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Interview with Donald Houston Ericson [2/17/2005]

Barbara Belt:

This is Thursday, February 17, 2005. We're with veteran Donald Houston Ericson. Ericson is spelled E-R-I-C-S-O-N. We're interviewing today at the Philip S. Miller Library. The address is 100 South Wilcox Street, Castle Rock, Colorado 80104. Branch of Service: United States Marine Corps. Enlistment Service: March, 18 1952 to March 17, 1960. Wars Served: Korean. Interviewed by myself, Barbara Belt, at 8662 Kim Court, Parker, Colorado 80134. I'm a volunteer for the Veterans History Project. Good afternoon, Don.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Hi.

Barbara Belt:

Let's start your interview with date and place of your birth.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Okay. I was born Donald Houston Long on November 21, 1932 here in Denver, Denver, Colorado. Ah, my father was Donald Francis Long, a dentist and former professional boxer. Ah, his boxing name was Don "Terror" Long. Ah, my father and mother were divorced when I was 11. My mother remarried a gentleman named John Henry Ericson when I was 14. Ah, then when I was in high school, there was some difficulty with my name "Long" and their family name "Ericson" and my mother, etc. So we changed my name in the sophomore year of high school to the last name of "Ericson," and there was an intent at that point in time to adopt myself, my brother Ronald, my sister Mary, ah, and officially change our name to Eriscons, E-R-I-C-S-O-N. That has not happened and I've had some difficulty in legal matters since that time, and my career was with the United States Telephone and Telegraph Company. At one point in time, they needed to prove that I was a natural born citizen, and I produced my birth certificate, Donald Houston Long, with an affidavit that I was eventually going to take legal action to change the last name to Ericson, which I had not done.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. So you were raised in Colorado?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes, I was.

Barbara Belt:

And you...ah, in Denver... for the entire time?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Denver was, all, all my life until, ah, Denver or the environs of Denver until I joined the service.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. Ah, what made you join the service? You joined, you're saying?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I joined in...ah, when I got out of high school in 1951, I graduated from Wheatridge High School, and ah, I was kind of tired of school and, and the regimentation, so I was able to get work with the United States Telephone and Telegraph Company. Ah, because I was prime draft age at that time, they, ah, told me that they would take me as a temporary employee for the summer of 1951, and I either then told them that I was interested in more permanent position, so they said, "Well, if you prove out, we might take you on permanently." And I worked at that summer, 1951, for Colorado Outstate Engineering for Mountain States Telephone. At the end of the summer, they decided that I was a worthwhile person and took me on and sent me to "line" school, and I became a telephone lineman. I worked as a telephone lineman then from September of 1951 until March of 1952, and I got my draft notice. I went down...

Barbara Belt:

Were you expecting a draft notice?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, it was right at that time, right mid-career, and ah, they were drafting right and left, and ah, I went down, reported...

Barbara Belt:

So you weren't surprised?

Donald Houston Ericson:

No.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

No. Everybody, there's, a lot of my friends in high school had been Reservists. They were gone. Ah, anyway, I was expecting to be drafted. When I went down to the Draft Board and reported, ah, there was a gunnery sergeant from the Marine Corps Recruiting Station there, and ah, having been born in Denver and living in Denver with the military from Lowry Air Force Base, Lowry Army Air Force at that time, Camp Carson, ah, we were youngsters, young men of my age, were not too happy with Army people.

Barbara Belt:

What are you, about 18, 19?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I was 18.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Nineteen, 19, yeah. And ah, so anyway, that gentleman was saying that we could also, ah, if we volunteered for the service, the Marine Corps, we would then be allowed to participate in just the three years active military, get a discharge, and also be available for full military benefits. Ah, so I, I enlisted in the Marine Corps as a "selective service volunteer."

Barbara Belt:

Now how did your parents react to this?

Donald Houston Ericson:

They were, you know, had no problems with it. It was, I was going in any event. And ah, my explanation to them was that if I served two as a draftee, I would only get, ah, partial G.I. Bill for college and ah, if I served the three years, I would get full G.I. Bill benefits. So they were in favor of that, and besides, I had already signed the papers and I was gone. Ah...

Barbara Belt:

So where are you going?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Well, I got to home that day, and I had to report the next day then, and, and be inducted into the Marine Corps.

Barbara Belt:

The next day?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. And then we, ah, I got to home and pack my bag, and I took a plane, my first airplane ride, from Denver to some place in Arizona. Then we flew to San Diego and ah, we were quite cocky young Marines. Ah, the stewardesses were very, very nice to us, and we were, you know, we were going off to fight the war and all that kind of stuff in the movies. Speaking of movies, my education relative to being in the service was from what I saw in the movies, and there everybody was having parties, and it was always fun, and the girls loved you and so forth. And ah, I got, I had a friend who went in earlier, and he was writing me, telling me what a great life it was, and so we got in to San Diego, and I was walking through and I found, ah, two pints of whiskey that were sitting on a, on a side of a thing. So I, well, I put those in my bag...

Barbara Belt:

You saw them where? In...

Donald Houston Ericson:

They were just laying in, in the side of a saloon.

Barbara Belt:

In California? Are you talking about...you're in California?

Donald Houston Ericson:

San Diego, California, yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Anyway, I took this whiskey with me, and I had some, ah, I bought a couple decks of cards, and, that I had with me, and some poker chips, because what I knew about the Army was, or the military was, yeah, you played cards and had a great time and so forth. And ah, we got to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. They, ah, the non-commissioned officers, they were sergeants and corporals, and they were rather mean, nasty to us. They called us, well, to be very blunt, "Shit birds." And ah, you people, you...well, let's... (chuckle from Ericson). For publication, I guess, you know, we ah, were discussed as "you fucking people."

Barbara Belt:

Oh, my!

Donald Houston Ericson:

They were...I understand now, fully. What I, what I, at the time, I was very difficult, but ah, the military philosophy at that time, was a "take you, and they tear you down to nothing, and they build you up into a Marine." And that's way boot camp is, and it was one of the most...

Barbara Belt:

Hardest thing for you?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Beneficial thing I ever did in my life.

Barbara Belt:

Beneficial?

Donald Houston Ericson:

It took...

Barbara Belt:

I never heard, I've never heard a veteran tell me that before.

Donald Houston Ericson:

I was, well, it was, I was looking for myself. I told you earlier, if I get a bit emotional here, and I'm there now.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. Do you want me stop?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Nay, it's fine.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. All right now, so you're in there, you're doing boot camp. You're...are you hating it? Do you hate it?

Donald Houston Ericson:

At the time, oh, no, it was, well, let me, let me continue. I show up, and we go into the check-in place, and we have to unload our, our bags. Well, we were told to bring underwear and shaving and so forth. And so I laid out two pints of whiskey and the package of poker chips, and, and a couple of decks of cards, and they....well, you know, they jumped on me like "What are you, are you here for a party?" Blah, blah, blah....Rattle me down. And, anyway, they confiscated all that, and ah...

Barbara Belt:

So you never got to drink it?

