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Would you believe? A radar technician…

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Airwoman 1st Class

My children gently tease me about being technologically challenged. Well, I’ll have you know, you young whippersnappers, believe it or not, I was a radar technician during the 1950s. It was the height of technology at the time and I did it for the Air Force! So there!

The Air Force Auxiliary paid more per hour than I earned at my office job and I was always interested in earning extra money. They provided a free air-force uniform, winter coat and shoes, plus trips to the mountains on weekends, which, because I didn’t date much, were boring anyway.

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Arriving by bus — Mary, a devout Catholic, and I attended Church services every Sunday morning

It proved to be an adventure. They’d drive our ‘flight’ (class) to the Radar Station atop a mountain by bus. It was an interesting experience and I look back at it with pleasure.

I also had my very first marriage proposal (from a regular airman) whom, I believe, really meant it. I shall never, ever forget that! He was from Prince Edward Island and handsome in his uniform. I’ve never been to PEI, but have always wanted to visit there because of this memory. Perhaps he was attracted to me because I was the first virgin he ever dated. He told me I was, he respected me for it, and never attempted to change my status.

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No, I didn’t get garbage detail, but already had a twisted sense of humor

Some other flight colleagues obtained jobs at Montreal’s Dorval airport. It was miles away from my home and I didn’t drive. The mere thought of bracing dark winters on public transit all the way out there didn’t appeal. I just didn’t have the courage. Thus, I was perhaps saved some health issues.

My friend Philip was a WWII pilot. Now, he chuckles when he tells me that on the way out on flying missions, he’d turn hot and cold, a cold hand would clutch his innards and oops, the poor guy would throw up — in the cockpit. It was embarrassing and humiliating for him, and unpleasant for others. Surprise, surprise — they didn’t want to fly with him. So Philip was grounded — and he believes probably survived the war as a result.

Recently, I heard on CBC Radio that Radar Technicians from the 50s are trying to get compensation from the government for health issues resulting from electromagnetic rays they experienced from those early radar screens. I could have been one of them. The only reason I’m not is — I was chicken.

Former radar technicians complain of ‘headaches, fatigue, weakness, sleep disturbance, irritability, dizziness, memory difficulties, sexual dysfunction and occasionally shortness of breath after exertion……

‘During the 1960s and 1970s, ophthalmologist Milton Zaret, under contract with the Army and Air Force, examined the eyes of thousands of military and civilian personnel working at radar installations in the US and Greenland. Large numbers of them, he found, were developing cataracts….caused by chronic exposure to radiation of the eye at power densities around one milliwatt per square centimeter — a level which is regularly exceeded by each of the two and a half billion cell phones in use today.’ (Birenbaum et al. 1969, Zaret 1973)

I did develop early cataracts, which my eye specialist called ‘juvenile cataracts’. But they were probably as a result of my juvenile brain rather than being caused by 1950s radar screens.

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Okay, so I don’t know how to scan these and get them straight, but I’ll learn

I looked for some of the photos taken then with one of those Brownie cameras, (remember?) and also found my official R.C.A.F. Projectionist Certificate. Hey guys, look at me!!! This old gal was up on the newest technology of her time — the 1950s. Have some respect.

 

 

 

(For more information on older radar screens, microwaves, and televisions, try Google.)

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Falling in love, literally

If at all possible, I go out for breakfast in the morning. There are a few others in the neighborhood who do likewise. We’ve gotten to know each other and chat over coffee or tea. It can make for a stimulating, interesting, or amusing start to the day. Last week, Nancy and I, who talk about everything and anything, were sharing some of our embarrassing moments. Isn’t it amazing how years later we can laugh about things that seemed so awful at the time they happened?

Here’s one I shared: When I first met my husband, I thought him handsome and charming and mysterious. The ‘r’s’ rolled off his tongue and his accent was irresistible. He seemed to hang on to my every word as his hazel eyes gazed into mine. After meeting, our first date was on New Year’s Eve. He gave me only the obligatory kiss at midnight which was okay for a first real date. When he said goodnight, he invited me to go with him the next afternoon to the Arboretum. (A beautiful, large garden in Arcadia, California, where I had never been.) After that, he said, we would go out for dinner.

I was pleased. I accepted. That year on January 1st the sun shone brilliantly in Southern California. It was a perfect day for an outing. We strolled under the sunshine along an all-but deserted pebble path between colourful, blooming camellia trees. It was lovely. Great. Magical.

He kissed me, right there...

He kissed me, right there…

Suddenly, with no one else around, he took me in his arms and kissed me — right there. This was our first rrreeeaaalll kiss. I’m cool. I wanted to impress; to seem sophisticated; to act as if it were no big deal for me to be kissed like that right out there under the sky and the sun and the flowering trees in front of the whole wide, beautiful world. So, pretending to be absolutely collected and unfazed, with what I believed was proper dignity and decorum, I calmly turned from him to continue walking ahead along the pebble path and —– fell flat on my face.

He helped a somewhat shaken and very embarrassed, humiliated me to my feet. What would you have done in my place???? I could do nothing more than draw on what was left of my sense of humour to survive the devastating moment.

`”See what happens when you kiss me?” I laughed, though I didn’t at all think it was funny. I wanted to die at that very moment. I wished the earth would open up and swallow me whole, so I could disappear forever and ever and never have to face him again. And, surely, I had blown it anyway and would never hear from this man after that clumsy fiasco.

We were going out to dinner together, remember? Those were somewhat more formal days in my life. I was wearing a dress, pantyhose and high heels, appropriate restaurant wear, but frankly, not that great an idea for an afternoon in the park, but I had wanted to look my best.

My knees were dirt and pebble-encrusted and altogether a bloody mess. My pantyhose were shredded at the knees, hanging loosely with long decorative runs going in all directions interwoven with dripping blood running downwards as we walked, making matters worse.

In vain, I tried to wash my knees at the first public bathroom I saw, which had no soap, only cold water, and those dreadful, hard, brown paper towels they sometimes have in such places. There was no choice but to discard what was left of my damaged hose, and to continue on my way stocking-less in my high-heeled shoes. (I always did, and still hate to be barefoot in shoes. I don’t understand how anyone can do it. )

Nonetheless, he gallantly took a somewhat disheveled me, sans stockings — scraped, bleeding knees and all, out to dinner to a very romantic French restaurant up in the hills. We walked through the lovely garden grounds in the cool of the evening, and when he later dared kiss me again (miracle of miracles) I hardly felt the pain in those knees. (Later, they became infected and I had to go see my doctor.)

To me, he seemed a thoughtful, soft-spoken and good-looking Continental who recited French poetry with passion.

I could not resist....

How could I resist….

Ribbons and hearts(Not that I always understood it all, but it certainly sounded good.) Besides, he would tuck charming little notes under my front door, and buy me daisies because, he said, they are very French. How could I resist?

What happened next? I fell two more times in his company. (High-heels, I realize, were always a problem for me.) The third time, he announced that he’d just have to marry me because I needed someone to hold me up. And, after all, we did marry.

Some tips from a lady who has been there:  After marrying the person you choose, continue doing some of the lovely things you charmed him/her with in the first place. And, try to keep your promises.