NAS Pensacola, Ottumwa, Hutchinson, Kodiak; naval airbase towns in WW II; Annapolis MD, Oak Harbor WA
Towns Next to Bases Remembered
Copyright 2011 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
Triumph of Instrument Flight
Enhanced aircraft endurance and the ability to sustain a cruising speed
put a young aviation industry at the threshold of passenger flight in 1929.
One steep challenge was yet to be confronted. Air by day, and train by night
was the early practice. Read the published book and discover how weather
flying was finally challenged.
The story of traveling to military bases and living in base housing or in barracks or in BOQs (for officers) in the 1940s is told here. This story did not make the "cut" for the published book but I thought web readers would enjoy it.
There were three huge movements in progress in World War II in the United States. The rail system bore the brunt of these almost amorphous masses in motion. Freight cars, flat cars, and hopper cars were in constant use moving materials, almost all war-priority materials, going from mills or commodity sources to processing plants, fabricators and finally erectors. A human cargo of fresh volunteers and draftees was being moved from home to training camp to embarkation ports. Another smaller human cargo of men coming back from war zones for retraining was inflated by brief home leave marriages with the new wife now on the move with the military husband.
My experience will offer the reader a few impressions of what it was like for a young couple in the 1940s to make frequent, temporary homes in a nation dealing with the dislocations of war and its aftermath. First impressions of those military base towns were the only impressions. Lugging their life's small but precious store of stuff, much of it fresh from a marriage altar, couples squeezed onto crowded trains, and waited on repeated rail sidings for priority war materiel to pass. In the middle of the night, these weary folk found themselves on a rail platform in a totally strange town. There was never any grumbling. They all knew someone who was actively in combat overseas.
Travel from town to town was an experience visited on several million soldiers, sailors and airmen, many spouses and a growing contingent of females in uniform in World War II. The local reception and the living conditions varied in the U.S. towns in which Peggy, my wife, and I were stationed along the way. Smaller cities and larger towns were all eager to have a spanking new military base close by. For those years, both the local citizens and the war-itinerants in such municipalities adopted simple phrases to express a person's location. Whether they were local civilians working at the base, or transient military persons stationed there, a query as to the whereabouts of any person revealed that they were either "in town," or "at the base." For significant numbers of the U.S. population, the local military base became an intimate part of their identity.
The civilian population needed stamps to get gasoline for their car, and different stamps to get meat or sugar for the dining table. I do not recall specific rules, but I had the feeling during my U.S. aviation wartime training experience that stamps were made available to military personnel in measure beyond the usual civilian ration amounts.
Ottumwa, Iowa was a downer of a town for Peg and me. State liquor stores controlled the booze and the law stated that it was not to be consumed in barrooms. The basement of the Ottumwa Hotel had become known as the Passion Pit and drinks were freely bought and sold over the bar with a town cop occasionally in attendance. We stayed at the hotel for a few nights. The first room we rented in town was very nice and clean and was rented to us by a friendly landlady. One night, we invited Lt. Jimmy Donaldson USN, a Naval Academy classmate, and his vivacious wife Margaret, into our room to have a drink before going to a movie. We left the empty glasses on a coffee table and went out. When Peg and I returned, our room was in disarray. The landlady's son had left a note telling us to get out the next morning. He did not permit liquor but we had not been told this nor had we been informed that he wielded such power. What we did know about him was that he had a military deferment because his widowed mother had bought him a farm outside of town. Farms were legitimate and necessary enterprises during World War II and deferments could be granted to owners. Ejection was an emergency for Peg because we had no car and I was already hard at work learning to fly
We had to go back to the hotel for a couple of nights and then Peggy found us another room in Ottumwa with a tiny kitchen added, not nearly as nice as the one from which we had been expelled. We first had to undertake a cleaning exercise. Apple cores in the radiators, thick grease on the gas stove, and holes in the floor. We shared a bathroom with the owner. He had plugged a hole in the bathroom floor with a broomstick. One morning the broomstick had been chewed all the way back up to the hole. Then the owner put rat poison down the hole. It worked, but the awful stench of death came through that hole to pervade the whole house. Then the owner put formaldehyde down the hole. We could never decide which stench was worse, the dead rat or the embalming fluid.
