Author Topic: That’s My Story And I’m Stickin’ To It - Richard Dormois  (Read 1459 times)

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That’s My Story And I’m Stickin’ To It
Story and photo by Richard Dormois

My grandfather, John Tabler Dormois, lived in Kansas for a hundred years and never owned or drove a motor vehi- cle. He regarded his Belgian draft horse more dependable on his United States Postal Service rural mail route. My dad, Richard Clinton Dormois, never owned or drove a motor vehicle until he was thirty-five years old when he got tired of hitchhiking to work during an extended Saint Louis bus strike. One morning, he just got up early, upsetting the house- hold, and announced he was going downtown to buy a "machine". Mother emotionally reminded him he didn't know how to drive a machine. He said "They have them now you don't have to shift and I can learn to drive one." Daddy drove home that night in the most beautiful slate gray 1947 Cadillac sixty two series Club Coupe I have ever seen to this day. It really didn't need it, but the factory dual spot lamps really set it off. He had purchased it from a Pierce Arrow collector in Saint Louis and his hired man taught daddy how to drive it.

My father was somewhat reluctant to teach my mother to drive and she became impatient and chose to teach herself to drive when daddy was asleep....After all...She had driven the tractor down on the farm in the Ozarks when she was ten! Mother backed the Cadillac out of the driveway with a little more acceleration than intended and into the fire plug on the corner of Cutter and Plateau and sent "Old Faithful" higher than the Mueller's three story Victorian across the street, which summoned emergency vehicles from far and wide. I don't know if mother was more embarrassed at hitting the fire plug or daddy running out of the house clad only in his white boxers. Over the years daddy got many compli- ments on such a beautiful car and he would always answer. "Yea......But it costs five dollars to fill the blame thing
up." From there on, it was a succession of low mileage Cadillac motorcars and to my knowledge, my father has never been behind the wheel of another marque!

With such exposure in my formative years, it is no surprise that I should seek a "machine" such as "The Standard of the American Road" as I approached an age when I might convince my parents I needed a driver's license. As I hitch- hiked to work each day at the Saint Louis Municipal Airport, I passed Woodson Motors in Overland, Missouri, a thriv- ing Saint Louis suburb. A two tone green 1941 Cadillac, Sixty Two series, four door sedan, languished on the back lot behind the clapboard office, almost in the trees. It was actually out of site of those passing on Saint Charles Rock Road, the main road connecting that end of the county with Saint Louis proper. I became enamored at first site and seized the first opportunity to visit the office and inquire about the Cadillac though I was just fifteen. The salesman said it ran well, the glass and body were good, it had a clear title and they would take a hundred and fifty dollars for it. It had been there for awhile, but several had looked at it. I decided that green Cadillac would be my first car and, like daddy, I would find someone to teach me to drive it. It was a V8 car with a three speed stick on the column and the salesman let me sit in it and go through the gears making revving RPM sounds with my throat. I never started it. I worked full time and went to school full time when I was fifteen and pretty much sustained life at ninety five cents an hour as a flight caterer, so I had a decent savings account. Without mentioning anything to my parents, I drew out a hundred and fifty dollars and carried that hundred and that fifty around with me in case I had to do something drastic to prevent "my" Cadillac from being sold to someone else.....You see....My father had never said anything about my getting a driver's license, let alone buy a car. I could be seen frequently going through the gears revving that V8 that wasn't running. The salesman told me once. "You can wash it up if you want to." I declined and he laughed. I didn't want "my" Cadillac looking too spiffy to any- one else. (continued next page)

This article is a series of stories penned by Richard Dormois and appeared monthly in the North Texas Region Cadillac & LaSalle Club’s award-winning newsletter, “The Standard Of The World.” Permission is granted for reprinting and should include the attribute above.

By that time daddy had taught mother to drive and she had a 1949 dove gray sixty two series Cadillac four door sedan with a Hydra-matic Transmission. I took my driver's test in that Cadillac the morning of June 21, 1954, my sixteenth natal day with my mother in the car. I passed with a ninety percent as I got up to twenty-six in a twenty-five going down a steep hill in a residential district. The examiner told my mother I was a good driver but I had a heavy foot....

I don't know how I did it, but I talked mother into going over to Woodson Motors to look at that 1941 Cadillac sixty two four door sedan. My salesman came through like a champ, but did not sell my mother on that car. He sold her on what a fine job she had done raising me. He said her son made good grades in school, went to church, hitchhiked to work every day and really needed a car so he could get home earlier and get more sleep. Mother asked him how much he wanted for the car and he said it had been more, but he wanted me to have it for a hundred and fifty dollars. She grinned and said "I don't think Dick has that kind of money." I clearly recall the look on her face when I took my hundred and fifty out of my pocket and handed it to her. She looked at it and handed it to the salesman. At no time did we ever give any thought to how much trouble we would be in with daddy. We got in the car with the salesman and took a short drive down Saint Charles Rock Road. I shifted into second just like I had practiced and turned around at the first median opening and went back to the lot. We went to A & W and celebrated with a root beer float. I bought...Mother had only limited knowledge of rolling stock but she thought the white cord showing through on all four tires might not be a good thing.

She bought me four used sixteen inch Goodyear Double Eagles and tubes for my birthday, I think from Al's Garage. I went straightway to the Hudson Oil Company Station on Saint Charles Rock Road and filled up with regular at 10.9¢. I know some of you have trouble with that, BUT if you know anyone who was around Saint Louis, Missouri in June of 1954, they will remember that crazy gas war that lasted over a month. On payday, I would fill up with Super Shell ethyl at 19.9¢. Sure ran better on the Super Shell. Only one legal driving day under my belt, I got stopped for speeding on Charlack by "Red" the sergeant on the Overland Police Department. "I'm not going to give you a ticket but you have to hold it down. Brownie told us to watch out for you in that old Cadillac" ...I caddied for our Overland Chief of Police, Browne Hargrove, on the weekends. I was more concerned about my father finding out than anything. Official disci- pline paled into insignificance compared to what my father might do...Red never told my dad who he had coffee with about every night around midnight.

