Vermilion Flycatcher and Great Blue Heron


My birding the past few weeks has almost been non-existent, as the birds seem to be taking an extended summer vacation elsewhere.  This morning Ann and I decided to to some get off our butts and see if there was anything new arriving since fall migration is drawing near, plus my best friend Shannon, texted me and told me, “Take Ann birding today”.  I took that as a good sign.  Heck, it doesn’t take much of a push to get me to go birding.

The weather was fantastic, temps in the mid-seventies when we started.  We went to Spring Creek Park, Middle Concho Park, and ended up by going out by Twin Buttes Reservoir.  By leaving early, around 8:00AM we were able to catch a few birds enjoying the cooler temps.  We birded a total of three hours and saw 22 species.  Really not much, inasmuch as we are used to seeing as many as 45 species in that time frame.

Vermilion Flycatcher Spring Creek Park San Angelo, Texas

Vermilion Flycatcher – male 1st year
Spring Creek Park
San Angelo, Texas

We visited Spring Creek Park first and saw a few birds, but the highlight was seeing some of my favorite Vermilion Flycatchers.  I captured the one above with my Canon 7D and 500mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter attached.  I was about 30 yards away in my car.

Leaving that area we headed to Middle Concho Park.  We drove along the river and spotted a couple of Great Blue Herons on the other side, about 150 yards away.  We observed this one, below, for several minutes and needless to say, I took many images of it.  I have this habit of wanting to keep pressing that shutter, always hoping to catch that perfect moment or special pose.  I like this one.  I used the same setup as I did for the flycatcher, although this image is cropped a bit more because of the distance involved.

Great Blue Heron Middle Concho Park, San Angelo, Texas

Great Blue Heron
Middle Concho Park,
San Angelo, Texas

From there we headed to Twin Butte Reservoir.  We didn’t observe many species there, not enough to get some great photos anyway.  We were disappointed however to see how much this once huge lake had shrunk because of the drought. A once very busy boat ramp is at least a half mile from any water.  We pray for rain here daily.

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Prints are available by contacting me at bob.zeller@aol.com.

August in the Big Bend


Ann and I returned from our 55th “honeymoon” on Monday, tired but pleased with our trip to the Big Bend.  We did find that August is not the ideal month to be visiting there.  It is probably the hottest month of the year for the area, which is we already knew, and of course not the best month for birding there.  So why did we go??  Simply because we had never been there in August, our wedding anniversary was on the 18th and we wanted to celebrate in our favorite place in the state of Texas.

It all came about on Monday the 12th when I asked Ann. “Honey, why don’t

Ann sitting and enjoying the view from our little cabin.  Photo take with my iPad.

Ann sitting and enjoying the view from our little cabin. Photo take with my iPad.

we spend our 55th down in the Big Bend?”  Of course her answer came after I dragged her back out of the car, and said, “Get back in the house.  We have to pack first.”  She likes the place, too.  I went on-line and reserved a cabin at Far Flung Outdoor Center in Study Butte for four nights.  We love those little ‘Casitas’ as they call them.  Particularly the little porches where one can sit and look at the desert or mountains.

We left on Thursday morning the 15th.  Our plan was to make just a simple fun trip with no particular itinerary as places to visit, except to spend a great deal of our time in Big Bend National Park.   It wasn’t to be a birding trip per se, but we would watch for a few species in case there would be something interesting.  We would get a few fun snapshots and maybe some interesting landscape photos.  At over 800,000 acres we probably will have the place to ourselves.  Big Bend NP is one of the least visited park, and August might be the slowest month there.  Because of heavy oil field traffic to our west on Hwy 67, we opted to take Hwy 277 south to Sonora, then get on I-10 to Fort Stockton.  From there Hwy 385 takes us directly into Big Bend National Park south of Marathon.  To get to our cabin in Study Butte, we just simply drive out the western park entrance.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

So just after entering the north entrance to the park, south of Marathon, we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk perched atop a tree.  I slowed down, made a U-turn to go back to see if I could get a photo from across the road.  I pulled up on the right shoulder, grabbed my camera with my 500mm lens that was resting on the console.  The bird was alerted and started to take off, but I managed to squeeze off a couple of shots before it was completely gone.

