Assignment to Toul-Rosieres Air Base
in 1955

The Experiences of
Richard and Helen Burton

United We Stand
Chapter 3
The Old Trailer Park
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
Return to Story Menu
Return to Around the Area
Return to Main Site
Our little, 21 foot trailer had been towed to the trailer park in the northwest corner of the base that had been built the previous year, 1954, by the 843rd Engineer Aviation Battalion. There were several vacant trailer pads that day in mid-June, and I had been assigned one close to the base perimeter fence on our west side and about four rows down from the road that skirted the north side of the base and connected Rosieres en Haye to Tremblecourt. There were forests to our west and north, but the trailer court itself had been cleared of trees. The trailers on both sides of ours were identical to ours, and most of the trailers in the trailer park were those same privately owned, small caravans made in England. I assume that the vacancies were due to the recent departure of so many families to Evreux with the 465th Troop Carrier Wing.

Construction of Toul Rosieres Air Base had been going on for a little more than four years at that time, but it had progressed very slowly, and many of the base facilities had not yet been completed. Three Air Force wings had already come and gone because the base was not sufficiently completed for them to perform their missions. Lt/Col McAuliffe discusses these problems in great detail in his definitive book, "U. S. Air Force in France 1950-1967". Housing for officers and airmen had been a major problem, and this had caused shortages of trained personnel because many had elected to come for short, unaccompanied tours of duty. Building the trailer park in 1954 had helped alleviate that problem as over 100 families could now live in trailers on base. Before the Air Force began to provide government owned trailers, many airmen had come to France, bought these little caravans, and brought their families over. This first trailer park at Toul Rosieres was built for these small trailers - small pads, close together, and no place to park cars except in the street.

We were very happy with our little caravan in the on-base trailer park. We had experienced the inconvenience of living in a French trailer court by the Moselle River in Liverdun, and we appreciated the small things that made this location much better. The Army Engineers had built some wash houses in the center part of the trailer park. There were shower rooms for men and for women, so we could just walk a short distance to take a shower. There were washtubs and electrical connections for washing machines. One of the things we had bought in the States had been a Kenmore wringer type washing machine, and it had arrived with our household goods. Unused household goods were stored in some of the nearby tarpaper huts that had once been living quarters for the base's early occupants. We just took the Comm Center truck over to the storage hut and got our washing machine. We could now wash our clothes, and the people who had had our trailer pad before us had put up a clothesline. What more could we want?

There were things we didn't have, and believe it or not, didn't miss. There was no telephone service, so we had no phone. There was no televison, but we did have Armed Forces Radio, so we kept up with world news and listened to the latest music from the States - Elvis Presley, Teresa Brewer, Patti Page, Kay Starr, Peggy Lee, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc. We remember that the Base Exchange was in a couple of Quonset huts and the Commissary was in a big metal building. We sometimes drove over to the Post Exchange at Toul Army Depot because it was bigger and nicer than ours and had a better selection of everything. The Class VI (Liquor Store) was in a tarpaper hut. There was an Airman's Club, a very rowdy place, in a large metal building. We soon discovered that it wasn't the best place for a young married couple to go, so after our first couple of visits, we didn't go there anymore. Base facilities were still quite rudimentary, but the old timers told us it was much better than it had been a year earlier when everyone was living in those tarpaper huts and walking in muddy streets.

Airman's Club - Toul Rosieres - 1954-55

John Oliver by tarpaper hut - Toul Rosieres - 1954

Tarpaper hut- Toul Rosieres - 1954
(Photos by John Oliver)

We planted flowers around our trailer patio and grass was growing in our small lawn. We had also brought a folding deck chair and a nice baby carriage in our household goods, and soon both were put to use. On sunny days while I was at work, Helen could sit outside and watch Cynthia play with the neighbor kids. We soon got to know all our neighbors. Jim Gooch and his wife Bobby, who had taken me to Orly Field, lived nearby, and their little girl, Christina, played with Cynthia. Lyman Peters, from Base Supply, and his Japanese wife Susie soon became good friends, and their little boy, Pete, played with Cynthia too. We also had friends who lived on the economy who we would visit. Del Bowers and his wife, Wynne, borrowed our unused living room couch and chair for their cold, high ceilinged apartment in Pont a Mousson. Everyone was friendly, everyone was in the same boat, and we all got to know each other that summer of 1955. I could drive the few blocks to work in less than five minutes, and I came home for lunch every day. We may not have had much, but we were happy with what we had.

Cynthia in our trailer park yard

Peters family and Helen on our patio

Cynthia at table in our caravan

Cynthia in living room of our caravan

Susie Peters and Helen on our patio

Helen in deck chair by our caravan

Bowers family and Helen sitting on our couch in their Pont a Mousson apartment

The base was in one of its in-between stages. The 465th Troop Carrier Wing had been moved to Evreux in Western France and no new wing was programmed to occupy the base. Only the caretaker outfit, the 7430th Air Base Squadron that I was in, and a few small detachments were on the base. Construction of new facilities continued, but there was no sense of urgency. We went to work, and did our jobs, but we all were aware that the base had no mission. It was an easy going time for all of us until the following spring when we learned that the 50th Fighter Bomber Wing was moving in from Hahn AFB in Germany.

Late in the summer, Helen began having morning sickness. We knew what that meant, and soon the doctor at the Base Hospital confirmed that she was pregnant. As the news sunk in, we began to wonder how we would be able to accomodate Cynthia and a new baby in that tiny caravan. Some of our neighbors did have two small children in their trailer like ours, but it was difficult. At the same time, we had seen an influx of the new, large, government trailers into our trailer park. They were big for the lots, but they did fit.

We began to wonder if we could get one those 40 foot trailers. They had twice as much space as our little 21 foot caravan. At first we were told we couldn't qualify, but I persisited. Our trailer park was full of both small and big trailers by that fall, and then we were made aware of the new trailer park that was being built on the southwest side of the base in the woods. It was going to be much bigger than our trailer park, and it would be all government owned trailers. As it neared completion in October 1955, we applied for a trailer there, and our application was approved. There were so few people on the base at that time, and over 130 new trailers were being made available, that anyone SSgt or higher who wanted one, got one. A year later, in the fall of 1956 after the 50th arrived, there was a long waiting list for those trailers. We had been lucky again, and we prepared to move in November. I sold our little caravan to an A2C who wanted to bring his wife to France, and we moved to the new trailer park into our brand new, Belgian made trailer.
End of Chapter 3