- Thomas W.K. Hobbs
- Thomas K. Hobbs
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00:02 My name is Thomas Hobbes. I'm 47 years old today is November 14th 2005. I'm with my father in Northport, Alabama, and I'm going to be interviewing him today.
00:17 My name is Thomas William Kelly Hobbs. My age is 76 years old today is November 14th 2005 in Northport, Alabama and
00:31 Who is NRI I met is my son.
00:35 Ready? Okay, tell me about what it was like to grow up in Missouri. What what your childhood was like, so starting about before you started school when you were little kid for started living on a farm with the almost every conceivable farm animal league think oven in a farmhouse. It had no running water and no electricity.
01:00 And I had to make our own soap.
01:03 And our survival was internally during right after the Depression was strictly before me. Did you live with Grandma Mary then?
01:12 My mother yes live with me, but I live with my grandparents.
01:19 What was it like living on the phone? What what did you have to do every day to eat what we truly Chargers wear?
01:27 Cutting wood sometimes after I was probably past the age of eight and
01:33 Not only that, but I had to milk 7 cows morning and night.
01:38 And also had to help in the all the Harvest weight feels out corn.
01:46 I shot corn pickthorne and help my grandfather raised cattle. How many kids were there just farted myself. Just you and your great your grandmother and Grandpa grandmother and grandfather.
02:02 Did the what did you start school like most kids do as you go to kindergarten and all that kind of stuff. I went to school in a one-room schoolhouse. It had a pot-bellied stove and all that grades is taught in the same room just one building.
02:23 All eight grades, I like dreads which were one through eight first through eighth and then you went to a high school that I went to high school. That was approximately 12 miles away. How do you get there by bus? Okay, so they had buses back and you didn't have to ride a horse and carriage or that I had to walk to school which is approximately every day, which was approximately 2 miles.
02:50 And I walked that winter and spring and fall. What was your first paying job?
02:56 First paying job was in working in the Wheatfields. I made a dollar a day. Then I work for a neighbor Ralph mchargue McCord that name sounds familiar. For some reason. It's Richard my car grandfather.
03:20 What made you when you graduate did you have plans? I mean when you when you were in high school, what what? How did you see your life progressing? What do you want to be?
03:30 Always wanted to fly.
03:33 White Liar, but I just always want to be a pilot or fly on airplanes. I don't know just caught my fancy.
03:41 Watching airplanes fly over the farm, I guess what kind of airplanes really? I have no idea. I'm sure there was some kind of an old c-47 Packing House.
04:02 Is that what made you decide to join the military?
04:09 At the time that there wasn't a lot of opportunity on it and Trenton, Missouri, you know 6,000 people.
04:18 That was another primary reason I join.
04:22 How old are you when you join 17 years old and what's up legal was at the legal age.
04:30 I was the age that you could join that you could join. Yes Pride if you want to consider that Lego you were old enough to sign yourself in that's right, and I had to graduate in high school anyways.
04:43 Okay fact I left for the military day after I graduated. Okay, so you are all ready to go to you have what kind of friends did you have when you were in high school friend?
04:58 Tell me about that.
05:00 My friend had a he had a another friend that had a brother that was a recruiter in town. So
05:08 Monday or setting talking? I have a cup of coffee and just decided that's what we were going to do is join the Army or the Air Force and Army Air Force and this is right after World War II. Yes. Well track World War II still officially going on I think in the Pacific. Yes in the Pacific. So when you join the military what happened they loaded you up on the bus and took you off the boot camp doctrinated in Kansas and a 13 week old fashioned hard boot camp in Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. What was that like that are pretty rough 13 weeks of hard basics.
05:53 Which was gun training and what are the trending all types of exercises Destin did they ask you what you want to do? I mean, did you have a not until after about the probably the 8th week and we decided what we were going to do. What were your options?
