Paul Pryor is a proud resident of Redwood Falls.
He is also a proud veteran of the United States Air Force.
Having grown up in Redwood Falls and graduated from RFHS in 1948, Pryor went off to college at St. John’s University.
“I was there for a year,” said Pryor, who then had to come home to save money before going back.
He then attended the Minnesota School of Business, but when funds were short he came back to town and got a job.
By then it was 1951, and Pryor knew he could be drafted.
“My mother was the executive secretary of the draft board,” said Pryor.
So, before he was drafted, Pryor enlisted in the United States Air Force. Pryor went to Minneapolis where he boarded a troop train headed for Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
“There was a whole train load,” said Pryor, adding it was a four- or five-day trip south. “There were no sleepers. We just sat in our chairs, and that is where we slept.”
Arriving in Texas, Pryor spent the next 12 weeks in basic training during April and May.
“Toward the end it was getting pretty hot,” said Pryor. “I was glad to get out of there.”
From Texas, Pryor was sent west to Las Vegas, N.M where he received additional training at Highlands University for an administrative role.
When that training concluded, Pryor headed east to Robins Air Force Base in Macon, Ga. where he served with the 14th Air Force providing support for B-29s.
“I worked in the supply and orderly room,” said Pryor, who also was the duty sergeant assigning guard duty and KP.
Pryor was in Georgia for two years doing inventory of supplies, weapons and equipment and filling out lots of forms along the way.
“It was in Georgia when I first saw segregation,” said Pryor, adding he could not believe what he was seeing.
Of course, there was no such thing as segregation on the Air Force base.
In 1953 Pryor received word that he would be going overseas.
Pryor left the United States on a troop ship starting out in Oakland, Calif. heading to Japan.
“It took us 28 days to get there,” said Pryor, explaining that the ship often changed its course and made large circles to avoid submarines. “There were 5,000 of us on that ship, the whole population of Redwood Falls. We were told if we saw something in the water not to all run to one side of the ship.”
In Japan, Pryor spent his first year in Tokyo at Far East Air Force (FEAF) command.
“We worked in an eight-story hotel that had been converted into an air base,” said Pryor, adding they were very close to the Imperial palace.
Then Pryor moved to an isolated base at Shiroi, Japan where he worked in intelligence.
Based on information they received Pryor helped provide written reports to pilots for bombing targets and troop positions. It was at that base where some MIG pilots who had defected were interrogated. Prisoners of war was also questioned and vital war information was gathered.
At that time, Pryor was serving as a non-commissioned officer in charge of special projects.
Pryor said they could really have used computers to do their work back then, adding the work was all done on typewriters. The typists, he added, could do 60-75 words a minute, and many them were Japanese nationalists.
“The people in our squadron spoke many different languages,” said Pryor, adding many of them were first generation Americans.
“When we were in Tokyo, there were 25 million people. When you walked it was shoulder to shoulder,” said Pryor. “The people in Japan were very polite, and they welcomed us. We were boosting their economy, and they were rebuilding Japan.”
Yes, said Pryor, some of the people were still bitter toward America.
In 1955 Pryor returned home and when he saw the same Golden Gate bridge he had floated under when the ship left, he knew he was home. Yes, he said, things had changed in the months he was gone, and it was a bit of an adjustment.
Returning to Redwood Falls, Pryor got a job working for the Tersteeg family helping them move their store to the old Gandrud Creamery building.
During the grand opening, Pryor said with a smile it was his responsibility to make sure Ed and Garnette Tersteeg’s son, Jim, did not get run over.
Pryor returned to St. John’s University where he graduated in 1958. He expressed his gratitude for the GI Bill that helped him pay for his education.
After graduating, Pryor moved to Fergus Falls where he worked for Firestone.
He got a call and returned to Redwood Falls to work as the city clerk-treasurer under then mayor Dick Dirlam.
In 1966 Pryor joined the Redwood Falls Savings & Loan working for E.A. (Ed) Johnson.
Pryor considers his time in the Air Force as a positive experience in his life, adding he is grateful for the chance to serve his country.
He is also appreciative of the support he has received from the Redwood Falls community over the years. Pryor raised a family in Redwood Falls and was able to make a pretty good living.
At home, Pryor joined the VFW and the Legion and is a 63-year member of both organizations.
Now retired, Pryor enjoys spending time when he can with family and just being part of the community he has called his lifelong home.
“I think Redwood Falls is the best place in the world,” said Pryor.