Whether it’s buses, planes or trains, Union resident Jim Albrecht has been in the driver’s seat.
The 74-year-old has been an airplane pilot and small train conductor, and drove tour buses for several years.
Albrecht was born in Washington, D.C., and then lived in Michigan for several years before moving to Union in 1977. Albrecht and his wife, Myra, have two children and one grandchild.
He was a salesman with a hobbies and crafts company that was expanding west. That job brought him and his family to Union.
“We had to get out a map to find Missouri,” Albrecht said. “We liked Union because you can go any direction quickly — it’s perfect for a salesman.”
Albrecht served in the Air Force as a personal survival equipment specialist from 1958-’62. He was stationed in New Mexico and Japan.
“I took care of the pilot gear and made sure everything fit correctly,” he said. “I taught survival skills and made sure they knew what to do if they had to eject.”
Albrecht asked that if there was an available seat on a plane, could he ride along. As a result, he experienced some memorable moments while in the back seat of an Air Force jet.
“There was one flight with four of us on it that left a tanker, I looked back and it looked like the afterburners lit the sky on fire,” he said.
Albrecht remembers another flight during “low-level work” when the plane he was in flew up one side of a New Mexico hill, while a shepherd and his sheep were coming up the other side.
“I bet that shepherd had to change his pants,” Albrecht joked.
In 1969, Albrecht received his private pilot license, and he got a commercial license in 1974.
Albrecht said a commercial license is not the same as being licensed to fly a commercial jet.
“Flying an airliner is not flying,” he said. “When you see out all sides of the plane, that is a whole different world.
“You are not bound by roads, but only where you want to go and what you want to do,” Albrecht added.
He remembers a time when he flew his wife over the July 4 fireworks display in Washington.
“Looking at fireworks at that view is extraordinarily different than from the ground,” Albrecht said. “With all of the city lights it is not near as effective.”
Civil Air Patrol
In high school, Albrecht was in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and earned a scholarship to flight school where he received a proficiency certificate.
“I’ve always been interested in aviation,” he said.
The Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the Air Force, and because Albrecht passed the proficiency test, he was able to enter the Air Force with one stripe.
In Union, Albrecht served as a senior officer with the CAP East Central Composite Squadron. He was an orientation pilot and gave children their first ride in a plane.
“It was really neat. I let them fly the airplane,” he said. “They got to do what they wanted to. Some were quick to learn and others were all over the sky.”
While with the CAP, Albrecht coordinated two multiunit disaster response exercises in the late 1980s.
One of those exercises included a “downed aircraft” which was actually a school bus with burning tires placed around it. Members of the CAP had to fly overhead to find the wreckage.
Another exercise was an earthquake response drill.
Albrecht was elected as the CAP Missouri Senior Officer of the Year in 1989.
Albrecht was a hobby and craft chain salesman for 20 years before beginning to sell real estate with Hansen and Schroeder Real Estate in Union.
After that he worked with Hansen Title and then Tri-County Title for a total of 20 years. He retired from Tri-County in 2006.
In between work with those two title companies, Albrecht drove a tour bus full time for three years with Mid-American Coaches.
He worked part time for the bus company for 15 years.
Albrecht said he has been to many cities and has seen great sights on tours.
“I really enjoyed it because everyone was out for a good time and I got to go along,” he said. “You don’t ride a bus to a funeral, you go for a good time.”
With Mid-American, he has been to Boston, South Carolina, North Carolina, Atlanta, Florida, Chicago and other places.
In 2001, Albrecht created the “Bus Stop,” a day-trip bus company. The business brought 26 buses into Franklin County for a tour, lunch and an “old-fashioned” radio show.
Audience members competed to “Name That Tune,” answered trivia questions about early TV shows, even were given a chance to ask questions of “Harry Truman,” portrayed by Bob Dierkes.
“We tried to put something together that people could participate in,” said Albrecht. “It was a lot of fun.”
Some day trips included Purina Farms, Shaw Gardens, Hermann and the Jesse James and toy museums in Stanton.
The business was successful, but only lasted a year due to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“That ended it because senior citizens were reluctant to go places,” Albrecht said.
Today he still works part time at Mid-American Coaches by helping wash and clean buses.
In 2012, Albrecht began working as a steam locomotive engineer at Six Flags. He was an engineer for a year, but last year worked primarily as a conductor.
Working as a conductor and a bus driver you have to be a people person, Albrecht noted.
“I enjoy talking with people and showing them a good time,” he said.
Albrecht received a “Young at Heart” excellence award from Six Flags in 2013 for his “friendly and courteous guest service.”
Albrecht has won several awards for his 1985 “custom classic” Cadillac El Dorado.
The car is custom because of its grill, side stripes and top. It also has a continental tire.
“It has been fun playing with,” he said.
Albrecht has made wooden models of buses and trucks. He also has a model train set.
“When you’re selling this stuff you get hooked on it,” he said.
Albrecht now serves as a Union alderman, a position he has held for five years, this time around. He also was an alderman from 1989-1994.
He sang with the Cave County Barbershop quartet in Washington in the late 1990s; prior to that, most of his singing was in church.
In the 1980s, as part of a group called Operation Neat Seat, Albrecht compiled and published books documenting 60,000 volunteer hours in Union. Those hours included 40,000 by volunteers with the Union Fire Protection District, as well as civic organizations.
Operation Neat Seat was an organization to better Union as the county seat of Franklin County.
“We cleaned up Highway 50, planted trees . . . whatever we could do to make Union a neat seat,” Albrecht said.
While still living in Grand Rapids, Mich., Albrecht designed and built a unique indoor miniature golf course.
“It was very different,” he said. “This was set up like a real golf course. There were no boards that kept the ball in play.”
The course also had a “river” that surrounded one of the holes.
“It was a lot of fun but not financially feasible,” Albrecht said. “It wasn’t paying enough to supplement a family.”
This September Jim and Myra Albrecht will celebrate 50 years of marriage, but he isn’t sure how the couple will celebrate yet. For their 45th anniversary they took a month-long drive through Alaska.
‘We’re planning on something, but I’m not sure what,” he said.