Monday, June 22, 2015


Thanks, Dave W, for your suggestion. Here it is:

Do you remember that 1960s American TV sitcom named “My Three Sons”? You probably don’t. Here’s a clip: My Three Sons.
William Frawley played the role of “Bub.” Frawley was better known as “Fred” in “I Love Lucy.” (Surely you are familiar with that one—with all its re-runs.)

Somehow in the annals of history, my dad, Hayes Watson Cockrell, collected the moniker “Bub” from that TV series.I don't think he was happy with it, but he didn't complain.

He served aboard the USS Alsea (ATF-97) in WW2 as an electrician’s mate. But before he went to sea he served a few months as a clerk in the pilot records office at Pensacola Naval Air Station. There the commander took a liking to him and invited him to go on flights in SNJ trainers. Bub once told me they referred to the SNJs as
Stuka Nuka Javas.” One day the CO asked my dad if he would like to enroll in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. He declined. In later years I asked him why he passed up that opportunity. He just shrugged and said he wasn’t sure of it.

His service aboard ship was mostly uneventful except for watching torpedo wakes go by headed for larger targets than the Alsea. His most repeated story was of timing shells going overhead from battleships to the Normandy coast at D-Day.

After the war he married Helen and enrolled in electrical engineering. But when I came along he dropped out. After two aborted attempts to be a law enforcement officer he settled into a vocation that the Navy taught him—electrician, at which he was very successful. Motivated by his interest in airplanes that had captured him at Pensacola he used the GI Bill to learn to fly.

When I turned  six he deemed me airworthy and took me down the Black Warrior River in a Piper Super Cub with the wheels only few feet off the water. (He was far from a perfect man and so was his judgement at times.) Of course I loved every second of it. Later he became a pilot with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and flew many search missions for lost aircraft. His involvement in CAP was my impetus to becoming a CAP cadet, which launched my career as a military and airline pilot.

Bub wasn’t there when I first soloed at the age of 16. I don’t remember why, but suspect my instructor simply didn’t notify him that it was going tom happen. Later that day I joined up with him at the river for some fishing, and I don’t even remember what he said about my solo flight. I think he just considered it something that was simply destined to happen.

I remember him once telling me that his flight instructor went on to become the chief pilot at Southern Airways, which eventually merged with Republic and then Delta. One day he crossed paths with his old instructor and they caught up. The instructor told Bub he would be glad to set him up with a pilot candidate interview at Southern. 

“Did you?” I asked.

He just shook his head and sighed. He said he wasn’t sure about it.

Eventually he dropped out of flying as his family grew. Yet to the day of his losing consciousness I think he considered himself still a pilot. In the U.S. a pilot’s license never expires unless it is revoked. Only the medical certificate and the logbook currency expires.

He was a bit disappointed that I went to the USAF instead of the Navy, which he stayed with as a reservist for another 30 years as a Chief Petty Officer. But he always saluted me.

I respected his work ethic and devotion to family and country, but I resolved not to make his mistakes. I seized opportunity when it presented itself and when it didn’t, I knocked its door in. I was the success he imagined he never achieved. His other kids did well too.

And in that respect he was a victorious achiever. 

CPO H.W. Cockrell, USN "Seabees", 1975

My boat's name

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