Fun Times in Turkey
The Air Force transferred the family to Karamursel Turkey in April 1975. Twenty-four hours after leaving our home in Valdosta Georgia we arrived in Istanbul Turkey. From there we took a two hour ferry ride across the Black Sea to Yolava. Garry’s OIC picked us up at the port and drove another hour to Karamurel Air Force Base.
To say I had culture shock was putting it mildly. Immediately after getting off the plane I was hit with the sights, sounds, and smells of this strange backwards country. It didn’t get much better after checking in at the base’s temporary lodging. The rooms were old and furnished with the bare necessities . It did have indoor plumbing, but no bath tub. Lorrie and Larry were young and still took tub baths. The shower would have to do. After getting them undressed and in the shower, we discovered there wasn’t any wash cloths. I went to the front desk to get them, and they had no clue what wash cloths were. So they cleaned up the best they could using soap and their hands for wash cloths.
The next day we were assigned permanent houseing. It was a modern two story townhouse. It had three bedrooms and two baths. The same day part of our household goods were delivered. It was beginning to look more like home. Yeah, we finally had wash cloths.
In the beginning the reality of living in a foreign country seamed too much to bare. I didn’t think I would adjust to this place so far from home. I cried day and night for the first month . I missed the life we had left behind in Georgia. I begged Garry to send me and the kids back. After a few long painful months, I stuck it out and actually grew quite fond of this place called Turkey.
Every day I discovered things about our new home that took a lot of getting used to. First of all there was no need to have shipped the big 27 Inch color console T. V. They didn’t have a T.V. station on base, and had no reception to any of the local stations. Every night we rode our bikes to the rec center to watch T.V. flicks. The most popular T.V. show at that time was Mash. We never watched Mash back home, so each show was new to us. We saw every episodes since the start of the show. I can not remember them playing any other programs, except for the occasional football game. One time they showed the Superbowel in July. There wasn’t too much suspense on who was going to win the game. That did keep the gambling down to a minimum.
Our only means of communications with the rest of the world , other than the telephone, was through the Armed Force radio. At noon and 6 P.M. they played the news over loud speakers near the Base Exchange and dining hall. That is where I first heard the sad news of Elvis Presley dying.
The entire time we lived in Turkey we didn’t own a car. We rode our bikes everywhere, including the commissary . We bought a little pull cart and attached it to the back of our bike to haul the groceries home. All the groceries were flown in from the states. Meats, milk, and bread were shipped frozen . When you freeze milk and bread the texture and overall quality changes. That made us appreciate and miss everything we had left back home.
During our stay we keep busy doing things together as a family. Garry and I coached T-Ball for two years. We didn’t have a clue on how to coach, but neither did any of the other coaches. I think we even won a few games.
Lorrie took belly dancing and modern dance at the rec center. She was so good ,she was asked to dance in the adult performances. I went to a local village and bought the fine sheer material and gold trim to make her costum. Both the outfit and my baby girl was beautiful.
Garry took several photography classed on base. He not only learned the fundamentals of photography but also how to develop 35 mm film. He became very good at taking and processing black and white pictures. I was asked several times to model for the class. That was so much fun. Those were the days when all my body parts were where they should be.
Both children loved going to the youth center. One Halloween they attended a costume party. Lorrie went as a gypsy, and Larry and Abe dressed up as girls. They wore Lorries’ dresses, with matching hats and purses. To complete the look, they wore eye makeup and red lipstick. They sure made pretty little girls, in fact they took first place in the costume party.
The schools had a Turkish culture club. The kids and us traveled all over Turkey visiting the many historical sights. (the city of Troy, Bursa, a Turkish Coke factory to name a few)- We also took a Turkish language class. The kids picked up the language faster than us. One day I was shopping at a local market and asked for on kilo of carrots. The Turk keep telling me no not on. They were right of course. On kilos of carrots would have been over twenty pounds.
