Frank Bauman was born August 12, 1923, in Driggs, Idaho, where he grew up. He attended college in Rexburg and Logan, but his schooling was interrupted by World War II. “I had always wanted to fly an airplane,” he said. “From grade school on I signed my school papers Frank the Flier.” Early in 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was trained to fly twin-engine planes, but because of a shortage of pilots to fly multi-engine craft, was assigned as co-pilot on a B-24 Liberator bomber. From his base in Italy, he flew on six raids, including two over Ploesti oil fields in Rumania.
On his seventh raid his plane was hit. “We turned around to head back, but couldn’t control the propeller. The propeller cut through the inboard engine, and it went through the bottom part of the plane. Everyone bailed out safely. I was the last one out.” Frank landed in a pile of rocks at the edge of a field cracking an ankle bone when he landed. A farmer and his son found him.
“They were really good to me,” Frank said. “They bandaged my leg. Through signs I let them know that I wanted to go to Yugoslavia. They started to take me there.” But they ran into a patrol of German Gestapo soldiers who had seen the airplane crash and had come to investigate. Frank had his gun on him, but as soon as the farmer heard the soldiers coming, he grabbed the gun and stuck in it Frank’s back so it would look like he had taken Frank prisoner. “He had to do that,” Frank said. “He had to protect himself and his family.”
Frank was accused as being a spy and interrogated by the Gestapo for a few days. Finally he was sent to the Stalag Luft Three prison camp. “It was not all that bad,” he said. “We did not have a lot of food. I learned a lot of things while I was in camp.”
Early in January 1945, as the Russian Army advanced from the east, the prisoners were moved to a camp closer to the center of Germany. “We moved at midnight,” said Frank. “We started walking. It was very cold. We walked all night, all the next day, all the next night, and all the next day. Quite a few people died.. They were ill or were not used to the cold.”
Frank and three other men stayed together and looked after one another. Frank had cigarettes that he could trade for food or eggs with German families, though some of the families gave the prisoners food without taking anything in return. They ended up in a prison camp near Moosburg where in early April they were liberated by General Patton’s Army.
After the war, Frank graduated from Utah State University. He married Elaine Stowell, June 11, 1946. Their daughter Rebecca was born in 1948 and their son William in 1956.
Frank and family moved to Burley in 1956. He had visited Burley earlier and thought it would be an interesting place in which to settle. When he heard that Dan Howarth was interested in selling his business, O.K.Tire and Rubber Welders, he took the opportunity to buy it. He was in the tire business for 32 years. During that time he sold his business to a corporation made up of Big “O” Tire dealers. He became vice president, and was on the board of directors. The founder and head of the corporation, William R. “Bill” Thomas, had grown up in Burley. Frank and Bill became good friends and still keep in close touch with each other.
Frank continued to be interested in flying. He and three other men had purchased a small plane together. The plane made it possible for Frank to attend the Big “O” Tire board meetings, which were held each month in Denver. “I would get up at five in the morning, fly to Denver, attend a four-hour meeting, have lunch, fly home, and be back in the store by 3 p.m.,” he said. He also used the plane to take his family on short vacations to Disneyland and other places. He never took a two-weeks vacation as he did not feel he could not leave his business for that long.
Eventually Frank decided that being involved with the corporation was interfering too much with his family life and resigned from his position as director. He and Larry Winn opened the Tires West shop in Burley in 1978. He retired from the tire business in 1988.
“I played golf,” he said, “and was loafing around.” People started asking him to run for mayor. He was elected and began serving in 1990. He had only intended to serve for one term, but no one else seemed interested in the position. He ran for a second time, unopposed. In 1998 he retired for good.
Frank enjoyed his work in the tire business and as mayor. The freeway was being built while he was in the tire business, and he furnished a lot of huge tires for the construction companies, as well as tires for farm machinery, pick-ups and cars. “When I first started in the business, a good passenger tire would last for about 12,000 miles.” Now tires last from 50,000 to 80,000 miles.
“Everyone in Burley was so good to me,” said Frank. “Even though I was a newcomer to town I was treated so well. So many people did really kind things.” At the time that he was starting up his business, it was the policy with the large corporations that in order to get a 2% discount, small businesses had to have their money sent to the corporation on a certain day each month. Frank wrote a check to a tire distributor for $20,000. The check bounced. “I was banking with Cassia First National Bank,” said Frank. “The manager Harvey Rogers called me in and asked what had happened. I told him that I had the money, but that people owed me. He told me to make a list of who owed me. He took that list and called everyone. He held the check until I got the money.” Some other businesses in town had similar problems with cash flow, Frank remembered, including Roper’s and King’s. “Will Roper told me that he and M.H. King handled it by exchanging checks,” said Frank. “The dates when they had to have money to their suppliers came at different times, so they would loan each other checks.”
Frank also enjoyed his work as mayor. “I especially enjoyed working with Bud Brinegar,” he said. “He worked for the city for a long time and knew everything about it. We became good friends.”
The Overland Bridge across the Snake River was built while Frank was mayor. “It took a lot of effort to get the State Highway Department to build that bridge,” said Frank. “We really needed a four-lane bridge. If a combine or some other piece of large equipment was traveling on the old two-lane bridge, no other traffic could get by. It was a bad situation. A fire truck would not have been able to get by if there had been an emergency. The new bridge was a great benefit to our community. It really helped people on both sides of the river.”
Frank enjoyed his time serving as mayor. “It was a highlight of my life,” he said. “It really was. I enjoyed it tremendously. I am so grateful for the help and support that everyone gave me.”
Frank’s wife Elaine passed away in 1984. His daughter Rebecca died in 1992 and his son William in 1996. Frank has two grandsons, one in Texas and the other in St. George that he keeps in close touch with. At the present time (April 2012) Frank lives alone in his home on Burton Avenue. His health is generally good, and at age 88 he is grateful that he can be in his own home. He has many friends and keeps busy with various activities.