Rebecca West: Words & Music

Tropical Paradise

by Bob West

When I started to attend the First Methodist Church in West Palm Beach regularly in July 1952, they asked me to be the worship chairman of the youth group even though I was not a member of the Methodist Church. And I accepted.

It was a joy to be part of this group of young people. They were very diversified, tolerant, kind, and fun to be with -- like a loving family, and their parents were the same way. We always had a place to go on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights after church.

MYF group

The church also had a parking lot where we played basketball and volleyball. And I remember doing the Mexican Hat Dance and square dancing in the church basement. We called it folk dancing, since the Methodist Church frowned on dancing. We did not do ballroom type dancing.

I did a few oil paintings in my spare time. Here is one I did while looking at a photo of a winter landscape in a colder part of our nation.

Bob and his landscape oil painting

I also set up my easel and did some paintings of our tropical scenery on location.

Bob painting on location

My organization at the Air Force base continued to train rescue and survival students like it had at MacDill AFB at Tampa, but the name was changed to 1707th Training Squadron when we moved to West Palm Beach. I continued to do clerical work for the First Sergeant and Adjutant and was promoted to Airman First Class.

Bob at work

I remember a project I did on a holiday and weekends that I thought was worthwhile. Using the typewriter and mimeograph machine at headquarters where I worked, I made an outline of the events of Jesus' life found in the four gospels, merged them in chronological order with scripture references on mimeograph stencils and printed out copies to distribute to the MYF and others at the First Methodist Church. Dr. Harry Waller, the pastor, asked me if I had considered going to seminary. I told him that I didn't want to do that.

My squadron at the base used SA-16 amphibious aircraft in the rescue and survival program. I was able to go along as an observer on at least one flight. At another time I was able to hitch a ride with an instructor pilot on a weekend trip to a base in Illinois. I took the train from there to visit my parents and siblings in Tennessee and returned in time for the flight back to West Palm Beach.

Bob and SA-16 aircraft

Since I was so shy and relied on others for transportation, I had very few dates. In fact I only remember a couple, and they were with a girl I met at MYF. I rode the bus to town and walked to the girl's house. We went to the movie and afterward looked in store windows around town. Then I saw her to her front door, but did not try to kiss her. Other than that and the church activities, I didn't have much of a social life.

I almost forgot to mention my regular trips to the beach for a swim in the ocean and time in the sun. After all, I was in a tropical paradise! And this was before tourism took over, which made it even better.

Meanwhile, Sylvia Buteau continued her training at the Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing in Providence...

Student nurse Sylvia Buteau in 1952

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