Pattys Most Excellent Adventure! Part I (by Patty)

Patty’s Most Excellent Adventure!

My adventure really begins when I met Jack Ware on a blind date in Aug. 1962. I had graduated from Springfield High in June and Jack was home from the Navy after graduating from Springfield High in 1959.  We were engaged before the Columbus Day storm which we spent together at his sister’s house.  I was working at Sears in Eugene and they closed the store early after boarding up the windows; Jack picked me up from work and his sister lived close by so we went there since the roads were pretty well closed down.  We were married on Dec. 29, 1962 and I can’t imagine that I could have had a better life.  One of the reasons we got married in Dec. was so that Jack could claim me as a tax deduction.  He was so romantic as he said, “we’re going to get married anyway so we might as well do it now so we can take advantage of the tax laws.”  Little did he know that the tax law would catch up with him years later when I went to work for the IRS.

Wedding 29 December 1962

We were just going to elope but my mom talked us into having a small wedding at her house with both families present.

In the spring of 1963 we were both out of work so he enlisted in the Air Force and in April we packed up everything we owned into a 1957 Dodge and headed across country to our first duty station at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS.  We drove straight through and arrived in Biloxi in the middle of the night so we slept in the car along the highway overlooking the beach.  When I awoke in the morning it was almost breathtaking.  My first adventure away from home and the Gulf of Mexico was beautiful with that first sunrise.  We found an apartment off base along the beach in an old plantation house called “Harvey House.”  We traded in the Dodge for a 1961 Austin Healy Sprite that we called “Jeffers” and toured the south coast, from Mobile to New Orleans, every weekend that we could get away.  We discovered beignets and chicory coffee at Café Du Monde and the amusement park at the beach on Lake Pontchatrain.

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That was also the year that JFK was killed; I was working at Sears in Gulfport and we all ended up down in the TV section of the store crying as we watched the news story unfold.  One of those memories you never forget.  And then it was our first Christmas away from home.  Sears was having a sale on fruitcakes so I bought some to mail home and left them overnight on the table.  The next morning when we got up there were ants everywhere; OMG, we couldn’t afford to replace the fruitcakes so we cleaned them up and sent them on their way.  Nobody eats fruitcake anyway, right?

In January, Jack completed his training and we were headed across country again with most of our stuff including an ironing board (don’t ask why) in “Jeffers.”  Our new destination was Madera AFS near Madera, CA.  I went to work at Sears again, in Fresno, and during that time met some friends that had a big influence on our lives, Fred and Emily Adair.  Emy and I worked together in the lingerie department and became friends immediately.  We traded in the Sprite for a Nash Rambler station wagon, dumb huh.  What can I say.  We explored CA with Emy & Fred and I stayed with them on their farm when Jack was sent to his next duty station, Albrook AFB, Panama, a week before I turned 21.

Now, the adventure gets good, my first airplane ride.  After Jack flew off into the blue, I had to pack up everything, drive the car to Oakland for shipping and then live with Emy and Fred in Fowler, CA until Jack could find housing and get everything arranged for me to join him.  Finally, in June I took off from LAX on PanAm Airlines.  What a thrill; 21 and flying overseas with my own passport.  I was always carried away watching the Dinah Shore show when she sang “Far Away Places” and now I was on my way.  Our first landing was in Guatemala and their runway is on a plateau; I thought we were going right over the edge, but I remained calm, being such a seasoned traveler.  Finally, we arrived in Panama City and Jack was there to greet me but they wouldn’t let me through customs.  He was jumping up and down trying to make a deal with them to let me through for at least ten minutes, I don’t want to think about what he had in mind, and then I found the right paper that they were looking for, my copy of his orders.  Jack had found us an apartment in Panama City behind the Sears store.  It was furnished with a single bed, two borrowed lawn chairs, an ironing board that doubled as a table, a hot plate, and a double track Sony tape player.  After about 2 days in the apartment catching up, we started exploring Panama.  About 3 days later Jack was sent on the Andes run to repair radio equipment at our embassies in South America.  I was left in the apartment with a stalk of bananas and no one to talk to and no way to get to the base (I didn’t have a local driver’s license yet).  We had neighbors but I was too shy to introduce myself.  So I ate bananas, listened to Doris Day and cried; so much for being the big adventurer.

Sears wouldn’t hire me because I couldn’t speak Spanish so I went to work for the Panama Canal Company, then the BX, then the Army Commissary.  In the meantime, Jack continued his bi-monthly trips to places like Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Uruguay, just to mention a few.  The AF even gave him a clothing allowance for civilian clothes so he could attend parties at the Embassies when in the area.  I was so envious, I couldn’t believe it.  He ate out all the time, bought new clothes, attended parties and then flew home and wanted home cooking and a little love.  It always took a little time for me to adjust when he returned because I wanted to go out and he was never there during a crisis; like the reverse going out on the car, so why did I need him when things were fine.  Anyway, we adjusted and had a lot of fun exploring Panama and the canal.  We even drove to Costa Rica and stayed in a great little hotel in David, Panama that was built right over a stream.