Growing up we were not an affluent family by any means, but we were a three Cadillac family. Daddy worked swing shift in the composing room at the Saint Louis Globe Democrat and got off at 11:00 PM and then put in eight hours at his machine shop, Acme Machined Products in Overland, Missouri. Mother worked in the cafeteria at my school. I worked for Schneithorst Catering service full time as a flight caterer at Saint Louis Municipal Airport and caddied on weekends.

That Cadillac could get off the line smartly and carry on with the best of them winding out in second which I just left it in.....Then came 1955 and I was seeing a lot of Chevy tail lights and my reaction time wasn't as good as it was on the back lot at Woodson Motors. I think we all had an event or circumstance with our first car the memory of which will simply never go away. One night as we finished our swing shift at the airport servicing such carriers like TWA, Eastern, Braniff, American and Ozark Airlines, my buddy Gale Wilfong, suggested we head out to Flat River, MO where there were some girls who might like to meet us. I had the biggest car, so six of us took the '41 Cadillac and headed south. Just north of Flat River she gave up her head gasket. Everybody in the car knew what it was right off. Made it to Flat River where Gale Wil- fong's uncle had an auto repair shop. It is midnight and we are pretty far from where we needed to be at three p.m. the next day. We took the car to the shop and got a ride over to the "Country Kitchen" open all night. Sure enough, there were several nice ladies there, I remember being a little older than we sixteen and seventeen year old high testosterone youth.....This was in 1954 mind you, and we had not heard of this boy on the juke box, but the first six songs on that Se- aburg selector in each booth, were by the same singer and they played six for a quarter. Mystery Train....Milk Cow Blues Boogie....Laudy Laudy Laudy Miss Claudy.....Good Rockin' Tonight....Blue Moon of Kentucky.....That's All-right (Mama)....I don't think any of us could tell you what else was on that juke box that night, but six of us with a lotta quarters probably will never forget every word of every one of those ELVIS PRESLEY songs.....All night long I have enjoyed seeing that boy in Las Vegas, Nevada and South Lake Tahoe, Nevada in the flesh, but nothing will replace that night in Flat River, Missouri when my 1941 Cadillac took us there....Barely.....Gale's uncle's shop pushed a 1940 Brown Nash aside and jumped on my Cadillac and with not much sleep, we all made it back to the airport to service our flights with no delays.

That was just sixty one years ago and I wonder what ever happened to my first car. Stay tuned. This is the first of a six part series on how these wonderful Cadillac motorcars have taken our family on some great trips all over North America...."THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKIN' TO IT" Be safe.

LIFER gave me the idea to do a story about my first car, like his, a 1941 Cadillac, but a sedan. Truth is, I have no idea what happened to it after I sold it to Al for 25.00. He had towed it in twice from the St. Johns Steak N' Shake on the Rock Road, where I broke a shifting fork twice, just trying to stay with a red and cream 1955 Chevrolet two door post car. I have been back to Overland three times, looking for my first Cadillac, including our last Grand National, but no luck even tracking down descendents of Al who operated the tow company and salvage yard where my 1941 Asbury over Ivy green Cadillac Sixty two series four door sedan likely ended up. A good bet might be it has been recycled sev- eral times into several Toyotas by now. I mean, it has only been sixty years. If anyone knows anything about my two tone green '41 62 series Cadillac four door sedan or whatever color of rust it is now, I'm at 702 461 3679. Have tow bar, will travel… Finder's fee paid.

I had the privilege of exposure to several examples of our beloved Cadillac marque early in life that had a positive influ- ence on me growing up and I met some pretty special people along the way. We lived on the second hole of Lakeside Golf Club in Overland, Missouri, and I started caddying (golf, that is…) there opening day. I think I was thirteen. On a quiet Sunday afternoon, in the first month of opening, with no loop, I was chatting with our assistant pro, Bob Solomon, in the pro shop, when a magnificent Cypress green 1949 Cadillac Coupe DeVille parked near the club house and a very large gentleman got out of the driver's side and opened the passenger door for an even larger gentleman who got out and let two attractive young ladies out from the back seat of this beautiful Cadillac. They started their walk up to the pro shop. Mr. Solomon vanished... He did not recognize the group and did not desire to be the first employee to integrate Lakeside. I about fell over the counter to open the door for the quartet. "WELCOME TO LAKESIDE, CHAMP!" That afternoon, I carried doubles for our honored guest and Mr. Solomon, eighteen holes. The caddy fee was $1.25, greens fee was $2.50. My favorite World Champion Heavyweight of all time, JOE LOUIS, tipped me five dollars. Never had a five dollar tip before. The next week, I shared my good fortune with my golfer, John Vitale, who matched the gratuity. Decades later, I was surprised to see Joe Louis, the greeter, in the showroom, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. I thought I would impress my date by reminding Joe Louis of that round of golf at Lakeside. He didn't remember me, but Joe Louis didn't remember much of anything in those latter years.

Several years ago, while setting up my Studebaker swap meet tent at Hershey down on the orange field near the car cor- ral registration office, I saw a Cypress green 1949 Cadillac Coupe DeVille being unloaded in the lot just over the hedge from my spot. I quickly put bottles of water on all my literature and magazines, lest they blow away and jumped over the hedge to take a closer look at this fine machine. It was a feature of the Robert Pass stable of Passport Transportation fame. As I was admiring the Coupe DeVille, the detail man approached and asked if I had ever heard of "The Brown Bomber". I said I had and he responded, "We think this might have been his car at one time." He opened the passenger door to show me the immaculate interior and I told him that was the second time I had seen that door opened and the first time, indeed, "The Brown Bomber" stepped out. Mr. Pass told me the car sold shortly thereafter, I believe, to someone in California. I recall he wanted seventy-two thousand dollars for it. I truly think, if I had been able to convert anything I had into cash at that time, my family would have had a very special Hershey surprise. Over the years, I have brought home some very nice things from the Hershey flea market, including encouragement to join the Cadillac LaSalle Club by David Ritchie and Lee Herberman. And I did.

