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thedrifter
12-28-07, 08:56 AM
Retiree remembers early days at what is now Fleet Readiness Center
Charlie Hall
Sun Journal
December 27, 2007 - 9:26PM

Today it’s called the Fleet Readiness Center-East, the largest industrial employer east of I-95, with 4,000 people working on a variety of military aircraft.

There are more than 100 buildings spread over nearly 150 acres.

Raymond E. Robinson of Trent Woods remembers when there was one building and 26 employees. He is the lone survivor from that group, which worked in what was then called the Assembly and Repair building.

Now 86, he’s been retired since 1977, and has watched the progress of the facility that most employees refer to simply as “Cherry Point.”

“They kept saying they were going to close it every year,” he said. “It just got bigger.”

He describes his job in those days very simply.

“I repaired airplanes, all kinds of airplanes,” he said.

When he went to work there in 1943, the lone building would house 25 to 40 planes at a time. He was familiar with the work, having built B-24s in Baltimore before entering the military.

Today, the Fleet center’s civilian, military and contract personnel work on a wide variety of maintenance, engineering and logistical support for aircraft, engines and components.

“We had no idea then now big it would be,” he said. “I had no idea of staying there that long.”

He moved his family back to his Ohio home after he left the Marines in 1946.

“I talked him out of it and we left after three months,” said his wife, Carolyn.

His Cherry Point job repairing airplanes was still there when he returned as a civilian employee.

He had been a star high school baseball player and drew some interest from the pros, but starting a family took priority.

“And they (baseball) didn’t pay anything in those day,” he said.

Working at Cherry Point has been a way of life for Robinson’s family, including his wife, his daughter, Gloria, and sons Ray and Gary. Ray has worked there 26 years in engine overhaul, Gary is an aircraft equipment specialist of 34 years and their sister recently retired after 42 years in the base accounting office.

It all started when Raymond — a Marine fresh from Parris Island — met Carolyn, who was a civilian office worker at the shop.

In those days, he recalled, the Marine Corps Band would come every Friday for a dance at lunchtime.

It was at a shop party, Carolyn said, the two met. A year later, in 1945 they married, and on Dec. 8 they celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary.

“It’s been pretty good to all of us,” said Ray Jr.

Along with their steady work history, Raymond and Carolyn also have deep home roots, living in the same house in Trent Woods for 40 years.

“When we moved out here, there were no other houses and just one light up the street,” she said. “The street in front of the house has no name, so I went to the post office to see how I would get my mail. They told me I could name the street.”

There was lots of holly in the yard and surrounding woods, so she called it Holly Ridge Road.

The Robinsons both came from farm families — hers in Jones and Craven counties, his in Meigs County, Ohio, along the Ohio River.

His father had two farms, 50 and 350 acres. Looking back, they said his was the easier farm life.

He drove a tractor on his daddy’s farm while her field work was wielding a hoe.

In the days since he retired, his main attractions have been golf and fishing.

What he would have done with his life if there had been no Cherry Point?

“I would have found a job somewhere,” he said. “But I wouldn’t have been a farmer.”

Ellie

jinelson
12-28-07, 10:38 AM
Damn Im getting old I remember it well also but it was called NARF - Naval Air Rework Facility then. They also had a big one at NAS Alameda CA. and another at Yokosuka Japan. They did wonderful work making combat worn equipment brand new again.

Jim