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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Modern vs. Vintage Farming

article number 47
article date 08-31-2011
copyright 2011 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Don Day Autobiography: From Oklahoma Farm Kid before Electricity, through Cold War Air Force, to Agriculture Professor.
by Donald L. Day

EDITOR’S NOTE: Don distributed a shorter version (but not nearly as in depth) of this autobiography at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Centennial. The shorter version also contains appendixes which reveal more history as well as agriculture engineering contributions. Should computer files of these additional writings be found, we will add a “Part 2” to this article.

Also, the short version is grammatically more refined than this version which was found as a rough draft on an old computer … but … we wish to encourage people to give us their history without worrying about their writing skill. Therefore, this article serves as an example of educational and entertaining recollections which must be [extracted] from our elders while they are still with us.

Trail, Oklahoma

I was born Aug. 14, 1931. Our family was: Dad (George Dennis Day), Mom (Bertha Mildred [Twyman]) Day, Bob (Bobbie Gene Day), Eddie (Edward Leon Day), Don (Donald Lee Day) and Charles (Charles Dennis Day).

We grew up on the farm (160 acres) on Trail Flat, named after the Western Branch of the Chisholm Trail, on the South side of the South Canadian River between Leedey and Camargo, OK. Granddad, Dennis Michael Day, came to OK in 1894 and homesteaded the 160 acres on Trail Flat. He was the first white man to live on it as it was previously Indian Territory. Oklahoma became a state in November, 1905, the month that Mom was born.

We did chores in the morning before going to school and in the evening after returning from school. We milked cows, and fed calves, pigs and chickens. We cranked the milk separator to get the cream out. We rode a school bus to Trail Grade School.

Dennie Day and Sons: Eddie, Don and Bobbie. Photo was taken in 1935 when I was about 4 years old.

Our first house was small. Mom said Dad bought it from the builders of the Trail School house. It was used to store tools in when the school house was built. We moved in with Grandma Day after Grandpa Day died. Dad built on to her original house by adding a kitchen, a bedroom for Mom and Dad, and an attic room where we four boys slept. The house had no electricity, running water, nor a bath. There was an outdoor toilet that had to be moved occasionally when the pit filled up. Water from the roof during a rain was collected in a cistern near the house. Drinking water was drawn from the cistern by using a bucket on a rope and pulley.

Dennie and Mildred Day and Sons: Left to right, Bobbie, Eddie, Charles and Don.

Electricity came to our community in 1947 when I was a Junior in High School At Leedey. I stayed out of school a few days and helped an electrician wire our house. I then got some tools and wired the garage and other buildings. The wires were joined in a junction box by soldering (using a small alcohol torch) and then taping with a rubber tape and then covering the connection with friction tape, this was before plastic electrical tape.

Dwight Yager worked for Dad some and stayed in a small house, formerly a chicken house, Charles got some of Dwight Yager’s chewing tobacco and it made him sick. Mom had Grandma Twyman come and see if she could find out why Charles was sick. She asked Charles some questions and concluded it was from chewing some tobacco.

Trail School

We attended Trail grade school. Luther James had a school bus that he made by building a bus body on a Model- A Ford truck frame. The bus was full from the short drive of getting Ben and Henry Stout, we four boys, some Weir’s, Juanita and Betty Jo Jones, the Craig’s (Earnest Edward, Barbara, Phil and Richard) and David and Randall Allen. Mrs. Mars was a favorite teacher. Some families moved into the Trail community just to have their children taught by Mrs. Mars. Mrs. Mars was teacher for grades one through four, and Mrs. Moore was teacher for grades five through eight. Later, Mr. And Mrs. Haynes taught at Trail. They had a son named Charles Smith.

The Trail School House was the center of community activities. There were school programs (there was a stage at one end of the gymnasium with a curtain that rolled up and down), Christmas Programs (with a Christmas tree and presents and a Santa Claus), box suppers (the ladies made a box of food wrapped in pretty paper and they were auctioned off to the highest bidder), and card games (the parents usually played “Rook” while the children played basketball). On Sundays, there were Sunday School classes but no church as there was no preacher assigned there. There were occasional “Revival Meetings” held in the school house. A preacher would come and hold evening preaching sessions for up to a week.

Lights were provided by an engine-generator in a room of the nearby coal house. It was a 24-volt electrical system with batteries. Sometimes during a program, the lights would dim and someone would go out and “rev” up the Model- A Ford engine.

Once at Trail school, Brother Eddie, Tom Henderson and I. T. Williams met at the back of the school room. There were some cans of food sitting on the metal pan under the pot-bellied stove with a canopy to warm the food (this was the beginning of a hot lunch program). One of the boys set a can of beans on top of the stove inside the canopy. Eventually the beans blew up sending beans all over; ricocheting off the ceiling into the desks that had open iron work on the sides, through the transom (a small window above the door) and all over.

