Fourth Grade New Year’s Day Memories from January 1, 1963

USC Mascot Traveler with a Trojan Warrior rider.

The first New Year’s Day that I clearly remember was New Year’s 1963. I was nine years old and a fourth grade at Luke Air Force Base Elementary School on Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona. I remember the big deal that year about the Rose Bowl Football game. The University of Wisconsin was the Big 10 Conference Champion and ranked #2 in the country. The University of Southern California (USC) was the Athletic Association of Western Universities champion (see note) and ranked #1. This was the first time that the number one and number two teams had ever played each other in a bowl game.

My fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Jensen. I had also had her in the third grade which seemed weird at the time to have her get promoted to the next grade along with me. Mrs. Jensen was a USC graduate. She had been a cheerleader way back in the 1930’s. She showed us pictures of her as a cheerleader, but we all thought that had to be her daughter as she could have never been that young. She had been born the same year as President Kennedy. That was 1917.

She asked how many of us had watched the Rose Bowl game. Almost every hand in the classroom was raised. She asked questions about the game. Who won? USC. What was the score? 42-37.

In spite of the score, in the fourth quarter, USC leading, 42-14. That is when many who had started with the game on the telecast turned off their television or changed channels. Even at the Rose Bowl some began filing out.

Then the comeback began. It is what some have called the greatest Rose Bowl in history. USC desperately fought to hang on for a 42-37 victory.

I like what LA Time sports writer Earl Gustkey wrote. He said, “The (Wisconsin) Badgers simply ran out of time against the Trojans, who had run out of gas. They scored 23 unanswered fourth quarter points, but still lost.”

Mrs. Jensen had been at the game that Tuesday. She hurried back the 375 miles to Glendale, Arizona for school on Wednesday. She asked if we knew what Wisconsin’s mascot was. We all yelled Badger. She asked if we knew USC’s mascot. We all said in unison, Trojans. She asked if we knew what the name of the white horse was that carried the Trojan warrior on its back.

There was silence.

We then learned that The horse’s name is Traveler. We found out that when USC scores a touchdown, Traveler gallops around the field as the USC band plays “Conquest.”

I learned many trivial things as a military brat. The story of Traveler has stayed with me. I was the first person Mrs. Jensen asked when she wanted the name of the horse. I didn’t know and the class laughed at me. The stopped laughing after she asked each boy and girl and no one knew the answer.

Note: What is now the Pacific-12 Conference or Pac-12 has had several names in its history – Pacific Coast Conference or PCC, 1915–1959, Athletic Association of Western Universities or AAWU, 1959–68, Pacific-8 or Pac-8 1968–78, Pacific-10 or Pac-10, 1978–2011.

Photo Credit: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Bestweekevr at en.wikipedia

Christmas – Military Brat Style

Snip20141223_2
Lionel “Southern Express” Electric Train

The first Christmas I can clearly remember was 1959. I was six years old. My family lived in Glendale, Arizona.

Did I ever go to my paternal grandmother’s for Christmas? No. I never did that I can remember.

Did I ever go to my maternal grandparent’s for Christmas? No. I did not that I can recall. We never exchanged gifts or had Christmas dinner with extended family.

The closest thing I can remember about a visit to relatives was in December 1963. My father was in Vietnam on a one-year tour of duty. Mother, brother, and I went to my mother’s between Christmas and New Years, but not for Christmas.

The first experience I had with an extended family Christmas celebration was when I was dating my wife. In 1972, I went to her parents on Christmas Eve. We had a feast like I had never seen before. Aunts, Uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and nieces were there. There weren’t any nephews yet. It was the most wonderful Norman Rockwell type of setting I had ever seen or could ever imagine. I fell in love with her family’s tradition. That’s another story for another time.

Ten years early, this time living on Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, I had a wonderful Christmas memory. My family always took a walk through the neighborhood on Christmas Eve. When living on military bases we would knock on neighbor’s doors and sing Jingle Bells, The First Noël, and Silent Night. Magically when we returned home, Santa had always visited.

