Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mom's Haley Family Memories, part 12: She and Dad take their two "Japan born" babies back home

Mom, I have another little "assignment" for you when you get a moment or two. Can you relate as much as you can, the story of our hair raising flight to Hawaii that almost resulted in a fiery crash or at least a mighty splash into the Pacific Ocean?  

We flew back to the states in early 1959. I think it was not a military plane we were on although I’m pretty sure I went INTO Japan on a military plane. It all happened so many years ago.  You are knowledgeable of flight activities; I definitely wasn't at the time.  I have always remembered the flight back across the Pacific as on a Pan Am airplane. 

I did see the engine but not an actual fire. I remember seeing that the propellers were not turning at all. I am pretty sure that when it happened we were sleeping and when it did we must have lost altitude pretty fast.  I was so busy taking care of my two babies that I wasn't aware of all that was going on.  The Navy eventually sent out two amphibious planes that flew on each side of us and escorted us all the way to our destination. We all cheered when we saw them out there. Gotta love the Navy, right?  
Mom wrote: "How do you like Gene's keen motor bike? It is light blue"

Before that, when the plane lost oxygen everyone complained of headaches and you and Mary Kay were crying from both the earaches and headaches too.   I remember the earaches. (When we lost the engines the aircraft lost the ability to pressurize which caused the headaches and earaches until the aircrew could get the plane down to a more “comfortable” altitude).

The crew handled everything very confidently and reassuringly.  It was pretty hectic with the two of you crying so hard and me trying to calm you down. Now you cause me to doubt about whether it was Guam or Midway that we went back to.  I just remembered that it was a tiny base (tiny base means it was Midway) and we walked to the mess hall to eat and then walked out to the beach to see the remains of the fallen planes from the war with Japan which had ended just 14 years before. I do remember that we were almost at the halfway point to Hawaii (THAT is definitely Midway) and the pilot had to decide whether to try to make it to Hawaii or turn back to the closest island with a runway. 
Midway Island indicated in the circle.
Halfway between Asia and North America
Its been a US possession since the 1850s
Oh yes, about the landing, they had sprayed the landing area with foam or something like that. I was sure glad to be back on the ground. We stayed there until the engine was repaired or replaced. I also remember being nervous getting back on the plane. But the trip on to Hawaii went very well.  

This PanAm flight ditched
in the Pacific 3 years before our flight.
If we had lost one more engine
it would have been our fate as well.
However, MOST ditchings were
Wow, we've really come a long way since then, where now jumbos can fly nonstop all the way across. It wasn't much more than ten years after that in 1970 that we flew back across the Atlantic in one of the first 747s after finishing Dad's last assignment to Turkey. Do you remember that?  From props to jumbos in just ten years!

 Hey, can you tell the story of our road trip across the US from the West Coast to our first duty station in 1959? What car was that, the one where we got caught in a sand storm somewhere in the desert, was it?  You guys picked it up when we arrived in California? What was our destination; back to Michigan first, or did we go right to the base? Or am I completely off the mark on the whole story? 

Mary Kay & Philip in late 1958
We landed in California and stayed a day there while Dad picked up our car; it was the Olds that we had shipped to Japan and so now it was waiting for us back in the states after we shipped it back FROM Japan.   Dad also reenlisted there that day and was given a reenlistment bonus check that he didn't cash until we got to Saginaw.  

"Phil blowing out the candles
on his 2nd birthday cake,
June 23, 1959"
I believe the sand storm hit as we were passing through Arizona.  I remember it being very dry when the storm kicked up. We drove until we came to the nearest town, arriving Saturday evening. On Sunday morning we went to Mass at the nearby Catholic Church and these elderly ladies were walking out after Mass commenting that they had never lived through such a terrible sand storm.  Dad said to them, "Wouldn't you know it? The worst sand storm in memory hits us as we are driving home after being stationed in Japan—story of my life!”
Phil on the stairway at Grandma Haley's house
on 12th Street in Saginaw, Michigan
The storm damaged the finish on the car and we had to have it repainted in Saginaw so we could trade it in on the Chevrolet station wagon that we bought right there in Saginaw.  
Phil at Grandma & Grandpa Haley's house
on the 12th Street

We stayed in the house on 12th Street while your dad went on to his next assignment in Wisconsin. After a few weeks he decided that he did not like it there and asked to be reassigned. That resulted in orders to the little air force station in Kirksville, Missouri and that is where little David was stillborn, having died in the birth canal, no bone covering the back of his brain. More than likely it was because of the severe lack of O2 on the way back from Japan. The third month is the bone forming month so they figured that is what happened.

Looks like Mississippi or Florida about 1960
You guys used to tell the story about us not being served at a restaurant in the deep South on a Sunday morning and being asked to leave instead when you asked the waitress where the nearest Catholic church was. What are the details of that?  In my mind it’s all rather murky.

We were never kicked out of a restaurant but I had gone by myself to church while we were stationed at Keesler AFB at Biloxi, Mississippi while Dad went to school there after we left Missouri. It was just too hard to take you all to Church. I would go to the earlier Mass and because there wasn't much time between the two Masses I would sit in the back seats so I could leave just as soon as The Blessing was given. I’d hurry home so Dad could drive back to church for the next Mass. The usher told me to move up to the front of the Church. I explained why I wanted to sit in the back and he said that those rows were for the negroes.  I was so disgusted that I barely moved at all—maybe just two rows up. The next day I was telling my neighbor about it; she was also an air force wife. No sympathy from her, she said that the Catholic Church was very good to the negroes; they weren't even ALLOWED in the Protestant Churches. That was The South in the early 60’s.

"Momma & Phil,
Fort Walton Beach, Florida 1960"
Hey, I was always going to ask you but never got around to it. Why DID they move out of Saginaw? I always assumed it was because the neighborhood was turning into a "hood." I remember how concerned everyone was when the riots began to roll across the cities of the country during the Civil Rights Era and probably even more in the aftermath of the MLK assassination. Do you know how they settled on Birch Run, probably because the Bell's lived out there?

Dad and Phil
You are right they moved out of Saginaw because the neighborhood got a little too dangerous for Grandma to live there, so they sold the house and rented for a few short months back on the street behind Merrill Street. Then they bought the house in Birch Run that Gail now lives in. Uncle Mike had already settled in Birch Run then and he thought it was a much better place for her to live.   

So 12th Street was where they lived before my memories of Saginaw started? The only place I remember is the one where I met Tag (Grandma and Uncle Bill's dog), the place with the big front porch, where the black boy lived nearby, Ronnie I think was his name; it was also the place where we stayed waiting to join Dad in Yalova Turkey, right?
I lived on Merrill Street from 1943 until I got married in 1956.  After I left for Japan, Grandpa Kehoe died and left Mom an inheritance which meant they could finally buy a home.  That’s when they bought the house on 12th Street, the one that you remember.   So they moved from Saint Mary's Cathedral Parish to Holy Rosary Parish.  The Saint Mary's school that YOU attended was in Bangor, Maine where you went to first grade and made your first Communion.  You and I went to two DIFFERENT Saint Mary's Schools.  When we lived with Grandma on 12th Street while waiting to join Dad in Turkey I'm thinking you finished that year at Holy Rosary. It was only a few months, perhaps three.  During that short period I went back to Saint Mary's Hospital to work until we left for Turkey.