Donald Houston Ericson:

No. They got, ah, anyway, they put us in very, long scrap bay. A scrap bay is a, a large room, a bunch of double, double deck bunks around, and they, ah, they put us there while they forming these platoons for boot camp. And there must have been 400 or 500 guys there at one time. They put us in there, we're all tired, so I climbed up on top of a, of a bunk and was laying there and every once in a while, they'd come in and call for somebody. And when they did that, they would yell, "Attention," and everybody had to hit the floor and stand at attention. Being that I was on the top bunk, there was several guys below me, I was very careful the first time this happened and got down and stood at attention and this one commissioned officer comes up and grabbed me by the shirt and he says, "When you hear "Attention" you hit the floor." And I said, "Yes, sir." So, stupidly, I got back up on top of the bunk and 10 or 15 minutes later, they came in, and "Attention!" And I swung out, one of the guys below me, I kicked him in the back of the head, knocked him on the floor and the non-commissioned officer comes by, and he says, "That's the way to go. That's the way Marines do it." They...anyway, we finally got firmed up, ah, they went through our records and the fact that I had had ROTC at South High School when I was there, ah, also, because of our family situation, we boarded out and I lived in a, a boarding home called Harmony Hall when I was in junior high school. And at that boarding home, we learned to make hospital beds, hospital corners. And ah, that's what you make in the Marine Corps in your bunk. You make a hospital corner. And you have your bunk so tight that they can throw a quarter on it, and it'll bounce. I knew how to do that. I made the bunk, the Drill Instructor came by... in fact that we had a day between when we were first reported for the draft and left, we had some time. We were in downtown Denver at the...and it was the old Customs House at 16th and Arapahoe. That's where we reported. On Curtis Street, which is a block away, ah, there was a small shop, a souvenir shop. Anyway, you went in and bought Marine Corps rings, and ah, in the first, first night at the, ah, in boot camp when we were there, a gunner came by, and he saw me with a Marine Corps ring, and he wanted to know, ah, "Are you a draftee or did you volunteer?" And I said, "I volunteered." Ah, the next morning I was assigned as the right guy about the platoon. And ah, my demeanor at the time and ever since has been, and I could get into that, but it's not pertinent to this story, ah, I was a, a ...part of the thing that helped me come out of myself as a, as a Marine was, ah...I had an attitude of "don't bother me, I'm going to fight with you." And ah, they...

Barbara Belt:

Knocked that out of you?

Donald Houston Ericson:

They liked that.

Barbara Belt:

Oh, they liked it.

Donald Houston Ericson:

They liked that, my attitude. That I was, you know.

Barbara Belt:

Oh....

Donald Houston Ericson:

So in effect, through boot camp, I was the right guy. The right guy is a, is a go-between between the Drill Instructor and his platoon. And ah, I had some command responsibilities to march the troops at various places, and ah, make sure that certain things were accomplished at certain times. Ah, I made some good friends in boot camp. I also made some enemies. Ah, indicated by when we had our final inspection and graduation from boot camp, I, ah, had cleaned my weapon, my rifle and had it laying on my bunk, and then I had to check and make sure everybody else in the platoon was squared away and ready for this inspection. Ah, we went to, we did, we did march through, and on the grinder...the grinder is the parade ground at San Diego. Ah, we marched through and came up, and then a Colonel came through and inspected us. Our Battalion Commander, he, ah, I was the first one to be inspected. I came to the snappiest inspection arms that you could ever, ever imagine. He reached for my weapon, my hands were cut away, he looked into the receiver of my M-l rifle, and then he looked me in the eye and said, "Did you clean this weapon, son?" And I looked back at him, and I said, "Yes, sir." And he showed it to me, and one of my enemies had taken crud and folded it, folded it into the receiver of my, of my weapon. The Colonel recognizing my position in the platoon, ah, understood that somebody was trying to get back at me. And ah, he let it pass.

Barbara Belt:

He did?

Donald Houston Ericson:

And I'm thankful for that because...

Barbara Belt:

Did you ever find out who did it?

Donald Houston Ericson:

No. I had several ideas...

Barbara Belt:

Never. No idea?

Donald Houston Ericson:

There was...nobody, nobody ever admitted.

Barbara Belt:

So how long were you in San Diego?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I would say...two months, we were in boot camp. Ah, and ah, we spent some at the rifle range at Camp Matthews, where we all became riflemen.

Barbara Belt:

This is at boot camp also?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, all Marines regardless of...ah, rank or ah, classification are riflemen. Cooks, tank drivers, pilots, all Marines are riflemen. They are very proud that that's the case, and I'm...

Barbara Belt:

Proud of that, huh?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh. So are you a good rifleman?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I was one point below "firing expert" in that, at the rifle range so I'm a "sharpshooter." Ah...

Barbara Belt:

So you're pretty proud of yourself, going through this?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

I got a lot of...you had 250 points possible on the range, and if you're greater, you are classified as "expert;" 210 to 220, you're a "sharpshooter;" below that, you're a "marksman." And ah, it's interesting in our, in our group platoon, we had 32 Hawaii. These are young men from Hawaii, and they were not too competent with the weapons. And so at the time, if you failed to qualify, you were forced to wear your uniform backwards and march as a separate entity to your platoon. Ah, that's again, as a manner of training that it is important that you know how to use your rifle, and in any event, ah, our....out of those 32, possibly 20 of them, failed to qualify. So we had two platoons essentially with the "failures to quality" and that happened one day, and it embarrassed our instructor Sergeant Jones, so that we, we stopped after one day's period of time. Another interesting aside, one of these gentleman's kids from Hawaii was a Samoan. His name was Yochooa (?) and it....one of the things at the end of boot camp, you have to serve a week of mess duty, so that they tell you, you take "kitchen police." Ah, my particular responsibility as "right guy," they "send me officer authority" was to sit at the officer of the NCO mess and collect money from those guys who were, on what you call combat (Ericson is making a clicking sound) stuff, married men that are living off-base and eating on base. They had to pay for their meals so I would collect their money. Ah, in boot camp, Yochooa (?) who was, ah, he was cleaning pots and pans and serving and so forth, and we had one of their, one of the Corporals of the Messmen there was a, he played ukulele and he was...we'd get him out there, and he played the ukulele for us and then he would bug us....then, you know, you Kanahes (?) you ought to be able to play the ukulele. And the guys that I was with, Yochooa, they knew him, and so they said, "Make, make him go out there," and embarrassed him then to going out and playing and so he takes this ukulele from this Corporal and he played G-String boogie on it. He was a terribly fantastic musician. And (chuckle from Ericson) and the Messman never brought his ukulele to him and bothered us with playing it. He was embarrassed himself because he was plump, plump up type guy. After, after boot camp then, I got ten days leave. I came home...

Barbara Belt:

Back to Denver?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Back to Denver. We were living in Wheatridge at the time, the Denver area.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, my assignment was then, ah...my Spec number was 2531, which is a field radio operator. Having had experience as a telephone lineman, I thought possibly I could get into telecommunications in the military at that time. But it, I ended up as a voice radio operator.

Barbara Belt:

That's what they told you to do?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

2531, that's on my thing here. I went back, and we went to radio school for a couple of months. Interesting thing there, ah, we learned, ah, some of Morris Code and of course, voice radio procedure and with the alphabet at the time was "Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, Easy, Fox," and on and on. It's changed now to something different, but we got field operations. We would sit out in the field, and we'd send messages back and forth, and at one point in time, we were out in the field on a, on a, in a...they were on...

Barbara Belt:

Where are you now? Where are you?

Donald Houston Ericson:

This is in San Diego.

Barbara Belt:

So you're back...

