Archive for April 2013

Places we have lived

April 21, 2013

Places we’ve lived
This posting was inspired by Susan’s poem to us on our 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration in Hawaii. I got to thinking about all the places we’d lived and why we lived there and decided that it is a part of our history that may be of interest to our kids and maybe their kids too. I’m a little more sensitive to details like this as I’ve watched Patty trace her family’s roots back through time with very little to go on.

When Patty and I got married she was living with her brother, Freddie, on 19th Street in Springfield and I was living with my sister, Millie, at 1953 Riverview Street in Eugene. I was working with my brother-in-law, Bob Moody, moving houses and Patty was working three jobs; the cannery, the Arctic Circle Drive-In and washing cars on the weekend. We were exhausted most of the time and frequently fell asleep on dates. Once we got married we changed jobs. I went to work at the Georgia Pacific Sawmill in Springfield and Patty went to work for Sears Roebuck in Eugene. We got married at Patty’s folk’s place at 3529 Kathryn Avenue in Springfield on a Saturday afternoon on the 29th of December, 1962.

Our first home was a second-floor apartment at 410 Lawrence Street on the corner of 10th Street in Eugene, just a couple blocks from Sears where Patty worked. Shortly after we got married the sawmill went on strike so I was out of a job. However, another brother-in-law, Don Redfield, was Supt. of Ponds at Georgia Pacific, and he got me on at the plywood mill in Springfield. I worked swing-shift there which meant a 4 cent differential so I got $2.16/hr pulling off chain and grading plywood. Hated that job. Not only was it killing my brain but I got slivers in my stomach several inches long even though I wore a leather apron. I would be standing there pulling plywood and dreading coming back to work the next day.

There weren’t a lot of options for work and I was less than a year out of the Navy so I went back to talk to the recruiter. He said they’d be glad to take me back at my old rate, which was Radarman 2nd Class but I couldn’t do that because I’d be at sea for seven years to one year of shore duty so I walked next door and talked to Jim Peach, the Air Force recruiter. He said I could come in as a buck sergeant (E-4) which was one pay grade lower than my Navy grade but I’d have to take my chances on where they sent me or I could drop two grades to E-3 and get a school that I was qualified for. I took that option and selected Ground Radio Technician.

The school was at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi and I had a start date in April of ’63. I thought I’d leave Patty with Millie and Bob until I got settled but Millie and Patty talked it over and decided Patty would go with me. Thank you Millie. We loaded everything we had into my ’56 Dodge Royal and headed for Mississippi. The car was sitting about three inches off the road and it needed a can of STP just about every time we got gas-which was often for a big 8-cylinder with fins. But it held together and got us there. We spent our first night in Biloxi in the car on Hwy 90 near the beach and found an apartment the next day in Bay St. Louis about 30 miles back toward New Orleans. We stayed there for a couple of months and then found an apartment in an antebellum home just a few doors down from Jefferson Davis’s home on the beach in Biloxi. It was called Harvey House and we got a beautiful apartment on the second floor which we had to give up for an attic apartment a couple months later when the people from New Orleans, who rented it on an annual basis, came.

Patty got a job with Sears in Gulfport and took the bus to work each day, about a 20 mile trip. I was in school at Keesler AFB studying electronics and putting up with bullshit every day. The Air Force had an abbreviated Basic Training at Lackland AFB in Texas so when guys finished that and were assigned to a school for training; they still had to put up with Basic-training type bullshit. I got in my share of trouble because I resisted the system. And, to be fair, there was a lot of bad stuff going on that was totally out of line. For instance, one of the NCO’s took up a collection from all the students for the captain in charge of the squadron. Anyway, we had a lot of fun there. We traded my Dodge in on an Austin Healy Sprite that we took all over Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and New Orleans whenever we could get away, which was often.