My full time employment in addition to being a Ritenour High School student was at the airport in Saint Louis where I worked a variety of shifts and catering assignments from servicing seven major airlines with beverage and meals to run- ning a horse drawn hot dog stand near the steps to the terminal from the main concourse. Everything was outside in those days and all the commercial carriers were reciprocating engine-powered Convairs, Martins, Lockheed Constellations, Douglas DC 3, DC4, DC6, DC6B and Douglas DC 7s. (continued next page)
However, on the same field McDonnell Aircraft Corporation was testing a variety of products with deafening afterburners.They were fun to watch at night. I think they were called "JETS.”

It was always my plight to be the youngest person on any job and my workmates were intent on introducing me into a culture mother and daddy would have never blessed. My favorite "mentor" of my career was Louie Times, a flight caterer, like myself, infi- nitely older than I and tall, very thin, and working this second job to support a family of eleven. He was a song and dance man
who appeared when he could get work in clubs in Chicago, Saint Louis, and I think some in Kansas City. He was connected in show business and saw to it that I, at least, had an invitation to accompany him and our pals in his 1951 Cadet blue Cadillac Coupe to see luminaries of the blues and jazz music culture and a new phenomenon called rock n' roll.
By some quirk of fate, if my parents learned of just one of those venues I visited with my adopted brothers, I would have been grounded for the rest of my natural life. But it seemed my plausible tales of where I was the night before were believed. I worked a lot of different shifts.

All with questionable repute, East Saint Louis, Illinois quartered several clubs, in which I felt a bit insecure, but nothing ever hap- pened to me while I was mesmerized by an artist who traversed the stage entirely on one foot screaming " Maybellene, why can't you be true?" CHUCK BERRY appeared a lot in East Saint Louis and we were there in the Cadet Blue 1951 Cadillac Coupe and even once, in my 1941 Cadillac Sixty Two series sedan, because it would carry six with comfort.

One summer evening in the mid fifties, five of us visited the Club Riviera in downtown Saint Louis, Missouri in that beautiful Ca- det Blue 1951 Cadillac coupe. Upon round tables seating eight, a large plastic bowl of ice cubes, a liter of club soda and eight plastic cups was seventy-five cents and called a "set up". As we were comfortably seated, a pint size container appeared from a jacket pocket and was passed from man to man and cocktails were fashioned. The spirit of choice of my pals was Four Roses. I pretended to pour some in my cup of ice and soda but truly could not handle the smell of it and passed the pint on to the next man. The concert was "over the top" and at intermission Louie Times took us back stage to meet the man -COUNT BASIE. There was talk of a big surprise in the second half of the show and indeed, there was. Through great fanfare and spotlights and loud music, a young boy was escorted down the middle aisle by a man on each side. No greater entrance had I ever witnessed for a boy who must have been fif- teen years old because, I was fifteen years old and I am the same age as "LITTLE STEVIE WONDER" making his entrance into the music world at the Club Riviera in Saint Louis, Missouri, where Louie Times' 1951 Cadet Blue Cadillac coupe had taken us! Dec- ades later, at the "The Top of the Wheel" at Harvey's Wagon Wheel in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, with my pal Del Perry, we remi- nisced with The Count about that evening years ago at the Club Riviera in Saint Louis. He remembered me because I was the only Anglo kid in the place and just a baby.

I might note here that although I have retired in Arizona and serve the Sonoran Desert Region and Snake River Region, my home town is Saint Louis, Missouri, my people are in McKinney, Houston, Henderson and Temple, Texas and I'm honored to be an adopted member of the North Texas Region. "THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKIN' TO IT" Be safe. (continued next page)

1949 Cadillac Coupe DeVille
As I write this next chapter of the Cadillac history of our family for the of the “Standard of the World" I'm mindful of a pretty rough time for me and my sister Sue. We were raised in suburban Saint Louis and loved it. Our lives were full of friends in school and our church group and we felt a real fondness for Overland, our Saint Louis suburb. I had a good job at the Saint Louis airport, was now a supervisor on the midnight shift making $1.25 an hour, had graduated from high school and was still caddying at Lakeside Golf Club and some at a few nearby PGA events. Rubbed shoulders with a few touring pros. Do the names Doug Sanders and Ken Venturi ring a
bell? I still had my '41 Cadillac and daddy had traded the 1947 slate Cadillac Club Coupe for a black 1952 Cadillac sixty two four door sedan. I have to say, it was one of my favorites, but it has to be black. I had asked if I could use it to take my date to my senior prom but daddy wasn't too keen on the idea because I had had a couple of minor mishaps with my '41. One of my golfers, Dr. Gene Egle, said I could use his 1953 Ford Convertible for the prom. When I told my dad, he let me use the '52 Cadillac sixty two. Truth was, I was a little ashamed of the appearance of my '41 and I think I really did impress my date, Barbara Boulware, with the black Cadillac sedan. Sure wish I had pictures of us with that motorcar to share with you now.

There had been some talk of the family moving away from Saint Louis and the extreme winters, which really concerned me and my sis- ter. Daddy took an exploratory trip to Houston, Texas and returned saying it was very clean for a big city, but job prospects were
slim. Then he went to San Jose, California, where the climate was to his liking and job prospects were good. A “For Sale” sign went up in our front yard but my friend, Nelson Whitecotton, and I stole it and hid it in his basement. Most conversations about moving ended with raised voices, pleading and my sister in tears. So, there was no more talk with the kids about moving, but it was evident that it was going to happen. The '52 Cadillac sedan was traded for a beautiful Alpine White over Iris, 1954 Cadillac Sixty Two Series, four door sedan, in preparation for the trip to California. I was eighteen and tried everything to get my parents to let me stay in Saint Louis, but my father insisted the age of majority was twenty-one and I was not mature enough to be on my own. I arranged to share an apartment with a work mate from the airport, our minister vouched for me and my girlfriend's dad put in a word for me, to no avail.

