Monday, November 21, 2005

The Fall of 1967

It's fall now, even in the Deep South. I lost a bet with a VIVI Award nominee and my payoff, if I lost, would be to write about the strangest or most unique fall I've ever had and to show a picture of me doing a fall activity.

I know, you all want to know what the bet was over. I bet this fine journalist and friend would win a VIVI Award after being nominated in four different categories. The award never came and I'm paying off on my bet. You can check out her excellent journal at this link.

The most interesting or unique fall I've experienced would have to be the fall of 1967. I had just started my junior year at Hampton High School in Hampton Virginia.

When my father, an officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force got transferred to Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, I had just graduated from the eighth grade in Smyrna, Tennessee. I was popular in school, played trombone in the school band, and loved the house we lived in that was set on one-and-a-half acres near Stuart's Creek. Life was pretty good and I did not want to move.

I knew that I would have to move whether I wanted to or not. My father was a career officer in the military and we moved every three years. It was just a fact of life as I grew up. There was nothing I could do to change it.

When we got the assignment to Langley, I got a map of Virginia and found Hampton on the map. All my doubts about the move vanished when I saw that Hampton was on the Atlantic Coast and surrounded by water. I loved the water and we had a boat. I could already slalom ski better than any adult I had met. This move might be fun after all.

During the school year, the first two years of living in Hampton were hell for me. They wore different clothes than the kids did where I had come from. No one told me about that before the school year started. I stood out like a sore thumb and the kidding and weird looks started immediately. One of the school bullies found me an excellent target and my life that first year could not get any worse.

By the time the fall of 1967 came to pass, I had found my way out of the situation with the bully adjusted my wardrobe, changed from the Junior High School to Hampton High School and was just starting to really fit in. I was in the High School Marching Band and was the first to letter on the Swim Team that year. I had even learned to play the guitar.

I usually dreaded the fall. A new school year with new teachers and weather that just got colder every day for months on end. I hated cold weather! The fall of 1967 was different! I looked forward to the school football games. I liked my classes. I was no longer bothered by bullies or teased by thoughtless kids. I wore my letter sweater with pride!

I had a mad and passionate crush on two of my teachers that year. Nancy Orcutt was my English teacher and I had never met anyone quite like her. She was an attractive blond with a brilliant mind and made her classes interesting to her students daily. My other crush was on my history teacher, a short and stunning brunette, who was fun loving and made her history lessons come alive.

We had just moved onto the base and I had to make new friends with the kids I met in base housing. When we transferred in, base housing was full. What made the difference was that dad got promoted to the rank of full colonel and there was a vacancy in base housing for that grade of rank.

The house we moved into was an older Victorian two story house of red brick with ivy growing up the sides and front. It was on the part of the base that was on the water and I was thrilled. My room was upstairs and I had a dormer style window that I could sit in facing the water while I played my guitar and day dreamed. This house really looked like a building straight off the campus of an ivy-league college. That's the feeling it gave me, anyway!

My sister had already gone off to college. Johns Hopkins University's nursing program is where she was that fall. She lived in Baltimore, Maryland and I felt kind of strange living in a house without her daily presence.

I had a strong crush on her best friend at college whom had come home with her on a previous visit at the old house. I used to sit in that upstairs window seat composing letters and songs to send to Pat Carpenter as I gazed over a beautiful vista of the Back River. Pat was a wonderful person whom I've always regretted losing contact with over the years.

Thanksgiving was the time everything came to a head that year. We knew something was in the wind, we could just feel it. The Air Force usually gave new assignments with promotions at my father's level. We were waiting and worrying.

My mother wanted to go to the Officer's Club for Thanksgiving dinner. There would only be three of us at the table and my father was about to give in to her wishes when he got his new assignment papers.

Dad was to report to Vietnam the following March. He would leave his present assignment in January and report to Washington DC for spy school and counter insurgency training. No, Dad would not be a spy or counterspy. He had to go through the training because men assigned to his command would be doing these jobs. The commander of these units would need to know what these jobs entailed. Notice I said units ... plural. Dad would be the commander of two helicopter outfits, a group of C-124 Caribou aircraft built for short takeoff and landings, and an outfit of C-130's that had Puff The Magic Dragon cannons installed on some and some with The August Moon equipment that could light up an entire battlefield as it flew overhead at night.

