Sunday, January 20, 2019

Winter Memories

Snow in Donghae City, Republic of Korea
(Source)
Sometimes I blog to entertain, sometimes to educate, sometimes it's to document something from my past which maybe someday my grandchildren might read, something to give them a better idea of who I was, where they came from so to speak, at least in part. Today it is something from my past, which the current weather in my area brings to mind.

I have loads of winter memories from when I was a kid. Winters back then were colder, longer, and had a lot more snow than I see nowadays. I don't blame mankind for that, there is no blame to be assigned, weather patterns change, they've been doing that since the Earth cooled.

Anyhoo, it's not a memory from my childhood that I wish to recount today, no, it's a memory of when my son, The Naviguesser was a little boy.

It was the winter of 1979 when my son was only four months old. It was December and we were living in a new apartment in Kunsan City, Republic of Korea. It was a two room apartment, which seems small, but when you consider that one room was the bedroom and the other was the living room and both rooms were pretty spacious, and there was but the three of us, one being a small baby, it was pretty nice.

It was heated better than our old place as well, that place had relied upon a single pot-bellied yeontan stove which heated one room, for a radius of about six feet. The other two rooms, much smaller were semi-arctic. My wife's oldest sister once commented that staying with us was like sleeping in a refrigerator. Hey, once you were under one of those big Korean mink blankets it was toasty.

Nevertheless, once The Naviguesser was born, The Missus Herself began to seek warmer quarters for her wee family. The new two room place was nice and toasty. Though the cooking and sanitary facilities left a bit to be desired, it was really a step up from the old place, Did I mention it was warm in the winter? Yes, the prime reason for selecting that place I believe.

At any rate, we were all set to have The Naviguesser's first Christmas in that place. We had a tree in the living room, separated from the bedroom by a shoji-type door, which was usually left open. Our son seemed to really like the sparkling lights and the shiny decorations from his usual spot on the bed. I have to admit, I liked it too.

Christmas Eve rolled around that year with the prospect of Your Humble Scribe having to work from 1900 to 0700. Yes, a twelve hour shift beginning Christmas Eve and ending on Christmas morning. My first Christmas as a Dad, my son's very first Christmas ever.

What was worse, the reason we were working the long shifts were that we were in the midst of a periodic exercise. We did this a lot when I was in Korea, it was the one place in the military back then which an assignment to qualified one to be a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Little Rhody even says I'm a "war veteran," which my two oldest kids get a kick out of as they actually were involved in the GWOT*, as it was (still is?) called. The Naviguesser's ship actually fired Tomahawks at Iraq during the opening stages of the Iraq War. The Nuke's ship actually ran patrols in the northern reaches of the Persian Gulf during that same conflict. Hey, I don't claim it, it was thrust upon me.

At any rate, on Christmas Eve 1979, I donned flak vest, steel pot (helmet), parka, and mukluks (USAF issue, damned toasty they were), kissed the wife and bairn goodbye and headed off to the local bus stop. (No one had a car back then, no one.) Of course, it was also snowing to beat all. Really improved my morale that did.

So with the world looking all "Christmasy" and me being all grumpy, I rode the bus from where I lived, to where I worked. Sort of...

It was about a 500 yard walk to the bus stop from my front door. The bus dropped us off at the Recreation Center on base, which was roughly a mile from my shop. A total distance of roughly six and a half miles. So I rode the bus for most of the way.

Normally the base bus service ran periodically and we could catch that from the Rec Center down to my shop. Now did I mention it was snowing? Snowing like crazy as a matter of fact, bit windy too as I recall. At least I remember the wind coming in one side of my parka hood and kind of rolling around inside my helmet before heading out the other side. My head stayed warm as I had my issue faux-fur winter cap under my helmet. An item I still have and still wear when the weather outside is frightful.

My winter cap is still a good friend,
you can only see one ear flap
in this photo. Yes, I was cold.
The evening looked rather like that opening photo above, only I was on an Air Force base where most everything was closed (I mean it was Christmas Eve) to include the base bus service. Yup, that's right, no buses. We'd have to walk the mile to the shop.

