Surprise Visit

Surprise visit

The large majority of the National Guardsmen called up to man our base were from the Boston area. They, like the Syracuse unit of the national guard, were equipped with  F-86 fighters, which by 1962 were of Korean Conflict vintage and operationally obsolete at that time. One result of this was that all of us were mobilized on the same date. We all accumulated leave time at the rate of 2 days per month. This meant that by mid March, we would have 15 days of leave, if none had been previously used. I was among that group.

At that time, air travel was much more regulated than it is now. Individual ticket prices were very expensive in 1962. However, there was a provision whereby a group could charter a plane at considerably less cost per person compared with the cost of a single ticket. Somebody in our outfit, I don’t know who, had taken the initiative to charter a plane to Boston. The plane would leave Luxembourg City airport on March 15 and return the end of the month. Since our first child, Ingrid was due in early March, I signed up.

I did not tell Marge about this, as one can never be sure about the future in the military. I assume that this plan got the approval of our commanding general as he was part of the Boston contingent, and it would be good for morale. So, I wanted my visit to be a surprise, as well as not possibly getting her hopes up and then having all or part of the leaves cancelled.

Ingrid was born on March 7 and I was notified of this by the Red Cross. To say the least, I was overjoyed that the birth had gone well for both mother and daughter, and that I would soon be home to see them both in person.

The charter was with KLM Royal Dutch airline leaving from Luxembourg City as that was the nearest airport. I remember leaving at night, I suppose so we would get to Boston during daylight hours. I rode to the airport with an officer who had a VW. I think there was one other person in the car which, with our duffel bags, filled up the little vehicle.

I believe the plane we flew across on was a prop jet and we made better time than we had on our arrival at Phalsbourg, as this had been on a slightly converted 4 engine Constellation slightly modified to carry personnel, not cargo.
KLM could not have made the crossing more pleasant than it was. The whole flight staff knew that their passengers were air Force men who had not seen their girlfriends/wives/both for 6 months. The stewardesses were, as I recall, stereotypical blonde blue-eyed Dutch women who were quite friendly. They went along with flirting, briefly sitting on a lap now and then and in general livening up what could have been a dull trip. We all finished the entire stock of plane liquor so by the end of the flight it was a happy group of travelers.

We arrived in Boston during daylight and the next thing for me to do was to get to Cornwall to see Marge and new Ingrid. Some unknown fairy godmother had made arrangements for me to get on a cargo plane that just happened to be going to Newburg, NY. This was a short distance from Cornwall. I was the only passenger so I got air taxi service courtesy of Uncle Sam. I suppose the flight was charged off to training but I do not recall seeing any cargo at all.

From Newburg, I got a taxi to Cornwall sometime in early afternoon as I recall. On arrival, I and my duffel bag got out of the cab and I started walking up the sidewalk to the front door of Marge’s mom’s house. Marge and her mother were sitting in the front room and I was told later that Mrs. Sutherland shouted to Marge, Look! Bob is coming up the walk! By the time I got to the door, the welcoming committee was there with hugs and kisses all around. I was pretty tired by then, but what a wonderful moment.

Of course, I had to tell them the whole story of the trip and why I had not mentioned it before. But first, I had to hold my brand new daughter. What a thrill. So, after that, the jet lag and lack of enough sleep got to me and I changed into civilian clothes and took a nap, than we all had supper together. The weather was quite mild for March, sunny with highs about 70. Marge and I decided to go for a little ride the next day and take Ingrid with us. We decided to go to a local ski area as our destination. Marge had a white winter jacket that she really looked good in and she wore that. She really bundled Ingrid up, as she did not want to catch a cold. We got to the ski area, walked around a little and then went home. When we were in the house, Marge unbundled Ingrid. She was overheated to the point of being almost red. Marge cooled her off, damp cloths or something similar and we all enjoyed our first outing together.

Marge had been home only about a week so of course actually making love was out of the question. But we were able to at least sleep together in the same bed, have pleasant snuggles, with the added attraction (?) of waking up to attend to Ingrid’s needs. I don’t remember anything particular about the other days, though we did take some strolls around the village, greet the local merchants and postman and take a short trip or two down to the shore of the Hudson river. I also remember going over to the PX at West Point to do a little shopping. Another of Marge’s favorite nearby trips was over the Storm King mountain and we did that. It was so good just to be re-connected again and enjoy the pleasantries of life in what was then typical small town America.  The Air force was so far away, both physically and emotionally.

Of course, this all had to come to an end as March came to the end of the month. By that time, the weather had changed and it was quite a bit colder and more like winter. I had to head back to Boston and we went to Newburg to get transportation..I am unclear as to the details, but this time I had to rely on a bus or train to make the trip to the airport. We said tearful farewells but the end was in sight and I would be home for good the next trip.

Somewhere along the line, my duffel bag got lost, or at least separated from me, and when I reached Luxembourg City airport, I had to go back to the base without it. I still had one uniform left at my base quarters, as well as civilian clothes, and they had to last for about 3 weeks until my duffel finally reached me.

Other than that, I don’t remember anything about the trip back. It certainly was not as exuberant as the trip to the US, but we all made it back with our own individual memories to tide us over until we made the final trip back in the summer. The details of my memories have faded some with age and time, but not the joy and happiness of being back together with Marge, and seeing my brand new daughter Ingrid, all doing well in Cornwall with Marge’s mother.

 

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About R. F.

I am a Professional Engineer who spent my working life in the electric utility industry. images vary from time to time
This entry was posted in Active Duty, US Air Force and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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