I can't tell you anymore about what my father did in Vietnam. Almost everything he did was classified and my father would never discuss classified information. Period. That was the kind of officer he was and one of the reasons, I guess, he rose to such a rank as he did.

Because of his impending departure, Mom decided that we would have a home cooked meal after all for Thanksgiving since Dad would not be with us for at least one full year. Mom was a first rate cook and she surpassed her previous achievements that Thanksgiving. There were some tears being shed as we bowed to give our thanks at the table that year. I didn't know how to act, so I played the brave one, ready to be the man of the house while dad was gone. But I saw the tears and never forgot them.

We started making plans that fall as to what mom and I would do and where we would live while dad was gone. We still owned the house in Tennessee where we used to live and I wanted to return to my old friends. So, we started to get our affairs in order and plan our move back to Tennessee.

The general who lived down the street from us offered to allow me to move in with them for the remainder of the school year so that I could finish my swimming season with the team. His son and I had become friends and it was a very generous offer. I turned it down, though. Losing my father for a year was going to be hard enough on Mom. Jan, my sister, would remain away at school in Baltimore and if I stayed behind Mom would be alone. I chose to move back to Tennessee with her.

As fall turned to winter and Christmas plans and decorations were being made; we all dealt with the impending future in each of our own way. Yes, it was a strange and unique fall that year of 1967 and one that I will never forget.

Dad made it back safely from Vietnam over a year later. The experience changed him and it changed us, as individuals and as a family. We seemed closer when we were all together again and we no longer took anything for granted. We were so very thankful to have him back and to have each other! Oh, and one other thing happened. After his return, Dad and I were never too embarrassed to hug anymore.

As an aside, those of you who read this journal regularly and like to read the comments can gauge my sister's reactions to what I write. She comments using the screen name Ltcjan. She does not have an AOL account so you can't email to that screen name. If anyone ever wants to contact her, send me an Email and I'll send you her Email address. Ltc Stands for Lieutenant Colonel. She may be changing that screen name soon because she is pinning on her Eagles this week. Jan is now a full Colonel in the Army Reserves. Congratulations, Sis!

As you sit down to the table this Thursday on Thanksgiving Day, think about the things you have to be thankful for. I will be giving some very special thanks for having become a part of this community and I will give thanks for all of my friends and family online and off. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


rap4143 said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!!! Bob and I will be heading to CT spending a couple of days with our daughter and her family.  BTW LOVELY photo and story.

sieblonde said...

Nice to see you again.  I knew you'd have a wonderful story to share when you 'came back.'   Congratulations to your sister.  Happy Thanksgiving, may you spend it with family, friends, and good food.  ~Sie

lurkynat said...

Deares Sam,
Thank you so much for this beuatiful and stiring entry! I love the photos and the story was great! Perhaps there is a book there?!?!?!? :):):)
I lvoed your tribute to Carly! She is a great friend! Sam you outdid your self!I'm gonna' have to keept his one to reread again nad again! hugs , natalie

ajoleblon said...

What a beautiful Thanksgiving story.  Thank you for sharing it.  And I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!


barbpinion said...

Dear Sam, I so look forward to your entries. They are like a breath of fresh air, always lifting my spirits. This entry is so precious, one I will never forget. Have a wonderful day & thanks for always being in my corner. A good friend makes life's burdens so much lighter. God bless you.

labdancer51 said...

What an interesting entry Sam, a wonderful story, beautifully told. Stunning photos too! :o)

Sandra x

ryanagi said...

Interesting! I wonder if my dad knew your dad. He was a lowly captain back then, but he was a navigator in the USAF. He flew reconnaissance missions (those huge stealth spy planes that flew low and took pictures of the enemy). At your Dad's rank, it's likely that my dad knew who he was, even if they never served together.

ondinemonet said...