Later on I also got this photo of a Swainson’s Hawk sitting on a nest high in a tree.

Swainson's Hawk on nest.

Swainson’s Hawk on nest.

Both the Turkey and Black Vultures were plentiful.  They actually were

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

pretty when seen early in the morning, warming up for their daily flights.  Have a look at these:

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

We saw numerous other small birds, too, but not as many as would be

Yours truly, photo by Ann Zeller

Yours truly, photo by Ann Zeller

seen when weather cools a bit during the fall migration.  But we really enjoy the mountainous landscape there.  A must place to stop and observe the Rio Grande is the “Big Hill” on Hwy 170 between Lajitas and Presidio.  That drive is one of the most spectacular in the nation.  The road travels along the river, the hills and cliffs on the right side of the car, then across the river the mountains and cliffs of the Mexican ranges.  At the highest point, up a 15% grade, you reach the Big Hill, 450 feet above the Rio Grande.  There is a pull-off so one can get great photographs.  Ann hates to get out of the car there, let alone take photos, but I managed to promise her a margarita if she would help me out a bit here.

Rio Grande from the Big Hill, Hwy 170.

Rio Grande from the Big Hill, Hwy 170.

female Aoudad

female Desert Bighorn

Driving west from there we rounded a curve and we saw two Desert Bighorns lounging on the center line.  One was an adult female and the other it’s young.  They arose immediately and scampered up the near vertical rocky slope.  About 15 feet up they stopped and turned to look back.  By then I had stopped the car and grabbed my other camera witht the 100-400mm lens.  Now, for about an hour, we had only seen one vehicle.  So, as luck would have it, just as I had the Bighorn adult almost in focus, a pickup truck roared past and spooked them a bit.  The baby went out of sight, but the adult stayed but changed position so it was facing away.  Luckily, I waited a few seconds and it turned it’s head for me to pose for a shot.

We continued on to Presidio, found a Mexican food restaurant that we were familiar with from past visits, and had a great breakfast.  We then turned back and went back the way we came.  The distance from Presidio back to our room in Study Butte is only around 65 miles, but because of the twisty, winding, mountainous road it takes a little over two hours to cover it.  But well worth it with the spectacular scenery.

I am going to mention a lesson that we learned on a previous visit.  It is the old adage that you “can’t judge a book by the cover”.  For many years previous since the mid 80s we had passed by this place, the Long Draw Pizza.  The appearance gives the impression of just being a little off the road dive, maybe a hangout for bikers, or something like that.  Check the picture below.  Don’t you agree?  Anyway, about two years ago we decided we wanted to check out that pizza.  It opens at 5:00, Wednesdays through Sunday.  We were there at opening time.  We went through the door.  WOW!  There was a whole new world in there.  I nice clean, tidy place with a long bar and a bunch of tables.  And, best of all, the best pizza we have ever eaten in that part of the state. A little lady by the name of Nancy, runs it, and does all the cooking.  Tell her I sent ya. 🙂

Long Draw Pizza, Terlingua, Texas

Long Draw Pizza, Terlingua, Texas

The following evening, we ate at La Kiva, another restaurant in Study Butte.  We split a large rib-eye steak with all the fixin’s.  We also partook of a couple of margaritas, the first on the house because they knew of our 55th anniversary.  Hey, it pays to advertise.

Click on any image to see some enlargements.

Yakkety-Sax Man – Part VI: The Final Chapter


Note:  Since Ann and I are going to the Big Bend country to spend the weekend and our 55th wedding anniversary at the Far Flung Adventures Casitas, I am publishing this final Part VI a few days early.

