The Colonel’s Demise
On the wall adjacent to my desk is a frame that contains my Certificate of Aeronautical Rating. It is signed by Colonel Robert B. Collins, who commanded James Connally AFB near Waco, Texas in the late 1950’s. During a vacation trip Colonel Collins made headlines in a most unwelcome manner.
He was traveling north out of Waco; his route was to take him through Dallas and on to his family home in north Texas. This was before the Interstate highway system was built. The trip extended into the dark winter night and he stopped at a gasoline station to use the restroom and fill up with gasoline. His wife was asleep on the darkened back seat of their large Cadillac sedan.
Colonel Collins paid for the gasoline and then went to use the men’s room. At this point his wife awakened and decided that she needed to use the ladies rest room and she did. A few seconds later Colonel Collins returned to his car, started the engine and continued to drive north toward Dallas on the rural two lane highway. He was unaware that his wife was not in the car. Mrs. Collins returned to the gasoline island to find the Cadillac missing. She was perplexed. What had happened? Where was the car? Where was her husband? She sat on the concrete island and pondered her options. How could she contact her husband? This was decades before cell phones. There was no way to telephone him and ask him to return and pick her up. What could she do? Then she remembered he was listening to a football game from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on the car radio when she went to sleep in the back seat. If she called the radio station broadcasting the game they might get a message to him and he could turn back to get her.
She went into the gas station office and telephoned the radio station and described her predicament. Within minutes the broadcaster at the Cotton Bowl was announcing to everyone in radio range: “Colonel Collins, traveling north on Highway 77 … You left your wife at the Gulf gas station in Hillsboro. Please go back to get her.” This was announced repeatedly throughout the game. The sports commentators had great time at the Colonel’s expense.
Now it was a contest. Who would get to the gas station first? … Colonel Collins or the photographers from the Dallas newspapers? The vipers from the press won the race. The morning newspapers featured a large picture of Mrs. Collins sitting forlornly on the concrete island in front of the gas pumps. Any hopes Colonel Collins may have had for future promotion were drowned in the ink that produced the unflattering headline, the glum photograph and the accompanying feature article that appeared above the fold on the first page of every edition. It definitely was a career altering moment for the good Colonel.
From Bob VonBargen (59-19)