We lived in two different places while Dad was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls. When we first arrived, in 1955, we lived in base housing, a two-story apartment in a building containing (probably, I don't remember for sure) 4 similar units. Three or four of these buildings were clustered about a common "back yard," that contained some benches and (I think) playground equipment. My most vivid memory of this space was the morning Mom woke us up after our first Montana snowfall and we looked out our upstairs bedroom window to see the benches covered with snow—how exciting for a couple of Texas kids! Our address on the base was 4505 Fir Street.
Here is a trio of Easter pictures of me and Joan, showing a variety of goofy expressions, taken on our front porch on Fir. I remember the black metal railing very vividly, since one day I was hanging by my knees from it (probably pretending to be on a trapeze) and a playmate swinging a board around in the front yard whacked me in the forehead.
Here is another photo of us dressed up, for church, I presume, on the front porch, with more interesting expressions, and a more informally-dressed portrait of me and a friend I can't recognize, on the back porch this time (note the lovely morning glories):
Here some photos I found showing the inside of the Fir apartment. All I remember Mom saying about it was that the kitchen was incredibly tiny. Mom is in the background of the photo in the middle, possibly working in the tiny kitchen.
Here two cute photos of Joan that must have been taken on Fir, if Mom's date of December, 1955, is correct:
After a year we moved into a new house in a new subdivision in Great Falls itself: 3825 5th Avenue South. This is the neighborhood I most remember from this period. It was a great place to be a kid: there was a large vacant lot (probably 2 or 3 house-lots worth) across the street and lots of sidewalks to bike and skate on. Plus, lots of kids to play with. Here is how the street looked from our house, in the winter. The photos were dated 1956, so it was probably during our first winter at the house. One thing you can't see in these photos, but that I remember very clearly, is that you could see some mountains east of town and observing the changing seasons in this view was something I always enjoyed.
Here is another neighborhood view, taken later, since it shows the Presbyterian Church on the next street (beyond that wonderful vacant lot area) being constructed. This didn't happen until we'd been in the house a year or two. I remember having lots of fun with my friends playing (illicitly) in the construction site before the church was finished. When it was, we began attending it because it was so convenient. Mom explained that Presbyterians and Methodists weren't all that different, and I don't remember noticing any significant changes in how Sunday School was conducted, at least. On the right is a picture from almost the same spot, in 2014; amazingly the vacant lots are still vacant!
Here are three photos of our house itself, possibly taken at the same time as those of the street above (they were also dated 1956). Notice the absence of a garage behind the house in the one on the far right.
Sometime between 1956 and 1959, when the winter picture below was taken, we built a garage, entered from the alley behind the house. You can see it just behind the right edge of the house here, and in this picture of me (at least I think it's me) standing next to it, in another season:
Another building project I remember rather well was the fence Dad put around the back yard. It was quite a project; I remember Dad and some of his friends digging the post holes with a manual post-hole-digger that I thought was a very clever tool. And then nailing the broad boards to the posts in the woven pattern. Here are Joan and I sitting on it, next to the back door of the house (Mom wrote on the back of this photo, at some later date, "1959 or 1960"):
Mom took a series of slides of the inside of 3825, probably after Dad died and before we moved back to Texas. I make this assumption because the box of slides was dated June, 1960. I think she wanted to be able to remember this place, where we had so many happy memories. First, here are shots of our dining area, one from the living room, and the other from the kitchen. (Bonus features of some of these slides are glimpses of Steve in his playpen!).
Here is the living room, taken from the dining area:
Here are some other, earlier, pre-playpen days, pictures of Steve taken in the living room (I'm really sorry the last two were damaged):
And an even earlier, pre-Steve picture on the old brown couch in the living room (photo dated 1956). Note the aquarium on the table in the background. I remember one unreasonably traumatic event connected with it: we had a large snail in it to eat algae from the glass and one day it got out! I don't know if that was what caused Mom and Dad to stop keeping an aquarium or not, but it doesn't appear in the 1960 living room photos above.
And here are some pictures of the dining area in use: in the first, Joan and I are sharing dinner with the Akerbergs, Tom and Annie, children of good friends of our parents. Annie is my age and was one of my best friends. Tom was a couple of years older, but still played with us. The Akerbergs are the family from which we get the phrase "Akerberg early start," contrasting their travel habits with ours. Our parents always started car trips in the very early hours of the morning, whereas the Akerbergs were more relaxed and tended not to get underway until mid-morning, which Mom and Dad felt was simply not the way to travel. Mom and Nicky Akerberg remained friends long after our time together in Montana. In the other picture, it looks like Joan might be celebrating a birthday with some of her friends. Joan is third from the left and on her left is one of her best friends, our next-door neighbor Loretta Ragland. I think the little blond next to Loretta is her little sister.
It seems that when Mom took the "memory" slides of the interior of the house (see above) she also took these photos of groups of her friends. Many of these ladies look familiar to me, as they were the mothers of my playmates, but I can only put a few names with the faces.
The lady with the flowers on her blouse in the top left was Mrs. Thurber, mother of my good friend Shirley. Second from the left in the photo at top right was Mrs. Birtwhistle, one of our next-door-neighbors, and the lady to her left was, I believe, the mother of our friend Joyce (but I can't remember their last name). On the far left in the lower left picture is Mrs. Kampfer, whose son Bobby was my age. When we visited Great Falls in 1988 we were lucky enough to catch the Kampfers at home—still living two doors down from 3825! And Bobby was even in town; it was so great to see them. I can't put names with any of the ladies in the lower right picture. I love the clothes they're all wearing—a catalog of late '50's housewife chic!
We, and several of our neighbors, planted trees in our yards, but my overwhelming memory of the street was of a large, flat expanse. When we visited Great Falls in 1988, the trees had all matured and the street looked completely different. But our house still looked very much the same. Here is a picture of me with one of our trees, probably in 1959. It makes me feel very old to see this tree in 2014!
|What is even more amazing is that the same gentleman who bought the house from Mom in 1960 is still living there! We had a nice visit with him on our 2014 "sib trip," and he took this picture of Joan, Steve, Henry and I on the front porch:|
Finallly, here are a few other photos of the exterior of the house with family and friends. First, the family shot, including baby Steve, possibly taken at the same time as the one of me above. Then two earlier photos of Joan, me, and our neighbors the Ragland girls. Loretta is the older, brunette, on the left in both pictures. I can't remember her little sister, the blond's, name. It looks like we're holding up new wallets—I don't remember the occasion for this display!
Here is a map showing both of our home locations in present-day Great Falls. The Google maps arrow points approximately to the 5th Avenue South house, the green line to the position of the Fir St. housing, which looks (in the Google maps satellite view below on the right) like it's still base housing, just updated and presumeably modernized. I hope they enlarged the kitchens!