In May of 1968 we moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.  The purpose for the move was that Ann was transferred by the San Angelo Coca-Cola Bottling Company to their Las Cruces location, with the aim of re-organizing the office there.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces, New Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got a job as a car salesman for the Chevrolet dealer there.  I also joined the Optimists Club that met for breakfast every Thursday morning.  It was soon after that that club members met one evening at Gene Peugh’s home for a cocktail party.  Gene and some of his buddies were providing the music.  I had been in town only a few days and was looking for music work.  During the evening I asked Gene if I could sit in.  I went home, a few blocks away, and brought my sax back.  What a blast that was.  I was welcomed into the band immediately.

The band consisted of Gene, (AKA Stinky Peugh) who played the piano;  B.L. Wicher, the local tax collector who played rhythm guitar;  Gene’s teen-aged son, Dean, played the drums.  There were only four of us but we were pretty effective.  Because of age differences, we called ourselves “ZAP, The Generation Gap”.  We played at small functions around town and at the Las Cruces Country Club.  (Note:  ZAP was for Zeller and Peugh.)

ZAP The Generation Gap L to R: B.L. Wicher, Gene Peugh, Bob Zeller, Dean Peugh.

ZAP The Generation Gap
L to R: B.L. Wicher, Gene Peugh, Bob Zeller, Dean Peugh.

My salesman position, was at the beginning, a complete disaster.  I was a bad introvert, not a good trait in a salesman.  I was afraid to talk to people.  The owners of the dealership were very nice and they liked me enough that they didn’t want to lose me.  They gave me a job in the accounting department instead of firing me.  Of course, I was really in my element there because bookkeeping was my thing.  I was happy there for quite awhile.

However, being in the Optimist Club, with their outgoing members really had an effect on me.  I started coming out of my shell, so to speak.  I overcame my shyness in a complete turnaround.  All of a sudden I knew I could sell cars, but of course they, the Chevy dealer, wouldn’t take a chance again.  But the sales manager of the American Motors, (think Nash), and Mercedes-benz dealer said he would hire me.  I went to work there and sold a new car within an hour on my first day.  From then on, I was to become a successful car salesman for another ten years.  As for my shyness??  My friends can’t shut me up now. 🙂

In May of 1972, Ann was invited to move back here to San Angelo, to resume her career as office manager.  I got back into the swing of things in the music world again.  But I wasn’t as active as I was in the “old” days.  The Cavaliers as I knew them, were defunct, but another generation of musicians were re-organizing them again.  Their genre was more in keeping up with the then current pop type music of the 70s.  They were all friends of mine, and James Thomas, a local real-estate agent played sax.  Whenever I was at a function where they were playing, he always invited me to sit in.

When word got out that I was back, my old friend Billy Aylor called me.  He said that there was going to be a contest for choosing a local western singer to go to Dallas for another competition.  I don’t recall what that was all about.  But he wanted me to help him judge the competition, along with Chill Wills, the movie star and another guy whom I don’t remember the name.  Too many years have passed.  It was held at another club near the air base.  There were about fifteen competitors performing in front of a crowd of about a hundred.  Well, during the contest, Chill, Billy and I were enjoying liquid refreshments.  I do remember that the winner was very happy…….as we were.

In February of 1982, I got a call from Gene Peugh, back in New Mexico.  The old band was getting back together for a reunion and playing at a Battle of the Bands, held in the ballroom at the Holiday Inn de Las Cruces.  It would be us against the New Mexico State University band.  Gene had got a bunch of musicians from Nashville to come in to help us out.  It was for a charity benefit.

Now a “Battle of the Bands” is just show, no contest involved.  One band plays for an hour then the other band plays for another hour, and it goes back and forth.  The NMSU band set up at one end of the ballroom and we at the other.  We, both bands, put on great shows.  The NMSU band was great, organized, and well practiced.  We on the other hand was a bunch that half of us had never worked together; the Nashville musicians had just gotten in that afternoon.  What we lacked in organization, we were overwhelmed with star power.  I think we had, piano, drums, upright bass, trombone, two saxes, a rhythm guitar, trumpet, two or three fiddles.  There were about 500 people in attendance and the proceeds went to a local charity.

