Reunited and it feels so good

Historic Air Station Salem, Mass.

BOSTON - A historic photo from the 1950s of Coast Guard Air Station Salem, Mass.

About a dozen former and retired Coast Guard members gathered March 26, 2012 on Winter Island near Salem, Mass., to stroll down memory lane at the former facility that was Coast Guard Air Station Salem.

The former Coast Guard members gathered to tell stories and relive past accomplishments and look at the site where each man had spent several years of the their life flying search and rescue missions off the stormy coast of New England.

Bob “Ace” Adams, who drove from his apple farm in Maine, remembered two different tours as an aircraft technician at the station in the 1960s as fun and tough during the winter months.

“Working out on the flight line was tough in the winter,” he said. “I know why they closed it.”

But it was the fun memories that he lingered on – the steak or lobster lunches on Wednesdays, the dances in the hangar, and the tag football games on the green lawn next to the harbor.

“It was a nice station,” Adams said.

On Feb. 15, 1935, the Coast Guard established a seaplane facility at Salem, Massachusetts because there was no longer space to expand the Ten Pound Island Gloucester air station.  Air Station Salem was located at Winter Island, an extension of Salem Neck which juts out into Salem Harbor.  The aviation facilities consisted of a single hangar, a paved 250 ft parking apron, and two seaplane ramps leading down into the waters of Salem Harbor.  Salem was equipped with, what were at the time, state of the art communications and modern repair facilities. Barracks, administrative and dinning facilities and motor pool buildings were also part of the complex.  The station was commissioned with a complement of 35 men and two airplanes.

Salem Air Station closed in 1970.  The Salem and Quonset Point operations moved to Otis Air Force base out on “The Cape” and Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod was established.

The Air Station Salem property was turned over to the City of Salem in 1972 and the facilities of the former air station have been allowed to slowly deteriorate.  The original hangar, barracks and other buildings still stand but are in disrepair.  Historic Salem Incorporated has been able to place Winter Island on the endangered list and they hope to be able to restore the old air station which for 35 years played an important role in this seafaring region.

During the reunion, the former members told stories, looked through binders of old photographs and newspaper clippings furnished by a local historian.

Brian Wallace of East Sandwich, dressed in his vintage flight jacket, recalled how the base offered all-you-can-eat lobsters for $3 on Friday and how the bomb shelter was converted into a haunted house for children each Halloween.

“We had a lot of good rescues, just a lot of fond memories,” said Wallace, who served in Salem from 1967 to 1970. “I can still picture the choppers inside the building. It is rough to kind of see nostalgia go by the wayside.”

Former Coast Guard members pose at Coast Guard Air Station Salem, Mass.

BOSTON - About a dozen former and retired Coast Guard members gathered March 26, 2012 on Winter Island near Salem, Mass., to stroll down memory lane at the former facility that was Coast Guard Air Station Salem.