The construction of Namsan Tower brought us to Yongsan Garrison

Contributor: Michael Nicolay

On a school (SAHS) field-trip I walked into N. Korea … !

Topic: construction, Education, Engineering, SAHS, Yongsan Legacy

Photo of Namsan Tower under construction. Photo source: Michael Nicolay

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My Dad Albert Nicolay was initially in the US Army and then US Coastguard during World War Two. After the war he got out of the Service. He was in the US Army’s Signal Corps’ first TV Unit. At that time TV was a  classified Technology, that ended up being RADAR.

Albert Nicolay during WW2 as a coastguard and in the US Army’s Signal Corps’. Photo source: Mike Nicolay

From 1951-1953 he was Chief Engineer for Voice of America Broadcasting — we then lived in Tangier, Morocco where He designed and built their Transmitter site.

He built several Radio and TV Transmitter Sites in the US and then got the job to go to Korea to help start KBS, after that war. He spent about 12 years there while KBS was being designed and built. He was the Technical Consultant for Audio/Video and He built the Tower on Namsan

Albert Nicolay and the team on site (in the center of the photo) during the construction of Namsan Tower _Photo source Mike Nicolay
Albert Nicolay on site (far left in the photo) during the construction of Namsan Tower _Photo source Mike Nicolay
Construction of Namsan Tower _Photo source Mike Nicolay
Albert Nicolay inside the transmitter building of Namsan Tower during its construction. Photo source: Mike Nicolay

Initially he was a contractor and worked for the US Department of State’s “OEC.” That stood for Office of Economic Coordinator.

Later he was directly employed by the US Department of State as employee and was the Technical Consultant Audio/Visual (TCAV) — later that program was renamed and became USOM (United States Operations Mission.) Hence the “USOM CLUB” on South Post… 🙂

After Korea he was stationed in Vientiane, Laos, where he remained until his retirement. He was Chief of Communications, Southeast Asia, for the State Department during the Vietnam War while in there. At one time (1970) I was drafted in Vietnam, my brother was in Thailand and my mother and father were in Laos – that was the first time in decades that we’d been able to “direct dial” each other!!!.

I lived In Korea from 1958 to 1962 and attended Seoul Foreign School prior to SAHS opened and SAHS from 1959. I was also one of the lifeguards for the 8th Army Officer’s Club and EM Pools – and at the Cheongpyeong Lake during the summers.

Portrait of Mike Nicolay from the year book 1960 SAHS, senior year. Photo source: Mike Nicolay

Back in the day it was a pain in the butt to do “photo’s” (film, developing, etc.,) so not many of us have photo’s but I do keep the yearbooks from my years at SAHS and I made these videos from the 1961 and 1962 yearbooks:

1961 Yearbook, Part 1

1961 Yearbook, Part 2

1962 Yearbook

On a school (SAHS) field-trip event that took us to see the Peace Talks I walked into N. Korea… ! At Pan Mun Jom I walked up the hill to see the Brainwashed Pigeons. A US MP yelled at me… “You are in N Korea, if they catch you they can keep you!”  I ran back to the SOUTH…. ! The MP then gave me a lecture! I remember that very well.  I had not heard about the Brainwashed Pigeons before and I was just curious. You could see the pigeon coup from the 3 buildings that the conferences were held in. I later after returning to US (1963) became an MP (Military Policeman) for 3 years because I had been impressed by the MP’s at the Peace talks and I knew a lot of the MP’s in the 728th MP BN., “C” Company — South Post in Yongsan Garrison.

Mike Nicolay as an MP. Photo soure: Mike Nicolay

My best friend from Class 1960 Paul Colvin was the First SAHS Vietnam War Casualty in 1967,

I returned to Korea twice in 1988 on a job – a private sector job with Samsung and I saw the Namsan Tower that my dad built. Originally there wasn’t even a real road going up there… in 1988 I had lunch in the revolving tower and saw the old Transmitter building… Tones have changed…..

Back in the Day the “Slicky-boy” Gangs used to hang out on the sides of Namsan… the MP’s in Yongsan garrison used to warn me about the gangs on Namsan – I lived in Itaewon . My House was where the Grand Hyatt Hotel is now. There were several Large Gangs in Seoul that we used to know about. They actually stole a POOL Table from a Classified Compound inside the 8th Army South Post, once. I think it was an NSA compound, anyway, they not only got through the 8th Army Security measures but the special, additional, security measures of this classified compound — and stole a POOL TABLE from their recreation-room. Slicky Boy’s also dismantled and stole a TRAIN Engine in one night from a rail-yard across the Han River – I think it was in Yong Dong Po (spelling?). They were good thieves, they really were.  Luckily, I noticed things changed and improved when I went back in 1988