Military Brats, a different bunch of kids? Adults?

May 2, 2008 by

The Cold War was a non-combatant battle that my father, like hundreds of U.S. fathers throughout the late 50s to early 1990s fought around the world.  It was that way of life that made me who I am today, and what makes me unique. 

My freshman year at Auburn in 1984, I did a sit down interview with then president James Martin.  When we finished the interview, the first question he asked me was, "You're a military kid, aren't you?"  Puzzled and amazed that he was right, I confirmed, and then asked, "But how did you know?"  He sat back in his chair and smiled for a moment and then said, "I don't get many freshman in here asking me about the budget." 

As I have said in previous posts, I've moved a lot in this lifetime.  At present, I'm up to move number 32 in 42 years.  And one of the hardest parts about growing up, for me at least, is that the places where I grew up all have long been closed by the US Government's BRACs. K.I. Sawyer AFB in northern MIchigan is closed.  Castle AFB in Atwater, CA is closed. 

When we took all seven of the kids to Yosemite last summer, we flew into Oakland via Southwest and then drove through Atwater on our way to The Logger's Retreat, (The greatest and best place to stay in the Yosemite area.)  The base is now closed.  The O'Club where I spent my summers at the pool is gone.  They plowed it in.  The O'Club is gone.  Grass is growing over these two areas.  Lots of memories are in my head from this one particular spot.  In the corners of my mind I remember an Easter Egg Hunt at the Castle O'Club in 1969.  We also saw a movie of Peter Rabbit that morning. 

But my point is, these areas that were of such importance to my childhood and forming who I am, are no more. 

And on the way to work this morning, I had a thought.  It would make an incredible social studies project to go back and do research on the kids who were like me who grew up on these bases during the Cold War.  We did a lot for our country even in those days.  We had Buck Skin Rider Days, where we had to gather all of our toys etc into the house.  Nothing was permitted on the lawns.  The premise for the exercise was that the base was being invaded by the Russians.  How it was important that they didn't have access to our big wheels I don't know, but such were the rules.

But in growing up at these bases, we always had access to great teachers.  We all learned a lot.  About much.  We, I was a part of a touring speaking program in the UP at age 10.  I've been a ham ever since.  Such would explain how I was able to be so confident on TV in the Dallas market as the spokesperson for Dallas ISD for 5.5 years. 

I've had the training for it all my life.  Really.  We were always moving.  Always meeting new people.  We had to learn and learn early how to carry on a conversation, and as importantly, how to start one.  Though I must also confess, our parents taught us really to converse more about work, than about social things.   When dad would get together with other pilots, they'd talk about flying b-52s.  Mom and her friends would talk about being Air Force wives.  And we were in socially remote places.  I mean really, KI was not and never will be the center of the universe.  It was no doubt a first strike target from the USSR, but it was not a place where you were up on the latest trends.

And so, I'm thinking aloud here, of how incredible it would be to do a book or research project on The Cold War Kids.  There were a lot of us.  And we all handled it differently.  Some handled it better than others, but I would dare say, we were all affected by it, that civilian kids were not. 

All this said, it makes a dinner meeting with an old friend tonight that much more special.   We have a lot in common.  We didn't get to grow up with one set of kids we knew from K to 12.  Not in the same city any way.  I was often jealous of local kids for having that benefit.  Like many who had been in my first grade classes in Atwater, CA who I dropped back in on for seventh, eighth, and ninth grades.  The didn't necessarily remember me, but I did them. 

So, there are some thoughts about that.  Much more to writeon the topic but it's now 10:45 and I've got a long day tomorrow. 

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