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Monologue by Daniel Cam Summers

Summers, Daniel Cam
Hollingsworth, Karen
Date of Interview: 
Childhood adventures; Relationships with people and places
Daniel "Cam" Summers talks about his time in the Air Force when he was stationed in AK.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Karen Hollingsworth interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
DS (Daniel Cam Summers): I don't exactly know what you want with this story telling business, but I can remember, uh, several stories that took place, uh, one of which was in Capermansoff, Arkansas when I was in the Air Force up there on an early DEW Line station radar. We would, um, we would plot Russian planes all the time. Of course there was only about 150 of us up there and we lived underneath the snow most of the year. We were always trying to figure out things to do, because there was no towns to go to. Uh, [laughs] the movies were so old that even we had seen them before we, before they had ever got up there. So some very ingenious people got together and decided that what they wanted to do was to make a bobsled. Now you got to understand that there was an abundance of snow up there. There were no trees, no bushes, no flowers, no grass. The only thing was there was the tundra, and it was under, at this time of year, it was under about, I don't know, six, seven, eight feet of snow. So, uh, they got a piece of corrugated tin off of the, uh, building that, uh, took the tram up to the, uh, 1,500 foot elevation where ray dome was located. And they got this piece of corrugated tin, which was about, oh, I'm going to make a guess, it was about uh three feet wide and about eight feet long. And they rolled the front end of it to make it into a bobsled. Now of course a corrugated end is is got ridges back and forth. So they sat up there at uh the radio shack and here I'm going to have to digress for a moment to give you an idea of the elevations. The highest elevation was where the ray dome was located, that was about 1500 feet the main base was located at about uh 1000 feet the radio shack was located at about 500 feet the uh airstrip was located at about 250 feet and of course the ocean the Bering Sea was zero. And in order to get from the airstrip to the main base there was this winding road that went up there it was graveled but you'd never see the gravel with all the snow and because it was so in [break in recording] what they called a warm up shack. And a warm up shack was nothing more than a four by four excuse me eight by four pieces of plywood put together sitting on the side of the road and it had a heater in it it had a top on it and it was kind of built like an outhouse but it was it was in such a manner that uh if you came down there and you were getting snow bite snow frost bite you could uh you could stop in the in the warm up shack and get warm enough to continue down to the air base. So these guys [laughs] these guys four of them decided that what they needed was this bobsled. And then they'd start up this radio shack and they'd put a rope on it and they sat on it and they pushed. And of course it took off like Hogan's Goat. They bailed out they jumped off the sled by this time it must have been going about forty miles an hour. When they got off of it the sled continued on down it missed both of the rut, both of the boulders and then it came to the road and and the road had been plowed many times an there was a great big pile of snow on either side of the street either side of the road and it hit that pile of snow and became airborne. It cleared the top of this warm up shack and then it went down on the other side and the other side dropped off fairly quickly because it went down to a stream that fed uh the Bering Sea. And the next day they went down looking for their bobsled and they found it down at the bottom of this ravine and all it was was a huge ball of aluminum. It had torn absolutely to pieces. If they had been on that bobsled they probably would have hit the warm up shed and they would have all gotten killed. Unbelievable. And that was just one story up there in in Arkansas. One other quick story about uh about Arkansas, we had a breakdown on the main radar up there and we had what we called a Tipsy 1-B which was a [laughs] they said it was uh a uh temporary radar so that's why it was called Tipsy. And they put up on the edge of the coastline and from the top of this area down to the water was about 150 200 feet and they had a had a great big diesel generator running this thing it was all into tents and the funny thing about it is is that the wind coming up off the Bering Sea came up uh up that cliff and pushed across the area where we were located and it was so it was blowing so hard it was unbelievable. Well the officers who were in charge of this in their infinite wisdom decided to build a sled trench. A sled trench in this case is a place where you use the restroom facilities it was uh it was a trench that was about 20 feet long it was about uh two feet deep maybe maybe two and a half feet deep and it was about 18 inches wide and what you did, you, did your business in the sled trench. [Laughs] The officers told everyone that uh whenever you use this thing that for heavens sakes don't lean into the wind 'cause the wind was coming right up over the cliffs and right down the middle of this sled trench and it was it was forty to fifty miles an hour. And there was some people up there that could not under any circumstances follow orders and so uh one of them got over there and said, "By George I know what I can do," and he straddled that sle-sled trench leaned into the wind and man I want to tell you he was he was leaning a good forty five degrees and the wind was blowing so hard it was almost taking his coat off of him and all of the sudden the wind quit. There was nothing to catch him and he fell face first right down in the sled trench. Nobody ever leaned into the wind after that. We also had problems with um with our [pause] runway. The runway was made right off of by cutting a uh a road basically out of the side of the mountains. And down on the Bering side it was about 500 feet up from the uh 250 500 feet depending on on where you were standing but it was about 500 feet up to the beginning of the airstrip and then the strip went all of the way back in until it came to the mountains again. Whenever a plane usually a C-47 or C-52 whenever they landed you had to tell them to land slightly to the left of the runway so that their wing tip would not touch the mountain on the right side. And to use liberal breaks because you had to stop before you got to the end of the runway where the mountain went up. Well not only was this a hairy daggum runway but it was a uh kind of a dangerous one too because over the top of the runway were rocks and great big boulders and every once in a while these things would dislodge and come down. There was an exceptionally large boulder up there and so the CO asked for volunteers to dynamite it looking for people who had experience with dynamiting dynamite rather uh DeLegard a young kid about nineteen years old out of the Bronx New York immediately popped up and says, "Man. I know all about dynamiting." He must have seen it you know in the movies or something because he didn't know his ass from third base. He went over there and got about 20 sticks of dynamite put them in a gas mask bag that bag used it was a canvas bag that had a shoulder strap and they used it for gas masks which we never used and then he got a handful of dynamite caps and dropped them in the bag with the dynamite and [laughs] proceeded up the side of the mountain. Well he finally came to this great big outcropping of rock that they wanted to blow off and he looked at it and he didn't know how to set the charge so what he did he decided that what he was going go what he was going do is to go up over the top of it and look down and see if he could get a better perspective. So he got up there and about the time he got about 15 or 20 feet above the rock his foot slipped. And he started to slide and he managed to stop it. In the mean time this bag of dynamite and dynamite caps is swinging back and forth and every once in a while hitting him on the leg. He realized the danger dropped that bag of dynamite and and and flattened himself as best he could to the ground. The dynamite bag swirled through the air and landed right dead on the middle of this rock outcropping. You could feel that dynamite blast all the way into Anchorage which was some 600 miles away. DeLegard couldn't hear for two [laughs] days. He was all right he didn't get hurt. He had several rocks that hit him but he really and truly didn't get hurt. He did take down the rock outcropping, we never had anymore problem with rocks [laughs] falling on the runway either. But from that point on DeLegard was DeLegard was one scared kid he wouldn't do anything. You should have seen it.