I am old enough to remember a number of things that the young people of today have either never heard of, or remember only in stories from their family conversations.
When I was fourteen I joined the Junior Ground Observer Corps. This was in the middle 1950’s and America was still comfortably nestled in the fear that war with Russia, with the Soviet Union, was always possible and could happen.
I joined the Junior Ground Observer Corps in my community. A bunch of us kids would volunteer to take a shift of time in a tall tower on a high point in our town calling in the altitude and direction of any plane we could observe with binoculars. We were sort of citizen radars using our eyes instead of electronic beams.
I was given a wallet size plastic card with little transparent circles on it. The circles ranged in size from just smaller than a dime to about a quarter inch in diameter. When a plane would fly over I would hold the plastic card at arms length and fit the plane’s silhouette into one of the circles. Depending on what circle the plane fit into, I could determine the approximate altitude.
Then I’d pick up the phone, there were no dials on it, and an operator would say, “number please” and I’d say, “aircraft flash” and be immediately connected to some distant male voice who’d say, “report please”.
I’d give my location, and then the approximate altitude, the direction of travel and the type of plane I observed, prop or jet, how many engines it had, if I could determine it and then hang up.
Eventually radar got better and the Ground Observer Corps was no longer needed. The towers vanished, but not the memories of a simpler time.