Conversion To Christianity

I was about 12 years old when I was converted to Christianity at a revival in the Trail School House. An evangelist, Preacher Sam came and held evening preaching sessions. Juanita Craig, a neighbor, played the piano for our songs.

At one of the sessions, I felt called by God to go to the front and accept Christ as my personal savior when the preacher gave an invitation to do so. Several others went forward also and we were prayed for. We were encouraged to attend a church in nearby Leedey, OK as Trail had only Sunday School. Our family selected the Methodist Church and the Craig family selected the Baptist church. We were later baptized in a farm pond, Parker Pond, that had a red mud bottom. Uncle Robert Twyman was a large person and the small Methodist preacher, Rev. Wheeler, had a big job baptizing him as the bottom of the pond was slippery. Sunday School classes were ended at the Trail School House when we all started to go to churches in Leedey.

4-H Club Projects

When we were in grade school at Trail, Dad and Mom encouraged us to have projects in 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands and Health). Taking care of the projects taught us responsibility. We had projects with livestock (calves, pigs, and chickens), gardening, shop, etc. We exhibited at County, Regional and State fairs and livestock shows. We hauled the animals to the show. Then we washed them, curried their hair, and brushed their tails. We used a show halter to exhibit them in the proper group of contestants. Judges would come along and look at them, eventually placing them in the order of first to last. The manner in which the young person showed the animal was also included in the judging. We used a show stick to get the animal’s feet in the proper position. We also had exhibits of crops, garden products, eggs, handcrafts, etc. We won many ribbons and some much needed prize money. We also gave team demonstrations. We would demonstrate some activity using actual materials. One was making rope with a hand-made machine that included putting strands of binder twine on the machine. By turning a crank, it would twist the strands into larger strands and finally into a rope. It was a speech activity, but we also gave speeches.

Prize Hereford Heifer. Left to right: Dad, Roy Craig (Breeder) and I.

Dad was a good mechanic and welder, using oxygen-acetylene equipment. We didn’t have electricity then. He built the acetylene generator that made acetylene gas by dropping carbide crystals into a tank of water. I was also mechanically minded and did many fix-it jobs as well as helping Dad overhaul engines on cars and tractors. I also learned to weld, and later I even taught a shop course at the University of Missouri that included welding when I was a graduate student there.

Dad – Summer of 1955 – An Allis-Chalmers tractor pulling a John Deere combine cutting a swath six feet wide.

Dream of Flying

There were flight training bases in Oklahoma during WWII and sometimes planes came over Trail Flat, especially along the S. Canadian River. One summer, when I was 10 or 11 years old (1941-42), I found an air-chart in a field where we were working, probably hoeing grain sorghum or cotton. The chart must have fallen out of an airplane flying over. The chart fascinated me as I had always dreamed of flying. Like many young boys, I had built a model airplane, a fighter, from a kit using balsam wood. Being of meager means, I didn’t suppose that I would ever have the funds or opportunity to become a pilot. Nevertheless, the idea was firmly fixed in my mind.

We didn’t have a radio to keep up on the news, but occasionally we saw a movie at the Rex Theater in Leedey and there were news reels about the war and I was especially interested in the airplanes. Reading books was one of our main past-times, and books were favorite Christmas presents. I liked books about flying stories such as a series on Dave Dawson, etc. Brother Eddie’s favorite books were by Zane Grey.

Wash Day

Water from the cistern was put into a large black iron kettle in the yard and a fire was built around the kettle to heat the water. The heated water was carried by buckets to a washing machine in the smoke house. The early machine had a lever that, when pushed back and forth, operated an agitator, something like a milk stool with four legs, and washed the clothes with hand power. It also had a had cranked wringer to squeeze out water. Later, Mom had a Maytag metal washing machine with a single cylinder engine that powered the agitator and wringer. Water had to be heated and carried to the washer as before.

Lie soap for washing was made by heating cracklings, from butchering a hog for meat, adding lie, etc. in the kettle and letting it cool and solidify. The soap was cut into bars for use in washing clothes. The washed clothes were hung on an outdoors clothesline to dry. Then, they were sprinkled and ironed on an ironing board. The metal irons were heated on the cook stove (range), even in the hot summer time. One was used until it cooled and then another one was used. Later came an iron that heated itself with white gasoline (white gas had no lead). This was much more convenient.

Music Lessons

Mr. Royal A. Warren was a piano tuner who had a route from Denver, Colorado to Dallas, Texas and came through Trail about every three months. He would stay a week or two, sometimes in our house, and give music lessons to children at Trail. He gave lessons on stringed instruments, not wind instruments. Bobbie took guitar, Eddie mandolin, I took violin and we all took some piano lessons. Dad got a player piano, it would automatically play music by placing special music on rolls into the upper part and by pumping peddles. Dad disconnected the player part so that we wouldn’t rely on it instead of learning music. Bobbie was the only who could really play the piano. Mr. Warren wrote music for us to play. We had a pet squirrel and it would hide kernels of corn and other food behind the piano. The squirrel finally drowned in a tank where the livestock got water.

