Maintenance Employees Reunion Party a chance to reminisce, meet old friends and catch up

As the clock ticked 1 p.m. on Aug. 27, a crowd of retired Hill workers made their way through the Hill Aerospace Museum's aircraft displays, past the Hall of Fame, and all the way to the back until they reached the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the A-10 Warthog and other displays.

As they walked, each one stopped and admired photos, information and airplanes which made their home in the museum. Many retirees also caught a glimpses of familiar faces, and hurried to catch up with old friends and chat about days past.

The Hill Air Force Base Maintenance Employees Reunion Party was meant for just that. Since 1992, retired mechanics who used to work at Hill from the 1940s to the 1980s have gathered together to see old friends, swap stories, and see how everyone's doing.

Of course, the reunion wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the hard work of LuDean Jensen and Jennie Hohman, among others.

"Those of us who were secretaries knew everyone's real names and nicknames and where to find them," Hohman said in a previous interview with the Hilltop Times. "After the bosses had the first reunion in the park in Ogden, they came to me to ask if I knew any other names of people who worked on the lines when I was secretary."

Jensen and Hohman were excited to have Dee Forbes of the first Mechanic Learners class attend the reunion. They also expected two other members of the first Mechanic Learners class, Ray Allred and Dick Handsacker, to attend.

Of course, attendance is never a sure thing, as both Jensen and Hohman both know. Every year it gets smaller, Jensen said. It's very sad. "We only had 77 people attend last year," she said.

"We're trying to get some of the younger ones involved," Jensen added as she totaled up the number of guests so far.

This year, the reunion rounded up over 110 retirees and guests, perhaps because this was also the first year the reunion was held at the Aerospace Museum.

"It's better," said Earle Dowd, a flight inspector from the 1,550th Aircrew Training and Test Wing. "It's around their life."

Victor DeCaria, who worked at Hill beginning in 1942 as a mechanic learner, agreed. "They have a lot of the airplanes I worked on here," he said.

Some of the chatter also revolved around one of the old photos Dick Lisbonbee brought in of himself and his co-workers from the flight test section standing in front of an F-101 Voodoo. He believed the photo was taken in the 1960s, but couldn't identify the man standing farthest to the left, so he employed the help of his fellow mechanics. They later identified the man as possibly being Tom Jones.

Lisbonbee decided to donate the photo, along with a signed photograph of the Thunderbirds, to the museum.

As retirees and guests continued to arrive well into the afternoon, it was obvious that this year's "party" was a grand slam. As for next year, with such a positive reaction the museum may well indeed be the site for next year's gathering.

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