Back here in San Angelo, I was playing a lot at the Twin Mountains Steakhouse and Supper Club.  We had a country/western band called the Concho River Boys, and we worked there about four nights a week.  It was a neat place.  Nice tables and cushioned chairs for dining, then the music started about 9:00 for dancing.  It was quite different from some of the cowboy hangouts that I had worked on occasion where you had to look out for low-flying beer cans.

I slowly began to curtail my playing.  Music was changing too much for my tastes.  I didn’t like the trend of the way music was headed, such as  hard rock music.  My time was passing and didn’t want to be looked up as a washed-up has-been.  I just retired gracefully.  My last gig was with a band of musicians of my own choosing, playing for the Christmas party of West Texas Utilities Company, at the San Angelo Convention Center.  That was December 20, 1986.

Looking back, I have decided that if I had it all to do over again, there is not a single thing that I would change.

I sold my saxophone to a young airman at Goodfellow AFB.  It was a Selmer Mark VI that I purchased with my re-enlistment bonus back in 1957.  It could still sing……….

Author’s note:  I hope everyone enjoyed my story as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Will there be a book?  I doubt it.  But there are an awful of tales that have yet to be told.

Tale of two herons…


On Friday, to get out of the house for a change we headed to Spring Creek Park.  Again, still now much in the way of birding.  However, I got this photo of a Great Blue Heron hunting in the water.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Then this morning as Ann and I were leaving McDonalds Restaurant after breakfast, this Yellow-crowned Night Heron was along the nearby creek.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

It pays to always have a camera handy.  Click on either photo to see an enlargement.

Yakkety-Sax Man – Part V: Cavaliers’ Rockabilly Heaven


Part IV concluded with me having that twinge mi my chest while I was doing my job as chief cashier at Karamursel AFB.  Thinking that it was just a minor muscle twitch, I tried to walk around.  Wow!  All of a sudden, I was short winded after taking just a few steps.  Fortunately, the infirmary was just next door, so I limped over there to see a doctor.

It turned out that my right lung collapsed about 75% in those few seconds.  I had been smoking, but that wasn’t the cause.  It turned out later the blame was with the Marfan Syndrome that I was later diagnosed with many years later.  Unable to correct this malfunction at Karamursel, they put me on a stretcher and flew me to Istanbul, where I would meet a larger aircraft that would take me to Wiesbaden, Germany, where a larger military facility existed.  It was a three day trip through Athens, Greece, then Tripoli, North Africa and finally to Germany.   A tube was inserted in my chest there and I was kept there several days so my lung could re-expand.  I would spend a total of about two weeks there before being flown back to my home station in Turkey.  At that time, the medical people still had no idea why my lung had collapsed.

Meanwhile, back in Turkey, orders were issued for our transfer back to the United States.  Since I wasn’t there, Air Force personnel assisted Ann in making arrangement for our furniture to be shipped back to the USA.  So, when I walked in the door of the apartment,  Ann says, guess what??  Of course during the time I was gone, we had no communication between us.  No phones, cell or otherwise.  So, three days later, we left Turkey for good, spending a weekend in Frankfort, Germany, then making the final trip home in a civilian TWA Boeing 707.

English: Shows a decent view of downtown San A...

View of downtown San Angelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We arrived here at Goodfellow AFB on December 20, 1961.  The next day we purchased a brand new house and decided that San Angelo would be our final home.

After reporting in to my duty assignment, and getting settled into our new home, I turned to the next order of business;  finding music work.  I put an ad in the newspaper that I was an available sax player, adept at any genre of music.  I promptly got a call from guitarist Sid Holmes, who along with a bass player Lewis Elliot, were re-organizing the Cavaliers, a band that had broken up several months previously.  They liked my credentials so we became a three-piece band  We got booked into a small club, “The Blue Rail”.

We played all instrumentals as we lacked a vocalist then, mostly western and rock-a-billy hits.  We finally found an airman on base that wanted to sing.  We auditioned him at the club.  Lewis, the bass player, and I, didn’t think he could sing worth a flip, but Sid, the leader, over-ruled us and hired him. His voice was high and raspy, but with us backing him up, he sounded good for the rock and roll music of that era.  His name was J. Frank Wilson.