We would take the shuttle bus into town with a group of friends to try the local restraunts. As you drove down the rode we saw many outside eating places. All the food would be displayed on tables. At first I thought the food was covered with a black clothe. No, the food was covered with black flies. They would fan over the food ,so you could see what was under the layer of flies.That was one place we could never bring ourself up to try .
One of the nicer establishments in town had a sign that said modern American toilet here. Now that was a welcome change from the usual platform with two feet impressions etched in the concrete. You dropped your drawers,(after your rolled your pant legs up, so you didn’t get pee and anything else on them) then place your feet on the impressions on the concrete , aim over the hole in the floor, then continue on with your business. You alway made sure you brought your own paper because they didn’t use toilet paper. In the toilet was a small bucket of water with a dipper. You were to pour water down the hole to help flush the waste to where ever it went. Maybe we were suppose to wash your butt, I never asked. Back to that so called modern toilet. It was indeed a modern American porcelain toilet bowel, however. it wasn’t hooked up to any plumbing. They would clean it out after the end of each day. The hole in the floor was a much better option.
The restraunts usually served large parties family style. We would order everything on the menue. Out would come whole tuna fish, fried whole sardines, the best white beans and lamb, their version of pizza (it had an egg cooked on top), breads, wines, deserts, and a lot of other foods we had no idea what we were eating. It only cost each person a few dollars. Later that evening we all knew what Turkey trots were.
One of our favorite thing to do was to take a picnic lunch to the park. The usual foods were canned sardines, saltine crackers, goose liver pate, cheeses, canned hot sausages, and soda pop. We walked across the road to Amet’s a local 7-11 store and bought fresh baked bread called eckmet. The bread was wonderful when still hot from the oven, but had a bad aftertaste when it got cold. We also bought the kids Tippy Tip bubble gum. It was a lot like our Bazooka gum, except the comic strip was in Turkisk. The kids loved climbing the trees, and seeing who could get their swing the highest.
One 4th of July it looked like the majority of the base personnel was at the park near the Black Sea having a picnic and waiting for the firework show to begin. It was a bit unsettling to have the Turks walking among us carrying a machine guns. They were ready to fire if we raised the American flag. The base was a Turkish Navy Base. We were their guest, and had just announce we were moving our military out of the country. The U.S. brought a lot of money in to their economy, so they were not very happy with us. The
firework show everyone had waited for finally stated. First the sky was illuminated with a spray of radiant greens, then red filled the sky, then another green display, then red, then back to green. This went on for a good hour . The only problem was they were either green or red. It got a little boring after awhile. I’m not sure who ordered the fireworks , but I’m sure they weren’t responsible for ordering them the next year.
My best friend Terri, her boyfriend Glenn , Garry and I decided to go to the NCO club to a New Year’s Eve Party. Terri and I were dressed to the nines in long evening gowns. We are partying hardily and had more than our fair share of adult beverages. We helped bring in the new year with the customary kiss and singing that song I can’t spell. We left the club and was walking, or staggering home, when we decided to continue the parting at home. We were all sitting on the floor. I bent over to pick something up, and let out the biggest fart. I was so embarrassed. If that happened now I would just excuse myself of make some smart ass comment about that being a good one.
Every morning I would watch Garry ride his bike the short distance to work . i could see the secured compound called the elephant cage from my upstair bedroom’s window. For first few months after I arrived in Turkey, I was so homesick, just watching him leave would bring on the tears. Like clock work the Turkish Navy marched up and down the street that ran behind our house. They would march all the way down to the elephant cage, and back several times everyday. The elephant cage was where Garry worked at the data processing center. It housed all the communication units for the Air Force stationed there. All the tall towers and buildings was enclosed in a tall wire cage,, thus called the elephant cage.
During our stay in Turkey, i had the pleasure of visiting Athens Greece with the NCO Wives Club. Garry took leave to watch the kids and the kids i babysat for so i could go.