Addison "Mr. Mac" McNair is 98 years old, but his experiences are timeless.
Shortly after the end of World War II in Europe in May of 1945, Addison "Mr. Mac" McNair arrived in Boston, and, without wasting any time, went down to a bar in Scollay Square and ordered an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
He had just returned to the states from his year working in a Navy airfield in England, and he hadn't had an American beer for a while. He remembers that beer vividly, even now at 98 years old.
“God, it was good," McNair said. "Ooh, it was not a little bit good. It was just sensationally good.”
McNair was an engineer during WWII. He was drafted in the tail-end of the war, much to his surprise since he had medical issues with his back. He said at the time, he was even wearing a back brace, and officials thought he wore it to get out of the draft.
That wasn't the case though. Despite having reasons for a medical deferment, McNair kept quiet.
“If you didn’t have a uniform on during the war, you were maybe out of order a little bit, and I felt that," McNair said.
He never went into combat, but he followed through with his duty to fix aircrafts, some of which would later be used for D-Day on June 6, 1944. His longtime friend Dennis Gorden likes to remind him that he played an important part in the war.
And when he wasn't working? McNair and a few of the other men in the airfield would walk to a nearby pub for what they named "poker beer"— they'd sit out in the cold air with a poker in the fire, which they would stick in their beers before drinking them.
Soon after the war in Europe was over, McNair was flown to a military hospital in San Diego to have back surgery. He was there when the nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, sitting among a group of Marines who got shot in Tinian, part of the Mariana Islands.
“I said, among other things, that none of you are going to be in the service two months from now. Oh, now that got their attention.”
Addison McNair, WWII veteran
He said he was excited when then-President Truman announced the atom bomb, and he tried to interest the group in it. McNair's original degree was in nuclear physics. However, the Marines weren't interested in the technical aspects of the bomb.
“I said, among other things, that none of you are going to be in the service two months from now," McNair said. "Oh, now that got their attention.”
When the war was over, McNair went across the U.S. "on the thumb" as he calls it. He hitchhiked everywhere he went, despite having a 1939 Mercury Convertible sitting in his garage. It's a detail Gorden likes to bring up.
To him, McNair is his hero — for reasons other than his military background. He has done extensive research on McNair's past history, including examining his seven-page engineering resume. One company he worked for stands out.
“Mac’s designed things gone to the moon," Gorden said. "He has not only built airplanes, he’s designed torpedoes.”
He said McNair has gotten to play with "all the neatest toys." McNair interviewed for a job everywhere he went.
“I must admit I’ve had some thoroughly interesting jobs down through the years, and some incredibly boring ones too," McNair said.
Life eventually led him to Daytona Beach, where he lived on a boat for over 40 years. He never married, but he says he came close a few times. It was a good life, McNair said.
For Gorden, McNair embodies the qualities he fears are lost in today's society: honesty, courtesy and responsibility.
"He’s a gentleman," Gorden said. "The guy with the most integrity."