There've been so many different
stories, comments, etc. about the Byrdcloth parkas for Antarctic use, I thought
it might be time for the story of how the first one came to be made......as far
as I know.
Early in Deep Freeze V (59-60), Doc Hedbloom brought some experimental
cold weather clothing to the Ice. Doc was the chief medical officer at the
time and he'd had this clothing made for experimental purposes for the USMC cold
weather operations. He brought five sets ( parkas and britches) to the
They cost $1000.00 a set. They were given out to be evaluated. Meanwhile, George Gowan (GR the PR) and I got together in the Parachute Loft one evening, sampling the grapes from his backroom laboratory (!) and we decided to build some cold weather clothing that was just as insulating and lighter in weight than what Doc had brought down. We would do this from existing materials at hand. So, with the liners from jackets and britches of the Army issue cold weather clothing.....and Byrdcloth (and other scraps of stuff George had laying around), we made the forerunner of what came to be called Byrdcloth jackets.
Upon completion of the garments, I stripped down to tee shirt and skivvies and donned these clothes. I went outside and walked around for about 25 minutes. The temperature was about -20 degrees and I was perfectly comfortable. Please bear in mind what I was wearing was NOT what came to be called Byrdcloth jackets, as mine had no zipper front but did have a lined hand warmer pocket in front and special insert pockets inside the hand warmer for sunglasses, cigarettes, lighter, and pencils.
On the top of the hood of my parka is sewn a piece of white cloth on which GR has written "Mfg. by GR the PR 11-28-59, Antarctica". These garments proved to be ten to twelve ounces lighter than the stuff Doc Hedbloom had brought down. He wouldn't speak to either of us for a LONG time! GR was snowed with people asking him to make more.
So, as far as I know, that's the story of the beginning of the Byrdcloth parkas. In the early days, red was all for VX-6; green was for the cargo handlers; light blue was for USAF; and yellow, for NSA. I have a pair of red and a pair of green britches I used to wear alternately with my red parka along with a pair of Kiwi flight boots (fleeced lined) with the tops turned down, a green piece of cargo parachute for a scarf at my neck, and an Australian outback wide-brimmed hat with a handmade white nylon braided hatband. No wonder it was said of me by a Marine captain, "Buz is all right; his mother just dresses him funny!" I've lived with that ever since.......
The above Doc Hedbloom was the one who gave us the medicinal brandy in 853 when it got so cold he couldn't stand it.....(as detailed in a previous story).