Upper Heyford Brats
Well now that we know we'll be going to school at Brize Norton it was time for the parents to get out the Sears and Roebuck catalog to order our school clothes now that we no longer had to wear uniforms and since there were so few of us the BX didn't have anything for teens. We didn't have the luxury of TV or computer games to keep us entertained during the summer so we rode our bikes all over the countryside or played ball. We found that on the other side of Upper Heyford Village there was a canal with good clean water or to us it was clean so that became our swimming place since the base didn't have a pool.
Behind our quarters was a large field and a small wooded area so we found enough materials to build our fort for campouts. I guess I should clarify that when I say we I mean most of the boys. The girls would watch us play ball or sometimes we would just sit on the green in front of our quarters and talk. I didn't think about it at the time but now looking back it must have been a lonely summer for the girls. From what I can remember, the girls never complained. All in all it was a fun summer. Our school clothes arrived in time and all but a few things of mine fit.
The construction crews had been busy during the summer and they had finished on some of the dependent housing. What they had built were actually apartment buildings, they were two stories and I don't recall how many apartments to each building. Now that some of the housing was complete, more dependents were arriving.
Well now it was time for school. The Air Force provided a bus with a British driver and to our surprise an Air Policeman as our escort. We had to laugh for we didn't think we were all that bad.. We caught the bus at the big parade ground near the main gate. We left that first morning pretty excited. Our trip took us through Oxford. When we approached the outskirts of Brize Norton Air Base we could see that a lot of construction was going on there just like at Upper Heyford.
I remember thinking with all the construction going on that they had completed a new school for us. We arrived at the base and the bus driver seemed to know exactly where to go. We were all looking out the windows to see our new school. The bus driver pulled into a parking lot with other buses. We could see a lot of other kids milling around in front of three old wooden WWII buildings. Our first reactions were shock followed by remarks like "you've got to be kidding me" and others. We had arrived at our new school.
Now that we had arrived at our new school, you can imagine how disappointed we must have been. After we finally got off the bus and started talking to some of the other kids we found out that we were not alone in our disappointment for they were from other bases too. We had kids from Fairford, Brize Norton and I can't remember if it was Burford Park or Burdrup Park, I know it was a military hospital. Now it was time to check in and go to our classrooms. They weren't hard to find for there were only 3 or 4 of them.
When we got to class we found there would be 2 grades in one room. I don't remember what my thoughts might have been about this situation but they probably were not very pleasant. Our Principal was a Mr. Fahner, after we got settled he came in and gave us a pep talk. I can't remember our regular teacher's name. There were only 4 teachers for the school and they were all men. The first day was like any other school, getting our books, assignments, etc. Of course we started getting acquainted with our classmates.
At the end of the day it was time to get on our buses for our long ride home. Our bus driver and our air police escort had been waiting for us all day and this was going to be every day. When we got home I remember telling my parents that I didn't want to go back. I wanted to go back to Bicester. My parents explained to me that I didn't have a choice. The Air Force had paid for everything at Bicester because there wasn't an American school available, now that an American school was available that was where I had to go. So no one will have a bad impression of my parents, let me explain. During this time the American G.I.'s were poorly paid and my parents could not afford to send me to a private school. It was back to Brize Norton the next day to make the best of what I considered a bad situation.
Well it turned out that things were not as bad as I had first thought. We all started making new friends and that was the key. The teachers were better and nicer than I thought they would be. As the school year progressed, we had school dances at different bases. I don't know who arranged them. We had one at Brize Norton, one at Upper Heyford and one at Fairford that I can remember. I do remember that the Air Force provided the transportation and facilities for us. The dances all turned out good. This was pre-rock and roll so all the dances were slow, two step or waltz with a bunny hop or hokey pokey thrown in every once in awhile. A phonograph and 78rpm records provided our music but, we had fun.
What was frustrating was the boy and girl situation. You could like a girl or she could like you but the only time you could see each other was at school or at one of the dances unless of course she or he happened to be from the same base and most of the time this wasn't the case. It was one of those things we had to accept even though it wasn't easy. The school year ended a lot better than it started. We said our goodbyes to friends and got on our buses to go back to our respective bases.
Well, some of us got busy helping our parents packing for the trip back to the States, others were trying to figure out how to keep themselves occupied during the summer. Upper Heyford had grown and was still growing. I would miss friends like Bobby and Jimmy West, Dick Strum and Sandy Waggoner from Upper Heyford. I would also miss Glynell Colwick, Judy Blakney, and Sue Strasberg from the other bases. I heard later that Brize Norton School lasted one more year and closed. I was told that students were transferred to a boarding school in London and that it was a DOD school. I think I would have liked that.
I will have to say that this experience was very rewarding even though I didn't realize it at the time. My parents and I left Upper Heyford and boarded the ship at Southampton and it was the USS Maurice Rose again.