I was lucky to get Madera, California as my first duty assignment out of school and we packed all we could into the Sprite (including an ironing board, if you can believe that) and headed to California. We found an apartment at the Georgette Arms in Madera where we lived for several months. Patty got a job at Sears in Fresno and she drove the Sprite to work there, about 25 miles away. I bought a ’49 Ford pickup and used that to get to my duty station at Madera AFS, a radar site north of town. While Patty was driving home to Madera on Hwy 99 after work one day a trucker honked at her and indicated she should pull over. She couldn’t see him very well and thought he was one of my brother-in-laws or someone else we knew so she pulled over. Turns out he was just a smitten trucker but she got away from him. After that incident, we traded the Sprite for a ’63 Rambler (with door locks) and moved to a really nice apartment near Sears in Fresno. I think it was called Blackstone Apartments. It had a swimming pool and a sauna and was only a mile or so from Sears.

Blackstone Apartments

After a year or so, I got orders for Panama. Patty moved in with Fred and Emmy who had a walnut orchard in Fowler. Emily was a very good friend of Patty’s who also worked in the same department at Sears. I would send for her once I found us a place to live in Panama City. It took two or three months to find a rental and get everything set up so Patty could join me. I found a place right behind a Sears in an area of Panama City called San Francisco. It was an apartment above a warehouse and there were 4 or 5 other apartments and a big roof area that could be used for drying clothes or throwing parties on the weekend. I sent for Patty and borrowed a GI bunk from the barracks and an ironing board and bought a couple of fold-up lawn chairs. When Patty got there she found that the people at the Sears store spoke Spanish (duh!) and that was pretty much a prerequisite for a job there so she got a job in the Canal Zone at the Balboa Shoe Store.

Shortly after that, I re-enlisted and with my re-enlistment bonus I bought a Chrysler 300 Convertible. It was a beautiful car and I spent a lot of time washing and waxing it to keep it looking great. I kept it parked in a carport area for the apartments behind the warehouse and one night someone broke into it and stole a pair of left-handed bowling shoes I’d picked up at the mark-down counter at the BX for $1. I wore them one time and fell flat on my face so I wasn’t too upset about them getting stolen but I was concerned about the car getting broken into so we moved again. We found a much nicer apartment in the El Congrejo area of Panama City and it was a better part of town. It had a maid’s quarters and since Patty was now pregnant with Traci, that was a good feature. We hired Josephina, a San Blas Indian woman, who lived with us and helped take care of Traci. Eventually, we moved into base housing on Albrook AFB and the base housing also had maid’s quarters for Josephina.

After about three years in Panama I figured I was getting ripe for re-assignment and to preclude getting orders for someplace where Patty and I would be separated (like Vietnam), I put in for instructor duty at Keesler AFB. I got it and we decided to drive home. At that time, the Pan American Highway was more of a concept than a reality. It stopped entirely at Panama City and was a hodgepodge of gravel roads, river beds and asphalt through Central America. I’ve described our trip in another Chronospots posting – Latin American Adventures Part 1 & 2.
Back-bay Biloxi '69

When we got to Mississippi this time I bought a mobile home from a fellow instructor that was leaving as I got there. It was on an acre of land in ‘Back-bay’ Biloxi about 4 or 5 miles from Keesler. After about a year I bought the mobile home next to ours from the guy who was leaving the area and it also came with about an acre of land. I rented out the home we had been living in and we moved into the new home. We had some problems with renters so I eventually sold the first mobile home to an instructor pilot from the base that had married an enlisted girl and found base housing too restrictive for his tastes. Also, he had a pair of Great Danes and base housing wasn’t a suitable place for them but an acre of ground was desirable. About this time I found another mobile home in a trailer park a few miles away and bought that too and sold the one we had been living in. That was shortly before Hurricane Camille hit and I ended up with five trees down on the home in the trailer park. The Federal Government brought in over a thousand mobile homes to replace homes that were destroyed in the hurricane and suddenly mobile homes were plentiful and cheap so I sold the ones I had and moved into base housing at Keesler AFB at 323 Pinelawn Drive, Biloxi, in a brick duplex.
323 Pinelawn '70

