Assignment to Toul Rosieres Air Base in 1955 - The Experiences of Richard and Helen Burton
Summertime Excursions

With the warmer weather of summer by early July of 1956, came a yearning to travel and explore more of France and Europe. I had become part of the 50th Fighter Bomber Wing and had settled into my new job in telephone operations. The telephone directory I had put together had been published, and the switchboard was running smoothly with several experienced, bi-lingual French operators and a few Airmen who spoke some French. I asked Captain Zitzler, who had become the Assistant Base Communications Officer, if I could be spared for a week, and he agreed to let me take a short, summer leave.

We liked our new Ford Victoria, and were anxious to take it on a trip longer than the short drives we had been taking in the area. We knew Nancy quite well by then as well as Verdun, Toul and Pont a Mousson. We had even driven to Kaiserslautern and Frankfurt a couple of times to shop. I knew and liked Frankfurt from having been stationed at Rhein Main Air Base in 1951 and 52, but it was rapidly changing as Germany recovered from the devastation of World War II. We had enjoyed our trip to Garmisch in 1955, but we wanted to see new places that summer. Even so, probably because we would be traveling with a small baby, we decided to make our goal the American military resort in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

In our opinion, after years of observation, there were at least four different attitudes prevalent among American servicemen and families stationed in Europe in the 1950s, and probably in later years too. Many servicemen did not bring their families overseas at all, and quite often they explained that their wives did not want to live in a foreign country. Then there were those who did bring their families, but they did not venture off the bases. They wanted an American community overseas, and were not interested in the culture, language, history, or anything about the country they were in. There were also many like us who wanted to enjoy whatever country they were in by traveling and visiting as much of the country as they could in the limited time they were there. Finally, there were some who went completely native in France, Spain, Germany or England; and many of them continued to identify with that European country for the remainder of their lives.

Some of our friends who felt more comfortable remaining on base did not understand how we would dare take off for the German Alps with a two year old girl and a two month old baby, but we were young and adventurous, so we foresaw no problems. We gassed up the Ford and were off for Germany. We headed northeast on a familiar route through Pont a Mousson, St. Avold and Forbach to Saarbrucken, where we crossed the Saar River into Germany. Then we continued east through Kaiserslautern and Mannheim to the old, university city of Heidelberg. I remembered the city from a brief visit in 1952, and we wanted to see more of it, so we found a gasthaus when we drove in. We then went walking around the old castle on the hill overlooking the city with the Neckar River running through it. Later, we walked with our baby carriage through the city streets to an old beer hall near the university. We had delicious wiener schnitzels with steins of beer, then walked back to our lodging for the night.

After a European breakfast the next morning, we headed southeast on the Autobahn through Stuttgart to Munich. We parked near the center of the city, and went walking with our two little girls in the baby carriage. We stopped in front of the Altes Rathaus (Old City Hall) to watch the Glockenspiel (Medieval figures that move at certain times of the day while music plays) at noon, then we walked to the nearby Hofbrauhaus for lunch in the outdoor beer garden. Again, we had wiener schnitzels with steins of beer. We were playing it safe because our German wasn't very good. After lunch, we left beautiful, old Munich and headed southeast to Berchtesgaden.


Helen and Cynthia at Heidelberg castle

Helen and Cynthia in Heidelberg

Altes Rathaus in Munich

Dick and Cindy at Hofbrauhaus

Dick and Cindy at Hofbrauhaus

Helen and Cindy at Hofbrauhaus

Arriving in the old, German, Alpine, resort town of Berchtesgaden in the late afternoon, we rented a room in the American run General Walker Hotel. It was an old luxury hotel on the edge of town that had been a favorite hangout of top NAZI officials a dozen years earlier. We settled into a comfortable, old fashioned room with big, fluffy feather beds, and for the next five days enjoyed the gourmet dining room and the dance band in the evening while a maid baby sat our girls. We walked the streets of the town, did a little shopping, and ate lunch in some German restaurants. Near a different American run hotel, there was a nice outdoor pool with the mountains in the background where we spent a couple of afternoons.


Helen and Cindy at pool

Helen and Cindy at pool

Helen and Cindy at pool

Farm near Berchtesgaden

Restaurant in Berchtesgaden

Watzman near Berchtesgaden

Helen in hotel room

Dick and Cindy near Berchtesgaden

Dick and Helen in Berchtesgaden

Helen and Valerie at Gen. Walker Hotel

Helen and girls at Gen. Walker Hotel

Helen and Cindy in Berchtesgaden

Helen and girls at Gen. Walker Hotel
 

One day, we drove a few miles east to Salzberg, Austria, and, with our baby carriage, walked the streets of that old city famous for its music festivals. Of course we had lunch there in an Austrian restaurant before heading back to our hotel in Berchtesgaden. Another evening, we took a tour to King Ludwig's Chiemsee Palace which is like a miniature Versailles Palace. In spite of being somewhat limited by our little girls, we completely enjoyed our week in Germany and were sorry to see it end. Using the Autobahn, we drove home in one day, and I went back to work


Cindy and Dick in Salzburg

Helen in Salzburg

Helen and girls in Salzburg

Mozart statue in Salzburg

Salzburg castle

Salzburg street

Dick near Salzburg

Chiemsee Palace

I had been hearing about a French health spa not far from Toul Rosieres where we could use the swimming pool. We decided to check it out the next weekend after we got back from Germany. The first time we went to Vittel was on a Sunday afternoon, and we discovered the beautiful resort with its mineral water springs in the forested area south of Nancy. Well-to-do French people were walking in the park near the buildings that contained the Vittel water springs. There was an imposing, old hotel surrounded by formal flower gardens. Then we discovered the large pool surrounded by trees and full of people. It cost very little to use it, so we decided we would be back soon.


Helen and Cindy in Vittel

Helen and Cindy in Vittel

Picnic near Vittel

Helen and Ann in Vittel

Dick and Cindy in Vittel

Helen and friends in Vittel

Dick and Helen in pool

Dick and Helen in pool

Dick and Helen in pool

Helen by pool

Helen and Bud at pool

Bud, Dick and Helen

Helen, Dick and friends

Vittel pool

Every nice weekend after that for the rest of the brief French summer we went to Vittel to swim. We went with different couples, and sometimes we picnicked along the road before we got there. We had always liked to swim, and that was one of the nicest pools we had ever seen. It was deep, long and wide. It had very modern diving platforms and boards at one end. There was a large grassy and sandy area where we could sit near the pool, and outdoor tables where snacks and cold drinks could be had. One of our group usually watched the kids while the rest of us were in the pool. All of us enjoyed that pool during the summer of 1956.

We also discovered the little village of Domremy near Vittel that summer. One weekend we drove there and stopped by the side of the road to cook hotdogs on our little, charcoal stove. Then we drove on to Domremy where we saw the statue of Jeanne d'Arc [Joan of Ark] across the street from the house she was born in. We walked up the street and visited the large church that was built there because it is her birthplace. It was a pretty little village, and practically no one was there that day.

As summer ended, we felt that we had seen and experienced many new places, and we were looking forward to doing even more the following year.


Dick and Cindy near Domremy

Helen near Domremy

Cindy in Domremy

Helen in Domremy

Helen and girls in Domremy

Church in Domremy

End of Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight - A Pleasant Autumn in France

Chapter Six - A New Arrival and Big Changes


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