Our Last French Spring
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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Without our realizing it or really thinking about it, France, especially Toul Rosieres AB, had become our real home by the early months of 1957. We had been together there with our little girls longer than we had ever lived anywhere else in our married lives. We couldn't even imagine living anywhere other than in our silver trailer in our wooded neighborhood just up the street from the Communications Center where I worked. Nearby, we had good friends with small children who were central to our small American community in this out of the way corner of France. Nevertheless, the thoughts began creeping into our consciousness that within a year our time in France would be up, and we would have to leave this place that had become so familiar, snug and cozy over the past two years.
Confident and self assured, we ventured off base frequently without any thoughts that we were going into a foreign environment. We knew enough French that we could shop in French stores, order meals in restaurants, and ask directions from people we met in Nancy or any other town. We knew many of the towns and small cities in Alsace Lorraine, and often drove to one of them on a Saturday or Sunday. The natives of that part of France were often reserved with us Americans. We knew that, and it didn't bother us at all. Knowing that our time was running out, we determined to see more of France that spring and summer. A French country inn with the Bowers one cold Saturday in February. One weekend we drove down into the forested hills of the Vosges region southeast of Nancy but not quite as far as Strasburg where we had registered Valerie's birth at the American consulate. On Easter after Mass, we went to the historic, small city of Verdun again. During the week before Lent, we went into Nancy to participate in the Carnival festivities and to watch the parade. Another weekend, we revisited Place Stanislas and Pepiniere Park. We even picnicked, sunbathed and sipped a couple of beers by the Moselle River in Liverdun one Sunday afternoon. Of course, we also went back to the pool in Vittel that summer.
Our big trip that spring was the long delayed visit to Paris. How could anyone go to France and not see Paris? We only had a three day pass, and we went with Lyman and Susie Peters. They also had two kids about the same age as our girls. We just drove to Paris, and found our way to the Champs Elysees. We had no hotel reservations, so we just stopped at a classy mid-city hotel, and we got rooms. Dinner in the hotel dining room that evening was superb. It was April, but our weekend turned out to be a very chilly one, so, when we spent Saturday walking all around Central Paris, our kids were bundled up in their snowsuits. We didn't let that stymie us. We saw Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and everything in between. That evening, we found hotel maids to watch our kids, and we went to see the scandalous nude show at the Lido. What an eye opener for young Americans raised in sexually up-tight 1950s America. We considered that short trip to Paris to be a major high point of our sojourn in France.
Thinking of all we did that year, I often wonder how we were able to afford it on the pay of a Staff Sergeant. We liked to eat in French restaurants, but seldom did because the good ones were expensive even in those days. Helen had been buying her clothes in French shops since our first year in France, but she couldn't buy many dresses. She did find a French dressmaker who came to our trailer to measure her, and she had a couple of stylish suits made by that lady. Our Ford was going to be paid up in June, and we planned that we would then have enough money for a big trip in July. Helen was always a good financial manager, so, by careful budgeting, we always had enough to do most of the things we wanted to do.
Even though we were both Catholics, we had never been married in the Church. We had eloped in 1950 when we were just teenagers. The priest at Toul Rosieres discovered this when we went to talk to him about baptizing Valerie. Soon we were talked into being married in the Base Chapel in early April. It was a simple ceremony with a few friends as witnesses. A little later in April, we had Valerie baptized in the Chapel too. Paul and Marianne Campbell were her proxy God Parents. He worked with me and his wife was an attractive English girl who sometimes came to spend the day with Helen.
My duties had changed again during the winter. With an active fighter wing on base, we were handling a lot more classified documents and messages in the Cryptography Room, so I was moved in there as the NCOIC. It was a day job and I had a few airmen working under me encoding and decoding classified messages. I spent most of my time keeping up with all the classified documents that we had to issue and retrieve every week. During those months, the Cold War seemed ever present, and we felt that we were an important link in the NATO defenses that were a part of our containment policy toward the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. We didn't talk about our work when we were off duty; but we all felt we were performing our part of the mission; and, because of us, war was being averted. The 50th Fighter Bomber Wing was converting from F-86s to F-100s that spring, and the base was seething with activity. We even had an air show in May to show off the new airplanes, and several French Air Force planes participated. That day on the flight line was about as close as I ever got to the flying part of our mission.
Many changes were taking place that spring at Toul Rosieres: some slow and subtle, others quick and sudden. A new elementary school and a base gymnasium were being built in the field between our trailer park and the Communications Center, but it didn't interest us because our girls were too young. Our good friend, John Oliver, left for the States in February, and we were sad to see him go. Other friends, who had been there before us, began to leave also. Our girls were growing up. Valerie began walking by the end of January, and then Helen had two little girls scampering around the trailer. They were good girls and she was a good mother, housekeeper, cook, and wife. With warm weather, they wanted to play outdoors with neighbor kids - Bowers, Peters, Hutchinsons, and Louvieres. They went to a few birthday parties and Cynthia had hers. I thought I had the prettiest wife on the base, and I often took pictures of her and the kids. Even took a couple of myself. Along with all that, I continued taking University of Maryland classes a couple of evenings a week. Life was good at Toul Rosieres that spring of 1957.
End of Chapter 9