J. Frank Wilson

J. Frank Wilson

Word got around about us, and were packing them into the tiny little club.  J. Frank was getting better.  I was only with the band for about four months, leaving when Sid Holmes and I had a few differences.  But it was a fun period playing that type of music.  Sid Holmes wrote the book, “Rockabilly Heaven”, the story of the Cavaliers, and on page 95 he gave me a nice write-up with my photo, saying that I was “San Angelo’s best kept secret”.  In 1964 the Cavaliers, along with J. Frank Wilson, recorded the song, “Last Kiss”.  One of the greatest hits of that time.  But that was J. Frank’s only big recording.  He died several years ago in a nursing home in south Texas.joz4006

The Cavaliers and I  were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2004.

In April of 1962, I joined the Leonard King Orchestra.  Now it was back to the dance music that I was more accustomed to, the old big band style.  We played country clubs, officers clubs, etc., with our ballroom style of music.  I also was back to doing vocals along being the front man with my sax.

San Angelo was called the Wool Capital of the World back then.  Sheep production was one of the main industries here.  The annual Miss Wool of America Pageant was held here at our coliseum.  Our band furnished the music at that event for a couple of years.  There were always special guests and we backed up the likes of Peter Nero among others.  The pageant finally went on national television after a few years.  A larger band from Dallas was booked to replace us.  Upon arrival from Dallas, they needed a good sax player.  Guess who they called upon.  You got it.  I was one of their sax players for the TV production.

English: San Angelo Cactus Hotel, old Hilton.

San Angelo Cactus Hotel, old Hilton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But before that, on June 4 of 1962, we were playing for a dance in the ballroom of the Cactus Hotel.  During the second intermission, I took a smoke break.  After sitting back down with the other saxes to begin the third set, I felt that familiar pain in my chest.  I thought, “Oh sh*t, not again!”  I said to myself, “Zeller, you had one too many cigarettes.”  It was my left lung this time, collapsed nearly 90%.  I went into denial, and managed to play three more songs before I admitted it was for real.  Without going into details, I will say that I managed to drive home.  There, Ann called the air base and an ambulance was sent for me.  I never smoked  another cigarette after that evening.

I was flown to Wilford Hall U.S. Air Force Hospital in San Antonio.  There I spent three months recuperating and having tests done to see what was causing the spontaneous pneumothorax’s,  the medical term or my collapsed lungs.  In the end, as before mentioned, I was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome and given a medical discarge from the military.  I was told by the medical staff that I would eventually get emphysema.  I proved them wrong on that, but my dreams of a full time professional music career were ended.  After I healed, I resumed playing with the Leonard King band.  I continued just being satisfied playing with bands and musicians locally, so to be near medical help if needed.

I do believe that by continuing with my saxophone playing it was good

Randy Dorman

Randy Dorman (Photo credit unknown)

therapy for my lungs.  During the 60s, I also played with the Billy Aylor Orchestra, Johnny Dutton Western band, Alton Baird and the Moonlighters, and a few other local bands as needed.  Randy Dorman, the great jazz guitarist with Kenny Rogers, started his career in San Angelo and I was honored to play with him during one engagement.

One funny anecdote.  Al Ricci, John McMillan, musican friends, got booked to play for a dance following a dinner/play in Wichita Falls, Texas on New Year’s Eve.  We were being paid 175.00 each to play from 10:00 until midnight.  The dinner and play ran late and we didn’t get started until about 11:45.  We played for the fifteen minutes, collected our money and drove home.  I was riding with Al in his pickup.  Al wore a toupee, and during the drive he opened up his window, the toupee blew off and fortunately landed in the bed of the pickup with his string bass.  We got a good laugh out of that.

All of these years Ann had been working for the local Coca-Cola Bottling Company.  In 1968 she was asked to transfer to the Las Cruces, New Mexico plant to re-organize the office operation there.  Our four years there will be the subject of Part VI coming next week.

