At 95, Joe Glawson Reflects on Kelly AFB During its Centennial Year

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Joe Glawson enjoys his time in John T. Floore's Country Store in Helotes for a reunion to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Kelly Field.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Joe Glawson attends John T. Floore's Country Store in Helotes for a reunion to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Kelly Field.

Like so many in the San Antonio community, Joe Glawson started and ended his military career at Kelly Air Force Base.

Originally from Commerce, Texas, Glawson began as a 19-year-old apprentice at Kelly in 1942, fought in World War II, and returned to the base where he worked his way up the ladder and retired as a branch supervisor in 1977. He was one of many in the community who established long, fruitful careers at Kelly, a place credited by many as one of the city’s largest economic drivers in history. At one point the base employed about 25,000 people, ranging in occupation type.

“It was good to me,” Glawson, 95, told the Rivard Report. “I can’t ever complain about it.”

On Saturday, he and hundreds of other men and women who worked at Kelly over the years celebrated the base’s 100th anniversary. The celebration, hosted by Port San Antonio at Floore’s Country Store, was meant to thank and honor all of those who served at the base, which closed in 1995, and look ahead to its growth as Port San Antonio, a leading, multi-industry job provider in San Antonio.

A large crowd gathers at John T. Floore's Country Store in Helotes for a reunion to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Kelly Field.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A large crowd gathers at John T. Floore’s Country Store in Helotes for a reunion to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Kelly Field.

Over the past two decades, the 1,900-acre space has been incrementally redeveloped into a hub for aerospace, manufacturing, cybersecurity, energy, and more. The Port is home to “over 70 private- and public-sector tenant customers who directly employ about 12,000 people on our campus. That activity in turn contributes over $5 billion annually to the regional economy,” according to its website.

Glawson called Kelly Air Force Base’s evolution into what it is today “amazing,” but still has fond memories of the base as a place that helped introduce him to military service and also welcomed him back from serving his country in World War II.

“I enjoyed going to work everyday because I felt like we were doing something for the country,” he said.

After going through basic training, Glawson was deployed to Europe, where he fought in the Hurtgen Forest on the German-Belgian border. He was wounded during a battle to take the town of Mariaweiler, Germany, and later became a Purple Heart recipient and also received the United States Legion of Honor medal for his role in the liberation of France.

Some of the oldest former Kelly Air Force Base employees are in their nineties, like Glawson.

Like San Antonio, the base has changed and “modernized” a lot over the years, Glawson said. He remembers a Kelly Air Force Base with unpaved, dirt parking lots. He used to have to wait in a line of people to get his pay check. Those were the good ‘ol days, he said, but “I got to see it grow.”

It may not be the same Kelly Air Force Base that he left in the ’70s, but Glawson is pleased that it still sees as much action, collaboration, and innovation as it did at its peak.

The campus is changing, he said, but “I’m just real happy that it’s still here.”

Joe Glawson, In Their Own Words from Port San Antonio on Vimeo.

2 thoughts on “At 95, Joe Glawson Reflects on Kelly AFB During its Centennial Year

  1. My Air Force husband also started and ended his career at KAFB. First assignment as a second lieutenant from Minnesota who had to look on a map to find Kelly and last as a lieutenant colonel who ended up working 15 years later with some of the same civilian employees who remembered him when he was just a pup. I worked at KAFB first as an intern in the Public Affairs Office and got to see parts of the base that usually only the folks who worked there ever went to (MA, MM, SF, SW.) And later as a full time civil service employee in Bldg 171. What a great learning opportunity. Kelly was very important in our lives and it was like losing a family member when it got BRAC-ed.

  2. Thanks for the story! A year before Joe Glawson arrived at Kelly, a tragic event helped make Kelly the large base that it became. During the Depression, Mayor Maury Maverick and young Lyndon Johnson, Director of the Texas National Youth Administration, were instrumental in bringing workers in to create parks for Texas.

    A base camp for the parks was developed at Franklin Field, now known as Olmos Basin Park. Alamo Cement donated the tabletops and benches. The CCC workers were not young men, but veterans of WWI.

    Work abruptly stopped on December 7, 1941. After Pearl Harbor, the men were reassigned to strengthen Stinson and Kelly Fields. Alamo Cement made enough table and bench tops to finish Franklin Fields whenever they could, which is one of the few Metro parks in the state, and eligible for the National Register.

    Thanks again for the story!

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