TRIPOLI MEMORIES FROM WHEELUS STUDENTS

An Army Brat in Libya Ebook cover

An Army Brat in Libya Ebook cover, published on Amazon

I started the Words on My Mind blog in May 2010 and have posted 476 stories since then. I’ve had lots of words to put down, apparently! My readers are growing in number — around 80,000 hits a month, sometimes more, at this point. Over 2 million people have stopped in or passed by Words on My Mind. Now if I had only sold that many books on Amazon! What pleases me most is that many readers leave comments (over 2,000 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 (shown above) 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 am sharing their comments below.

Ernie Miller, now retired in Arizona, has responded from time to time. He recalls a great deal about his time at Wheelus Air Force Base. 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.”

As the years go by, more and more Wheelus High and Elementary School alumni have gotten in touch on Facebook. And the legend builds. Imagine military brats who got to meet John Wayne, Sophia Loren and Richard Nixon…

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