In the fall of 1955, I was the Air Force plant representative to the Hughes Aircraft plants in Culver City, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz. With little notice, I received orders transferring me forthwith to Germany. The assignment was to the operations staff of NATO’s 12th Air Force.
Instead of receiving the usual orders for an unaccompanied tour of 18 months, my orders called for a three-year assignment with concurrent travel for my dependents. My dependents at the time were my wife and two children, ages 2 years and 6 months.
No shipping of household goods was authorized, and we were limited to ship-cabin baggage. All our household goods were to be placed in permanent storage in California.
We were given three-weeks notice to report to the Brooklyn Port of Embarkation.
Needless to say, my poor wife was under tremendous pressure to get everything packed in such a limited amount of time. The things we could not take with us or put in storage, such as the dresser, were left in the garage. I told my neighbor to help himself to anything he wanted, including unused paint, tools, garden supplies, etc.
Our passage was on a retrofitted WWII troop ship, the General Simon B. Buckner. I must say here that the experience of traveling for 14 days on a decrepit ship filled with families with screaming children is fodder for another story!
In Germany, we lived frugally in a very small apartment for three years and looked forward to being reunited with our furniture upon our return to Ohio for my new assignment.
Arriving back home we unpacked everything that had been in storage for so long. My wife was horrified when she opened one of the drawers in our dresser and found a half-full bag of steer manure. Happily, the label identified it as “Demagnetized, deodorized and sterilized”!
At least we didn’t have to shop for fertilizer.