Let’s Talk Clovis: George “Tink” Kastner, 1919-2006

George “Tink” Kastner holding a miniature replica of “Strawberry Blonde”. (Clovis Museum)

George “Tink” Kastner became a ”Clovis Living Legend” during his lifetime. His mother died four days after his birth and was raised by her sister Mary Jane, “Nettie” Bell Browne and her husband John Wise Browne (pioneer ranching family). 

His Aunt was a teacher and he would attend Nees Colony (two teachers), Pollasky School on Friant Road (one teacher) and Garfield School during his elementary years.

He graduated from Clovis High in 1937 and served as Student Body President. He would receive BA and MA Degrees from Fresno State University.

Tink was also an accomplished athlete. While at Clovis High, he received three varsity letters in track, two varsity letters in football, held the 880 track record and was the Fresno County Half-Mile Champion in 1936 and 1937.

He received a hip injury playing football and was transported to Dr. Pendergrass’ office in a Model A Ford (no stretcher available). He was then transported (via Boice Funeral Parlor hearse) to the Burnett Sanitarium in Fresno. Dr. Adams, who was the son of the famous photographer Ansel Adams, treated him for a dislocated hip. The hearse delivered him home.

Tink was intrigued with flying. Local aviator Bob Turner would charge $5 for rides in his little bi-plane. The “air field” was located where Clark School is now and the adjacent 1913 Clovis water tower (still in operation) was an obstacle to avoid on take-off and landing.

He and his friend Darcy Thomas paid $5 each for their first trip to “the wild blue yonder”. Both would become US Army Air Force pilots. Darcy was killed during WWII while flying the “hump” in China.

Tink joined the Army Air Force in 1941 at the start of WWII and graduated from pilot training in 1942. He flew a P-51 Mustang dive-bomber and established a record of 83 missions in the Mediterranean Theater. Bob Thomas, also from Clovis, eventually surpassed his record.

He traveled to North Africa on a ship that had been in dry dock since 1933. Those on board felt secure since they believed the Germans would not waste a bomb on such a “piece of trash”. The small boat almost capsized when all aboard rushed to one side to view their landing.

Tink married Thelma Londgree in 1942. While overseas he wanted to name his plane “The Strawberry Blonde” after his beautiful wife but he was cautioned by veterans to keep on the “good side” of his mechanic who wanted to name the plane “Miss Bobby”. They compromised: the left side of the fuselage was “The Strawberry Blonde” and the right side “Miss Bobby”.

He was discharged from the service in 1945 but remained in the reserves. He began teaching history, football and track at Clovis High School. He was recalled to service during the Korean War in 1951 and served at the Strategic Air Command Headquarters until he was discharged in 1953.

He became the group Commander of the 93 72nd Reserve Wing for Central California and Southern Nevada, 1958-63. He retired from U.S.A.F. as a full Colonel in 1963.

Tink became Principal of Clovis High in 1956, Assistant Superintendent of the Clovis Unified School District in 1961, and Associate Superintendent from 1976 until his retirement in 1979.

Kastner Intermediate School was dedicated in his honor on Sept. 27, 1980. He and Thelma were proud to be Kastner Thunderbirds. 

Tink’s 1956 message to Clovis High students in part read: “School spirit and good conduct have their counterparts in loyalty to one’s country. This loyalty, tempered with proper ethics, has been a contributing factor in making our nation the greatest in the world. This nation will continue to be great only if you citizens of tomorrow are loyal to it and uphold the principles upon which it is founded.”

Tink and his family left us a rich heritage.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.