Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nothing is Forever

Backin my Air Force days, new base housing was going up all over the place. There were bases all over the place Now many of them are gone. It was a time when the Air Force flourished but nothing is forever.

A high percentage of the bases closed and the runways reverted to the surrounding communities. The facilities in most cases were just left to rot and it weighs on me how ridiculous it was to spend all that money to see it go down the drain. For instance, at the end of World War Two thousands of airplanes were stored nearKingman, Arizona - the lines stretched for miles and miles. For the most part these war relics were scrapped and melted down to be made into new aluminum product. Out of sight - out of mind.

I remember in the fifties military personnel living in old aircraft crates outside Chanute AFB and paying exorbitant rent. Housing never seemed adequate or in many cases even available. Then came the rush to build new on-base housing. We were never able to get base housing because we were always on temporary assignments. Our answer was trailers - every time a new child came along we went to a little bit bigger one until we finally came to the conclusion that it wastrailers that caused the additions to the family (there may be some truth to that since whenwe left trailers behind we never had any more children).

At any rate, we live on a former base - Wurtsmith AFB in Michigan - which was closed in 1993.

We finally ended up buying Air Force quarters although we were long past our Air Force days. And we loved it. But notice I said we had to BUY our base housing - we were never assigned to base housing.

I was reminded this week that nothing is forever. Across the street from where we live now - in a former Air Force super dorm that has been converted into condominiums some of the old housing I admired when I was on active duty is biting the dust, Duplexes and single family homes are being torn down and the base, to some degree, is losing its base look. It brings back a lot of memories but the thought struck me -if those old quarters could have talked I venture to say they could tell a lot of stories. Sad. Happy. Frustrating. Angry. Hopeful - stories of families who struggled with life just like so many people do today.

We've made a point of visiting a number of old bases that have closed. Most of them have lost base identity. A lot of them have little else than deteriorated runways and a few rotted buildings. Some where I was assigned have not been maintained and for some of us who recall the vibrancy of an active base are depressed when we see them fall by the wayside. In effect millions of dollars down the drain.

But there are exceptions. Much - if not MOST of this base remains in use. Civilian companies have taken over flight line buildings. A jet engine plant refurbishes equipment for major airlines. A cargo airline maintains it's 747 aircraft in the old SAC facility. A manufacturer of composite materials has flourished. And, except for '8-plexes' and other multi-residence buildings that have been demolished, much of the old base remains vibrant and attractive.

Yes, it brings back memories and I hate to see old buildings go by the wayside like the relics across the street. I'd like to think that their loss will make way for new things - but the view out my condo window will never be the same. But like I say, 'Nothing is forever.' Not even me.

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