John Paul Jones
Whenever the family traveled whether on vacation or to a new posting, it was in the family car, invariably a station-wagon of some make and model. My Dad always drove; by the age of six or seven I was promoted to the front passenger seat. This was an important spot for it carried great responsibilities. I was the navigator, a task I became very good at, so much so I filled it on patrols overseas, and on field trips as I got my masters and PhD. I was responsible for keeping my Dad supplied with drink, sodas, coffee, or water, and snacks. The most important of which was cinnamon balls, a hard candy.
I never had a sweet tooth but to this day I still pack cinnamon balls when I travel, and cinnamon gum when I fly. The locals I trained overseas loved that practice.
My mom was in the back seat with my younger brother (6 years younger). Her responsibilities were legion– she had to take care of my brother Davey, pass me drinks, and large snacks. Our Scotty rode in the very back, he usually hung over the seat, mainly over my mom’s shoulder, breathing his “fragrant” doggy breath in her face. My mom armed herself with a squirt bottle of a blue powder which was supposed to improve on the smell. In truth all it seemed to do was make the dog snort a couple times. The Scotty indicated when it was time for him to relieve himself by digging his claws into my long suffering mother’s shoulder.
I can remember the collective din inside the car, my Dad yelling at me, “Which way do I go dammit!” Going 70mph down the freeway, while demanding a cinnamon ball or Pepsi, my Mother balancing my little brother as he stood awkwardly trying to pee in a Tang Jar (no stops except for gas for this family), the dog snorting from blue powder which drifted in a fine mist over the back seat, as my mom cringed from his claws digging in.
Ah! Travel for the military family
PCOS orders! Permanent Change of Station. Dad had his new orders, and we were moving again! Oh joy… The military wife’s view of it was, “Three moves equals a fire.” Not totally true, but not that far off either.
The moving van drove up to our house, forever after known as our ‘old’ house. There were big boxes to put our loose stuff in, like clothing and linen closet contents, smaller ones for heavier but breakable items like china, and padding and wheeled dollies to remove our furniture. The men in the moving company’s uniforms set to work. A few hours later, they were gone, and our house was vacant and strange looking.
Dad grinned at Mother and me, saying, “Let’s get this show on the road!” Mother’s smile was a bit strained and tired as we left in our heavily laden car. We were off! I knew we were going someplace new, but was too young to think ahead, to know I’d never see any of my friends again.
It took us two days to drive to our new assignment. We finally arrived in Bellevue, Nebraska, where we found a motel for the night. The next morning, someone came to pick Dad up, and take him to sign in on our new base. Mother’s job was to find us someplace to live. This was a bit of a problem. She had two days to find us our new house before the movers were scheduled to come with our belongings. That, and Offutt, Headquarters Strategic Air Command, always had a large number of people moving into and out of the area. Which meant there was a need for more homes than were available.
Mother had faced that situation before, during WWII. Assigned to a training base in Louisiana, there had been hundreds of men and their new wives looking for a temporary place to live in a town which didn’t have that many local families. There were no rented by the week hotel accommodations, apartments or houses available, just rented rooms, and not nearly enough of those. She’d wailed her fears over the phone to her father back home. His reply was classic. “Doris, you don’t need several hundred places to rent, you and Paul only need one. You can find one.” And she had.
With that mindset, she, with me trailing along behind, began looking for a new home. Knowing better than to drive around looking for For Sale signs in this situation, she began to make the rounds of the real estate offices.
We were standing in line behind a lady who had two toddlers bouncing around her. When the lady’s turn came, she said she needed to sell her house quickly. Without even asking how many bedrooms it had, or how much it would cost, Mother called a reply of “I’ll take it!” before anyone else could beat her to the punch. The two ladies, and us three kids, were herded to a desk off to one side, where the office’s supervisor managed the negotiations and paperwork. And, just like that, we had a house to move into, even though we had no idea where it was or what it looked like since we didn’t know anything about our new hometown.
Dad bought an old car for a second car just to go to work in. He spray painted it to match the Buick Mother drove. It used almost as much oil as it did gas. He didn’t dare to change the oil for fear something ‘valuable’ might fall out, and the car would quit on him. He just kept feeding it more oil.
We lived in that house for a year before moving into a second house Mother liked better, one with my school right outside our back yard’s gate, and a window that could hold an air conditioner for those summer days over 100°F! Ah! Luxury!
Four years after, Dad received another set of orders taking him to his next assignment, We were PCOS again! That assignment would take us overseas!