06:18 Practically anything in the Air Force if you had a good enough grade scores on all your aptitude test, so you didn't have to go to college to be a pilot or anything like that back. Then you didn't know that Sergeant s bicycles.
06:35 To get into the flying end of it.
06:38 So, what was your first job in the Air Force what you got out of boot camp first job?
06:48 And was assigned to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City and that I went to Biloxi, Mississippi.
06:56 And what was the hurricane Hunters back then?
07:00 I thought I had enough 47. No, they haven't started yet that it was a late start until 1940.
07:09 The first part of 49 I believe did they do that kind of reconnaissance work or did they just call out on the house? They didn't have they had weather reconnaissance that but I'm not sure they knew that an airplane to Twisted and penetrating a hurricane.
07:24 So that never done that are tried it what was the first plane ever flew in and be 29 and that was the kind of used to bomb was that the ones that they showing all the movie War service? They saw it. He is it that was a plane that delivered the atomic bomb like the Enola Gay. But other than that it never made any great volunteer age, except or Japan right at the end of the war.
07:51 So after you went the weather school, what you doing, Biloxi?
07:54 How's the weather over there? Then as a radar operator? I went to radar School, Warner Robins, Georgia.
08:01 And I have a 10 months girl that been the head is the first Radars coming out for commercial to use after the war.
08:12 And nobody had any experience in the Weather Service actually of operating radar.
08:18 So they selected certain fear being on the go and go to school and learn how to operate impartially maintain it not as selected for Margulies.
08:29 And you did that in the plane while y'all were flying that later on.
08:34 There's a lot of things it later on an aircraft that I participated in such as navigation radar weather.
08:43 Kind of a catch-all feel that that I was at her then doing the research feel.
08:49 How did you end up in a hurricane Hunters when did that come about?
08:53 I see the hurricane Hunters. I was started flying weather Recon from Biloxi, Iowa to Fairfield, Suisun, California to Sacramento, California on May 29th to Alaska North Pole over the Pacific, three times a week.
09:12 Flights last minute 15 to 17 hours, and then I was selected to go to
09:19 Saudi Arabia, which I
09:22 As part of a secret mission back then top secret.
09:27 And I was transferred to Saudi Arabia and I flew there for a year. Then I went to Bermuda and when I went to Bermuda, I was part of the hurricane Hunters.
09:39 So, what was your what would what did you do? That was top secret and Saudi Arabia. That's still top secret. What about was when you were talking about flying over the Pacific and Alaskan I was at when you were doing the
09:57 Collect in love
09:59 Radioactive waste study. Studied at the find out if any any country in the world.
10:11 Do actually dealing with nuclear weapons is so y'all flew around with your filter on your airplane to collect radioactive particles partially is
10:21 And that was that nobody knew about that the white man. Did they back then they did.
10:28 And what was your cover mostly weather?
10:33 So you were just doing what it did you ever get five of Russia?
10:37 I know and it really that was forbidden to me but close to Russian. Okay. Are you telling me the truth part of my mission also was submarine detection. We tried to pinpoint also exhibited. I just had to do that just by looking for observation. Now flying low over the ocean reply sometimes down five hundred feet over the ocean and for ours and just look for submarine. Just look for some rain tonight.
11:09 Okay, so you got the Bermuda and you join the hurricane Hunters where they called hurricane Hunters are call then it been fly approximately at that time. I think about a year-and-a-half.
11:21 And we had 12 aircraft 12 B-29
11:26 And wait for the weather Recon missions every day.
11:29 I didn't fly everyday at 8 to individual weather radar person would usually fly three times a week.
11:36 And that's what I had up to in our considerable amount of ours. So I probably end up when I came out of the military after 23 years of flying. It really came out with over 8,000 28 + 10,000 hours flying which is equivalent of staying Airborne 24 hours a day for over a year.
11:57 Did you remember your first hurricane right for sure. Can you flew into how many hurricanes did you fly into?
12:13 And for me that probably made.
