Our lives moved along on a rather routine trajectory until, I think, June of 1961. It was then that Marge learned that she was pregnant. This was welcome news, of course, but it was not part of our plan as Marge was still going to school. Birth control options at that time were vary limited and I guess we had got our days mixed up or something like that. I do remember going to a few parenting classes with Marge to learn more about how to prepare and care for a new baby. So, we were doing what we could to help insure a safe birth and follow-up care of our newborn.
July brought disturbing news to us. The Air National Guard had cancelled sumer camp. Of course this was good news, but in addition, any transfers, discharges due to change in location, etc. were no more. The Guard was frozen, but not activated. Obviously, something big was going on in Washington.
The big thing happened in early August, when the first edition of the Berlin Wall was hastily put up. The US reaction was to activate the Air Guard units starting in September. Probably a lot more than that was going on, but that much was certain.
So, not only were we to have our first child in the spring of 62, but I was going to take a pay cut of about 75% when I was activated into the Air Force. Fortunately, we rented our house, and owed nothing on the car. Many others were not so fortunate regarding the financial impact.
As an aside issue, at that time John Kennedy was the president, and you may recall photos of him sitting on a wicker rocker. Marge thought it would be nice to have a chair like that to rock the baby in. Do-it-yourself chair kits were readily available and I bought one for us. The oak frame was easy enough to assemble. The wicker part was not difficult, but very tedious. The reeds, or whatever they were, had to be soaked in water, then woven to form the seat and back. After a bit of practice, I could do it while we watched TV and finished the chair. Then let it dry and paint the whole chair with urethane varnish.
The chair turned out pretty well, and later when Marge went down to stay with her mother in Cornwall, she took it with her and somewhere we have a snapshot of her and baby Ingrid shortly after she came home from the hospital. The chair has been with us ever since, though it, like me, has shown deterioration from age, and the wicker on the seat has become cracked. I wanted to get rid of it via the Salvation Army but Marge said keep it, so we did and it now sits in my bedroom in a corner with a cushion on it and the cats get up there on occasion.
We were activated in September of 1961. Since quite a few of us had enlisted in April of 1959, our 3 year enlistments were theoretically over in April 1962. So, there was a question if whether we could get out then. As a sweetener, I, and I think all of us in that situation were offered a promotion of one grade, and a chance to get a different assignment in our new base. I took them up on it as it made a few more dollars in my pay, and I did not like my present military job, a sheet metal repairman in the hangar. As it turned out, anybody who refused the offer was involuntarily extended anyway when April rolled around. My new position was an office job in the Comptrollers office, roughly comparable to the finance dept. in a business. My new title was Statistical Specialist. In practice, that meant a clerk reviewing for errors documents from the 13 squadrons on a daily basis, and do some non financial number crunching when our Colonel wanted some sort of analysis.
Marge and I had a talk with our landlords upstairs, explaining that I was being called up for active duty, and that Marge was already pregnant and planned on going to her mother’s to have the baby. So, we could not continue to rent the duplex but we offered an alternative. Marge’s sister Pat, her 2 daughters and husband Paul also lived in Syracuse at the time and wanted a bit bigger place to live. So, if they could move in until Marge’s classes were over, Marge could stay until January and we would both pay a proportionate part of the rent, and when she left, Pat & Paul would continue to stay and pay then what we were paying. After a bit of discussion, they agreed so that was settled.
We did make a visit to Cornwall to Marge’s mother to finalize details of how this would take place when Marge came down. Some time later Marge told me her mother had told her “Marge you should be nicer to Bob, he might not come back.” In truth some did not come back, mostly training accidents.
The final plan called for our unit to be merged with two similar units from Boston and stationed in Phalsbourg, France. This is about 36 miles from Strousbourg, France. It had been a German base in WWII and later mothballed as a US base some time in the 50s.
Our departure date was actually on Halloween night that October. Marge drove me down to the base and had an idea that this was some sort of gigantic hoax and that when she woke up in the morning, I would be back. Of course, it was no joke it was the real thing and it was some time before we were together again. More on my unexciting tour of duty in a later post.