Frederick (Jack) Ashcraft


Prior to USAF

I was born in Presho, SD (10 Jan 37) and was raised on a farm/ranch 18 miles south of Kennebec, SD. Learned a lot of things in South Dakota: It’s hotter than hell in the summer, colder than hell in the winter, and the wind blows all the time. I also learned to work cattle from horseback, run farm equipment, hunt and fish, and play cribbage (with my dad). I also read voraciously-when I wasn’t drawing and sketching on everything in sight. I owned my first car-a ’37 Ford-when I was 12 (1949). I sold the ’37 and built a hot rod ’40 Ford coupe-possibly the fastest Ford in Western SD (1952). I took an art correspondence course from Art Instruction, INC, of Minneapolis, MN, and finished it just before I enlisted in the USAF (1954). I also married my first wife, Betty, in December, 1953. We had 3 children: a girl and 2 boys, all now living in Southern California. The oldest boy, Mark, is a senior designer for Honda USA, and was the chief designer of the Honda CRX.

USAF Enlisted Adventures

Basic at Lackland AFB (1954), Airman’s electronic maintenance school (1954-55) Keesler AFB. Duty stations: Radar station at Sault Sainte Marie, MI, USAF Texas Tower No. 2 (100 mi due east of Cape Cod, MA) and Radar station at Cambria CA. Made Staff Sgt, on the Tower. I was invariably crew chief in the Radar Maintenance section. Keesler AFB-Enlisted computer maintenance school (1960-61). Back at Cambria, I was section head of the computer maintenance section. Took the OCS application test at Vandenberg AFB (1963), set highest score ever recorded for that test at Vandenberg up to that date. Bought a new (’62) Volvo 544 Sport prior to leaving for OCS. OCS: 40 years is quite a long time, but much of the 6 months is pretty clear. A lot is documented in my retrospective OCS cartoon book. By some divine act of providence, Bill May was my first week room commander, and I recall him laughing himself silly the very first night, and telling me-in some detail-that it was all a game, really, and how to cope with it. Under the circumstances, Bill’s advice was some of the best I ever received. My most hated times were the 3 times a day hazing sessions at the mess hall. This was truly a stupid way to show “leadership”. I was actually quite pleased that the Admiral showed up and lowered the boom (mast?) on those that allowed that crap to go on. The fact that we couldn’t use those tactics with our second class-and they still turned out to be excellent officers-proved that hazing only produced bitterness-and contributed nothing to teaching us leadership. Life after OCS: I went back to Keesler AFB for OFFICER’S electronic maintenance school (1964). Made 1st Lt, and was stationed at Hill AFB, UT (4754th Radar Eval Sqdn). We evaluated radar sites all over N.America. My job was usually in the “blue room” at the ADC direction centers, recording data taken on one or more radar sites in that division. Bought a Silverstone Grey 1960 Jaguar 3.8 Mk II sedan, a 1961 Porsche Super 90 coupe, and a 1964 Saab 850 GT sedan. A fresh new USAF Captain needs neat wheels….. 1967-8: Radio/radar/computer maintenance officer at Monkey Mountain, DaNang, Vietnam. Last duty station.

After USAF

Opened a NEW car dealership (Saab/Fiat/Citroen automobiles) in San Luis Obispo, CA, where I was the service/parts manager. Betty was the office manager. We did a LOT of racing, mostly with Saab Sonett sports cars. We did long distance SCCA Pro-series rallies and hill climbs. In 1970 I was the pit crew chief for Saab at El Arco, Baja California, for that year’s Baja 1000 race. Owned some interesting cars-Corvette, MG, Triumph, Jaguar E-type, Pontiac GTO, a Sunbeam Tiger and 4 different race cars. 1973-Sold the dealership. Got my BA degree in Industrial Design at Art Center College of Design. 1976-Hired as instructor at ACCD, taught Advanced Auto design, Product Design and Industrial Illustration. Opened my own Industrial Design and Illustration business in the San Fernando Valley, CA. Got divorced. 1978-Moved to Medford, OR. Operated design and illustration business. Was Advt. Mngr for Ford dealership for14 years and taught Commercial art at art school in local community college. 1984-Learned to fly. Primary instruction in a Grumman Traveler. Spin training in a Taylorcraft. Bought ¼ interest in a Grumman Tiger. All together, I have about 600 hours in Grumman aircraft. 1986-Married Kathy Coy. Stopped teaching, and together we opened an advertising agency in Medford. We wrote and produced radio, TV and print advertising. We published a technical magazine on Saab automobiles, distributed world-wide, and managed 28 issues before phasing it out. –Built an autocross and hillclimb race car with my new son, Chris. I raced the ’68 Saab Sonett for 3 years. 1996-Helped Saab USA set 40 new internatl speed enduro records at Talladega Motor Speedway, in Saab 900 turbo cars. Earned an F.I.A. Internatl Comp Lic for endurance racing. Drove 600 miles at speeds OVER 150 mph.

Life Today

Kathy and I operate as a partnership in the design and illustration business. She does the computer assembly work, I do the art and write the “science fiction”. We specialize in very detailed, step by step how-to manuals for builders of kit aircraft. We are currently working on an assembly manual for a single place aircraft built by Bede Aerospace and a two place jet engined bird built by Viper Aircraft. Three years ago Kathy and I began to take ballroom dance lessons, and we do a lot of dancing-several nights a week. We have a new Mazda Miata sports car and I am building what I call a “Eurorod”-a street rod based on a European car, based on the famous FIAT Topolino (little mouse), in this instance a 1937 model.

What’s in the Future

I don’t see “retirement”, in the sense that most people do. I am having too much fun. Look-I actually get paid good money for drawing cars, airplanes, women-and cartoons as well. This is what I like to do-and intend to do as long as I can. Life is short. We should remember that, and not put off doing what we want to do until all we can do is sit in our rocker and wish we’d done it.