Charlie Tuna

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One day when I was in my last month or so on the A-Side in ZJX, I was assigned a trainee. I’d had trainees before, so nothing new there. His name was Charlie—or Charley—I never did know for sure, because due to a popular advertising campaign on TV at the time, he quickly became Charlie Tuna, or just “Tuna.” He struggled some and we came near washing him out, which would have been a shame, because he became a hell of a controller, eventually.

Tuna was a big guy—not NFL big, and not “Incredible Bulk” big, but he was a plus size. The biggest surprise to me was what a good athlete he was. I had set up a badminton court in the back of the house once, and thought I was pretty good—not NCAA good (have you ever seen real badminton? It’s not for the faint of heart) but back yard good. He and his bride came over one day and he proceeded to wax my butt soundly. I’m not sure I’ve played since.

Controllers like to bowl—or at least they did in the ’60s and ’70s. We had a couples league at ZJX and a regular FAA league. However, the FAA League didn’t have a regular bowling night—a schedule was set up and you coordinated with the team you were due to play and got together whenever for the match. Ah, the beauties of shift work—more than one match was played after a mid shift. One time, my team and I were going to have a practice session at the local lanes and I invited Tuna along. He threw a 246 at us, cold, out of the bag.

If you think that was something, you should have seen him on the golf course. He was no Roddy, but for someone who didn’t look athletic, he could pound a golf ball a long way—longer than me, I’m embarrassed to admit, although I’d gotten used to that by this point. We had some long knockers in ZJX. Anyway, Tuna wasn’t just show, he could make shots, too. I don’t know if he carried any handicap, but he was better than me.

Tuna transferred to ZDV sometime after I went to ORD and ZAU, and we flew out there in 1974 shortly after our daughter was born to visit them. We had a lot of fun—ate at a great restaurant in DEN, drove up to Nederland, then Estes Park, down the Big Thompson Canyon and back to Longmont for a long day’s tour.

When we went on sabbatical, Tuna moved back to Jacksonville (as I recall, his wife had family there) and when I got back from sabbatical, the family and I took a several state airplane trip (MEM, ADS, SAT, NEW, 23J, 1NC6, NY89, ARR), visiting Tuna and his bride. Unfortunately, that (1983) was the last we saw or heard of them…

…until just recently. I decided to look them up on and wound up having a nice chat with Ms. Tuna, sent an email and got a reply the next day, signed “Tuna.” We’ll be getting together soon. Life’s too short.

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Last updated: 21 April 2009