TRIPOLI MEMORIES FROM BLOG READERS by Victoria Giraud

Libyan & his camel

I started the Words on My Mind blog almost two years ago and have posted over 200 stories since then. I’ve had lots of words to put down, apparently! My readers are growing in number — over 80,000 hits a month at this point. What pleases me most is that many readers leave comments (over 1,300 so far) and tell me something about their own personal stories. I love that kind of interaction.

One of my favorite subjects is the time I spent in Tripoli, Libya, in the 1950s. I even wrote an Ebook Single detailing many of my adventures and published it on Amazon: An Army Brat in Libya. Since so many of my blog readers enjoy those adventures and have written to add some details of their own experiences, I decided to do some posts quoting their comments.

Ernie Miller, who usually has something to say, is now retired in Arizona. He recalls a great deal about his time at Wheelus Air Force Base, and I will share some of it here. During the 1954-55 school year, Ernie relates, the high school “had a total population of 52, including all four grades. I left as a very simplistic 15-year-old and have remembered the experiences in Tripoli as some of the best in my life. It was fascinating to see the nomadic tribes continuing their lives as they were doing in the time of Christ. These wonderful nomadic people have remained unchallenged by the space age, the cold war and the exploration of outer space.”  Ernie made these remarks before the recent war in Libya and the ensuing challenges Libyans have to remake their country.

Nancy lived at Wheelus from 1952-54 across from the school in barracks build by Mussolini. She remembers “cement floors, and two bedrooms for a family of seven with two dachshunds.” Backyard fences were made of palm branches, “an olive grove was on the side of us where we played in the trees and among pear cacti, finding lots of empty bullet shells from WWII. My dad was chaplain. The base was just being built up. When we got there we had gravel roads, and airmen were living in tents. We flew over in a C-76, an unpressurized prop plane, for which my ears are paying a price today.”

Noelle wrote to tell me her father was in the Corps of Engineers (as was my dad). “He was part of the team who were responsible for the building of the ‘new’ hospital and a number of airstrips during 1952-56 on Wheelus. We lived on the economy  in an apartment downtown. From the apartment balcony, we could see Tripoli harbor, a huge local park and gharries that traveled up and down the streets. In the summer, I awoke to gharry bells that adorned the horses.”

“I, too, lived in Tripoli in 1953 and have great memories of that time. I was just out of high school and worked as a typist. Our Italian maid ‘made off’ with my many sets of different colored underwear. My mother’s favorite tablecloth disappeared from the clothesline and probably became part of Arab garb,” said Anne.

Paulette spent 5th and 6th grade at Wheelus. When her father lost his deposit on an apartment to be built in Tripoli, he gave up and moved the family into a trailer on base. “I liked it anyway, and it was only a half-mile to the beach, and we had a small zoo practically in our backyard. I could walk to school, the BX (base exchange), church and the movies. Quite an adventure for a 10/11 year old.”

I will include more interesting comments in future blogs.

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for reading my blog, George. My father wasn’t a chaplain but a US Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Colonel. I don’t remember the newer church. Wheelus had a chapel and a much larger church. I remember learning about “skittle” music from the Brits I got to know in Tripoli.

  2. GEORGE DAFTER says:

    Hi Victoria I ,m British .I did my national service 1952-54 your blog brings back many memories I visited Wheelus Field a couple of times ,As a country music fan I went to meet Dj Ken Idaho You mention your father was a chaplin Did you and your family attend the dedication of a newly built church on the western edge of city Sadly I believe it was destroyed during the recent troubles

  3. Victoria says:

    Elaine, I would love to hear the sequel to your story. Did the houseboy get fired? Did your mother get your sister another dress?

    Victoria

  4. Elaine P Frank says:

    I remember my sister Judy needed a semi formal dress for a dance when she was in 9th grade. Mom took her down town and brought material and had an italian seamstress make the dress up. It needed to be fixed so my mom asked the house boy to take it back and when we went to pick it back up we found out it was never taken to the seamstress. Refee our house boy stole it and sold it on the black market.

  5. Well done blog Victoria.

    Such a joy reading about our American brothers and sisters sharing their stories when they were teenagers and high school students in my hometown Tripoli.

    My favorite is when Anne wrote about her family Italian maid who made off’ with her many sets of different colored underwear. They got to be a very beautiful, sexy sets of underwear.

    Hope to hear from more and share their stories.

    Thank you all

  6. Ron Curtis says:

    so nice to read these memories, I can almost smell the harbor as I read 🙂

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