A ROLLING STONE…

The world has grown more mobile since my youth. In the mid 20th century, many folks stayed in their hometowns for their entire lives. Being a military brat, like I was, meant you would be a gypsy. Sensing that fact, I’ve been documenting my addresses since 1950. One of my parents’ military friends, who knew I enjoyed reading, gave me a history book Love Affairs That Have Made History. For some reason I don’t remember, I decided to write down all my addresses on the front flyleaf and when I ran out of space, I added some on the back.

 

Mom's childhood home, the blue color is recent and I think it's been torn down.

Mom’s childhood home, the blue color is recent and I think it’s been torn down.

I was born in Danville, Virginia, during World War II and my first home was a bedroom in my mother’s family home on Berryman Avenue. It was a spacious 2-story wooden home on a corner with a cemetery across the street: my Motley grandparents’ final resting place. When Mom married Darby, her second husband, they began married life with me in Murnau, Germany, in 1947. It was a picturesque Bavarian village undamaged by the war, and even though my dad was only a Captain, the huge 18-room house we were assigned made us feel like he was a General. To the victor go the spoils comes to mind. Although I was quite young, I can still remember the large garage building, full of empty bottles (maybe they recycled during wartime). We even had a maid and a houseboy and a hill nearby to ski down. My sister was born in Munich, where the big military hospital was, and her first home was our “mansion” in Murnau.

 

My dad's tomato garden on the side of our German mansion.

My dad’s tomato garden on the side of our German mansion.

When we sailed back to the U.S. in 1950, we lived in an apartment building in Ft. Lee, New Jersey—401 Park Place, to be exact (I bet Gov. Christie knows!). The only thing memorable for me was my mother getting locked out on the roof when she was hanging clothes, and the fact that one of the famous Ames Brothers singing group lived in the same building. We were soon sent to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, for the next year and lived at 34F Pulaski Street. I imagine these military quarters were fairly basic, but we were there such a short time I can’t remember anything but being smart enough to skip second grade in elementary school.

Shortly after the Korean War started, my dad, who might have been a Major by then was given orders to participate as a Corps of Engineers officer in Korea. Years later he remembered the horror of war even in the midst of the Alzheimer’s that finally killed him. Mom, my sister and I moved to Dad’s home state of Florida, and we lived in a small stucco home in Jacksonville Beach (530 11th Avenue North). I remember seeing sand everywhere instead of grass, and the very wide beaches where you could actually park your car before going into the ocean to swim. My 4th grade teacher was a pioneer of sorts—she had us participate in a morning snack time of raw fruits and vegetables we were required to bring from home. Music was also a priority: each class member had to learn to play harmonica for our class band. We even had uniforms—colorful little satin capes and envelope caps, like members of the Army!

When Dad came back in one piece in 1952 from Korea, he was bearing Japanese gifts – a pearl necklace for Mom and painted silk parasols for my sister and me (I still have mine). It was time to head north—the Bronx in New York City. Dad was going to study for his Master’s Degree at NYU. City living was very different; at Fordham Hills Apartments, 2451 Webb Avenue, we lived on the 12th floor. I attended PS 33 for 5th grade from 1953-54. The school was located almost under the elevated subway and across the street from a Loew’s movie theater.

Elevators were commonplace in New York and my toddler sister escaped us one day and rode up and down on our elevator until I managed to track her down. The apartment buildings were on a hill and the sidewalks leading to a playground at the bottom of the hill were ideal for roller skating practice.

My dad’s next assignment was Ft. Knox, Kentucky. There weren’t any officers’ quarters available at first, so we had temporary quarters in what was called the cantonment area (T-7600 D Montpelier Street), which was once part of an old hospital with lots of empty, closed down corridors. It was a short distance from the famous Gold Vault (the US Gold Bullion Depository)—no tours, however. We were rewarded at Ft. Know, however. My baby brother was born there in the military hospital, of course.

Within a few months, we had graduated to large brick quarters at 1460B Fifth Avenue where we would live until November 1955. Although quite nice, these quarters were typical of almost any Army base. The street name sounded prestigious, and I remember the old leafy trees and quiet atmosphere. We had a nice basement where my dad could indulge in his photography hobby and I could put on dancing/singing shows with girlfriends from the neighborhood using my folks’ old 78 rpm records. One of my favorites was “Managua, Nicaragua is a wonderful town…” While we were there President Dwight Eisenhower visited and I actually had a peek.

I had started 8th grade when Dad got orders for Nouasseur, Morocco. The orders were changed quickly to Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya. After a very long flight and stops in the Azores and Morocco, we landed at Wheelus and our first home was the Hotel Del Mahari for a few weeks. It felt like something out of the Arabian Nights with fountains and flowers and exotic smells, but we soon moved into a two-story villa with one apartment on each story in Garden City: 26 Via De Gaspari. We lived on the second floor, had three bedrooms, one bathroom, separate dining and living rooms and a large balcony with a view of the Egyptian Ambassador’s compound across the street. It had a one-car garage and a small side yard. The windows had roll-down wooden shutters, which helped keep sand out during the ghiblis (sandstorms).

Our two and half-year sojourn in Tripoli was the highlight of my youth, but I’ve written far too much in other areas of my blog to cover the same material again.

When the family headed back to the States again in 1958, we were bound for Alexandria, Virginia and Davis Avenue. It was suburban Northern Virginia-Washington, D.C. area. Dad would be stationed at the Pentagon working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We didn’t have a villa this time but a small stone-fronted two-story home with a good-sized back yard dominated by a weeping willow tree. My parents didn’t stay long; when I went off to study at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, they went to Carlisle, Pennsylvania to the US Army War College for a year before heading off to Mannheim, Germany.

I joined them in Germany after college and started a whole new saga in my life that brought me to California, where I’ve been ever since.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Hippie says:

    A simple and intelligent point, well made. Thanks!

  2. Heather Vesterfelt says:

    Victoria congratulations on nealy 5 years of writing, and fact about 2 million curious folks from all over the world have explored your blog site. Your gift for wrting, sharing your world travel and personal life are both engaging as well as inspiring.

    Thank you.
    Heather

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