|Assignment to Toul Rosieres AB in 1955 - The Experiences of Richard and Helen Burton
A New Arrival and Big Changes
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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The grass seeds had sprouted, the brown lawns of the trailer park
were beginning to turn green, and the warmer days of spring had arrived by
early April 1956. We were preparing for the imminent arrival of a new baby
and the base was becoming much more active because word had arrived that the
50th Fighter Bomber Wing was moving in from Hahn Air Base in Germany. We had
become quite comfortable in our trailer home, but we had learned that Helen
would not be able to have the baby in our small, base hospital, so we were
preparing for her trip to Chateauroux Air Station Hospital. I had also learned
that many new communications personnel would soon be arriving, and that would
affect my job assignment within the Communications Center. Our first concern
was our expected child, and such things as new duties at work were put on hold.
Helen's pregnancy had been a normal one and no complications were expected. Nevertheless, the base hospital was only doing emergency deliveries, and all other pregnant wives were being sent to the hospital at Chateauroux that spring. They were sent about a week before the expected delivery date, so on 16 April, I took Helen down to the flight line early in the morning to board an old, twin engine C-47 that served as our air evacuation plane. As soon as she was airborne, I signed out on leave, and Cynthia and I headed for Chateauroux in our little Renault. It was about 300 miles on two lane, black top highways. Traveling with a two year old child in a small car without seat belts was probably dangerous, but we didn't think about things like that when we were young. Thankfully, she was good, since the weather was rainy and windy for the first 200 miles across the central plains of France. We passed through the beautiful, old city of Troyes that morning, and were in the historic city of Orleans by early afternoon. I remember passing through the central plaza with the large statue of Jeanne d'Arc on horseback, and I recalled that she had been burned at the stake in this city centuries earlier. Then the weather cleared, the sun came out, and we drove through the rich farm country down to Chateauroux.
We found La Martinerie, the compound that contained the large hospital, and soon located Helen in the guest house. We settled in for the wait. The room was not luxurious. We had metal cots like I had slept on when I lived in a barracks. There was a nearby mess hall where we could eat our meals, and a snack bar if we preferred that kind of food. Luckily we had our car, and, after Helen checked in with the hospital every day, we went out driving around the area just to pass time. The weather was sunny, warm, and perfect that week. We remember those drives - pretty chateaus surrounded by woods; old, walled towns with narrow, crooked streets; big fields being prepared for planting by modern tractors; as well as smaller fields where we saw horses, donkeys, and oxen being used. We often stopped at sidewalk cafes for drinks and took pictures of Cynthia in Chateauroux and near one of the old castles in the countryside. It turned into a ten day wait, but finally on 26 April, our healthy, nearly nine pound, redheaded Valerie was born. I stayed one more day to make sure Helen was fine; then, on 28 April, Cynthia and I made the long trip back to Toul Rosieres through well cared for woodlands, rolling farm country, across the Loire, and passing by many little farm villages.
It was four days later, on 1 May, that the reliable, old C-47 flew in with Helen and Valerie. I had the trailer clean and food ready, and Cynthia wanted to be mommy's little helper with the new baby sister. Helen had recovered very quickly, and was soon completely back to normal. She hadn't even lost her figure. It was time for me to go back to work.
Two squadrons of F-86s had already arrived from Hahn, and they were flying over our trailer in their landing pattern every day. New NCOs had arrived at the Communications Center and a new officer, Major Osborne, had come in to replace Captain Zitzler as Base Communications Officer. Soon the 7430th Air Base Squadron was history, and we were all part of the 50th Comm Squadron. I had been replaced by a TSgt Watters, and I ended up being the NCO in charge of telephone operations. One of my first duties was to put together a new base telephone directory that reflected all the changes and rapid expansion brought about by the arrival of the new wing. I was busy at work and liked being a part of an active base with a real mission.
At home, I was occupied planting flowers along the edges of our new lawn. The father of Rene', one of the French telephone operators, had given us Gladiola bulbs and a Dahlia root one day when we visited their home in Nancy. (He also gave us some good plum brandy.) They were growing just fine by late May, as were the Marigold seeds. Some people were beginning to add extra rooms on their trailers, but we didn't do that until later in the year. Our neighbor, SSgt Hutchinson from the hospital, was one of the first to do so because he needed room for his three kids. Our concern was that our little Renault wasn't big enough any more, and by early June I had found a guy with a 55 Ford Victoria who wanted to trade for a Renault, and very quickly I made the trade.
It was also a year of major changes for Toul Rosieres itself. Many new buildings and facilities had opened in the first months of 1956. The AFEX Base Exchange had moved into a new building and there was now a new Service Club/Snack Bar near the Officer's Club. Over in the old area where all the huts had been was the new NCO Club. The huts that remained were just used for storage There was a Dental Clinic near the hospital and an Education Center across from the Comm Center. Gravel streets had been blacktopped, and sidewalks had been built along the main streets. The muddy old days of the first years were coming to an end, but the streets were still pretty dirty on a rainy day.
Our friends and neighbors, the Bowers and the Peters, had also had new babies that year, and we spent many evenings visiting each other's trailers. Sometimes we would take our little girls to the base nursery for a couple of hours so that we could go out to the new NCO Club. Other times we played the card game that was so popular in those years, Canasta. A little, country restaurant near the base, El Rancho, was a favorite place to go for breaded veal cutlets, green salad, escargots, et vin rouge. Before our friend, John Oliver, left on a long TDY to Greece, we three went out for a nice evening at the NCO Club. We had some neighborly cookouts and a squadron picnic that summer too. On the whole, the summer of 1956 was a busy, yet enjoyable time in our lives.
End of Chapter 7