I was still working the midnight shift at the airport and came home from work one Friday morning in early September 1956, doffed my white coveralls and went to bed, as usual. Dead asleep a few hours later, I was awakened by a very large uniformed man who said "Get up son. This bed has to go". I think the shield on his cap said "ALLIED VAN LINES." I jumped into my coveralls and went down stairs to find the house devoid of furniture. There was no one to argue with. This was serious. There was an un-
signed note tacked to the front door saying we were leaving at eight o'clock Saturday morning and I had bet- ter be there. In the next twenty hours, I closed my bank account, said goodbye to my girlfriend, met with my pastor, sold the '41 Cadillac to Al for $25.00 and quit my job at the airport. On short notice, they didn't have anyone to work for me so I pulled the shift. I remember the last flight I catered. TWA Flight One, a Lock- heed Super G Constellation bound for New York. In those days, a cordial of wine and a four pack of ciga- rettes were served on the tray with every adult meal. Younger folk reading this may have trouble with that one, but if you were flying commercial in the fifties, you may remember. (Continued next page)

1954 Cadillac Sixty Two Series
We were on the road to a new life in California and Sue and I were sad, very sad, and the 1954 Cadillac was taking us there. The next morning in front of my grandparent’s home, on Grandview Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas sat the 1954 Cadillac Sedan with my family in the same configuration as the day before. I was to drive again. Things remained pretty quiet. There is no longer ride, with nothing, than across Kansas. Some say Texas, in places, but it is Kansas! Approaching the Denver suburb of Littleton, I missed a "45 MPH" sign and when I saw the trooper's red gum ball revolving behind me the Cadillac was going fifty six miles an hour. The
trooper took my Missouri Driver's License and asked me where we were going and I told him California. He asked if I knew how fast I was going and I told him fifty-six. He said "Your speedometer is right." We made a U Turn and stopped behind a hamburger stand about a mile back and went in a back door. A large man in his forties, appeared from an inner door, doffed his stained apron, tapped a small desk and said "Court is now in session. Officer state your case." The trooper said he clocked me at fifty-six in a forty-five zone and the "JP" said "How do you plead son? Guilty or Not Guilty? If you plead guilty we can take care of this right now, or if you plead not guilty, we will set a court date for you sometime in the future." I said, "Guilty," and the man said, "That will be twenty-two dollars in fines and ten dollars court costs. Thirty-two dollars. Payable in cash now." Upon leaving, my dad and I had our first conversation since Saint Louis. He put his arm around me and said, "I wonder how they split that up?" That series of events may have been com- mon in 1956, but not so much today, I think.

My dad "hung up his slip" at the San Jose Mercury News and went to work on the swing shift the day we arrived in San Jose, Califor- nia. I went to work at the Insurance Company of North America at the Northern California Service Office as a mail clerk for ninety- five cents an hour. The majority of the several hundred employees were women with less than a dozen single males. I was eighteen, as was my workmate, Bob Longeven, whose parents allowed him to drive their Belden Blue1947 Cadillac Series 62 four door sedan sometimes. I remember it being quite oxidized. All the personnel were older than I but I managed to attract the attention of a nice single girl about three years older than I, asked her out to dinner and she accepted. My dad let me use the 1954 Cadillac sedan and it got the best detail job I could provide. That Alpine White and Iris and chrome never shone so brightly. In my dark blue pin striped suit, with a small bouquet of flowers, and the Cadillac parked at the curb in front of the house, I rang the door bell promptly at six. My date's father came to the door and stepped out. He said, "You must be Dick." I said I was and he said, "As long as our daughter is liv- ing under our roof, she will abide by our rules. We understand you are not Catholic. I'll see that she gets these." He took my flowers and said "That's a nice car." Devastated would be a pretty mild description, I guess. I just knew I wanted to get off of their porch be- fore I got sick.

I pulled the Cadillac down the street and stopped to think. I had never been in such a situation in my life and I just felt lousy. "All dressed up and no place to go." But, I did go some place. I went to the drive-in down on the Alameda. I think it was "Mel’s" and my car hop, Jeanie Causey, from Clovis, New Mexico was very impressed with the Cadillac and my blue suit and agreed to go to a movie with me when she got off work. Getting to know each other, I confessed to being a real serious Elvis nut, which brought tears. She said she had dated Elvis, they had broken up and she had come to San Jose to live with her sister. The date did not go well.

.About fourteen months later, I was alone at Charleston Air Force Base, on Thanksgiving Day, awaiting orders to go to Saudi Ara- bia. A quartet of Field Maintenance Squadron airmen invited me to come eat with them in the nearly deserted chow hall. They intro- duced themselves to me and one of the airmen said he was from Clovis, New Mexico. I shared my story with them and he lit up and confirmed it was true adding some detail. I had had a date with an ELVIS PRESLEY playmate in daddy's 1954 Alpine White over Iris Cadillac four door sedan. 'THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKIN' TO IT".............Be safe. (Continued next page)

As I pen this chapter for the "Standard of the World", I am moved by the revelation that these missives are being read by those out- side of our North Texas catchment area and some have taken the time to share reflections. Thank you to the Honorable Richard Sills of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Bob Schuman of Godfrey, Illinois and Ron Melville of Tauranga, New Zealand, for your encouraging words.

It is clear that California was not for me and I figured if I joined the armed services, I could get out from under dad's control and get back home to Missouri in the service. So, I visited the U S Air Force recruiter at the main post office in San Jose, California. I was candid about my reason for joining the Air Force, and the five striper in charge assured me that, if I
graduated in the top three of my class in tech school, I would be stationed at an Air Force Base near St. Louis, Missouri at my request. I was shipped to the Oakland, California Processing Center, where I took the Special Application for Technical Training (SATT) test which qualified me for any school the Air Force had to offer. My interviewing master sergeant tried to dissuade me but I insisted on going to Air Base Defense (ABD) School to become an Air Policeman. I passed the physical, was sworn in and
shipped to Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas on a Western Airlines DC6 Charter with seventy other teenage youth starting a new life. Our commander at Lackland, sometimes toured the base in his personal car, a 1950 blue series 62 Cadillac Convertible. I shall always remember those two white stars on the front plate.

