By Darrell Todd Maurina
Coming to Clovis in 1954 was a major change for New York City native Peter Hendricks. But even five decades later, Hendricks said he enjoyed his time at what was then known as Clovis Air Force Base — quiet was precisely what he wanted after having served during the Korean War.
“Clovis was like going from a crowd to a quiet room,” Hendricks said. “Clovis was a very quiet community and the base was even quieter.”
As a desk sergeant working in security at the base, Hendricks said his main official contact with Clovis was picking up airmen who had gotten into trouble in town, but even then, the work was easy and nothing compared to a tour in Japan, where his role was supporting bombers during the Korean War.
“We did do some town patrolling but very little. Every once in a while I’d check in with the police department,” Hendricks said. Most of those picked up were either airmen who had overstayed their leave in Amarillo or airmen who wandered off base while intoxicated, he said.
“It was a dry county so nobody could drink, so if you wanted to drink you had to drink on base,” Hendricks said. “Sometimes fellows would wander off base and the local police would pick them up and we had to go get them.”
Hendricks said he wasn’t prepared for the weather of the desert southwest.
“One thing that stood out was that I went to sleep after a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift. I went to sleep with the window open, and I woke up in a box of sand,” Hendricks said. “I had to spend half a day cleaning up.”
Hendricks said his better memories of Clovis included coming to town for movies and hamburgers.
“They used to have what would be considered today a forerunner of McDonald’s, a hamburger place about a quarter of the way from town to base,” Hendricks said. “The fellows would pull up with their cars and have burgers and malts.”
“There was hardly any traffic on the road and it was mostly the fellows from the base,” Hendricks said. “There were no lights on the road when you came in from town to the base. Everything was very laid back.”
Building positive memories for airmen stationed locally is something Clovis has tried to do ever since the base opened, according to longtime local officials.
“The interaction between Cannon Air Force Base and the community is one of the best in the world,” said Loyd Franklin, a longtime businessman in Clovis who helped begin the Committee of 50 to improve relations between the city and base.
“We’ve had people from all over the United States who have heard about us and wondered how we operated,” Franklin said. “Strangely enough, whenever people were sent to Clovis, a lot of them they hated it with a bloody passion. But after they were here a few months and met the people they changed their mind just because of the relationship.”
Franklin owned the Sunshine Theater, one of the local businesses patronized by Hendricks and many other airmen. Hendricks said he still remembers coming to that theater, and still kept in contact with some of the military friends he made while stationed at Clovis after he returned to New York.
“You can never forget the military, nobody does, unless they were brain dead,” Hendricks said. “It’s always part of your life.”