Monday, December 4, 2017

A house is not a home*

Late last week, El Viejo Sargento de la Fuerza Aérea wrote a tome which posed a question "Home is?" and contained some excellent points and even better commentary.  Both of which are usually the case.

Two of which stuck with me and caused me to think.  (I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again,  that's always dangerous!)

The first point was a Home is not a building.  The second was, to paraphrase, "you can't go home again".  Meaning returning to the site of a previous dwelling rarely provides a return to your memories.  

I view a house in Fighter Pilot terms (of course) as a Rendezvous Point where the crew debriefs the day's mission, refuels, performs maintenance, reloads and rests for the next days mission.  

The dwelling is important to the extent it facilitates those responsibilities, only.

That having been said, it also serves as a focal point for any memories one has of that point in their life.

Fortunately in this day and age, it's not difficult to revisit old homesteads.  It's even easier if you remember the address.  Type it into that creepy (and getting creepier) search engine and off you go, delivered within seconds to your old front door.

So, that's how I spent the day yesterday.

My parents bought this house soon after they got married, so this is the first place I ever lived.  We lived here, in Novato CA, for a couple of years while Dad was flying F-86s at Hamilton AFB.  I don't remember anything from that particular stay, but we did return when I was in 3rd grade and Dad was on a remote to Thule Greenland.  They had bought the house for $5K in 1954 and sold it in 1963 for about $20K thinking they were richer than Croesus.  I'm sure it's valued at way more than that now.  The two  memories I have of this house were of my favorite Aunt babysitting us while Mom and Dad went off for a few days to get "reacquainted" on an R&R from Thule.  That memory involves TV Dinners, learning the principle of a lever by forcefully pushing my sister's elbow down while she was bringing a spoon full of cream corn towards her mouth.  This taught me a few things, a bit of physics, cream corn makes a mess, and my Aunt knew some pretty salty language.  The other memory was of November 22, 1963.

After the first tour in Novato, Dad was transferred to Naha AFB on Okinawa, followed by assignments to Radar Stations in Montana and North Dakota.  The only recollections I have of these homes were cutting my knee falling off a bike (the scar on my knee is a reminder), and sledding off the roof of our quonset hut house and down the snowdrift beside it.  Unfortunately (?), neither site is still in existence.  

After those tours, Dad went to Thule, and we went back to Novato to be closer to Mom's family.

Returning from Thule, Dad wanted to become an astronaut, so went to the University of Oklahoma to get a Civil Engineering Degree.  

They purchased this house which was way out in the country.  I was entering Kindergarten and my recollections of this home were of a large Bull on the other side of our back fence which my mother counselled me not to cross and sitting in our swimming pool (the plastic ones for kiddies you can still buy at Wally World) and having Mom bring me some Kool-Aid.  

The house isn't way out in the country any more.

Degree in hand, Dad was assigned to Ent AFB, Colorado Springs, still working Air Defense Warning stuff.  They bought a house on the western outskirts of the town, almost to Manitou Springs.  There were but maybe a dozen houses in the development at the time.  Being a little older now, I have bit more memories of the place.

I remember mowing that lawn and I remember Dad and I planting that tree.  Sometimes, you can go home again.  I also remember the view out the living room window (top window to the right of the front door.

Pikes Peak was usually covered in snow.  I blame Al Gore.

Following that assignment and with Vietnam heating up, the Air Force needed pilots again (still?) and Dad was released from Durance Vile and returned to flying.  His assignment was as a T-38 IP at Webb AFB Big Spring Texas.

I was starting 6th grade, I would graduate from High School on this move.

Again, you can't go home again.  Webb was closed down in the post Vietnam Drawdown and between that and the fuel crisis, Big Spring went into an economic depression.  The base is now home to several correctional institutions and base housing is used to provide quarters for prisoner's families.  

I've been told that while the economy has improved in the last few years, the town is still a difficult place to live.  That having been said, this house definitely fit my definition of a home.  The road the picture vehicle is traveling on is the site of the most effective demonstration on Newton's Laws of Motion ever bestowed on man (or boy).

Additionally, one Christmas, I received a Daisy BB gun.  No red ant was safe after that!

