Down on the Station

Music & Lyrics: Marie-Lynn Hammond

planes on the runway
jet fighters overhead
planes flying through your dreams
when you’re lying asleep in your bed
and the job means being ready
for a war no one wants to fight
eternal preparation for those sirens in the night
down on the station

so they play it out on war games
the phone rings early dawn
papa says the code word, grabs his gear
and then he’s gone gone gone
and it’s the biggest tease of all now
imagine how it feels
to spend your whole life cocked and ready
but you never get to shoot for real
down on the station

and every year they move you
if you’re lucky every two or three
so you learn to be real adaptable
’cause that’s how a soldier should be
you get good at playing new kid in school
or new wife on the block
you learn not to get too close
you learn when not to talk
down on the station

Operation Nighthawk
mama’s pacing up and down the hall
she says “Go back to bed now, girls
nothing to worry about at all”
and for years of course you believe her
until one night you know the score
all it takes is a little bad timing
a slight miscalculation
a critical malfunction
and someone’s father don’t come home no more
down on the station

and booze was cheap in the mess halls
you can bet it was planned that way
to keep you from thinking too much at night
about what you did all day

so papa stumbles home around midnight
we listen upstairs in fear
he stalks the house like a stranger
mama’s once again in tears
oh god – and now he’s cursing and raging
he thinks no one understands
he feels trapped in this house full of women
where are the sons he’d planned?

because what could you do with daughters
back in 1962
can’t take them hunting
can’t talk about the war and flying
all the glory and the madness
all the tension and the terror
and how it finally gets to you
down on the station

and it’s the biggest tease of all now
imagine how it feels
to spend your whole life cocked and ready
but you never get to shoot for real –

oh papa can’t you see
we’re not the enemy?

but nobody knows who they’re fighting
nobody knows what for
nobody knows who the enemy is any more
down on the station

About This Song
I’m a songwriter who believes in writing – and singing – about what I know. I grew up an air force “brat,” in the fifties and sixties. (Back then we called the air force bases “stations,” hence the title and refrain.) My father and most of his fellow pilots had fought in World War II. Many had started drinking then – who could blame them? – and some just never stopped. The drinking was only censured if it interfered with work. After all, these men were heroes.
Unfortunately, this meant the families bore the brunt of the trauma. No one dared complain of, or admit to, the problem. In those days, with the military’s rigid, closed, feudally hierarchical organization, it would have been considered breaking rank. I think the families of pilots and their crews suffered the most, especially during the Cold War, for reasons the song describes.