From Babbitt Nevada to the Strategic Air Command

My Father met my  mother in 1956 while stationed in Germany . His radar unit was stationed at an old Luftwaffe airfield at Erding, Germany. My mother still lived at the farm outside of Hoenpolding which was 10 kilometers away. She worked at the base cleaning the billeting units. She rode her bicycle to and from work everyday. My father met her at a dance in Erding. After awhile, she invited him to the family farm. The farm had been in the family name for over 300 years. My mother had 6 sisters and 1 brother. The farm was 80 hectors and grew hay for their milk cows.
My father was a very intelligent man and quite a talker. He learned how to speak German  quickly.  He loved to talk of the farm and Germany. He spoke German fluently. Whenever we revisited Germany later in his life, he would speak good German everywhere we went.  If the schnitzel was good, he always told the cook in German, and they would always reciprocate by giving him a free tall glass of beer and telling him to keep the beer glass. My mother’s China cabinet was full of German beer mugs and glass. During Vietnam my father would send my mother tape recordings in German because she could not read and write English well.
My father loved Germany. He loved skiing in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps. He loved the people, the food, and his newly acquired relatives. My parents would be married in an old German Catholic Church in Bavaria in 1957. My sister would be born on Amarillo Air Force Base Texas on 24 July,1958. I would be Born May 4th ,1960 at Westover, Air Force Base three days after Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union.  After Westover, the family was stationed at Glasgow Air Force Base, Montana. Then we would move to Babbit, Nevada the summer of 1963. A few months later, John Fitzgerald Kennedy would be assassinated. I was only 3 years old at the time, but my dad told us later that Kennedy’s assassination was a traumatic event. I was the same age as John junior, and my sister was the same age as Caroline  Kennedy. The Kennedy “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech was close to my mother’s heart.
Our first trip back to Germany was in 1965, We would fly on a Pan Am jet across the ocean to Paris and then on a piston engined prop job to Frankfurt. Even at 5 years old, I remember the noisy engine.
Babbitt, Nevada was a Federal housing project that was built to house the Hawthorne Naval Ammunition depot employees.  The Hawthorne Naval Ammunition depot is the largest ammunition storage facility in the US.  The housing project had streets that were named after US Naval ships. We lived at 1202 Lexington avenue. It was the last duplex unit on Lexington, avenue. The Strategic Air Command radar site my dad worked at was a block away.
We had no phone, a black and white TV, and only two stations. We had CBS and NBC. Walter Cronkite was on CBS and Walt Disney was on NBC. We did not get ABC. I remember the Vietnam body count, and the NBC peacock in black and white. Walt Disney was on at 7PM Sunday night.  We always had to take baths before we could watch Walt Disney. At 8pm, we had to go to bed while my father watched the FBI with Efrum Zimbalist jr.
Atop the old refrigerator sat the AM radio.  It was white with big red knobs. It was a tube type radio and could only pick up one station. There would always be a moment of silence when Elvis came on. My German mother loved Elvis. I remember how my dad could actually fix a tube type TV.  When the TV burned a tube out before “Old Yeller” or “The yearling” it was a family crisis. If it went out during Daniel Boone, Bonanza, or Gun smoke,  it was damn tragedy.  I remember my Daniel Boone coon skin hat and musket. Of course this became a Dasiy model 1895 Winchester bb gun. This in turn became a Marlin 3030 or 12 gauge shotgun.
