In 1996 Hunstanton’s 150th birthday celebrations prompted a letter from me to the Lynn News in which I proposed marking the occasion by restoring the town to the way it looked in the 1950s.
The concept was on a much larger scale than the recent restoration of Lynn railway station, which found favour with rail enthusiast Michael Portillo for taking it back to the Fifties!
One of the reasons put forward for my proposal was the potential for attracting tourists from the USA, whose citizens accounted for some 25 per cent of the population in the 1950s due to the close proximity of thousands of USAF personnel based at RAF Sculthorpe.
The idea resurfaced one day last summer when Ted Linhof visited the Heritage Centre on a personal journey back to his very early years when he lived in Old Hunstanton. His older brother Kurt had been a pupil at St Edmund’s School, at the junction of Avenue Road and Homefields Road, so I took great pleasure in showing Ted and his wife Stephanie that this building is still standing, although it is no longer a school.
I then contacted Peter Gunn at Docking who had just published a book about Sculthorpe during the cold war and he gave the couple a tour of what is left of the base.
The Heritage Centre is just as keen to obtain historical details from visitors as it is to provide them with information, so I persuaded Ted to give me some background information.
This is Ted’s story.
My father, who had been born in Munich and came to the US in 1929, serving with the air force and marrying Mildred after the war and had a son, Kurt.
He came to RAF Sculthorpe in 1954.
He was an operations officer for the 85th Bomb Squadron. My mom joined him in 1955, and they lived in the White Cottage at Old Hunstanton for a time. My brother went to St Edmund’s School. I came along in January 1956, and we subsequently moved on base. First to Blenheim Road, then Cambridge Street (now Maple).
We had a maid named Ivy, whose husband Peter worked at Sandringham. Mom was very involved with the bomb squadron wives and on the base.
We left Sculthorpe and went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for a year, then to McLean, Virginia ’58-’64.
Dad was back in the Pentagon and then the National War College. Japan next, a short tour as Base Commander of Misawa Air Base, then Randolph AFB Texas for three years, back to Virginia, the Philippines, and finally Hawaii. Dad retired in 1974 and moved to Colorado to practice law.
He became thoroughly involved in the 47th Bomb Wing Association, and was instrumental in getting the B-45 model placed in the IWM at Duxford in the USAF Cold War display.
Somewhere along the line, I decided to apply to the US Air Force Academy. I first saw the academy on our way to Japan in ’64 and again on the way to the Philippines in ’70. I’ve always looked at my career decision as destiny.
Growing up on air force bases, around military aircraft, a pilot role model, hearing all the stories, meeting all the characters – it was a natural choice.
I entered the academy in 1973. I graduated in 1977 and went to pilot training, earning my wings in 1978 and flying the A-10 Warthog.
I flew A-10s primarily from bases in South Carolina, Arizona, Korea, Louisiana, and North Carolina, with exotic deployments to Turkey and Honduras.
I retired from the air force in 1994, then married back into it, my wife Stephanie an AF Attorney. Her parents were also World War Two veterans, her father a career Marine and her mother a Woman Marine in the war.
I think meeting her was in my destiny, as well.
I started flying for Delta Airlines in 1997.
I’ve flown the 727, 737, 757, 767, and am now a captain on the A320.
The stars aligned this year, and I finally made the journey to visit my roots.
Assisted by John Maiden, Peter Gunn, and old photos from my mother, we visited my homes and the base, saw the B-45 display at Duxford, and relived a few of my parents’ stories.
Home from the UK! We can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate you taking the time to show us around Hunstanton and share some history.
Your tour made the whole trip more meaningful to me and gave me a good feeling about the relationships my parents shared.
I told my mother all about our visit, and she was thrilled we had such a great time.