Mr. Warren had land in Estes Park in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. We went there one summer and helped him build two cabins. We had a 1940 Ford car and pulled a two wheel trailer that Dad had built. We went another summer also. Later, I went to Denver, CO and stayed with Mr. And Mrs. Warren and studied music and took violin more intensely. At Oklahoma A & M College I took more violin lessons and was in the Symphony Orchestra for a while, but engineering, working part time, and taking music lessons was too much for me so I dropped music lessons. I kept interest in the violin, however, and have played some the rest of my life. In later years, I mostly play Steven Foster songs and church music. I can also hold a mouth harp in my mouth and play it while I am playing the violin. I have not seen anyone else do this.

I bought an old violin when we lived in West Allis, WI (suburb of Milwaukee) while working for the Allis-Chalmers Tractor Testing Lab. This was my first full-time job after graduating from Okla. State Univ. with a PhD degree, January, 1954. I was also married in January, 1954. The violin needed much repair as the top was coming off etc. I had it repaired in Milwaukee and have used it ever since. It is slightly larger than standard size. It has an old hard leather case that came with it, they are antiques now.

Leedey High School

Trail had no High School when we went there (It did when Mom went there). We were consolidated into Leedey High and went there on a bus. At the most, there were 36 students in my Leedey class; nine boys and 27 girls, an unusual ratio. Not all the girls graduated, mostly because of getting married. I started at Leedey High in 1945. The other classmates from Trail were: David Allen, Tracy Craig, Joy (Peggy Joyce) Gilbert and Bobbie Warden.

Teachers at Leedey High were:

Gene Cates - Principal
Mrs. Cates - Math
Robena Andrew - English
Mrs. Roy (Hazle) Craig - Nutrition etc.
Bill Harrison - Agriculture
Mrs. Quatelbaum - Typing and Economics
Mr. Hibler - Manual Training, Woodworking
Boyd Stoddard - Basketball, we didn’t have football.

We got an agricultural teacher, Bill Harrison, after Bobbie and Eddie graduated. A Future Farmers of America (FFA) club was organized in about 1947, I was the first President. We got FFA jackets and mine had “President” on the front. On the back was a colorful emblem of FFA. I still have the jacket. Charles was the second President. I had 4-H and FFA projects like at Trail School, but at Leedey High we had a shop and I made a nice cedar chest in the woodworking class. I gave it to Dorotha when we were married and it is still in our home.

The gymnasium was also the auditorium and there was a stage at one end. I was on the basketball team for awhile, but I didn’t play at games unless we were winning big and the second team was used. Wayne Leslie and Melvin Williams were very good players. On the girl’s team; Joyce Peck, Bonnie Mosley and Ulene Jones were good players. The stage was used for school assemblies, and Johnnie Faye Campbell and I played for various occasions. She played an accordion (also the piano) and I played a violin. Our class also served food and did jobs at basketball games to make some money for our senior trip.

High School Graduation, Class of 1949 and Senior Trip.

Our class sponsor was Mary Fisk and our class parents were Mr. And Mrs. Morrison. Two girls in our class were daughters of preachers, Doris Shackelford and Leota Gore. The two preachers both spoke at our graduation program. There was a terrible thunder, lightning and rain storm that night in May, 1949. Leedey was blown away in a tornado in 1947, and people were still very leery of bad storms. Some of our robes were rained on. Very few parents and other friends came to our graduation ceremony, but we did graduate.

We had a great senior trip. We went in a school bus, as that was allowed in those days. Our class sponsor and class parents went along as well as a bus driver. We visited White Sands, New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns, etc. There were many photos from the trip and we had enough class money left to have copies made for each one on the trip.

By 2003, only Joy (Gilbert) Harris and I are left from the five of us from Trail grade school, and our mates have both died. Tracy Craig, Bobbie Warden, and David Allen have all died. Also, of the nine boys in our Leedey High class, five have died.

Summer Jobs as an Undergraduate

I worked summer of 1952 for the USDA Soil Conservation Service (SCS) at the Leedey Work Unit. I helped with surveying for terraces, dams and ponds. It was interesting and gave me some practical engineering experience. One day it was so hot that the fluid expanded in the level on the tripod and the bubble disappeared. We had to pour cold water on the level to cool it off and get back the bubble.

During the summer of 1953, I had a job as an engineer-in-training with International Harvester Co. (IHC) in Chicago, IL. It was a big culture shock coming from a small farm in W. Okla. This was before interstate highways, O’Hare airport, etc. Chicago was a very large city even then. I learned my way around on street cars, subways, and elevated trains.