12:18 Probably nine storms from probably 15 to 20 penetrations and two men and research I probably made another seventy penetrations the research people in Boston.
12:31 But then I remember that one particular hurricane because two hurricanes went together. What was what was the year was around 19 the end of 1950?
12:45 Has probably most severe storm in history. Although they said said they've been measured and they said this one in the Gulf was the last time Katrina Katrina was on after Katrina Rita. How did how did you get the call that you were gone to go into a hurricane? I mean you guys are on base and what they just
13:07 Just going if your mission if you are flying women in the hurricane everyday. So basically everybody at flu got a chance to
13:16 The calendar the hurricane. We probably had we had probably ate Cruz.
13:22 Play weather all the time complete Cruise so that would mean that each crew and go in at least probably wants a week. And what did you do exactly on the airplane. We operated some of the radar equipment and we also drop that separates in the middle of the hurricane and on the edge is going in.
13:42 And which measured pressure temperature and humidity?
13:47 How to weigh down copy that that was that was fairly private back then broadcast Marshall
13:57 Broadcast Mark Calaway to decipher that get up the radio operator and then he would radio it back or nowadays. I have GPS and instead access to all that information via satellites back. Then you'd have any GPS you how many satellites are in that nothing. They had to go to the store or very low-level. Sometimes I start at a 1500 feet and come out maybe three or four hundred feet above the waves. How did you know where you were half the time we done got into the eye that make a sexton sex on it. I like it sexy aircraft for a while. It was all mostly dead reckoning.
14:37 So we had a pretty good idea where we are most of time and not all the time. Why do you remember that particular stormed the two that came together? There was a
14:47 Probably will never seen that recorded since then.
14:51 I don't never heard anything about it.
14:55 Then I got within about
14:58 Probably 50 miles of the storm. Everything turned a bright pee green.
15:06 And for a while we thought we'd crashed in heaven was green, but it didn't turn out that already.
15:13 Actually was coming from algae that was stirred up for the sales so violent.
15:19 That's called. I think they caught fibro Plankton up in the clouds that covers 93% of the oceans that you never seen. You can't sit with him and I
15:37 But when that's the starmaster made in the winds in that storm is over 250 miles an hour.
15:43 And now they categorize another probably Estrada's hurricane and 275 miles an hour. That was an unbelievable store that almost took us. What's the strangest thing you ever saw inside of a eye of a hurricane?
16:01 A ship
16:02 Tell me about that.
16:05 It seems like north of north of Puerto Rico in time. There was a cargo ship.
16:13 And they literally got trapped in the eye the call Mary. So they knew they couldn't get out that was impossible. They actually rode the eye of the storm almost 500 miles before they could get out.
16:29 And we were flabbergasted when we got inside and saw this big buck down there in the eye of the storm and it was calling the other one absolutely come in.
16:39 And later on surprisingly enough and I Restaurant.
16:43 And a bar in Tampa, Florida where you're sitting and having a drink and then some guys out there in the bar was talking to you can't believe this that there was actually an airplane flying around in there.
16:59 I said, who are you guys?
17:01 Blade or not. It was a some of the crew members is that ship but you always say in the hurricane.
17:09 Do you ever get your plane store up?
17:12 Have I had one player two completely demolished and had the junket?
17:16 What would if you had crashed an airplane out there what would happen with their been able to help you know?
17:23 He has been. I've been a Survivor. I can't tell you. Did you stay where you are communication with somebody on laying the whole time y'all were out. Could you do that by the time our way Verizon? We were always in communication with Morse code.
17:40 Harderian communication voice Communications, you couldn't talk to anybody know.
17:46 Yeah, nobody to scream to you have the same pilot all the time and all the time.
17:57 Because it was like football team, you know.
18:01 The better you work together and the longer you work together the better you get so
18:07 Age of another satisfying duties
18:10 We practically never thought about it just automatically all the time.
18:17 When did
18:20 No, go ahead.
