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Our first home: Navy housing 

By Lynne

 

LynneWe arrived at NAS Whiting Field early that morning after I had washed my face and pulled myself together. The base was small since it was what is called an auxiliary base. They begin the training of naval pilots on the old prop jobs, the T28. Butch fixed the damage the pilots inflicted on the planes unless they totally destroyed it, which they did only a few times a year, thank God. It was about 10 miles north of Milton. Pine forest, swamp and even more pine surrounded it. We definitely were in the “boonies.”

 

Butch took me to the housing office, and we picked up the key to our first place. Since it came furnished, we were able to go back in the warehouse and pick out a full-size bed, a dresser, a brown Naugahyde, three-cushion couch with no duct tape on it, the rickety coffee table and one end table and lamp, a dining room table and four almost matching chairs. Two sailors just out of boot camp loaded the truck as we chose and we followed them to our own place.

 

We opened the door to the two-bedroom, one bath and had our first look at our new abode. The middle unit of a five-plex that we later learned had been condemned right after World War II, or so I was told. Butch didn’t carry me across the threshold since we had two sailors with furniture in their arms pushing their way in. The chief had the truck empty and on its way in 10 minutes.

 

Butch and I finally got the bed together and started unloading the car. We dug out the toolbox about the third load we carried in. The hammer would have been helpful knocking the bed together, but we overcame that minor inconvenience.

 

The apartment was definitely different from home. Grey industrial tile was throughout. There was only one large storage closet, and it had no door. There were no closets in the bedrooms. The bathroom consisted of a small shower, single sink and toilet. We finally got the car unloaded and all our “stuff” put in its proper place, or in the second bedroom until I figured out how to make this place our home. I found the ramrod Daddy gave Butch in the last load Butch brought in. It went under the bed. I figured he would have to get on his hands and knees to get it, and that would give me time to get to the kitchen and the cast iron skillet. In forty-two years, he didn’t use the ramrod, and I didn’t use the skillet for anything but cooking.

 

The front yard was mostly sand. The backyard was also sand with a clothesline just past the back door and a sidewalk dividing the backyards of the rows of units. That allowed the milkman access to both units with only one trip. We were young, and everything was an adventure.

 

We were within walking distance of the commissary. That is the grocery store for those of you who are civilians. It was a small store, about the size of a convenience store of today. We stocked up with some stuff for our totally bare kitchen. Staples back then would have been milk and eggs. We would get those and butter from the milkman in the next few days. We also got bread, lard, flour, tuna fish, peanut butter, dried beans, Kool-Aid, bacon, and Miracle Whip. There was not a good selection of meat and it was not very good meat either. The produce was no better, but we made do with a chicken, some potatoes and onions and, of course, hamburger. This had to last two to two and a half weeks. I think I spent about $25, or a little less than a quarter of our monthly income.

 

Butch went into work at 5 a.m. He let me sleep in and I did not complain. He was always an early morning person, and I was definitely the night owl. He heard the alarm clock, never the kids later on, and I had a lot of trouble hearing the alarm but always heard the kids. It worked well for us.

 

One of Butch’s friends, L.T., was bringing his wife and baby down from West Virginia as soon as a unit became available. The time finally came for Shirley to fly into Pensacola. Pensacola airport was very, very small. Murphy’s Law was in full force and the plane was delayed in the mountains. We sat in the waiting area from eight in the morning till four that afternoon. We watched the planes land and take off and played cards. Finally, Shirley, Lee, their German shepherd puppy Chester and enough boxes to fill the car to the brim arrived. We made good time back to the base. We unloaded the car, and I offered to keep the puppy overnight, since Butch had the “duty” and I wanted to help as much as I could. Shirley was tired as was little Lee, and Les was pretty tuckered as well, since he had gotten the house ready for Shirley the day before. Butch and I went home, and he left for the squadron to pull his watch. I played with the puppy.

 

Butch got a part-time job at the bowling alley in town, and I took in alterations. Sailors did like their dungarees pegged. When you peg a pair of dungarees, you start by turning the pants inside out and form-fit the legs from the crotch to the knee, and then flair from the knee to the edge of the bell at the bottom. I got $1 a pair. After Butch bought me a used washer, I also took in washing and ironing.

 

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