I roomed in a YMCA for a while and then moved to an old castle where I got my room in exchange for being a night-watchman at night and weekends. This helped me save more money for college. The offices in the old castle had something to do with the University of Illinois courses offered in the Chicago area. Little did I know I would later have a career with the University of Illinois at Urbana. I never met the person who hired me as he got off work at 5:00 pm and I couldn’t get there until I got off work at IHC and then traveled to the old castle. The reverse was true of mornings. Another fellow also worked as a night-watchman and he had met the man in charge. He helped me get the job.

Marriage to Dorotha

While visiting Brother Bob and Betty at college, in Stillwater, OK, I met Arnold and Dorotha Bamburg. Arnold was from Wetumka and Dorotha was from near Seiling. Bob and Arnold studied together along with Robert Peck (also from Leedey) and his wife Sadie June (from Stillwater). When I saw Dorotha, the thought went through my mind that it would be nice to have a wife like her.

Bob Day, Arnold Bamburg and Robert Peck had all taken Advanced Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and received 2nd Lt. Commissions. They were all called into active duty during the Korean War. I was still in college, and one weekend Sadie June and Dorotha asked me to drive them to Peck’s and the Day’s etc. near Leedey. They each had babies by then, Sadie June a boy and Dorotha a girl, Cheryl. I agreed to drive them and I would visit my parents at Trail while they visited others.

Dorotha had a new 1951 Chevrolet car. Then came a bad thunderstorm and tornado weather as we approached Leedey, so we all went to Trail to stay overnight with Mom and Dad, Charles was still at home. Dad kidded me about bringing home two women with babies. We had a good trip and I became better acquainted with them.

Eventually Arnold Bamburg was killed in Korea, he was in the Infantry. He never saw Cheryl, his new daughter, even though she was born before he was killed. Bob was an engineer for a prisoner camp and didn’t do battle.

A few years passed and Dorotha and I became very good friends. She was a few months older than I. We decided to get married when I finished college and had a job. It took me an extra semester to finish college as I also took Advanced ROTC. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering in January, 1954. I interviewed several companies and took a job with Allis-Chalmers Tractor Testing Laboratory located in West Allis, WI.

We were married January 16, 1954 at the Methodist Church in Stillwater, OK. Dorotha’s full name then became Dorotha Rose Eddingfield Lawton Bamburg Day. Rev. McFerrin Stowe was Minister there, but a friend, Rev. Gilbert Brothers, married us. Dwayne Suter, a former roommate, was Best Man and Joan Ingerham was Maid of Honor. Cheryl, three years old, was the flower girl. Some girls from Perry High School, where Dorotha had done teaching in Home Economics, sang in the wedding. Robert Peck was to take photographs, but he was called away and his wife, Sadie June, took photos. Something went wrong, and we didn’t get any photos except a few that other people gave us.

Marriage; Stillwater, Oklahoma. January 16, 1954. Left to right: Dorotha, Cheryl and Don.

We temporarily traded vehicles with Dad so that we would have his 1952 International pickup truck to move Dorotha’s belongings. We drove to Wetumka, OK and left Cheryl with the Bamburg’s, Arnold’s parents, Cheryl’s Grandparents, and then drove to Oklahoma City for a short honeymoon. The motel turned out to be under the approach to Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), but the noise didn’t bother us. Then we went back to Stillwater, OK and loaded Dorotha’s belongings from the house that she had rented. Some of the Bamburg’s brought us Cheryl, and we moved temporarily to Trail where we repacked and then moved to my new job with Allis-Chalmers in West Allis, WI near Milwaukee.

My work with Allis-Chalmers Tractor Testing Laboratory was testing clutch plate facings (Raybestos Mahatton, etc.) to determine which facing held up better during a series of tests. It was interesting to me and I learned a lot about the manufacturing process that was located near-by. A bad accident happened in the manufacturing building as a man was crushed while bending over a trip-hammer when the hammer tripped and smashed him to death. That building was closed a few days while the mess was cleaned up. There weren’t as many safety features on the machines then as are now required.

We lived there a few months until I was called into active duty with the Air Force in April, 1954. That year was when the Braves baseball team went to Milwaukee. It was the talk of the town. Allis-Chalmers let me have a Leave of Absence for military duty.

Military Service, United States Air Force

I took Air Force Advanced ROTC (Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) at Oklahoma A&M College during my upper classman years (Fall 1951-Spring 1953) and received a 2nd LT Commission. I earned some pay for taking it which helped financially so I didn’t have to work as much at other jobs. During that time in history (about ten years after WWII and during the Korean Conflict) it seemed sure that I would have to serve in the military and I preferred going into the Air Force as an officer over being drafted and starting at the bottom.

The AF-ROTC courses were interesting to me. I wore a uniform on those class days. We had some marching drills to train us for parades etc. I also went to a two week training camp in the White Sands and Holloman AF Base area near Alamogorda, New Mexico in the summer of 1952. The camp included further class room training as well marching and parades. I received some pay for this also, but the activity interfered with a summer job.