Early one morning Peggy awoke me and pointed out red spots on her tummy. I captured a bug on one of the bed slats. When I showed the landlord the contents of the matchbox I was using for the critter's jail, he said, "Oh! That's just a bed bug."
After one Sunday Mass at the local Catholic Church, an usher approached me and asked me to join the Knights of Columbus. I told him I was not a "joiner." He then whispered to me that the K of C had slot machines in their clubrooms. He seemed astounded when I told him that every Navy BOQ I had been in had slot machines.
Pensacola was slightly better though it quickly became clear that couples who appeared with wife pregnant were not welcome in any of the affordable housing. There was no subtlety about it. "We do not take children!" A Gulf Gas Station owner would not accept my personal check for gasoline. The Palafox hotel deferred to their powerful Florida bank before they would accept our check for cash or room payment. If you have ever been in a military town, you are sure to have seen "checks cashed" signs on just about every corner. Those checks are cashed for a fee, a healthy fee.
We were lucky in Pensacola to find not just a nice apartment on the L&N (Louisville and Nashville) railroad tracks downtown, but a wonderful landlord and landlady. Al and Sonny Voss, living at 821 East LaRua Street, Pensacola, Florida were not just apartment owners, but great stand-ins for absent grandparents when our first son was born. Another memorable visitor for Peggy at Chevalier Field's mainside hospital was Sister Donata, Sister of Charity, then head of St. Vincent's Hospital in Pensacola. She had nursed me at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, New York when I had my appendix removed about 1936. The only real home excitement, outside of Franklyn III, a big colicky baby, occurred when the wife of a Marine living in the Voss' other apartment on LaRua Street got mad at her husband and drank a glass of Sani Flush to spite him. The ambulance came. We never saw her again and never found out if she survived.
There was an extra feature to that Pensacola address. Across our corner, there was a tumble down curbside road stand. Some grocery items were sold so it was like an early convenience store. Once a month this little store took delivery of its ration of Budweiser on draft. The local beer, available almost all the time, was a beer named, Spearman's, whose billboard advertisement stated, "It's the water that does it." The Navy guys in town had a ready phrase, "Oh, that's what does it!" When the Bud came in, everyone drank Bud and it was quickly gone, so a line formed on the corner immediately to get a pitcher of draft beer. I should also note that after a day of flying in the greenhouse of a training aircraft in Gulf Coast Florida's summer heat, with an instructor telling you at every turn what you were doing wrong, a mug of Budweiser, or even of Spearman's, tasted mighty good.
In Hutchinson, Kansas, we were blessed to find the Dugdale family. They took us in, gave us a bedroom that required two of their children to double up, and adjusted their family's entire eating schedule so that Peggy and I could have kitchen privileges. I learned about the Santa Fe Railroad and its Harvey House restaurants in Hutchinson. Peggy and the baby came to Hutchinson by way of Wichita by way of Norfolk and Chicago, the last leg in a DC-4 flown by Braniff Airways. Lieutenant Ted Rice, of the Naval Academy Class of 1944, in his Buick Fireball, along with his Navy Wave Officer girlfriend, Muriel Prince, drove me over to Wichita to meet Peg and our new baby. It was a great welcome for an early air traveler and her baby. Ted later married Muriel. They made a great couple and had a wonderful family. Lifelong friends.
The most exciting event on the home front in Hutchinson was actually a Navy event. You see, Kansas was completely dry but the Navy had an Officer's Club in downtown Hutchinson. There was a red light on the left of the front door and a green light on the right so all townsmen knew what was going on in there and I heard no griping about it. But, "supplies" were a challenge. One day, some NAS Hutchinson base pilots took a 4-engine Privateer (the Navy designation, PB4Y-2) and flew to Minnesota where liquor was legal. Before departure from Hutchinson, they removed the bomb bay gas tanks. In St. Paul, they filled the bomb bay with booze. Our Navy base field at Hutchinson then became socked in with a long duration dust storm. The delivery aircraft, limited in gas because of you know what, had to land at the Air Force base in Topeka, Kansas. A heavily guarded truck was dispatched immediately from NAS Hutchinson to the Air Force base in Topeka. There, under cover of darkness, a vital load was transferred from plane to truck. The truck made it back to the Navy Officer's Club in Hutchinson just fine. The aircraft was flown back in to NAS Hutchinson after the dust storm subsided. We could always wait for the plane but the cargo had to go through, on time.