The six week basic training course was a snap and I liked the strict, regimented, military discipline at Air Base Defense School, also on Lackland Air Force Base. I came out number two in my class of sixty and forecasted for my permanent duty station. I forecasted for Lambert Field, St. Louis, Missouri; Scott Field, Belleville, Illinois and Whiteman Field at Knob Noster, Missouri, quite comfortable with the knowledge that I would be stationed at one of them. Why? Because the recruiting sergeant in San Jose, California had told me so!

Boeing B-47 Stratojet
I received my orders the morning I graduated from Air Base Defense School. The orders directed me to report to Fifteenth Air Force Headquarters, Strategic Air Command, March Air Force Base, Riverside, California. No……..No …...That was not the plan. I immediately complained to my Tactical Instructor (TI), Airman Second Class Jack Sanders, who chided me for my naiveté and said “Airman Dormois, The Air Force will send you where they need you. Get used to it!”

North American B-25 Mitchell
Duty at March Air Force Base was actually pretty good and I found I liked the spit and polish Strategic Air Command lifestyle and was proud to guard the Boeing B47 Long Range Bombers that were protecting our country, and the Second Tier B25 Mitchell Bombers my parents had made parts for at Lake City during World War II. BUT- I still was determined to get out of California.

At a chance meeting at the Greyhound Bus Station in Riverside, California, I shared my grief with a fellow Airman in civvies who turned out to be a First Lieutenant, section chief at port processing at March Air Force Base. He told me that if I served a twelve month "Isolated Tour", I was guaranteed to be assigned to one of three bases I wanted, upon my rotation back to the states. I said I would do it and the Lieutenant said "Well, I have Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and Thule, Greenland. Which do you
want?" I could always take the heat better than the cold so I said "Saudi Arabia." He showed me his ID Card and took my name and serial number from my ID Card. That was it! Right there at the lunch counter of the Greyhound Bus Station, I had sealed my fate. Two weeks later I was summoned to the office of my Squadron Commander, Captain Richard Scheidt, who said "Dick, we would like to keep
you here and we see a stripe coming soon, because you have been highly recommended, but it looks like you are going to Dhahran." He slid my orders across his desk. I popped him a highball and the C 121 Captain returned it and that was it. I was on my way to Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina to ship out to Dhahran Air Force Base, Saudi Arabia.

On a beautiful, crisp January 1, 1958, I boarded a Military Air Transport Service, (MATS) Lockheed C121 bound for Dhahran. You have never seen such an absolutely incredible sight as the Island of Bermuda surrounded by that emerald water from thirty thousand feet up on a clear January day. The approach to the Azores was not so beautiful. Our C121 was being tossed around like a butterfly in the worst rain and wind storm in history, as we descended onto Lajas Air Force Base in the middle of the night. Many of the hundred Airmen were praying loudly, many losing their supper and some losing more. We landed for fuel and could deplane. Three young Airmen balked at getting back on the plane until told the result would be a Summary Court-Martial. They got back on. Wherever that C121 is now I would wager that aroma is still extant! The remainder of our journey was without incident. Refueling in French Mo- rocco and touchdown at Dhahran Air Force Base on 2 January 1958 with the temperature 81° F.

Saudi Arabia is likely very different than any country you have ever visited. I saw no middle class humanity, only a terribly wealthy oil rich ruling class and millions living in abject poverty. For a GI in 1958, it was truly an "Isolated Tour." No alcohol. No women! There were very few civilian motorcars. No Cadillacs. The taxicabs were older, abused Mercedes Benz and 1953 and 1954 Chevrolet four door sedans. Beheadings in the town square at Dammam were not uncommon. I was once invited to such a spectacle, because one of my employees was being beheaded for killing his brother over a debt amounting to twenty dollars American. I de- clined. Getting caught attempting to see through a veil would be met with very dire punishment. New arrivals at the base could easily be identified as they still got a kick out of frying their breakfast on the wing of an obsolete F86 D on a 128°F morning. Very little hu- midity.

Upon my arrival at the base I took a driving test for an Air Force Driver's License in a USB 6X6 the motor pool buck sergeant had se- lected. I hadn't driven for some time, but the big rig wasn't too much different than the catering trucks I had driven at the St. Louis Airport and the license would qualify me to drive anything in the Air Force smaller than that Deuce and a Half. We just went out in the desert and I slowly went through the gears in the conventional transmission, turned, parked, backed up to a makeshift loading dock and serviced the rig. The plaque on the dash said it was a Studebaker, but GMC and Kaiser rigs were just like it. My "on base" patrol vehi- cle was a Willys Overland, four cylinder, four wheel drive, Universal Jeep and my desert crawler was a Dodge, six cylinder, four wheel drive, M37 Weapons Carrier which I proceeded to bury in a sand dune, with no radio with me on my first graveyard shift. I was so far out in the desert, I could clearly see Bahrain Island. A TWA crew, approaching Dhahran, saw my flare pattern and got me rescued. That powerful four wheel drive can get you out of a mess. It can get you into one too!

1951 Hess and Eisenhardt "Harem Coach" Cadillac Conversion

About mid way through my tour of duty word came down through the chain of command from the U.S. Consulate General in Dhahran, that King Ibn Saud and his party would be coming into our base to board an aircraft for a foreign visit. I was assigned to the main gate that day but was directed to stay out of sight because only Saudi military were to be seen by the king. What I thought I saw approach- ing through the desert was a never ending procession of 1951 Cardinal Red Cadillac Series Seventy-Five long wheelbase sedans, flanked by six red Universal Jeeps with mounted thirty caliber machine guns. Through our editor's research, what I likely observed, were 1951 Hess and Eisenhardt "Harem Coach" Cadillac Conversions on the commercial chassis. The king had ordered twenty of these behemoth coaches for the princely sum of twelve thousand five hundred dollars each. Three rows of seating would accommodate wives, concubines, eunuchs, and body guards who routinely accompanied the king. I would love to have pictures of that procession to show you now, but being caught taking pictures of it would likely mean an extended period of incarceration in a Saudi jail.

