Obtaining a higher education is a good plan, but getting one takes a great deal of work. Family members of mine went back to college for what we call a higher education. I was an average student and was able to graduate from Chico Senior High School in August of 1956. My plan was then to enter Chico State College, which is now a university. That is until my father told me that was not a good idea.
I was disappointed of course. I still remember he said, “Sonny, at your young age of only 17 a higher education is a waste for you right now. You should start serving your country. After three years in the Army you will then be mature enough to actually absorb a higher education.”
Since I was basically a good son, I reluctantly agreed. The very next morning he drove me to Chico’s Post Office on Broadway where, with a nervous pit in my stomach, I filled out the necessary papers to enlist.
I began at Fort Ord, California and then I was sent to finish a 15-eek audio specialist course at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. There I waited, not too patiently, to find out where the U. S. Army was going to send me next. It turned out to be Camp King just outside of Frankfurt, Germany.
After two or three months there I received my biggest surprise when I was told to report to West Berlin, Germany. I was to become an intelligence analyst with the 131st Medical Intelligence Detachment of only three people, a Major named Alfonso, a Master Sergeant named Al and me, a Private First Class named Stan. Believe or not I was actually in the espionage business for a while.
I was even given a Top Secret clearances that the FBI had to approve. I know my parents, who then lived between Chico and Paradise, were quite surprised when two FBI agents stopped by the home in which I was raised to gather my personal history.
I have always loved those James Bond movies, but my biggest surprise was when I was told I had to think of a “cover name.” I was also told to stay away from other American soldiers. My best friend at that time was named Roland so I thought up the name Roland Stanley for me to use. I figured that way, everyone could still call me Stan.
As I look back on all of that I can tell you I was able to enjoy a rather nice home in West Berlin that probably had been taken from some poor Jewish family. Their fate was no doubt far worse than dire. The two story residence with basement even had a baby grand piano sitting in its den, which also served as a library. I loved it at the age of 18.
Like any new recruit, the six months I was stationed in West Berlin went by rapidly. I spoke no German and spent most of my time anticipating my return to America. I had not yet traveled anywhere overseas. I learned and benefited greatly during that wonderful experience. Hopefully, because of all my unique experiences I do have a higher education.
My take on the movies
Because of our world’s coronavirus challenge many theaters are temporarily closed. I could recommend you go to see the 40th anniversary of “The Shinning,” starring Jack Nicholson. You may have to wait for normal times to get the theater and schedule.
Stan Statham served 1976-1994 in the California Assembly and was a television news anchor at KHSL-TV in Chico 1965-1975. He is past president of the California Broadcasters Association and can be reached at StanStatham@gmail.com.
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