Donald Houston Ericson:

Still in San Diego. Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Radio School there, it's at the Marine Corps Depot, San Diego. They, ah, anyway, they would bring our, our lunch, chow mess to the, to the field. We'd eat and then we'd have half-hour, 20 minutes, and then we'd go back into our current problems. At one time, one day I was...figured well I'd take off my, my blouse and ah, get a suntan. It's not the thing to do on a military problem, so the drill instructors, ah, the radio teachers at that time, they came, and they told me that we were about three miles from their radio shack, and they sent me back. And they radioed back in that I was to bring back a case of batteries, and so I, I ran the three miles back to the thing just after lunch. I got the case of batteries and ran back to the problem area, three miles, and when I got back, I had the dry heaves, and I was in bad shape, bad shape. Ah, I don't why or whatever happened, but they left me alone and I was able to recoup, recover, get myself back in gear, but ah, needless to say, in future projects, and future problems, I was not taking off my blouse. Ah, actually it was a dungaree jacket, but the proper terminology was "blouse."

Barbara Belt:

So how long is radio school?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, two months.

Barbara Belt:

Two months.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Two months, and I was then given another leave. And ah, I was supposed to then, ah...

Barbara Belt:

You went back to Denver?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I came home and then I was, ah, given, I don't remember what the orders were exactly, but it was something different. And then I, when I got home, I received then orders that I was to report to, ah, Marine Observation Squadron VM02, which was, ah, going to be sent...At this particular time, in 1952, they sent the Third Division and the First Marine Air Wing into Japan as support of the First Marine Division and Second Air Wing in Korea as a threat against the North Koreans and the Chinese that any further escalation of the, of the conflict there, "Police Action." Ah, it's always been bothering me of the fact that I, nobody ever shot at me, that bothers me too somewhat. But the terminology, "Police Action," well, hell, it was a war.

Barbara Belt:

So what is your Division, Don?

Donald Houston Ericson:

When I went back, well, I went back to, ah, from radio school I went to El Toro Marine Field. I was a M-Tech 3 at El Toro.

Barbara Belt:

Where's El Toro?

Donald Houston Ericson:

That's in southern California.

Barbara Belt:

Oh, back to California.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Santa Ana, California.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, and I getting a little off of myself here about what things happened. From Radio School, I went to M-Tech 3, Marine Tactual Control Squadron, as a radio operator. And when I was at El Toro Base, ah, having boxed privately before I went in the service, I went down to the gym, and got involved in the El Toro, ah, Boxing Team. So...

Barbara Belt:

Boxing team?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. I boxed as "middle weight boxer" for the Marine Corps at El Toro. And ah, boxed around amateur rounds, some around California at, ah, huh, Bloomington Bowl, and ah, the, ah, anyway.....

Barbara Belt:

How did you, how did you get into boxing from the military? Explain that to me.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, I was a boxer before hand.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And when I went...

Barbara Belt:

In high school, you were boxing?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

And because of your father, you had this boxing...

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

...Background. Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. I got the...

Barbara Belt:

And the Marines knew this? Or is that how....you got to box?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I, ah, in El Toro, as I said, I went to the, I went to the gym and they had some boxing there, and so I...

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

....I got involved with the boxing and they found out that I was fairly decent boxer, so they put me on the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro Boxing Team.

Barbara Belt:

Are you happy about this?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oh, I was very pleased.

Barbara Belt:

You were?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. I, boxing has been a great thing for me, and I get into that later on. Right now, I'm an official for the U.S.A. Boxing Program. Ah, I've been a boxing coach, a boxing administrator, and ah....

Barbara Belt:

Part of your life?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I got...I've been, I've been involved in boxing for over 55 years in various and sundry positions. Anyway, at El Toro, ah, we boxed various and different amateur programs. I boxed at the 1953 Golden Gloves in the, ah, in Hollywood at the Legion, Hollywood Legion Stadium.

Barbara Belt:

This is all through the Marines?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

The Marines were putting you through all this?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oh, yeah. Well, in another interesting aside relative to that, ah, we were then as the Boxing Team were involved with the recruiters in the Southern California area. And we would go to high schools and put on boxing programs, and trying to influence young high school men to join, join the Marine Corps. Ah, I was in an, in an operation.... I had a lieutenant. His name was Fullenwider (?) and he was what they call a "mustang." He came up and got it all his, got commissioned as, from the enlisted ranks. Ah, he wasn't too happy with my boxing and figured that that was not good for the Marine Corps. Ah, I explained to him in my interview that I felt that I was doing more for Marine Corps by influencing young men to enlist, than I was sitting on my tail in the content on El Toro Station Airbase and playing radio operator. He didn't like that so...ah, my coach was a wing partner of the Commanding Officer of our Squadron, and Lieutenant Fullenwider tried to get me put on mess duty every month. And I would go to my coach and tell him, and he would call my CO and take me off mess duty, because we had boxing coming up....this program, that program, etc., etc. And ah, had a tournament against the Navy, and against the Army, and....so forth.

Barbara Belt:

Oh, really? Wow. How many in the Marine Corps are you boxing with? Are you the only one, or how many, how many on a team....?

Donald Houston Ericson:

At least we had, we had, we had....In El Toro, we had a full boxing team. Twelve boxers.

Barbara Belt:

Twelve boxers. Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

All the weights up through...

Barbara Belt:

But your Lieutenant didn't want you to box?

Donald Houston Ericson:

He felt that was not what I should be doing.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, my, my boxing coach, ah, thought that I was, I was doing good for the Marines, showing the Marines a good athletic program, etc. Ah, he had influence with our Squadron Commander, and he would call him up, and they'd let me off mess duty. Ah, the boxing team broke, broke up in mid-April of 1953...

Barbara Belt:

Why?

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, I was on mess duty June 1st. (Chuckle from Ericson).

Barbara Belt:

Why did it break up?

Donald Houston Ericson:

May 1st! May 1st.

Barbara Belt:

Don, why did it break up?

Donald Houston Ericson:

The season was over. The boxing season.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. The season...what is a season?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, boxing season runs from end of fall through the spring, early spring. Normally boxing season, amateur boxing.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

That occurs today even.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. So you're on mess duty now? What are you doing on mess duty?

Donald Houston Ericson:

On mess duty, I'm cleaning out garbage cans.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. Are you angry about this? Doing this?

Donald Houston Ericson:

No, no.

Barbara Belt:

No?

Donald Houston Ericson:

As part, as part of being in there, you know, you do what they tell you.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, you learn in Boot Camp, ah, get your butt up that hill and that's what you do. So, I was able to manipulate what was going on with me as a person into something that was more beneficial to me than playing games in a radio school field. You know, we're just playing. Ah, I was an active boxer and ah, as I said, I was in the Golden Gloves, ah, in 1953. Ah, I was, worked my way up to the finals at the Hollywood Legion Stadium, and I was, lost the decision. Ah, to a black guy that ah...

Barbara Belt:

Remember his name?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I don't really know.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh. So when you're, when you lost the decision, how did you take it?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, I, I knew how I lost because I didn't...well, I let him, let him beat me two rounds, and they told me, and so the third round, I kicked his can and afterwards, he said...put his arm around me, and he said, "Good round." And I said, "Thanks," but I knew he had beat me. And I, I just, I let him beat me that's all.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

I was beaten several times and when I boxed. Part of the problem was I didn't have what my coach called "killer instinct," you know. If I could put a guy down with one punch, I would...that was okay. If I had to put him down with three or four punches in...then, I'd let him off.

