Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Dave's History

dave.jpg I cannot remember when I was not enthralled by airplanes. Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, home to a SAC base my earliest recollections were of the B-47s and KC-97s flying out of Lincoln and the B-36s flying out of Offutt. I could not resist looking up any time any airplane flew over, even when I recognized the unmistakable sound of the B-36. I remember seeing surplus P-51s advertised in the back of Flying magazine for $2,500 as a 7 year old and wishing I could buy one. The walls of my room were covered with plastic models of WWII and post war fighters and bombers.

Active in Boy Scouts for many years as a teen I discovered Civil Air Patrol, put my Eagle Scout badge behind me and donned a C.A.P uniform, eventually becoming the Cadet Squadron Commander and meeting some of my future USAFA classmates in the process. As a high school junior, I was able to talk my way into a summer aviation class put on by the University of Nebraska for entering freshmen. In addition to a full classroom program, it included 15 hours of dual instruction at the local airport. When I completed the 15 hours of dual and was ready to solo, I was only 15 and had to wait for my 16th birthday to solo. My plan was to pass the test for a driver's license, drive myself to the airport and solo all on my 16th birthday. However, I missed one too many questions on the driver's license exam and had to be driven to the airport by my mother. As a result, I had a pilot's license before I had a driver's license.

Entering USAFA in the summer of 1960 was a bit of a shock for all of us, I am sure. Much of that first year is a blur. One clear recollection was a guitar playing folk singer in my doolie summer squadron. Harry Chapin left USAFA after that summer and became one of the most highly decorated members of our class. He was awarded, postumasly, The Congressional Gold Medal for his charitable works.

The night during Hell Week when the class decided to head for the hills, my roommate, Ron Olson, was grabbed by Denny King, '63, as we ran down the ramp. A few months earlier, I had defeated Denny for the Wing 191 lb. wrestling championship. As he was trying to restrain Ron, I threw a shoulder into him at my best lumbering pace. He went sprawling on the ramp and Ron escaped his grasp.

The “highlight” of Hell Week for me was hanging the 1964 banner between the two northern most spires of the then under construction chapel. I bought some blue paint and painted “1964” on the canvas mattress pad from under my bunk and recruited Bill “The Midnight Skulker” Garrett as an accomplis to climb the framework of the chapel to hang the banner. It may have been at the 25 year reunion that Bill and I were seated at a table late in the evening after most had retired with Sandy Hovde. Out of the blue, Sandy said, “Bob always wondered which of his classmates were so crazy as to climb up the chapel in a freezing rain to hang that banner.” My response: “You are looking at them." [ See story link at the end for photos ]

Being a slow learner, I did not learn about training tables in time to avoid some of the eating difficulties found on the squadron tables until after our doolie year. I went out for the varsity wrestling as a puny 225 lb. heavyweight and had to scrimmage with George Bruns. George was a high school bull rider and was just about as tough as a bull on the wrestling mat. Like Harry Chapin, George is not around to write a bio for the class, having been killed in a car accident as a 2nd Lt. His parents endowed a theater in Northern California in his honor.

The highlight of my truncated USAFA career was graduating with the Class of 1963. One of the Yellow Tags failed to return from Denver for his graduation. Someone from his Squadron came to 1st Squadron looking for a volunteer to take his place and accept his diploma. As a result, I was able to shake hands with JFK (not a favorite of mine) and with General Curtis E. LeMay, one of my heroes.

Instead of orders for summer leave, I was requested to stick around for a hearing in which my AOC stated to a committee of former fighter pilots that he would not trust me to fly his wing and, for that reason, I should be terminated from the Academy. Those words were the kiss of death to my Air Force career.

I returned to Lincoln, received a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University, went on to the University of Nebraska for an M.B.A. Though I never got that P-51 that I coveted as a child, while in grad school at Nebraska, I bought a 427 Competition Cobra from a neighbor. This certainly is the 4 wheel equivalent of the P-51, the ultimate muscle car. At 160 mph, the 4th gear acceleration would snap your head back.

After graduation, I moved to San Francisco to join a Big 8 C.P.A. firm in 1967, the “Summer of Love.” My first apartment was in the Haight-Ashbury. Janis Joplin lived around the corner and hung out with one of my neighbors in the same apartment building. This culture shock was nearly on a level of that experienced in our doolie summer. After passing the C.P.A. exam and meeting the two year experience requirement to become a C.P.A., I left public accounting and went to law school. As an editor of the Golden Gate University Law Review, I convinced my fellow editors to let me write an law review article on recycling. In that paper, published in 1972, I suggested legislation and tax incentives that could be used to encourage recycling. A great deal has been accomplished in the interim to promote recycling.

Before starting law school, I met and married my first wife, Sue I, in 1968. We have two sons, Greg & Taylor. We divorced in 1975.

library.jpg Graduating from a small San Francisco law school in the midst of a recession made finding a job very difficult. I took a position in the tax department of a prominent local C.P.A. firm and continued looking. One day I received a call from a “head hunter” asking if I was interested in buying a C.P.A. practice. I wasn't, but after giving the matter some thought, I made inquiries to find out more about this opportunity. A C.P.A. had died from a heart attack in the middle of tax season at the age of 43! His brother was trying to salvage some value from the practice for the benefit of the surviving children. I took on the completion of the tax season and agreed to make a decision at the end of a few months. The subsequent purchase of the accounting practice, gave me a foundation upon which to develop a law practice. Eventually, I had two partners in the law practice and two partners in the accounting practice working out of a common office in the “Barbary Coast” district of San Francisco.

I met my 2nd wife, Sue II, in the course of an I.R.S. appeal. She was the appeals officer who was assigned to settle the case, avoiding a trial, if possible. I was smitten. As I had talked about my children, she thought I was married and refused to go out with me. For 14 months, I looked at a note on my desk with her name and phone number, finally calling her and asking her to lunch. She learned that I was not married and a year later we were married. She has been the most incredible partner in life that a man could ever hope for.

Eventually, I got burned out and sold the accounting practice to my partners, invited my law partners to move on and semi-retired when one of my clients approached me with a proposal to start a company to manufacture hydroponic nutrients. In 1983, this was the birth of Dyna-Gro. That partner moved on after a few years, and we bought his interest in the company. After 20 years of hard work, Dyna-Gro has become an overnight success.

While I would have loved to race the Cobra, the cost to do so was way beyond my means. However, I was able to start roadracing motorcycles with a west coast club racing organization. Eventually, this led to an AMA expert roadrace license and over 35 years of racing on the track. After giving up the motorcycle road race license, I bought a 914 Porsche race car had have done some track days with it. Any Sunday can find me having my weekly throtle therapy session on Highway 1 north out of Mill Valley on "The Sunday Morning Ride."

I also spent 2 weeks in the Alps on Ducatis with Robin Olds son-in-law, a great time.



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