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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Alcaraz

Duane Duke Best from Shorewood Senior Living

Duane Duke Best - Joining the Air Force

“The year was 1959 and I was living with my parents, as I had from my birth in Cicero, Illinois. The draft was about to call my number because my aunt was working at the draft board and knew. So she let me know that if I didn’t wanna go in the army then I should join up with something; another military unit. So I went to the Air Force with my close buddy Bob. We both joined up and we were accepted, we took the physical and we got ready to become soldiers.

We lived in Chicago so the Air Force base there was called O’Hare. Anyway, O’Hare field was nothing more than a small field that was trying to hold on from World War II with a bunch of old planes that they used to drop paratroopers. Which the airports didn’t do much anymore. So when we joined up they were told that that unit was probably gonna be broken up if it was ever called back to duty but we never knew. They didn’t tell us if they were going to ever call us back to duty. We were joining the reserve, the Air Force reserve.”

Duane Duke Best - Duane Gets His Assignment

“Because my dad had a camera shop I had taken a year and a half of mechanical training at a mechanical school in downtown Chicago, I was considered Premium to them. To have the knowledge to be able to handle the camera, develop the pictures, and all the things that go with photography that I had learned with my dad on the job. They gave me the job of an aerial photographer.”

Duane Duke Best - Using New Gadgets

“A fun part of the business was learning about high tech things that were there. An example was the microwave. I was a cook aboard and in my compartment I had what they called a radar range built into the bulkhead of the aircraft. They would just give me a stack of meals and I’d feed the machine three meals at a time. I’d press a button and when it turned green I would reach in and take them out. I was able to handle them but when you open them up they were as hot as you can make them. To make lunch for 21 members of the crew it would take me about 45 minutes. When I wrote home about this my mother said, “There’s no such oven. There’s no such way to cook like that. What kind of cooking? What kind of oven is that again? Tell me the brand and I’ll go look for it.” Nobody ever heard of a microwave and it was the Air Force’s first. They got everything first.”

Transcription and Audio Edit by Ileana Chavez and Samantha Alcaraz.

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