J R Compton's Images & Ideas
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J R's Life Since High School

Written as a way to catch-up my My Best Friend in High School
on what I've done since I last saw him in autumn of 1962

I found some of the images online.a Ohers came from my Altus scrapbook.
This is a work in progress. All contents but the pictures somebody else took
are copyright 1961-2013 J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction.

J R as Lifeguard
J R as Lifeguard at the Officers Club Pool


Altus High School

Altus High School

From Altus, my father retired, and my family moved to Mission, Texas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, where Dad became a Grower of citrus — Texas sweet, red grapefruit, oranges and other varieties.

J R and John Drop

J R Compton and John Dropp somewhere at Altus Air Force Base   circa 1962

I stayed at Altus that summer, working as a lifeguard at the Officer's Club Pool and living with the Catholic priest on base.

The next fall, I started classes at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, then about ten miles west of Dallas proper, overlooking Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys used to play. I ended up majoring in English Literature after trying several others. For awhile I was a Spanish major without ever taking any Spanish classes.

Essentially, they taught me how to think logically, write intelligently and publish my ideas. I learned I was good at editing text and taking photographs by working on the school newspaper, which I an my best friend co-edited and turned into a magazine.

I was the school photographer for the Public Relations department and a professional photographer before I had a chance to become an amateur. They paid me five dollars per photograph (It seemed a lot more in 1964.), provided an aging Graflex 4x5-inch camera with a Polaroid back, and all the film I could shoot.

Speed Graphic with a Polaroid Back

Speed Graphic with a Polaroid Back

Great fun. Because I could see the results immediately, I quickly became a better photographer. Worked at The Texas Catholic the summer of my junior year — following the bishop around Dallas and delivering him the first edition of each weekly newspaper, then I got drafted and managed to get into the Air Force's Officers Training School (OTS).

I did well academically, but was not any good at marching or being neat. I never did figure out what all those gee-gaws on uniforms were good for, or where they went, and I argued with my commanders about why we were in Viet Nam. I knew that I'd probably get sent there, so I made sure my grades on the Photography tests were very high and the ones I took for mechanics (at which I was very good) were lousy. I figured even in Viet Nam, they'd have to keep film and printing chemicals to 68 degrees F, so I'd usually be air-conditioned. They did, and I was.

I wasn't an ossifer, because I didn't complete OTS, but because there was a six-month window during which a lucky few of us who got into OTS and completed 8 weeks of the ten-week program only had to stay in the service for two years, total. They couldn't send me to Viet Nam till the last three months of my service that nobody thanked me for for thirty years.

My only stateside assignment was Topeka, Kansas, where I was in an aerial mapping & charting squadron that usually had either no processing chemicals to process or paper to print on. But we had to look busy, so I read all of The Encyclopedia of Photography while I was at "work," and took gobs of photographs the rest of the time.

KC-135 at Forbes AFB

Forbes Air Force Base in Kansas

Everybody in that squadron had to learn photography to pass tests to earn more stripes, even though the only cameras available were 9-inch mapping and charting film. So in typical Air Force thinking, we had to know photography, even though we never did any. All the mapping pictures were taken by a huge camera hung from the belly of a KC-135.

And the film was processed through Automatic Processing Machines, which I learned well enough to teach my idiot Sergeant, who later wrote in my Airman's Proficiency Rating that I did "not have the capacity to learn," even though my I.Q. was double his.) thus sealing my fate as a one-stripe airman for my entire Air Force career.

When I got sent to Viet Nam for the last three months of that career, it was as an Automatic Processing Machine Operator, even though there were no Automatic Processing Machines within 600 miles of Tuy Hoa (pronounced "two-ee wah"), Viet Nam, where I was stationed. For a long time, I didn't do anything but tour around the in un-air-conditioned buses.

The much more intelligent sergeant I was sent over with's father died soon after we arrived, so he went back to the states, leaving me without a chain of command, which was wonderful. The only way to fly. But eventually, they figured out I wasn't doing anything, so after they set me and other airmen without portfolio to knocking down a stone building with sledge hammers, building it back up, then knocking it down again, I found the opportunity to become a Secret Film Courier, because I had a Secret Clearance from OTS, and I needed a job. I talked to the guy who had been the Secret Film Courier, and learned enough to do it.

So I flew all over Viet Nam currying secret film. Usually, I'd hitch a ride in a KC-something or other airplane, where often I was the only person in the very basic seats in back. We'd land somewhere, and I'd hitch a ride to the local mapping & charting office, pick up some film, stow that somewhere safe, read books in the air-conditioned library and get drunk at the service club, find my way back to wherever I was sleeping that night, then either take the film back to Tuy Hoa, or go off and find some more.