Oh Sam

I am sitting here with tears in my eyes, because of the amazing photographs, and the amazing words. This is a lovely look at you my dear one. I am so glad I lost my nominations because reading about you and being able to get to know you better means so much more right now. I can't get over the beauty of those sunset photographs...sigh...and I really like the photo of you a lot. Blue is your color! :) Be well my dear friend, and my best to your family for Thanksgiving. :)

Always, Carly :)

Ellipsis...Suddenly Carly

globetrotter2u said...

Dear Sam,
I am crying right now because you have touched me so much with this incredibly eloquent and beautiful story. How proud you must be of your Dad and your sister and how brave you were to stay with your mom instead of your friends! I can only say that I know why you were so popular in school. You are a very special person, beating to a quiet drum that has many, many different tempos. The pictures of the sunsets are as beautiful as this profoundly touching story. I am so glad that you are still with us here, only because it makes you a tiny bit easier to find and keep track of. Of course I know I can speak for your readers and say they would follow you anywhere:)
Although I am very sorry that Carly lost her Vivi awards, I am so very glad that you lost that bet! Thanks for sharingXO

candace636 said...

I will always remember when my father's hugs ceased being awkward. (for him).You have reminded us of the true reason behind Thanksgiving. Thank you.

ally123130585918 said...

Sam your entries always entrance me, such a great story...The pictures are absolutely lovely .....We are so lucky to have you in our community....Happy Thanksgiving......Ally

jlocorriere05 said...

What a great entry. I'm so glad your dad made it home, so many didn't. Congratulations to Jan too. I know how you feel about losing touch with old friends, if only we made more effort to stay in touch. Jeannette.

csandhollow said...

Thank you for sharing this about you and your family.

nightmaremom said...

Thanks for sharing such a touching story.  Your words always suck me in and I can't wait to get to the next sentence.  You made me cry, tho!  It's so special to be able to share such a moment in time, I am glad it comes so easy for you!  I would be lost without some of the touching things you've said.  I am also thrilled that you decided to stay.  I'd hunt ya down anyway, but this just makes my community that much better having you right down the street :)  Congrats to sis!  And may you all have a wonderful Holiday!

PS Yes, lets keep the home light burning.  Oh, and can I snag that top picture??  Paaaleease?  Pretty paaaalease?

salemslot9 said...

please pass the Kleenex...

rollinghillsides said...

I'd just like to echo the sentiments of all the other commenters.    A very heartwarming life story, indeed.  I enjoyed each and every sentence!  Happy Autumn and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your wonderful family....

ksquester said...

Sam, I am so glad you posted. I've missed you. Wonderful story. My husband is a Vietnam veteran, who went on to medical when he was finished with the service. We all have a lot of Thanks to give this holiday.  Anne

robinngabster said...

Hey Sam... 1967 was a good year...I was born that year! :)

Great entry.

jevanslink said...

I enjoyed this very much.  Could you rake some leaves over at my place?  You seem very good at it.  Mrs. L

ef849 said...

Beautiful pictures Sam! and what a beautiful memory.. to you and yours Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

astaryth said...

Those pictures are great. The Sunset ones are Spectacular! Oh, and have aHappy Thanksgiving!

mavarin said...

This is probably your best entry to date, Sam.  Absolutely wonderful! Great pictures, touching story. I think I know you a little better now, too. - Karen

childebrand1968 said...


Sam, that was moving.  Thanks to Carly for making the bet with you.  It is a perfect time to share it, too...

Happy Thanksgiving to your family :)

Is your turkey cooked in the oven or deep fried?  ;)

Take care, my dear...


indigosunmoon said...

Oh Sam...what a great story!
Thanks for sharing it!

onemoretina said...

    Hello, Sam .... and the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays to you, too.  This was a beautiful story, full of the lessons of love and appreciation for one another.  And sacrifice:  Of your Dad, for his country, Of your mother, to have to be without her husband, and of you, for being there for your mother when she needed you.  This is the real lesson of Thanksgiving.  To appreciate all the people we are blessed to have in our lives.  Thanks for writing, it was a pleasure to read.  Tina
p.s.  Congrats to Jan !

bosoxblue6993w said...

jeez, Sam ... for about a year i was stationed nearby at Fort Monroe

piperacharmed1 said...

