Friday, August 31, 2012

Public Punishment at St. John the Baptist

Billy Critch


The Eleventh and Twelfth Commandments at St. John the Baptist were:

11th “Thou shalt not pimp.”

12th “Thou shalt not cry whilst enduring punishment.”

I was one of Sister Mary Clotilda’s Bursary Boys, the select group that she tutored so that we could continue our secondary education with a full-time scholarship at St. Joseph College, nearby. Photos of her successful students were prominently displayed on the wall in her classroom.

The good sisters were death on dirty jokes even if we didn’t understand what they meant; childhood smutty jokes we had picked up from older brothers or fellow classmates were anathema. Repeating dirty jokes was sinful and subject to capital punishment which would now be considered child abuse.

So we concealed our dirty sniggers and grins for those private times when we could escape the sisters’ ever-watchful eyes: on the playfield behind the small pavilion where the equipment was stored, or after ‘lights out’ in the dorms. Laughing was only for happy occasions such as an extra serving of dessert, the announcement of a student’s contagious disease which would close the school for a week or two as a precaution against its spreading.

Imagine my surprise when I was called to Sister Clotilda’s desk on the podium and calmly confronted with the report that I had been guilty of telling a dirty joke.

“Oh, no sister, I would never have said anything like that,” I said.

She pointed to one of my classmates who blushed and avoided my eyes. The rat had broken the 11th Commandment.

The inquisition lasted for what seemed like an hour and I suspect I must have admitted my guilt, as I was probably the kid who told the most dirty jokes in the history of the school. We were a simple bunch without radio, TV or Man Magazine, suggestive movies or access to Roy Rene at the Tivoli burlesque, but somehow I managed to acquire a great repertoire, which fortunately has lasted me through my entire life.

As her interrogation continued she became flushed and her voice became louder and angry. Finally she left her seat, opened her desk and produced what was the largest strap I had ever seen – a suitcase strap an inch and a half wide, and an eighth of an inch thick. With a flourish she threw back her veil over her shoulder grabbed my left arm and commenced to beat me on the backside. As she warmed to the task, I observed the 12th Commandment.

Sister Clotilda was not a tall woman, but born in a mining camp in Arrarat, Victoria, she was very sturdy and had the sisters fielded a Rugby team she would have been a Forward – probably the Rake. She laid into me with a fury I had never seen; classmates later told me I received over 40 lashes and would have received more but in her enthusiasm to root out evil, she made a tactical error.

A leg of the large, reversible chalkboard balanced on the edge of the podium caught the strap on the backswing of the 41st. stroke. The downswing pulled the old board on to the floor where it shattered, much to the amusement of the entire 5th and 6th Classes.

She shook me loose and fled the room. No one laughed nor broke the 11th Commandment by telling any of the other sisters.

And yes, I did pass the Bursary exam but having seen the Marist Brothers in similar punitive actions, next year I became a Riverview boy for, as everybody knows, the ‘Jacks’ were pussies.

If you believe that I’ve got a Sydney Harbour Bridge I will sell you!

St John the Baptist Preparatory School for Boys, Hunter's Hill. N.S.W. Australia

Thursday, April 12, 2012

We're Out of ice, Captain.

“Pacific 423, Medford Tower, you are cleared for takeoff.

It’s the Captain’s leg and late in the afternoon. Somehow we’ve ended up in Medford, Oregon, picking up a load of unhappy passengers whose day has been spoiled by nasty winter weather and delays on the system.The Captain sets the power and we climb out on course for San Francisco and into the ‘clag’. 

I’m a very new co-pilot with Pacific Airlines and am wary of saying too much or adding any suggestions to the Captain’s style or skill. Co-pilots are on probation for the first year and a bad report from the Left Seat can bring my budding airline career to a swift end.

“Pacific 423, you are cleared to climb to and maintain 11 Thousand. Contact Oakland Center one two seven point seven at Fort Jones. G’day.”

The Martin Four O Four is not a new airplane; it’s a twin-engine DC Three replacement built in the mid-Fifties. It has a very reliable engine and no bad habits like its predecessor, the Martin Two O Two that in its formative years had a nasty habit of losing its wings and falling from the sky with a load of thirty-five passengers and crew. Many of the larger U.S. carriers bought the Martin but have since replaced it with turbo props like the F-27 or kept their Convair 340s while they wait for their Douglas DC 9’s or Boeing 737’s to leap into the jet age.