This year he brought my brother and me an electric train set. Somehow between the time we left and returned the train set was delivered to a table, set up with landscaping, and ready to run. You could turn off the room’s light and see the light from the Lionel Electric Train. The train even had steam come out the smoke stack. It was the best present ever!

I played with that train until I married. The last time I saw it I helped store it in my dad’s attic just before I married. The train traveled many a mile with me to three more duty stations and then to the retirement destination. On my father’s meager pay as a Technical Sergeant of $325 a month plus another $105 a month hazardous duty pay somehow we lived well.

K7JYX – My Mother’s First FCC Amateur Radio License Call Sign

201 Maco Terrace Greenville SC
201 Maco Terrace Greenville, SC

The earliest memory of this military brat has my Dad stationed at Donaldson Air Force Base. Our family lived in a small, wooden framed house located at 201 Maco Terrace in Greenville, South Carolina.

Our across the street neighbors were Don and Doris Bedford. Don was a propane route salesman. Doris was a homemaker, part-time school crossing guard, and sometime honky-tonk girl guitar player and singer. They have three children. The oldest two were daughters Donna and Cheryl. The youngest was son Dee.

Doris Bedford considerably influenced my family and me. She sang like Kitty Wells and played an electric guitar. She frequently worked at area honky-tonks performing to earn the extra dollars her family needed. She would become my Mother and I’s first guitar teacher. That is a story for another time.

Doris also held an FCC Extra Class FCC Amateur Radio license – K4AOH. She was a HAM. She had learned Morse code and obtained her license as a teenager during World War Two while working for the US government.

Gu0y0zZ8DK436PefZgfPj0GfI_0YUlVBtQs2sVb7tGg
Me and my brother – 1957

Mother became enamored with the possibility of talking around the world via code or voice on a radio. My father already held an Amateur Radio license earned through his primary military job specialty as a radar technician and secondary specialty as a radio technician. When Doris suggested Mother get her license, Dad encouraged her as well.

About this time my Dad reenlisted in the USAF, We moved to Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona. My parents were buying the house at 201 Maco Terrace in Greenville and decided to keep it. Their thought in 1958 was to move back to South Carolina in 1967 when Dad retired from the USAF.

The transfer to Arizona motivated my mother to study harder and faster. No, she didn’t pass the tests and get her license before we left Greenville.

After we arrived and got settled in our rented house in Glendale, Arizona, Mother continued studying in hot pursuit of her HAM license. Doris Bedford introduced Mother to Ken and Gertrude Pond. They were an older couple who lived in Phoenix and both held their FCC license.

Gk0WjCPBMkxFQNA4iZmdXVRmifpRYAjl4-nz4jnzWMw
Me in front of 2420 Navajo, Luke AFB, Arizona. The year was 1960.

I still remember mother buying 78 RPM records that had the familiar dit dah of Morse code as she studied her radio theory and Morse code. I helped mother study playing the records for her and sometimes sending the code for her to practice using an old military surplus Morse code key. I was proud of how she learned the code. I also learned the code, but at five years old I couldn’t send or receive it as fast as was required to pass the license. I eventually would.

I remember how excited we were when mother passed her Novice Class license. She was given the call sign KN7JYX. The N meant she held a Novice class license. It meant she could only be on the airwaves using code. She would have to pass the General Class exams before she could use voice communication. The General Class license required sending and receiving Morse code at 25 words per minute, as well as additional electronic theory. She passed the exam and her call sign dropped the N, becoming K7JYX.

We built the first HAM radio from military surplus parts. I still remember the first antenna. It was an inverted V. It had a center conductor and wires going down from each it, one on each side. I helped put up the antenna. The first time we tested it under a radio frequency load we took a Florissant light bulb outside and held it near the antenna. With a good foot between the glass tube and the wires, the antenna light up like a spotlight!

With her license, Mother was able to talk to Doris back in South Carolina. Mother would remain active in Amateur Radio until her death. She went on to earn Amateur Advanced and Extra Class license. Her Morse Code speed was over 75 words a minute for the Extra Class license.

She was proud as I went on to earn the HAM radio and Morse Code merit badges as a Boy Scout. I also passed the exams for the Novice Class, Technician Class, and General Class FCC license. My call sign is N5FRJ.

