Being chosen by the Air Force for language training was a plum assignment. In the 1960s, airmen so selected went either to Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY; the University of Indiana in Bloomington, IN; the Defense Language Institute (DLI) at the Presidio of Monterey, CA; or Yale University’s Institute of Far Eastern Languages (IFEL) in New Haven, CT.
I got Yale, a spacious campus of old brick and stone buildings – with lots of parking. The Air Force unit there was Detachment 2 of 3345th Technical School with its Orderly Room at 370 Temple Street where we received mail, signed for pay, and learned the Air Force orders of the day. A couple of times during our assignment, we would be tapped for night or weekend duty to keep the place open 24/365.
Students of Chinese were housed in three different locations nearby: 1 Hillhouse Avenue, right behind the Orderly Room; 109 Grove Street, directly across the street from the Orderly Room; and 72, 74, or 76 Wall Street, a block and a half away. But I wasn’t there to study Chinese.
Korean students were housed at 310-312 Temple Street, two three-story buildings that shared a common exterior wall between them. One final Japanese language class also lived there, but those students graduated shortly after my arrival. Until my wife joined me for my year-long assignment, I spent a couple of months in those dorms with the other single students.
The interior of 310-312 was unusual with, as I recall, rooms all being of different layouts and sizes. Some had small shared bathrooms between them while other rooms used the communal latrines on each floor. A couple of the rooms in the rear had doors that led to a “secret” staircase, perhaps for servants in earlier times. Although the stairs were supposed to be sealed off, it was a great place to hide our contraband booze.
Our classrooms were seven blocks away at 215 Park Street, which was recessed from the road and accessed via a long gravel driveway. This building too was somewhat curious since it featured rooms on floors that were on slightly different levels. We always had to go up or down a few steps to the various classrooms. Study consisted of listening to recorded drills and then answering questions about them, reading prepared texts aloud, and practicing speech patterns. Our truly marvelous instructors were Mr. and Mrs. Chang, Mr. Suh, and Mr. Yun. Until the first grades came out, an initial period of two or three weeks I think, everyone had two hours of mandatory study hall in the evening. For those achieving and then maintaining a B average (I think), after-hours study was self-directed and on the honor system.
New Haven was a pricey town and the Air Force realized that lower-ranking airmen would benefit from signing up for meals at the Yale Dining Hall. Doing so guaranteed more and healthier food, but it also meant giving up the military “separate rations” allowance given to airmen without access to a military chow hall. Most of us opted to take the “separate rations” money and get our meals wherever. After all, it was an extra $33 a month cash-in-hand back then – and how we spent it was up to us.
For lunch, I usually went to one of three places: a large diner near the Payne-Whitney gym where we had physical conditioning every Tuesday and Thursday; a White Castle burger joint a few blocks from the Orderly Room; or Sid’s Palisades Café that was only one block from the Orderly Room on the North corner of Grove Street and Church Street/Whitney Avenue.
Once I even went to Mory’s Bar where the renown Wiffenpoof Song of yore became popular. I found the song irritating and the drinks expensive, so I never went back. However, there was a pizzeria close by where an under-age airman could get a cheap pitcher of beer every now and then. That made everything at IFEL cooler than chicken lips!