Local Personalities: Ken Crowe

by Dr. Iain Corness

A man who often graces the sporting section of the Pattaya Mail is Ken Crowe. He is a long time member of the Pattaya Sports Club and is well known for the parties he organizes. However, Ken Crowe is also a man who has some strong ideas on life, and is not just a ‘party animal’.

He was born on a farm in Missouri in the United States of America, the second last child in a family of nine children. “My old man was 55 when I was born. Mom said Dad always liked a young ‘un around,” said Ken.

He grew up in times that required children to do their fair share of work too. “I had duties on that farm. I had chores that had to be done every day, but I never went to bed hungry.”

When he finished school in 1956 he was unsure of what to do with himself and a wise school principal suggested he take 12 months off and find out just what direction he should take. This worked, and Ken entered electrical trade school.

He graduated and quickly rose to supervisor level, joining the aircraft industry and became involved in the IRAN project. This was not the Iran in the current news, but is the acronym covering Inspect and Replace As Necessary as applied to aircraft maintenance. This took him to Japan, his first taste of life outside America. “That got overseas in my blood,” said Ken. “It was such a big tax break.” The time in Japan also showed Ken some of the political ironies of life. “I was training a Japanese rear gunner, who had been shootin’ at Americans, how to repair American planes!”

However, it was not yet the time for Ken to leave America for good. He had a struggling marriage that he was attempting to resuscitate, so he went to Florida for four years to try being your average suburban Mr. America. This failed, Ken saying, “I’ve never lived in the States, or with that bitch, ever since!” There was also the financial side of things, “The money was a big thing. By the time you paid all the taxes and (domestic) expenses there was nothing left.”

He knew he could return to the aviation industry where he had a good record and went back to Japan for a second tour of duty. From there he went to the UK, working at an air base, but the weather was not to his liking, so he began looking at where else he could go. “I found there wasn’t much overseas work anywhere other than Vietnam, so I went there. I wanted to see why we (the American troops) were there. Curiosity I guess.”

This was the time of the Vietnam war, but Ken decided to try Vietnam as a civilian. “I didn’t want to go back to the US to pay taxes for a war I didn’t believe in. So I stayed there (in the war)!” He worked in Danang, a city in Vietnam that was nicknamed ‘Rocket City’ but took an R&R vacation in Bangkok. This was to change his life.

“I arrived in Bangkok with a 14 day visa and left four years later. It was just so nice not to have to worry about someone throwing a hand grenade at you as you walked down the street.” During those four years he was initially stationed at Udon Thani and then Korat, working on US planes during the day, and carousing with the boys from Air America at night.

After this time he thought he should return to the US and see if things had changed. They hadn’t. “Once a bitch, always a bitch,” said Ken. The taxes were not the same - they were worse, and car insurance more expensive, so it did not take much coaxing to get Ken to sign on the dotted line for a posting to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi was to take up his time for the next ten years, until 1985 when he decided he had had enough. It was time to retire, and America was not going to be the place - but Thailand was. He chose Pattaya. “There was not so much traffic. You could breathe here. I liked the small town atmosphere. I never liked large cities.” I asked Ken if part of that was related to his farm-boy upbringing and he replied with a homily that is often used here with a slight modification, “You can take a boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of me!”

While in Pattaya, one of his first moves was to join the Pattaya Sports Club, proudly telling me that he was number 840. “I was interested in it and what they were doing for charity.” He was particularly taken with what was being done to assist school children get an education, through scholarships for the needy. “I enjoy helping kids. I feel like I’m putting a little something back.”

However, Ken has strong views on just how the charity baht should be spent. “I do not agree with donating goods to government schools, while that same government is charging 200 baht for farangs to enter government-run parks, while Thais are charged 20 baht. I’m all for helping individuals.” I believe that Ken would have more than one supporter for that concept. He is a man who did it hard during his childhood, and doesn’t want to see kids here have it as hard. He does, however, want to see kids have the opportunity to have an education, as he did.

As social chairman for the Pattaya Sports Club, Ken is proud of the parties he runs, and his hobby is bowling twice a week, in fact he was off to the Wednesday Fun Bowling League straight after the interview. However, there is still something missing in his life. He would like to restore a 1956 Chev Bel Air. Anyone seen one round these parts?