3 out of 4 stars
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If I'm going to be honest, I didn't expect much from 55 Years on Campus by Detra Enman. I figured it would be decent, but my first thought was that it would be a bit dry. Boy was I wrong! Detra's "nonpolitically correct journey" as she refers to it is a humorous, entertaining ride from beginning to end. Dee (the author) pulls no punches as we go along for the ride from joining the Air Force at 18 to her life as a flight attendant on private jets. All of this explores her "campus life", aka her lifetime of learning.
The majority of the stories are in chronological order after the first few, and most are only a page or two long. This makes the book fantastic for those who don't have a lot of time to read all at once. I was also pleasantly surprised by how many of the stories were good or even great. One or two of the stories weren't quite up to par, but they certainly weren't bad either. Each of the stories starts with something like "This part of my campus life I will call [whatever]", and several of the stories end with a lesson she learned from the tale. These range from being careful who to prank, the importance of the golden rule or not to make mountains out of molehills.
Even several hours after reading 55 Years on Campus I can remember some of my favorite stories. Throughout much of Dee's career she was an administrative "puke" - someone who was put in charge of taking care of what needed to be done. At one point in Germany they're on a float, tossing candy she purchased out to the crowds in a parade, but she ends up confused why people are throwing it back! Eventually she realizes her mistake - she accidentally bought menthol cough drops! In another, one of the more serious tales, she and some others are selling burgers when planes from the US and Italy accidentally collided in the sky near them. First the civilians ran away, then the first responders came, then looters came and stole things from the victims before the mourners and curious came. Looters so soon after such a horrible event where 30 died and 356 were injured! There are also a few good ones about POW training early in the book that show off the rest of the book's weaving of humor and education on Air Force practices.
While the author does use a fair amount of military slang, she makes it all clear what it means as she goes. I'd heard some of these elsewhere, but picked up at least one new one that Dee uses throughout the book in different ways - WTFO. While its original meaning contains an expletive (the more-familiar WTF with "over" at the end for those speaking on radio and such), she changes the abbreviation repeatedly to fit different situations like "why the freeze over" or "why the fear over". The style she uses is incredibly formal, even using "LOL" twice! Normally I find using chat slang in writing annoying, but here it just added to the laid back, listening to stories over some beers style she uses. Unfortunately, there are also hordes of grammatical errors here, and the book would have benefited from some serious editing.
55 Years on Campus was a load of fun to read. It was the perfect length (around 80 pages long) and nearly all of the bite-sized stories were enjoyable. It explored Dee's life in a way that was far more entertaining than a typical autobiography. The included collage photograph pages were also a nice touch, although due to the PDF format review copy I had they were quite pixelated upon zooming in enough to see them. The lack of editing is the only thing holding me back from giving it a perfect rating, forcing me instead to give it 3 out of 4 stars. There is a bit of crudeness in the book that holds me back from recommending it to kids, but adults who have held jobs or other folks in the armed services (Air Force especially!) will be the ones who enjoy it anyway.
55 Years on Campus
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