At many bases, the Navy used the Quonset Hut, or rather half of it, for a newly arrived family. A couple "put in their time" in a half cylinder of corrugated metal from which they might, if lucky, "graduate" to a little house. Peg and I were actually thrilled to be able to call these prefab housing units, home. The usual design had the plumbing in the center, so you were back to back to another family. Their john flushed into the same pipe your john flushed into; the shower and the kitchen sink did the same. That is what became our "quarters" at Oak Harbor, Washington and just two years later that is what we moved into in Annapolis when I was ordered to the Navy Postgraduate School. There was only one slight difference.
At Oak Harbor, Washington, we had baby Frank III when we arrived, two when we left (Michael had joined), and in Annapolis two years later we had number three, Philip. My Dad came to visit us in Annapolis where we were living in a Quonset Hut located in what the Navy sign said was, "The Homoja Village." Dad perspired profusely in the Maryland summer heat and humidity. Frank Jr.(me), Peg, Grandfather Frank and three urchins in half a Quonset Hut! Our "air conditioner" was a fan blowing through the shower curtain onto which we let cold water drip. We were happy! Both the Navy men and their Navy women had a "make do" capacity. I will come back to the male version of "make do" along with a typical recreation photograph in later paragraphs on Kodiak, Alaska.
When you got on the Mulkiteo Ferry and crossed from Seattle to Whidbey Island, in 1946, you breathed a sigh of relief. Country roads. Country towns. And very few of them. Oak Harbor, Washington was the town next to our Navy settlement. So, from a bungalow on top of our hill we would go "down to Oak Harbor." I still have the sharpening stone I bought at Oak Harbor's hardware store. At the furniture store, rugs were sold and Peg bought one. Even though the Navy had a Commissary, we frequented the local grocery store and the ice cream store. The latter was an American "necessity," of course. The drive to Ault Field, our landplane base, took us through Coupeville, Washington. No use looking for Coupeville then. It was just an intersection along the road. Ault Field had another Navy housing project, a bit upscale from the one we lived in at Oak Harbor. Many pilots lived at Ault Field along with most of the Navy's Fleet Air Wing FOUR staff. The main advantage to Ault Field housing was that it was close to where almost all of the military personnel worked.
We "fleeted up" to a two-bedroom Victory Home on the very top of the hill in Oak Harbor when we left our Quonset Hut. Peg made that move by herself just as she made so many other moves during our military life. What a great surprise I had when I came back from our first Aleutian deployment and found Peg in our new home, shipshape, as though she had been living there for 20 years. Mt. Baker was our picture in the kitchen window. Mt. Rainier was the view from the living room window. A space heater with a carburetor roared when the wind blew, but it kept us warm. The new rug she bought downtown in Oak Harbor for the living room helped. Even if the rug did "rise" a bit when the wind blew across the top of that hill. The lower pane of the same window that saw Mt. Rainier in its upper pane looked out over the Saratoga Passage, nestled between Whidbey Island and the State of Washington's wooded shore. On our side of that passage, we could see the recently abandoned PBY seaplane base, with its hangar and its concrete ramps that sloped into the water.
Picnics were held at Deception Pass and Sunday night smorgasbord found us at the Hope Island Café. One night we were invited to dinner with Ted and Muriel Rice and their Great Dane, Charlyn, in a bungalow situated on their own private island. The table was set with four beautiful filet mignons broiled to perfection by Muriel. We all walked into that bungalow's singular room with a view, a small but formal dining room. Charlyn ran in just ahead of us, and since her head was at table height, the four filets disappeared quickly right before our eyes. This was an island. We all became vegetarians for just one wonderful evening. Charlyn did not like veggies.
Our son Michael, who became an infectious disease physician and is now in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia, was born in the Navy's Oak Harbor, Washington, medical Dispensary. Peg's water broke early and I took her into the Dispensary and she was then sent home. Dry. Insufficient dilation, and no contractions. After three days she went back in and mustered a "dry" baby. Delivering that baby was the Commanding Officer, a four-stripe Navy Captain Doctor. Possibly, Mike was the only baby that very senior Navy doctor ever delivered. He pronounced the baby dead. Mike was born sunny side up and had a caul over his face. The other doctor at that Dispensary, a young Lt. (jg), entered the room and said the baby was not dead and stripped the caul off Mike's face and Mike has been fine ever since.
