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[Note from Editor: Marie Chavez-Lopez contacted me 17 Aug 2015, and did a follow-up on 19 Aug 2015.]
(17 Aug 2015)
I am writing to thank you for your website. I am a military brat that lived with my family in Ankara Turkey while dad, Salvador Chavez, was stationed there in the 1960ís. I began exploring the internet and am piecing together some of dad's story and came across Merhaba.
He is 93 and recovering from a major fall and the family talks about our times abroad. Dad served 29 years in the Air Force and will always remember beautiful time in Ankara when words like JUSMAT and TUSLOG were common language like Merhaba. Keep up the good work.
Marie A. Chavez-Lopez
(19 Aug 2015)
The military environment in Ankara Turkey has changed so much since we were there. The US military was so involved in the 60ís. I would like to tease your mind a little. I discovered a .PDF file that wreaks of the 1980ís and 90ís (it mentions computers and videos). It was posted by DOD/edu and what a difference. To stimulate your interest I attach it here. It kind of despairing. In the 1960ís, we American children in Ankara, Turkey, were taught by American teachers through the Department of Defense. I remember one teacher, Miss Hurtado, telling me that. It is nothing compared to the full US military base facilities that we had in Ankara. We lived on Cankaya Hill. (It was no hill, it was a mountain. Your car had to stay in 2nd gear to take it. I climbed it on foot once upon a time, thatís another story).
I remember Air Force, Army, and AID children and families using US military school buses and shuttles to go to the theater, commissary, and school. I Wrote the DOD/ed to ask them about this report because there was a complete base in the 60ís, Airman billets, hospital, commissary, and theater that doubled as an interdenominational church. There were separate Officers and NCO clubs and a hospital north of the Airman Billets. The airbase was not in a concentrated area, just places scattered throughout the city. The buses were located in the commissary and convenience store compound. There was an area for us to get fresh water because the Turks had built their water lines wrong and mixed with sewer lines and we could not drink the water. Our vegetables had to be washed with a special compound to rid them of DDT. (The US rid itself of DDT but it was stilled shipped it to other countries in those days.)
My brother and sisters always drank from the tap and never got sick. The rumor was that the water on Cankaya Hill was clean because it led to the presidential palace.
The Army built Site 23 about this time and I always wanted to know where that was southeast of town. Do you happen to know where that was located? You had to drive south on Inou Blvd then go west. They put on carnivals for their families and we went there for a great time. [Note from Editor: The base Marie mentions was Manzarali Station, an ASA (Army Security Agency) base near Golbasi. Officially, it was Bayrak Garrison, TUSLOG Det 66, Site 23.]
There was a club house on a lake south of town that the military let us use and I remember going to Girl Scout Camp there. (I would like to know where that is also). We once went to a military base south of Ankara to go swimming in either the Officers, NCO or airmanís pool. I thought it was a Turkish airbase but found a map and figured it was US base called Golbasi. I donít know if it is or not but know we traveled at least 1-2 hours to go to a squadron family outing and so it figures. Dads loved fishing and the office organized a fishing outing up into the mountain lakes northwest of Ankara. It was good fishing in crystal clear waters. The US embassy also sponsored annual Easter egg hunts for us kids. [Note from Editor: The lake Marie mentions, where the Girl Scout Camp was located, was Lake Mogan, also near Golbasi.]
In 1962, the elementary school was located in the Airmanís billets, located north of the American Embassey on Attaturk and Inou Blvd. and the high school was located SE of town near the NCO club. Shortly after that there was a military coup and sometime in 1963, I remember the planes flying over the house. (There was a military base on the other side of Cankaya behind the Presidential Palace, we were told). Very quickly a new elementary school was built south of town and we were bussed out of town on Inou Blvd.
The school became classroom space for our Catechism classes. (We are Catholic and would go to Catechism at the Airmans Billets, and, with the new school, the AF buses would take us there on Saturday mornings.
When you remember the military posture that the US maintained at the time, it was a lot different than now. The Berlin wall had not fallen, the iron curtain is in place. My father talked sometimes of the training that he was charged with doing on different Turkish military bases and the appreciation that he received from them especially one base commander. He would travel through the Turkish military system and even went as far as the Russian border to train and observe and repair/maintain the operation of equipment.
Even though your site is dedicated to GIís, I am sharing with you the life I lived and observed. [Note for Ed: Marie, our website is for ALL American military personnel, which includes wives and children.] We had an active life riding Turkish buses, buying from vendors, shopping in their stores. We bought many homemade pretzels from the ďsimit-jiĒ(Simitci=pretzel vendor) every time he came by. Admired the men who paraded their dancing bears down the street. [Marie, I, too, loved the dancing bears, but they are now outlawed in Turkey. Read my story about "Gulan" the dancing bear we had at Samsun, Turkey.] Mom and dad went to concerts of internationally famous singers and musicians. We had a maid from Syria that lived in the gulley below the house and her life was destitute. We made friends with the Turkish kids and will always regret not knowing more Turkish.
My father tried his best to make us feel at home in Ankara. He bought all electrical equipment and wood for example in Ulus. It was the best shopping district he would say, and would try to get his buddies from ordering through the Sears and Roebuck catalog. My mother learned how to drive to come over and she was one of few American wives that dared to drive through Ankara. She took Cankaya Hill like an expert. But, sometimes we would take the public buses to go shopping or go to the beautician.
I am so proud of my mother Mary because dad was TDY so often and she maintained an active household and made herself at home in Ankara. And when mom needed something from the store, it was yours truly that went on the errand. Thank God for Pocket Turkish-English dictionaries. She won the heart of a member of Parliament who lived two blocks from our house. His daughter befriended us and within time we are visiting each others homes. The gentleman always wanted to eat an old fashion American fried chicken dinner. My mother graciously accomodated his wishes and he walked away a happy man.
We spent 2 - 2Ĺ years in Ankara and we all will cherish our time there. Our street was at least 2/3 occupied with Americans. Our neighbor was British. Everyone had their philosophy about their attitude about the Turkish people. Some closed themselves off and isolated themselves. But we were an active family in Ankara. Our time was memorable and because of the friendship with his interpreters, dad and mom were able to make ourselves at home.
I have been writing kind of rapid fire and so this doesnít make a lot of sense. I am flooded with memories. So many GIís did not take there families and I have met former GIs, both college professors and students, who have not liked being in Turkey, and who may have looked down the Turks. Not us, we have been taught to be respectful and were schooled by dad to be diplomatic wherever we went. We are a very friendly family because we have always laughed that you have to get acquainted quickly because as you rotate in, someone else is rotating out. I have met many people and remember a few friends but I have to keep in context as just one more chapter.
I am 63 now and miss that time, I expect you do too or you wouldnít have done your website.