A debut memoir recounts nine weeks spent in basic training in the Air Force, told through correspondence.
Spooner was born in 1936 in Milford, Connecticut, a small town that couldn’t contain her youthful wanderlust. The author was eager to travel the world, but her family’s modest financial resources made college seem unrealistic. Then serendipity struck: at a gathering of her church youth group, a representative of the Women in the Air Force spoke in the hopes of finding new recruits. Spooner’s interest was piqued, and once she turned 18, in 1954, she signed up. She later left by air for New York City—her first time on a plane—with Texas as the ultimate destination. The remembrance is largely an epistolary one, told through letters exchanged by the author and her mother. Each chapter coincides with a week of basic training in 1955, making for nine chapters in all. Others contribute letters, too—one is written by the mother of her best friend on the base to Spooner’s mom—but the running dialogue between mother and daughter is the narrative fulcrum of the recollection. Spooner describes in minute detail her life on the base—the military regulations, her scandalously flirtatious peers husband hunting, and her generally busy and extremely regimented daily routine. The letters vacillate subtly between homesickness and excitement, though the tenor is consistently an endearingly optimistic one. Even mundane chores are drawn in cheerful colors: “Oh, I must tell you! Today we were drilled by another T.I. who was very comical.” Spooner’s experience is a largely happy one, and she proudly reports how often her flight group won the “Honor Plaque” for passing inspections with the least “gigs” or mistakes. As graduation approached, she was assigned to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., to work as a typist. As Spooner herself observes in the preface, this is an intensely personal book that will largely interest those who know her, though she does provide a microscopic view into a woman’s life in the military in the mid-20th century. Spooner’s writing is unfailingly clear and her lighthearted ebullience is infectious. The book as a whole is a pleasant, brief portal into a teenage innocence now so unfamiliar it seems almost exotic.
A sweet, nostalgic remembrance of a woman’s military adventure.