A&F NewsletterSpring 2004
Billings had busy year
To say that Don Billings has remained active in his “retirement” is an understatement. Billings, who attended Arkansas City Junior College for one year, 1939-40, joined the Atkins, Ark., Veterans of Foreign Wars in 2003. And the next thing he knew, he was elected quartermaster. “That’s a fancy name for treasurer,” said Billings, 82. “I have to pay all the bills.” Billings is active in the Atkins Lions Club, but he wanted to let people know what his family had been up to in 2003.
Billings is a 1939 graduate of Arkansas City High School who was called to the service after just one year at ACJC. He was a radio operator on a four-engine B-24 Liberator, a long-range bomber. He flew 32 missions over Europe, including one on June 6, 1944, D-Day. He said he has kept busy with his favorite hobby, woodworking. “I have been sawing out names for a lot of people,” he said, “mainly all the girls at my bank and the people at the post office.”
About five years ago, Don sold his home to son Jim. Don now lives right next to Jim on a little more than four acres. “Our property has a forest right behind us,” Don said. “There are deer and other animals back there. One day I saw six fawns in the far back yard.” Billings, who retired in 1974 after a 32-year career as an air traffic controller, said Atkins is known as Pickle City USA, even though the pickle plant shut down years ago. “Every year around the middle of May, they still have our Picklefest,” Billings said. “It’s a celebration that lasts a day-and-a-half and has all kinds of food booths, arts and crafts, different dancing groups and singing.” Billings said despite closing the pickle plant, Dean Foods still provides the festival with all types of pickles at no cost. He said about 5,000 people attend annually.
Billings said he still remembers his year at ACJC. He was particularly fond of the print shop, where he would set up stories on the linotype machine and run them off on the cylinder press. He enjoyed the print shop so much that after he retired in 1974, he went to Petit Jean Vocational-Technical School in Morrilton, Ark., for 18 months, to study offset printing. He graduated from the school and took a job 22 miles away in Dardanelle, Ark. “I enjoyed every minute of it,” Billings said. “It was a small print shop run by a nice fellow and his wife.” Billings visited the college March 16 and toured the Brown Center. He also made a $1,000 gift to the college’s Title III matching campaign.