Wonderful entry! It was nice of you to stay with your mom...alot of teenagers would not have been that thoughtful. Congratulations to your sister!! Beautiful pics as always.


louie0768 said...

I echo all your commentors sentinments. I cannot imagine the worrying you and your family must have done that year or the fear. How one event can change a person's life and show them a larger picture...As usual Sam, you have a way with words. It is so nice to see one of your stories. I love to read them.

A very big congratulations to your sister, a big hug and thank you to both her and your father and also to you and your mom for the strength and support that you showed!!!!

Hope your Turkey Day is wonderful and enjoy those mashed potatoes slathered in gravy and that dark turkey meat LOL ; )

pixiedustnme said...

What a wonderful entry Sam - you always seem to find a way to cheer me up (even if I wasn't even born until 1967!  rofl)  And congrats sis!  Full bird colonel - you go girl!

slbourgoyne said...

I was off at college then, too, but well remember all of this from Grandmother's letters.  I remember the off base house in Hampton, but did not get to see the one on base.  Your Dad joked about taking me with him to VN as his secretary.  MOM HAD A FIT.  I don't know what he would have done if I had tried to t ake him up on it.  

Loved the story.  It brought back so many memories.  Looks like I beat Jan to this one.  Thanks for letting me know how to recognize her comments.  I'll look for them in the future.  Wish we could all be together again around Grandmother's table wondering what she would be obsessing over this year and waiting for the lemon pie that she claimed was just for you.

Love, Lynn

ondinemonet said...


I just had to come back and look at these fabulous photographs again. Just no words come to mind. They are so stunning...there is NO word that accurately describes them! I am absolutely at a loss...

Always, Carly :)

coljan61 said...

I DO remember that Fall.  Strange pretty well describes it, though.  I remember Sam becoming pretty much and adult, and how much fun it was to talk to him.  I hated being gone for Thanksgiving.  I spent that day with a family I baby sat for--a physician and his wife and two children.  They made me feel loved and welcome, but it wasn't home!  As a matter of fact, something I haven't thought about in years, I decided that day before I went to their house to perm my hair--bad idea and bad result!  So then I decided to cut it--worse idea and worse result.  I spent Thanksgiving with a colorful scarf around my head!  I only got tovisit our house on base once and then for a day or two that Christmas as everyone moved between Christmas and New Years.  I went back to school on New Year's eve, and everyone moved to Smyrna.  The family was closer after that Fall, and now we stay in touch by email and reading Docklines!

dtbrierly said...

Sam, thanks for stopping by this week :)  I enjoyed the pictures but I liked the story even better.  This story shows real character.  Thank you Carly!
Happy Thanksgiving!


sassydee50 said...

Sam,once again, I must say that you are a fine storyteller! That sunset photo is awesome. I can't believe our friend didn't get to light the torch either! Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours, Sassy ;-)

sunnyside46 said...

your writing is a gift to me this early Thanksgiving morn

memes121 said...

What a wonderful story Sam. I am so happy to have read it today. Your father is a hero and so is your sister. I thank God for them and you my friend.

tillysweetchops said...

A very special entry Sam.

You really know how to tell a story and the sunset photo is simply stunning.

Tilly x

delela1 said...

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with those you love.

mariebm56 said...

Beautiful photos......
Happy Thanksgiving~

my3gifts said...

I know life is busy right now, but I truly love reading your words. There are people who are gifted with the talent of writing and allowing others to feel like they were "there", you are one of those people.

God Bless you. I pray your Thanksgiving was wonderful.


stupidsheetguy said...

Well, you're a man of your word. No one will ever accuse you of welching on a bet!

Sam, as usual, a great tale, told in the usual great style. I'm glad you're part of the community!


jmorancoyle said...

    Your story had me in tears. I remember 1967 so well. I was in eighth grade that fall. It was a very difficult year, first because of the War and secondly because of the odd weather earlier in the year. And congrats to Sis.

lurkynat said...

Dear Sam,how wonderful! thanks!
yours, natalie

bvaneps834 said...

great entry, Sam, and happy for your sister--have had couple emails from her--my brother was operations officer at DaNang air base for about 18 months.