Former Caraway resident enjoying retirement

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Growing up near the cotton fields of Caraway, Harold Burrough could never have imagined where life would take him over the next 50 years. He is quick to say it has been quite an adventure from helping his dad farm with a team of mules to helping sit a man on the moon.

Borrough, a 1951 graduate of Caraway Central High School, has fond memories of growing up in the best of times, with the best of people and in the best place in the world. He said his classmates share his sentiments.

Borrough left Caraway in January 1952 when he joined the U.S. Army. He completed basic training at Camp Breakingridge, Ky., and was sent to Fort Hood, Texas. In 1953 he was sent to Korea. Upon returning to the States he finished his Army career at Ft. Campbell, Ky.

He returned to Caraway in the spring helping his dad farm. Leaving Caraway for the second time he went to Peoria, Ill., where he worked in a Caterpillar plant until January 1956. It was in 1956 he decided to pursue a career in the U.S. Air Force.

He spent 18 months in electronic school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. After graduation from there, he was sent to Randolph Air Force Base in Texas and later to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. He went back to school at Keesler for advanced training.

After completing the advanced training, he was shipped to Orlando, Fla., for training in tracking short range missiles. He spent six months there before going to Formosa, Taiwan.

He spent 14 months on an island in the China Straights at a radar site to guide missiles into China if things developed with the Formosa-China conflict. After leaving Formosa he spent the next three years in Grenier Field, N.H., tracking unmanned satellites.

He returned to Keesler Air Force Base as an instructor in basic electronics. After transferring to technical writer for the field he was working in, he went to Patrick Air Force Base to teach a new system developed for the moon landing.

"We taught the Air Force personnel how to operate and maintain the electronic gear aboard a converted KC 35 (in flight refueler) which carried communication equipment and an auto tracking antenna," he said. "It was the largest antenna to ever be airborne. The nose of the aircraft was painted black and it looked like it had run into something and its nose was swelled up. The antenna was a seven foot dish, very large for being airborne. We flew with the crews on every mission and worked with them when needed. We were on the launches which carried astronauts and also there when they landed. We were the last communication before they went into lunar orbit and were the first when they were coming back in. Most of the time when the astronauts talked with those on the ground, especially on re-entry, it was relayed through one of the six aircraft which were equipped with special communication equipment and auto tracking equipment.

"The antenna could track at 45 degrees per second, the missiles were traveling at 1,800 miles per hour and our plane would only do about 550, so we had to approach them at an angle as they were speeding by. After we landed on the moon and the next try ran into trouble, there were no other attempts to land on the moon so our mission was over. We were to be the communications available if the missile was to go into lunar orbit on the fourth orbit around the earth as we had no land or ships that could cover the area, so our six aircraft spaced 60 degrees from each other would ring the earth and supply communications. We were never called upon to do that as they managed to go into lunar orbit on the third rev around the earth."

Burrough said the mission was special, the people were special, the equipment was special and the six aircraft were built for that mission.

"They tell me that five of those aircraft are still in operation," he said.

Burrough went from tracking astronauts in Florida to California to teaching civilians how to operate and maintain an auto tracking antenna for unmanned satellites. He went from California to Colorado to teach Air Force personnel to do the same. He retired with 20 years of service to his country. He enjoyed his military years.

He once again went into training in the civilian world in sales. He began his retirement as a representative for a manufacturing company for eight years in Arizona, New Mexico, El Paso, Texas, and Las Vegas, Nev. He moved from that to being a product manager for another manufacturing company. The company made road repair equipment and material. After a short time, he was their distributor and also was owner/operator of a road repair company for the next 20 years.

During that time, with lots of help, he organized the 35th reunion for the Caraway Central Class of 1951.

"We had 43 graduates and three were deceased," he said. "We had 33 attend our 35th class reunion. I invited anyone who went to school with us, even if it was only for one year. With the graduates, classmates and teachers we had over 120 people attending."

Since then he has helped organize the 40th, 45th, 50th, and 55th class reunions. He started a web site for the old high school classmates. He also helped organize a combined school reunion with over 350 attending.

"Many Caraway graduates have furnished me pictures and they can be viewed on the web site," he said. "School and personal pictures number over 700 and have been visited by over 38,000 viewers."

To visit the website, log on to "Caraway, Ar. Alumni" website.

Always a country boy at heart, Burrough retired again at the age of 62 to a rural area on 40 acres to enjoy the peace and quiet of country living.

"We have septic tanks and wells," he said. "Unlike Caraway and the surrounding area, we have to go 350 feet for water. Many have to have alternative power and I will have my solar panels and wind generator up shortly and I am looking forward to that day."

Burrough's mother, Annie Brickell Burrough, lived over 80 years in Caraway. Mrs. Burrough spent a number of years as president of the PTA. She is remembered by many students from Caraway as she operated the school store for 25 years.

Burrough still looks forward to his visits to Caraway where he has many friends and family members in and around the area.

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