We were at Ft. Bliss, TX in 1981 when Steve received orders for Germany. This was our second tour to Germany, the first being to Nürnberg in 1973. Steve traveled to Würzburg in April while the girls and I stayed with Dad and Jean in KY. The girls and I could not travel until Steve found housing for us. Once Steve found an apartment in the little town of Rottendorf, east of Würzburg. we had orders to travel in June. Over the two months, every letter Steve wrote was about this couple he had met. They were the perfect couple, from El Paso, TX, we had so much in common and they had two girls, younger than Kristie but older than Holan. He was so excited about us joining him so we could all be together. As we arrived in Frankfurt, his excitement continued. We were invited to Fred’s promotion, to Captain, party on Saturday at Fred and Lupe’s apartment. It was going to be so much fun. Now at this point, I am wondering what if I don’t like this couple and what if the girl’s didn’t get along.
We could not get into the apartment for a couple of weeks so we moved into the Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQ). We had two bedrooms, a bathroom and a little area that contained a sink and refrigerator. Without a TV and no car the days were a little long. The girls and I would walk down the hill to the Post Exchange (PX) where we could look around and eat lunch. We were browsing in the kids clothing section when a lady came up and said “You must be Phyllis.” I was caught a little off guard since we had only been in country for 48 hours and I certainly didn’t know anyone in the area. It turned out to be Lupe and her girls, Maria and Carmen. Steve had shown her pictures of us. As we stood there discussing the party, I began to relax. She was a very easy person to talk to and the girls seems to be talking a little. Now I just needed to meet the husband.
On Saturday we arrived at the Rotchford’s apartment in Kleinrinderfeld for the party. It was a very nice place, there were lots of new people to meet and so much fun. At the end of the party, Fred and Lupe invited us to stay for dinner, starting the beginning of a VERY long friendship.
The next day, we went strawberry picking. Afterwards, we went back to the BOQ, closer than the their apartment, to clean the berries in the very small sink and square foot of counter space. But it a perfect day filled with laughing, sharing of stories of our lives and getting to know each other. We really did have a lot in common and we really did have fun together.
The year in Würzburg included both families moving into government housing, putting together unit events, hosting coffees and hail and farewells for the unit, traveling together and all becoming Girl Scouts. Yes, even Steve and Fred became card carrying Girl Scouts. Our weekends were filled with Lupe’s Mexican cooking, working on GS patches, doing Volksmarching, Fred and Steve wrestling in the middle of the living room floor like teenagers and the girls playing in the bedroom.
During the week Steve and Fred terrorized Second Lieutenants during the hour commute to work at the NATO Command & Control Lauda in Bad Mergentheim. Their bantering, made the young officers worry that they might kill each other and therefore, they feared for their own personal safety. We reassured them they were just having fun. After awhile, they all learned that the Captains were harmless and shared a great affection for one another.
While Steve and Fred was doing their thing, Lupe and I were taking care of things on the home front. The girls were all in dance classes and busy working on GS projects. Once every quarter we had to do a Department of Defense Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) drill. This included reporting to the air field with a full tank of gas, travel money, food and clothing for three days. We had to take the Rotchford’s dog, a Collie, with a travel cage. We were expected to carry everything including the cage with the dog in it. The plan was we would drive (about seven hours) to Switerland. And which direction is that country and does the entire caravan stop when a kid needs to go to the bathroom? Once we arrived we would be put on airplanes to return to the US. What we laughed at was the fact that we would be able to carry the food clothing, the dog and keep track of four girls under the age of eight. We use to say if the Russians were coming we might be better off just staying and take our chances with them.
My favorite memory is when we got on post housing and we had to move in on the 17th of December. Not knowing housing would be ready, we planned a unit Christmas party at our apartment for the 21st. We’re moving things out of the old place and here comes Lupe down the stairs carrying the decorated Christmas Tree! We joked that she walked behind the van to the new place carrying the tree. With her help, the new home and food were ready for the party on the 21st.