Barbara Belt:

Hummm...Okay. So, you're boxing, now you're doing mess. Now what's happening now?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Okay. After mess duty, then I was assigned to, ah, to go.... Well, actually in what was the First All Marine Tournament in, in ah, Cherry Farm (?), North Carolina, during this period, this spring period.

Barbara Belt:

What year?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, I became....l953.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

I became acquainted with some coaches from, ah, the Marine Corps in, in Hawaii, and they were trying to arrange to get me to go to Hawaii. So I had, I had orders cut to go to Hawaii.

Barbara Belt:

What did you think of that?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I was, I was really looking forward to it. Looking forward to it.

Barbara Belt:

Now are you still...are you single, I'm understanding? Right?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. Ah, I got, ah, I got leave, part of my, my being shipped to, ah, to Hawaii, and ah, the boxing program. Then, ah, when I was home on leave, I got orders to report to VMO-2, Marine Observation Squadron 2, at, ah, geez...MCA Base (Marine Corps Air Station) in Santa Ana, California, and ah....

Barbara Belt:

So you're going to go...

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, well, at this point, I was talking earlier that they, they sent the Third Division and the First Man Air Wing to Japan, and they were....this was during the "truth talks" period in, in Korea. And so they said, "We've got a Division here ready to go." And ah, it would be, you know, you'd better squared away, so that helped to finalize the peace talks in, in Korea. The fact that their Division went there, and the only thing I had to do with it, that my orders were changed and they put me from boxing in Hawaii to VMO-2, which we went to Japan.

Barbara Belt:

So you did not go to Hawaii then?

Donald Houston Ericson:

No.

Barbara Belt:

Oh, you didn't. Oh, disappointing?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, I was a little... yeah, I was a little distressed with that because, ah, well, making a move, a new situation, new thing, and the...on the, on the ship going over to, ah, to Japan...

Barbara Belt:

Do you remember the ship name?

Donald Houston Ericson:

USS APA, USS Oka Agana. (possibly Okanogan - LPA 220)

Barbara Belt:

Oka Agana?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oka Agana, yeah, O-K-A A-G-A-N-A. Ah, it was my first time aboard ship also.

Barbara Belt:

What did you think of that? Good experience? Bad experience?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, it was educational. (Chuckle from Ericson). We slept in a hole, our....we were five bunks high. And ah, oh, climb up on the fifth bunk, you're...you know, you're 12-14 feet above the ground in a, in a hole. On the ship over there, being as I was in a new squadron, I didn't know anybody really. And I'm rather hard to make friends with so, ah, fortunately for me, at that point in time, there was a Staff Sergeant that knew me from, ah, boxing at El Toro, and there was, ah, the first Sunday out, they had a boxing smoker on, on the whole cover of, hole No. 1, and ah....

Barbara Belt:

What do you mean? I don't understand. Boxing smoker?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Well, a smoker is a, is a contest where boxers show up and they just, ah, amateur contest or even professionals...

Barbara Belt:

So you're talking about boxing again?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oh, yeah.

Barbara Belt:

(Chuckle from Belt).

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. Ah, anyway, they had...they... the first Sunday out, they had a smoker and a good....Since you don't know boxing, it's just a contest, a boxing contest. They call them smokers because what used to be...they get together and everybody is smoking. Well, they're boxing. So they're smokers rather than...Anyway, this Sergeant knew me from boxing at El Toro, and ah, he contacted me after this first Sunday, and they had a, a Navy guy...This guy was in the Navy. And I got a picture of him in my stuff here. Ah, he was on the ship, and he was a light-heavy weight. I was a middle- weight at the time, and ah, anyway, this guy contacted me, and during the first smoker, the Navy guy, he fought another Navy guy, and he knocked him out.

Barbara Belt:

On board ship?

Donald Houston Ericson:

On board ship, on the way over seas. Yes. It was...it took us like 17 days...

Barbara Belt:

Are you boxing with gloves, I'm assuming?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. Ah, took us 17 days to get over. The first Sunday we're out, they had the smoker, Navy guy was there. Ah, he knocked another Navy guy out. And ah, so then they were trying to set it up the next time. Well, I went and said, you know, "I'm a boxer. I'll go. I'll show up." And they...since this guy knew, he said, "Well, we can't get anybody to fight this fellow that knocked the kid out last week."

Barbara Belt:

The Navy guy.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. "Well, you box him." I said, "Sure." So...

Barbara Belt:

So everybody comes on ship and watches the fight?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. Are you fighting in a room or out on...

Donald Houston Ericson:

Outside. Outside. On the deck.

Barbara Belt:

On the deck. Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

There's hole covers for over these...this is a troop transport ship.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, they keep stuff down in, down below decks.

Barbara Belt:

Does he have ropes around him?

Donald Houston Ericson:

They have a regular ring set up.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, anyway, they were having trouble trying to match this guy from the previous fight since they knocked, he knocked a guy out. And ah, they...this Staff Sergeant, who knew me from El Toro, asked me, "Would I fight him?" And I said, "Sure." So, come Sunday, and we got a lot of special treatment. We got a steak beforehand, a steak afterwards, and I don't know...I remember getting in the ring, and the guy was probably 8 to 10 inches taller than I was. And ah...

Barbara Belt:

And how tall are you?

Donald Houston Ericson:

At the time, I was 5'9", and he was 6'6", around 6'2", at least. And anyway, I could hear comments from...I could hear then. (Chuckle from Ericson). Ah, comments from, from people who, ah....this guy got killed. Well, he knocked that guy out. And oh, you know...so. Okay, well, let him prove it. So anyway, the bout starts, and he comes out, and he's railing and dinging (?), and being that I was only 5'9", I had always fought guys who were taller than I am. So I learned to slip punches. I slipped inside and hit him with a, a hook to the body and a right hand dropped him. And ah...

Barbara Belt:

Right off the bat? You hit....?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I knocked him down.

Barbara Belt:

In the beginning, in the very start of the fight?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. And ah...

Barbara Belt:

How many people are watching? The whole ship? Is the ship watching?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Everybody is there. Yeah. Everybody's there that could be there. There were certain people that had to run their jobs, but anybody who wasn't...

Barbara Belt:

Everybody...this is the entertainment.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. Yeah. They had movies at night, and different things while we were going overseas, but this was, this was a big deal. And ah...

Barbara Belt:

So everybody is yelling?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oh, yeah. And especially....I remember ringing, "He's Navy!" And all that inter-service, you know, so...

Barbara Belt:

So you're proud of yourself?

Donald Houston Ericson:

He gets up.

Barbara Belt:

He gets up?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah, and ah, and I knocked him down again. And ah, again, like I said earlier, if I could put a guy down one punch, I was, you know, one combination, well, I was okay. But see I'm flinching now, like I'm going to throw a punch. (Chuckle from Belt) Ah, anyway, they, ah, the round was over and we went back to the corner, and he was being coached by somebody, I don't remember who. And ah, so they told him, you're behind, now you're really going to have to come out and lay it on this kid. So the bell rings, he comes out, and ah, by just pummeling me, I just "shelled up" and let, let him bang me on the arms and everything. And then he figures, "Well, this is not working." So he went back to his normal style, and I knocked him out. So, at that point in time, then everybody, everybody from the Marine Corps on this ship, and oh, man, I was the greatest prize (Laughter from Belt) since sliced bread.

