A few days ago I parted with accumulations from my post-teen years. I call it my Gowen Field time. I thought it was two years. but in reality it was only a year-and-a-half stint. Because the war was on we only went to town every three or four months. It was high school graduation time and we had gone to Boise. There I saw a woman driving a military staff car. “That’s what I want to do!” I exclaimed. So, a couple of weeks later my dad hauled me over to Gowen Field and I applied for a job.
I went to work the week before the first of June. On a Sunday the Motor Pool Lt. said, Today is D-Day.” Being an uninformed farm girl I said, “What does that mean?”
My job in the motor pool was a game of chance every day and every hour. My very first trip was downtown Boise to a warehouse in a ton-and-a-half truck for a load of coffee. An old retired gentleman, who was doing his part as a civilian by working in the commissary at the base, was in charge of the shipment. I was grateful for him. Although I had taken my driver training in the same kind of truck driving around and backing up a hill frequently, I was scared to death when I determined it was time to shift down. He guided me and we made it up the hill to the base and backed into the commissary loading area without a hitch.
I was soon assigned to a Lt. Colonel and carried him around the base in an army “recon”,
a vehicle with two or three seats and windows all around. When he had business in his office I ran around the base and carried messages for him.
Mostly, I was assigned to a pickup and spent lots of hours taking reps from various units, like the mess hall, the commissary, the gunnery range, etc. While they did their business I slept in my vehicle. That made it possible to run around at night. We danced at the Mirimar one night a week, the NCO Club one night a week and the Riverside Ballroom on Tuesdays and Saturday nights.
The most memorable trips in my mind now were taking the crews to their planes, the B24s, with all the bags and baggage required for a training session of about eight hours. Because of the frigid heights for training they required clothing that was about an inch thick, mostly leather and sheepskin, and very bulky. Because it was gunnery training with the use of cameras, there was lots of equipment. I was required to drive a six-by-six truck which required pillows to put me in range of the clutch, brakes and gas pedal.
The most memorable trip in a 6 x6 was a trip to the old Boise Barracks downtown where there was a detachment of Italian prisoners. I was to haul them up to the base for some reason. The only person who could speak any English rode up front with me and sang Santa Lucia all the way. I was scared to death but the fact is, those guys were very glad to be in the U.S. and especially Boise, Idaho.
My adventure at Gowen Field was just that. Although there was vigorous training on the base the war was far removed from me. The trainees were 18- to 20-year-olds preparing to go to war. Every three or four months trainloads of fresh-faced young men came into the base to begin that phase of their training. They knew it was the last leg of their preparation for foreign travel. They worked hard all day and played hard at night. There were always activities on the base and in nearby Boise. There were movies and ball games and dances. The base had a dance orchestra that would match any of the big names (which at that time were Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, etc.). I was privileged to haul portions of the Stan Kenton band and Lionel Hampton’s marimba band.
When the base had a special day introducing the gliders near the end of the war, I carried Col. Jackie Coogan, a child movie star who became the leader of the glider group.
Through those years I saved all sorts of momentos. There were pictures of planes in flight and crews on the ground, as well as people at their stations. The Melba community sponsored a barbecue picnic to which a busload of Gowen Field soldiers came and I was able to capture some of that day in black and white photography.
Due to the fact that I’m older than dirt and my children will consider that period of my life just an episode, I decided to take my mementos to the place where they occurred. Hopefully, they will lend a little reality to a period of our past that our kids consider ancient history.