That is the primary installment of an interview with Tom Johnson, which Joe Todd performed on Jan. 21, 2019, in Bartlesville. It has been flippantly edited for size and readability.
Tom Johnson was born Sept. 15, 1945, in Salina, Kansas, to Nels Johnson Jr. and Betty (Smith) Johnson.
Todd: Did you undergo faculty in Salina?
Johnson: No, I went to a one room schoolhouse, Cox, District 31.
T: The place was the college situated?
J: It was situated between Salina and Beddington, close to the city of Niles. It was a rustic faculty. It was eight grades in a single room, however we by no means had sufficient college students to fill all eight grades.
T: Who was your trainer?
J: Her identify was Fern and I can’t bear in mind her final identify.
T: How did she deal with all eight grades in a single room?
J: We realized to learn with flash playing cards from the older college students. Plenty of the older college students would assist the youthful college students. That was the one method she may do it. Once I was within the seventh grade, we had Mrs. Thompson. She needed to give it up in December as a result of it was an excessive amount of and her husband who was going to highschool to grow to be a trainer, the college board let him end her semester. Our eighth-grade trainer was Mrs. Snyder. There have been 5 nation faculties and we might go into Salina to Kansas Wesleyan and have our commencement. Then I went to Beddington Excessive College. A few years after I went to Beddington, Kansas consolidated and closed down plenty of these rural faculties. My brothers and sisters then went to Beddington for college.
T: What 12 months did you graduate highschool?
T: Who was your favourite trainer?
J: Mr. Howard in highschool.
T: Why was he your favourite?
J: He may relate to us on plenty of issues. He was only a good man. He was a younger man and will relate to us and did plenty of issues with us. He got here from a small faculty background and so he knew loads about us.
T: What sort of labor did your father do?
J: He was a farmer.
T: What chores did you do on the farm?
J: Slopped hogs and fed cows within the wintertime. We slopped hogs in our overalls so we didn’t get our faculty garments soiled. We had a again porch that wasn’t heated and would get so chilly, these overalls would stand by themselves from slopping the hogs. We did the chores, then Mama would drive us to highschool. The varsity was about three miles away.
T: Was Salina the closest giant city?
T: How typically would you get to Salina?
J: Normally as soon as every week after I was a child as a result of we took milk and eggs in to promote and decide up provides. It was normally on Saturday. There was Fifth Road in Salina, and it was the farmer’s road the place we bought our eggs and cream. We noticed plenty of neighbors on that day on Fifth Road.
T: What was your favourite chore?
J: I like working with the hogs. I had present hogs within the truthful. We had a few horses, however my youthful brothers bought into that. Feeding the cows was OK.
T: What was your least favourite chore?
J: Earlier than I used to be sufficiently old to drive a tractor, my mom wallpapered for everyone locally, and I had to assist her wallpaper. I used to be the oldest and when my sister bought older, she wall papered and I bought out of that and went to the sphere. I used to be glad to be out of that wallpapering enterprise. I don’t like wallpaper to at the present time.
T: What tractor did you may have?
J: Case, we had Case vendor. My dad mentioned he didn’t care what coloration was on the tractor, it trusted what sort of service he bought. I fiddle with outdated farm tractors now and have realized that in sure areas.
T: How giant was the farm?
J: Our house place was 160 acres. It was my nice grandfather’s place. Over time, we rented pasture and farm floor within the backside. At one time we could have had 600 acres.
T: What did you do after highschool?
J: I labored in a filling station for slightly bit they usually had been placing Interstate 70 by Kansas and it was good pay for an 18-year-old. I went to work on freeway development.
T: What did you do?
J: Concrete work, largely, bridges, wash checks and culverts. I inform my children once we undergo Salina that I helped construct these bridges.
T: The place had been you when President Kennedy was assassinated?
J: I used to be nonetheless working on the gasoline station. The day of the funeral, for an hour, all the things closed down. A buddy of mine got here by and he was doing farm labor on the time. He mentioned he had had hour to kill and we went and bought one thing to eat and got here again and there was an extended line of automobiles on the road. They had been on the gasoline station filling up their automobiles. The gentleman that owned the station forgot to show the pumps off and any individual found it. They had been getting free gasoline.
T: How lengthy did you’re employed on Interstate 70?
J: Till 1965 after I bought my draft discover. All of the gents I labored with mentioned I didn’t wish to be drafted, I might go to Vietnam. I went down and talked to the recruiter, and he mentioned I didn’t wish to get drafted or I might go to Vietnam for certain. I enlisted and the recruiter mentioned I wanted to go to Kansas Metropolis and take a take a look at. I did so nicely they instructed me they’d a particular program however I needed to enlist for 4 years, and I did. Once I bought to AIT (Superior Particular person Coaching), I noticed all people was going to Vietnam, I simply had an additional 12 months to serve.
T: When did you enlist?
J: September 1965, towards the tip of the month.
T: Why did you be a part of the Military over the Navy, Marines or Air Power?
J: I’m unsure why I selected the Military. I assume I believed it might be a three-year deal however turned out to be a four-year deal.
T: The place did you go in your Fundamental Coaching?
J: Fort Leonard Wooden, Fort Misplaced within the Woods, Missouri.
T: Inform me about Fundamental.
J: I went to a small faculty and everybody in a small faculty went out for sports activities and I used to be in pretty good bodily form.
T: What sports activities did you play?
J: Soccer, basketball and baseball. Being in good condition, once we double-timed, it wasn’t a lot, however there have been guys falling out. Some guys went AWOL and went house they usually went and introduced them again. At Fort Leonard Wooden, the barracks had been constructed up and had crawl areas beneath them. One night time, one of many guys heard one thing occurring and he went out and shined his flashlight and there was a man beneath there. He went AWOL and simply went beneath the barracks for 2 or three days till they discovered him.
T: What sort of coaching did you may have in Fundamental?
J: Principally bodily coaching. We had the impediment course we needed to undergo and the endurance factor we needed to undergo. We needed to run a mile and if a man didn’t make it in time, throughout lunch, they needed to do further calisthenics. I didn’t do any Vietnam coaching till I went to Fort Gordon for AIT. After Fort Gordon and going to Vietnam, we had two weeks coaching. The factor I bear in mind most in regards to the Vietnam coaching was learn how to dismount out of a car if you happen to had been ambushed, which aspect to get on and learn how to look ahead to booby traps.
T: Inform me about bivouac at Fort Leonard Wooden.
J: We camped out, and I beloved that. I like the outside anyway.
T: What was the climate?
J: It was good, and we bought accomplished proper earlier than Christmas. We had been house for Thanksgiving and got here again. I went down with some guys in a Pontiac convertible. They reside in Topeka and Jackson Metropolis and I used to be going to journey with them, however my firm wouldn’t allow us to out till the subsequent morning. I believed they’d already left and my uncle despatched me some cash to return again on the practice. I discovered later, they waited till the subsequent morning and I felt unhealthy about that.