During this time, we had decided to have a baby but I couldn’t get pregnant.  Finally, about a year later, we were successful and our first daughter, Traci, was born Jan. 10, 1967.  The pregnancy was fairly easy except for the broken foot and cast during my eighth month.  One Sunday morning I wanted Jack to take the garbage out and he was busy doing something so I decided to take it out myself and stepped off of the curb wrong and fell down.  I limped back to the apartment and the foot just got more sore and swollen as the day went by.  Jack dropped me off at the clinic on base the next morning and it turned out to be a fractured bone on the outside of my foot where all your weight goes when you are pregnant.  They put on a plaster cast up to my knee and sent me off on crutches.  Jack picked me up and dropped me off at a friend’s house, Vivienne Mayberry who was married to Maj. Maynard Mayberry, until he could get away at noon to take me home; he was always a dedicated worker.  He took me home and left me to fend for myself which wasn’t easy being eight months pregnant, on crutches, and a having ceramic tile floor.  We had some great adventures while I had my cast on; after the plaster hardened the doctor added a rubber piece to the bottom so I could walk without the crutches.  Jack had just made a new friend, Terry Fuqua, who was born and raised in the Canal Zone, and he was anxious to show us the Panama of his boyhood.  We went flounder fishing along the Panama Canal and my cast kept getting stuck in the blasted rock that lines the bank of the canal.  Jack was sweet as he motioned for me to try to keep up a little better.  My cast got wet from absorbing the water and it had to be changed.  Next we went to the interior (jungle) so the guys could go sliding through holes in the rocks as the stream surged through after rainstorms in the mountains.  I was just watching but got caught in the rain before I could get back to the car.  Yep, my cast got wet and it had to be replaced.  Then, we went body surfing on Pina Beach on the Caribbean side and, though I didn’t go in the water, the cast got wet again from walking on the beach.  Needed another cast.  Finally, we went orchid hunting in the swamp and even though I wrapped my cast in a plastic bag it got wet.  The doctor said no more, this was the last time he would change my cast, next time he was going to put me in the hospital to stay until my foot healed.  What can I say, we were young and invincible.  We survived and the cast was removed in time for Traci to be born.  I won’t even discuss that experience; thank goodness we forget some things easily.

After about 3 months of being home I couldn’t take it and we hired a live-in maid and nanny.  I went back to work at the commissary.  We found a new apartment with a maid’s room, which was handy, so I could knock on her door when I needed help.  For instance, one night after we were all in bed Traci got sick and barfed in her crib.  I got up knocked on the maid’s door and she cleaned the crib while I cleaned Traci.  An hour later we had to repeat the procedure.  What a life.

Let me relate a little story here that has always been one of the most embarrassing times of my life.  We had a one bedroom apartment and Traci’s crib was in our room.  Traci seemed to have phenomenal hearing and we had to be very quiet so as not to wake her up.  So, at first we moved to the living room on the couch and that bothered me because we had sheer curtains over the glass sliding door and jalousie windows and I was sure people would see us.  So, we moved to the kitchen where there was just a small window over the sink.  Well, to make a horrible story short, we had some friends who lived above us and they were invited one evening by their friends from the Air Force Band who lived in the neighboring building to watch these people making love in their kitchen.  The band members would have voyeur parties to watch us.  Their friends did not know that we were also friends; thank goodness they told us and we just moved back to the bedroom and learned to be quiet.  I was afraid to look anybody in the eye and I just knew the whole base knew about us.  Talk about being mortified – I still shiver when I think about it.

When Traci was about 6 months old Jack was sent to Chile for a 3 month tour at a weather station in Vina Del Mar on the coast.  I was feeling all grown up again and decided to surprise him with a visit.  His buddies at work thought it was a great idea and everyone pitched in to help.  I had friends checking on the nanny and Traci, friends who were supposed to be in touch with Jack and I was on my way, my 2nd airplane flight.  Lan Chile airlines this time and I had even taken Spanish lessons.  While on the plane someone started passing around bullets that everyone was putting in their pockets; I asked a question in English and the bullets were quickly snatched away.  I guess they were preparing for the coup.  Well we landed in Santiago and Jack was not there as I expected.  The only thing I could think to do was hand a taxi driver a $20 and say Hotel Carrera in my best Spanish.  Someone had told me that the Hotel Carrera  Hilton was across from the American Embassy in Santiago.  I was the first one to clear customs, because of the $20 and I found myself having lunch with a Major on duty at the Embassy.  It turns out that Jack was late in getting the message and he had gotten into some trouble at his new temporary  assignment and he was busy mending fences.  He finally made it into Santiago and then we took the train to beautiful Vina Del Mar.  It was like the honeymoon we never had.  It was winter in Chile and so the motel on the beach was pretty much deserted except for the American Air Force personnel staying there.  We had a wonderful week and then it was time for me to return and Jack had heard of a military plane that was leaving Santiago that I might be able to join.  All we had time to do was catch a cab, (too late for the train), and head to Santiago.  The pilots said they would be happy to have me on the plane so I left Chile without actually getting my passport stamped; maybe I am still legally in Chile!  We didn’t find out until later that the plane was full of GI’s returning from Easter Island and they had been stationed there for a year without female company.  The pilots made a wise decision and had me fly in the cockpit with them.  So here I am sitting at the feet of the co-pilot looking at the nose windows at my feet as the sun rises over the Andes.  Another thrill of a lifetime;  the pilots wanted to land in Lima Peru so they could give me a tour but we had Major Hollis (Jack’s Boss) with us who had been to  Easter Island and had contracted yellow jaundice so he nixed that idea and we headed straight to Panama.  The pilot said he could fake some engine trouble and force a landing if I really wanted to see Peru but I thought we were probably in enough trouble already; at that time military spouses were not supposed to fly unaccompanied unless on orders.  Jack took some heat over that but it wasn’t anything he wasn’t used to;  like the time he got in trouble because I got caught speeding on base right as he was being reamed out by his Commander for another speeding ticket I had received earlier (that darned Chrysler).

