Base holds memories of times past

By Keith Pannell: Mach Meter

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — During his four-year stay at Cannon Air Force Base, Billy Overby witnessed a lot of change.

He was there when Cannon’s fighter squadrons switched from F-86s to F-100s in 1955. He was also present when Clovis Air Force Base changed its name to Cannon Air Force Base.

“Heck, I was at Cannon when I heard my first Elvis Presley record. That seems like so long ago,” said the Overby, who returned to the base on Monday for the first time since he left the U.S. Air Force in 1958.

Overby arrived at Cannon in 1954 as a 19-year-old Airman fresh out of technical school in Denver, Colo. The Natchez, Miss., resident said the base looked a lot different back then.

“When I first got here, we lived in open barracks with pot-bellied boilers at each end to keep us warm and we had to put duct tape over the windows to keep the dust out,” he said. “Our barracks were by the flightline and I remember walking from there across a big open field to the front gate. There was a lot of open space back then.”

Overby worked on the F-86 and later, F-100s straight off the assembly line.

“When I drove through the gate and saw the F-86 in the Airpark, it brought back a lot of memories,” he said. “We deployed all over the United States so those things could practice dropping bombs and using the guns.”

Overby was part of the 312th Fighter Bomber Group, which was redesignated as the 312th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1957.

Overby was discharged from the Air Force in 1958 after his tour at Cannon was over. He spent about eight months as a civilian before re-enlisting and switching career fields.

“They wouldn’t let me come back in and work on F-100s so I changed over to B-52s,” he said.

Overby finally hung up his tools for good in 1967.

“This is a slow time of year for me,” the Mississippi pool builder said. “I wanted to take a trip and see how much has changed in 47 years.”

He said from Clovis to Cannon, not much has changed. The town itself has obviously gone through quite a bit of change, but some things remain the same.

“There’s a drive-in restaurant on 7th Street [Foxy’s drive in] that I went to when I was here, I can’t believe it’s still here,” Overby said. “The trees that line the highway between the town and the base were there when I was here, they’re just taller now.”