Preserving Albany's history

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

PUTNEY -- For Frank Gossett of Putney, the time he spent at Turner Air Force Base still resonates strongly.

That's evidenced by the numerous model airplanes that hang throughout the study in his Putney home. The 79-year-old made them as a reminder of the actual aircraft he dealt with while on staff at Turner Air Force Base.

It's also evidenced in Gossett's latest labor of love, a history of the base's final 20 years of operation titled "History of Turner A.F.B.: Turner Field's Second Life 1947-1967."

The self-published book chronicles the history of the base, which reopened after closing at the end of World War II and the Air Force became its own entity.

"They reopened in 1947," Gossett said.

The 305-page volume chronologically details events, major units, key personnel, construction and buildings of the facility, which now houses Turner Job Corps Center in East Albany. It's a history that Gossett encountered firsthand.

"I came here in January of 1948," the Ohio native said of his time as an aircraft electrician. "I spent four years there in the military."

But his time at Turner didn't end in 1952. Instead, he returned to the base once his service with the Air Force was complete two years later.

"I came back in 1954," Gossett said, explaining that he went back to work in the same capacity and with the same people as before. "I was employed as a civilian for 13 years."

That brought his time at Turner Field just three years shy of its 20-year history after reopening.

According to Gossett, the base was a integral part of the Good Life City in its short history.

"When it reopened, Albany was growing," he said.

Turner added to that growth with its large staff of several thousand.

"So there were plenty of airmen all around," joked Gossett's wife, 80-year-old Virginia.

The couple credit the base with helping to bring about their 61-year marriage.

"I tell everybody we grew up together after we married," Frank Gossett joked.

But it's a desire to preserve the base's history that motivated Gossett to compile a book.

"I just thought somebody ought to write the history of it," he said, "or it would disappear into obscurity."

The project took quite a while to complete.

"I've been working on it four years," Gossett said.

Most of that work consisted of researching the base, even carrying Gossett to Montgomery, Ala.

"I went to the Maxwell Air Force Base Historical Agency," he said.

That's where Gossett found quite a bit of information.

"I've got 18 rolls of microfilm," he said.

To find a microfilm machine that would help Gossett sort through the files and pinpoint information specific to Turner, he headed to Dougherty County Public Library. That's where he did additional research, as well.

"I also viewed 20 years worth of The Albany Herald," Gossett said, explaining that he attributes archived Herald articles in his book. "It took me all morning to do two months (worth of newspapers)."

That may have been a lot of work, but Gossett believes it was worth it.

"It's a history that I had been a part of," he said.

Gossett points out that others have expressed interest in his limited-edition book.

"There's really a lot of interest in Albany about local history," he said.

"Turner A.F.B." is available for $24 by contacting Gossett at (229) 435-8453 or fagossett@hotmail.com.