A little history lesson on Legs…a 38 year ComCam PJ tradition that someone ended by tossing them into a dumpster
Note: We’re not revealing who or why they were tossed out.
…Legs, reviled by Commanders—worshiped by Air Force PJs
From a conversation between Richard Diaz (S.U. 1979) and Lance Cheung (RIT 1994) as recorded by Mike Featherston, 30 June 2001
The adopted father of Legs is Bob Leach. On or about 1977 this AAVS combat photographer thought it would be great to having a full mannequin with a phonebook shelf on one side and a phone on the other, would be the ideal office addition. What he found was a damaged orphan of a mannequin that he modified by sawing off her upper half. Her first outfit was a black petticoat that she wore for a couple years as she happily performed her duties holding a phone at her waistline. She occasionally went out on the town and one time to a Dining-Out with unnamed PJs. Perhaps this was the cause of her wardrobe changes, which included panties, stocking and high heels, and later unabashed fishnet stockings from girlfriends of PJs during the first 8 years. She was also as adorned with the AAVS patch and the first Vietnam inspired “Whatever it Takes” patch. Those were happy years, spent with the likes of Herman Kokojan (S.U.1974) and Rob Marshall.
But some, particularly commanders frowned her presence and at times she led a hidden life in drop ceilings, or simply suspended when a certain commander said he did not want her to stand anywhere in the building. During ORI inspections or when distinguished visitors were near she could be seen being escorted from room to room to keep her presence a secret. One extreme solution to an ORI was to put her in a tube and ship her to a TDY location, this was the first of two TDYs where she has traveled the nation. Magically after the inspectors left, she reappeared. One time she appeared a bit too early when an inspector unexpectedly returned and found her in a film processing room—write-up!
A BRIEF (Ha!) BACKGROUND ON LEGS:
Yes, “Legs”, or as we referred to them (her) and say, “to be a good PJ , your pictures have to have legs”. A reference to longevity, archival value and repeat publishing. A good, interesting and valuable picture is new year after year and thus has “legs”.
In the old days, Legs was used as a phone stand and so when you answered the phone you were invariably staring her….well, nice legs of course(what did you think I was going to say?).
About every two years or so, we would get her a new set of underwear (which in the case of Legs were her outer-wear.). Her new panties by tradition has to have been used once by a friend of a PJ (FOAPJ)…. Not soiled mind you, just worn once for good luck… this was a well-kept secret so as not to embarrass the volunteer. All the women who participated (Men, especially PJ’s, weren’t allowed to wear them.) knew the scant-panties would be worn by Legs and even stopped by to visit them on occasion. Often proud of their contribution to the PJ doctrine and way of life (to our delight).
The big trick was putting the new set of panties on Legs without showing a tacky seam… often we brought in experts (a seamstress on one occasion). Among some of the PJ’s and others in the area, there would sometimes be a fight (short burst of testosterone) over who would keep the old panties. One guy wanted them for good luck when he flew, so he had a set for his flight suit. Another wanted his girlfriend/wife to wear them. Each scuffle over the latest(removed) panties would eventually result in a “who deserved them the most” based on who had shot the best, recent and or most dangerous job. Ken (unknowingly) would often be used as a tie-breaker. PJ’s would go in, ask his opinion on two selected pictures, the one he chose was the winner and also won whatever the hidden argument was as well (including who got to keep the old panties).
Her boots were polished with Pledge most of the time…although, I believe Henry Dutcher once used real polish and spit shinned them (possible foot fetish here).
Whenever we were warned that sensitive VIP’s or guest were coming by, we would either hide her in the broom closet or often just drape a large dark cloth over her (which looked cool with her boots showing).
Long, long ago, in a place far, far away , there was a sort of Squire-PJ (proud of not being a prima donna and forced to have a SEI) named Bob Leach (or Lurchto other PJ’s). Bob was the first to possess Legs (to the best of my knowledge). I don’t know where he acquired her (maybe we don’t want to know). He set the original ground rules and developed the inherited pecking order of Legs. He was always very protective and often sensitive over what would happen to her (I found this out over a few beers with him…. No tears mind you, but intense about it).
