Farm Boy to Seaplanes

by Amos V. Mack, ABHI/NCI USN. Ret 1955-1975

I would like to dedicate this story to my son Mitchell Mack and grandson Michael Gonzalez. Both are ex-sailors and members of the MMA.

This is probably not the typical news letter story but I feel it proves that a seventeen year old farm boy from GA. can make it even though the odds are against me.

I grew up in Southeast GA. working in the cotton and tobacco fields along side of my mother and brother Robert. It was tough, making $3.00 – $4.00 per day. There were no food stamps or free stuff back in the 50s.

When I was 12 years old and Robert was drafted into the Army. He probably could’ve gotten a deferment but he wanted to serve his country. I finished the 9th grade and decided not to go back to school, so I could help my mother make a living. After Robert left we decided to move into town. We rented a small house. My mother washed clothes and cleaned houses. I would help the farmers by picking cotton, and cropping tobacco. Robert would send a few dollars when he could; the military pay wasn’t very good back then.

Robert came home after two years. He got married and moved to Savannah. He got a job with Great Dane trailers. His Army life helped him get the job. My older brother Charlie told me to come down to Orange Lake, FL. And stay with him. I was 14 by then so when I got to Florida, I got a job painting. I had several jobs for about 2 years. When I turned 16 I got a job working at a fish company. My cousin Melvin was a fishing guide so he helped me get the job. Melvin told me one day that some of the fishermen were coming in on two float seaplanes. I had never seen a plane up close until then. One of the pilots showed us around and I was really excited. I told Melvin that I would like to work around aviation one day.

I worked at the fish camp for about a year. I was 17 and decided to go back to Savanna to stay with Robert. He got me a job at Great Dane as a welder’s helper. I was happy to have the job but kept thinking about that little seaplane. I worked there for 6 months.

One Saturday morning, I decided to go to downtown Savannah. I didn’t have anything in mind at the time. I saw these sailors coming and going from a Navy recruiting office. I decided to go in and check it out I was greeted by this crusty old chief. He told me to come in and talk to him. He asked me questions, and I told him that I was interested in aviation. He said he couldn’t guarantee me anything because of my level of education. He said I could request it while in boot camp though. He asked me when I wanted to leave, so I told him I was ready!

We had to drive many miles to get my mother to sign for me. We went back to Savannah and completed the paperwork. He told me to come back Monday to leave. I went by bus to Columbia, S.C. and spent the night in Ft. Jackson. We all got physicals and were sworn in. We left that afternoon by train to Chicago, and then went by bus to Great Lakes. We started training (13 weeks), about half way through, we went for classification. I told the classifier about my wish to work around aircraft. He said he would put it down as my first choice. We finally got our orders, and I couldn’t believe it! I was going to a seaplane squadron in Norfolk, VA. (VP56).

After two weeks of leave, I reported to VP56. When I checked in at personnel I told them I would like to be a mechanic. They said they didn’t have any openings in the mechanic shop and I would be going to the beach crew. We would be launching and recovering the big P5MS. After about 6 months, they said they had an opening in the mechanic shop. I decided to stay in the beach crew. I had gotten used to the guys and that job, so I stayed there.

I got out in 1959 and went back to Savannah. I hung around for 78 days and decided the Navy was best for me. I tried to get another VP squadron but they didn’t have any available so I got a VW squadron. I was sent to VWII.

(Super Constellation’s) in Argentina, Newfoundland. I was just happy to be back in the Navy. I went on to serve on two air-craft carriers, two naval bases, and two tours of recruiting duty. That’s my story of how I went from farm boy to seaplanes!

“Go Navy”

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