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MY MEMORIES OF KARAMURSEL 1969-1972

Thomas Tipton

© 2009 by Author

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I remember when we left the states and arrived at Istanbul International airport. I was nine years old, nearly ten. It was cold and late at night. We loaded into a van and headed to KARAMURSEL Common Defense Installation on the "highway of death", a road not much wider than a Texas farm road. That road earned its name very well.

When we got to the base we stayed in some old army barracks for a few days, and ended up celebrating Christmas in them. My father had bought us a game and we played it all day. We ate Christmas dinner in the mess hall with the troops as I recall. My father ran the NCO club and chow hall and I was always tagging along. I remember him always checking everyones hands constantly, every 15 minutes, to see if they were washed and clean. The food was great, especially some of those dishes the Turks cooked that weren't on the menu. Hmm? I wonder if any of those menu's still exist? I swear the Turks made the best bread in the world.

Some of the smells when we were in nearby Yalova were intoxicating. I can almost smell them now.

After moving to base housing, we had to go get haircuts at the base barbershop. That is where I met Tarzan. I believe he cut my hair a few times and I remember going to Yalova to buy fresh produce and seeing him with his cart and dogs. Whenever we went to Yalova I would ask my dad if I could go see him. Sometimes I got to go.

My father was stationed at KCDI to run the chow hall and the NCO club. I remember going to the Club and having kebobs on rice. We would then play the old slot machines and run around the club until my mom told us to slow it down. I don’t remember the chowhall very much, except eating there on Christmas and Thanksgiving.

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Mister Aksoy and his assistant Nebehat Garrett taught us all Turkish. I remember him giving us instructions on how to barter with the vendors when we were shopping in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul during a field trip there in 1970. There were hundreds of vendors then and we shopped 'til we dropped. :) I remember the Turkish people were so friendly to us - the best times of my life as a kid. Nothing compares. I remember leaving KARAMURSEL and going stateside then. I still remember my bedroom window and looking at the Elephant cage like it was yesterday. (Below)

Our school was pretty neat. Those five buildings, and a sixth for the restrooms for the elementary kids, is were i spent most of my time then. The High School was one building with another smaller one called the youth center. Our commissary was small like our Base Exchange. The movie theatre was a favorite place of mine. Loved the movie each Saturday morning at 10:00 am.

My father knew the Mayor of Yalova then, and we spent some time on his beachfront property. The Mayor had a playground built for his daughter with a train and an ice cream cart. I had some pictures of it all, but somehow they are not in my possession. I’ll post some photos soon.

I played baseball for the KLLB in the minors and majors. All our uniforms were like the originals. I still even have my KLLB cedrtificate from 1971. Our school basketball team was the best. Bob Sund and and Butch Southerling, Kenny Dias, Dave Moss, Steve Wise, Mike Turney, and the rest; and coach Tom Jenkins! Our gymnasium had squash courts and one that had a hidden wall behind it. During Halloween some of us would walk that hidden space.

I remember when Santa arrived by firetruck and threw candy to us along the streets of base housing. That was great and we didn't expect it, but it got a little out of hand and they stopped doing it.

My favorite places on base were the movie theatre and the NCO club but I pretty much covered all areas of the KARAMURSEL base.

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Thomas was schooled on the KARAMURSEL base and met many friends. He has set up a website for communicating with former "KARAMURSEL military "brats" (KASbrats). Click this site: ChildrenOfKARAMURSEL.com

Moving into base housing was a warm welcome for me. At ground level was the kitchen and living room and upstairs were the three bedrooms and a single bathroom. From my bedroom window I had a full view of the “Ops Center" and the giant circular "elephant cage" antenna. We called it “The Cage”. I remember walking up to it, and walking around it many times. Also, I would walk along the fence line inside the base and come in contact with some Turkish askeri (soldiers) who were on the other side of the fence. Sometimes my friends and I would try to grab some fruits that grew close to the fence. The Sheftali (Peach) trees lined some of the fenceline and we would get the fruit with long sticks. I remember the Turkish soldiers being very nice to me. The young Turkish boys would throw rocks at us. I never threw any rocks back. They would smile and say something and then throw a rock. They were very good rock throwers.

In the spring after a few months there, a Turkish man came to our back door wanting to plant flowers for us beside our porch. My mother ran him off and told him not to return. The next day my mother went shopping at the (Toyland) on base with my father. While they were away, the Turkish man returned asking me for something. I didn’t know he was asking for money, but something in his eyes, I saw then, told me he was dearly in need. I ran and got my allowance, giving him the 75-cents. He grabbed my hand and kissed it. I was dumbfounded. I never had a man kiss my hand before.

The next day we had flowers on our front and back porch. I will never ever forget that man and that day. I remember the night the police and soldiers came to our housing unit and shot and killed a dog that had been loose on base for a couple days. Everybody on base was afraid to come out because of it. The dog wasn’t wild, just wanting something to eat and a place to sleep. Everybody was so happy that they killed the dog. If only they knew then that I had once fed the dog! I never told my mother in fear of being punished for it. It was dragged from our back yard to the street in front of our building and thrown in a truck. I cried a couple of nights over it, and never told anybody about this until now. I asked my father today(October 27th 2009) about this incident, but he remembers none of it.

Soon it was the early part of fall. The summer on the beaches of Yalova went very fast for me, a new experience for me to learn how to swim in saltwater.

I joined the Cub scouts and also the Webelos and the Boy scouts of America then. I liked being a Webelo. On our right shoulder we wore a badge that had three cloths. Each cloth held 5 accomplishment task buttons given to us from our Scoutmaster. I held 10 in all. When I joined the Boyscouts I never made Tenderfoot, but I saw a few of my friends make it to Eagle scout.

At the KARAMURSEL base, Halloween was really a big holiday for us kids. Parties with cookies, cake, and games at school. Then a night of trick-or-treating all over the base. I used two costumes on that night, and got sick on candy and I remember thinking I would never, ever eat any again! But I was wrong: I love chocolate and so did the base dentist, Colonel Winston A. Turney.

Dr. Turney's daughter Patti was a cheerleader for our school then and we have now become close friends since I connected with her 3 years ago.

The other cheerleaders were Debbie Arndt, Gail Touby, Sharon Etheridge, Rosemary Hughes, Sandi Cobb, Kris Hood, and Michelle Ali. I really enjoyed watching them during all the sporting events. (Mostly the football games on Friday nights.) They had some great uniforms.

The morning after the games, some of my friends would go back and look under the bleachers for lost change. Easy pickin's. Sometimes I would find a couple of dollars - a good bit of change for a kid, when the Saturday matinee was only a quarter, popcorn was only a dime, including a squirt of real butter for only 5 cents. A candy bar was 15¢ and I could buy a soda for only 10¢! 65¢ and some change to spend on your friends who didn't look for the change under the bleachers!

I remember Superman and Sinbad-the-Sailor movies and, after the flick, some of us had a little contest to see who could get to the exit first. I remember that I made it once.

If you didn't go to the movie, there was always Bingo at the NCO Club, or the beach along the Marmara Sea. One game we played was War, with homemade guns made of anything we could find. Long pieces of wood stolen from the wood shop served that purpose very well!


On Feb. 28th 2010 my oldest bother
Jessie Wayne Tipton Jr. Passed away.
He was a Kasbrat like me and battled
pancreatic cancer till his end. He will
be greatly missed by family and friends.

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