Barbara Belt:

Happy, happy moment for you.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah, I was, I was, yeah, very, very good. So anyway, we got to, got to Japan.

Barbara Belt:

And how many days, you said, 17 days?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Seventeen on the ship. Yeah. We arrived in Kobe (?), Kobe, Japan and to, ah, to, ah, base there. And well, we got formed up and who you going to be, and they read your orders and set you and so forth. And it's.... END TAPE 1 SIDE 1 BEGIN TAPE 1, SIDE 2

Donald Houston Ericson:

Okay. We arrived in Kobe, and ah, were sent into, into a base and then formed up with our, ah, new squadron. Again, VMO-2, Marine Observation Squadron, and we were sent to Camp Gifu, which is northwest, northeast of Nagoya and ah....

Barbara Belt:

That's a Marine base? Or...?

Donald Houston Ericson:

It was...this base was, ah, had originally been a base where Mitsubishi aircraft were built during World War II. And there was a hanger there, a couple of hangers in fact that had been bombed out, and we were then put in there and ah....They set up a, a runway for small aircraft and these were L-19 and then we had Agent-5 helicopters, and we were again an observation squadron. And what these pilots would do would be fly over, ah, target areas and direct artillery's fire for the...and then the helicopters would be used to evacuate people in, in some cases, wounded. But ah, at that point in time, since I was a radio operator, then I was given responsibility of being the tower operator. And ah, what the procedure was that the pilots would come, and they were instructed to fly south of the base and fly over toward to the north and I would report and talk to them and tell them they were number one or number two or ready to land, and so forth. And...

Barbara Belt:

Like an air traffic controller?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I was the air traffic controller at the time, and what I had was, a small radio jeep, and I'd sit in the jeep at the end of the runway, and airplanes would fly over and I'd tell them, "Land," or "Don't land." And ah, we had... an interesting antidote, we had a, a lot of these guys were, were retreads from World War II, and they were fighter pilots and ah, but they were old enough not to be fighter pilots still, but they were still good pilots. And ah, they were, they thought they were going out of the service after World War II, and here they are back again. So, some of them had some attitude problems. Ah, but they were all Marines, and they acted like Marines. Ah, one of them, the Tartiff (?), Lieutenant Tartiff (?) was a hot-rod pilot. Ah, he, he...when it came time to land, he'd just come in and land. And then the CO get all over him, and you know, "Send me home." (Chuckle from Ericson).

Barbara Belt:

He wouldn't listen to you? Is that, is that what you're saying?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oh, he never even bothered to call in. He'd just come in and land.

Barbara Belt:

Oh, my...

Donald Houston Ericson:

You know. So...again, when they do that, and the CO needed to know, and he'd, you know, there'd be a guy there wanting to taxi his, his aircraft to the parking spot...there'd be a guy there say, "Come," and take you to the command tent.

Barbara Belt:

How long were you doing this job?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oh, several months.

Barbara Belt:

Several months.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Several months. Yes. And then I got involved in boxing with the Third Marine Division, but (Chuckle from Belt) again, we'll go into that later. Ah, as the... I was made....I was promoted to Corporal at that point in time. And so, ah, but I was still pulling guard duty. There was...we were an air wing and there's a lot of competition in the military between the infantry, Marines, and the air wing Marines. We'd called the Infantry guys "crunchers, ground pounders." And we in the air wing were called "Fly boys," you know. And there's different ground pounders. Infantry are tough. Air wing guys are something less than that. Competition. Ah, Marine air wing was tougher than Air Force. U.S. Air Force. But anyway....Military competition, it's something there. One of the reasons I was in, in the Marine Corps was because I didn't like Army. Ah, at, at the base where we were, ah, I was boxing. I was...a guy named Don Lance (?) was in our, in our squadron, and he was a performer, a professional boxer out of Seattle, Washington, and he would work out with me at the, at the gym. Ah, there was a, a movement afoot, because we were first Marines of any consequence to be in Japan. During World War II, in Japan, there was a propaganda rumor that in order to be in the Marine Corps, you had to have killed your mother or your father, and if you were an officer, you had to kill them both. Ah, the people there were very frightened of us, ah, they were very much in disdain of us being that the culture is family-oriented and having killed your parents, although it was not true, we weren't looked on....and we'd go down the street initially and people would get across, and move across the street on the other side. They didn't like us.

Barbara Belt:

Because you were a Marine?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. And they, ah, after we were there a while, they found out that we were a bunch of kids away from home, and so they, you know, they treated....point in time, we were at this, this juncture, that the Commanding General of the Third Marine Division said, "We must do something to activate our people and the Japanese people to together," so he set up different things. We went to... I went to a Japanese tea ceremony and learned the Japanese rites for formal tea ceremony. It was a small tea room, there was one large personal door, and then a little dog door. And if you weren't the Emperor, you went in the dog door. And ah, very, very formal, very customized procedure as to what happened. Ah, they'd make their tea in a small, ah, Sake-like cup and you'd, you take up and (a sound like a slurping sound) suck and that was permissible, required. And then you would wipe it and turn it and give it to the person next to you, and they'd take it (again, a slurping sound) and...

Barbara Belt:

So slurping the tea?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And the tea was ground, green tea whipped up and delicious. Actually...

Barbara Belt:

Delicious?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oh, yeah. It was wonderful. We, ah, we learned to, they did Japanese flower arranging. This place we went was what could be called was a home economics school, where they taught young Japanese women to be proper Japanese wives. And ah, one of the things was flower arranging. The other was tea ceremony. The other, ah, dancing...

Barbara Belt:

But why is the Marines doing tea, tea?

Donald Houston Ericson:

The General wanted us to become familiar with what, what Japanese culture. And so...

Barbara Belt:

So this is a requirement?

Donald Houston Ericson:

No.

Barbara Belt:

Oh. It was....it..

Donald Houston Ericson:

It was something...well, it was a requirement. Certain things, other things were optional, that you could or could not, but he wanted this kind of, ah, intercourse.

Barbara Belt:

Intercourse. Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

...To, to where we were dealing them and they with us.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And know who we were.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Because again, they looked at us like, you know, hey, you, you killed your mother and father, you're, you know, you're not too nice a guy. After the fact, in our, our effort, in our squadron, we hired Japanese men to come in and be our house boys. They would take care of cleaning our areas, do our laundry, ah, so forth. Again, in order to accomplish this. The Marines...

Barbara Belt:

To get to know each other...

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

The Marine Infantry, they didn't do that. They didn't have house boys. That further, ah, caused difficulty between the Marine Infantry and the Marine Air Force because we're, you know, we got house boys and they're doing their own stuff.

Barbara Belt:

Yeah.

Donald Houston Ericson:

So, but that was what the officers wanted to do, so that's what we did. I had, ah, our house boy....his name is Shusamu Nogosawa (?), and ah, he's a very, very nice young man. Actually, he was older than I was. But...

Barbara Belt:

Which was what? How old?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I was 20 at the same.

Barbara Belt:

So he's 24, 25?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Something.

Donald Houston Ericson:

His father was a Lieutenant in the Japanese Air Force and ah, ah, was killed and he was...he got married and ah, ah, he was very industrious young man. He worked as a house boy, ah, had a wife and young son, and then he would hire Japanese women who were, ah, (Chuckle from Ericson) not pretty enough, or desire enough, where they didn't want to become bar girls, prostitutes, so he would hire them and they would make a shirts for department store in Gifu. Now, we were in little town by our place was called Komatsu (?), and it was just actually just a railroad stop.

