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The Sonic Boom - About 1965


Early in my career as CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, I continued to hear reports of problems with Airmen stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base (now our airport). As young men will do, some drank too much and were hauled to the police station and put in jail-and other problems. The Austin Police Chief was a good friend of mine, and often told me about these incidents, and said he wished things could be handled in a better way.

I got the idea that if the officials in Austin knew the officials at Bergstrom better, and visa versa, a lot of these small problems could be worked out. So .... 1 proposed to our board that we set up an Austin/Bergstrom Council made up of the Mayor/Base Commander, the Police Chief/the Provost Marshall, the C of C CEO/the Public Affairs Officer ..... and so on.

Bergstrom liked the idea, and the Bergstrom-Austin Council was formed. We met at least once a month, once in town and once at the Base. We saw that they were invited to special events in town, and they invited us to theirs on Base.

Base relations improved almost immediately. When an airman was arrested, our police called the Provost Marshall, and in a very short time they would come pick up the offender(s). Other problems, such as traffic, were solved over a cool drink rather than by formal letters. The Council worked great.

As part of the Bergstrom "hosting," they often invited us on VIP trips to other bases such as Ft. Brag (where we spent the day with John Wayne learning to be a Green Beret), Nellis (very near Los Vegas), Edwards AFB (where the test pilots flew all the newest), Cape Canaveral (where everything is launched), and to the Fire Power Demonstration in Florida. Here we joined Congress and VIP's from all over the USA in watching the Air Force demonstrate all its newest planes and weapons. This was a "really big show."

One year I remember, as we were sitting in a long row of bleachers holding about 1000 people, I had an interesting character sitting just to my left and up a row. He had the rim of his hat pushed straight up in front, and was full of wise cracks. We were all enjoying him. He was stimulated by a case of beer that he had placed under his seat, and shared with his friends. He also wore hearing aids, which at the time you plugged into your ears, and the wires went down in the front of your shirt to a battery about the size of a package of cigarettes.

There was a public address announcer that told you what was coming next, and which . way to look for it-far left; overhead at 80 degrees; straight ahead, etc.

I heard the announcer say, "Look far right at 50 feet, and prepare for sonic boom: Most of us did, and at least "prepared" somewhat, but our happy friend must not have. As soon as the plane came by at almost mach II, and the sonic boom hit us, out happy friend was trying to pull his battery pack and control out of his shirt and yelling, "How do you prepare for a sonic boom?" To tell the truth, I wish I had known how to prepare also. At 50 feet off of the ground and about 100 yards out in front of us, I'm not sure that you do.

Vic Mathias - 9-9-09