If you haven’t already caught on, I loved Alaska. I loved everything about it from the minus 40 temps to the beautiful 24-hour summer sun. We spent our first few weeks in Alaska during the summer of 1995 getting organized and acquainted with this great big wide open country. Fairbanks, which is 25 miles north of our base, is the second largest city in the state with 35,000 people. Anchorage is the largest with about 300,000. That was hard to fathom when we were coming from a base with about 20,000 people working on it.
I soon grew to love the smallness of the base and town communities. But at first it was quite frustrating. I remember the first time I needed something for the new house that our Base Exchange didn’t sell. “I’ll just run into town and pick it up,” I thought. And then I remembered it was about an hour round trip and the girls would be coming home from school before I would get back. I soon learned to plan better when it came to running errands. Sometimes a trip to Fairbanks turned into an all-day affair so we could get everything done in one trip.
Housing was another issue. We stayed for about five weeks in the Temporary Living Facility — a one-bedroom apartment with a pullout couch in the living room and a kitchenette . As cramped as we were, it was actually a lot of fun. Since the kids weren’t in school yet, we would open our doors in the morning and the kids would go from room to room playing while the mothers visited. We made some pretty good friends while living there.
The base was in the process of building new houses, and it would be at least Halloween before they would be ready so we opted to move into another temporary house until our new one was ready. That house was cool! It was in a building that had been eight units converted into four. The basement had all these little nooks and crannies. We were given the choice of getting our entire shipment or a partial shipment. We looked at progress on the new housing and I decided I wanted the whole shipment so I could have my Christmas tree. Housing repeatedly said we would be in the house by Halloween. We moved in the day after Christmas. Be prepared is not only a Boy Scout motto!
The new housing was the nicest I’ve seen in the Air Force thus far. The living room had cathedral ceilings, we had three bedrooms upstairs with two full baths and a third powder room off the foyer. We had an arctic room, which is very important in the freezing winters and a full basement. It also had an eating area of the kitchen and a formal dining room. I think there was a cabinet for each of my pots and pans. That house was amazing. And I was right. I’ve never seen another one like it on any base — at least not for a captain. I repeatedly warn Mrs. Senior Airman and Senior Airman not to get too attached to their two-bedroom equivalent because they will not find similar housing again. (They live on the same street we did when she was 9 years old.)
It wasn’t just the housing that made our time there special, but more on that in the next blog.