Rebecca West: Words & Music

In Transition

by Bob West

After I returned to West Palm Beach from Korea in January 1955, we bought a 1950 Ford through a finance company at very high (20 something) percent interest rate since I didn't have a credit history.

Our first car
Our first car

Sylvia and I loaded up Suzanne and all our personal belongings in our car and headed toward my next assignment at Altus AFB, Oklahoma.

We stopped by Florida Christian College (now called Florida College) at Temple Terrace in the Tampa area to visit my brother Gaylon, who was now a student there. We spent the night in Sutton Hall, the girls' dormitory. The room we stayed in had an outside entrance, so we didn't have to go inside where the students were.

From there we went to Dyersburg, Tennessee, and spent a few days with Mother, Dad, and my sisters Linda and Janie. Suzanne kept everyone entertained.

As soon as Dad heard our car's engine, he said that it either had a cracked block or a blown head gasket. We took it into the Ford dealership where he worked and he repaired it. Fortunately, it was the head gasket and not the engine block.

As I remember, it was early February and a light snow was falling when we drove into Altus. We spent the night in a motel and the next day I reported into the base and then we began looking for a place to live. We found space in a furnished three-family apartment house which we rented.

Our first kitchen
Sylvia in the kitchen of our first apartment,
not counting the one we had for a few days in West Palm Beach
before I went overseas

From Sylvia's Journal: "Mother was devastated because we were taking Suzanne away after Christmas. She had taken 95 percent care of her. I had taken care of her the other 5 percent of the time. I wasn't much of a mother. I liked to dress her up.

"Suzanne was very ill, kept throwing up, and had to go in Air Force hospital in West Palm Beach. The doctor said Suzanne was allergic to milk. She lost a lot of weight. After we got to Altus, Oklahoma, she had to go into the hospital again, this time at Sheppard AFB at Wichita Falls, Texas. Everything worked out, and she got well."

Baby Suzanne
Suzanne West, c. April 1955

At Altus Air Force Base I was assigned to Headquarters 96th Air Base Group, where I was in charge of the art and drafting department. I had two draftsmen that worked with me. It didn't take long for the Base Information Officer to learn of my arrival. He heard about my comics and asked if I could come up with something for the local newspaper that would help improve understanding and relations between the military and civilian population.

I told him about Sergeant Ruff and Airman Rediford, characters I created and featured in single-panel cartoons in Korea and Japan. I don't remember if he suggested it, or if I did, but we decided to reassign Ruff and Reddy to Altus AFB, show them arriving, getting settled, and being good neighbors to the local citizens in a serial comic strip, and do it in an entertaining way.

The Information Officer wrote an article for the newspaper introducing me and my comic strip to the readers and had a photographer take a picture of me to go with it. I forgot to wear the brass that goes with my uniform the day the photo was taken, but no one noticed. When I saw the 8x10 glossies, I realized my mistake. There was not time to take another photo and we couldn't release a photo for publication that showed me "out of uniform." So, I retouched the photo, adding the brass to each collar on my jacket with a brush and paint.

In the March 4, 1955, issue of The Altus Times-Democrat the first episode of the new "Ruff and Reddy" series appeared (shown below) with an introductory article and the following photo of me.

S/Sgt Bob West at his drawing table

Ruff and Reddy Comic Strip title
Ruff and Reddy Comic Strip - first episode

< Previous | Next >