Chapter 1 - Air Force Years in State Capitals of Cheyenne and Austin
Marriage and Living in Cheyenne
The first Friday of December 1952 changed their world when Dad and Mom drove across the Colorado/New Mexico state line to get married by a justice of the peace in Raton, NM.
When I was engaged to your Daddy and we went to Burlington to visit my Grandma, she tried everything to get us to spend the night in her apartment ("Separate rooms, of course," she insisted.) so she could call Dad and tell him we eloped. I don't think she ever got over being mad at him for for eloping with her daughter so many years ago. I wish I’d stayed because it would have made her so happy.
In the days when Mom and Dad married, no one would have considered breaking a contract so Mom completed her teaching commitment for the first six months of her marriage before moving to Cheyenne in June. Except for occasional weekend visits Mom and Dad seldom saw each other.
Her brother Jess had joined the Army and lived in Germany at the time. He sent her an 8mm camera which she used to tape the bridal shower the mothers of students gave for her wedding, and dozens of other events over the years.
When the school year ended, Mom moved to Cheyenne, five months before I was born.
Grandma wanted Mom to name me “Cheyenne Wyoming” if I had been a boy. Thankfully, I was a girl because I thought the other would have been a tougher moniker. Whenever the topic surfaced, my parents assured me that they planned their first boy would be John Wesley II, so that would have been my name had I been a boy. (No one knew babies’ sex before birth because ultrasounds and other procedures weren’t available to the general public.)
Young and in love, they enjoyed this magical, but not conflict-free, time. Owners painted every wall of their base housing one color, dusty rose that didn’t match any available curtain shade or furniture. This color became popular again when I was a teenager and Mom groaned because Anne and I wanted to paint our room with it! So, we chose a blend of red and pink which horrified her because that color scheme was something “only blacks would do.” (Having grown up with racism, it died hard.) Her decorating style is what I lovingly refer to as “modern monochrome.” She loved shades of tan with neutral brown accents.
Dad loved the structure and regiment of the military and thought Mom would appreciate the rules as much as he did because he loved her so much. One such rule, that all shirts after being ironed should hang facing the same direction, caused so much stress that one day after he walked in, looked in the closet, and found shirts ironed but hanging facing different directions. He stomped out. By the time Dad returned they were both ready to kiss and make up.
Years later when Anne and I learned to do laundry, Dad tried to convince us that hanging all clothes in categories, facing the same direction, was something our future husbands would appreciate. Occasionally we’d try, but I don’t know that the guys we married would have cared or noticed. However, I learned when I traveled for business extensively that hanging similar clothes together makes life easier but I never got the face-the-same-direction bit. I’m afraid Dad finally gave up on this dream.
When we learned to iron clothes, Dad made a point of telling us the story of a girl who attended school with him. She hurried to catch the school bus one day and noticed the bow on her dress was wrinkled. Seeing the iron heating on the ironing board, she picked it up and placed it against the bow. As the iron touched the bow, the heat burned the skin beneath and around it, leaving life-long scars on her neck. His dramatic illustration warned us to be careful.
Dad desperately wanted to travel by air even though he failed to make the cut as a pilot. His sergeant told him that if he re-upped (reenlisted) he could fly—to Korea, where the “conflict” heated up. He declined this option. His brother, Robert, did go to Korea and returned safely although, I believe, his girlfriend at the time chose not to wait for him.
I’m not sure when Mom and Dad bought my little wooden rocking chair but I loved it growing up and, to this day, every child who comes into my house sits in it. Anne had a little metal rocking chair, much chic-er than my wooden chair and Wes a rocking horse but the rocking horse and the metal chair didn’t survive the moves we made.
Not long after my birth, Dad transferred to Austin, Texas, where we celebrated my first Christmas. They must have loved living in Texas by the pictures and positive memories.
I love the home movie of one of my bath experiences where I sat in the tub, holding a live power cord! Many safe pictures and memories exist so I never felt unsafe or rejected!
Mom and Dad, typical 1950’s parents, filmed many rolls of my, the oldest child’s antics, fewer of Anne and Wes and poor Mark is alone only on part of one roll. I felt bad about this when they joked because I know that could be hurtful to the others. However, I did nothing to create that situation!
Mom and Dad left me with Grandma and Grandpa James once and drove to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the trip of a lifetime for two Country Music fans. They talked so positively about this trip; I don’t think they missed me in the least! Later when country-western music came out it offended Mom because she said it didn’t sound like good ole country music. She liked a television show called Hee-Haw in the 70’s which I never quite understood because the girls’ clothing revealed more skin than we could have been allowed to wear.
One time when we lived in Texas, Dad, Mom, and I rode along and a tornado warning sounded on the radio. The rain and winds frightened Mom so she moved over to sit next to Dad. During the olden days before car seat regulations, she legally, moved my bundled little body from the middle of the front seat to the passenger side so she could cling to Dad. No one suffered any permanent damage, and they later realized they drove close to the center of the tornado. She wondered why she put the baby by the door! “I must have been blinded by love,” she always laughed.
The story usually followed of Dad being stopped by a policeman for driving expired car tags. He tried to be respectful to the officer but honestly thought he had several days. He knew the license plates expired at the end of the month but somehow got in his mind that because the previous day had been the 28th he had a few more days. Unfortunately, the 28th was in February and the day he was stopped was March 1!
Years later on my first business trip to Austin, I drove as close as I could to the Air Force base Dad had been stationed. The reality that we lived there made the city of Austin even more appealing. The most interesting thing to me, besides the huge salad bars in the grocery stores, was the bridge from which hundreds of bats flew every evening at dusk. With Mom’s fear of flying animals, she wouldn’t have been impressed, but the bats minimize the bugs.