Now mind you, the first part of the journey was in amongst barracks and other buildings, rather sheltered it was, the rest would be out in the open, crossing one of the taxiways. We'd be exposed to blowing snow most of the way. There was talk of finding the idiot who shut down the shuttle bus and making him pay, but for the nonce we had to get to work, first and foremost, we had duties to perform, more senior sergeants to answer to, and aircraft to maintain.

Just about when we were to enter the open area of the base, a big six-passenger pick-up truck owned by one of the fighter squadrons stopped and offered us a lift. The front was full of pilots and WSOs, but we didn't mind. Crossing the "plains" (as it were) in the back of an open pick-up truck was far preferable to doing the same on foot.

The nice aircrew dropped a bunch of us off at the Component Repair Squadron (where I worked) and went on their merry way. As I stomped into the back loading dock, where the flightline guys would drop off and pick up malfunctioning bits of aircraft radar gear, brushing off snow, stomping my feet to clear mukluks of same (Skip, our boss, would rip us a new one if we tracked up the shop with snow), I bemoaned my fate and prepared to do a twelve hour shift.

In the office, Skip told me and the rest of the night shift to park our "nasty asses" on the office sofa. He had a few phone calls to make and was waiting to hear from Job Control on a topic of great interest.

So we waited, not too long as it turned out. Skip talked on the phone for a bit, thanked the guy on the other end, then turned to look at us, the night crew.

"Exercise is over, go home. Merry Christmas and see you the day after tomorrow."

Well, we unassed** the premises in a hurry and flagged down another pick-up headed back to the main part of the base. As we rolled up to the Rec Center, in another Christmas miracle, the bus to Kunsan was just rolling up. In less than an hour (travel was awfully slow that night) I was back home in the bosom of my family.

It was a most excellent Christmas, having that exercise shut down in time to get home for Christmas Eve was one of the best presents I ever received for Christmas. Every time it snows, I remember that night. It started crappy, wound up great. Never give up on a situation, while odds are things will only get worse, sometimes they get a whole lot better.

Sometimes.

Best of all, got a big smile from my little boy when I stomped up the stairs and The Missus Herself announced, "Merry Christmas! Daddy is home!"

A cherished memory.




* GWOT = Global War On Terrorism.
** unass = to dismount or disembark (a vehicle); to get off of (something); to unseat (someone); to leave (somewhere). Editorial Note: This term dates back to at least the 1960s and the Vietnam War. It is especially associated with the military, from where it has spread to politics and aeronautics.

64 comments:

  1. Very nice and touching tale. One little quibble, if I may, you wrote: "o one had a car back then, no one.", I noticed that there are a number of cars in the opening photo; did the car dealers have their cars parked in the streets? Ok, I'm being a bit of a jerk ( or perhaps more than a bit ), but IMWTK.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suspect that the photo is not of the same vintage as the story. I don't recall if there was a regulation against owning a car, but nobody I knew at Kunsan had one, and very few had motorcycles. I had a bike (and a "motorcycle" of sorts)

      Delete
    2. "I don't recall if there was a regulation against owning a car..."

      But, juvat, such regulation would only apply to ( U.S. ) military, no? Said photo is not, I believe, on base.

      Paul

      Delete
    3. The photo illustrates the weather that day, not the number of cars prevalent. Most Koreans didn't bother with cars then, probably due to the expense.

      Donghae is on the opposite coast of Korea as well.

      Delete
    4. I know that in the spring of '86, when I got to play in ' Team Spirt 86 ', the people of the ROK had cars; however, they didn't ( at least from what I saw ) didn't believe in turning on their car's headlights until full dark, if then. They seemed upset that we had our vehicle's on at dusk.

      Paul

      Delete
    5. Yup, by '86 Korea was booming, when I went back in '95 it looked like everyone had a car (or three) and all of them were on the highways at the same time. Took 2 hours to get from Kimpo to Osan. A madhouse.

      Delete
    6. The '88 Seoul Olympics really were a game changer for South Korea weren't they? Finally got them over the two wars and made them a modern state.

      It also made traffic bad.

