Book Review: Cold War Kid

Tom Hanley Offers Up an Easy, Laid-Back Memoir

Tom Hanley grew up an air force brat in the era before everything fun came with protective equipment and a legal disclaimer. Unlike many children who follow the military drum from one nondescript post to the next and struggle with being the “new” kid on the block or in school, Hanley learned early on to go with the flow. Kansas, Texas, California — Hanley and his four siblings learned to pack and unpack, survive long road trips, and arrive in a new place, ready to adapt.

One surefire Hanley adaptation to new surroundings was by being outdoorsy and adventurous. Whether it was water skiing, surfing, sailing, camping, or thundering down a stretch of beach in a dune buggy, Hanley remembers always doing something. After his father returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam, the family did a stint at Vandenberg Air Force Base, here in our neck of the woods, and Hanley attended St. Joseph High. He spent most of his free time surfing Pismo and El Capitan and Jalama but also found time to shape and tinker with surfboards.

If not for a moment of candor about his recreational drug use during a background interview with a pair of navy investigators, Hanley might very well have had a military career like his father. Instead, he became, for a time, the keeper of a privately owned lighthouse on the Texas coast, the first of many offbeat jobs Hanley would try.

Cold War Kid is a quick and breezy read, written in the kind of easy, laid-back style one might expect from a self-proclaimed surfer dude. More a doer than a thinker, Hanley remains a man who enjoys experiencing the world with his own senses. If you’re in search of something entertaining to read on a languid late summer afternoon at the beach, slip Cold War Kid into your beach bag. Like an old friend from the neighborhood, Hanley is good for a story and a few laughs.


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