The Way Were
Wendy Bailey '75

    I’ve known all of my adult life that I was more fortunate than the people with whom I shared my work-a-day life. I grew up in England! My family is half and half…mum is English, dad is American. So, more than most, I lived beautifully in both worlds. Sure, my favourite stories were produced weekly from the newsagents; Mandy and Bunty: Growing Up Stories for All Girls. I knew, too that y’all meant us, and that all y’all was plural. Comfortable with tea time at the Randolph in Oxford as I was slurping grape Nehi from the Penguin Store in Haefer, Arkansas…yes, I was a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, I had a right to be there!

    Two tours at Lakenheath bring to mind embarrassing and happy memories. From 1966 through 1970; Jerry Golden, Terry Huskey, and Lisa Redmon lived on my close…we walked to the Quonset huts for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. I went home for lunch everyday. If Miss Clauser (5th grade) didn’t show up on time my mum would run over and begin class until Miss Clauser showed up, hair all over the place, bleary eyed, and complaining of a raging headache…Our fifth grade class was exposed to the TB virus according to hospital. Years later, I am still trying to explain this to my healthcare provider.

    Early, early memories of Lakenheath are the buried sorrows of having to leave Ohio where we lived unencumbered by a father who was terminally on TDY to India, Libya, and Iraq. Fortunately for us, especially mum, my father was promoted to Chief Master Sergeant, the youngest ever in the USAF. The world was his oyster and he the pearl…as kids we wanted to remain with our friends and familiarity in Ohio but no, mummy said, “We’re going to England.”

    Although, I’d been to England many times before Daddy’s rotation, I didn’t remember until recently that we moved into Dereham Close during the dreary winter of 1966. Donna, my sister, and I sat on the window sill of our bedroom watching the rain fall against the window where were forced to stay. Stay out of Daddy’s way while he worked shifts, stay out of mummy’s way while she completely restored our physical life in 24 hours, max. It’s as if we never moved places just continents.

    Those dreary days of November turned into an English spring of new green, floral magnificence and a realization that, “Wow! We don’t have screens on the windows!” The fields were full of poppies and cornflowers! Lambs bleated, birds nested in the guttering and off we went to Bury St. Edmunds each Saturday morning for market day. In the market I learned about kilos of bananas, carrots with their tops still attached, live rabbits, plimsoles and anoraks! Such were the delights for a child’s soul.

    I was given a half-crown to spend on anything I fancied! After a careful perusal of the stalls, I’d cross over the square to the chemist’s shop to buy myself lemon soap, its natural shape and citrus fragrance are still my very favourite 45 years later. Across the street from the chemist was the Clark’s shoe store where I would put my feet on the X-Ray machine for fun! I studied all the bones in my feet never understanding that maybe weekly exposure to X-Rays no matter how small could have dire consequences in my tightly controlled later life.  

    Oh, those carefree days of 25 cents in my palm with my brother tagging along, “Yes, mummy, I’ll watch him.” We would walk to the movie theatre on the base where every seat in the house was occupied by someone under the age of 15. We giggled, watched the movie, threw popcorn yet stood with honor during the audio of “The Star Spangled Banner” which introduced the cartoons!  

    Afterwards, we would stop at the Stars and Stripes for a 5 cent comic book, or maybe go to the Shoppette for a candy bar, then mosey on home without a worry. We always cut through the Tobacco Housing area where I hoped to catch a glimpse of Scott Brunner or one of the handsome Feitchinger boys!  

    I can still taste the cheeseburgers from the NCO Club; fried on the griddle, the bun toasted to the side, then carefully wrapped in wax paper! With a cursory glance at the slot machines in the hallways coupled with that sweet heady smell of the darkened, empty bar on a Saturday afternoon those were the closest things I knew to sin.

    My elementary and junior high school days are more prescient in my memory than those glory days at Lakenheath High School. Perhaps it is age, it might be a reflexive action of protection (was I really that awful? Yes.) Perhaps, I am a victim of selective memory. My high school years are coupled with pain and joy; no ordinary emotions.  

    I was an awkward, obnoxious, and plain child. No, I know this is true because that’s what I heard every day. As if our parents were given a script at the USAF Hospital on the day we were born; girls were a liability in the Air Force family. Some of us became outstanding high school students and some of us decided that it wasn’t worth the struggle. However, success and riches do not separate the Lakenheath kids. We loved one another despite not being able to say it in a way that anyone of us could understand.  
    The shared experiences, the unspoken passion, the quiet knowledge of shared youth have made the best, the closest, and the most enduring friendships which the rest of the world envies. These bonds are tied with tenacious strength which endures the capricious seasons of time.

    Oh, Jerry Golden ’75 (Feltwell) was my first REAL kiss
    Rob Reinhardt (dead) was my first real love
    Chris Bagley ’75 (from 5th grade on…) was my first real crush
    Donn Meadows ’76 was my best friend then and
    Leslie Langford ’75 and Cindy Johnson ’75 are still my best friends