No matter the base, or the neighborhood of a base, the wives quickly socialized to overcome loneliness when the males were deployed. No child's birthday was ever left uncelebrated. A Navy man who might happen to come home unexpectedly, would find a birthday party in progress. Bunting, balloons and small fry in their season's best would be in evidence around tables laden with cake, cookies, soft drinks and presents. I am sure that these events occurred just as regularly at Army and Air Force rear base locations. My admiration for the service wife began early and has stayed constant throughout my life. Precious photo albums show wives pushing Taylor Tots with their precious human cargo.
I have not come across adequate words to acknowledge the friendly offers of help or directions to the best next place to go after passing through the arrival side of anytown USA's revolving door. Just days or weeks but rarely months later, you would be on your way through the exit side of that door. The good that transpired in those towns was never forgotten. The bad was best forgotten but I am not completely rid of it.
Monsignor Fulton Sheen wrote some memorable lines during his life as a priest, motivational speaker and writer. In one talk, he characterized the child in a marriage as a "relief from the boredom of duality." I just want to borrow the first part of his concept, "relief from boredom," to bring home an aspect of life to men (and now women, too) who are away from home. In the military service, this usually means extended deployments. As a destroyer Gunnery Officer for 27 months in World War II and then a naval aviator at the time of the Japanese surrender, I can write from experience about the military custom of extended deployments.
To the military person's boredom during extended deployment, I would add tension, as a persistent second factor in a service person's life. Boredom and tension, while on standby for missions, lead to a search for relief. The dual life, at home, and away from home, in which service personnel participate, move along in both predictable and unpredictable sequences. The human emotions of boredom and tension go into a flight crewman's mixmaster, and become indistinguishable.
Commercial airlines' flight crews also have "away" time and spend many nights in hotels and motels. It is not exceptional to spend 2-4 day sequences on domestic trips (longer usually on international trips) that airline flight personnel are assigned. Those "trip sheet" assignments "come down" monthly, based upon an interesting bidding process that would be envied by military personnel whose orders rarely reflect personal choice. Commercial airline flight personnel are home more than they are away. Many commercial airline flight personnel, female and male, have second, income-producing businesses. Relieved of a constant focus on the single subject of flying, boredom would be less a factor in their lives than that experienced by military personnel on longer deployments. Still, even for airline personnel, it is not the same as coming home every night from the day job. And while boredom may be less of a factor in their lives, tension is always present from the moment they get ready to go to the airport.
In military barracks' life, there is a lot of card playing. Including gambling. "Table stakes" poker games can threaten the next paycheck. These sessions take place not just in barracks, but in flight ready rooms (no money showing) and in Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQs). Few of the men in those quarters were actually bachelors but since they deployed without families, the term "bachelor" was retained. Many officer and enlisted clubs away from home featured slot machines. I recall a Passionist Priest assigned as the Navy Chaplain attached to NAS Kodiak. His fingers were black on their tips from the constant handling of coins used in feeding a slot machine. I served Mass for him and when serving him the wine and water or receiving Communion, I could see those blackened finger tips.
Today, "direct deposit" of a service person's military pay may shield some marriage partners from a "pay holiday" resulting from the away-partner's gambling. Before the advent of modern banking options, and today's more enlightened military pay practices, a man often had to send cash just received from a Paymaster to a family at home. He had no way to deposit the cash locally into a bank and thus could not write a check. Where there was a U.S. Post Office available, a money order would be a first choice. Even if the serviceman could have written a check, it would almost certainly be challenged in a store that the wife regularly patronized. She would have to use a check-cashing "service" which peeled a healthy percent off the top.
Many did not gamble or learned quickly (I was one) not to gamble any more. For them, there were games of many and games of one. In between there was cribbage for two, and bridge for four and hearts for several. And pinochle. And in some of the more fully equipped stations, there were pool and billiard tables. Outside, during my service career, there was always baseball. Old reliable baseball. Nine to a side. Eighteen men can relieve tensions and as many more can watch and enjoy. I will come back to baseball, probably the foremost U.S. substitute of a fun game for a deadly game.