Barbara Belt:

How long were you there? In Japan?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, fourteen months. And anyway, in this period of time, when I went down to the gym and we stayed in there, so these days, we started a Third Marine Division boxing team and ah, I was involved with that. I classify myself Third Marine Division light-heavy weight champion in that period of time. Ah, the reason I was...well, we did, we boxed several other boxing teams in the Marine Corps. And ah, I was never was beat by Marines, so....ah, we had three middle-weights on our team. Ah, we had one guy, he was a black guy Cliff Thomas. A guy named Pat Rose (?), and myself. We were all middle weights. Ah, I weighed, when I was in condition, 170 pounds. The middle weight class stopped at 165; I could make 165 by losing weight. And I did that when I was boxing at El Toro. Ah, Cliff Thomas weighed about 157 pounds and there's a classification at that time, called light-middle weight, 156, so he boxed that. Pat Rose weighed about 162, so he boxed middle-weight. And since I was 170 pounds, which is the difference between 165 and 178, I boxed light-heavy weight. And so...ah, we boxed around various places and went up to Camp Fuji, which is another Marine Corps Station at the base of Mount Fuji, ah, boxed a couple of tournaments there. We boxed in Yokohama (?). We boxed in Lotus Marines (?) by Mount Evans (?)......(unclear)...no, that's not right. 187th Airborne in Gifu, Japan, and ah, I boxed one guy there, beat him, boxed there another guy, and, and he won a decision over me because ah, and then he went ahead to the, ah, All Far East Tournament.

Barbara Belt:

What is your other job besides you did the radio for two months? You or ...control tower for about two months? What else was this job?

Donald Houston Ericson:

At this point in time, because of my activity in, ah, and also they built a, an official radio tower for the flight controllers. We also extended the runway to bring in jets. Ah, as an emergency situation, a jet could land at our base. But ah, since I was involved with athletics and so forth, so they made me a Special Services Operative, ah, and I was responsible then arranging, ah, touch football games, which we played, softball games...

Barbara Belt:

Like an athletic director?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. (Laugher from Belt) Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. They're utilizing you.

Donald Houston Ericson:

It, ah...the football, touch football, softball, ah, swimming teams, ah, track meets...

Barbara Belt:

So you must love your job? I mean, you must be happy.

Donald Houston Ericson:

I had it, I had it made. I had it made, and ah, we got, ah, during the boxing season, then I was boxing. Interesting, we would travel to Japan on the trains, and ah, on flying boxcars, boxcars, which were called, ah, "Navy Designation R4Qs," anyway they are twin-tailed aircraft, two wings, a pot in the middle, like a grasshopper. Very interesting, we would fly (Chuckle from Ericson)...they would crash periodically. We would get, we'd load up on the aircraft. The crew chief would say...we'd put on parachutes and say, "If there's any trouble, walk out the back door," which I thought was a pretty true comment. "Any trouble, walk out the back door."

Barbara Belt:

Jump, huh?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. We never had any problems, but ah, anyway, ah, at this point in time, we also, ah, flew to Korea, and ah, we boxed the boxing team of the First Marine Division there. Ah, I boxed a guy named Chuck Whitley (?). He was All Far East light heavy-weight champion. Ah, he was a tough kid. Toughest kid I ever fought. And ah...

Barbara Belt:

Was he a Marine?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. Ah, he, ah, first round, he banged me up pretty good. Body, body punches, second round, he hit me with a good left hook, and I went down. Ah, I, I was not unconscious. I was just paralyzed...

Barbara Belt:

(Chuckle from Belt).

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, I fell down, I had my right arm under me from my left arm out and I was laying on my face, and I could hear the referee saying, "Three, four, five," and in my mind, I needed to, in order to get up, I had to do a push-up, so I had a bell bomb (?). I'm laying on my right arm, trying to pull my hand underneath, and he says, "Ten." So...the following week, we went and fought the Seventh Army Division.

Barbara Belt:

This is in Korea, still?

Donald Houston Ericson:

In Korea, yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah...I boxed a guy in the Seventh Army Division, who had beat Chuck Whitley (?) before in, in a bout. And ah, I decisioned him on his own base, ah, because I was knocked out the previous week, and I took some pretty heavy shots from this guy, I was, after the bout, described as "punch-drunk." I was very, very happy, very gay...."Oh, boy, now then...Man, I killed the sucker. Man, I kicked his butt...." And we get in the truck, six-by, which is a military definition of a, of a dump truck. Ah, and we're heading back, we had associated with our team, a Navy Corpsman, his name was Purdy (?). And ah, he was, well I was really happy, you know....

Barbara Belt:

This is leaving Korea?

Donald Houston Ericson:

No, we're leaving the Seventh Army Base, going back to where, where we were staying at the First Division.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. In Korea?

Donald Houston Ericson:

In Korea. Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, anyway, "Ho, ho, ho, wow...ha, ha, ha.." Then all of a sudden, POW, my head snapped. And I could...I can still feel that. What I had was a small...

Barbara Belt:

Oh, no, an aneurysm?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, embolism. (Gasp from Belt). And it was pressing on a nerve and it quit, and....Purdy picked that up. When we got back to, when we got back to Japan, ah, he took me to the, to the doctor and ah, they said that I couldn't box anymore for six months because I had ah, I had this brain injury. Two injuries from boxing in the service. Ah, when we were boxing at the First All Marine in Cherry Point, North Carolina, I went, we...I was military at the time, all amateur boxers now do, but at that time, was just military. We wore headgear, competitive headgear, and the headgear that I had had, ah, ear cups and then solid leather in, in, inside of that, and ah, when I'd get hit in the ear, it would act like a bellows, and anyway, I broke my eardrum. And on the way back from....

Barbara Belt:

From that fight?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. And I...at that match, back there, ah, I had, ah, you know, we were flying back, and I blow my nose (makes the sound) and then I'd go, "Shhhhhh," out my ear. I had a lot of ear trouble when I was a little kid, and they told me my eardrums were scarred and getting that banged with that bellows didn't help. So....after we, ah....

Barbara Belt:

When you're in Korea, how long were you there? I mean, just on tour?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. We're just there for the...for about 20 days is what we were.

Barbara Belt:

Did you get to see the country or get any feel for Korean life?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I had, I had a friend who was stationed there. He was in the, in the Lotus Marines, and ah, I went to his place. Ah, and we met and talked and they had an USO Show there while I was there. And we drove into Seoul the next day, and ah, went around Seoul, wouldn't....Seoul was pretty much torn up at that point in time. Again, this was 1953.

Barbara Belt:

Uh,huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

So...

Barbara Belt:

So you didn't have that much contact with the natives?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Not, not in Korea, no.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

No. We were just, well, it was inter-service thing, Third Division, First Division. There was a lot of that in the, in the....as an aside here, when the Marines got to the Third Division, First Air Wing got to Japan, and then there was a lot of athletics, and they had the... Now, this was 1954. Yeah, I'm sorry. '54, the New Year's Day, they had a football game, which they called the "rice bowl." And ah, they, ah, the Marines played the Air Force and ah....

Barbara Belt:

Ah, touch football or regular football?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Football.

Barbara Belt:

Football. (Laughter from Belt). Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

The year....what they did was brought in a bunch of cold ball players who were in the Marine Corps.

Barbara Belt:

Oh, wow.

