Assignment to Toul Rosieres Air Base in 1955 - The Experiences of Richard and Helen Burton
A Pleasant Autumn in France

We had settled into a comfortable routine by the fall of 1956. Our little girls were healthy, growing, and surprising us with new accomplishments almost every day. Except for the fact that we were living in a trailer park on an Air Force base in France, we were probably much like any other young American couple with two small children in the mid 1950s. Our lives increasingly revolved around Cynthia and Valerie as my job at the Communications Center evolved from one set of duties in the Telephone Office to new duties concerned with Air Force security. We continued visiting and being visited by our friends who lived nearby in other trailers, and our second autumn in France gradually and pleasantly turned to winter.

I discovered that my friend, Lyman Peters, had the same frustrated aspirations that I had been harboring for several years. We both felt that we should be taking college classes, and we had both been putting off getting started because other things seemed more pressing. In late summer or early fall, we went over to the Education Center building across the street from where we worked, and we took the battery of College Level GED tests. I was surprised a few days later to learn that I had passed them all with high grades, and the University of Maryland was willing to give me twenty four hours of college credit based on the tests. We immediately signed up for our first college class, Economics I, and our college careers had begun. The semesters were short - eight weeks - and intense. We did well, and by that winter had gone on to take some English classes. Eleven years later, in 1965, while we were stationed in Sevilla, Spain, I graduated with a major in history from the University of Maryland.

A few of our fellow trailer park residents had built extra rooms on their trailers that summer, and by September, we were all being encouraged to do so. The Base Installations Office provided everything that we needed in the way of materials; we just had to provide the labor. Many of us became amateur carpenters, roofers, and painters that fall. We merely had to tell them that we were willing to build a room, and they sent over a truck laden with wall frames already assembled and all the rest of the lumber that we would need. Hammers, saws, and other tools were provided. If we needed advice, they told us what to do. We decided to build one, and started work on weekends and evenings building our extra room that could be accessed through the door that led into the back bedroom. By early October we had it built except for the door and windows, which we were told would be delivered soon, and the electrical wiring which an electrician from the Base would have to do. Those of us who chose to add a room were proud of our accomplishment, and we never questioned that we had been asked to do it in our off-duty time.


Communications Center
(Photo by John Oliver)

Education Center
(Photo by John Oliver)

Cynthia by trailer

Cynthia on lumber pile

Lyman Peters and Dick

Helen

Dick

Cynthia on sofa

We made less trips off base that fall because our weekends were committed to other things. We did go a couple of times to watch the new Toul Tigers football team play other French bases in the soccer stadium in Pepiniere Park in Nancy. The 50th Fighter Bomber Wing had brought a very good team, and they took the championship in France that year - won all their games and lost to Wiesbaden in the USAFE championship game. We also went to Frankfurt one weekend in late October with the Peters. We all stayed in a gasthaus, got a maid to baby sit, and went to a risqué nightclub, the Trocadero, for an evening. We shopped in the big Kaiserslautern PX on the way to Frankfurt. It wasn't a long drive, and many people from Toul Rosieres went to Germany on weekends.

As the cool nights of fall gradually became colder, the leaves began to turn. Soon the trees of our trailer park and around the base were all red, orange and gold. It reminded us of our home towns in Upstate New York. Most of the days were still warm, and Cynthia was invited to a few birthday parties, one of which was outside. By November and December, the nights were much colder, and we sometimes woke to find snow on the ground or trees covered in frost.


Valerie in playpen

Valerie in playpen

Cynthia at birthday party

Cynthia at birthday party

Cynthia in yard

Helen in doorway

Valerie in high chair

Our family in trailer

There were two alarming events that fall which brought home to us that we were there as the front line in the Cold War, and being in France wasn't just a nice vacation being provided by Uncle Sam. On 23 October, the Hungarians rose up against their Russian occupiers. It appeared for several weeks that we might intervene, and we were put on high alert. Some of our personnel were even sent to dispersed operating bases. In the midst of that crisis, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, and it appeared we might be drawn into the resulting conflict along with England, France and Israel. By mid November, it became obvious that we were not going to intervene in either crisis, and our scare was over. Security became more important at the Comm Center, and I became the Security NCO giving classes on Air Force security of classified documents and materials.

As the year came to an end, everyone tried to relax and get in the holiday mood. That meant parties and drinking. There was even a party in the Communications Center, and the drinks were alcoholic. Most of us had decided that the best beers were the German beers in cans that we could buy in the Class VI Store, but at the parties many wanted to drink mixed drinks made with whiskey, vodka, or gin. We were young, foolish, and sometimes drank too much. We hadn't learned to savor a good glass of wine with dinner, but we eventually did.

We had a Christmas Eve party at our trailer again that year. Most of our married friends and several single guys from the Comm Center came. No one drank too much and Helen made some nice snacks. The next morning, Cynthia enjoyed the gifts from Santa Claus, and our friend, John Oliver, came over for dinner. A few evenings later, we went to a very nice New Year's Eve party at SSgt Hutchinson's trailer next door to ours. We had finished our second year at Toul Rosieres on a happy note, and were looking forward to our final year there.


Comm Center Xmas party
(Photo by John Oliver)

Comm Center Xmas party
(Photo by John Oliver)

French operators and Dick
(Photo by John Oliver)

Comm Center Xmas party
(Photo by John Oliver)

Trailer park in the fall

Base chapel in the fall

Trailer park in winter

Christmas stories

Christmas morning

Christmas party

New Year's party

New Year's party

New Year's party
 

End of Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine - Our Last French Spring

Chapter Seven - Summertime Excursions


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