Bob decided to place Legs in Bob Wickley’s room (just to bug him) but Wickley (or “the nose”, “beggar”, “whiner”, or alias “kneepads”) wouldn’t have her. So Bob, now thoroughly disgusted with Wickley’s (sllp-in-the-face) shunning of Legs decided to put her in Dutcher’s room (who accepted Legs with an almost sinister and some would even agree, perverted undertone). When Henry left (Legs was cleaned up, upgraded, given new panties (her last had disappeared under Dutcher) she went to Belcher (I’m told Boyd actually had a relationship with her for a time. Bob found Boyd’s interaction with Legs disturbing. She remained with Boyd for a time, until Bob had a room of his own once again (another story altogether).
After Boyd and Wickley left he shuffled legs into Marshall’s tender care. Rob found a willing female volunteer, replaced Legs panties with bright red ones (they had always been black lace) and treated her like a lady. When Marshall was reassigned, Bob came to me (with tears in his eyes, not from sentiment, he had just been drinking at the Cozy Korner) and presented me with Legs. He said “Rick , you know what this means? Take good care of her, she’ll give your work Legs.” I promised Bob I would be faithful and protective. To the best of my knowledge, Legs was all that and served me well… I sometimes miss her and wondered where she was and if she had ever been upgraded to a thong.
When I left I presented Legs to the new “Kids on the block”. Now, it’s comforting to see Legs has had Legs.
By the way , the legend about kissing her before a job for good luck…. Always worked for me…
Adrian Cadiz picks up the story…
Lance Cheung brought the legs from the 2nd CTCS at Norton. I was the first baby PJ at Charleston to receive them. They then went to Patti Mancini (Zimmerman), and then to Ricardo.
The rules of the tradition as they were told to me are as follows: The legs must be passed on to the last arriving baby PJ. They must be passed from the previous holder to the new baby with all PJs who are not TDY present to witness the event. (Beer should also be present for consumption.)
The new owner of the legs must christen them immediately upon receiving them. Legs may be dressed in any manners as long as it is deemed appropriate by the politically correct sensitive powers that be. This last rule usually goes unenforced but the baby PJ who has the legs must bring them to all PJ type functions, if any exist in that candy-ass listen to the simpering malcontents and abide by their wishes squadron.
Those are the rules as I know them. Now that you’ve actually completed the training and will undoubtedly get the SEI, maybe you’ll understand why PJs have been proud of their accomplishments and demand respect for their expertise. We are special because we have taken our work and our professional standards to a new level.
Note: Over there years since 1977 there have be a lot of holders of the legs. If anyone has a list of everyone please email it to email@example.com. There currently is now a movement on to obtain a new set of legs that will be used to carry on the tradition. Details will be forth coming and there’s some talk about “Blessing the new ones by the Godfather” at the 2016 reunion in Charleston.
Edited by Jim Pearson and Ken Hackman
I Just wanted to let you know that I could really use your vote and helping to spread the word.
I am running for one of the seats on NPPA’s (National Press Photographers Association) Board of Directors.
Elections for two seats on NPPA’s Board of Directors, as well as Regional Chair positions in all regions have opened and will run through November 30, 2015.
Giving back as freely as I have received, has been instilled in me by my mentors since the start of my photojournalism career, which began over twenty-one years ago in the military. I would like the opportunity to give back by holding a seat on the board and representing you, the NPPA members. Serving you in this capacity is an opportunity that would allow service to both the profession and the members while growing professionally. (See my full bio at: https://nppa.org/page/2016-nppa-board-and-regional-elections)
The deadline for online votes is 11:59 p.m. PDT on Monday, November 30, 2015. If you encounter any issues with voting, including logging into your member account, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You must be logged in as a member to cast your vote.
Thank you for this opportunity. I look forward to serving you in this capacity.
Jeremy (JT) Lock
This is about news photography in years past. The term photojournalism had not been thought of until the 1960’s. “Press” and commercial photographers, including the military used 4×5 Speed Graphic cameras with cut film holders, and flash bulbs.