Over the years, I have run a two-meter repeater from the Skywarnsteeple of one church I served and had my HAM rig in my office at three churches I served. For years, actually decades, I was also a National Weather Service Skywarn Certified Weather Spotter – a storm chaser.

One of the fun things of being a military brat was all the interesting people and lifelong friends you meet and make. The Bedford’s were friends until Don and Doris died.

When we moved to Texas in 1963 Mother had her HAM call sign changed for Texas and became W5MWO. HAM radio was so important to my parents that their call signs are on their tombstone. It was wonderful sharing a lifelong interest with my Mother.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a writer of speculative fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and reviews books. He’s written for Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine, Thinking About Suicide.com, Author Culture, FrontRowLit.com, The Baseball History Podcast, Writing After Fifty, Sunday School Leadership, Church Leadership, Motivators For Sunday School Workers, The Deacon, Preschool Leadership, Sunday School Leader, and The Baptist Program. For sixteen years, he wrote a weekly newspaper column. He has written five fiction and poetry books. All are available on Amazon.com. His blog “Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews” was named a 100 Best Blogs for History Buffs and has had over 750,000 visitors.

A Nickel’s Worth of Ice Cream

ice-cream-barOne of the scariest experiences I had as a military brat involved the ice cream man, my bicycle, and a nickel.

The seductive serenade of the ice cream man’s music blasted over a public address system mounted on his truck’s roof. One large speaker pointed forward with the music mystically announcing, “Here I come, get your parents to give you some money.” The second positioned to trumpet to the homes and people he had just driven past letting them know, “Hurry, it’s not too late.”

Like the moth drawn to the flame, I started dancing and crying out, “Oh please, mother. It’s the ice cream man. Can I have a nickel?”

Ice cream bars on a stick were only five cents.

“Jim, a nickel’s a lot of money,” mother said.

“He’s passing our house! I’ll take out the trash,” I pleaded and bargained at the same time. “Can I? Please?”

She quickly pulled a quarter from her purse. “Get four of the fudge ones,” mom said as she tossed me a quarter. “Bring me back the nickel he will give you in change.”

I raced out the front door, jumped on my bicycle and pedaled fast to catch up with the white truck carrying the sweet treats.

I quickly made the purchase, clutched my four ice cream bars in one hand and my nickel change in the other. That is when I realized I had a problem.  I was two blocks from home with my ice cream in one hand, a coin in the other and a bicycle to ride back home.

I knew I had to get back fast as the temperature was 110 degrees at Luke Air Force Base where I lived. I thought fast and had what I believed was a solution.

I put the nickel in my mouth, climbed on the bicycle, and clutched two ice creams in each hand holding their wooden sticks tightly. Somehow I made it home okay. I tossed down the bike, ran into the house carrying my four prizes.

Then it happened. As I started to speak, I gagged on the nickel. Well, I started choking on it before I swallowed it.

Mother yelled at dad and my little brother. She grabbed me and next thing I knew I was in the emergency room at the Luke Air Force Base Dispensary. As she arrives explaining what had happened, I was taken for x-rays. I still vividly remember the picture where it looked like the nickel was sitting on my rib.

The doctor explained the nickel may pass through my system during routine bowel movements in the next one to three days. He explained how I would need to squat over a newspaper when I had a BM. That way I could use a stick (he handed me a handful of tongue depressors) to check the feces for the nickel.

If I hadn’t passed the nickel in four days, they would do surgery! Yikes.

For the next three days, every time I went to the bathroom my then five-year-old little brother would come with me looking at my bottom as I did my deed. On the third day, he started screaming, “There it is, there it is!” as he could see the nickel.

I was relieved as were my parents that I wouldn’t have to face surgery.

What about the fudge bars? They melted on the kitchen counter. In my parents’ haste to get me to the ER, no one thought of putting them in the freezer.

Whenever I see an ice cream bar, I frequently remember the ice cream man, my bicycle, and a nickel. And I never put coins in my mouth. I know where they have been!


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination, The Dead Mule School for Southern Literature, Poetry & Prose Magazine, and vox poetica. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his literary habit working as an IT application support engineer. He is a former Captain in the US Army. Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. Amazon.com.