Because of working and taking ROTC, it took an extra semester and I graduated with a BS (Bachelor of Science) degree in January, 1954. We were married on January 16, 1954 and then we ( Dorotha, three year old Cheryl whom I adopted June 4, 1954 and I) moved temporarily from Stillwater to Trail and immediately to West Allis, Wisconsin near Milwaukee where I worked for the Allis-Chalmers Tractor Testing Laboratory.

We lived in a second-story flat (apartment) in West Allis. That was the year that Milwaukee acquired the “Braves” baseball team. OUr 1953 Chevrolet was side wrecked at an intersection. The lady driver of the other car said that she intended to stop, but didn’t get the brake pushed in time. We had the car repainted after being repaired. During that spring, I bought a used violin from a neighbor woman who also had a young daughter. The girls played together some, and the other one told Cheryl that she was going to get a new Daddy. Cheryl replied, I just got one.

We lived in West Allis, WI from the Spring of 1955 until I was called to active duty with the Air Force in April. Allis-Chalmers gave me a leave-of-absence to be on active duty which was common then. Each Christmas while I was in the Air Force, they sent us a nice package of food: cheeses from Wisconsin, pumpernickel bread, dried fruit, nuts, etc.

We moved temporarily to Trail, OK again where we stored some things until the military shipped them. Dorotha and Cheryl stayed there while I went to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX for a week or so for orientation into active military service. Of course, I applied to be a pilot. I was given a thorough physical examination to determine if I were qualified for pilot training. I passed except for some questions about my feet which were naturally “flat”, but were OK by wearing arch supports. My eyes were good then and I didn’t need glasses until later in life. We were also given numerous other tests required to be a pilot.

I and some other buddies that I met at Lackland AFB, got to see some tourist sites in San Antonio such as the Alamo, the San Antonio River (that later became the River Walk) etc. Lackland AFB was a large facility with a Base Exchange (BX), sports, movies, Chapels, etc. We roomed on the Base and participated in activities there.

Following Lackland AFB, I was assigned to “Primary” pilot training at Bartow AFB in Central Florida (Jun.-Dec., 1954). We then moved to FL and rented a small house in nearby Winter- Haven. I car-pooled with friends to Bartow AFB. Primary Training was for six months and consisted of a half-day of class work and a half-day of flying. We rotated weekly on which was first. The classes were interesting and included such things as aircraft engines and frames, navigation, weather, night flying, emergency procedures, etc.

The flying started out in a Piper Super Cub, (115 hp instead of 65), with an instructor to determine if we were prone to air-sickness, etc. We soloed in the Piper Cub and then went to the T-6 Texan. It was a sophisticated Trainer (600 hp radial engine), flaps, retractable gear, variable pitch propeller, etc. The flight training included the above plus night flying, aerobatics, formation flying etc. The Bock Tower bird sanctuary was also located in central Florida and we were prohibited from flying near it. The aerobatics included loops, rolls, and spins. I was frightened on one solo session when doing a spin. I unconsciously eased off the back pressure on the control stick that kept the plane stalled out, and the plane began a violent spiral dive. I had sufficient altitude for the spin recovery procedure, and brought the plane back to normal flying conditions.

North American T-6. Public domain picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Primary training was concluded with a ceremony on Dec. 17, 1954. We got our pilot’s wings which were pinned on by our wives. The class in training did a formation fly-over for the graduating class. Our class of 55-Q (class Q graduating in 1955) was scheduled to go to single-engine fighter training, but I noticed an announcement on the bulletin board about more pilots were needed to go to multi-engine bomber training. Some of us applied and were accepted for multi-engine bomber training at Vance AFB in Enid, OK.

We moved to Enid, rented a house and began six months (Jan.-Jun, 1955) of “Basic” training in the B-25 Mitchell bomber (1,700 hp twin radial engines). Training at Vance AFB was a similar routine to that at Bartow AFB. We had a half-day of class work and a half-day of flying, except that on cross-country navigation flights, we might be gone two or three days. Our son, Keith was born in a military hospital at Vance AFB on Apr. 15, 1955. The cost was very little for Airmen’s family, about $10.

North American B-25. Public domain picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After B-25 training, I was stationed at Fairchild AFB, Spokane, WA where I was assigned to a Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-36 bomber crew. We moved to Spokane, Washington in June,1955 and lived in town for a while but then moved onto the Base as we pilots and crew were often on “Alert” status which meant that when we were notified, we must quickly get dressed into flight suits and report to the flight line.