That’s when Patty went to work for Balboa Construction. Fred Boatner and Jack Ballard were a couple of draftsmen who decided to go into business as a construction company just before Hurricane Camille decimated the Gulf Coast and unleashed a construction boom to rebuild. They were fantastically successful and Patty was their office person who handled payroll and accounts. We lived there for a couple of years while I was an instructor for the Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP). My job was to teach the systems of the Transportable Terminal that was used to download data from the DMSP satellites. The data was used for surveillance and vectoring air strikes in Vietnam.

The Air Force was establishing another school at Lowry AFB in Denver for a new program called the Defense Support Program (DSP). This program used stationary satellites in geosynchronous orbits and was a lot more sophisticated in that it used dual IBM-360 computers and a lot of peripheral equipment on the downlink and was tied into NORAD in ‘The Mountain’ in Colorado Springs. I put in for it and we moved from Biloxi to Aurora, Colorado in 1970. We stayed in a motel for several weeks while waiting for our bi-level house to be built at 852 Laredo Street in Aurora. That must have been Easter of ’70 because I remember hiding Easter eggs for Traci in that motel room for weeks. We paid about $35,000 for that house and couldn’t afford the $1,500 it would have cost to get the basement finished. Patty and I did that ourselves. During this time, I was teaching at Lowry AFB and Patty was working at State Farm Insurance’s regional headquarters. She was also spending a lot of time taking Traci to her school which was about 30 miles away and sometimes, especially when it snowed, she would spend the day in the car in a parking lot waiting to bring Traci back home. They had a pretty good bike trail system and we sometimes would take our bikes all the way into Denver to visit the museum and zoo (about 10 miles I think).
852 Laredo St. Aurora

About this time I was looking at my final enlistment with the Air Force and trying to figure a way to spend it in California since we had bought a vineyard there and wanted to retire there when I got out. There really wasn’t a good way to do it with Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO) and so I decided to cross-train into recruiter duty. I put in for it and got it and was sent to Lackland AFB, TX, for retraining. When I finished training I got assigned to the recruiting office in Sacramento, California. It was located in the Post Office Building right across the park from the State Capitol Building. Patty and I found a house at 9144 Vancouver Drive which was near the junction of Folsom Blvd and La Riviera Drive in a development called Crawford’s Barn. The ‘barn’ had been converted into a community center for the development and it was a really nice housing subdivision near the American River and not far from Mather AFB. We had access to the river and bike trails and we used them a lot. I could catch the bus on La Riviera and ride to work every day. We lived there from ’75 to ’78 when Squadron HQ started making noises like it was going to bring me in to a staff position. ( )
9144 Vancouver Dr. '75

Patty and I went over to see what the housing situation was like around Travis AFB and it was in the middle of a building boom. We found a house in Round Hills Estates for about $100,000 which was a pretty good price and our home at Crawford’s Barn would probably bring close to that. We also considered having a house built at Rio Vista in the Delta Region south of Sacramento, we were thinking of a salt-box type house on the river. Then the Squadron said they’d changed their mind and weren’t going to pull me in so we forgot the whole thing. About two months later they said they were going to move me to Squadron HQ after all. This was ’78 I guess and Susan was less than a year old so I went back to Round Hills and prices had almost doubled. The opportunity to have a house built in Rio Vista was gone because we needed to move right away. So I found a house on Ralph Street near the back gate of Travis AFB and bought it, put 9144 Vancouver in the hands of a property manager for rent and took Patty over to look at our new house so we could plan our move. Patty sat down on the carpet (orange shag) in the living room and started to cry. The place smelled of cigarette smoke which I hadn’t noticed because I was a 2-3 pack a day smoker at the time. The walls were wavy and the cabinets were cheap and the house really didn’t have anything going for it. And it was on Ralph Street for God’s sake! We turned around and sold it to an Asian lawyer investor in San Francisco before we even moved in. I put in for base housing at Travis AFB and that’s where we lived until I retired in ’79.