18:27 What's the best part of the job?
18:30 Experiments are they saying I guess I think
18:36 Not everybody has a opportunity to experience something like that.
18:43 I guess just getting the experience was the best thing about a thick I certainly wasn't.
18:49 A lot of things that was pleasurable about it. I mean most of the time of you're so uptight that it over just doing your job and that's all you thought about it because you're going to get out hurricane Hunters ever go down in the hurricane surprised when I go in at the top and come down like they do nowadays medical riding aside and came out the top.
19:18 Let me get ready to come out what you do inside of there when you got me eye.
19:22 Harley I was big enough not a red circle and stay in it for a while until we made a good fix. You know, sometimes you can get in the middle of it. You could see the sun even.
19:32 It was a smooth line inside. Oh, yeah, that's a glass A lot of times you ever get inside one and think you were going to make it back out.
19:44 Not really the one we tore the airplane up and we never got into the eye. I'll really I got halfway into it and lost two engines.
19:56 Made a very dumb decision to try to ride it around cuz it's going to be the fastest way out. What does that mean? Go with the color of the wind counterclockwise and go all the way around it.
20:08 Unfortunately just beat The Living Daylights out of us. That would give you a pretty fast ground speed when it
20:16 That's why we figured the fastest way up ended up telling the engines on the airplane and turn up all the floorboards and
20:31 So it was just you basically just shaking the stew out of you and that's right.
20:36 He could have been in Flight computer loosen your safety belt seat belt.
20:41 What's the craziest things you'll ever did but I think cuz I know y'all used to back then y'all used to do some crazy things with those my plans.
20:48 Like two of them was what I Most Wanted of the Golden Gate Bridge one morning.
20:55 Nobody seemed to appreciate that too much of them are what was that? I'll be 2929 second thing Leslie.
21:04 Caught a aircraft carrier off a customer meeting and set up a landing pattern like we are going to land on it and it was in what you find B-29 and a big B20. Where were you you were coming from Bermuda headed now they were going out on a we were coming in from a flight coming in from a recon mission.
21:25 Somebody got this bright idea to set up a landing pattern on this aircraft carrier and make him think we were going to land. So y'all just happened to see him as you were flying over Chaos on the aircraft carrier. They were playing a lot of flags and jumping up and down.
21:44 We passed our about 20 feet over the deck house. And what happened? What happened when you got back to base after that the base commander bet us.
21:55 And it wasn't too.
21:58 In any way it is get out of this celebrate our grand return or anyting at that time. I think we were restricted to base for 2 weeks scared enough.
22:10 They can do that everybody out here. I think they're laundry building up that day. Did the cat what happened to Captain called in and told him y'all? Absolutely. And what was the story about y'all flew over down town and Trenton one time. They need to see one.
22:33 We had since we were research aircraft that was after I left and went into the research business for the Air Force.
22:41 And that
22:44 We had Clarence because of our research the weather research we had clearance to.
22:50 Fly almost at any altitude of you wanted to
22:54 So we went down the main street in my hometown about a hundred feet.
22:59 In a C-130. What year was that?
23:04 I'm not sure that must have been 19.
23:09 Sa 1970 to 1976 approximately
23:16 1978 I can say by say anything about that. I knocked on teen 78-68 1968 Legacy Park.
23:28 Did anybody say anything that was okay?
23:33 I used to fly to Mexico every now and then to the infirm.
23:37 You sleep as lost we did when you just needed a table there was times when you just had to get your flight hours in her stuff wasn't there a lot of different. Paragraph just to get her ours and we had to get mad to maintain a minimum of 4 hours a month to maintain proficiency with a bunch of long hair one time once a long hair some hats or something.
24:04 Getting off the plane. It's hard to tell. A lot of things off and you have some guy has a ball caps with some hair salon in the back of my stop. I didn't you one time when you got back the river by getting off the plane. I was little kid baby and I never see him getting off the plane with these long.