Over the Siskiyou Mountains we are in clouds at our cruise altitude. The highest elevation below us is about 7,500 feet, but the weather does not make for a smooth ride. There is light turbulence and the Martin has no autopilot; the stewardess moving up and down the single aisle serving drinks causes the only change to our center of gravity, but it keeps us alert.Ice collects on the windshield.

“Let’s have the wing heat and watch the Carb Air Temp,” says the Captain.

 What he means is that I should switch on the wing heaters to melt any ice gathering on the leading edge and monitor the temperature indicators to maintain warm air entering the carburetors. If necessary, I will adjust the Carburetor Heat levers on the control pedestal between us. I must also monitor the cylinder head temperatures to ensure they stay in a normal range. The airplane I flew in the Air Force had the same engines and carburetors and this is a routine task.

The captain’s hands move to the pedestal to adjust the throttle setting. He glances at the Fuel Flow Meters. The fuel flow is increasing as he watches. The BMEP gauges are reflecting a decreasing engine power output. The Carb Air Temp is still decreasing.

“More carb heat” says the Captain. 

The engines are rapidly picking up a heavy load of ice that, if not melted can cause engine failure.I increase the carb heat and that causes a further drop in engine power. I turn on the wing lights and check the wing leading edge. Some ice is forming but not enough to cause a loss of lift. Our only problem is the engines and we don’t seem to have a solution.

There’s an old story about the Luck Bucket and the Experience Bucket:When you start flying, you are given a bucket full of luck. If things go badly and you don’t have a solution, you dip into the Luck Bucket and use some. But you must remember to replace it with experience because when you’re out of luck, all you have left is experience.

Even though the Mixture Control levers are in manual lean, the engine fuel flows continue to increase and like an auto engine, this will flood the engines and they will quit. The Captain and I are searching in the Experience Bucket. His tells him to lean out the engines, make them to backfire and blow out the ice. This is his DC-3 experience. Mine tells me that we must decrease the fuel flow just like my Air Force C-118.We both reach to further reduce the Mixture Control levers at the same time but for a different reason. The effect is the same. The engines do not backfire but the fuel flow decreases and the engines regain power.

A knock on the cockpit door and the stew enters.“We’re out of ice for drinks.”I point to the cockpit window.

“Jane, why don’t you pop outside and get some from off our windshield?”

She gives me a puzzled look and retreats to the cabin.

The captain laughs and breaks the tension.

Later as I wait for the bus outside Pacific’s new Headquarters lugging my Samsonite bag and a heavier bag full of charts and manuals, the Captain pulls up in his new sports car.

“I’m headed south, need a lift?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

Bags aboard, we head south; he’s headed for his Palo Alto Eichler rambler and Scotch, I to my stucco ranch-burger next to Bayshore and a beer. First Year co-pilots take home pay is $395 and it makes more sense for my wife to stay at home, look after the kids and keep a tight budget.

.“Hi honey, I’m home.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

"What Was That Name Again, Lieutenant?"