Babbitt, Nevada was a safe community. My sister and I would walk to school every day. Even at 5 years old, we would run all over the neighborhood.  All the parents knew who you were and where you lived. Even in a previously segregated community, everyone looked after the children regardless of color or ethnicity. We knew every family on ever street by name.
We had to be home at 5pm for my mom’s good cooking. If one did not make it home at 5pm, one would almost get the belt. Plus my mom would be pissed. My dad had a home made belt made from a deer he had shot in the Belknaps of New Hampshire. My 5 foot tall German mother new how to use it.  Her specialty was hitting the legs with the belt. As an ADHD psycho brat, I was used to the belt. Even the Mineral county school district teachers loved to beat on me. I cannot remember how many times Nevada teachers paddled my ass. Today, a kid that suffered from my level of ADHD would have been under severe medication. In Nevada, humiliation and the paddle got the job done.  The paddling only made me mentally tougher.
The Mineral county Primary school was only a few blocks away. Mineral county only had one classroom per grade. I remember only  15 kids per class. My classmates were the sons and daughters of every military service ,as well as ,Federal employees and local whites, blacks, Hispanics and Paiute Indians. I would attend school with the same classmates year after year.  I was the big mouth in the class with the Napoleonic complex. I was very small as a child. In fact, I did not make it past 5 feet until 10 grade. Today, I am close to 6 feet and 250 pounds with the Napoleonic complex of a 4 foot tall  75 pound 6th grader.
For a child, Babbitt had everything. We had a wooden baseball stadium complete with dugouts and a grand stand. We had a massive playground at the Safeway.
The playground was 2 acres of grass, huge swings, a huge metal missile with three levels, a huge slide and a huge carousel. The swing set had to be 20 feet high with sturdy chains. One could literally swing the height of a house. The playground carousel was huge. If there were 5 or 6 kids on it, we could get it going so fast that the riders would get pinned to the side posts from centrifugal  force. So, as long as the kids kept spinning the carousel, one was pinned. This was predicated on kids of equal body weight on opposite sides of the carousel. Sometimes a big kid would show up and spin the carousel for several minutes. After awhile, the kids would be sick from dizziness and beg to be let off.
The park swing was so large that we could put a wooden pallet from behind Safeway on it.  We would use two swing seats and expand them. Then we would put the wooden pallet between the seats. The wood boards would lock it into place. Then, several kids could jump on it. So, 4 or 5 kids would be on this pallet swinging 12 feet in the air. Then like characters in “Lord of the flies,” we would try to knock each other off to see what happens when a seven year old gets ejected at 10 feet from the ground.
In the Babbitt housing project, there were playgrounds every few blocks.  Each had an awesome selection of playground  equipment.
The baseball stadium was  the most epic however. We had a huge covered grandstand, lights, a score board, back stop, and real dug outs. The grass was green, and we even had a snack bar and game announcer over loud speaker. My first team was called the Dodgers. We had real blue and white baseball uniforms, and blue hats. That year, we were beat by Paiutes from Shurz, the Black Aces. They had a little league pitcher that had the fastest curve ball in the state of Nevada. The next year, I was on the Naval base team and we were called the Stingrays. We beat both Shurz teams that year. That year, I became the catcher instead of an outfielder. Our teams were made up of every ethnicity and branch  of service. Little league fosters belonging and team building skills. These style of inclusive activities are  positive and nurturing for children in general.