Finally, a few months before we were scheduled to leave Panama we received base housing.  We went ahead and moved into furnished base housing so our household goods could be shipped back to the states and be there when we arrived.  Our new assignment was back to Keesler AFB and so that meant another road trip.  And what a trip it was in our new Chrysler 300 Convertible; we left Panama in March 1968 when Traci was 14 months old and it was before disposable diapers.

As we were driving along the Pan-American Hwy in Northern Panama we noticed that people were waving to us from their porches and we were thrilled to be so popular.  All of a sudden the beautiful highway ended; it just stopped in the middle of a jungle and we realized that the friendly people were trying to let us know that the road wasn’t finished.  We had to backtrack and drive over what looked like a dry riverbed for miles to get to the road as it began again in Costa Rica.  Our next hurdle was the Pass of Death in Costa Rica; a part of the highway that is so high it is in the clouds and you can only cross it safely during the middle of the day.  As we approached this area we discovered that a landslide had blocked the road and we had to turn back or take a dirt trail across the very top of the mountain that had not been used since the highway was first built.  We discussed this with about four other cars of people traveling also.  We decided to go for it and we all took off in a caravan to cross the mountain, only we had a much heavier car than the other travelers.  We came last and as Jack was driving the trail was sliding; he made me walk with Traci because he was afraid the car was going to slide down the side of the mountain.  We made it to the other side and we all kissed the ground and hugged each other and continued our journeys.  One of the biggest hurdles along the way was border crossings.  The borders were closed for 2 hours at siesta time and closed at night so the timing was critical.  We got to one border 5 minutes late and had to sit there for two hours as the guard took a nap under a tree.  We usually got pretty good service because the guards were really impressed with our fancy car and our diplomatic passports, they always checked out the headlights because they were the kind that lifted up when you turned them on – they were concerned that we didn’t have headlights.  One of our best experiences along the way was Nicaragua.  We stayed in a pension near Lake Nicaragua and it was beautiful.  This was before the earthquake that devastated Nicaragua and it was one of the most peaceful countries we travelled through in our epic journey.  How many people have ever had the thrill of driving the Pan American Highway from Panama to the U.S.? At the border to Guatemala the guards were not impressed and they wanted us to hire a guard wearing bandoleers to protect us from the bad guys.  We looked at him and opted not to have him join us and drove right through Guatemala without stopping.  At each border crossing they sprayed our car down for bugs, as if they couldn’t just cross the border anyway, and asked us about fruit.  One time when we said no fruit the guard said with attitude, “What’s a matter don’t you like our fruit?”  I think they were used to eating confiscated fruit during their siesta time.  We made it to the Mexican border just before closing and decided to rest up a few days in Oaxaca, Mexico at the Hotel Victoria.  We rested, went shopping, and sent all the diapers to the hotel laundry which turned out to be a big mistake.  They had never seen pre-folded diapers and thought they were large handkerchiefs so they starched and ironed them.  When I explained that they were diapers they had to be washed again and our laundry bill was larger than our hotel bill.  But Traci seemed to enjoy the nice soft newly pressed diapers.  By the time we reached Mexico City we had ruined all of our new 8-ply tires and bought new tires in San Antonio, Texas.  One of our tires was ruined as I was passing a Mexican bus that was doing about 80 miles an hour, I guess I was doing about a hundred, and hit a broken coke bottle – the old green kind.  Jack had to help me get the car under control as we were fishtailing all over the highway not knowing what had happened.  When we finally stopped, Jack pulled half a coke bottle out of the tire.  After all that, the trip from Texas to Oregon seemed pretty uneventful.  It was wonderful seeing our families after 3 years and of course showing off our beautiful daughter with her golden curls.

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One Comment on “Pattys Most Excellent Adventure! Part I (by Patty)”

  1. […] Patty’s Most Excellent Adventure!  Part I    (by Patty) […]

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