      Delete
    7. Oh yes, traffic was horrendous when we visiting in 1995.

      Delete
  2. DANG, in my rush to be the coveted first commenter, I skipped proofreading my comment. "o one had a car back then, no one.". I missed the initial ' n' in your sentence. Sorry 'bout that GI. Just more proof of my self assessment.

    Paul

    ReplyDelete
  3. By the way, that opening photo is a very nice. On giving it a closer look, I noticed that one person used the non sticking windshield wiper technique.

    Paul

    ReplyDelete
  4. Christmas '79, I'd been at the Kun for about 3 weeks. I was the duty officer Christmas eve (newest guy in the Squadron gets ALL the good deals") and remember being told that the exercise was over. Trudging back to my room, shivering, I remember revisiting the wisdom of my joining the Air Force. It hit me at that point. "Could be worse...could be in the Army on the DMZ."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was wondering if you were there at that time. Just like the Air Force to ship you off on a remote tour just before Christmas.

      And you had to walk back? Quite a hike from the squadrons to the BOQ as I recall. (Longer than a mile, that's for sure!)

      Delete
    2. Well, the Juvats were on the north side of the cross taxiway. The Pantons were over on your side. It wasn't THAT long of a walk, although in the snow, in a flight suit (with long johns, but still) it seemed like a VERY long ways.

      Delete
    3. The wind, I think the wind was up that night as well.

      Felt like a short walk in summer, much longer in winter.

      Delete
    4. That was the first Christmas in my life I hadn't been at my Folks. I think it was worse for Mom. Her birthday was on the 20th, so I missed that also. I did call her on her birthday from the Kun. 10 bucks a minute, 10 minutes. Back when $100 was a significant portion of my paycheck. Now, my Son and DIL call from overseas for my Flank Steak Recipe. For all the bitchin' that's something that's much better now than BITD.

      Delete
    5. I remember the MARS calls from Kadena, cost about a week's pay as I recall.

      Called my parents once, they said that at those prices, a letter every now and again was just fine.

      Yup, nowadays things are much more convenient. Daughter flies to Japan, a quick text to say "Made it!" Works for me!

      Delete
  5. There you go Sarge, your very own minor Christmas miracle. And thanks for increasing my knowledge of Korean household items. Juvat, there's always SOMEONE who has it slightly worse. Oh.....FYI.... it's minus 4 F currently.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Christmas of '79 was our exact four month wedding anniversary and I was on shore duty in the wilds of Moorestown, NJ at the Aegis program test site.

    Philly is supposed to see a high of 52 F today and a low of 7 F. That is just nuts and NOAA thinks you are going to see temperatures close to what we are going to see.

    Your post is great story with a warm ending.


    ReplyDelete
  7. Replies
    1. Heavens no! Security forces had those.

      Delete
    2. "Heavens no! Security forces had those."

      and Beanies too. Don't forget the Beanies!

      Delete
    3. Paul - The mouse boots may have been warm, but they looked kinda goofy. YMMV

      Delete
    4. "Paul - The mouse boots may have been warm, but they looked kinda goofy."

      Well, you can bet that I wasn't at Disney Land or Disney World.

      Paul

      Delete
  8. Hey Old AFSarge;

    I spent enough time working Christmas when I was in the service and I was working jobs after I got out. I finally had Christmas off when I was hired at the Atlanta Ford Assy Plant, but when they shut down in 2006. When I first started working my job as a chemtrail technician it is 24/7/365 due to the needs of the employer. Now I have enough seniority I can take time off because they go to 50% manning and the married guys and guys with kids get first dibs...by seniority. That was a very good story and spending time with your son on his first Christmas is priceless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never liked working on Christmas Day. Surprisingly, that Christmas in 1979 was the closest I ever got. Twenty-four years on active duty, never had to work Christmas Day. Not in the civilian world either.

      Delete
  9. This would have been a most excellent Christmas Eve post, had your muse not had the day off! I know how blogging inspiration works though- very randomly. And in my case, infrequently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Muse was off, I was off. Pretty much the whole command staff was off. Down in Maryland we were, well I was, I think the Muse was skiing in Aspen.

