One of my most vidid and happiest childhood memories is the trip we took to the States from Germany with my Oma in 1976. Although we'd flown back and forth a few times by then with the Army, this was my Oma's very first flight and very first trip to the United States. Leaving her was always torture for me so when she agreed to come to the states with us, it was like having my cake and eating it too!
The Army flew us to Charleston where we picked up our car and then drove to Ft. Riley in Kansas where my dad would be stationed for three years. Dad tried very hard to extend our stay in Germany but the Army told him it was time to spend a little time in the states since he'd spent almost his entire 20-year career in Germany. Of course, this was by design since Germany is where my mother is from, and where my brother and I were born. Living close to my Oma and other relatives in Germany and being able to travel all over Europe was for me the greatest gift of my dad's military career.
Fortunately, the work my dad did to extend his stay in Germany before we left for the states paid off - and, six months after we arrived we went right back to Germany where we remained until my dad retired in 1979.
So it's 1976... Our great nation's bicentennial year, and I'm ten years old. This was the trip back to the states when I remember being most aware. Even today I remember just about every minute of every day of that trip and time in my life.
Of course, the first thing I remember about the trip is the weather. It was August... In Charleston South Carolina - Talk about hot! There is no humidity or extreme heat in Germany. So when that big door on that huge jumbo jet opened and the humidity and heat hit us in the face, it was immediately clear we were no longer in Germany. I also remember one of our first stops before getting to our hotel was to a store for a change into light summer clothes. Mom and dad bought us shorts, tank tops and I got to pick out my first pair of flip-flops!
Everything was new to me, it was the first time I'd seen the United States that I could remember so clearly... I was fascinated by the Icee machines, fast food places, and neon lights. I saw American cars and little brick houses I'd only seen before in movies. It was like being at the carnival everywhere we turned around!
After dad picked up the car, we loaded up at the hotel and headed out to Kansas. It was pouring rain and storming like crazy. The last time I'd heard thunder and seen lightening, I was five years old, living in Kansas during my kindergarten year while dad was away serving in Vietnam. My Oma had never seen lightening or heard thunder, and now it was all around us; and worse, we were about to cross over the scariest bridge any of us had ever seen!
That's the original Cooper River Bridge in Charleston. I took this photo in 2004
when we took the boys to Charleston for the first time. I couldn't wait to see that
bridge as an adult because it had made such an impression on me during that stormy
day we crossed it with my Oma in 1976. You see, Oma was yelling, (in German) at my
dad, begging him not to take us over that scary, narrow bridge. I was crying, my
brother was crying, none of us wanted to cross the bridge in the storm. But my
dad told us to stay calm and to trust him. He said he wouldn't let anything happen
to us... Then, he pointed to a sign at the base of the bridge that read: Cooper River
Bridge. And, dad said, The bridge has our name on it, and that means we'll be okay!
You can read about the reasons it was replaced or as I prefer
to tell it... Just how scary the original bridge was, here
This is the new Cooper River Bridge, although today it's called the Arthur
Ravenel Bridge. We've crossed it at least a dozen times during our trip to
Charleston this week, and it wasn't scary at all! Not even during the storm
that pounded Charleston as we arrived Wednesday. So while I no longer find
the bridge scary, I can never cross it without thinking of my beloved Oma!
Before I let you go, here are a couple of shots of the Charleston Fire Department
And, probably the busiest Fire Department we've ever seen! Every time we've
been downtown there have been fire trucks screaming up and down the street!
Here's another piece of randomness... As we waited to kayak off
And, upon closer inspection, we noticed this plate that
says it was made in Coffeeville Kansas, of all places!