I’m Bernie Yee, one of original cadre of Hackman’s PJ’s from the 60’s. My story starts in the 1940’s as a commercial art high school student who used a camera instead of a brush.
Enlisted in 1952, bypassed training and went to my first photo lab after basic. Wanted to be a news photographer but was that possible in the Air Force? Back then you were a photographer and photo lab technician.
The nearest to news work were jobs for public information, and I volunteered for them. Most were only handshake award photos or important visitors. But in high school we learned that “grip & grin” photos were often news, and tried to make them look good. Before long the PIO asked for me regularly, and I eventually got to shoot stories.
The 4×5 was “The News Camera” from the 1930’s until the 60’s, and film speed was very slow. Basically it was a small studio view camera made portable with a hand strap. You tried to make every shot a keeper because it took so much effort to shoot them.
You carried a separate light meter, and it was physically big like all photo equipment you carried then. Miniaturization had not been invented yet. After years of making pictures at the same film speed you learned to guess exposures fairly well, a time saver.
The 4×5 Speed Graphic had two shutters, a focal plane shutter in the back, and a rotary leaf shutter in the front. The leaf shutter had synchronization for flash bulbs, and was used most of the time. The rear shutter was for high speed pictures, and you had to make sure the rear focal plane shutter was set open when using the front. Otherwise you would end up with blank exposures.
Cut film holders were like a thin 4×5″ box, with a sheet of film inserted on both sides. The film was protected with removable dark slides. The back of the camera had a spring loaded gate which allowed a film holder to be slid on to the back of the camera and held in place.
After inserting a film holder and removing the dark slide, you would set the front shutter speed and f/stop, cock the shutter release spring, and put a flash bulb in the flash gun if needed. You would do those things quickly, while talking to your subject(s) to keep their interest on you. School taught us to think of ourselves as circus ring masters – to take charge and make the acts dance!
Making the “key shot” was just as important then as it is today – the image that tells everything in single photograph. I was taught to find the key shot first, but not to let other points in the story slip past.
Think you have a lot to carry? The 4×5 came in a hard case the size of a large tool box with a handle. With the camera folded closed, a flashgun with 2 reflectors, light meter, filters and other accessories went in it. There was room for six film holders and bulbs which were never enough. You carried more cut film holders, flash bulbs, and other things in a large leather shoulder gadget bag.
You could stand on the case to shoot pictures over people in crowd shots, or obstacles. The case had a primitive folding wood tripod that meant not having to carry a big heavy real one. And we used a cable release for slow shutter speeds.
On extended assignments like an aircraft crash out somewhere, or an autopsy before medical photographers, I took boxes of fresh film (25 sheets per box), a couple of empty film boxes, and a changing bag. The changing bag was a rubberized black cloth bag about 2 foot square and light proof. It had a zipper along the back side, and two elastic sleeves on the front for your hands.
Open the zipper, put some film holders, box of film and an empty box in the bag and zipper it shut. Stick your hands into the sleeves and you were in the darkroom.
Unload the film holders, put the exposed film in the empty box, and load the holders with new film. I always brought heavy rubber bands to keep the boxes closed. How did you know which side of the film is up? Cut film right side up has notches along the top right side of the film.
The problem with cut film was all of the holders you had to carry. Cut film, technically called sheet film was made of a light sensitive coating put on an acetate sheet. Sheet film is thick and not designed to be bent.
Then someone invented the film pack which held 12 sheets of film in one holder! The main ingredient was thin roll film stock. The thin sheets of film were attached to black paper strips about the same size as the film. The dozen sheets of film were stacked one on top of another, and the paper strips were all folded over the top sheet of film. The film was protected in the soft metal throw away holder, only the ends of the paper strips protruded out of one end of the holder. One side of the film pack had an open widow, which was covered with one of the black paper strips.
The film pack was placed into a metal clam shell device called a film pack adapter. It was about the size of a cut film holder but thicker. The adapter had a protective dark slide. The adapter went into the back of the camera, the dark slide removed, and the first paper tab pulled to bring the first sheet of film around to the open side of the film pack adapter. Each successive exposure meant pulling a paper tab. The tabs were numbered.
