The Awase Period

Awase! 1973... this is when we really came alive again and began to enjoy exploring and, eventually, falling in love with Okinawa. I had been on island long enough to know that this was a place that I had to know more about. We had developed friendships and were settled enough to be able to look beyond the living day to day. We were, however, still living payday to payday. Seems like that's something we never outgrew!! *sigh*
This is the house we finally got our hands on. A hundred a month was kinda hard to do but it was worth it. We had our own place... and in Awase!! At this time, Awase was a very desirable place to live. We didn't live down in the lower Awase area. As it turned out, our best friends, Bob and Amy Reed and Sue and Clark Leininger did live down in Awase. In fact, they lived right across the courtyard from each other. Bob was a Buck Sergeant too, but he was a "seasoned troop." He had been a photographer in Vietnam. He was "wise" about a lot of things and many times that wisdom paid off!! He knew people who could help him get stuff!! That was important in those days. Get stuff! Most of us couldn't afford to buy stuff, so whenever something could be scrounged (like the plexiglas window in my truck) that was the way to go.
Bob knew guys in Supply! Bob is from New Jersey and Amy reigns from Austin, Texas. "Hook 'em Horns!!" *chuckle* They were the greatest! Don and Jan Lackey were still great friends too, but Don moved on to another part of the clinic and before long was gone from the island. Bob had cross-trained into the medical field and was a corpsman like myself. Clark was also a seasoned "vet!" He had been to CCK and knew his way around. He was a Munitions guy. He hung missiles on airplanes! He was one of the guys who rolled those bombs out and stuck 'em in the airplane! He was the "real" Air Force. His wife, Sue, was petite and pretty! She is from Louisiana and one of the things I remember most about her is her accent. She's warn her son, Shawyn, "If you don't stop that, I'm gonna bohl you in ohl!" HehHehHeh!!! She never DID!!
Bob and Amy, Christmas at our house, 1973.
We used to spend almost all of our free time over there at Bob & Amy's and Sue & Clark's. We were almost inseperable. Sue had a tiny little white Honda Civic and she and Debb and the kids would load up in that thing and go all over creation in it. Ricky and Sylvia Hughes were also some friends. Now picture this... Sue, Debb, Sylvia, the kids and loot from shopping (not there that was that much purchased), all stuffed in a little Civic, putt-puttin' all around the island. Remember the original Honda Civic? It was small, friends!! But, like my little Daihatsu truck, which is pictured above, those little vehicles were built to get ya there!! And they did! Usually! *grin*

As I look at that picture I have to chuckle. The other car there is an old beater Toyota Toyopet! I bought it from some captain at Kadena who was leaving the island. It was in such bad shape and I wanted so badly to teach myself how to do body work (of the Bondo variety!) that I bought it - for $40 bucks! I drove it from Kadena, through Koza, past the police box, down into Awase, past the Pink Grocery store (I wonder if it's still there... and still pink. It was in 1990.), down to Highway 13 then up the hill to my house. It made it. I never drove it again!! It sat there in my driveway for the rest of the time that I lived there. I never registered it. Never insured it...just used it for a yard shed! When I finally did move I HAD to get rid of it. An Okinawan man towed it away after we agreed on 1000 yen - equivalent to $3.30. Now, don't laugh!! Where can you buy a yard shed for 37 bucks!?? *HehHehHehHeh*

Things went along wonderfully while we lived in Awase. It was a happy time. It was a pauper's time too and I guess I have chosen to forget the problems. I know we had problems - who doesn't, but none come to mind. DyLon was finally born and we were a family! We even had dogs!! Bilbo and Scarffy! DyLon was the greatest! We both were really praying for a boy and, BOOM! There he was!! A healthy, happy boy who just made our life just joyful! Before long, Bob and Amy had their baby and Sue and Clark were adopting li'l Shawyn from the Philippines.
Our situation slowly improved. I didn't get a promotion the whole 2 and 1/2 years that I was on island, but then I had just put on E-4 (Buck Sgt) before leaving to go overseas. Somehow, we adapted and our lives became a little more adventuresome. I've often wondered if I enjoyed Awase, and that period, so much because of DyLon having come along, because of the good friends we had, because we were still really newlyweds - or what?? I've concluded that it was "all of the above!"
Life was good! The only real draw-back was that, by this time, I was working nights. I'd come home in the morning and sleep most of the day, then be up in the evening, want to play with our friends then get to work by 11 p.m. That kinda sucked! But there were days off and we'd make the best of those! Many a night, Bob and Amy would come over. Wannie and Anita Stephens were some other friends. Jim and Marie lived right at the bottom of our hill - right there on highway 13. They were pretty kool too and they'd come around once in a while. I had a "bar" in the back of the house and to this day I wonder - how the hell did I keep that bar stocked when I didn't have $5 to buy gas? Or, perhaps I should have realized that I didn't have $5 for gas because I had a well-stocked bar. Point is, that's the time in my life when I was drinking more than at any other time. It wasn't much... I mean I never got sloshed, never had trouble with the law or at work because of drinking, but, for me, I was drinking more than at any other time. Hell, nowadays, a 12-pack will last me 6 months - unless my boys come over!! *grin*
A tragedy befell our friends, Wannie and Anita. They had been transferred back to the States and were living in Texas. One night they were driving along on a 2-lane Texas highway with their two boys in the back seat. A drunken bum in a Cadillac came over the crest of a hill - in their lane. Anita went flying through the windshield and Wannie was crushed between his seat and the steering wheel. He died about an hour later as the crew was still trying to extricate him. Although severely injured, their boys survived. Nope... I don't drink so much these days. It's damned scary to think of all the people who do - and then get behind the wheel of a car. *Tsk!* Damn!