In November of 1958 I forecasted for three stateside Air Force Bases for my rotation. Lambert Field in St. Louis, Missouri; Whiteman Field, Knob Noster, Missouri and Smokey Hill Air Force Base in Salina, Kansas. I would ship out exactly 365 days after my arri-
val. We got our orders on Christmas morning. I was ordered to report to the Strategic Air Command, Beale Air Force Base, Marys- ville, California.

Stay tuned. It gets better. THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKIN' TO IT. Be safe (continued next page)
In this next chapter of the series on how Cadillacs have impacted our family we get a bit far afield but the "Forty nines" seem to take center stage as they were the primary platform for two very important periods.

Upon rotation from Dhahran Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia, I had no recollection of ever hearing of my next permanent duty station, Beale Air Force Base, California, but my NCOIC assured me it was the largest SAC (Strategic Air Command) base in the world with a fully operational long range bomb wing and support units. Upon arrival, I found an 86,000 acre, decommissioned, U. S. ARMY Camp Beale, upon which the U.S. Air Force was to construct a viable Strategic Air Command installation, integral in the defense of our Country. It was our mission as the 4126th Combat Support Group, to build the infrastructure for a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Long Range Bomb Wing, a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker Refueling Wing, and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.

I was the twenty-sixth permanent party on the base. Upon arrival, I observed a Beechcraft C-45 Expeditor moving on a taxiway and my driver said, "I think that's te Colonel's plane. That's all we got so far." I signed in with the CQ (Charge of Quarters) at the BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters) Q and reported to the OD (Officer Of The Day) who pointed out the chow hall next door which served as the Officer's Club, The NCO Club and the Airman's Club. We just called it the "Service Club" and primitive as it was, it was what we had and we made the best of it. It was not unheard of, to sit down at an empty table, in civilian clothes for supper and be joined by a visiting Airman in civilian clothes and visit for several minutes, never using the word "sir", to learn he was a commissioned officer, maybe with rank as high as General… no apology necessary!

Your initial graveyard shift patrol duty was likely to turn up an anomaly not usually seen on a military base. It was a most unsettling observation to drive into a dormant World War II German Prisoner of War Internment Camp where hundreds had been detained dec- ades before, now quiet and kind of eerie at three in the morning. That German Internment Camp, extant today, is a significant part of Beale Air Force Base history and of our country. Not far away, a large herd of Hereford cattle graze quietly as part of a deal with cat- tlemen who owned the land before World War II. During my deployment at Beale Air Force Base, we held an auction, where those cattlemen and their decedents bought their grazing land back.

About three a.m., nestled in my comfortable bunk in the BOQ on my second night at my new base, I was shaken awake by the CQ, who shouted that we had a highly violent psychopath who had to go to the Travis Air Force Base Hospital and I was the only one on base licensed to drive an ambulance. I jumped into my fatigues and found a 1949 faded blue Cadillac ambulance outside rocking and emitting sounds of an altercation. A rather large Airman Third Class, just assigned to us, apparently under the influence of something had flipped out. Although he was attended by a corpsman and strapped to a gurney inside the Cadillac, things did not appear secure.

I took off on my eighty-three mile emergency trek to Fairfield, California and Travis Air Force Base, quickly learning that the Cadillac had very little power and later learned that it had not been run since being inherited from another Air Force Base which had retired it. Gauges did not work, but I felt the coach would not attain fifty miles an hour. It bogged down when the red light was turned on and the siren was actuated by mashing a button on the floor… however, the "emergency equipment" wasn't really
needed because while moving "Code Three" south on what is now Interstate 80, civilian cars were passing our Cadillac "emergency vehicle." I think I can say, without equivocation, that this trip was the most harrowing experience of my twenty years on Earth or since. The gurney "holding" my patient had broken away from its moorings, my Cadillac ambulance was rocking and sometimes I would not hear from the corpsman for several minutes, only the sick one screaming, he was going to kill us both when he got loose. I did not doubt him, only hoping we got to Travis before he managed to get loose.

Upon arrival at Travis Air Force Base, two MP (Air Force Military Police) vehicles escorted us "Code Three" to the psych unit of the base hospital, where two additional Air Policemen and two medical personnel were waiting to assist us with the violent one we had brought from Beale Air Force Base in our 1949 Cadillac Ambulance. After a gang of six got our patient fitted into a secure jacket, I asked our new found friends if there might be a chow hall or motor pool open at this hour. It was almost day shift by that time and we were well fed and a motor pool staff sergeant said, "Where did you get this thing?" There was more wrong with it than he could fix in a day, but he said he would depend on it for transportation back to Beale Air Force Base. "Oh... and you were out of gas" The sergeant put a Band-Aid on our Cadillac and we drove it back to our base. It never came to mind then, but the Cadillac would be a pretty neat thing to have in a collection now, simply because it was a significant piece of history, back in the day. All our rolling stock at that time was hand-me-downs from other Air Force bases where the machines had been retired. We had no motor pool at Beale to maintain them
- not fun.

We were isolated on Beale Air Force Base with no shuttle service to the surrounding towns of Rough and Ready, Wheatland and Marysville and so we had virtually no social life. There was one girl assigned to the nurse corps, and she was quickly swept up by my newly assigned Admin Officer, Second Lieutenant Larry Runge. My partner Tom Ross and I conspired with a few others to have a "dance." Not much to offer, but we did have "The Service Club" with a kitchen, and tables could be pushed against the wall for a dance floor, and a trusty Wurlitzer juke box, with some pretty good stuff on it. Including some ELVIS numbers released while I was in Saudi Arabia. Several said this was a crazy idea and would never work. Our Commander, Colonel Robert Hurley and Provost Marshal Captain Carson Crabtree gave their blessing to our scheme. We placed an ad in the Appeal Democrat and promised to have the ladies back to Marysville by midnight. Our detractors were still somewhat skeptical. We sent a tired Blue Bird school bus in to Marysville to pick up the girls… if there were any. Our driver radioed back, "Ya all better send another bus. Mine’s plumb full." We did.