My Buddy and My "fort" is just to the right of the dark phone pole in the cedars.  We spent a lot of time out there.  I wonder if my secret stash of Mr. Hefner's magazine are still out there?

Left Big Spring after graduation and went to Lubbock to get some edumacation, then UPT in Del Rio, LIFT at Holloman and F-4 RTU at Luke.  Nothing really homelike about any of them.  Lots of friends, but no family.

Same with Kunsan. Lots of Friends, but no family.

Arrived at Moody AFB, Valdosta by the swamp, GA, and the day I arrived met the woman I eventually married.  

No, the fence was not there at the time.
For a lot of reasons, NONE of which I'm going to share, this was very much a Home to me.  It also was where I received my introduction to the evil that is Fire Ants.  Bastiges!

Following a very nice assignment with almost (but not quite) as much flying as I could stand, we received orders to Holloman as a LIFT IP.

At this point, Mrs Juvat and I went eyeball deep and purchased our first house.

The overhead view of the courtyard reveals the brick patio as well as the center fountain, Mrs Juvat and I installed ourselves.  The back patio provided an excellent and, at the time, unobstructed view of the mountains.  Now,  not so much.  Housing stretches to the base of the mountains.  

This assignment was followed by my tour in the Eagle.  Lots of memories there, but only one about our house.

Returned from there, to Leavenworth KS where I received (wait for it...) ARRRRMMMMMMEEEEE Training, Sir!  Lot's of memories there, mostly of getting "reaquainted" with my wife (who'd stayed at Kadena for a year) and getting to know my now 1 year old daughter.  My son and I were both glad to have them....Home!

Apparently, there hasn't been a pig roast there in 25 years. I find that odd.

We followed that assignment with a tour in Hawaii.  Lots of memories of that home on Hickam AFB.  Sailing and the Hale Koa, feature prominently in most, although Waimea Canyon is a fond family memory.  May have to share that one, sometime.

But, all good things must end, and one must pay one's dues, as the next and last assignment was to the Northern Virginia Penitentiary for Wayward Fighter Pilots.  Not a lot of good memories related to the assignment, but we do have some good memories of family time together.  Having my son instruct me on a Scout Camping Trip on the proper setting up of a tent in the dark, in the rain, features prominently.

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This was the second home Mrs Juvat and I bought,  comparatively quiet, yet within a reasonable commute time (if you could take the HOV lane). It had a pretty steep hill down the back which was a pain to mow, but fun to sled down, as long as you remembered to bail out before reaching the fence.  Similarly, the road slopped down to the home, with was fine until it iced over.  Fortunately, we were on the side of the cul-de-sac, rather than in the house immediately to the left of this location.  Snow plow ended up in his living room one icy morning.

Which brings us to our final transfer, the one out of the Air Force and into civilian life.  Not having a job when we arrived in Texas, we decided on a rental at first.

Secluded and quiet, it was a nice place to decompress after leaving the Pentagon.  We affectionately refer to it as "Scorpion Manor".  Seems it had been vacant for quite a few months before our arrival.  The light area in the upper left of the photo is a rock pile.  We made our first acquaintance with the denizens of that rock pile the first Saturday we occupied the place.  Saw them almost daily thereafter.  

Yes, their sting stings! No, they won't kill you (unless you're allergic to bee stings).  However, after a while, Mrs Juvat said "enough".  So it is written, so it shall be.

Lots of good memories here in this Home, and hopefully, soon we'll be constructing a new house that we can also turn into a home.  (Site will be in the vicinity of the loop next to the barn on the far left side of the photo.)

* To prevent the copyright Nazis from griping, this post's title is also the title of a Dionne Warwick song as well as a movie for which it was written. Neither or which have any bearing on this post.


  1. I'm an Old Army Brat. Dad retired when I was 16, back in ought '57. I attended 12 different schools between first and 12th grades. We lived all over the US, but never got overseas. We were packing for Japan when the Korean War broke out, and dependents were not allowed in the Far East.

    I've since visited some of my childhood homes. It was discouraging that Crittenden Road on Ft. Jackson was no more. I found the Post Engineer's office and gave them the address. They dug up an old map and reported it had been razed years past. Our house in Columbia was still there and the neighborhood was vaguely familiar. But nothing to revitalize my childhood memories. Similarly in Salt Lake City. I was as a stranger in a strange land.