Donald Houston Ericson:

....To Japan to play for, to play this game. Yeah. This is Air Force, Marine Corps. Tough stuff.

Barbara Belt:

Serious?

Donald Houston Ericson:

You bet. So anyway, the, ah, they also had basketball games, Marines, Air Force, Navy, so forth. Oh, the Marines being a very proud organization, didn't want to get beat by any of these people, so they bring in ringers. Pros to play these games. They won the Rice Bowl. They were kicking butt. Basketball-wise, ah...

Barbara Belt:

But these were all Marines that they'd bring in?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. They're, they're professional players. Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Pros are college players. These are good, good, good guys. Okay. Those of us who boxed were pros. Ah, so...

Barbara Belt:

So are you still loving the Marine Corps? I mean, you're....

Donald Houston Ericson:

I'm a Marine.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

It's, ah, the motto "Once a Marine, always a Marine" is very true. I'm, I'm a Marine.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. Sorry, so you're...what about this game there? I mean, who won?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Well, right after....During that period of time, there was... in boxing and wrestling, there's a decision factor, ah, amateur wrestling, ah, more so in boxing because if you don't knock the boxer out, you...there's got to be a decision on who won the bout. So we, we lost some, some pretty close decisions because of this rivalry. Ah, again, I lost a....my decision and the 187th Airborne, on their base, ah, because they had their judges, and so anyway. I felt I beat the kid, but I lost the decision. And our coach would tell us, ah, in order to not lose a decision, you knock the guy out. That's what you do.

Barbara Belt:

That wasn't good enough?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. Well, that was problem I had. I had no killer instinct. I'd...even when I would spar with our, with our teammates, you know, I'd hit them and hurt them, and they'd "Finish them, finish them." Well, you know, that's more "POW." I'm not going to knock him out. The Navy guy I knocked out, he....I didn't know him from Adam, so "POW." (Laughter from Belt). But anyway, ah, after Korea, we went back to Japan, and ah...

Barbara Belt:

Are you still the Athletic Director? I mean, are you still doing the same?

Donald Houston Ericson:

That was my, that was my responsibility at that time when I finished up there. Ah...

Barbara Belt:

Are you still boxing even when you went back to Japan?

Donald Houston Ericson:

No, they, they....

Barbara Belt:

They stopped you?

Donald Houston Ericson:

They shut me off.

Barbara Belt:

Okay., how did you take that?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Because of how it went, you know, so hey, guy, you got a brain problem, you know....

Barbara Belt:

Did you accept it okay? I mean....

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oh, yeah.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. You did. Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

I could, I could remember "POW." When my head went like that, see.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah....

Barbara Belt:

But you were smart enough to know that you had to stop?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. At the time, I was...my, my long range lifetime was to become a surgeon. And so I was, ah, oriented toward medicine.

Barbara Belt:

Oh, okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, my father was a dentist, and so I had that, that thing in my mind. Ah...

Barbara Belt:

Now during all this time, did your parents come to Japan to see you? Or did you...

Donald Houston Ericson:

No.

Barbara Belt:

No. Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

No. We wrote a lot of letters. I've got letters, stacks of letters at home from them, from me to them, and....

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

What was going on and so forth. But ah, my brother at the time, ah, was quite a, quite a collegial athlete here, and he went to at that time, Aggies, now CSU, and he played football there and wrestled there. And ah, our sister, she was a majorette, that kind of stuff. So...but while I was away, and then I came, came back and ah, I was stationed at, at Camp Pendleton.

Barbara Belt:

So from Japan you received orders to go to Camp Pendleton?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Came back to the States. Yeah. I was in part of the Army Regiment there and they put...

Barbara Belt:

Did you get to come back to Denver before you went to Camp Pendleton?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I, I got a leave. Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay, you got a leave. Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

So you got to see your family.

Donald Houston Ericson:

I came home. Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. And how was that?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, that was great. Great. During the period of time that I was gone, my, ah, my step-father had bought some horses for my sister. Well, she was all enthralled in horse riding then, so we bought a horse that was a, a former parade horse, a Palomino horse. Very strong mouth horse, you know, it means you got, you have to hold them down and ah, the horse would rear up and dance and really.....I had a girl that I was dating at the time to come and I'm showing off on this horse, and (Chuckle from ERICSON)...I let him, give him too much rein, and (Makes a sound) we went through the apple orchard. He was trying to scrape me off on trees. But anyway....

Barbara Belt:

So how long is your leave? Do you remember?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Ah, 30 days, I think.

Barbara Belt:

Thirty days.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. All right, so now how to you get to Camp Pendleton? How do you get there?

Donald Houston Ericson:

On the way back, I was in supporting arms training regiment there and back into my MRS, which was radio operator, and so ah, what I would do at that point.... A couple of events, they were developing a new landing craft with a well defined howitzer on it. And so they would send me out to the range where this test firing was done...

Barbara Belt:

In Camp Pendleton?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Where this test firing was done out into the, the Santa Clara mountains, I guess it is. And ah, what worked out...my responsibility then was when they were ready to fire, I would call on the radio, the range guard that was out there, and "Is it clear?" "Is it an impact area?" "No problems. Everything okay.?" And "Yes, Okay." So I would give him the high sign and BOOM, and they'd shoot this cannon, and "Shhhh." Off it would go, and then they'd have a bunch of transients and stuff doing all kinds of engineering type functions with this, to see how much this gun was displaced and what not.

Barbara Belt:

And you did all the radio for that?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

Okay.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Well, another thing that ah, off the coast towards San Clemente, they had a firing range that would shoot out into the ocean, and where they would....these were then guys who were out of boot camp, but into Military Marine Infantry training. And so they would be out throwing hand grenades and shooting their weapons out into the ocean. My responsibility at that time as a radio operator was to call "Picket" boats who were out in the periphery out there, outside of the impact area, and their responsibility was to keep any private craft from getting into this area.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And we would tell them, "Okay, they're getting ready to start." And make sure it's clear and everything great and the flags would go up, and BANG, BANG, they'd start shooting. BELT : Did you like this?

Donald Houston Ericson:

It was interesting, very interesting. I, I gave up the Marine Corps (Chuckle from Ericson). Here's these young guys, just got out of boot camp. Okay. Now young guys, 17, 18...

Barbara Belt:

A veteran.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And I'm 20.

Barbara Belt:

Yeah.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And a Sergeant at the time.

Barbara Belt:

A Sergeant now!

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah, I'm a Sergeant now.

Barbara Belt:

Wow.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, so these guys coming up and they'd be on a break, and they'd walk by, and you know, to me, they're sweating, dirty, muddy, crawling around in the dirt. Here I'm sitting in, you know, and my radio, talking to them out there. Looked like a pretty good job, you know. Here I am, you know (Laughter from Belt). How, how do you get into that outfit? What's going on here? What are you in, you know? Hey...and they'd say, "Sir." In boot camp, everybody is "Sir." Sir. Officers, all commissioned officers, Sir. Get out of boot camp, then you don't call non-commissioned officers "Sir." That is reserved for officers. And these guys would come up and say, "Sir." And again, they're fresh out of boot camp. Sir. God damn it, don't call me "Sir." See, I'm a Sergeant. (Chuckle from Belt) Scared the hell out of them. But that was Marine Corps stuff to me.

Barbara Belt:

Yeah.

