Seniors tour APG, recall fond memories

U.S. Army Photo by Yvonne Johnson, APG News
John Wright of the Glen Meadows Retirement Community was a member of the Army Air Corps before there was a U.S. Air Force. White served in the South Pacific during World War II. He remembers visiting APG “years ago when they had all the tanks.”

For many who once lived, worked or played on Aberdeen Proving Ground, the years have not dimmed the affection they hold for this century-old installation. A group of seniors from the Glen Meadows Retirement Community in Glen Arm, Maryland, recently visited APG to tour the installation and lunch at Top of the Bay.

As the group enjoyed a misty view of the Chesapeake Bay through the Top of the Bay windows, some of the veterans and spouses among them shared their memories of APG.

Pete Reid worked at APG as a Soldier and as a civilian with the Ballistics Research Laboratory 40 years. He and his wife Rachael lived on post in the former Chesapeake Housing area. | U.S. Army Photo by Yvonne Johnson, APG News

Pete Reid said he worked in the Ballistics Research Laboratory, known as BRL, for 40 years. He spent most of his time in the Weapons Systems Lab in Bldg. 328. Reid arrived at APG as a Soldier in 1956. He spent two years on active duty then became a government civilian and retired in 1996.

He and his wife Rachael, who accompanied him, lived in the former Chesapeake Village housing area on post. Rachael was a journalism major when she arrived here. She worked on post as a secretary for two years and she eventually taught school in the local area.

Reid remembered the names of his computer lab chief and some coworkers but he said he didn’t recognize APG as the bus carried them around the installation.

“It looks totally different; there’s been a lot of a change,” he said, “though Bldg. 328 is still there.”

John Wright has been retired since 1981. He recalled coming to APG “years ago when they had all the tanks.” Wright said he served at Fort Meade in the U.S. Army Air Corps, went to Radar School and served overseas in the South Pacific 1942-46. He said he was surprised to learn APG was approaching its centennial.

“I knew it was old, but I didn’t know it was that old,” he said.

Joseph Mattingly Jackson and his wife Jean remember APG where he took basic training in 1953 while lunching at Top of the Bay during a tour for members of the Glen Meadows Retirement Community April 25.

Joseph Mattingly Jackson, who was accompanied by his wife, Jean, said he took basic training at APG in 1953 before he was assigned as a longshoreman at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Baltimore City, born and raised, he said his unit would qualify their weapons on APG ranges.

“This is where we’d come to shoot M-1 rifles,” he said, adding that he made this company rifle team and competed at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Back then, Jackson said, they spent a lot of time on the parade field.

“That’s where we made formation every morning. You had your field first, who was a master sergeant, in front of you. And before you were released to do anything you had formation first. But there was nothing to do in Aberdeen. We went to Baltimore City.”

Stephanie Harris Hunt said she was born at Kirk Army Hospital in 1945, though it wasn’t planned that way. Her mother was on post that day, visiting her father, Benjamin Harris, who Hunt said was the director of Edgewood Arsenal when she went into labor.

“At the hospital, they told her the baby was coming and there’s nothing she could do about it,” Hunt said.

Stephanie Harris Hunt, the daughter of former Edgewood Arsenal director Benjamin Harris, is hoping to learn more about her father’s career at APG. | U.S. Army Photo by Yvonne Johnson, APG News

The family lived in Dundalk with their five children, one son and four daughters. Hunt said when she was 7 years old, they moved to the Glen Arm area where she grew up. She doesn’t remember a lot about her father’s work, only that he was an engineer by trade.

“He was also teaching and he got a lot of calls to go to the Pentagon,” she said.

Benjamin Harris was born in Savannah, Georgia. At some point he moved to Maryland and attended Sparrows Point High School, then Johns Hopkins University where he earned a Ph.D. in engineering. Harris died Nov. 18, 2006.

Hunt is still searching for someone who may remember her father and can tell her more about his life at APG. Her son is a Soldier stationed at Fort George G. Meade and she said she’d like to be able to tell him more about his grandfather.

Jennifer Perkovich, Glen Meadows activities director, said it was the group’s idea to visit APG. Knowing the centennial was approaching she asked where they would like to go.

“They said the APG Officers Club which is what they knew [Top of the Bay] as back then,” she said.

She thanked Heather Roelker of the Garrison Public Affairs Office for arranging the tour.

“We knew it would be different with the installation being so much bigger and the museum being gone,” she said. “We make it a point to try to arrange things that they want to do and they wanted to come back here.

“They’re all walking history,” she added, “and they all have a story to tell.”