My daddy was a practical man. When he was on recruiting duty with the Air Force in Knoxville, Tennessee, he bought our family a house because he was told he would be there a good while. This was the ’50s and the Cold War was beginning to heat up. The next thing he knew, he was transferred to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
Our home was sold and a Spartan trailer was bought. Back in those days, this was the cream of the crop of trailers. It was 36 feet long and at that time, there was no such thing as a double wide. I was a little kid, 4 years old and that trailer was the neatest thing I’d ever seen.
It’s funny, the vivid memories kids have. Back in those days, the interstates were being built to transport military vehicles and such just in case Russia decided to invade. With that shiny aluminum siding catching the sun, we hit Birmingham, Alabama traffic at five o’clock in the afternoon. It was stop and go forever as we inched along pulling that big ol’ trailer right through the heart of Birmingham. I do believe my daddy used some colorful language that day. It was hot, too.
My mom and dad were very particular about the trailer park chosen to put our home on wheels. Some parks were not suitable for families. Daddy always managed to find one that was nice and had mostly military families living there. He found a suitable park that had trees and a creek running through it with a hillside I desperately wanted to ride my tricycle over. Mama was very stern when she told me not to go over that hill.
Well, here’s the thing. I was kind of a scrawny tow-headed girl who had a stubborn streak in her. When my mama told me not to do something, I generally ignored her. I have scars to prove it. One afternoon, I sneaked my tricycle out and proceeded over and down the hill. Before too long, I felt stings like needles hitting my feet and legs. I was barefooted. And I heard buzzing.
Reaching behind my knee, I came up with a handful of angry yellow jackets stinging my fingers and flying at my face. It was horrible and I started screaming for my mom. She came running and grabbed me up and put me in the creek. All I remember is that the water was cold and those bees were drowning.
I know she wanted to spank me, but she hugged me to her tightly. She got stung herself as she picked the last of those things out of my hair. In truth, I could have died from all those stings, but I wasn’t even sick. Mom plastered me with a paste of baking soda and oatmeal. I didn’t even swell up except at the location of the stings and even they didn’t swell much. No matter. I truly believe this is why I am so terrified of wasps and yellow jackets … and buzzing sounds.
After being stationed in Morocco, we were transferred to Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. Mom and Dad found a perfect park full of Air Force families with kids. This was my favorite place to live. We built club houses and with parental supervision, we built huge bonfires almost every night in the summer. I remember we put Bazooka bubble gum on the end of coat hangers and roasted it until it was gooey. Then we’d put it in our mouths and, oh my, it was delicious. I take credit for this.
Most times, I walked across a big field to Waller Elementary School. One day, I felt something moving under my feet. It was a snake! I wasn’t much afraid of snakes, but it was a creepy feeling. This boy who had a bike, jumped on it and left me there. I will never forgot calling him a coward!!
I started running, losing my shoes, hair bows and school satchel. Mom was running toward me arms outstretched. She was more scared than I was because she didn’t know why I was running, screaming like a banshee.
Daddy was transferred to Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, Kansas, next. By then, we had a bigger Spartan to pull and the roads in Oklahoma were awful. We only lived in a park a short while before we moved into new base housing.
This was our last base. Daddy retired from the Air Force at 37 and had a second career with the Post Office.
Those Spartans were the best of the best of homes on wheels. I always missed ours and have great memories of them.