If we weren’t playing baseball or  hanging out at the Safeway park, we were playing in the tree line that circled the base and housing. Once we were tired of that, we would go lizard hunting in the desert or walk to Walker lake.

Soon, we would have horses and minibikes. My first minibike was a Briggs and Stratton 2 horse power with no suspension. My dad bought it for $40. By then, we were living on the base at 400B Connoly  drive. When I needed gas, I would simply ride it to the base gas station. Gas on the base was 20 cents a gallon, so a fill up was 10 cents. To get the money, I would go through the trash can outside the Marine barracks, Post exchange, or swimming pool snack bar, and look for coke bottles.  It was either that or checking every vending machine or phone booth for left change. Back then, a coke bottle was worth a nickel. A nickel bought a big hunk or a box of lemon heads. 3 coke bottles meant a full tank of gas and a Hershey bar, 5th avenue or  a handful of bubble gum or penny candy. I remember when grape flavored bubble gum came out. One of my heroes was Bazooka Joe.

On Friday and Saturday nights everyone would head to the drive in theater or the Jolly Cone. Then there was having dinner at the El Capitan.

Another enjoyable event was camping and fishing in the Sierra Nevada’s 50 miles away.  It was only a short drive to Mono lake, Levining and the east portal of Yosemite and Tiago pass.  We started camping at June lake, Silver lake, and Grant lake, but the fishing at Lundy lake was much better and way closer to Hawthorne. Lundy lake had some of the best fishing anywhere.  There was good fishing on the lake, but the river below the dam was epic. We would catch stringer loads of German Browns.

Several families from the base would haul their travel trailers and tents for a 3 day weekend of fishing, barbecuing, and burned marshmallows. The Breck family had 8 kids. The other families might have had 2 or 3. Either way, there would be 15 kids with fishing poles and BB guns running a muck. We would always make it back before the sun started to go down because, there would be a huge fire, plenty of tinfoil and lemons for the trout. Everyone, would quickly clean the days catch. Then, the trout would be put onto a big piece of Reynolds wrap. The trout would get a piece of butter, fresh ground pepper, and a lemon slice. It would be sealed up and placed on the coals along with corn on the cob, and hot chocolate. After the trout meal, it was marshmallow time. For an ADHD child, river fishing is a real treat. I mean, I could not wait until I had my fishing pole in hand. I knew exactly what to do and what to take. Within minutes of arriving at camp, my sister and I would be out of sight.

I can still smell the new canvas of the Pup tent that I used. Back then, a Coleman sleeping back was well made, well insulated, and made in the USA. By the time the sun went down, all the kids were tired from running up and down miles and miles of pristine river. We did not care about the surface that we were sleeping on.

In the morning, we would wake up to a huge breakfast cooked over an open fire. Then it was off to the river for another 12 hours running a muck.

 

 

 

 

to be continued…

 

 

 

Detachment 12 of the 1st Combat Evaluation Group was built at what was once known as Babbitt , Nevada.  Our new residence would be a 3 bedroom duplex unit on 1202 Lexington avenue, and only a block away from the SAC radar site. We had no phone, and my father walked to work everyday.

to be continued
Hawthorne Bomb Plot
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the Hawthorne USO Site 26-105[1] (FUDS J09NV0825[2]), see Camp Jumbo.
Hawthorne Bomb Plot
Navy Fallon RBS[3]:12
Babbitt, Nevada
Near Hawthorne, Nevada
Babbitt-Map2.gif

Map of Babbitt, with the station to the east
Coordinates 38°32′10.84″N 118°38′2.73″W
Site information
Operator United States Air Force
Site history
Fate Demolished
Garrison information
Past
commanders
Unknown-1966 Lt Col Hollacher[4]
1966-Unknown Lt Col McHan[5]

Hawthorne Bomb Plot[6] is a Formerly Used Defense Site that had a Strategic Air Command(SAC) AUTOTRACK radar stationduring the Cold War. Operations began at a temporary RBS train site[specify] for RBS Express #2 was at the Hawthorne area in December 1961,[7] and the 11thRadar Bomb Scoring Squadron[8] subsequently established the fixed military installationforRadar Bomb Scoring in Babbitt, Nevada, the military housing community near the localNavy/Army[specify] depot.[4]

Detachment 12 operated and maintained the radars, e.g., c. 1977-2000, Reeves AN/MSQ-77 Bomb Directing Central (serial number 10) was at the Hawthorne Bomb Plot after use for GuamRBS and Vietnam Combat Skyspot bombing.[9] The unit was reassigned to 1CEVG’s RBS Division in 1966 and tracked training sorties at the Nellis Air Force Range (e.g., during the Vietnam War)[10]and scored SAC bombers. Hawthorne’s Oil Burner route (“OB-10 Hawthorne”) for SAC low-level bomber flights extended from a “point west of Elko, Nevada, running southwest toNuna, Nevada” at flight level “FL130-140”[11] (the Tonopah “SAC Targets 1 and 2”[12] were at South Antelope Lake.)[13]

The USAF detachment publicized their 1985 move to the Havre Radar Bomb Scoring Site,[14] but the Hawthorne radar station was still used by NAS Fallon in 1993,[15] and the Whiskey Flats RV park was established in the general location of the former radar station[16] in 2004.[citation needed]

About the author

Leave a Reply