AVIATION GOT IN HIS BLOOD
While typing was among the first skills he brought to the Air Navy back in the early 1950s, Lyle Edmonds of Woodburn soon saw his military career turn to working on various jets and fighter aircraft.
Edmonds, who turns 87 this month, graduated from Canby High School in 1951. He married his girl-next-door sweetheart Carol Ann — she was from Elliott Prairie — the following fall and went to work at Bend Iron Works in central Oregon.
“That job didn’t entail a lot of work; it was pretty slow and I got laid off,” Edmonds recalled. “So I went straight to the recruiter after that.”
The Korean War was in full swing at the time and there was no telling how long it would last. “All of us guys who signed up for the Navy that day were put in aviation, and that was the best thing they could have done,” Edmonds said. “Your planes are always needing something, and if you weren’t on there, you would have a job that was (less interesting) and you would be on a different ship here and there.”
As it was, Edmonds spent much of his eight years in the Navy serving on aircraft carriers, working out of Moffett Federal Airfield in Santa Clara County, Calif.
But before he focused his attention on hydraulic mechanics, Edmonds handled some clerical tasks. He happened to have typing skills that they Navy needed, and he recalls doing that at Moffett, as well as scheduling classes, showing movies, going out to the pistol range and proctoring exams soldiers took for rank.
“I would give the test (and) grade it,” he said. “I put in to be (in aviation) and I got cleared of second class before I ever saw a plane.”
Once he’d been upgraded, First Class Petty Officer Edmonds was spending much of his time on aircraft carriers and seeing the world in the process.
He was also seeing his family grow. His two eldest sons, Dennis and Jim, were born in Hawaii; they live in Idaho today. His next son, Richard (owner and operator of Woodburn Auto Repair), was born in Oakland, Calif., and his daughter, Valerie Arlene Wilson of Hubbard, came along when Edmonds was stationed in Tennessee.
“I’ve had kids born all over the world,” he quipped.
When he first enlisted, Edmonds’ brother-in-law advised him that he was unlikely to be drafted. But Edmonds felt if he went in on his own volition, he would feel better about it because he made the decision.
Besides, aviation was a growing and fascinating field.
“There is something about aviation that gets in your blood,” he said.
He briefly took some time off for education at the Naval Support Activity in Millington, Tennessee, but when his next child was born, he found himself back with the recruiter and reenlisting. Edmonds said his time in the Navy might have lasted even longer had it not been for a medical issue.
“The chief had me go up to look for a leak in a jet plane that came in,” Edmonds said. He was not on duty at the time, so he had no gear. He plugged his left ear with his little finger and had a flashlight in his right hand, trying to quell the noise with his right ear on his shoulder. “In hindsight, I would not have done it,” Edmonds said. “It ended up that I lost part of my hearing. … It was just that (right) ear with the hearing loss; you don’t want no man to go through that.”
He received an honorable medical discharge and soon went to work in Woodburn at Livesay Lumber for 10 years, then switched jobs to Johnson Controls in Canby where he retired in 1995. Today, Edmonds keeps busy with activities at Country Meadows Village in Woodburn. Carol passed in April; they had been married 68 years.
Curiously, the two married on November 11, typically observed as Veterans Day. “When I was in the service, I always got that day off,” Edmonds explained.