You may remember in the last episode, Big Al had graduated from college with his bachelor’s degree, and had been accepted to Officer’s Training School for the Air Force.
In September, 1966, Al drove with #1 son and me to his home southwest of Pittsburg. The boy and I waved goodbye to him as he drove off to San Antonio for Officers Training School. My son and I returned to Westfield to wait for his graduation in November of that year. We flew down to San Antonio to watch him graduate, and then we loaded the 2nd hand VW that was a wedding present from his parents, and drove across Texas, a corner of New Mexico, and half the state of Colorado to his first assignment at Lowry AFB in Denver, where he attended technical school for Intelligence. All of our possessions fit in that 1954 VW bug. We rented the bottom half of a furnished duplex, not far from the base – our first home together.
Al graduated from tech school in 1967 and we got orders to Ramstein AB, in Germany. so we drove across the country to McGuire AFB, New Jersey, where we got military transport to fly overseas. We lived in a 2-bedroom apartment in base housing at Ramstein – a three-story, three stairwell concrete block building on base. It was interesting, and I began to settle in to life as a military spouse. The big event while we were there was the Moon Landing in 1969. We woke our son up so he could watch.
In November, Al got orders to Vietnam, so we packed all our belongings, sent them off to storage in the States, and flew back to New Jersey in time for Christmas. Al left in January, and once again I found myself living in my childhood home until Al finished his tour. During that year, it became obvious that my grandparents could no longer keep up the house in Texarkana, and my father was exhausted with commuting in the traffic in New Jersey, so my folks decided to retire, buy my grandparents’ house in Texarkana, and move my grandparents into an apartment in town. My brother was the only one of the siblings still living at home, so that summer we got in two cars, with two dogs, and drove to Texarkana. Al and I met in Hawaii for his R&R, and had a wonderful time. Once more, I give thanks for long-suffering parents who happily kept a 4-year-old while we played. When I got back from Hawaii, I took my son and moved down to Nacogdoches to return to my unfinished degree. We lived in a little rent house, with a bare minimum of furniture, while I diid my student teaching as a prerequisite for my degree. He went to a nice lady who did babysitting during the days. We lived down there, Monday through Friday, and returned to Texarkana every weekend.
Al came home from Southeast Asia with an assignment to England AFB, in Alexandria, Louisiana. By the time he got home, I had spent a day there scouting rental properties, and looking at the town and the base. When he got home we drove down and rented a nice little 3-bedroom house in the woods in Pineville, a sister city to Alexandria, across the Red River. We enjoyed living there, but a year and a half later, son @2 made an appearance, and it soon became obvious that we needed more room. We bought a house with three bedrooms, and large living room and a family room that functioned as a TV room, 2nd living room, and breakfast room. We were comfortable there until Al picked up threats of an assignment to Missile Command. He refused that assignment, lost his job in intelligence, and switched over to Disaster Preparedness (the Air Force version of Civil Defense.) We read the handwriting on the wall and sold our house, expecting an assignment to somewhere else. When the assignment didn’t materialize, we moved into base housing for a year or so.
I realized, if I ever expected to complete my college degree, I would have to go back to Nacogdoches for one more semester. Al and I agreed I would take the older boy with me, and he would keep the younger one who would be cared for at the base nursery. I pled my case with my faculty advisor and worked out a new degree plan that had me completing a second teaching major to add to my music major. I worked out a schedule to take 24-hours of History in one semester, so I could graduate. I rented a one-bedroom apartment off campus, enrolled #! son in school, and started reading and studying. Everything was going well, since I had no responsibilities except studying, until the Air Force sent Al to Hawaii and I added son #2 to our household. I found a lady who would babysit all day at her house, and the three of us lived in the apartment until Al came home and I graduated, and returned to England AFB.
Early in 1975, Al got an assignment to Nellis AFB, in Las Vegas, NV. We needed to roll the money we had gotten from the house in Pineville over to another property (to avoid major income tax problems), so we purchased a split-level house on a golf course in Las Vegas, not too far from the base, and not too close to the strip.
We were happy there for a year or so until the Air Force once again dug into its bag of tricks and came up with an assignment to RAF Upper Heyford, in Oxfordshire, England, where we lived in base housing. We stayed in that house about a year, when it became obvious to Al and me that neither of us, nor our sons were happy living on base. It’s not fun when one of your kids is being bullied by one of the Lieutenant Colonel’s kids. That’s the very definition of a lose/lose situation.
Luckily one of Al’s friends was just getting ready to rotate back to the states. He and his wife lived in one-third of a manor house in Finstock, a little village in the Cotswolds. We got in touch with the estate agent for Lord Rotherwick, the owner, and were able to move there. Our wing was built in the 18th century from the local honey-colored sandstone. It was two storied, and we had a large living room, a large dining room, and kitchen big enough to eat in, two bathrooms, three bedrooms and a “box” room. It suited us wonderfully, and we spent 5 years there, longer than we lived in any other house. We had good friends in the village, walked down to the pub in the evenings, and loved our life.
In 1982, Al’s 20 years in the Air Force was up and he retired. We put the boys on a plane, and sent them to my parents. Al and I spent 2 months traveling around Europe on a Eurail Pass, before boarding the Queen Elizabeth II to come back to live in Texarakana.
I’m now up to 22 houses and I was only 38 years old.