    Google Earth reveals that our home in Tacoma has become the parking lot for a shopping mall. That discovery saved a bit of driving.

    I continued my vagabond ways in my tech career, moving every few years. My kids are the worse for it. They, and I, lack an anchor to "home". I've settled in Austin for some 30 years now, and intend to be here till I die. Wanderlust is for the young-at-heart.

    1. Austin is much like DC. A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I have a 30 day currency requirement. I have to visit there every 30 days to remind myself why I live in a small town. But...the Daughter lives there and loves it, so it's got that going for it.

  2. I remember a bit about living in Plainview, TX, but we moved to Lubbock when dad was hired away from Plainview PD. My memories revolve around biking through Lubbock, the tornado of 70, and our building projects. I helped dad put in a central heater, closet, ducting, plumbing gas and electric to the unit. We built a cellar from the cement blocks of 2 damaged gas stations ("this hammer is made to remove the cement that used to glue these blocks together. I know it looks like a lot, but you'll get it done.... eventually. I started in May and finished the pile in November of third grade) Planted trees, built a storage shed, reroofed the house. That's all still there. We moved when I was between 7th and 8th grade.

    We moved out of town to the country and wound up in the largest group of inbred people I've ever had the displeasure of knowing. Happy to have survived that debacle.

    Great post, neighbor. It's good to remember how far we've come...

    1. The night of that tornado, there was one in Big Spring also. I remember the whole family sitting in the hallway of that house pictured above. My brother decided to lighten the tension by passing some gas. I don't know which was worse. But...That story still makes the rounds at meetups.

    2. Dad grew up in SW Ok, he knew weather. He was watching outside, when he came running in the house, and yelled we were going under the house. Mom threw a quilt down the access hole in their closet, and we pilled in. I lost some really nice plastic biplanes under there that night.

      We listed to KFYO as the roof blew off the police department. One of the commercials was for Alexanders Jewelry. They used the theme from 2001 Space Odyssey on it. I always remember the smell of the wood and dirt when I hear that. The tornado hit about a mile NE of us, dad saw it letting down...

      Dad was called in over the AM radio, "all off duty police and fire will report to duty until further notice." He wound up digging the dead out for about 24 hours. They set up a temporary morgue in my junior high. I used to tell the guys the weird stains on our lunch tables were from the dead bodies they had put on them.

      I was in first grade when that blew through, and it's seared in my memory.

    3. I showed up at Tech a couple of years later. I was always awed by the building (I forget what it was called) that had been bent so that it leaned over the street. Ma Nature has some strength when she wants to wield it.

  3. One of the nice things about Google Earth and Street View is the ability to visit one's old haunts, if they're still there.

    Except Germany, where Street View is non-existent outside of the major cities.

    For an exercise in WTF, go to Google Maps and search for Germany. Then zoom out so you can see most of Europe. Then drag the little street view guy over the map (don't drop him). Now note the absence of street view in Germany, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belarus, and other places. I guess the Google car's driver did not have his/her papers in order.

    1. I had noticed that. I also encountered that when trying to find pictures of Kadena and Hickam. Whoda Thunk? No pictures on Air Bases? /sarc

  4. My early years were hardscrabble times for my parents. We moved often. He caught on with the Denver & Rio Grande when they were downsizing. I attended nine different schools my first seven years. They finally settled in the one place I loathed. Three days after graduating from High School, I was gone. Been roaming every since.

    1. I don't know whether hardscrabble would apply to me. I do know that the BB gun was a big deal as it was more expensive than any of the other Christmas gifts exchanged in my family. Much as I enjoyed my time in Big Spring, I left almost as fast as you did after graduation. Other than transiting it in travels around the state, I never came back until we moved back to TX. Spent the night there the first Christmas we were here on the way to visit my folks in Vegas. Very depressing.

