Robert Hotton — U.S. Navy — Saugus resident

Robert Hotton discussing his time in the US Navy as a radar technician on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

On each of his four daughters’ birthdays, Robert Hotton would take them on a date, wherever they wanted to go.

“I took my jobs very seriously, and so it required sometimes that I wasn’t home for dinner,” Hotton said. “So, I just wanted to let them know that (though) I was busy, I loved them and cared for them and that they could come to me with any of their problems.”

Then, when it came time, he began to do the same with each and every one of his grandchildren.

“My girls would come home from their night with Grandpa and the next day start planning for next year,” Hotton’s daughter Leanne Frazer said.

“I do my best to get together with them as often as I can,” Hotton added, smiling.

This attitude has been one Hotton has strived to keep with him throughout his life, and now, at 80 years old, he vows there’s nothing in his life he would’ve changed.

Robert Hotton sits atop the wingtip fuel tank of a Lockheed EC-121T Warning Star Super Constellation, which he served in during his time in the US Navy as a radar technician. Courtesy

Early life

Hotton was born in May 1939 in Alhambra. His mother was a registered nurse, while his father worked for Southern California Edison.

He and his younger brother moved quite a bit when they were young, as their father had to bid out of the area each time he was promoted. From Alhambra, they went as far north as the San Joaquin Valley, and a number of other places in between before settling in Lancaster.

“I learned an awful lot of life’s experiences when we were in the San Joaquin Valley, Delano and McFarland, as it’s a farming area, so my jobs were picking cotton to earn money, cutting grapes and making trays of grapes,” he said.

In high school, Hotton was a part of the car club and track and field as a pole vaulter, while working at a local grocery store.

“I was energetic and I did more than I was asked to do when I was working in the market, so as a young teenager, they made me a checker, which gave me some more money,” he said.

He met his future wife, Glenda, at youth night at church. “That began the point where my heart started fluttering a little bit.”

In 1958, he graduated from Antelope Valley High School and continued working at a local grocery store.

He and Glenda “went steady for a while” before getting married later that year.

“I surprised her by picking her up for dinner one night (before we got married), and I said, ‘Guess what I did?’” he said. “I just joined the Navy.”

Though Glenda was shocked, he explained that he didn’t want to be drafted into the Army instead.

Robert Hotton, (center) smiles in his US Navy graduation portrait. Courtesy

Military life

He was sent to radar school in Brunswick, Georgia, for three months, where he learned the operational part of using radar to pick up targets.

From there, he returned to California to Naval Air Station Alameda as he awaited his orders.

“They sent me to NAS Agana, Guam, and I was there for about a year and a half,” he said.

As a newlywed, being away from his wife wasn’t his first choice, but Hotton was able to make the most of it.

“There was a sense that you were doing something good,” he said. “You were preparing in case (the Soviet Union) should ever have attacked.”

While the ships did exercises, Hotton would get on a plane and fly on what he described as a raceway, in a particular pattern back and forth, overhead.

“We had radar equipment, and we would talk to the airplane and them where the ‘enemy’ was … while they were doing their war games,” he said.

Hotton flew on a Lockheed EC-121T Warning Star Super Constellation, also known as a Connie, equipped with a radar on its belly and another on its roof that allowed Hotton and his fellow soldiers to monitor a 200-mile radius.

A Lockheed EC-121T Warning Star Super Constellation, which Robert Hotton served in during his time in the US Navy as a radar technician. Courtesy

“You could pick up a target, and you would know what his altitude and bearing were from your airplane,” Hotton added. “If you needed a fighter jet to intercept that plane, then you had direct communication with (them).”

Next, Hotton was sent to NAS Barbers Point on O’ahu, where his duties took on a more serious turn, as it was closer to the Soviet Union.

“If (the Soviet Union) had launched a missile, we could pick it up on the radar,” he said. “Then, we could call the ships and say there’s an unknown target coming at this particular range and distance, and you need to send some fighters up there to intercept it.”

The flight crew, made up of Hotton and about a dozen other soldiers, would spend half a day up in the skies, which wasn’t too bad as the aircraft was equipped with a galley, bathrooms and even bunks.

“You get to know one another, know what their quirks were and work together so that we were accomplishing what we were supposed to do,” he said. “I remember participating in a few times where we got out the scrub brush and gave a guy scrubbing that he didn’t want to have because he wasn’t up to tune with what we were doing on the plane… You had to count on one another.”

Similarly to Guam, Hotton would fly on a racetrack of sorts, and at either end would be a destroyer in the water.

“We’d get on an oddball frequency with the ship, and we would play chess,” he said, chuckling. “We would fly so many hours, then other planes would come and relieve us so that you didn’t have any break in the security.”

While stationed in Hawaii, Hotton would often be deployed on missions to the South Pacific and was gone for as little as 72 hours to sometimes a few weeks, often stopping at Midway Island, which he remembers for its crystal clear water and wonderful snorkeling.

When it came time to re-enlist, Hotton chose not to, as he now had a wife and daughter to take care of. He was honorably discharged as a second class petty officer on Feb. 19, 1962, with a total of 2,131 hours in his flight logbook.

Robert Hotton, bottom right, with his flight crew in the US Navy. Courtesy

Post-military life

The family moved back to Lancaster for a short period of time, and Hotton went back to work at the grocery store. “They didn’t have a place up there so they sent me down to Encino, and I got a job at Thrifty Supermarket.”

It must have been fate because after getting to know the State Farm agent he met when going in to switch his car insurance, the agent soon suggested he come work for State Farm.

“It wasn’t really something that I had thought of ever doing … but I took the position with State Farm,” he said.

He stayed there for a few years before getting the opportunity to start working with another friend’s a building company, where he spent the next 20 years.

When the company relocated to Colorado, Hotton chose not to make the move so they could stay next to family.

“At that time, not knowing what was going to go on, I had a close friend from church that was at (The) Master’s University,” he said, adding that the president, John MacArthur, wanted to renovate the school. “The school had not (been) real well kept because they didn’t have anybody that really knew anything about construction, and I had 20 years of that… It was a perfect fit for all the experience that I had in leadership and building.”

Hotton oversaw operations of all of the construction and remodel work. He particularly enjoyed the vibrancy of being on campus and excitement of the students, “as much as they did some damage from time to time,” he added, chuckling. “I managed to make it to 20 years and loved every day.”

After retiring in 2015, he continued to return to campus to visit, as well as for basketball and baseball games from time to time, and still does.

Last year, Glenda passed away, which has been very difficult for Hotton.

“We were committed to one another, and we were for 60 years,” he said. “It’s been a readjustment… but the nice thing is I have four daughters that swooped me up, and we arm wrestle a lot because I’m pretty stubborn.”

With four daughters, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandkids, Hotton said he really is quite content. “So, I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing.”

An aviators flight log book owned by Robert Hotton where he logged over 2000 flight hours while he served the US Navy as a radar technician, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

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