Ray 1961 - 1964
June 25, 1939
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Age 22 - 26


Back in the early 1960's you have to be in college full time to avoid the draft.  Since I was attending the University of Arizona only part time I was on the list to be drafted.  But, I was given an option.  If I signed up for an additional year (total of 3) I could select from a list of Army training skills and would work in that field during the balance of my enlistment.


Thankfully I was able to select "Photo Lab Technician" and my orders were written for eight weeks of training at Ft Monmouth NJ after I finish Basic Training at Ft Ord, California near the beautiful Monterey Bay area just below San Francisco


During the 1961 Christmas/New Years break, the base took a holiday week off.   The GI's who stayed on base had a light schedule and even offered a free deep sea fishing trip.


Sounded great, this Tucson boy had never been ocean fishing before.  Early in the morning a bunch of us sailed out of the gentle Monterey Bay and into the open Pacific Ocean.  

The ocean opened up and ship felt like it was dropped in a hole.  It rose, it tossed, it rocked, it rolled and I lost my breakfast and I thought I would loose my life.  It was the worst and most sickening experience in my entire life and it lasted a full 4 hours.  When we got back to the dock I needed help getting off the boat.  That ended any desire I ever had to sail the ocean again.


When my eight weeks of Army Basic training was over I had the opportunity to catch an eight passenger Generals jet flying non stop to Wight Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. There were just a couple of other GI's on the flight with me and I pretended it was my own private jet.  What a thrill.  A few hours of waiting and a larger Air Force plane flew us to New Jersey and I got bused down to Fort Monmouth to start my Photo Lab training.


Best friend, Nick von Spaeth 

and I were assigned the to share a double bunk bed.  He was from Rye, New York and we shared lots of work related interests.  He had worked for the Walter Lance animation studios in New York.  Beyond the Photo Lab training we joined the Pistol Team and even had time to attend a few matches. I had never shot a 45mm revolver before and was surprised at how easy I took to it.  

One of the matches we were in we took 3rd place.base.

The foundation of our training at Ft. Monmouth was learning how to use the 4x5 Press camera.  We learned the chemistry of film processing and how to process 4X5 film and other size negatives and develop print enlargements.

Me top left and Nick von Spaeth (bottom right)


After completing my training at Fort Monmouth I had no idea where I would be stationed, anywhere in the world was possible.  

Nick and I were both sent to North Carolina and happy to hear we stayed stateside.  We were also given a five day pass to change bases.  Nick asked me if I wanted to join him for a quick trip up to his mothers place in Rye, NY and I accepted.  I enjoyed meeting her and seeing Nick's home town before we headed south. 


It was now late March of 1962 and our assignment to Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, NC home of the 82nd Airborne Division and into the First Military Intelligence Battalion, with the Press and Camera Section 5th Platoon.


Little did we know by October 1962 we were going to be right in the middle of the Cuban Missile crisis.

Our battalion also had a team of the photo interpreter keeping an eye on what the Russians were doing.


My normal daily duties was working in the Press and Camera section learning to operate the offset printing press and using all my photo lab training working in the dark room to complete rush photo orders.


All of us privates had additional duties with KP, Guard Duty and Fire Tender to keep our barracks and office buildings heated.


The unique element in my new battalion was that we were a 24 hour a day full time operation.  That meant one team or another was always on duty and available.

Me top right and Nick bottom left.

Early in the morning of October 23rd 1962 I remember the base alert and each of us putting on our full combat gear and being loaded and driven to the runway at Pope AFB.

We knew we might be in a ground fight with Cuba.  We sat with our gear for most of the day and just waited.  

By early evening it was all over and we went back to our barracks.     We heard that the Russians were pulling their missiles out of Cuba.

Thanks to our Air Force flying high over Cuba and our Photo Interpreters, many from my Battalion doing a great job in finding what the Russians were up to.  Here are some news pictures I shot of our visiting general.


It took me little over a year to learn the ropes around the base.  I did learn one of the very important things not to do, don't hang around the Day Room, or try to catch some extra sack time on your bunk.  Those were the first places the Duty Sergeant went looking to find available bodies with free time on their hands.

On my visits downtown to Fayetteville I noticed many businesses were using paper banners to advertise their specials to get GI's to come into their stores.

Back in Tucson I had built a pretty good business painting paper signs.  Why not give it a try here?  

All I had to do was to find the stores with paper banners in their windows and go in and talk with their managers.  It didn't take long to get my little sign business started.

Within just a few months my business took off and I was even asked to paint exterior signs.  The one you see below was the biggest sign I had ever painted.  Also if you look below the sign I was painting you will see the paper banners I painted for the front windows of the store.

That job alone helped me purchase a used green and white 1952 Ford Station Wagon. Not only was it perfect for my sign business but any time I could get a extended weekend Pass after payday, I would load up 5 to 6 guys for a round trip to New York City for $20 each.  I had relatives living in Long Island and Staten Island New York and always had a place to stay.  My cousins Tina or Ralph who were 4 years younger than me always had young lady friends to fix me up with.  What more could a GI want?


Back at the Base. After I completed my normal 8 hour job working in the Press and Camera section of my Battalion I was then on my own to start working my sign job. 



On the second floor of my work barracks I was even able to have my own private room.  Most of the other guys I worked with were married and lived off base.  This private room was perfect for my paper banner painting.


Any time my name showed up on the Duty Roster for KP or Guard Duty there was always another GI's interested in taking my place and earning themselves $25.  With my sign business I could easily earn that back in less than an hour or so.  I always enjoyed those extra days for my own business and visiting new clients.




One of my sign buying clients had an empty store along main street and traded me a work space to do his signs. It didn't take long for Nick and I to see the possibility of opening a Photo Studio.  If you want to hear more about about that story, email: ray@memkpr.com and I will be happy to share more of our adventures.




MOVIE MAKING with Nick von Spaeth




Next chapter in my life: Ray 1965-1972  back to Ray's Family Tree

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