I was recently given a memoir homework assignment of choosing a decade of my life and writing about it. I chose “the fifties”.
In the spring of 1950, at age twenty, I graduated from Murray State College in Kentucky with a degree in Elementary Education. My sister, Imogene, her husband, Benny, and their young son, Martin, were living near Eglin AFB in the Florida panhandle. They invited me to live with them. I easily found employment as a first grade teacher on Eglin Air Force Base, teaching thirty-five first-graders in the morning and a different thirty-five first-graders in the afternoon. Yes, that’s right! I was twenty years old, inexperienced, and taught seventy first grade Air Force children each day. The base was crawling with young transient fighter pilots looking for women. Soon my fellow female teachers and I were dating every night of the week and frequently went to work the next morning with hangovers. That pattern of behavior lasted one and a half years before I left my job and married one of the pilots.
“Mac”, or Capt. H. H. Macurdy, drove a bright red XK-120 Jaguar roadster. He had a limited number of days before having to report back to Hamilton AFB north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I started the trip with him, intending to go only as far as New Orleans. Instead we were married by a Justice of the Peace in Log Town, Mississippi, and I never went back to my job. While traveling cross country, our Jaguar roadster was sideswiped at 3:00 o’clock one morning while parked in front of a coffee shop in Uvalde, Texas. This was in 1952, before Interstate Highways. The drunken Uvalde newspaper editor had drifted closer to get a better look at our unusual car. His judgment was flawed, he got too close, and his car crumpled our Jaguar’s aluminum body from bumper to bumper on the driver’s side. It was a drivable wreck, so we went on, after a one-day delay.
I was Mac’s camp follower. From Hamilton AFB in California, where I found employment with a downtown San Francisco insurance company, he was transferred to Yuma AFB in Arizona. While there, I worked as assistant budget controller of Sanguinetti’s Department Store. From Yuma, Mac was transferred to Nellis AFB north of Las Vegas where we hung out in gambling casinos. Then he volunteered to fly combat in Korea, and eventually, I followed him as far as Japan by traveling on a rusty, old cargo/passenger ship for twelve days, surviving a typhoon at sea, and being re-routed to Okinawa. In Japan, I taught American children’s kindergarten in a metal Quonset hut at Itizuke AFB, while Mac flew combat missions in Korea in his F-84, which was named The Girl Pat.
Mac’s next assignment was Advisor to the Pennsylvania Air National Guard at the Philadelphia International Airport. On the way there, our first child, Eric, was conceived in a barracks at Hickam AFB in Hawaii. During our four years in Pennsylvania I gave birth to two baby boys at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. The final two years of the decade, 1958 and 1959, were spent at Paine Field, north of Seattle, WA, another place to love and call home for a while.
I was in my twenties throughout the 1950’s, feeling energetic, adaptable, happy with the Air Force life, and excited to move from place to place. It was a good decade, but I’ve had others just as entertaining, including the one we are in now. Except for bad knees, bad teeth, a leaky bladder, and Donald Trump, I am loving the two thousand-tens!