The book, “Rockabilly Heaven” is published by Ft. Phantom Lake Publishing, 6204 S. Freeway, Ft. Worth, TX 76134.  It is also available from the author Sid Holmes at sid-holmes@charter.net.  It is the untold story of the Cavaliers from 1956 -1964.  West Texas music in the 50s and 60s.

My own book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes” is still available from my Blurb publisher.  Click on the link on right side of this page or e-mail me at bob.zeller@aol.com.

To read Parts I thru IV, click Categories, then select Music Career on right side of page.

Mississippi Kites – Here for the summer


One of the raptor type birds that hang around here in the summer is the Mississippi Kite.  I was reminded of them when my friend, Russell Smith, called me and told me that there were some in his neighborhood.  There is a nest across the street from his home, and some of the young ones come sit in his own tree.  I haven’t gotten there yet in time to get photos for this blog post, so I will relate this experience that I had a couple of years ago.

Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite

We had been to the Cedar Gap Farm bird sanctuary near Abilene.  When leaving, about a quarter of a mile away I spotted a young kite sitting atop a utility pole.  It was crying out, so I looked to the sky and spotted his parent, flying high above.  As I watched, the adult came soaring in with a tasty morsel and fed it to the child.  The adult, then left, apparently to fetch some more food so I got my cameras prepared.  As it came back, I was able to get these photos.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Mississippi Kite - juvenile

Mississippi Kite – juvenile

Adult Mississippi Kite feeding a juvenile.

Adult Mississippi Kite feeding a juvenile.

Adult Mississippi Kite feeding juvenile

Adult Mississippi Kite feeding juvenile

Yakkety-Sax Man – Part IV: It’s Istanbul, Not Constantinople


Istanbul, Turkey.  Formerly Constantinople.  Getting off the plane the smell is instantly noticeable.  Turkish cigarettes and other odors cling to the air.  This is Istanbul International Airport.  We were debarking from an Air Force Super Constellation that brought us via Bermuda, Madrid, Tripoli, and Athens.  The Madrid stopover was necessitated by a failure of one of the four engines over Gibralter.  We stayed there overnight while the engine was replaced.

Harbiye'deki Hilton otelinin Taksim tarafından...

Istanbul Hilton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After staying over night at the Istanbul Hilton for about  $15.00 American, we were flown to Karamursel AFB, which would turnout to be our home for nearly three years.  This flight was a rickety Air Force C-47 that was from our duty station there to pick us up.  The pilot, who eventually became a family friend, had to. at times, poke a broomstick that he carried in the cockpit, up into the engine on start-up.  I don’t know what this accomplished, except to raise the eyebrows of new arrivals.

Karamursel AFB, was the home of TUSLOG Det. 3, (Turkish United States Logistics Group),a unit of the United States Air Force Security Service.  But other branches of the service were represented there, too.  It is on the Sea of Marmara southeast of Istanbul.  Our mission was monitoring communications of our friends north and east of the Black Sea.

English: United States Air Force Security Serv...

United States Air Force Security Service emblem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yalova Turkey Provinces locator

Yalova, Turkey upper left.  Just north of it you can see the Bosphorus canal that separates the two parts of Istanbul, between the Sea Marmara and the Black Seas. Meditereanean is at far left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Initially, Ann stayed in the States, as I didn’t have the rank for the Air Force to pay her way.  There were no quarters for families on the base and married couples lived in Yalova, a village about 12 miles away.  But after living in a barracks environment for about two months, I asked Ann to sell the Buick and use the money for a plane ticket to Turkey.  A few weeks later, she made her first plane trip ever, and I met her in Istanbul.  After a night at the Hilton,  we took the ferry to Yalova, about an hour’s trip.

