CHAPTER 4 PARLEZ-VOUS FRANCAIS?
This section of my life
started as we rather than me. Mary and I had been married in May
1959 and had evaluated our options and found that because of the
benefits package, (particularly
that the Air Force was a good choice for us.
Since I had recently been exposed to Army Infantry basic training, the Air Force decided that I could proceed directly to Technical school bypassing Air Force basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. Mary and I had been married during a 30 day advance leave (to which I was entitled due to my previous service) and my new brother-in-law accompanied me as we drove to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Luckily, I was able to find a small off-base apartment and Mary (who had been left in Rochester) replaced my brother-in-law who had returned home immediately after our arrival. Mary took a long train adventure from Rochester to Ft Worth Texas where I rescued her and we returned to our palatial Wichita Falls digs. It was the summer of 1959 and I was going to an Air Force technical school from 6 AM to noon. We spent most afternoons par boiling in the apartment complex swimming pool as I continued to learn both about the Air Force and marriage. at the same time. Training ended with a shock as I was given orders to report to my first Air Force duty station in of all places France. Desperately trying to remember the French I had learned in high school we went back to Rochester for thirty days leave before I reported to what looked like it would be a two year unaccompanied tour of duty. Once again, Mary was left behind because the Air Force did not provide either transportation nor housing for the spouses of young airmen. I left, promising Mary that she would join me in six-weeks. Having found a small apartment (virtually a converted garage) and with some monetary help from Mary's dad we were reunited on Dec 13, 1959 exactly 6 weeks after I had left Rochester.
The reunion was not without trials however. Mary's flight out-of New York had been canceled and no one at Air France had told me she would be on a flight which would arrive some three hours later. As I arrived back at the base (some 60 miles from Paris) I was informed that she had arrived and was waiting at Orly Airport in Paris. By the time I found someone willing to drive me back to Paris, Mary had been waiting almost 6 hours. This was not a very good start to our European tour. Mary had arrived but the balance of her luggage was unaccounted for. We arrived home close to midnight and tried to settle in for our three year stay. I am always amazed at how Mary kept from going crazy in a small two room box while I went to work each day. Luckily the base ran shuttle buses back and forth to town so we were able to visit the base movie theater and the Airmen's club as part of our exciting social life. I am forever grateful that we were assigned to France because with the money we had coming in, we would never have survived attempting to set up household in the U.S.
After a short time we began to accumulate a succession of used automobiles (some which were kept together with tape and wire. The wheels allowed us to move to a small village closer to the base, where when the car of the month would not run we could walk to the base. Many times we did just that carrying home groceries, large cans of potable water or kerosene for heating.
Actually the tour was probably good for our marriage. We were 5,000 miles away from home so there was no place to run in case of a disagreement or fight.
Some of the highlights of what was to become a four year tour (I extended to stay an additional year) were two trips to the Normandy beachhead to participate in Memorial Day ceremonies and visit German gun emplacements and many visits to Paris to see things we would not have seen otherwise. We also met the British brother-in-law of a fellow airmen who during a conversation about this wonderful new rock group in Great Britain revealed that some day the world would hear of them. We all laughed when he told us the group was the Beatles. This was 1962 and his prophecy was borne out when a short time later, Ed Sullivan introduced them to the U.S. and ultimately the world. When the career field in which I had been working was to be eliminated, I applied for cross-training into Weather Equipment Repair, a growing electronics based field. Thus ended our French adventure and moved us to a new phase of life. .