Again, what’s wrong with this picture?

    Yesterday I wrote a piece on what ever it was, but it offended my husband; And in-order to promote cordial cooperation and an ambiance of a positive nature, I “scrubbed it.” (That’s ‘space kid’ talk for cancelling what was written, as this was the phrase used when a launch was delayed or not to be back in the old days of the Space.)  Again-may I remind you that I grew up a “military brat” mostly off Cocoa Beach, close to the peninsula that was known as Cape Canaveral, where all the ICBM’s were tested.  Back then when we moved to the area, in 1956, all defensive weapon-missiles, and conceptual Space Travel, etc. was handled strictly by the military.  It was much later when  private company’s entered into the mix, co-existing with the military when this made sense (example: IBM, Philco-Ford handled the computer stations, etc.) creating what we know today as NASA.  In the very beginning of the 50’s, the military branches started ‘fixing up’ that area, which was a virtual paradise and practically uninhabited by people then.  When we first arrived, our family stayed in a very small apartment right on the beach.  My brother and I used to ‘go play’, by the water, having promised not to go in with out adult supervision, we never mention the many coral snakes that shared our play space usually traveling in two’s, but they were there.  We knew they were lethal, but were not aggressive, but I do remember a couple times having to jump over them on the way to where ever we were going, as we did not see them until we were pretty close to them.  My mother would have had a fit and a half had she known.

By the way, My husband and daughter  and I went back to look at the old ‘home-place’ of Cocoa Beach, years later (1986?) and I found the whole area unrecognizable –but there was some relationship visually to Disney World, where we were vacationing officially;we just decided to take a side trip in hopes of witnessing a Space Shuttle launch, which was scrubbed on that day. So we headed back for Orlando, where it wasn’t as crowded and disconcerting as my old haunts, strange as that seems.

     Back when we first moved to the Cape in the mid-fifties, the Army Core of Engineering dug regularly-spaced, handy canals, and cleared miles of fields of “Palmetto Plants”, the indigenous palm-tree-like ground cover, which were mostly burned to make building possible. Oh, the stench and the smoke !n the best of times, those.  There were enormous fields of them, when we first moved there, with nary a person in sight. A most impressive, enormous ediface was under construction at that time -a research facility overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, built to withstand huge tidal waves and hurricanes. (We experienced two hurricanes while stationed there. (way cool…we had to evacuate and stay on the mainland, where it was safer during those hurricanes.)   But the place where the actual missiles were  launched was not open to civilians, of course, and was located a good 15-20 miles from base at the “cape,” a peninsula off the one on which our housing was-located.  It was north-northeast of the Base, and an easy sight when lounging around the beach.   Patrick Air Force Base, which was in existence before all the excitement, became quite a hub for all branches of the services.  It was my father’s job to make every one (Army, Navy, Air Force) get along and communicate—no easy job that, as there was quite allot of competition and altercations between said divisions, as one can imagine, and it was absolutely imperative that they work together to achieve success in this very important cold war endeavor.

     What I remember as most strange and unusual about this place and time in my life as a child (we moved there when I was 9 years old) was the actual experience of being near where the missiles were launched-there is nothing so completely over whelming as when the ground shook like an earth quake and the noise of lift off was louder than anything I’d ever heard before. Nothing could possibly compare to that totally encompassing experience of being near lift off in the beginning of the Space Program.  Your world literally shook and you couldn’t hear your own screaming.  In the beginning there were many on going problems getting those dang things off the ground, so it was not uncommon to experience this bizarre occurrence twice a week.  No wonder allot of the wild life moved away.  It was scary as the concept of Hell, if you didn’t know what was going on during launch.   But after awhile it was just part of the deal and became a quite a normal part of our life–no biggie.

      When we moved there I attended the nearest public elementary school ( I was in the 4th grade at the time) which was on the mainland (a good 45 min. drive – one way by school bus) into the city of Melbourne, in what used to be a military hospital, very isolated with a playground that went on for miles, it seemed. It was built somewhat on stilts off of the ground, I’m guessing to avoid flooding, etc.  But the place between the ground and underneath the old building there made quite a good hiding place for many a critter, and seemed dark and mysteriously vile.  This was definitely the swamps.  But  in the front of the school was an enormous tree that had strange long 4 pieced leather like extensions that hung together and fell to the ground, of which we learned to make into bracelets and such,when woven together, while waiting for our bus to show up in the afternoon.  Our bus driver was this (at the time I thought) “OLD LADY” (looking back, she was probably in her late 40’s) who brought along her retarded daughter, who was part of the “special ed” class, that had their class room in a separate -but on site building, along side of the old hospital that was our school. I was more or less friends with her, and I didn’t mind sitting in back of her and her mother near the drivers seat of the bus.  Each morning’s routine was to watch that special Ed- class and it’s teacher march the “special ed” students (who were supposed to gather first thing in the morning in the back porch of our elementary school until they were all together and accounted for) from whence they were taken in a neat single file line back to their classroom, where their day began.  For some unknown reason it was held in a seperate ajoining building to the east of Melbourne Elementary back then

     Then there was that “really special- ed” day when an 8-10 foot long alligator  charged out from under this building, looking for his ‘special ed breakfast’, that broke the monotony of our whole school’s routine, no question about it.  Now, this was way long before gators were considered “endangered”, and in fact that seems like a contradiction in terms, especially to said special-ed students.  But we were a hardy bunch those days and were fast runners, even these special-ed students, who managed to dodge this dangerous enormous beast by taking off in different directions tout sweet, I kid you not … I have never seen kids run that fast for any reason , as clearly the kids were the one’s endangered when this dang thing snapped it’s jaws and hurdled itself here and there, trying to catch up to one of these kids, who usually went  so slowly in a single filed line.  Of course little problems  like this were handled by bored M.P.s, who were called into the rescue.  I got to watch them take down this critter during our class’s  usual reading session, if I remember correctly.

  Nothing like a few armed uniformed soldiers and their biggest caliber rifles for taking care of business, as they successfully did that day. Too bad they didn’t go for the Nike missiles, which were so much more fun to watch … and the soldiers probably could have used the practice too … guess it was too near the school for such sport. That was one big gator!

     This is my daughter’s favorite story from my youth, and I’m guessing if I told this one to my psychiatrist/psychologist he would think me even more delusional than he does, poor guy.  But it’s the truth and nothing but the truth, I swear by all that is Holy to me.  No wonder I’m bored as they get these days, especially with all this coding cordial cooperation and ambiance of a positive nature. It just doesn’t seem natural. And it isn’t natural. It is said ” You’ got to take the good with the bad.”

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