In the late 50's and 60's in Indiana near a town named Peru,
Indiana there was a SAC US Air Force Base. It was a medium
bomber B-58, air refueling tanker KC 135, and a fighter base F106.
Peru was known as a circus town. Some of the mid-west circuses
wintered over around Peru. In the spring time there was a parade
of the circuses as they began their annual sojourns to the cities
and small towns of the mid-west. It was a wonderful time for the
children to see all the horse pulled circus trailers with lions, tigers,
and apes. The calliope was a favorite of mine. One started the
parade and one ended the parade. As the parade ended the people
watching the parade followed the last calliope to go out to the
fairgrounds to see a performance.
I was at the airbase from Christmas 1961 to Independence day 1965.
I was a lowly Airman 2nd class, just one grade above recruit. In
other words, I was a "grunt." I had a newly assigned Staff Sargent
as a superior. He had a room on the first floor of the barracks. My
room was on the second floor close to the stairs. I could hear other
airman stumble up the stairs on Saturday night. Over a months
time I discovered my superior was a drunk on the weekends. I was
on duty on the weekend and he was the duty Non-commissioned
Officer in Charge. I had a situation that dictated I contact him and
have him make a decision. I called the barracks and they knocked
on his door with no answer. I drove to the barracks and knocked
on his door repeatedly. I heard a moan or a groan that sounded
like his voice. I immediately thought of the sounds my dad made
when he was drunk. I knocked harder and I heard Sargent Joseph
stumble out of bed and then open a door a crack. His eyes were
bloodshot, but most of all I could smell the alcohol in the air.
I knew he never had a drink during the week, but on weekends he
was at the Enlisted Man's Club or a little tavern in Peru.
I should tell you Hoosiers have unique dialect. They pronounce
words uniquely. I was stunned. I thought in some instances I was
in a foreign country. One of the most unusual was the
pronounciations of the towns name. Peru was pronounced as
"Pee Ru." In the four years I could never figure out how they came
up with that strange pronounciation. The easiest thing to say is
they are Hoosiers.
So on an early Sunday morning, just after 2:30 AM a certain Staff
Sargent Joseph came staggering up to the US Air Force Bunker Hill
Air Base asking to be taken to the hospital. He raved about seeing
pink elephants. Sargent Joseph raved about an wonderful evening
in Peru tavern celebrating a promotion of one of his friends and
then driving down highway 31 towards the base. Just about a
1/2 mile from the entrance he saw a pink elephant and then a
second pink elephant. Sargent Joseph was taken to the hospital
and was checked in to detox area.
His car was found in the ditch across from the circus wintering
grounds. The barn containing the elephants was closest to the
highway. The corral was next to the road. Any animals in the
corral was very visible from the highway especially if you were
traveling south on Highway 31.
The next day Peru had their spring circus parade. To everyone's
surprise two huge wonderfully decorated pink elephants led the
parade. One of them was pulling the calliope announcing the
beginning of the parade. The second pink elephant was pulling
the Lion's cage.
Staff Sargent Joseph was released on Monday sober. He remained
sober even after hearing from friends who were laughing about the
pink elephants were real. the story traveled quickly throughout the
shop where we worked. Sargent Joseph stayed sober for the balance
of my time at US Air Force Base Bunker Hill, Peru, Indiana.