The Convair B-36 “Peacemaker” bomber had 10 engines, six 3,800 hp. radial engines and four jets with 5,200 lb. of thrust each. It was the biggest bomber ever built. There were 21 people on my crew, including three pilots as the flight could be up to 40 hours. My longest flight was 36 hours. There were at least two people for each position. The B-36 was capable of flying to any place in the world and returning non-stop and non-refueled. It often carried a thermo-nuclear hydrogen bomb having over 100 times the explosive power of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan to end WW II. There were two Wings of bomber crews in the 15th Air Force at Fairchild AFB, the 92nd and the 99th. I was assigned to the 99th Bomb Wing, but I also flew some with the 92nd. Security was high at Fairchild AFB, especially on the flight line. The SAC pilots had Top Secret Clearances to carry the hydrogen bomb and we also carried a .38 cal. revolver. This was during the Cold War with the USSR. Using a quip from Teddy Roosevelt, walk softly but carry a big stick, the B-36 was the big stick of the USA at that time.

Convair B-36. Public domain picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I had temporary duty at Eielson AFB at Fairbanks, Alaska in Nov., 1955 (before Alaska became a state). There were 18 hours of night and 6 hours of daylight. The night, however, was bright enough to see many things, even white ptarmigan birds flying. I also had temporary duty at Anderson AFB on Guam Island in the Pacific Ocean in March, 1956. From Guam, we flew to Japan on an R&R (Rest and Recuperation) trip. We landed at Yakota AFB. We had a few days sight-seeing that included the Emperor’s Palace Grounds in Tokyo. I bought a few things in Japan that are now in our basement museum. When returning from Guam to Fairchild AFB, I saw the sun come up twice.

Don in Air Force dress uniform – 1956.

The B-36 bombers were retired in 1956-57 while I was at Fairchild AFB in favor of the new B-47 eight-engine all jet bomber and it was later replaced by the B52 eight-engine jet bomber. I was reassigned for a few months to Base Operations duty where I was on Tower duty some and flew Beechcraft C-45 twin-engine, 450 hp each, planes to keep up pilot proficiency. We co-pilots had been flying the C-45’s earlier to keep up landing proficiency as the B-36 landed so few times that only the flight commander and 1st pilot got landings in it.

In the AF, I received pilot ratings of Commercial, Instrument, and Single and Multi-Engines and ground instructor ratings of Meteorology and Aircraft Engines. I was released from active duty on June 7, 1957 and was assigned to the inactive Reserve for 10 years. I was not called back to active duty. I was officially discharged from the USAF in October, 1968.

The Air Force active duty time, three years, was a short period, but it had a great influence on my life. My dream of flying became a reality. I had many good experiences as contrasted to many veterans who had bad experiences. I have been flying to some degree ever since.

Upon leaving the Air Force, we traded the 1953 Chevrolet in on a new 1957 Mercury that also had a standard transmission, but it had an over-drive that saved gasoline on the highway. We temporarily moved to Trail, Oklahoma again. On the way from Spokane, WA to Trail, we went by way of California, Nevada, and New Mexico seeing sights along the way. Dennis Lynn Day was born that summer while we were staying at Trail with Mom and Dad. I took Dorotha to the hospital at Clinton, OK where Dennis was born on July 26, 1957.

Don holding Dennis, Dorotha, Keith and Cheryl.

Lubbock, Texas

While at Trail, Oklahoma, during the summer of 1958, I drove with a friend to the American Society of Agricultural Engineering (ASAE) meeting in Chicago, Illinois. I had maintained my membership in ASAE while in the Air Force. I attended employment sessions and learned of a teaching position at Texas Technological College in Lubbock, Texas. I interviewed for the position, and was accepted.

I took the job, and we moved to Lubbock, Texas in 1957. Upon arriving at Lubbock, we took a Chamber of Commerce tour and the announcer told us that the rainy season the previous year was on Thursday. We bought a three-bedroom house with a car-port for $12,000. We had a storm cellar built in the back yard to go into, in case of a tornado.

I was an Instructor in the Agricultural Engineering Department at Texas Tech. The Department Head was Prof. Ira Williams and the other Prof. was Dr. Bill Schwiesow, there were only three of us on the Agricultural Engineering Staff at that time. There were several Veterans in the classes and some of them were older than I was. I taught a Farm Buildings course and a Farm Shop course. Prof. Williams and Dean of Agriculture Stangle recommended that if I were going to stay in the college teaching business, I should get a Master of Science (MS) Degree. So I applied for Graduate work at the Univ. of Missouri in Columbia, MO and was accepted for a half-time assistantship for which I got paid. I also had the G.I. Bill and the two incomes together made it possible to go back to college with a wife and three children. I built a two-wheel trailer at Lubbock so we could move our things. It was enclosed and had a cover over it. We moved to Columbia, MO in May of 1959.

Columbia, Missouri

We lived the summer of 1959 in an apartment on the Fink Farm in the country west of Columbia, MO in Boone County near the Missouri river. It was a beautiful place with a pond where we went fishing, but driving to work was unhandy as we had only one car, the 1957 Mercury. There was a big Oak tree in the yard that Daniel Boone had camped under. When the Fall semester began, we moved into Graduate Student Housing on Campus.