We had many good times while we lived in Awase! Simple times. Memorable though. Bobby Reed was the Bar-b-cue Chef Extraordinaire! For as long as I've known him, he's never given up the secret to his bar-b-cue sauce. [NOTE: Nov 2, 2011 - Bob sent me his recipe!! I still love him and Amy] He always made it a point to prepare the stuff well in advance so that by the time we got there I had no opportunity to spy. *pout* Many a time, we'd climb up the ladder onto his roof where he had the barbecue grill and lawn chairs - up on the roof!! It was great! The evenings were almost always sultry and we'd catch a refreshing breeze and - I think the main reason - fewer mosquitos!! Oh, my God, the mosquitos!! I'd wake up in the middle of the night, covered with little hive-like bumps, itching from head to toe - literally covered with mosquito bites. And Debb... right THERE aongside me... not a single bite on 'er!! I don't know what bothered me more - itching and scratching to beat hell or just knowing that they hadn't bothered her a lick!! She used to laugh when I'd be up at 3am, lights on and newspaper or fly-swatter in hand, chasing down those little devils and smashing their blood-filled guts all over the walls, the ceiling, the lamp - wherever!! I s'pose maybe I did look a little like a wild man! But those little bastards just had to die!!!

Up on the roof.. ahhhh.... such a great place to be! And that chicken was deliceous!! 'tater salad and beer, of course rounded it out. Sometimes I'd go up on the roof just to watch a storm blow in. Once, I stayed up there forever, watching the sky turn to purple and pink to gray then black as a typhoon rolled in. But that'll have to wait. That was more in the Machinato Period than Awase! One day, we were having a yard party at our house in Awase. It had begun to rain and we all went inside. Suddenly there was a tremendous BOOM! which shook the entire house. I was truly startled speechless. I remember just standing there momentarily, wondering if the island was gonna capsize!! As it turned out, we saw later, a lightening bolt had struck the steeple of a Christian church just a few doors up the hill from our house! It had a tall concrete steeple - but now it looked as if a giant had taken a huge bite out of it!! Like a gnarly chomp out of one of Bobby's chicken drumsticks!! *grin*

Many days were hot! Hot and humid! Actually, it was a rare occasion when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees. Usually stayed in the 80's and 90's during the summer. The only problem was that the humidity stayed right up there with the temperature.... 80 and 90%. So, we'd pile into the Daihatsu and truck on down to a beach. Great thing about Okinawa is that, no matter where you are you're only minutes away from the ocean!! And there were plenty of beaches to go. Here I am with DyLon at Manza Beach. No sharks!! There are sharks around the island, but we never saw one in the seven years we were there! Well... that's not exactly true. At the 1975 World Oceanographic Exposition there is a huge "aquarium" that has sharks, whales, octopus, stingrays and a zillion other forms of sealife!!
Unfortunately, we left Okinawa just a few short months before the opening of Expo '75. When we went back in '86 though, we got to see what remains of the park - substantial but, I think, probably not nearly as exciting and fresh as it was back in '75!

Another great discovery for us was the "Highway Restaurant," as we called it. To this day, I don't know the name of that place. They had exquisite hamburgers for 300 yen apiece. That wasn't a bad price at all... a buck. That included french fries. Now - the best french fries I ever had over there were at the A&W! They were nothing like french fries as we (or the A&W here in the States) know them. But they were great!! Loved 'em!! In those days, it was a big splurge to go to the Highway Restaurant, which was on the Philippine Sea side (southeast) of the island on the Nakagusuku Bay. When we went back over there in the 80's we discovered The Mermaid. That was a restaurant in roughly the same area. The women who ran the place were super!! They loved our kids and I think they enjoyed the way I was trying to speak their language. Little at a time I picked up some survival expressions though. "Sumi masen! Moto mizu okudasai!" And of course, "Domo arigato gozaimasu" with a little bow of the head and a subtle flexion at the torso went a long way to endear ourselves with them. But that was later... much later.

The Mermaid, 1987

When I went back to that same location in March, 2014, I was in for a huge surprise!!


e-mail me with any comments, questions, complaints - snail mail the cash!! *grin*

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