The Joy of Attending New Schools

Luke Air Force Base
Luke Air Force Base

Attending new schools was one of the great things about growing up as a military brat. I attended the first half of the first grade at Glendale Elementary in Glendale, Arizona. Early in the second semester I transfer to Luke Air Force Base Elementary School on Luke AFB, Glendale, Arizona. I also attend grades two, three and four at Luke Elementary School. I don’t remember my first grade teacher ‘s name.

In grade two my teacher was Mrs. Davis. I remember two things about the second grade. First, my teacher humiliated me. She made me try again pronouncing library until I got it correct. I would pronounce it as “lie-berry”. It drove her crazy and drove me to tears. The second memory was making an O on my report card, not a zero, but the letter O. My mother got excited thinking it was a zero. When I came home with the first report card, we went right out the door and back to school ASAP. The teacher explained it was O for outstanding. She said I made a perfect grade on everything without any mistakes, except not being able to pronounce library. She was a young, first-year teacher.

I had the same teacher in grades three and four. Her name was Mrs. Jensen. She was a grandmotherly woman. In the third grade, we memorized the Star Spangled Banner. We learned how the song was written. In the fourth grade, Mrs. Jensen showed her wisdom. Our physical education coach was involved in driving while intoxicated accident where a person died. His name was Mr. McCrayley. He went to prison. We were all sad. She explained people made mistakes. Mistakes have consequences.

My father went to South Vietnam in 1963 when I started grade five. My teacher was Mrs. Englebrock. I attended Jefferson Avenue Elementary School in Seguin. In November of my fifth grade year, President Kennedy was assassinated. In February, The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan Show. My teacher was like a guardian angel. She taught me to do book reports. She entered a story I wrote for a school competition. I wrote of how a family deals with a dad deployed to a combat zone. She said It reminded her of when her dad was gone to World War II. My best friend was the girl who sat behind me. Her dad owned the local Goodyear Tire Store.

We moved again for grade six. I was in El Paso, Texas at Ben Milam School. It was at Biggs Air Force Base. Senior Romero was my teacher. It was neat having a man teacher. I got the best citizen award for the school that year. The Kiwanis Club gave the award. Ben Milam Scool is where my love of researching started. That year I did a long, twenty-plus page hand written research paper about the People’s Republic of China. Mary Williams, Shirley Huntzinger, and Robbie Moats (a girl) were my best friends at school. They were in my class. In the neighborhood, John Harris and Raymond Davis were my best friends. I was there for the first semester of the seventh grade.

I moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for the seventh and eighth grade. My dad retired from the United States Air Force while we were there. I learned to shovel snow, go to science camp at M.I.T. and to a writer’s course for gifted kids at Harvard while I was in junior high school.

Yes, attending new schools was one of the great things about growing up as a military brat.

Sun Tea

Sun Tea

Making Sun Tea was a fun way for this military brat to enjoy the hot summers of the Phoenix, Arizona. I lived at Luke Air Force Base, in the Valley of the Sun from 1958 to 1963. We also made Sun Tea in Seguin, Texas during 1963 – 1964 and El Paso, Texas 1964 – 1966.

Sun Tea is a technique of brewing tea slowly. It uses the heat of the sun to pull out the flavors from dry tea leaves.

I recall my mother placing a gallon size glass jar full of water and tea bags out on the cinder block fence. It was placed up high where the kids and the critters couldn’t get to it.

The sun shined down upon the liquid reminding me an offering to the sun god placed upon an altar. My mother used the hot sun to brew her tea.

Mother would fill the gallon glass jar with war and tea bags. Next we would go with her as she placed it on the cinder block fence just before lunch. We would retire to the kitchen for the noon meal. Following lunch, she would send us to our afternoon naps. We would rest for a couple of hours. Mom would let us get up from our rest in time to watch American Bandstand. It was still a daily show way back then. When Dick Clark signed off it was time to go get the jar of tea.

