Air Force buddies meet in Cottageville after 50-plus years | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | April 23, 2016 5:00 am
Last Updated: April 20, 2016 at 1:08 pm
By KATRENA McCALL
It’s been over 50 years since Thomas Reeves and his buddies rolled his 1954 Ford off a mountain in Germany. And they haven’t seen each other since.
Until Saturday, when seven members of Reeves’ Air Force squadron that served in Germany from late 1960-64 gathered at his farm in Cottageville to remember all the good times they had together and catch up on their lives over the last 50 years. They came, literally, from all over the world: Barry Levine from England, Rollie Mills and Bill Moss from Florida, Gordon Cook of New York, Gordon McGlohan from Tennessee, Gerald Lampe from Nebraska and Windle Hinkle from Kentucky.
All were members of the 615th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron stationed on the third highest peak in the Eifel Mountains in Germany from 1961-1964. Reeves joined the Air Force not long after graduating from high school. He was working for Flight Enterprises in Charleston, a civilian contractor that took care of planes for the military, when “they had a big layoff. We’d been around the planes and all, so 3-4 of us that got laid off went and took the best for the Air Force. And two of us went in,” he said. After basic training, he was off to Germany.
Since there was no war at the time, the group of friends had the freedom to travel. “We were 15 minutes from Belgium, an hour from Holland and an hour from France — right in the nook of everything — so we did a lot of traveling,” Reeves said. And there was time to look for that perfect woman.
During his time there, Reeves met and married his wife Ute, who was born in Berlin. Several of his friends married “girls” from Holland, one a woman from Scotland, and the group traveled, worked and played together for three years.
Most of his friends worked in the motorpool, while Reeves was in electrical supply, keeping the base’s power up and running. (A job that gave him knowledge he used after the Air Force to work at the SCE&G Canadys Station, where he retired after 36 years.) That job required a secret clearance, which meant it took Reeves and Ute 13 months to get married while the Air Force checked out every detail of her entire life. But it was worth the wait, as the two are still married 50+ years later.
Reeves also ran an automobile hobby shop and all of the friends had old American cars. “We spent a lot of time working on cars and fixing them up so we’d have transportation,” Reeves said. His was that 1954 Ford, which he’d completely customized, laboring through 14 coats of lacquered paint.
Then “We rolled it down a mountain. We went around a real sharp curve and there were a bunch of Germans stopped right in the middle of the road. And I either had to hit them or take the cutoff. There were about five of us in the vehicle and we rolled about 4-5 times. They kept saying ‘One more time. One more time.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, tearing up my car,’” Reeves chuckled.
Until Saturday, Reeves hadn’t seen most of his group since they left Germany in 1963-64. Two came by in the early 70s for a short visit. “Then we just lost contact. Then back in 2013 was our 50th anniversary, and my youngest son got on the computer and googled and found one of them and we got to talking,” Reeves said. “He knew where a couple of them were, and they knew a couple.” So since he and Ute couldn’t travel due to her health, the group agreed to come to Cottageville.
The friends met for lunch on Friday, then went to Reeves’ farm on Saturday to enjoy a barbecued hog with all the trimmings, tour Reeves’ collection of unusual animals (swans, zebus, miniature donkeys, alpaca, horses, goats, dogs, etc.). And, of course, spending more than a little time telling stories and maybe even a few “tall tales.”
“It went great,” Reeves said. “Everybody was doing good. We had a good time and more food than you could shake a stick at.” All the wives came, including the two from Holland and one from Scotland who were in Germany with the Reeves.
“We told lots of tales and did lots of reminiscing. We said we’ll do it again next year if we can,” Reeves said.