In 1979 I suddenly realized that I could retire! We wanted to live in Fowler where our friends Emmy and Fred lived but weren’t too eager to live in the farmhouse on Maple Street that we’d owned for about ten years. Fred had a pigeon-racing buddy that had a house on a twenty-acre vineyard about a half-mile down the street from him and he was planning to sell and retire. Patty and I went down to look at it and bought it on the spot. Patty took the kids and moved down and I stayed in the barracks at Travis for a few months and drove down on weekends. My Squadron re-assigned me to the AFEES in Fresno since I was the supervisor for the USAF contingent there anyway and I moved down for my final two months in the Air Force. I wrote about this in a previous post:

We lived at 7367 S. Kenneth Avenue in Fowler from ’79 to ’83. While there I went to school at CSU Fresno and got a degree in Viticulture with a minor in Enology. Patty worked part-time at Bedrosian’s Raisin Packing plant in Fowler. Traci went to school at a Mennonite We had some problems with farming and the schools and realized that we really wanted to come home to Oregon but what would we do here? I looked around and found a hazelnut farm in Estacada that sounded pretty good. I was still in school so Patty came up and looked at it. It was beautiful, with a great view of Mt. Hood from our deck and a 55 acre orchard of hazelnuts all around us. Seemed ideal and, with mechanical harvesting, I could do everything myself. So, when I graduated, we sold both of our vineyards and we moved to 33824 Divers Road, Estacada, Oregon.
33824 Divers Rd '84

To make a long story short (which is something I should have done long before this) the hazelnut growing thing didn’t work out very well. The first year, ’83, we were there we had a very short crop and I guess that was just a bad year for hazelnuts. The next year the set was a lot better but it started raining in September and never stopped. Mechanical harvesting was impossible in the mud and rain and there really wasn’t any other way to get the crop in. So, two crop failures in two years and the guy who I sold the vineyard to defaulted on his contract and I ended up with one of the vineyards back. I started sending out resumes all across the country and finally found a job with Farmer’s Home Administration, which it turns out, is a federal agency to help distressed farmers. Who knew? I’d never heard of it when I was going down for the third time and needed it. Anyway, I landed a job with them and we moved to Ashland. Actually, my job was in Medford but Patty wanted to live in Ashland and, although we had a chance to take over payments on a nice house on Lone Pine Road in East Medford, we found a rental at 492 Jennifer Street in Ashland and moved in. Traci went to high school at Ashland High School and Susan went to grade school at Lincoln School and Patty started at Southern Oregon in ’85 as a business major.

We fixed the Jennifer Street place up and I guess we did too good a job of it because someone bought it out from under us. I made an offer on it but there was some stuff going on with the realtor involved and we missed out on it. So, we leased 892 Palmer Road from a retired university professor who was spending a year in Europe and only lasted a few months there. The house was dark and not very well built and it had poison oak all around it which Patty has an issue with, so we started looking again and found 869 Garden Way. Patty didn’t like the Garden Way house very much. It had renters in it and it was dark and messy and the renters were a little hostile which we could relate to since we had just been through the same thing. But I liked it. Part of its appeal was that it had an Oregon Vet loan which I could assume and it set on a corner lot with good visuals so I could see anyone approaching from any direction. Actually, it was pretty much assault-proof and still is. So, I guess we moved in there in ’87 and Traci and Rene bought it from us in ’97 and we built this place and moved in here in February of ’97 I think.
869 Garden Way 1620 Sunset Ave

So, that’s it. That is pretty much all the places we’ve lived. This is what happens when Patty takes off and leaves me home alone while she’s traipsing all over Europe with Susan. Anyway, another Chronospots posting and another chapter in my blog.

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