About forty airmen waited patiently at the bus stop in front of the chow hall. Kind of like livestock at a trough. The first girl off the bus was an attractive eighteen-year old blond lady named Marilyn. She became the mother of Tom Ross' two chil- dren. The second girl off the bus was a pretty seventeen-year old brunette called Carole who became the mother of my three children. The children of those two cou- ples raised their children right there in the Marysville area and are still there to-
day. In retrospect, I guess you could say "the dance" was a pretty good idea.

Things transpired pretty fast after that. Colonel Paul K. Carlton, commanding the B52G Long Range Bomb Wing, arrived and shortly thereafter commanded the KC 135 Refueling Wing. Being "The New Kid on the Block," we routinely received a host of ranking air- men. It was not uncommon to be given a "heads up" to the likes of generals Archie J. Old, Jr. and Curtis Lemay and the 12th Air Divi- sion brass dropping by to see how we were doing.

Serious dating for the first time on a military base far from town, required wheels of some sort. I bought a grey four cylinder Henry J Corsair two door for a hundred dollars and found it adequate to call on my girl in Marysville. Quite by chance, while downtown, I think shopping for rings, we saw a French Grey over Lu- cerne 1949 Cadillac Sixty-Two four door sedan on the front line of a used car lot just off D Street. We agreed that if we could get enough for the Henry J on trade, maybe we could afford the payments. We loved the test drive around town in the absolutely immaculate forty-nine Cadillac and the salesman offered us two-hundred dollars for the Henry J if we would keep it. We bought the Cadillac and kept the Henry J. I took a lot of chiding and teasing at the base. It seemed some questioned an Airman Second Class driving a luxury sedan. (continued next page)


1949 Cadillac Series 62 A car I remember most fondly
Each of the stories in this series for "The Standard of the World" newsletter tells about Cadillacs that have had the greatest impact on our family in one way or another. Some more significantly than others, but all have made an indelible impression, mostly for the good. It has become apparent to you that the images depicted with these stories are not the exact motorcars in the article, but our editor, Bill Levy's research turned up some pretty good matches. If we could identify owners, we got permission to use the pictures. Thank you Glenn Brown and Phil Terry for images of your 1972 Fleetwood Brougham and your 1954 Coupe de Ville.

Since I can remember, Daddy always talked about wanting a "Sixty Special" and it was pretty well known among the sales staff at Saint Claire Cadillac in San Jose, California. One morning the sales manager called, telling him "Dick, bring your ‘54 and your title down to the dealership". My Dad responded. "Oh....you have found me a Sixty Special" "Just come on down with your stuff and that '54 Cadillac you have."

Well, Saint Claire didn't have a Sixty Special. As most would, back in the day, Daddy was immediately enamored with a low mile- age, 1957 Stainless over Sandalwood, Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. He traded in the 1954, sixty-two series, four door Cadillac my mother hated to see go. Seems like they had that beautiful Alpine White over Iris machine longer than any other. At barely five feet tall, with cushions, she had become comfortable and secure driving the big sedan.

I shall not go into great detail about the Brougham, but it had everything that the experimental, handmade, machine could have. You have read about all the "firsts;" the stainless steel top, the myriad of solenoids, the air suspension, and how much money General Motors lost on each car when they sold new for an astronomical tag of thirteen thousand dollars, trying to outdo Imperial and Conti- nental. Because of the crystal appointments, Mother would not ride in the back seat, because it looked like people had, at one time, been drinking back there.

There was to be a bit of a coming out party of sorts, to introduce the Brougham. Mother made breakfast for the three other guys in Daddy's foursome and then they would all ride to Hillcrest Golf Club in the elegant Eldorado Brougham, with their golf bags in the ample trunk. At the appointed hour, 8:00 a.m., laughter was heard from the front yard and the three guys could not hold back, laughing at Daddy's beautiful 1957 Eldorado Brougham on the ground as the air bag suspension had given up. The machine was towed back to Saint Claire Cadillac several times with my father refusing to approve the conversion to conventional springs.

I recall the first time I drove the Brougham. My car was in the shop and my dad suggested I use the Brougham to attend class at San Jose State. With my school books on the passenger seat, I tried in vain to start the car, but it wouldn't. I was late and couldn't figure out what I had done wrong or what was the matter. My father came out of the house, opened the door, and put my school books on the floor, and said "Now start the car" Oh, I didn't have them buckled in.

On occasion, my mom used the Brougham on her Avon route and it, of course, attracted attention. She came out of a lady's house one morning very frightened to find two police patrol cars along side her Cadillac and the uniformed officers examining the car. They quickly calmed her, saying they just wanted to look at her machine. "Oh...You need to be sure and close your back door."

In time, the frustration mounted and my Dad had finally had it with the Brougham suspension failures. The 1957 Stainless over Sandalwood Eldorado Brougham was towed back to Saint Claire Cadillac for the last time and traded for a 1963 Turin Turquoise, Cadillac two door de Ville, which was subsequently handed down to my mother, and after driving it several years, she gave it to my son, Richard, for his sixteenth birthday. I initially balked at her largess. "What on earth does a sixteen year old kid need with an expensive-to-operate luxury car?" My mother then reminded me of what I acquired on my sixteenth birthday... a 1941 Cadillac four door sedan!