If you wanted to remove the film pack adapter before exposing every sheet of film, insert the dark slide and pull the adapter out. In the darkroom open the film pack, remove the exposed film (without paper strips) for processing and leave the remaining sheets in the film pack.
The last major improvement for the 4×5 camera was the electronic flash. However the “strobe” as it was called then, was huge in size and weight. The flash tube head was larger than the flashbulb reflectors it replaced. Because the flash tube needed high voltage, there was a separate heavy battery pack with a shoulder strap that never stayed on your shoulder. On occasion in the rain you received a mild shock when plugging the power supply into a wet flash head.
Lenses – although the camera could use wide angle and long lenses, they were not easily changed. Some required camera modifications, so the normal 5″ lens was used almost all of time. Meaning if you needed close ups – you got close. Wide angles – you backed up. It gave a lot of meaning to the profession! Think you could have “cut the mustard” then?
P.S. My personal cameras back then were a used Rollieflex, and an ancient Leica IIIa. There was no such thing as a fine grain image from my cameras in the 1950’s.
Editors Note: Yee enlisted in the early 1950’s and retired 26 years later. He was an art major who switched to photography. Retired in 1978 as MSgt Photojournalist on flight status. One of Hackman’s original cadre of PJ’s. Combat duty included Korea, 6 Day War Israel, Viet Nam. Camera’s most often used; 4×5 Speed Graphic, Rolleiflex, Kodak 35 Rangefinder, Nikon F (s).
Joined AAVS in Viet Nam, and remained a part of it until his retirement at the Pentagon while assigned to the 1361st Photo Squadron.
Afterwards he went to work for USDA Forest Service as their photo chief and gave them 20 years.
Global Executive Management (GEM) www.gemcorp.us is looking for Combat Camera crew for quick deployment to Afghanistan. Looking for the following candidates:
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We want experience with reality TV shows or combat camera types. The client is pro-military so combat camera is our target. Editors will be using Final Cut and Avid software. Cameraman will be using Sony 300 series or equivalent. Please send resumes ASAP to email@example.com
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The men and women of AAVS & Combat Camera, many times serving in harms way, provided an audio & visual record of Air Force history since its designation as a separate service to the present time. At the Air Force Museum, Air Force units that want to highlight their contribution to the mission and history of the Air Force have purchased and placed a memorial bench in the museum’s courtyard. These benches provide a visual reminder of their mission and history for the thousands of visitors who annually visit the museum. Although there are photographs, videos, and motion pictures produced by our members, on display within the museum, there is no specific recognition of our unit or the women and men who have and are still today capturing the events document and comprise the visual history of the Air Force. We need your to help correct this! – Ken Hackman
The world-class US Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB celebrates the history of our Air Force with displays of aircraft, missiles, technology and the achievements of the women and men who served. Recently a group of AAVS, 600th Photo Sq., 601st Photo Flt and Combat Camera veterans met for our 10th annual rendezvous/reunion at the Hope Hotel located on Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.
Petty Officer 3rd class Paolo Bayas aboard the USS George Washington. Photos courtasy of United States Navy.
Petty Officer 3rd class Paolo Bayas was in awe as he photographed an old woman carrying her crying grandson around the rubble of her new makeshift shanty home. Her face was wrinkled with smiles. She had been cooking a large meal for fellow eastern Samareños affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Haiyan, traveling at 195 mph with gusts of 235 mph, tore through the Republic of the Philippines on November 8, killing an estimated 5000 and affecting over 13 million people.
Bayas, serving as a Mass Communication Specialist for the USS George Washington naval ship, arrived at Guiuan, Samar on Nov. 14. His mission is to document the US humanitarian relief efforts of Operation DAMAYAN through his photojournalism.
According to Lt. Derrick Ingle, assistant public affairs officer, the George Washington Carrier Strike Group was stationed in Hong Kong when it received an order from the U.S. Secretary of Defense to provide relief to those impacted by Hayian. Within 40 hours, the George Washington was docked in Philippine waters where personnel were transferred via helicopter to DAMAYAN’s operation in Guiuan. – Click Here to Read the full post on the Long Beach Post Website –