Donald Houston Ericson:

God damn it, you know. (Chuckle from Ericson and Belt). They put that into your head, see...

Barbara Belt:

Yeah.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, I still do that, ah, when, when our kids were little and I'd be upset and say, "You God damn people," and my wife would go, "Oh, you...." (Chuckle from Belt). You know, just you're not in the Marines anymore and oh, I would apologize and you know, but...

Barbara Belt:

Are you bored doing this? I mean, it sounds so easy. I mean...

Donald Houston Ericson:

This here.

Barbara Belt:

Yeah.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Oh, it's great. I love it.

Barbara Belt:

You did?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Marine Corps came to me at a time when I needed, you know, ah, two things in my life that were important, that I needed, that helped me define who I am. One, the Marine Corps, and two, boxing. And ah...

Barbara Belt:

Sense of pride?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes. I get, ah, ah, I have on my car a Marine Corps license plate. Interesting aside there, we were on a trip to see my brother in California, and I, I stopped to get gas, and a couple of young guys comes up. "Were you a Marine?" "Yes," I said. "How is it? Was it tough?" "You damn betcha." So, I don't know whether he went ahead with it or not, but (Laughter from Belt) it, it's, just so you know that, ah, former Marine, former Marine, no ex, former.

Barbara Belt:

Oh, I never thought of that. Yeah.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Terminology, you know.

Barbara Belt:

Yeah. How long are you in Camp Pendleton?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Just a period of time when I came back. October, onto March. October '54 to March of '55 and then I was released.

Barbara Belt:

Okay. Now tell me about. Did you think about staying on? You loved the Marines. Why didn't you stay on?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Well, no, I, my intent was to go, to go to college.

Barbara Belt:

Uh,huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

And ah, go to, ah, med school. Ah, Captain Dick Francisco, who was my coach in the, one of my coaches, he is a graduate of Gonzaga in Seattle, and Gonzaga has a very good boxing team and he would arrange for me to get a boxing scholarship at Gonzaga.

Barbara Belt:

So you knew, in the Marines, what your, what your goal was?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

And where you were going?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes.

Barbara Belt:

And you didn't want to stay with the Marines? You were going on.

Donald Houston Ericson:

No. No. I went in, I went to the best place that I could at the time, which was the Marine Corps. And ah, I did them the best job I could do for them while I was there. Ah, I was one hell of a Marine. (Loud laughter from Belt) I did, you know, again, I sometimes wonder. Some guys I know are not around any more, guys I knew are not around any more. Ah...

Barbara Belt:

Do you keep in contact with anyone when you left?

Donald Houston Ericson:

I, I talked to some of the guys. Yeah.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

They're...as I said yesterday on the tape, nobody ever shot at me.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh.

Donald Houston Ericson:

That bothers sometimes. What I, you know, you got to.....

Barbara Belt:

That shouldn't bother you.

Donald Houston Ericson:

....Question your manhood. Guys, I, I, I know...

Barbara Belt:

To question your manhood after going through the Marines. (Laughter from Belt).

Donald Houston Ericson:

You just, ah, I know, had they told me to get up that hill, I'd have got up to do it.

Barbara Belt:

You would have done it.

Donald Houston Ericson:

But ah, it never happened. So, I, I, again I did whatever I did is what I did and that's what...that's who I am and what I did.

Barbara Belt:

Uh, huh. Do you remember the last day of the Marine Corps?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yes, I do. I had, ah, friend of mine that was in boot camp with me and he's the guy that I visited in Korea and then he was at Camp Pendleton also. His name was Bob Lambert. And ah, he and I were both, in that we wanted to get released together. I had purchased a car, a '48 Dodge, (Chuckle from Ericson) and ah, so he and I drove back to Denver from ah, Camp Pendleton. Left the gates and interesting aside, we were on liberty at one...before we got out one time, was in a bar in La Jolla, which is a little town there. Went in the bar. At that point in time, they had a crank, wind-up toy, was a monkey (makes a clapping sound) bang his symbols together and I just fell in love with that thing. So I bought it from the bar maid. It cost me, I don't know, twenty five or thirty dollars, whatever. It was later on in a movie with James Dean, that same thing. Anyway, had it sitting on my dashboard, wound up, ready to go. Drove out the base, went up the hill, hit a bump, the monkey started (makes clapping sound)....

Barbara Belt:

Applauding for you.

Donald Houston Ericson:

That's it. I thought that's really cool. You know, we was happy. I'm out of here. (Laughter from Belt) As I said, I had a scholarship to Gonzaga. I didn't take it. I wanted to go to CU. I figured CU would be a better access to CU Med School, where I wanted to go. And ah, I don't know if you want to know about that on here? But I got, ah...

Barbara Belt:

We've got a little bit of room there.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Okay. Well, ah, came back home, went back to work for the telephone company for a period of time, the one I was working for before I got in. And ah, then in September of 1955, I went to CU. Got up there, Freshman Class, went out for football, CU football. Did some boxing around the gym at CU.

Barbara Belt:

You did some boxing again?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Yeah. And ah...

Barbara Belt:

Where did you meet your wife?

Donald Houston Ericson:

Well, before I went to school, we went to a movie. It was called the Purple Mask at the Center Theatre in Denver. And ah, myself, my brother, and this Bob Lambert were sitting there, and beside us in, in the balcony were two young women. And first one and then the second one, I looked over and I was enamoured with her face. And being a wise, smart aleck, I said to my brother, who was sitting next to this other lady. I said, "Tell that girl I'll marry her."

Barbara Belt:

Just like that.

Donald Houston Ericson:

That's what I said. Drive out of town, see her once in a while. Went to a concert at Red Rocks. The modern jazz quartet was there and others, and we're standing at the entrance there. We weren't sitting. She walks in with her friend and just to let people know, went and sat down there below and I'm turning over inside. And finally at intermission, she gets up and comes up and stands beside me. And I said, "Hi, I'm Don. Going to school." "Well, where do you go to school?" "I'm going to go to CU." And I said, "What's going to be your major?" And she said, "Sociology." And I thought, "Oh, my God." I got one of them. (Chuckle from Belt). But ah, we made a date. Ah, first date, we went to Lakeside and ah, went to dance there. But they had a thing there, it was kind of a whirl-gig whatever, a centrifugal thing. You got on it, and got spinning, plastered you against the wall with centrifugal force and then the floor dropped down. Well, she being very brave and she got on there. Was scared to death. And I didn't know it at the time, but ah, then we went and danced. And ah, had some drinks. We went up and parked and...

Barbara Belt:

Let's not go there, Don. (Laughter from Belt).

Donald Houston Ericson:

We parked in Coal Creek Canyon, and I've been hung up ever since.

Barbara Belt:

How many children do you have?

Donald Houston Ericson:

We have four. We have three sons and a daughter.

Barbara Belt:

Do you want to say their names? We're almost at the end.

Donald Houston Ericson:

Okay. Our oldest son is named Donald Ric. Our daughter named Jean Michelle. Our middle son is Michael Roc. Our youngest son is Timothy Marc. We call all of them by their second names and Ric, Roc and Marc do not have a "K" in their names. So we don't have "Ks." I have a rather bad thing to remember that by. Well, we even spell it F-U-C. (Laughter from Belt). There's no case in the symbol (?).

Barbara Belt:

Well, listen this is a very interesting interview, Don, and I want to thank you for your interview. END TAPE 1, SIDE 2

 
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  October 26, 2011
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