By Julie Wiessner
Jerry Kincaid’s is one of several local stories featured in the Journeys to Winslow portion of the much larger Journey Stories Exhibition. The grand opening is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 22, at La Posada, and will be hosted by the Old Trails Museum. The Journey Stories impart how the changing modes of transportation affected where people traveled and what occupations they may have held.
Kincaid was a radar operator with the 904th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, located west of Winslow at the Winslow Air Force Station in use from 1954 to 1963.
“It all began when I graduated from high school,” Kincaid recalled. “I was tired of academics and wanted some adventure. I joined the Air Force and found out that in basic training, there were a lot of academics.”
The training Kincaid received gave him the experience he needed to go to North Africa and then to the radar station in Winslow. He worked in aircraft control and warning for the National Air Defense, assigned to watch the skies over the Los Alamos, N.M., atomic research laboratory, as well as over facilities in Tucson, Roswell, N.M. and El Paso, Texas. “This was during the Cold War in the ‘50s, we were watching for possible air attacks,” explained Kincaid.
He was born in Virginia, where everything was very green, so, “I was surprised when I arrived in Winslow. It was January and rather bleak as far as the surrounding area was concerned. Although here, there are open spaces, there is scenery, you can look around and see it. Back east, everything is so green and the trees so tall, you really can’t see the scenery.”
According to Kincaid, he did his radar job for a while and then discovered a nice looking young lady living in Winslow named Jenny Parsons, daughter of H.N. and Elizabeth Parsons, whose family has lived in Winslow since around 1937. She later became his wife and he made Winslow his home. After that Kincaid noted, “The area grew on me.”
As a radar operator however, he had a lot of remote assignments, which took him away from his wife. He traveled to California, Texas, New Mexico, the Canal Zone, South East Asia and New Finland.
While in Winslow there were a few times when an airplane strayed from its flight path and was mistaken for a possible attack plane. Kincaid recalled, “That’s when we had to scramble interceptors to get up there and identify the stray airplane. It only happened a few times, though.”
He finally retrained in New Mexico as an air traffic controller for the Air Force and was no longer assigned to such remote locations.
When asked if he had fond memories of his time with the Air Force, Kincaid explained, “Everything was enjoyable with the exception of the overseas assignments without my family.”
In 1974, Kincaid terminated his obligation and retired out of the Air Force. In 1975, he found a job with Santa Fe Railroad and designated Winslow as the place of his permanent residence.
Kincaid’s story will be one of many that will be part of Journey Stories, a Smithsonian Exhibition. The Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide worked collaboratively to bring this event to each state. Each host city in Arizona will offer a variety of stories of how people came to be in those locations.
The Journeys to Winslow Stories exhibition will begin on June 22 and run through Aug. 4. This six-week event will show how migration, travel and modes of transportation across America and in Winslow affected how people came to different areas of the country.
For the complete schedule of events please visit www.oldtrailsmuseum.org.
By Julie Wiessner