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First class of Tuskegee Airmen in 1941 with Maj. James A. Ellison

Tuskegee Airmen were regulars in Tallassee

By Michael Butler

Last week was the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The World War II invasion of Normandy occured on June 6, 1944. Charles Blalock was only six at the time but has some recollections from the period.

One of those memories is of the Tuskegee Airmen trainees who would frequent Tallassee.

"I was born in 1937." said Blalock, who turns 87 in September. "When the war was going on, I didn't know a whole lot. When you're a kid there are certain things that stand out. The black pilots from Tuskegee used to visit Tallassee all the time. The one thing that stands out is we when they came marching through. They had the M1 rifles across their shoulders. They were all dressed up in Class A uniforms.

"Right here in Jordanville were three places. Back during those days, they called them honky-tonks. They would always come over. They would get change and throw it up in the air for us young boys. If you came up with 20 or 25 cents, you (were) a young millionaire."

Blalock remembers one of the pilots taking a liking to his older sister.

"He brought her a uniform. Man, was I crazy about that uniform."

So what happened to the souvenir?

"It burned," said Blalock. "There was a big fire in our neighborhood. About 80 percent of the homes were destroyed. That uniform was hanging up behind a door and got burned."

The opening of the Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge in 1940

One of the legends of the Tuskegee Airmen was of their flights through Tallassee including one of the maneuvers that might be considered a daring stunt - flying under the Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge, which was opened in 1940.

Blalock was honored with a Jordanville street in his name in 2016

"That is true," confirmed Blalock, who was there to see it. "They would fly down near the water so low. It was something to see standing on that bridge. They flew over, under, circled, flipped over. It was something like an exhibition or show, but I believe it was training for combat."

Although Blalock was just a young lad at the time, those experiences piqued his interest in the military. When the opportunity came, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a paratrooper.

"That's what inspired me. Today, I'm proud to be a veteran. I retired in the VA system with 38 years. All of that was motivated when I was a young kid seeing these soldiers."