We flew out of San Francisco on a Pan Am jet and that was quite the adventure for a six-year old. Despite my youth I still remember noticing the shapely legs of the stewardesses in their distinctive outfits.
It was a long flight and I remember leaving at around 11am and we didn’t get to Tokyo until it was around midnight. We waited for what seems like a long time in the terminal before catching a blue military bus which drove us to Tachikawa Air Force Base about 2 or 3 in the morning. I remember my stepfather was talking with the driver, also an enlisted man.
The ride was pretty smooth and just as I started to fall asleep to the rhythm of the bus engine, we pulled into the base. I was in wonder why the need for 15-foot fences, but I would find out soon enough.
We were sent to the officer’s quarters temporary housing due to some clerical mistake.
We were going first class without paying for it.
One memory that sticks with me was the cleaning guy who was assigned to clean our quarters every day.
Mom thought that did not suck.
Anyway, this black dude would be cleaning our long hallways and when he thought no one was within earshot, he would break out into some 60’s Motown.
He sang like a bird.
His spirit stuck with me throughout my lifetime.
From age six onward.
So we stayed for about a month with this kush gig on base until we moved to a little town west of the base called Nakagami-Akashima. This is the place I have many memories of, hence I offer several stories reflecting my time there.
One Christmas season, my step-dad loaded us into the little Skoda that tried its best to serve as our family vehicle. I had to look it up to find out that it was made in Czechoslovakia, which isn’t even a country anymore. So off we go to elevation, I don’t recall any names, other than the excitement that we were headed to the Pine Country, where Christmas trees galore awaited our axe. You shall taste my steel this day!
We go up what amounted to be rather steep hills which was sparsely populated by what looked like scrub brush and shrubbery.
“Are we going the right way, Dad?”
So he stops the car, looks at the map he has and a puzzled look appears on his face.
I think my brother said, “There’s writing on the back.”
Vern turns the map over and reads for a minute before neatly folding the map.
“What’s it say? Where are we?”
He turns to us and says, “These fields with the clumps of bushes, well some of them have pines growing in their midst, so we have to pick our own.”
I was only six and it sounded lame way back then.
We looked at two green clumps before making a family decision.
The vote was 3 to1.
We ended up getting a beautiful Christmas tree from the on-base vendor.
The things we remember, huh?