SAN ANTONIO – The home of aerospace giant Boeing at Kelly Field is one of the most secure facilities in San Antonio, but on Thursday, it opened its gates for one special 94-year-old visitor, a veteran of World War II who retired from Kelly in the 1970s.
“I came out when I was 19, so that’s pretty amazing to make it that long,” Joe Glawson said.
He received a step into his past with a tour of the present. Glawson first stepped onto Kelly Field 76 years ago.
“I can’t imagine how it’s changed inside,” he said before the tour.
Using a walker, he easily kept up with tour guides half his age, taking in the huge hangar he used to work in.
“Oh, it’s the same, looks the same,” Glawson said.
When asked if he’d wanted to come back. He responded, “Oh, yeah. I kind of wanted to come back and see what was going on.”
When San Antonio Boeing officials got word Glawson wanted a tour, they opened the hangar doors and veterans lined up to meet him. The World War II veteran, who was given a Purple Heart, was an employee of the Kelly Air Force Base for 31 years.
“Looks like you guys are doing a pretty good job. It’s changed a lot since I’ve been here. Kelly was real good to me. I can’t complain,” Glawson told the current Boeing workers.
“It does bring back a lot of memories, you know? But the thing that’s kind of fascinating to me is how much it’s changed,” he said.
“Of our workforce, we are 40 percent veterans, so we have a proud heritage. So to have a guy like Joe, who’s available and around, we’re going to open our doors every time for that,” said Jay Galloway, with Boeing San Antonio.
Glawson is part of the history of Hanger 375, a history that spans from the Air Force to Boeing. Hangar 375 is more than 1.6 million square feet, the largest freestanding hangar in the world, according to Boeing officials.
Glawson worked his way up to manager. His crew repaired sheet metal and landing gear. Now he marvels at the huge planes and modern technology. After a final spin around a place, Joe Glawson said he will never forget.
“He saw this whole building erected, between 1953 and ’57. Here we are all those years later, 60 some years later. It’s neat to watch his reaction to what’s going on here and how it’s grown,” Galloway said.
“It’s really a blessing for San Antone, you know?” Glawson said.
Seventy-six years after his first day on the job, Glawson called the visit “fascinating.” It was also appropriate that the 94-year-old visited as Kelly celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.