|Assignment to Toul Rosieres AB in 1955 - The Experiences of Richard and Helen Burton
Ch 1 Getting to France
Ch 2 Liverdun
Ch 3 The Old Trailer Park
Ch 4 Getting to Know France
Ch 5 The New Trailer Park
Ch 6 A New Arrival and Big Changes
Ch 7 Summertime Excursions
Ch 8 A Pleasant Autumn in France
Ch 9 Our Last French Spring
Ch 10 Our Grand Tour
Ch 11 Au Revoir
Ch 12 Going Back to Toul-Rosieres
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Return to Around the Area
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When we drove away from Toul Rosieres that February morning in 1958, we certainly
had no idea that we would ever return; yet over the years our nostalgia for
those memorable years in France was to draw us back on three separate occasions.
They were only brief visits, and of course we found the old base much changed
each time that we returned. The first time we visited, a different USAF Wing
had replaced the 50th Fighter Bomber Wing. Our second visit was just a year
before the French closed the base, and our third visit last year found the
base closed and abandoned. Now, it will soon disappear forever as most of what
still remains is to be demolished, and our old base will soon become a large,
solar power generating station.
After leaving TRAB, we had spent a three and a half year tour at Torrejon AB outside of Madrid, Spain, then had returned to Biggs AFB, El Paso, Texas for a couple of years, and had ended up back in Spain for another three and a half year tour at Moron AB, outside of Sevilla, Spain. While we were living in Sevilla, a beautiful Andalucian city, I had worked at Moron and at San Pablo AB just out side the city. In the spring of 1965, I finished the course work required for a degree from the University of Maryland, and the graduation ceremony was to be held in Heidelberg, Germany in June. My mother flew over from her home in Florida, and we all managed to fit in our Citroen for the drive from the south of Spain to Germany. It was on that drive that we made our first return visit to Toul Rosieres. We had to drive right through that northeast corner of France, and I thought my mother would like to see where we had lived for three years. The area hadn't changed much in the intervening seven years, so we had little trouble driving to the base. We drove on the base, noticed some changes, and found our way to the the still existent trailer park where we drove by our old trailer. We had to be in Heidelberg the next day, so we didn't stay long. Little did we know that the base would cease to be an American base the following year, and that it would be reactivated as a French Air Force base as soon as the USAF left. We went on to my graduation in Heidelberg, then returned to Spain, and almost forgot about TRAB for a few decades.
For many years we found it impossible to return to Europe. Our kids were in school, then we had a son when the girls were in their late teens. Finally, in the 1990s, we began making trips to Europe. By 2003, we had visited many cities and countries in Europe, but we hadn't been back to TRAB. When we planned our trip that summer, we decided we wanted to go back to Toul Rosieres to see how it had changed. We knew it was a French Air Force base, so we didn't expect to be allowed to go on the base, but we did want to see the surrounding area. After we rented a car in Paris, we spent a few days seeing the chateaux on the Loire, then drove to Nancy where we had a hotel reserved for two nights. We quickly discovered that Nancy had really grown, and it took us nearly an hour of blundering around in the heavy traffic before we finally found our hotel and got parked. That afternoon we walked downtown and found that Place Stanislas was still a beautiful, well preserved city plaza. Remembering our first visit to the city in 1955, we wandered over to the nearby Pepiniere Park, and found that it too had changed little over the years. We stopped at the same sidewalk cafe on the Place Stanislas where we had stopped many years before. Most of the city was bustling, new and modern, but we found the little bit of old Nancy that had changed very little.
The following day, we drove out of the city to visit the area around the base. The roads had all changed, so it took a while to get oriented and to find our way to Liverdun on the Moselle. Actually, we found that small town little changed and we drove down to the river below the bridge that we had lived next to when we first came to France. The building that had been the riverside tavern in the old days was still there, but trees had grown up in what had once been a cow pasture, and we could no longer see the canal bridge. Apparently the building is now someone's home and it has a nice green lawn leading down to the river. From Liverdun, we drove to Rosieres en Haye, the village where every house used to have a manure pile out front. We found that it is now a very nice suburban town with modern homes replacing what we remembered. From there, we drove by the base and found its very aspect to be forbidding - a thick forest of trees along the road, high security fences, and a heavily manned main gate with signs warning all comers to stay away. We couldn't see any buildings from the road, so we just drove on by and made no attempt to enter. Again, little did we suspect that the French would be closing the base the following year.
Our trip last year, 2010, was somewhat different. I had written the first eleven chapters of this series, and I had become acquainted with Gerard Bize, the retired French officer who has created the TRAB 136 website that documents the entire history of Toul Rosieres from 1951 through 2004. Gerard had invited us to visit him at his home in Nancy while we were in France. Again, we rented a car in Paris, and first we drove down to a reunion at Chateauroux - our daughter, Valerie, was born in the base hospital at Chateauroux and she was with us on the trip last summer. We arrived just in time for the dinner dance at a French dance hall in Belle Isle park. We had a wonderful evening there dining, dancing and talking with both French and Americans who had been part of Chateauroux Air Station fifty years ago.
We spent a couple of days at Amboise on the Loire, then drove on to Nancy. Valerie was driving as we entered the city. The traffic was heavy and fast on that perimeter highway. We almost missed the exit for our hotel. Our first discovery - Nancy has really grown into a large, modern city. We were on the west side and Gerard's home is on the east side. We really appreciated it when we called him and he offered to come and get us. Within a few minutes that genial, smiling French gentleman was there to pick us up. In spite of our poor French and his somewhat better English, we managed to communicate quite well. He drove us to his attractive, modern, suburban home and from a hilltop showed us how huge Nancy has become. We spent several hours there that evening, and went through a few bottles of wine. His wife, Michelle, served us an excellent dinner of several courses and we spent the evening talking over our memories of TRAB. It was certainly one of the highlights of our trip last year.
The next day, before we headed back to Paris, we drove up to visit Liverdun again. We parked down by the river for a while, then stopped in a small bar for a cup of coffee. A couple of Frenchmen in there began a conversation with us. They were too young to remember when Toul Rosieres had been an American Air Force base, so they learned something from us. We drove up the hill and found Toulaire, the USAF housing complex that had been built in the late 50s. It is still called Toulaire, and the houses have been remodeled into attractive, landscaped, middle class French homes. From there, we drove on to revisit Rosieres en Haye and drove on to stop at the front gate of the abandoned base. It was locked tight, but as we drove around the perimeter, we could see that many of the building were still there. That was our last look at Toul Rosieres.
End of Chapter 12