Parents: Hervey W. & Sarah Ellen Crocker
Died: 1989, California
L. Crocker was born while his parents were living and working
in Texas, about midway through their decade-long westward trek
across the country. His adolescent years were spent in Southern
Oregon as the family struggled through the Great Depression.
Military Service: Mel served in the U.S. Navy
during World War II, as an Aviation Radioman in PBY's, the Navy's
sea plane. He finished his training and was sent with PBY Patrol
Squadron Twelve (VP12) to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.
From Guadalcanal he flew in night bombing raids, open sea rescues,
hauling of freight and long over-water patrols as the Allies worked
their way up the Solomon Islands driving back the Japanese.
in Guadalcanal he was infected with malaria. During his stay in
the hospital his crew crashed into the side of a mountain during
a storm. All aboard perished.
he returned to the States in August 1944 he was assigned to Astoria,
Oregon. There he met Doris who he would later marry. The War
ended as he was completing further training near Memphis, making
further overseas duty unnecessary. He was discharged in early
1946 and he and Doris began their family in Medford, Oregon. They
would eventually have five children. Mel and Doris were divorced
in the late 1960's and he married Rockina in the early 1970's.
Singer: Mel and his brother Glenn were the core
of a popular barber shop quartet in Southern Oregon known as the
Novelaires. They moved to Southern California in the mid 1950's
hoping to make it in the entertainment industry They were hired
by Douglas Aircraft as entertainers, performing at lunch and for
special events as the Douglas Novelaires Quartet. They won the
weekly competition on the "Rocket to Stardom" TV show,
which got them gigs, but never got them into the 'big time.'
Several years later, with a new group, they recorded "Drums
in My Heart" and "Bowie Knife" as the Crocker Boys.
This was well received in Southern Oregon, but got little, if
any air time in areas that could have made either side a hit.
They later learned that the record label had been blacklisted.
Mel began to seriously pursue a lifelong interest
in writing, taking courses through correspondence and the local
community college. He wrote a novel (Roanne) that was never published.
His brother encouraged him to write about the aircraft that he
was always talking about -- the PBY. After many years of research,
contacting all the living PBY pilots and crewmembers that he could
locate, he assembled their stories into Black Cats and Dumbos:
World War II's Fighting PBYs, which was originally published in1987
by TAB Aero Books. It went out of print in 1989 and was republished by Crocker Media Expressions, the multimedia business
of his eldest son, Gary and his wife Lynda.
died of complications after heart surgery in early 1989.