      Delete
  10. No VFW for me.
    I listened to the 1st Gulf war on the Chicago news channel working on the Coast Guard hanger deck at CGAS Chicago. I was retired when the 911 happened.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was a member of the VFW for a while because my Dad wanted me to join (he was a member). I let it lapse after he died, didn't see the point.

      Delete
  11. Unassed. Indeed. Different circumstance, but yeah, the order to "Get lost" given to EM's was completed to an empty room.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Arg. should read "...us EM's...".

      Delete
    2. Any enlisted person who isn't moving before the boss' lips stops moving isn't paying attention.

      Delete
    3. But RHT447 you became an "O" later in life yes?

      Delete
    4. I did indeed, but at the state level, not federal. California State Military Reserve from '83 to '01. I closed out at O4, and my good friend did the same, but later than I. He was ex-Navy EM. I was the Bn CO, he was my XO, both of us Majors, both mustangs. We referred to ourselves as "M&M Enterprises".

      Sad to report he lived in Paradise CA. I manage to talk to him by phone one time while the Camp fire was still raging. He managed to get out with what he could pitch into his pickup. One of those burnt up mobile home frames you see in the videos is his. Have had no contact since. We should all count our blessings.

      Delete
  12. "Well, we unassed** the premises"

    1.) Wonderful turn of phrase
    2.) My first thought reading that was "Got rid of the Majors and Lt. Colonels, eh?" (see old joke about origin of officer rank insignia)
    3.) My second thought was "Stuffed the 2nd Lt. into a dumpster, did you?"

    Well written. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have always loved that term. As for lieutenants, they weren't allowed anywhere near the maintenance guys, bad for the lieutenants' morale. Not that I would know anything about that...

      Delete
    2. And they probably annoyed the daylights out of the enlisted guys who were actually doing the work, too!

      Delete
    3. Thou dost protest too much.

      🤣

      Delete
  13. I have never walked to and from work both ways uphill in a snowstorm. I give you points for that. But I did bike 10 miles both ways against the wind on a 10-speed stuck in 8th gear. Going to the girlfriend's house on bike from Satellite Beach to the north side of Patrick AFB housing, had to ride along next to the runway. During the early part of the day, before 3pm, wind came from the north. After 5pm, usually shifted from the south. So, both ways into a rather strong wind stuck in death gear. By the time the summer was over I had access to car and my upper thighs were strong like bull.

    The high for today was 58 at 4am, sliding to 33 or maybe lower by 6-7pm. Positively frigid. Brrrr. May have to wear socks and real shoes to go with my shorts and a t-shirt (with jacket, not completely stupid.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest, it was flat, remember there was aa taxiway running through it. Riding a bike into a headwind, both ways? That does not sound like fun.

      33 in Florida? Dang, that's chilly!

      Delete
    2. Yes. If it gets colder I'll be forced to wear sweat pants and an extra t-shirt. Or windier. Was around 20mph for a while, which at 80% humidity and 48 degrees feels like Antarctica. Brisk. Well, brisk for Florida.

      Reminds me when I went camping in Central Texas. Actually saw cow patties (dried) flying in the 'breezy' wind. When it got to 'windy' according to the locals, I guess it became a real shit-storm.

      Delete
  14. Military Christmas memories? 1964,Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, guard duty at the ammo dump, Campo Pond, Hanau. Two on, four off. The only Christmas I caught duty.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Good post, as always.
    No recent complaints about vision problems seen here, so I hope that has resolved itself. A belated Christmas gift perhaps.
    John Blackshoe

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah the vision continues to be an issue, but it's improving, slowly which is frustrating, but it is getting better.

      Thanks John.

      Delete
    2. So you're telling us you're not dead yet?

      Delete
  16. I've worked many a holiday and weekend in my career as a Field Service Engineer. If the 'Red Phone' rang, I was off and running. Stuff had to get fixed, or Bad Things could (and sometimes did anyway) happen.

    During my stint in the Broadcasting Biz, I volunteered for those days as I was single, and I knew the married guys with kids had more important things to do on those days.

    ReplyDelete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)