24:22 Long hair flowing out from underneath your caps.
24:29 So then vermuda what it what did you do after Bermuda? How long were you in Bermuda?
24:35 I was in there for about two and a half years, I guess, and what you do when you left for me when I left for work and go then when I left right and I came back and started flying with the Recon group in California as that when y'all went under the Golden Gate Bridge know I was when I first moved to, California.
24:56 But then when I came back and started flying with that group that day so like that made it go work with the Air Force Cambridge Research Center in Boston.
25:06 And that was strictly atmospheric research. So there are kind was an aircraft. I was flying through thunderstorms flying Mountain waves fine hurricanes. What was the deal with fine on the Golden Gate Bridge was acting like a initiation or something.
25:22 Just remember to something all the pilots going to do back then.
25:28 So when after you after you when did you end up at Edwards?
25:33 All right reserved worked on several different projects are AK-47 bombers and see what I find adult all these planes a Heavenly Hands from running and are they all had a lot of measuring instruments on and that was back there in the time of Chuck Yeager and all those guys were there when I was right stuff guys, what's up? I've met several of the astronauts the original astronauts.
26:05 How I say, I had my life Save-A-Lot on which was Deke Slayton.
26:09 I'd rather see was looking out a window and let me Taxi by in front of operation in the B-47 bomber have a totally jet bomber and it's like $650 miles an hour.
26:23 How can I save 800 shouldn't say that is really 650 was x-rayed. But if you got caught in a jet stream and one time I flew 850 miles an hour, but anyways, taxi Pasta Pasta when we had went out we were lined up on the runway. There was only three of us that flew that plane.
26:46 And all the sudden he falls out from the airplane on the runway in a staff car and starts making motions to cut the engines.
26:56 And when I get out of the plane, we found it. I feel like I'm broke and oil out and feel is pouring out and we allowed on the Bombay and
27:05 It weighed taking off with exploded for sure.
27:09 That was so deep sleep fix like me. What was he doing there just pilot training.
27:17 He was just so I guess they are getting ready to select those people if you want to be astronaut. He was a test pilot.
27:23 Floor kind of fighter test test it all kinds of fighter aircraft.
27:31 So once you meet Mom through all this
27:37 But I was first assigned to the airport Cambridge research Labs. I was transferred to the outfits or very small outfit select outfit in, Florida.
27:47 Which was called an operating location and we are primary job is just study the jet stream and and hurricanes. And also we were at that time testing a new.
28:00 Radar system for navigation, which is called a Doppler system.
28:05 The Doppler system at that time completely filled up the bomb days of the B-29.
28:13 And now they put it in a shoe box and put it on an airplane.
28:18 Charlotte evolve that was part of my job is testing at radar system and what part of Florida was Patrick Cocoa Beach, Florida, and how did you meet Mom?
28:32 Marilyn night Stewart. Remember the first time you ever saw.
28:36 Pretty much sauce
28:42 I think she had a date that night dancing and having fun like hair loss young people do so y'all are just out of the bar then basically and Stewart is that what people used to live in just about to Lauren? He said Bar Lounge she's going to kill you for this one actually was a Roadhouse Roadhouse. What does that mean?
29:05 Hi, never heard of a Roadhouse. That was kind of like a dining.
29:12 I had a bad your dad's they serve liquor.
29:17 Have people got a little Rowdy now and then but
29:22 She just having to be out that could she always tells me it was our first time. She ever went there, but ghetto.
29:28 Heil AC without a date I think I know.
29:33 I kind of moved in on the guy so
29:36 It was kind of set in cement then.
29:40 So you'll start going out after that.
29:43 Hell yeah, yeah. Yeah. How long did you date before you got married?
29:47 I don't know. I'm just mad about a year year year. I guess you're going to have to ask her to marry you. How did that go pretty well, obviously are you a Vera?
30:03 Did the
30:07 I just lost my train of thought.