Let me not overlook writing home, to wives or mothers and occasionally fathers. Many men wrote every day. The reward for most of them was an incoming letter in almost every "mail call." I wrote weekly. In the years since, as I peer into old shoeboxes stored in closets in my home, I find evidence that I was a pretty good and fairly steady letter writer. Reading letters from home has no equal for enjoyment while away. Some of the men also read any book or magazine they could get their hands on but the reading "pickins" were slim. Libraries were rare and even if one existed, they were not marked with great literature. Of course, TV and videos were still in the future.
One of the brighter side options came from radio stations that produced many, many hours of music. These called themselves "The Armed Forces Radio Network." Those interludes were one of the more relaxing uses for the spare time of military personnel. The term "Network" was a stretch. It was almost all locally originated. Good jazz and good jazz bands and good singers (some called them "warblers") had been pressed onto vinyl recordings. The quality was excellent. The "transcriptions," as these were called, were large platters that played back from 16 2/3 rpm players. Radio Kodiak's final midnight number every night was a song called "Nighty Night." It was recorded by Alvino Rey and his band, and sung by the King Sisters. If you can get that old recording, it would be worth your while to listen to it a few times.
Fishing was a great way to pass some time and keep the mind constructively occupied. I was an amateur fisherman, emphasize "amateur." The guys with the fly rods, like our Operations Officer "Snuffy" Wagoner, and my PPC Hugh Burris, in VPB-107 would go off to some Kodiak or Adak stream where they could get steelhead and Dolly Varden trout and salmon in several varieties. They would permit me to come and watch if I stayed out of the way. But not one of our fly fishing experts ever offered to teach me to use a fly rod. Finally, I gave up on fly fishing watching at those exciting Alaskan streams. Instead, alone, I would walk to Old Woman's Bay next to our base at NAS Kodiak with my casting rod and reel.
There, standing on the shore one day, after a series of many fishing sessions, and perhaps hundreds of casts, a humpback salmon took my hook. This kind of salmon was spurned by the silver salmon and king salmon experts who were standing in running water in some stream where actually, during spawning time, I could lean over and pick the fish out of the water with my hands. No, I was at the place where nobody could see my poor fishing technique, least of all the fish. So I landed the "humpie" as they were called, and then pondered what to do with it. Well, I got some ice and boxed the salmon in it and persuaded the pilot of a Navy R4-D (C-47 or DC-3) going down to NAS Whidbey to take it to my wife in our Victory Home at Oak Harbor, Washington. Now, my wife Peggy came from Tidewater Virginia and she was able to prepare seafood dinners of excellent quality. It came to me by word of mouth that she cooked this fish I sent her and invited all the neighbors (salmon are usually pretty big) and Peg's fish party became the talk of the housing project for some months' time. I had put a tiny note in the fish box. Peg let me know later that she appreciated the fish, but that she did not consider a boxed fish any substitute for that week's letter. And you dear reader, know that wives have ways of sending messages and that this was a message.
The next illustration shows baseball's use in relieving boredom and tension in crews that are away from home. The photo was taken on Kodiak Island. I have been on ships that have been deployed to far-away places and in other units that have assigned duties far away from home. This Kodiak scene could represent many, many places in the world where servicemen try to relieve boredom and tension.
A baseball field overseas is always a "make do" field. Rocks are often used for bases. There is almost never a backstop so one of the players does double duty during the at-bat half of his inning by acting as a human backstop for the other team. Even the terrain is almost universal. This one had volcanic ash and other terrestrial rubble from the ages in place of grass.
The original photo for this illustration is a black and white picture that would have come out gray even if the film had been color film. My recurring mental image of all of those settings in so many areas of the world that military life took me is "grayness." The reader can properly infer that I never did have duty in the tropics.
I had written the following words on the back of the photo: "Taken at the squadron picnic. Holiday Beach. Kodiak, Alaska. 17 July 1947"
Baseball at Kodiak
The man at bat is Alan Robert MacLeod Jr. of the Naval Academy Class of 1944. His flight assignment was to fly co-pilot for the Commanding Officer (CO), Hank Haselton. The skipper, not pictured here, was Henry Trenholm Haselton of the Naval Academy Class of 1938. Just to the left of the batter, the fifth in the series of five silhouetted heads pictured on the "bench", was the "leading chief" of VPB-107. I am just to his right, the fourth "head," and to my right, the third "head" is Spence Ziegler, my Naval Academy classmate. I would not be surprised to learn that most service families have a picture like this in a family album.