With my law enforcement career in full swing on the graveyard shift at the Los Gatos Police Department and being a full time Criminal Justice student at San Jose State University in the daytime, I had also become the single parent of son Richard and daughters; Antoinette, and Lynn Carole. We certainly needed conveyance larger than our 1966 Mustang 289 coupe, so I set out to acquire a suitable family sedan. I found what I was seeking in pretty short order when a 1969 Nutmeg Cadillac Sedan de Ville with the dark Chocolate padded top jumped out at me on a San Jose used car lot. I think I should have gotten more than three hundred dollars for that Mustang but it was approaching three hundred thousand on the odometer. That wonderful ‘69 Cadillac Sedan deVille served us well until the kids were in college.

I was still in college as well and in graduate school at San Jose State with a Criminal Justice major and Sociology minor. For a three unit class called "Modern Family" we were required to live in a commune for the semester. There were a lot of choices and I chose a residential commune just off campus with Dr. Robert Tham. Being a cop and arriving in a Cadillac just wasn't going to get it, but I just had to "live" there on weekends. I traded the 1969 Cadillac sedan with a friend for an older, very tired Volvo P1800 every Friday at noon. I was not able to hide the fact that I was a police officer, but they still remember me as that old guy who drove that old Volvo. I was 39.

It seems that along the way, most everyone in our family drove a Cadillac at one time or another. I clearly recall a very nice Vista Gray 1949 Cadillac sixty two series four door sedan my sister Susie and her fiancée John Max Kinsey bought, not yet out of their teens. Straight body, pristine chrome, great paint, perfect glass, ran well, but needed an interior. I sure hoped that the new interior would be "original", but they chose to do what a lot of California kids did in the fifties. Take it to Tijuana for a cheap "Tuck n Roll" job by a Mexican craftsman just over the border. When they came home, I had to admit that red and white tuck n roll looked pretty spiffy contrasted with the gray exterior and the workmanship was excellent.

A beautiful padded Parchment over Cognac 1972 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham was my Mom and Dad's last Cadillac before he passed in 1982. My mother lived quite a few more years but less comfortable with the big cars and drove a compact Olds Firenza.

I strayed from the Cadillac fold for several years and engaged in a variety of automotive pursuits, one quite the antithesis of what we enjoy now. I constructed Demolition Derby cars and competed with them from 1971 to 1980. There seemed to be nothing more re- warding to me and my pals than buying a '63, '64 or '65 Chrysler Im- perial LeBaron, for a hundred bucks, stripping it completely (except bumpers), then welding everything solid, dropping in a 318 or 383. We spent most Sunday afternoons at a Public Safety Charity Demolition Derby at a County Fair somewhere in Northern Califor- nia, attempting to destroy everything in our path. It was strictly ama- teur. Rules were not as strict as professionals, but SAFETY was al- ways paramount. My full roll cage was seven inch steel well casing and literally everything was welded solid. Everything to protect the

Richard and the 1972 Fleetwood
radiator and the battery. On some cars you couldn't find them. After awhile we ran out of cheap Imperials and I went to Mercury wag- ons. I had a 1961 Mercury station wagon and my sponsor, a Los Gatos Mercury dealer, insisted on welding a half inch thick steel plate from wheel well to wheel well on the driver side about 18 inches high. Some said it was overkill. In a Sunday afternoon heat race at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, some enterprising young cops resurrected and salvaged an old, retired AAA Ambulance and entered as a derby entry for the first time. It was an Omaha Orange 1957 Cadillac ambulance. Hardly anyone drove Cadillacs and no one had ever entered an ambulance before. BUT here it was and it was legal. In my first heat race with my Merc wagon, we were down to about the last four cars. Rules say you can never intentionally hit someone in the driver's door. BUT "accidents" happen. I think the driver of that AAA Cadillac Ambulance was really trying to take out my left front suspension, but one of us was out of posi- tion. I shall never forget that big AAA Ambulance sign on the back of that Cadillac coming at me at about forty mph from all the way across the track in reverse. Getting bigger and BIGGER. When that Cadillac hit the driver side of my Mercury, it tossed me up in the air like I was a Crosley. I can't tell you how many Demolition Derby heats I competed or how many derby cars I destroyed, but I can tell you this. That Sunday afternoon at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds was my last!

In 2009 while northbound on 260 in Show Low, Arizona on "The Run to the Pines" in a 1951 Studebaker Starlight Coupe, an Alpine White over Viking Blue Metallic 1954 Cadillac Coupe de Ville passed us and waved. Our destination was the Honda Resort in Lakeside, Arizona where we were seated for dinner with Sandi and Phil Terry. Seeing that great restoration and visiting with such wonderful couple set the wheels turning and a chance visit with Dave Ritchie and Lee Herbermann at my Studebaker booth at Hershey confirmed the thought. I needed to get back to my roots. It is now most comfortable to be an active part of such a fine organization. The Cadillac and La Salle Club...."THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKIN' TO IT" Be safe
Phil & Sandi Terry’s 1954 Coupe

Richard Dormois

Upon graduation Richard joined the U.S. Air Force and enjoyed two tours in California and one in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in the Air Police career field, then a twenty year career with the Los Gatos, California police department. He accepted a four year contract as Chief of Police in Caldwell, Idaho, then into gaming security in Nevada for ten years. He had tried retirement in the Ozarks on a 500 acre place near Salem, Missouri, but it just didn't work. He retired for the second time from the Arizona Superior Court System July 1, 2001.

Richard is a member and officer of the Studebaker Drivers Club, and a CLC Board member representing the Snake River Region.

Other pursuits include ca dozen or so benefit auctions around the country each year, including the CLC Grand Nationals for the Cadillac- La Salle Museum and Research Center.

Academic pursuits have earned associate, bachelors, and Master of Arts in criminal justice administration and post graduate certifi- cation in gaming and hotel management.

Currently, Richard contributed to several hobby publications and is the editor of "The Saguaro Sage" Antique Studebaker Club newspaper.

Offline Peter Gariepy 26457

  • Deadbeat - swept to the wayside. :)
  • Registered User
  • Posts: 191
Photos 1

Offline Peter Gariepy 26457

  • Deadbeat - swept to the wayside. :)
  • Registered User
  • Posts: 191
photos 2

 

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