Up, Up Over The Alps
by Richard Franklin Bishop
was stationed at Neubiberg AFB, Munich, Germany, during 1953 while
assigned to the U.S. Air Force’s 433rd
Troop Carrier Wing (shortly afterwards it was redesignated as the
Troop Carrier Wing). We were equipped with Fairchild C-119
twin-engined Aircraft (Flying Boxcars).
enjoying life in Bavaria, I was pleasantly surprised by the visit of
my oldest childhood friend; Conrad “Connie” S.
you have already read my book, you might have guessed who it was). He
had been drafted into the U.S. Army and was stationed someplace up
North in Germany near the town of Giessen.
years earlier, I had asked Conrad (Connie) Strauss Burket (of the
Mattawan H.S. School class of 1948) if he would be interested in
making a trip during the Summer of 1947 “Out
in the U.S.A..
On that trip, I found out that Connie was a great companion as a
traveler, always cheerful and never a complainer (see my book: Out
Of Kalamazoo County - - cited
at the end of this Story).
the time of this narrative (1953), I had just bought half-interest in
a 1941 Chevrolet 4-Door Sedan (with the very latest “gee-whiz
of pre-WW II vintage; a vacumn-assisted gearshift on the
steering-wheel column). It was in pretty good shape so, I offered to
drive to Italy for a short 7-day leave if he could arrange to get a
furlough from his Army Unit (if
Hannibal could cross the Alps, why couldn’t we ?).
readily agreed, since it looked like the long-distance operation of
the car would be uncomplicated while swapping-off driving because of
the long, smooth Freeways. This was late September and, as a boon,
the Autumn colors in the Alps promised to be noteworthy.
route E 45
travels South throughout the full length of Sweden,
and down the full length of Italy. With a length of about 4,920
kilometers (3,057 miles), it is the longest North-South
route predominately sprinkled with very smooth, wide, divided,
multi-lane, limited-access Freeways (they are called Autobahns
his leave started, we shed our Uniforms, changed into comfortable
civilian clothes, and took off from Munich, carefree, on vacation,
driving up through Garmisch-Partenkirchen (of 1936
Winter Olympics Games
fame) always climbing (and keeping a sharp eye on the water
temperature gauge), ascending on up past Innsbruck, Austria, while
anticipating adventure pure in the rarified air; unadulterated by
up the long delirious burning blue
topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
never lark, or even eagle, flew . . . .
Gillespie Magee, RCAF ( † Dec 11, 1941)”
finally, topping-out through the Brenner Pass (at 1,370 Meters or
4,495 Ft.). Our
youthful imaginations were somewhat jolted when we found out that
this turned out to be one of the lowest-levels of all the passes
through the Alps. We,
in our child-like innocence, had thought that we might get nosebleeds
from the altitude; but, of course, this could never happen at the
paltry level of nearly a mile, straight up !
descending; hours and hours of coasting down into Italy past Bolzano,
Bologna, and on down to the denser air in Rimini and Riccione, right
on the Adriatic Sea.
night came, enroute, we usually stayed in Youth
were moderately comfortable but we were usually required to sleep on
folding canvas Army cots
a Gym-like environment with scores of other young people.
was nearly futile in this bedlam trying to get a space in the
bathroom to get shaved and then on out of there to go for breakfast
other meal times; in local restaurants, we always ordered Spaghetti
and not once did we experience a bad meal
we once got a tough Pizza where the topping was made solely with
aromatic (smelly) Goat cheese; after
that experience, we always
ordered Spaghetti !
paused at Riccione on the Adriatic West coast. There’s
more bleak and lonely than a seaside resort area, closed and already
shuttered for the coming Winter “off-season”
whole countryside was a ghost town. The sky mirrored that mood and
was heavily overcast; the weather was windy and the waves, dark and
gray, pounded the beach and deafened us with it’s thunders;
the beach itself was like a moon-landscape. A chill had already come
to the nights. The total desolation made it kind of scary and so we
lasted only one night there in a totally empty Beach Hotel.
“absentee owners” hadn’t left for
quite yet and we
were very fortunate that they were still there. Both
sides were happy because they were really appreciative of the
unexpected business. Outside, all night long, we heard the whistling
of the wind, the monotonous thud of the surf, and the grinding of the
pebbles on the beach. We soon had enough of this emptyness and turned
North; really glad to be heading back to well-populated climes.
back, the water-pump quit on us. We stopped at a large Italian
gas-station and asked “hat-in-hand” about the slim
possibility of repairs to a 1941 American Chevrolet
automobile (so far from the U.S.A.). The Italian Chief Mechanic was
very helpful and friendly and called his Wholesale Automotive Parts
Supplier and, unbelievably, found out that they had a new water-pump
in stock for a G.M.C.
We didn’t know if it would be an exact fit or not, but we
him to have it sent over, anyway. If it fit, we knew we were in a
tight spot and really ready to “brace ourselves”
subject came up of what
he would charge us for doing the job.
Naturally, we did not want to be “taken advantage
while in this emergency situation.
soon, a little three-wheeler vehicle came screaming-in with the
replacement part and stopped with all wheels locked in a cloud of
dust. The Chief Mechanic, with genius, sawed two inches off the
shaft with a Hacksaw and it fit perfectly. With a file, he made a
flat place on the shaft-end for the pulley-tightening screw;
installed the pully and fan belt and that was all that was required
to finish the job. It only cost us about $40.00 (in Lira, of course).
Naturally, with sighs of relief, we thanked him profoundly for
handling everything so reasonably and quickly, and tipped him well.
was routine the rest of the way back to Munich. This time we went in
the same direction as
Barca of Carthage when he began his campaign to harass Rome in 218
rejoined his Army Unit and I never saw him again during his tour of
duty in Europe. Instead of enduring passage on a 1,200 Man troop
ship, I returned to the U.S.A. on a comfortable Military Air
Transport Service (MATS) flight; now an “old hand”
at European travel, courtesy of Uncle Sam.
That’s 30 --
you are interested in other “Connie and Dick”
30 Deer Hunting Tales: #
if you would like to read more about the “OUT
in the U.S.A.” trip of mine, then I offer to you CHAPTER 17
my book which is available at the Internet LINK:
When at Amazon (and, after typing in the title: Out Of
click on the tiny text in blue “Paperback”
and scroll on down, for full details. You
can flip from the front to the back cover (with it’s
testimonials) and even read samples of the text. Maybe you’ll
even purchase it!
won't know where to send it.)
Bishop's Biography and Story List
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