By Lori Kerns, AFRH-G Librarian
Oliver James “O.J.” Ferrington was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1920, which was still the horse and buggy era. He was the oldest of seven children born to a metal worker and housewife. One of his recollections of childhood is when radios had just started showing up and how people would stop and listen to the ballgames in the stores. Another of his favorite childhood memories is of his grandfather who was a retired policeman. His grandfather would come pick him up in a horse and buggy and take him to buy clothes. From there they would go watch a Tigers baseball game. At that time a baseball game cost 50₵ a game! After the game, his grandfather would take him to watch the burlesque show. He said he thought the costumes and dancers were always so beautiful. When he got older and went back to see a show and he thought it was terrible and walked out. When asked to describe himself as a child, he said he enjoyed playing hockey, roller skating, and skiing, He jokingly said that his best subject in school was recess but then recanted and said that it was really English and History.
By 1941, O.J. was living in Chicago and was going to work at a job in Nicaragua. The job fell through so he decided to join the Army. This was right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He left from the San Francisco Port on a freighter carrying troops to the South Pacific Islands. He said at the time those troops only had WWI equipment to protect them and barely had any training. He spent the first ten years of his career working in areas of communication, weather watching, and shipping and stayed stationed mostly in areas by the Guadalcanal or Japan. Back then there were no Seabees so one of his major assignments was to build an airstrip on the island on which he was stationed. He did take a break from the Army during this first ten years. He went to Henry Ford at the Dearborn Inn in Dearborn, MI. He trained to be a night officer. While working at the inn, he had the chance to meet many prominent figures connected with the auto industry. For the latter part of his military career, he went into operations and intelligence serving three tours of duty in Korea and one tour in Fort Benning, GA. He also tested nuclear bombs in Nevada. While stationed in Raleigh, NC he retired as a Sergeant First Class in 1962. For his efforts in Korea, he earned five Battle Stars and the Purple Heart.
After his military retirement, O.J. moved to Gainesville, FL and worked as a park ranger for sixteen years. As part of his ranger duties, he drove a covered wagon around the park’s 6,000 acres giving boy scouts, girl scouts, and church groups tours and telling them the local lore and legend. He also kept busy by square, round, and line dancing. He still keeps in touch with his dance buddies. He’s also an avid reader and can speak Japanese. He is the proud father of two sons. When asked what he liked about living at AFRH, O.J. said that he likes “the ocean at his front door.”