Like any war story, this one is not prefaced with, “Now this is no sh*t” which means that you can believe it or not. But it was told to me by an impeccable source, my best friend,
Colonel Edward Forbes Lincoln.
The C-124 was a very large, four engined transport plane which in its hey day of the Nineteen Fifties, carried freight for the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). It was affectionately called “Big Shaky” as its engines and propellers made a distinct rumbling sound which transmitted their vibrations not only the listeners on the ground but the aircrew flying in this behemoth. It was a bone-rattler and drained the energy of the MATS crews who flew it to every corner of the world. After a twelve or fourteen hour leg, they were tired out and longed for a couple of beers and a quiet spot for Crew Rest that was normally sixteen hours.
MATS C-124s landed at nearly every military and civilian airport in the world; if the runway was a mile long and the temperature was not extreme, Big Shaky could get in and out with a moderate load of cargo. Normally the crew consisted of an Aircraft Commander (AC), a co-pilot, a Flight Engineer and a Navigator. Handling the loading duties were two loadmasters, usually lower ranking enlisted men. It was a group of professionals who knew their jobs and could handle most anything that was thrust upon them: soldiers, sailors, tanks, large trucks, missiles, cartons of toilet paper or refugees from some war torn country.
On this particular trip in 1957, Shaky and its crew had landed at the Agana Naval Air Station on Guam. They were greeted by the Transport Control Center Duty Officer, a Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade, who told them that they would have a Minimum Crew Rest – twelve hours.
“Why?” said the Aircraft Commander. “We’ve been on the road for two weeks and this last leg was non-stop from Saigon – fourteen hours.”
“Tough! Tomorrow’s our Saturday parade which we hold on the ramp at 9 AM and I want your airplane off that ramp by 8 AM!” said the lieutenant. “The Admiral’s reviewing the Station and he is very insistent that it’s all ship shape. Everyone in Dress Whites with big medals.”
The AC was the same rank as the Navy jg but he came from an Air Force family and knew the rules. The Duty Officer had the authority to insist on the minimum Crew Rest and he was insistent.
Five O’clock the next morning, the crew was alerted and as the Navy chow hall didn’t open until six, no one had breakfast. But the AC made sure that there was coffee and sandwiches from the Terminal gedunk. They were airborne at eight o’clock grinding their way toward Yokota Air Base in Japan and the ramp was clear for the parade at nine.
Shaky had some unlovable characteristics: the engines were known ‘corncobs’; each one had twenty-eight cylinders and fifty-six spark plugs, not to mention fifty-six valves and enough internal ‘monkey motion’ to puzzle even the most skilled mechanic. This was a very complex piece of machinery skillfully managed by the Master Sergeant Flight Engineer. He knew those engines better than his lady’s contour.
Thirty minutes from takeoff at Agana, they had barely reached their 8,000 feet cruise altitude.
Voices on the intercom:
“Pilot, Flight Engineer.”
“Yes, what’s up?”
“I think we swallowed a valve on Number three engine. O.K. to feather it?”
“Feather three,” said the pilot.
The Flight Engineer feathered (shut down) the engine and advanced the power on the other three engines to maintain their altitude until they were cleared to descend.
“Agana Center, this is MATS 10042 declaring an emergency requesting a lower altitude and immediate return to Agana.”
“Roger MATS 10042, you are cleared to descend and cruise 2,000 feet. Contact Agana Approach Control when in range.”
Shaky began its descent slowly drifting down into the morning tropical rain shower. The crew was not concerned – three-engined flight was never unusual in this bird.
“Pilot, Load Master.”
“We’ve got an oil leak from number two engine.”
“Flight Engineer, Pilot. How’s our oil quantity on Number 2?”
“Going down slowly. O.K. to reduce power?”
“Sure, keep me advised.”
“Agana Approach, MATS 10042, requesting approach to Agana. We have an emergency. Number Three is shut down and Number Two has an oil leak. We may have to consider a two engine landing.”
“Roger MATS 10024 you’re cleared for the approach, contact Agana Tower on final.”
The airplane was now on final approach.
“RPM 2400, Gear down, Flaps 30, Landing Checklist.”
“Agana Tower, MATS 10042 request landing, we have an emergency.”
“MATS 10042, you are NOT cleared to land. We have a parade on the ramp. You’ll have to hold until it’s over in 40 minutes.”
“Negative, Agana. This is an emergency. I’m on final, at 500 feet, with my gear and flaps in landing configuration. We gotta land this bird.”
MATS 10042, negative, negative. You’ll have to go-around. Contact Anderson Air Force Base Tower and request landing instructions.”
By this time the Shaky is at 300 feet, the Flight Engineer is not happy with the state of his oil leak and is thinking that if that engine quits, they are in a world of hurt. The ramp below that is adjacent to the runway is filled with Navy officers and men in their best whites with the Admiral and his staff on the reviewing stand. They can all see the C-124 ready to land its noisy engines drowning out the Navy Band playing “Anchors Aweigh.”
Gritting his teeth, the Aircraft Commander decides to ‘go around’. He calls for maximum power on the two good remaining engines, as much power that is available on the oil-leaking engine and slowly drifts over the parade.
A fine mist of engine oil drifts down on the Admiral and his sailors and covers them in black spots which does not make any of them look at all ship shape. The parade dissolves as they scatter for shelter.
Agana Tower capitulates.
“MATS 10042, you are cleared to land. Please report to the Duty Officer upon landing.”
A very red-faced and angry Admiral is on the ramp as the C-124 parks and the crew exits.
“Who is in command of this airplane?”
The AC steps forward, salutes the two star admiral.
“Lieutenant Twining, sir.”
The Admiral lets go with a verbal blast that would sink an aircraft carrier, but pauses as the AC’s name penetrates his anger.
“What was your name again, Lieutenant?”
“Dick Twining, sir.”
The connection with the current Armed Forces Chief of Staff filters through his salt-encrusted brain.
“Humph.” The admiral turns on his heels and marches off, his oil soaked whites looking very spotty.
“Let’s get some Crew Rest. How ‘bout 16 hours?” says Dick.

It sure helps to have fathers in high places.
From Wikipedia:
In 1957, President Eisenhower appointed Twining Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.