Paratrooper shares his story
What a fine busy week it was at Fair Oaks Lodge! The Seventh Day Adventist Church members came on Saturday, on Sunday there was a Protestant service, and on Monday ball games and a trivia time, with chapel and bingo on Tuesday, The book "Heidi" was being read in the parlor.
On Wednesday it was watermelon outside, crossword puzzle, and an evening van ride. Thursday a "Price Is Right" program came along with Mass on Friday as well as music with Danny Youngbauer.
Now hang onto your hats for a fast hour with our very own ex-paratrooper. His name is Guy Erkenbrack and having broken his leg the first day of July, he will be living with us for a short time.
Guy was born in a house a block west of the courthouse in Wadena to Guy (Sr.) and Sophia. He was the ninth son and last child in a family of 14. His father was a no-nonsense type of fellow who served Wadena as a policeman for many years. He died in 1946 when Guy Jr. was 9 years old.
After high school Guy went directly into the Army where he volunteered to train as a paratrooper.
For the next hour on this quiet Sunday afternoon Guy answered all of my many questions about jumping from a plane. How did it feel to step out of a plane into thin air? Did he have to be pushed the first time? Was it Panic City the first few times? What if he landed in a lake? Could he guide a chute where he wanted it to land? Did it hurt to land? Were there any casualties?
Guy did a great job answering all I asked about. He said there was extensive training, like how to land, where to land, and how to guide a chute, even how to pack one.
The plane they jumped from was a double-tailed C-119, called a Flying Boxcar. It held 40 troops, a full load. They started jumping from 1,200 feet, which was increased by 200 feet after every three jumps until they reached 2,400 feet, the limit without using oxygen, which became necessary at 2,500 feet.
It came as a surprise to hear Guy say that when he jumped from a plane (no, he didn't need to be pushed) there was no sensation of falling. A cable fastened to the door frame pulled the chute open. He wore two chutes, a main pack and a reserve chute.
Four shroud lines could be pulled when Guy landed. Were there times when chutes didn't open? A few, like maybe three or four fatalities.
Guy was stationed overseas between the Korean and Vietnam wars. They practiced combat jumps from 600 feet, to get out of the sky quick.
Men chosen to jump weighed between 150 and 175 pounds and were 18 or 20 years old. They wanted excitement. Guy made 26 jumps.
After the service, Guy worked in a machine shop in Minneapolis for 10 years. He married Mary Ann Peavey in 1959 and they have three daughters.
When Bud Kline's bulk gas truck business was up for sale, Guy bought it. After 10 years, he bought the Uptown Cafe, running it until he retired. Guy enjoyed visiting with his customers.
Guy and Mary Ann each owned a motorcycle. When they made long trips of 5,000 miles they rode double. It was a great way to see the country. Snowmobiles took over during the winter.
When I mentioned roller skating we took off on another fun topic, about all the rinks in the area and which ones were best. We both liked the big one at St. Paul Park.
Guy thinks Wadena has things going for it that towns around do not have, like all the semi-trucking businesses and wholesale houses. The UPS business is seldom mentioned. We have the college, hospital and furniture factory. Competition often wins when it comes to needing good clothing.
Our super therapy department will soon have Guy back on his feet and we'll have to turn him loose. How pleased I am that he is leaving his interesting story with us.