AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — Frank Robinson has kept the picture, pasted on the back of dark construction paper, for 62 years. It's a worn clipping of a large photo that ran the newspaper's width on the front page of the Amarillo Times on Jan. 4, 1951.
There are 26 boys-about-to-be-men in three rows looking at the camera at the train depot. Of them, 22 were smiling, about to embark from Amarillo to San Diego and eventually who-knew-where.
The Amarillo Globe-News reports those local boys had just enlisted in the Navy, and with the Korean War six months old, that was a likely destination.
"I just wonder what happened to them," said Robinson, 87, a former Ogden, Utah, city worker. "I was awful fortunate. But Korea was going on, and there were some that were probably in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Robinson was 26 then, and, in the photo, he's in the first row, second from left.
Robinson had re-enlisted in the Navy after serving in the South Pacific at the end of World War II. He was put in charge of getting all those boys by train to the receiving station in San Diego.
"It all gets hairy when you make arrangements like that," Robinson said, "but they were all cooperative. That was the good part."
Robinson, who grew up with seven brothers and sisters on a ranch near San Jon, N.M., didn't know any of the recruits before that trip west and never saw them again afterward. But he's always wondered if any were still around, what's happened in the ensuing 60 years, how their lives, so full of adventure at the time, unfolded.
"That's been on my mind for a long time," Robinson said. "Just to reminisce. Who knows if there are any around, but it would be nice just to meet one or two of them again before we're all gone."
Robinson's life has been a full one. He spent 22 years in the Navy, and is one of few in the area to have served in three wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was drafted in 1944, and got his choice of the Navy, since that's where two older brothers were.
He was a coxswain on a fleet tug. Robinson was at Iwo Jima, just after the famous and bloody battle with the Japanese, to tow an ailing ship back for repairs.
After he was discharged, he spent three and a half years as a cowboy on local ranches, including the LX and Ralls, until three days before Christmas in 1950.
"I quit and came to Amarillo," he said, "and went to the Navy recruiter. I asked him how soon I could get out of here after the first of the year. He said, 'How about the third of January?'2 comments on this story
"I wanted security. Those old ranchers can say you have to go to town (lose a job) and you ain't got no recourse even though you're doing your job the way they want it done. All of a sudden, they can say we don't need you no more. You ain't got no recourse."
On Jan. 4, 1951, Robinson was on his way to San Diego in charge of a group of green recruits, but not before posing for an Amarillo Times photographer. At San Diego, Robinson went a different direction from the others.
It wasn't long before he again was across the Pacific Ocean as the coxswain of an LCVP, a landing craft that ferried troops and combat equipment ashore in Korea.
Robinson remained in the Navy after the Korean War ended in 1953. More than a decade later, Robinson was in his third war, this time in Vietnam.