The clear water in the jar was now a medium to dark brown color. I got the glasses from the cabinet and the ice trays from the freezer. I filled the glasses with ice cubes. Mother poured the warm brew over the frozen water. At least half of the ice always melted. We enjoyed the liquid treat with our supper.

In researching Sun Tea online I was surprised to learn there has been some recent debate about Sun Tea being unsafe. It has been identified that bacteria can grow because the water doesn’t reach a temperature of 190 degrees or more.

The Snopes article I read says the bacteria found in sun tea comes from the water used to make it, not the tea itself. That would mean that the water is the real issue.

Information for Sun Tea Brewers (from: http://www.mommyskitchen.net/2010/07/sun-tea-my-favorite-summer-drink.html )

  1. Always us a clean glass jar and not a plastic jar. Make sure you choose a container that has a metal lid. Do not use a plastic one. Always place your sun tea jar in direct sunlight.
  2. Scrub your Sun Tea container with hot soapy water after every use I always clean mine by hand and run it through the dishwasher after each use.
  3. If you want, you can use distilled water instead of tap water if that is a significant issue. Don’t leave the Sun Tea to brew for more than 4 hours.
  4. The key is not allowing Sun Tea to sit out and come to room temperature. Refrigerate and drink as soon as possible. Don’t prepare more than you can drink in a day or two. Throw out the leftovers after day two.
  5. Also, throw away tea that has turned thick and syrupy or that has ropey strands, which are bacteria. I mean who would drink that? Use common sense here.

Sources with recipes:

http://www.mommyskitchen.net/2010/07/sun-tea-my-favorite-summer-drink.html)

http://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/photos/how-to-make-sun-tea-a-step-by-step-guide.html

 

 

Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese

Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese
Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese

From 1958 to 1963 I called the Phoenix, Arizona area home. Well, I lived in Glendale from 1958 to 1960 and on Luke Air Force Base from 1960 to 1963. The Phoenix area hosted Major League Baseball’s Cactus League every spring. Named for the cactus that was everywhere in the Arizona desert, in 1963 the league hosted Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Houston Colt .45s, and the California Angels

I’ve said a few times being military brat had many benefits. One advantage was the USO sponsored events with ball players. The big leaguers weren’t too big to come to my elementary school on their off days and work with us on fielding and hitting, the fundamentals of baseball.

In the spring of 1963, we had a big thrill as Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese came to a calling. Dizzy Dean had pitched for the St Louis Cardinals. He won over thirty ball games back in the 1930s. Pee Wee Reese was the famous Brooklyn Dodger shortstop and Jackie Robinson’s roommate. They made up the famous announcing team for the Game of the Week. Broadcast each Saturday afternoon, three out of every four televisions in the USA were tuned into the game.

I played Little League Baseball like most boys. I was the third baseman for the Luke Lions that year. I was one of the few nine years old boys to make the Little League Roster. We played a game when old Dizz and Pee Wee were on the air base. What a thrill it was for the players and most of the airman and their families when the announcer pair showed up at our dusty field. The USAF special services people and USO liaison people were there as well.

That night the special services airmen set up special speakers and a public address system. Dizzy and Pee Wee took a seat in front of the microphone and introduced the teams, the players, and I almost fainted when one of them called my name. The same men that called the names of Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays called my name. They didn’t stop there. They did a play by play of the game over the PA system. It was just like they did announce the game of the week every Saturday.

Meeting the ballplayers and getting coached by them was great. But having Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese announce my Little League game was a lifetime memory.

Did you have any similar memories from your childhood? Please leave a remembrance in the comments if you do.

Church and the Military Brat

Luke Air Force Base Chapel
Luke Air Force Base Chapel

I have a tough question for you. When and where do you first remember attending church services?

I told you the question was hard. No, I am not asking you to recall what you’ve been told by your mother or grandma about church attendance, but what you can remember. In my case, the year is 1960. I had just turned six years old in November 1959. In February, my family moved from Glendale, Arizona into base housing on Luke Air Force Base near Glendale.

Once on Luke AFB, I was quickly recruited and joined Cub Scouts. I can read your mind. You’re thinking, “Cub Scouts? I thought you were asking about a church.”

