you were you want to go.” He chose Iceland, Greenland and Alaska and they sent him to England. His base was in a Hollywood movie studio with three “civie” cooks. No alcohol was allowed except once a week at the NCO club, Non-Commissioned Officers Club, and it was rationed unless you were a non-commissioned officer and up. Back then you had to be a sergeant and up to get into the NCO.
In England he had his own room and the train was three blocks from the base. He visited Piccadilly Square or the Circus London and found all the bars, but they closed at 10 p.m.
Piccadilly Circus is a busy plaza in the heart of London at the junction of five major streets: Regent street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly and Covent Street.
“They had dances every Friday and Saturday for teens in the closest town and you had to take a double decker bus to get to and subway, or the tub as they called it, or take the train to London. But I would always find something to do when I would get there in that town.”
“Everywhere you went they (the English) knew what you were. Shoes, manners, hair – those were the giveaways.”
During the Congolese Uprising in Africa he slept in an air hanger on a cot then moved into a shut down university. Don had to have a diplomatic passport for that tour.
“We were based on an international airport as [United Nations] support and never put on a uniform because we weren’t supposed to be there. We had to take a bus from the university to the base…. If you stopped driving you would probably be dead they told us….”
He ended up in Tripoli, Libya with acute appendicitis toward the end of his military career.
“That was a great place – three movie studios and a bowling ally. If you went AWOL they would wait three days and get a pair of binoculars and look for you. It was a desert.” He smiles.
Don spent his last 18 months in Wisconsin in a Strategic Air Command base. There he had to have secret clearance everywhere he went.
Yet after all that he still claims England to be the place he favors most. After all he was about 19 years old “slinging hash.”