At some of my earlier experiences in "rest and relaxation" endeavors, beer would be available during the game and the game would deteriorate. I will never forget the fielder on our destroyer baseball team in Algeria whose confidence in the destroyer USS Edison's champion softball pitcher was so great that this outfielder sat on a chair in center field. I do not see any beer in this Kodiak picture. The morale officer at Kodiak must have withheld the beer until after the game. Smart man.
Morale Officers or persons with similar titles organize baseball games, picnics, and other stress relieving events. Deployed personnel often tend to make fun of the folks who got stuck with such assignments. That kind of non-lethal disparagement is just another tension-reliever. Deep down, the events that the morale folks organized always turned out to be popular with men who are really glad to participate in any endeavor that relieves tension.
As Material Officer, I was responsible for all the loose stuff the squadron owned. This included parachutes, lockers, emergency rafts, all equipment carried for safety and for well being, everything except the aircraft and their engines. We used the base parachute riggers for re-inspecting, refolding and updating the packing card in the parachutes but I was responsible for getting each chute to a rigger monthly for repacking. I recall once at Kodiak when a parachute rigger showed me one of our chutes, onto whose cloth folds coffee with sugar and cream had been spilled. Those folds were stuck fast. That chute would never have opened.
While duty such as parachute rigging is not a part of airline life, there are many comparable duties that involve boring, repetitive tasks. In aviation, accomplishing such tasks is part of the regular re-vitalization of everything that goes into the successful flight. Thank God, we did not have baggage inspection in naval aviation.
One responsibility that presses upon my memory from a Kodiak deployment was the emergency rafts carried by our Privateer aircraft. One Naval Air Station man acquired a morphine habit that he satisfied by stealing the styrettes out of our rafts. He made it down to Seattle with a haul from Kodiak and was finally apprehended, court-martialed, and sent to prison.
The Engineering Officer in our patrol squadron had responsibility for the aircraft and aircraft logs. His department handled the 30, 60, 90 and 120-hour checks of airframe and engines. "Progressive maintenance," where the logs follow the airplane and both log and plane can be updated wherever the support personnel are available, had not been invented in the 1940s. The Material Officer handled most everything that was outside of Engineering's jurisdiction.
I was involved in one tension incident during the second "tour" of VPB-107, by then re-designated VP-HL7, in which I should have acted differently. I had an Assistant Material Officer, Lt. (jg) Joe Kakol, a wonderful, hard working officer. One key man that interacted every day with us was the Leading Chief, another very important position in a naval aircraft squadron. The Leading Chief was the senior chief petty officer in the squadron and in his aircrew responsibility, was the plane captain of the Commanding Officer's aircraft. He was a high quality individual and an imposing figure in the squadron. This man had known Joe in another squadron before I knew either of them. The Leading Chief had gotten into the habit of ordering Joe around. I finally inserted myself in this dialogue and told the Chief and Joe that it was not appropriate for a CPO to order an officer around. Just the three of us were involved in this discussion but I did raise my voice and chewed the Leading Chief out. He went to the Executive Officer who called me in for a confrontation with the Chief. No doubt, I had handled it poorly. I should have talked to Joe and the Leading Chief first in separate one on one sessions, and then with them both together, but I popped off and regretted it later. Nothing further came of it but I resolved to learn and to hold my temper. It was not an important event but it was a genuine indication of the kind of stress that can develop into a veiled conflict in an aircraft squadron until a trigger event brings it out.
In the next photo, taken in a setting at their home, is the family of Robert Emmet Doherty. Bob came from Connecticut to the Navy with the Naval Academy Class of 1942. He and I invented a cigarette lighter. I still have the sketch of the device. Bob was to apply for a patent in our name but family raising obviously took precedence. The folks pictured are not all members of Bob's immediate family but the lady holding the blond baby is Bob's wife, Betty. She was just one of many wonderful Navy wives I met and a testimony to Bob's intelligence and zeal in wooing her.
The Doherty Family
Goodbyes are difficult, even for deployment-hardened military men and their families. I cannot begin to express how difficult it is to say goodbye. Even today, though I have not been "deployed" away from home and family for many years, I cannot forget those feelings. Writing a story like this involves saying hello, and goodbye, one more time.