Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Back to Leavenworth

I went to eleven different schools. That's not uncommon for an Army Brat. During high school, every summer meant a move and being the new kid in school. 

My sophomore year was unique. It was the first time we'd lived on base since I was in third grade. I was still a new kid, but the difference was that I wasn't the only one. At Leavenworth High School, many of the students were new because their dads were assigned to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.  

Living on base and given that many of us WERE just there for one year, friendships formed quickly. We were a close-knit group and all of us were just one degree of separation from being great friends with any other Brat on base. Getting to know kids from town was an added bonus. 

When I told people I was going to a 45th high school reunion (my first reunion ever!) for a school I attended ONLY during my sophomore year, they were confused. Many of them were born here, went to school here, still live here...and so do their friends. Kate pointed out that she still has contact with hundreds of people who knew her growing up and a good many of those relationships go back to her earliest memories. She compared that to the way I grew up, losing contact with childhood friends every time we moved. 

Now, E.W. is a Brat, too, and I'm pretty sure even he was a bit puzzled when I told him my plans to fly to Kansas to be with people I'd not seen in 47 years. Kate's theory is that when his family moved, he had a built-in friend; he and his brother, George, were even in the same grade.  Her read on me is that at Ft. Leavenworth I found others like me. I found my tribe. Pat Conroy describes this idea in his introduction to Wertsch's "Military Brats: Legacies of Life Inside the Fortress".
"By writing this book, Mary Edwards Wertsch handed me a visa to an invisible city where I'm welcomed for the first time as a native son. Her book speaks in a language that is clear and stinging and instantly recognizable to me, yet it's a language I was not even aware I spoke. She isolates the military brats of America as a new indigenous subculture with our own customs, rites of passage, forms of communication, and folkways. When I wrote The Great Santini I thought I'd lived a life like no other child in this country. I had no clue that with The Great Santini, I had accidentally broken into the heart of both the military brat's truth and cliché. With this book, Mary astonished me and introduced me to a secret family I did not know I had. She lets us know that we are brothers and sisters who belong to a hidden, unpraised country. To those of us without homes or hometowns, Mary Wertsch gives us, for the first time, a sense and spirit of place."
How else could I explain how easy it was to feel SO at home with people I haven't seen since I was fifteen? Some had remained in Kansas; others of us came from California, Texas, Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Quebec. I was NOT the only one who hadn't graduated from LHS; there were others who remembered their time at Ft. Leavenworth fondly.

The weekend started when I spent Thursday night with Bev. When I got out of the car at her house, we just stood there and looked at each other with tears in our eyes! Then we spent hours catching up, even though we had to wake up early the next morning to get to the airport.

Ready to leave on a jet plane.

Lois drove from Oklahoma to pick up Lee (from L.A.), Bev, and me at the Kansas City airport; then it was on to Leavenworth. Lots of us were checking in at the same time and the fun started immediately!

Jim, so outnumbered.

Bea and Lois
 
Roxie, Lois, me, and Lee

Patti and Bev checking out photos.

Friday night festivities...lots of "How ARE you?" and "What have you been DOING for the past four and a half decades?" were heard. Getting there was an adventure, especially for Lee.

Four in the back seat? Sure! 

Jim ignoring us.

Patti, our driver!

Patti and Bea talking, Susie and Lois hugging.

Right away I demanded a picture of my sweet friend, Susie.
47 years melted away.

Get those glasses focused!

Lois and Susie

Long time, no see! So glad to see this fella and hear about his life!
  
It's been a long time since 1968!

Smiles all around!

Guy talk. Apparently. 

Old friends. Made my heart happy to see these faces again!
 
Bea, what are you telling Steve? 

So Susie!

obligatory photo booth shot

It was decided that pizza was needed, so we had a spontaneous after-party in the hotel lobby.

Most of our gang.

Mmm. 

Still so much to talk about...until 2:00 a.m. CST...that's LATE for old people (especially those of us from the EST)!  

Heather must be saying something VERY important to
Roxie, Jackie, and Bev (who was having a flash).

These people made me laugh!

Patti and Lee - love the way they're looking at each other!

Yearbooks and memories.

Jim and Bea

Saturday morning, some of us went to brunch and then toured the base. Our quarters had been torn down and it was HARD to even figure out where they had been. The quarters of some of the others were still standing and there was a lot of reminiscing about living on base, walking the railroad tracks alongside the Missouri River, keeping an eye out when the 'Escaped Convict' sign was posted, the Snack Bar, Patch Center, Post Theatre, Officers' Club pool, and the various shenanigans that took place!

The Brunch Bunch
Lois, Patti, Pendy, Susie, Bea, and Lee

Jim showed us where he and Bobby were taken...

...after the MPs caught them hiding beer and vodka by this tree!
The story he told about that night had us in stitches, although at the time,
it did not go well for the two of them!

The Missouri River was moving fast Saturday. So pretty.

Patch Community Center

The rest of the afternoon was spent regrouping, napping, or shopping. Lois, Jim, Bea and I went out for an early supper; we did NOT want to end up hungry like we did the night before! Then it was on to the main event...

Complete with sixties style lettering, a peace sign, and Kansas sunflowers.

Bev and Lee in a serious moment.

Lois and Bev kissing on Paul.

Bev won the dance trophy, as E.W. and I say. Here she is with Joe Noble.

Bea and me!

Lois and Bea
 
Roxie and Steve

Patti....Dancin' in the Street

Heather, so serious.

Rick and Lois

A little ZZ Top 

Lois, Patti, Lee, and Bev

The obligatory class photo took a while to arrange and was, of course, like herding cats. Bev dragged me toward the front and I was proud when I was able to get up and convince my knee to keep working!

LHS Class of 1970...and a few wannabees!

We're all back home now, but there's been talk of not waiting so long until we see each other again...something about a beach weekend in 2017 and going back to Kansas in 2020... 

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