  5. You had twice the moves since you did double duty as an Air Force son and pilot, although staying in the same house from 6th-12th is probably a record. My own dad was a TAR- Training Active Reservists, so he never left Miramar NAS until he retired. When my kids were a little worried about moving, my wife was always one to tell them that home is where we are together, and the building doesn't matter. Six moves for my son, 5 for my daughter, but returning 3 times to the same house in SanDog helped. By the way, I'm having the same problems with my posts- some of the pictures show up, but a couple don't (BB-Gun, Pentagon tour). I've tried resaving as GIF/JPEG, but no luck. Might be the lousy or outdated browsers we have here at work (IE, Ch, FFox) though. Need to check from home.

    1. The 6-12 comment didn't come out on paper like it did in my head. We lived in THAT house from 6th grade to halfway through my Junior Year, then Dad got orders to Vietnam and we had to move off base. Still in Big Spring though. Dad got back half way through my Senior year and was reassigned to Columbus AFB MS. Graduation requirements for Mississippi would have cost me an extra year of HS, so I stayed behind and lived with one of the Counselors through graduation. Big Spring was 6-12 then.

    2. Roger that. I guess our software at work is the problem. No issues here at home.

  6. This made me remember our move to Corpus Christi from Hawaii. The move took several weeks with visits with family in California and Texas and then temp housing until our new (to us) house was ready. My two year old son had had quite enough of the vagabond lifestyle. As we pulled into the driveway on our move-in day he exclaimed "THIS is MY house!"

    1. I would say that statement fulfills most of the requirements to classify the house as a "home". Good on him!

  7. My peregrinations have been limited pretty much to the confines of California, except for '62 - '64, aboard ship.
    Even the Navy limited them to some extent.
    Basic was at San Diego, schools at TI in SF, and the ship was home ported at San Diego.
    Deployment to WesPac and the stint in the Pearl Harbor Shipyard during overhaul were all that got me away from here for more than a couple of weeks at any one time.
    On the other hand, I have lived in enough different places, well separated from each other, to experience different climates, both culturally and weather-wise.

    1. That may be the most stable military career I've heard about, Skip, well done.

  8. I thought that I had made a lot of moves in growing up an Army/Air Force brat, but this post ( a most excellent one, BTW ) makes my life seem sedentary. To channel Bob Hope: Thanks for the memories.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Thanks Paul, I got bored one time and counted the times I had to change my mailing address in my life. Using a change in Zip Code as a marker, I've "moved" 43 times. I told Mrs Juvat when we moved to Rancho Juvat that I'd move 2 more times. Once into our new home and then into a box.

    2. Do me ( and, no doubt others ) a favor and delay that last move for many more years.


    3. That's certainly my plan! ;-)

  9. I've never calculated the total number of moves. Let's just say that when my father went to the war college in Newport we moved and lived in three very different houses and then I went to some navy schools there and lived in 3 different places and that's just one little town.
    We went to look at the place my family lived at Selfridge Air National Guard Base and found it empty. They haven't torn down the perfectly good housing but they also aren't using any of them to house families anymore. Still an active base with a few A10s and handful of big refuelly kind of planes.
    Home was the place in Carlisle for about 50 years. My mother's parent's place and then for about 40 years, their place in Virginia. It's not true you know. If you do it right, you can go home. for a while.

    1. Seeing the tree Dad and I planted some 50+ years ago was a nice feeling. Seeing the wreck of the house on Webb not so much. With Dad and Mom having passed, I guess it falls on Mrs Juvat and I to be the "home" the kids can go to.

  10. On a swing through Pensacola a few years ago, my wife and I drove around to the different places I'd lived during Dad's 3 tours there at NTTC Corry Station (student, instructor, then administrator). With the exception of base housing at Corry (which actually looked a lot nicer now that the trees had grown up), it was very depressing. Solidly middle class neighborhoods (if on the lower side of middle class) had become slums. They looked like Gulf Coast versions of Detroit.

    1. There's a lot of that along I-10, I'm not smart enough to determine if that's cause and effect, or just what you can see from the Highway. There were a lot of places we passed through that I didn't want to live there and would just as soon not have the car breakdown there either.

  11. Well done, and nice pictures too! I don't have any pictures left... sigh... But I didn't move much until I went in the Navy, then it was every 2-3 years for 22 years, the about every 3-4 years as a contractor. Way too many moves, when it's all said and done.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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