I had found an apartment on the 4th floor of a building in Yalova.  Another military couple was the previous tenant, and our neighbors in the building were all military, too.  The rent was about $11.00 per month.  These low prices were because of the exchange rate.  We had a maid, $3.00 monthly and a houseboy, another $3.00.  These rates were American money, but with exchange rates the wages were average for the Turkish.  The apartment was two bedrooms and a kitchen.  The bath had a hot water tank with a fire-box underneath.  You had to build a fire before going to bed to have hot water in the morning.  Then you built another fire to have hot water in evening.  Our house boy took care of that, lugging firewood up the four flights of stairs.  He also met us when we came home from work, to carry any of our groceries, etc. upstairs for us.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  After my own arrival earlier and getting settled in, I stopped by the Airmen’s Club, that was in the base fire station.  It was temporary and plans were in the offing for a permanent club.  Anyway, some musicians were jamming one evening.  They were using instruments from the special services department.  My sax was still in transit so I picked up this battered looking alto and and used it.  I was immediately invited to play with a group that was playing a few gigs around the area.  It was made of of Navy personnel mainly.  We played at the NCO club a time or two and down at a submarine base at Golcuk, Turkey.

To do the appearances at the club at Golcuk, we needed a vehicle to haul the large equipment, drums, base, etc.  One of the sailors worked at the motor pool, and we “midnight requisitioned” a van of some type, and sneaked it past the military police on the gate.

Ann arrived then, and I ran into some Air Force musicians that also had a group and we re-organized.  We really could put on a show.  We had a piano player, upright bass, trumpet, sax, (me) and drums.  We romped to the style of Louis PrimaI fittingly happened to play a Sam Butera style at that time.  What a blast it was!  We would occasionally go to Istanbul and entertain at a USO club there.  We had to take our equipment on a ferry across the sea.  Quite a chore, but there was always a bunch of Turkish civilians that were more than anxious to help us.

Turkish ferry.  Harbor at Istanbul, Turkey.  @Bob Zeller.

Turkish ferry. Harbor at Istanbul, Turkey. @Bob Zeller.

Ann had gotten a job as office manager for the Officers’ Club and was instrumental in getting us to play at the dances there.  We played for the grand opening of the new NCO club, and many dances after that.  It was during one of those outings that a USO Show was there for extra entertainment. The caracaturist that drew the likenesses of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis was there with the group and he thought I was a great candidate for a caracature.   Below is the resultblog_bob_caracature.  I think he liked my Adam’s apple.

Our trumpet player was a member of one of the major big bands before entering the Air Force.  He was only serving a two-year hitch and was planning on re-joining that orchestra.  I don’t remember the name of that band.

Our upright bass player, Les White, had been a radio announcer, and he was our MC.  We didn’t do many vocals, as we were more of a show band.

By now you may be wondering where my photography came in.  It was at this Air Base that I bought my very first 35mm camera.  It was a German-made Kodak Retina IIIs rangefinder type.  Of course, I had always owned a camera of some sort, but they were the cheap little box cameras of the era.  The Brownie Hawkeye comes to mind.  I started shooting Kodachrome slides with a film speed of ASA 10.  To me the best slide film ever made.

Turkish Fishing Boat  @Bob Zeller

Turkish Fishing Boat @Bob Zeller

I began to get serious, and I enrolled with the home study course from the New York Institute of Photography.  I shot hundreds of slides while in Turkey, but during the shipment of our household goods back to the States many of them were lost or damaged.  But while I was there, I got acquainted with the official base photographer and he let me use the darkroom.  In return I let him use some of my own photos to use for the base commanders briefings for VIPs that dropped by.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Tukey.  ©Bob Zeller

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey. ©Bob Zeller

Since Ann and I were doing so well, with our “side jobs”, we extended our tour an additional year.  My job on base was Chief Cashier and in charge of the payroll.  I was responsible for paying all military and indigenous civilian personnel at the air base, plus two smaller detachments on remote sites on the Black Sea.  Most of the time, I was sitting in a cashiers cage, with a .45 caliber pistol at my side, handing out thousands of dollars each day.

It was on one of these days, in September of 1961 that I felt a twinge in my chest while I was sitting there.  Uh oh!……….  To be continued…………

Watch for Part V in about another week.  If you missed the first three parts, click the links below.

Part I, Part II, Part III