KARAMURSEL HIGH SCHOOL
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Where to go: Germany, Turkey or Saudi Arabia?
It was late summer, 1972, whem my father, a Lt. Col. in the Air Force at the time, came home and told the family that he had the opportunity for the family to take an overseas tour. The possibilities he gave were Germany, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Turkey was a shorter assignment, a two year "hardship", but it offered what appeared to be an exciting boarding school opportunity for me. I remember reading the USAF description of the school and the dorm life, complete with wild boar hunts, skiing, and other opportunitites. For me, there was no doubt which assignment was best. Although the information on the boarding school turned out to be propaganda, I still faced the opportunity of a lifetime.
Getting to KARAMURSEL
I arrived in KARAMURSEL the same day that LBJ died, January 1973. As a dependant of an officer stationed at İncirlik Common Defense Installation in Adana, Turkey, I was sent to KARAMURSEL to attend high school, as did all 11th and 12th grade dependents of İncirlik as well as those at Iraklion, Crete. It was a two day journey from Abilene, Texas to Rome, Istanbul, and then Adana, Turkey. I then took military transport to a small airfield just north of Yalova. The road to Yalova was paved and in good condition. The road to Izmit, however, was in worse condition as the pavement had deteriorated. The airport had been moved offbase to a field between the base and Yalova (halfway? - it seemed like it was several miles from base). It was a short field and just barely long enough for a fairly abrupt landing of the transport planes, C141s I believe. A bus then took me to the barracks where I would live for the next year and a half.
We lived in a dormitory, the barracks closest to the base's maingate. About sixty of us lived there, girls on the upstairs floor and boys on the ground level. Generally, two people were assigned to a room. Counselors (civilians) kept tabs on us and enforced lights out at 10:30 on school nights and 11:30 on weekends. Fortunately, my room, although one of the closer rooms to the maingate, had a nice evergreen by the window, which allowed me to crawl out without being seen. We also had morning room inspections - if the bed was properly made and your school grades were high enough, you had free passage in the evenings. Otherwise, you had study time (i.e. card playing time).
Classes were held in an operations building, west to southwest of the dormitory and close to the residential housing.(towards the Elephant Cage - this was a circular radio tower structure which was located close to the beach It was a top secret structure that was used to intercept Russian radio transmissions. It was one of the more notable structures on the base. I never saw any marines and the navy contingent was small. Air Force was predominant at the time.) Several Qounset huts just east of the building also housed some of the classrooms. The teachers were civilian employees of the Department of Defense. Most of them were younger and also seemed to enjoy the experience of Turkish life.
The Mess Hall
For food, we ate at the mess hall with many of the airmen as well as Turkish troops. It was called the Yemek Hall where an honorable mention plaque for food quality made me wonder how bad the food was in places not so honored. Small wonder I lost weight and took a disliking to pork. I had heard rumors that "real" food was once served there. All the cooks were Turks, hired from the area. The base was fairly well established so the Turkish troops also had barracks rather than tents. They also ate at the mess hall where they really likes some of the cuisine, like the french fries.
Activities in Turkey
Turkey offered excellent activities. Some of us enjoyed exploring the Turkish countrysides on weekends - the hikes to Hannibal's castle, the early morning ferries to Istanbul, or just spending time at the coast sides of KARAMURSEL, Yalova, or Izmit. I also had the opportunity to become a certified scuba diver during my summers at İncirlik and I spent summers exploring the Medittereanean. Even now, I sometimes show my scuba certification to other divers, never failing to mention that I had "shark training." All in all it was an incredible experience for those of us finishing off our high school years.