Life After RISD or What I did during the Vietnam Conflict

by Alden Cole on April 15, 2014 · 1 comment

USAFDrawingsWPthree fashion drawings done while in the Air Force, early 1968, 8.5″ x 11″ each

June 1966: I was about to turn twenty-two, with a recently acquired BFA in Apparel Design, and with that piece of paper in hand facing the end of my college career. I had had enough of schooling for a while, with no intent to pursue a Masters. In what? Fashion Design? The School of Life awaited me. However Uncle Sam had other plans; the draft was still in effect during those years; the Vietnam ‘Conflict’ aka War was gearing up. I was not a protester who chose Canada or elsewhere as a safe ground from which to protest, nor was I ‘out’ enough to seek 4F status; nor was I a total coward (after all I had been well indoctrinated in New England values), so I enlisted in the Air Force, a much safer survival bet than the Army, not to mention the Marines. I even got into Officer Training School; a Bachelors is a Bachelors, even in Fine Arts, so I was eligible for training. Thanks to my brother Wallace’s early advice I applied to officer school, and thanks to Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine who asked questions in a timely manner, I received my acceptance, along with the information that once I had finished training and become a 2nd Lieutenant — just another Ninety-Day Wonder — I would be sent off to a missile technical facility for further schooling. The two months between graduating from RISD June 3, 1966 and induction into the AF in early August, were a whirlwind of goodbyes and hellos, including a 2-week drive across country with a friend who shared the driving and the memorable experience of traversing this amazing country from coast to coast, from Lassen National Park in northern California to ‘home’ in southern Maine, via Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and Chicago to see RISD friend Joyce Dunn. The time of freedom between the end of school and “Life Calling…” was soon over. Early the morning of August 8, 1968 I signed on the line, raised my right hand and swore to defend my country. I was immediately taken to the Portland, Maine airport and flown to San Antonio, Texas where Lackland AF Base, the basic-training center for the US Air Force occupied hundreds of acres of arid landscape covered with barracks and training grounds just soaking up the burning sun. The cruelest month is not April (although I understand Shakespeare’s sentiment) but August in my estimation, especially in the tropics, and San Antonio in August felt like the tropics… Anyway, this story of my life twixt RISD and NYC is proving to be longer than expected, so I will continue tomorrow…

Today’s drawings are the only art of any kind that I have to show for this time period, these being the only survivors of the many doodled on standard sized bond paper at my desk when AF job responsibilities were fulfilled and I was killing time on a slow day thinking about being a designing star in New York City…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

nancy wysemen April 15, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Amazing. I quite a lettering job in Phila [Headliners] because they did advertisements for army. Enjoying your take .


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: