We were free to come and go as we pleased on base—as long as we obeyed all the rules!
What I loved about military base life was that even though there were a lot of rules and regulations to deal with, and restrictions, there was still a great deal of freedom.
Or maybe it was just that we lived in a different time?
In the 1960s, when we lived in Mannheim, I was six years old, but went everywhere it seems on my own or with a friend. We walked to school, went to the library, and to the movies on Saturdays.
If only I had a BB gun!
Once in a while my mother would confront me about me being somewhere we not allowed to be . . . something about a “little bird” telling her where I had been. I had no idea at the time that most of the mothers in the housing area had their own spy network to keep tabs on where all the kids were.
Once my brother and I got bicycles for Christmas, we explored practically the entire base, except where fences and gates denied us access.
I loved to ride my bicycle and go to the library, but sometimes it was a lot of fun just to see where the roads went and how large the base actually was. You could never really get lost; eventually the road you were on led to a fence or guard house and you could get directions or just head back the way you had come.
There were several restricted areas which we worked hard to get access to. We found there was a firing range not too far by bike from the housing area, but it was guarded.
I’m not sure who came up with the idea—me or my older brother—but we went through an opened box of C-Rations and removed all the small packages of cigarettes—Lucky Strikes and Camels as I recall. Armed with several packs of cigarettes, we approached the guard at the firing range one rainy Saturday and to our surprise the guard took the cigarettes and let us into the range.
We searched around for brass shell casings and lead slugs that were reasonably intact and spent about an hour there before we became bored and decided to find something else to do.
For a couple of days we wondered if the guard would report us, but he did not, and apparently my mother’s spy network was confined to the housing area so we did not get into trouble with her.
We did keep back at least one pack of cigarettes for ourselves to try out later on, which we did, but the cigarettes were unfiltered and after a fit of coughing I decided smoking was not for me.