I’ll tie it all together, I promise. The first time I remember going to church was attending the Luke AFB chapel service on a Sunday where they recognized the Cub Scouts. We got to wear our uniforms. We sat together. The Chaplain recognized our Cub Scout Pack at church, introducing each of us and everyone politely clapped.

At the chapel, I filled out a card where they got my name, telephone number, address, and religious affiliation. For the religious affiliation, I wrote Baptist. I did that because my mother told me to.

A few days later someone called from the Luke AFB Chaplain office. They assigned me to a Sunday school class. Sunday school met at the Luke Elementary School located near my house. The Base Chapel was the other direction. It was through the main gate and at Luke AFB.

I attended Sunday School the next Sunday. My Sunday school class was almost everyone in my elementary school class. Some gave me a hard time for not attending until now.

When asked why I hadn’t been before I said I had never heard of Sunday school. When they laughed at me, I bristled up and asked why they hadn’t invited me. That shut them up.

In August 1963, I started attending Trinity Baptist Church in Seguin, Texas with my mother, brother and Uncle Lee, Aunt Leona, and their three girls. My father was in Vietnam from August 1963 to August 1964. I was never asked to join the Sunday school class or church since my family was military. When told I didn’t have have to fill out a form since my family would be moving next summer because we weren’t permanent to town. I was heartbroken. They made me feel second-class.

A year later the family was in El Paso, Texas with dad stationed at Biggs Air Force Base. There father was the Sunday school director for the Protestant Chapel. He worked with Chaplains Henry and Gurtiss. Major Henry was a Presbyterian while LTC. Gurtiss was a Lutheran. We didn’t have a Baptist chaplain.

The summer of 1965 I attended my first vacation Bible school. My mother was the director. I learned the books of the Bible in order. We used plaster of paris molds to make Bible verse plaques. We would paint the plaque and give the to our parents who would keep them until the day they died. We also made plaster of paris imprints of our hands. Vacation Bible school was fun. Again, it was the same kids in my class as at school. The best part may have been the snow cones we had for refreshments.

I would attend other Sunday schools on other military bases. It wasn’t until my dad retired from the USAF that we joined a civilian church and Sunday school. But, that is another story for another time.

Picture Source: It is in the Public Domain. Works of the United States Government are not protected by copyright and are thus in the public domain.  http://www.luke.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-130702-054.jpg


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

Church and the Military Brat

Luke Air Force Base Chapel
Luke Air Force Base Chapel

I have a tough question for you. When and where do you first remember attending church services?

I told you the question was hard. No, I am not asking you to recall what you’ve been told by your mother or grandma about church attendance, but what you can remember. In my case, the year is 1960. I had just turned six years old in November 1959. In February, my family moved from Glendale, Arizona into base housing on Luke Air Force Base near Glendale.

Once on Luke AFB, I was quickly recruited and joined Cub Scouts. I can read your mind. You’re thinking, “Cub Scouts? I thought you were asking about a church.”

I’ll tie it all together, I promise. The first time I remember going to church was attending the Luke AFB chapel service on a Sunday where they recognized the Cub Scouts. We got to wear our uniforms. We sat together. The Chaplain recognized our Cub Scout Pack at church, introducing each of us and everyone politely clapped.

At the chapel, I filled out a card where they got my name, telephone number, address, and religious affiliation. For the religious affiliation, I wrote Baptist. I did that because my mother told me to.

A few days later someone called from the Luke AFB Chaplain office. They assigned me to a Sunday school class. Sunday school met at the Luke Elementary School located near my house. The Base Chapel was the other direction. It was through the main gate and at Luke AFB.

I attended Sunday School the next Sunday. My Sunday school class was almost everyone in my elementary school class. Some gave me a hard time for not attending until now.

When asked why I hadn’t been before I said I had never heard of Sunday school. When they laughed at me, I bristled up and asked why they hadn’t invited me. That shut them up.

In August 1963, I started attending Trinity Baptist Church in Seguin, Texas with my mother, brother and Uncle Lee, Aunt Leona, and their three girls. My father was in Vietnam from August 1963 to August 1964. I was never asked to join the Sunday school class or church since my family was military. When told I didn’t have have to fill out a form since my family would be moving next summer because we weren’t permanent to town. I was heartbroken. They made me feel second-class.