Prof. Mack Jones was Head of the Agricultural Engineering Department. He and Mrs. Jones were very hospitable to us. I taught Farm Shop courses for my Half-time Assistantship job. The courses included black-smith, tin-smith and welding. I liked the work and became a good welder for that time, before MIG and TIG welders.

I took graduate courses and majored in Farm Processing (grain handling and drying, etc.). I was allowed to take a Special Problem with a major report instead of an M. S. Thesis. Dr. C. LeRoy Day was my Major Advisor, no relation. I completed the work in a year and graduated with an M. S. Degree in Agricultural Engineering in May, 1958. This was an unusually short time considering that I was raising a family and working half-time. Dorotha also worked part-time for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a Home-Economist that included interviewing people.

I was on Leave-Of-Absence from Texas Technological College, but since I was back into studying and going to graduate college, I decided to continue on for a PhD degree. I was accepted for graduate studies at the Oklahoma State University, formerly Oklahoma A & M. We moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma the summer of 1959.

Stillwater, Oklahoma

We lived on an acreage in the country NE of Stillwater while I was in graduate school. We had the 1957 Mercury car, a 1946 Ford pickup truck, and a 1943 Ford tractor. We had a dog, Pal, that played with a polecat (small skunk) and a rabbit, butterball. Cheryl had a cat, Darla Jo; Keith had a cat Butter Finger; and Dennis had a cat, Ging Ging. We bought a saddle and they threw in a pony named Lightning. Actually, the pony was owned by someone else and we just borrowed her. We also raised a few calves and had one butchered for meat and stored in a locker as we didn’t have a deep freezer. There was a small pond where the livestock watered and we fished and swam there.

The house had two bedrooms. We partitioned one with book cases and the boys had one side and Cheryl had the other. The “Bad Boys” came in some nights and trashed the boys side of the room! The kitchen/dining room had a small closet beneath the flue. Keith threw food that he didn’t like, green peas etc., into the closet when we were not looking. Of course, the food attracted roaches and mice. There was also a small house nearby where I studied. Ronnie Cox of Taloga, OK lived with us a while in the little house and attended Stillwater High School. His Grandmother, Eva Lawton Cox, gave him a new Chevrolet car to use, but he finally ruined it from racing. Some nearby neighbors ran a dairy and we got raw milk from them. If shook around enough, like in a baby bottle, it would turn into butter.

I studied some with Buck and Betty Decker and Wayne Kroutil. I flew sometimes with Wayne at the Stillwater Airport. Wayne was from Stillwater and he found a dead person who had jumped off the football stadium, apparently it was suicide. There was also a student who shot himself in the head with a shotgun in a men’s dormitory, it also appeared to be suicide.

Dorotha took some courses to finish her Bachelor Of Science (BS) degree in Home Economics on May 27, 1961. My Major Advisor was Dr. Gordon L. Nelson and I graduated with a Doctor Of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Agricultural Engineering on Aug. 11, 1962. The job market was somewhat tight and I interviewed for University Professor jobs at North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND; at the Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD; and at the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana, IL. I had offers from the first two, but not from the Univ. of IL. When back in Stillwater, I was considering what to do when I had a phone call from the Univ. of IL asking if I were going to take their job. I said that I didn’t know that I had an offer and they said, the job is yours if you want it but they can’t wait much longer. I said that I would take it, not knowing what the salary would be, but I was sure it would be satisfactory. So we sold the pickup truck and other things and moved to IL. We still had the 57 Mercury and the trailer that I had built while in Lubbock, TX.

Urbana, Illinois

We arrived in Illinois in late August, 1962 and lived the first year in a rental house near Mahomet, IL owned by Ed Hansen who had hired me. I car pooled with him that first year. We then bought a new house in the Edgewood community of NE Urbana, IL. We lived there about 25 years until the Children were grown and gone. The Children all graduated from Urbana High School. Then we bought an acreage about seven miles east of Urbana where we developed Aero-Place, a Residential Airport where we now live. We attended a Methodist church for several years and then we switched to Twin City Bible Church.

Aero-Place Residential Airport

We bought 21 acres about seven miles F of Urbana in 1985 where we developed AeroPlace Residential Airport. It has a grass runway 1/2 mile long for small airplanes and there are now 10 houses and five airplanes based there. There was a pole barn on it that we converted into a hangar with a farm shop and storage for tractors, antique cars, etc. I did the preliminary surveying for the subdivision and drew the floor plans for our house. We built our house there in 1989 and have lived there since.

Airborne shot of Day AeroPlace, 2004.


I officially retired in May, 1993. There was a Retirement Dinner-Program for me as was the custom at that time. All my close family were there; Dorotha, Mom, my three brothers and two sisters-in-law, our three children and their spouses, and all eight Grandchildren (Dad, a Christian, died in 1976 at the age of 71). In total, there were about 200 people at the gala affair of my retirement party.