30:10 What would it how did you ask her did you ask permission from her father or any of that kind of stuff hours? I was kind of scared of her father.
30:22 Nobody objected so
30:25 I remember one time we didn't get home till about 3 in the morning.
30:30 How do I dial out the house or father came out on the porch with a shotgun?
30:34 And I said, oh lord it's over with now and I was driving a convertible to try.
30:40 Patches at all. Don't worry just going on.
30:43 Free the Cyril e v at 1
30:49 What were your grandparents like the ones that raised you?
30:53 My grandparents are a very unusual favorite grandfather.
30:59 Work big farms large Farms Hog Farms
31:03 And for some reason they decided to move to the Milgram is already in the farm at I was raised on basically had about a hundred and fifty Acres.
31:13 And then they farmed another 350 Acres.
31:17 At least
31:19 And this was with hearts are saying have a tractor anything.
31:24 My grandmother was
31:27 Are the most unusual person I've ever met she made her so.
31:33 She made her bread.
31:36 Said she made everything our clothes.
31:39 Play Red Cell Crane and by grain.
31:43 For the chickens and the grain sacks, they would take and make my clothes out of shirts.
31:50 And things that I wore to school, did you have at your kids to do that? And I might have to just did you have a TV?
32:01 When when you lived on the phone there at electricity, so I've been pretty hard to love you too have any electricity. That's what you do for the lights at night. Kauai all lamps. That's what I started with the first.
32:15 But the first 10 years are still have anything that you know refrigerator have a nice bottle refrigerator. No ice blocks that a seller but they call the seller fruit seller. Nothing cold chicken story or Malkin for 2 or 3 days down there. Where was cool. What was Christmas like what kind of presents did you get a Christmas or wasn't present for Christmas like that. I don't remember anything specifically for Christmas.
32:44 Some Christmas as I'm sure I didn't get anything but that we need nobody had any money that was the end of the depression. Nobody had recovered yet. And I regret it was bone tired.
32:57 And I remember my grandfather used to take a horse and wagon and go work for the WPA, you know?
33:06 Further that Roosevelt started
33:09 And the side I don't think kids today could even imagine her in any way.
33:18 Associated thinking their lifestyle is what we live handmade stars and things that you put on yourself. It really took son imagination to have a good Christmas.
33:37 And what would have been if you two got sick back then? Where'd you go to the Marquis isn't any but other than that?
33:47 The nurse doctor who is a proximately 20 miles from Ardmore.
33:53 And instead of you going to the doctor the doctor came to you.
33:59 And we had a particularly good doctor because I never forgetting doctor colors.
34:04 And he would drive if my grandmother asked if he knew her personally.
34:10 And if she asked him to come you usually would be there in 6 hours or so, maybe 12 hours.
34:18 Pretty good actually coming treat you on the farm. So you could call him or you had to send somebody we had to I had to go approximately 3 miles to the only person in that area that reason we have electricity because there wasn't any electricity there.
34:36 There aren't many in it on the road or there was no lines that run their lines until I got ready to go to hospital High School. What time is it in in Missouri, Missouri actually in that town it was in the country, but that was our address.
34:55 That was approximately 20 miles from Trenton, Missouri.
34:59 I didn't start high school when I was a sophomore in Trenton.
35:05 So what kind of things do you do for fun?
35:08 Bar I had a horse and ride my horse.
35:16 I will need remember well.
35:18 Quarter horse
35:20 Could run like the wind.
35:23 Well, if there was anything you could tell your
35:27 Great-grandchildren words of wisdom
35:33 Got a thing you want to pass on?
35:36 Appreciate what you have today for tomorrow. You might not have it.
35:41 Felt pretty good.
35:45 Anything else anything you want to add?
35:49 Love your father and mother.
35:57 Well, I didn't cover nearly what I wanted to I should have got this morganized with.
36:04 That's all right.
36:07 I think we got a little bit done.