BMEWS - 510 Full Days - All Work and No Play ...

Working nine hours a day, seven days a week, would seem to leave little time for recreation. Actually, we had quite a lot of time for diversions, and were rarely bored. We would spend hours visiting and listening to records in each others' rooms. We went to movies at the base theater. There was an active, very well equipped photo club and many of us bought good cameras through the club. We did a lot of hiking and exploring when the weather allowed. Many of us were little more than kids, mostly in our early 20's, and were generally pretty inventive in finding ways to be entertained.

During the time that I spent at Thule, a number of us founded what I think to be the northernmost motor racing club in the world, "The Arctikarters". This started when my friend Bil and I bought a homemade go-kart from a serviceman at Thule. The airman built the kart in a hangar on the flight line. Through him, we received permission to keep the kart in the hangar and to use the hangar to run it when there were no aircraft parked there. During the cold, dark months, this was a great diversion. Word soon spread that we were playing with the kart in the hangar. It wasn't long before there were a dozen people taking turns driving the kart, sliding around the polished concrete floor of the hangar. While on vacation at home, one of the RCA employees bought half a dozen go karts and cut them up into pieces that could be shipped by Parcel Post and reassembled at Thule. Suddenly, we had a racing club! In the summer, with twenty-four hour daylight and moderate temperatures, we raced all "night" long on the deserted B-52 pads along the taxiway.

On one occasion, the base exchange stocked a number of model airplane kits and motors. The news of this spread rapidly, and the entire stock was sold out in less than an hour, many of us buying five or six kits and motors each! We built models in our rooms and flew them in the same hangar where we ran the go kart.

One of the tracker transmitter technicians who was a steam engine enthusiast built a working engine from scraps of copper tubing, teflon sheet, and steel angle iron. Pete designed and built the engine while we were on duty with otherwise little to do at J Site. Having no steam, we connected the engine to a 90 psi compressed air line in the transmitter bay, and it ran. We attached the engine to a hand truck to which we added a pair of wheels at the front, the handle end, and a steering tiller, making a car which we could drive around the transmitter bay, tethered to the compressed air by a hose. The engine supplied power to one of the hand truck's wheels through a go kart chain and homemade sprockets which we fashioned from quarter-inch aluminum sheet. The engine had tremendous torque which caused the wheel to spin a little each revolution, leaving small black marks on the white tile transmitter bay floor. Our shift supervisor couldn't understand where these marks were coming from until he caught us driving around the bay one night. Certain that we were in for it, we were relieved when he wanted to take it a spin, too. I learned much of steam power from Pete and his engine and became somewhat of a steam enthusiast myself.

Table of Contents
© Copyright 1996, Gene P. McManus, Baltimore, OH