A year later the family was in El Paso, Texas with dad stationed at Biggs Air Force Base. There father was the Sunday school director for the Protestant Chapel. He worked with Chaplains Henry and Gurtiss. Major Henry was a Presbyterian while LTC. Gurtiss was a Lutheran. We didn’t have a Baptist chaplain.

The summer of 1965 I attended my first vacation Bible school. My mother was the director. I learned the books of the Bible in order. We used plaster of paris molds to make Bible verse plaques. We would paint the plaque and give the to our parents who would keep them until the day they died. We also made plaster of paris imprints of our hands. Vacation Bible school was fun. Again, it was the same kids in my class as at school. The best part may have been the snow cones we had for refreshments.

I would attend other Sunday schools on other military bases. It wasn’t until my dad retired from the USAF that we joined a civilian church and Sunday school. But, that is another story for another time.

Picture Source: It is in the Public Domain. Works of the United States Government are not protected by copyright and are thus in the public domain.  http://www.luke.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-130702-054.jpg


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

A Nickel’s Worth of Ice Cream

ice-cream-barOne of the scariest experiences I had as a military brat involved the ice cream man, my bicycle, and a nickel.

The seductive serenade of the ice cream man’s music blasted over a public address system mounted on his truck’s roof. One large speaker pointed forward with the music mystically announcing, “Here I come, get your parents to give you some money.” The second positioned to trumpet to the homes and people he had just driven past letting them know, “Hurry, it’s not too late.”

Like the moth drawn to the flame, I started dancing and crying out, “Oh please, mother. It’s the ice cream man. Can I have a nickel?”

Ice cream bars on a stick were only five cents.

“Jim, a nickel’s a lot of money,” mother said.

“He’s passing our house! I’ll take out the trash,” I pleaded and bargained at the same time. “Can I? Please?”

She quickly pulled a quarter from her purse. “Get four of the fudge ones,” mom said as she tossed me a quarter. “Bring me back the nickel he will give you in change.”

I raced out the front door, jumped on my bicycle and pedaled fast to catch up with the white truck carrying the sweet treats.

I quickly made the purchase, clutched my four ice cream bars in one hand and my nickel change in the other. That is when I realized I had a problem.  I was two blocks from home with my ice cream in one hand, a coin in the other and a bicycle to ride back home.

I knew I had to get back fast as the temperature was 110 degrees at Luke Air Force Base where I lived. I thought fast and had what I believed was a solution.

I put the nickel in my mouth, climbed on the bicycle, and clutched two ice creams in each hand holding their wooden sticks tightly. Somehow I made it home okay. I tossed down the bike, ran into the house carrying my four prizes.

Then it happened. As I started to speak, I gagged on the nickel. Well, I started choking on it before I swallowed it.

Mother yelled at dad and my little brother. She grabbed me and next thing I knew I was in the emergency room at the Luke Air Force Base Dispensary. As she arrives explaining what had happened, I was taken for x-rays. I still vividly remember the picture where it looked like the nickel was sitting on my rib.

The doctor explained the nickel may pass through my system during routine bowel movements in the next one to three days. He explained how I would need to squat over a newspaper when I had a BM. That way I could use a stick (he handed me a handful of tongue depressors) to check the feces for the nickel.

If I hadn’t passed the nickel in four days, they would do surgery! Yikes.

For the next three days, every time I went to the bathroom my then five-year-old little brother would come with me looking at my bottom as I did my deed. On the third day, he started screaming, “There it is, there it is!” as he could see the nickel.

I was relieved as were my parents that I wouldn’t have to face surgery.

What about the fudge bars? They melted on the kitchen counter. In my parents’ haste to get me to the ER, no one thought of putting them in the freezer.

Whenever I see an ice cream bar, I frequently remember the ice cream man, my bicycle, and a nickel. And I never put coins in my mouth. I know where they have been!


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His books Charlie’s Bells: A Short Story Anthology and Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of the forthcoming religious science fiction novel “The Rebuilder.”