Surrounded by my last and my first PhD students, Ruihong Zhang and James Converse. Picture is from 2002.

After official retirement, I worked half-time for two more years teaching the Livestock Waste Management course that I had developed. I also continued to be Faculty Advisor for some Graduate Students who were in process. This was a very enjoyable time for me as I did what I liked to do, taught a course and worked with graduate students, but I wasn’t required to attend faculty meetings or be involved with administrative decisions.

Dorotha became ill in 1996 just after we returned from a summer duty at the University of Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico. She was finally diagnosed as having Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy (PSP), a disease of no known cause and no known cure. It started disabling her at the feet and worked up until it affected her brain. I became a full-time care-giver and eventually had to have home night-care nurse help. She unexpectedly died Feb. 1, 2000. We had a funeral here in Urbana, IL at Twin City Bible Church and another one at the Methodist Church in Leedey, OK. She was then buried in the Trail Cemetery near where I grew up.

Marriage to Sarah

I met Sarah F. Winger in Leedey, OK when I was visiting Mom on the farm near Leedey. Sarah was visiting Pastor Dave and Jo McGarvey as they had previously been pastoring at a BIC church in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada where Sarah lived and was a nurse there. She attended that church and had spent her off-time taking care of a handicapped dwarf, Shirley McKinnon. I visited Sarah in Kitchener and we became better acquainted and she visited here at Urbana, IL. Someone had told me that I should find a nurse to take care of me in my old age! We were married Nov. 23, 2001 at the BIC church near Leedey OK and now spend time here in Illinois and also in W. Oklahoma near Leedey.

Sarah and I went on humanitarian trips to Israel in 2003 and 2004. The trips were sponsored by IL Christian Radio Station WGNN and we took teddy bears to children in hospitals who had been injured in the present war.

Marriage to Sarah.

Post Retirement

I had a heart attack Feb. 7, 2005 while helping on the farm near Leedey, OK. It was caused by plaque build-up in an artery, but it damaged a heart valve. I was in a hospital in Elk City, OK about a week, but we returned to IL for heart surgery on Apr. 25. The damaged heart valve was replaced with a bovine valve so now I am part cow! I also had two by-passes.

Mom went to be with the Lord April 4, 2006 at the age of 98 ½ years. Dad, Mom and Dorotha are buried in the Cemetery at Trail, OK where 1 grew up.

I still manage the Aero-Place Residential Airport in IL and we spend time in IL, OK, and Canada as well as visit our three children, eight grandchildren, and great grandchildren (seven and counting) in AL, CA, IL, FL, and MO. I also visit the Agricultural Engineering Dept. at the University of Illinois on various occasions. The group of faculty that I worked with have a coffee meeting at a restaurant each Tuesday morning. The wives join us on the first Tuesday of each month. Some of our group, however, have died.

Sarah and I occasionally give talks to various groups.

Dressed for giving talk on Will Rogers of Oklahoma and Rope Twirling in 2005.


My life, with its highs and lows, has been thrilling and I am very satisfied with it. I have fulfilled my boyhood dreams of becoming an Engineer and a Pilot. I became a Christian at an early age and thus have received much comfort and happiness throughout my life. Some major health problems have been Dorotha becoming ill in 1996 and dying in 2000, and me having; prostate cancer surgery in 1996; heart attack and surgery in 2005, and the left eye causing trouble in 2007. Juggling the demands of family, career, and citizenship have certainly presented challenges, but God-given aptitudes allowed me to successfully cope with the challenges.

Some benchmarks of my life and career as an Agricultural Engineer and Pilot have been:

1. Being raised in a Christian family with loving and caring Parents.

2. Living through hard times (the depression and dust bowl days of the early 1930’s), but being able to make the best of it.

3. Getting higher education even though my parents could only financially help a little. The G. I Bill helped with getting advanced degrees.

4. Having a wonderful Wife (Dorotha for 46 years) and Children (Cheryl, Keith, and Dennis) and then another wonderful Wife (Sarah) after Dorotha died.

5. Getting excellent Pilot training in the USAF while receiving Officers pay, and my family lived with me most of the time.

6. Having lived in nine states including graduate schools and the Air Force.

7. Combining family summer vacations with attending ASAE meetings throughout the nation.

8. Being associated with nine Universities including graduate schools and Sabbatical Leaves.

9. Having short-time assignments for advisory/lecturing duties in 32 foreign countries.

10. Receiving numerous awards at various stages of my life.

The year 2,007 is very significant to me. It is not only the Centennial of ASABE, but it is the Centennial of the state of Oklahoma and my Mother would have been 100 years old had she lived another 1 ½ years. On April 4, 2006 however, she went to be with the Lord.

We had a family reunion in May, 1993 when I retired. It included my brothers, Mom, our three children and eight grandchildren (23 people including spouses). In May, 2004 we had another reunion.

1993 Family Reunion
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