Usually it was pretty easy. Sometimes, the airplane I was hitching on would just land on a field somewhere, a jeep would race up to us, and the guy in the back would fling me a satchel of 9-inch film cans, and without ever slowing down, we'd take off again. At some of those places, guys with really bad aims were shooting at us.

At the base exchange (dept. store) in Tuy Hoa, I got a Zippo Lighter engraved with all the places I'd visited or courried film to, and sent it back to my father who still smoked a pipe back then. But he never got it. Most of those places were places the U.S. Gummint was assuring everybody in the world that we weren't in.

After three months of that, and living in The Ritz Hotel in downtown Saigon (sandbags all around and guys with machine guns out front and on top) with only a couple nights on Tan Son Nhut (tan rhymes with john) (son is son) and (Nhut is noot, rhymes with root) , I flew back to the states.

While in Nam, I experienced a lot of this.

Ton son Nhut attack

Ton Son Nhut Air Force Base near Saigon, South Viet Nam

I was married then, and Joanie and I drove from Kansas back to Dallas in the November snow. I remember sliding in the ice and spinning around missing all kinds of big metal things that jutted out of the landscape, but we got back safe and sound.

I eventually got a job as a Staff Photographer at the Dallas Times Herald, which no longer exists. I was fired after a couple of fun years for Conflict of Interest when I told a draft protestor that the guy asking for his name was a reporter with the Dimes Terrible. They had every right to fire me, and I am forever grateful that they did.

The Herald told me when I started working for them that I could sell or give any photo I took there to anybody I wanted to, and I gave several pictures that were too controversial for that timid newspaper to the local underground newspaper, Dallas NOTES from the Underground.

NOTES pix cropped

They cropped this there, because there was a swastika
below — not for the Nazis, but for the symbol is was before.
Graphic was designed by Jan Cornelius

Photographs like a Black boy and a little blond White girl pushing a baby carriage at a photo opportunity where Black kids and White kids were lined up against a tree, and I photographed them; and a Full Bird Colonel wearing one of those Air Force Officer hats with "shit and grit" all over the visor, walking casually past a bunch of Draft protestors on a downtown Dallas street corner.

After that, I worked full time with Dallas NOTES, quickly becoming the editor then publisher. Those were the greatest fun I've ever had. There were about thirty more-or-less full-time staffers, all of whom — including me — got paid in newspapers we sold on the street.

Joanie couldn't stand having the whole staff convene at our house when the underground paper had to really go underground, and we got divorced. I stayed with the paper, supporting myself on the G.I. Bill, earning a kingly $270 a month going to school, taking art and philosophy classes at El Centro College downtown.

After the Underground newspaper business, I worked as Editor, PR Guy, Yellow Cab Driver, Night Watchman at a Massage Parlor, Catalog Designer for El Centro College, Production Assistant for the Austin Sun, and briefly for the Austin Rag, Publisher of Armadilla, all about armadillos, Co-Publisher of Texas Jazz, Instructor of Photography at El Centro College, Art Critic for Atlanta's Art Papers, Dallas Editor for Houston's ArtScene Magazine, and Dallas Art Critic for Chicago's New Arts Examiner.

Since 1972 I have been a freelance photographer.
Since 1965 I've been an art critic.

Then for several years I was a typesetter, first on big typesetting machines, later on Macintosh computers, taught Desktop Publishing at Richland College, etc. etc. Eventually settling into my own Electric Last Minute Typesetting, then a Macintosh Computer Tutor teaching artists to use their Macintoshes. Started designing websites, which led to me publishing DallasArtsRevue.com and being the Digital Photographer and Webguy for Joel Cooner Gallery.

full resume


I mainly only publish two major websites, DallasArtsRevue DallasArtsRevue.com since 1979. First on paper, then all of this century online. and The Amateur Birder's Journal, which I've been publishing since June of 2006, which is when I started photographing birds..

Click the logos to visit the sites.

Amateur Birder's Journal logo - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Flying through the trees with the greatest of ease


My Amateur Birder's Journal is online


Mostly I'm retired, but I stay way busy. I'm trying to think of someplace to go to take pix of birds.

My parents now live in San Antonio, Texas. She'll be 92 this month, and Dad is 99.

Lately I'm losing weight by working out three times a week at my local Y. After I finish my taxes, I'll start swimming again. Last time I did that I lost thirty pounds. Thirty more would do it.

And taking bird pictures almost every day. The one above is from the day before yesterday.

Hope this isn't too much info. Once I started, it just gushed out.

I should probably find my scrapbook of Altus photographs. That should be interesting…



hits since April 8 2013