Life in Okinawa Part 2

Okinawa Without Air Conditioning

The climate in Okinawa is sub-tropical. Air conditioning was for officers who could afford it. During the summer we lived with a constant layer of sweat on our bodies because it was so humid that it would not dry.

Because of this humidity we had to keep our opened boxes of cold cereal in the fridge otherwise it would get soggy. We also had to keep the closet light on all the time otherwise the clothing would mildew.

We also had a constant war going against insects such as water bugs, a.k.a large cockroaches. They are about 2 inches long and are quite clever. They eat almost anything such as postage stamps with glue on them. Okinawan stamps had no glue on them to avoid this problem. American stamps at the time were coated with glue and so we had to protect them from the bugs. They also grazed on the coating on books, if it was edible, which many were. They were also very eager to eat the food in our cupboards,, if they could, to help with this problem the Army issued each soldier a  monthly DDT spray can. We called it a DDT bomb. Our routine each evening was to close all the windows, spray the house and go on a walk. When we returned we would open all the windows and doors and sweep up the bugs. We would then shut the shutters, lock them and go to bed. The shutters would allow some air but were there for protection from storms and also for added security from thieves.

When we first arrived we had no fridge but, shortly after getting our fridge we returned home from an outing to find our fridge filled to the brim with food. No one would say a word about it but I believe the enlisted officers had a custom of breaking into the newbies houses and stocking their fridge. Needless to say this was a very pleasant surprise.

When Marcia was expecting Thatcher, the Sargent in charge of the motor pool authorized me to check out an unmarked car to take home so that I would be able to get to the hospital in a timely fashion. The hospital he was born in, is the same one he worked in as an MD, when he finished his residency in California.

While there I was authorized to wear civilian clothes most of the time. The Intelligence Corps had their own compound with their own club. We were on separate rations which meant the we didn’t have to eat in a mess hall. We got an allowance for food and we could eat anywhere we wanted. The single soldier who lived on the compound, which I did before my wife came, usually ate in the unit club. The rest of the military were segregated into the officers club and the non-commissioned officers club but we were in civilian clothes and did not disclose our rank.

We also had our own motor pool which was filled with unmarked cars. When I had nothing to do in the photo lab I would sometimes check out a car and go on “island orientation.” This involved driving around taking pictures. One time I found myself on a very primitive road which had deep ruts and rocks sticking up which punched a hole in the oil pan. When the oil light came one I pulled into an Okinawan mechanic shop and asked for help. He offered to weld the hole which would be time consuming and would incur a cost. I explained that it was a government car and I would like to get it back to the motor pool as cheaply as possible. I didn’t want to call for a tow, which is what the government would normally do, because I didn’t want to be a problem for them. He suggested that he could put a putty plug in the hole which would work for a short period of time. He charged me almost nothing for this service. I expected to get a little heat from the sergeant in charge of the motor pool, but instead, he was very impressed that I got it back without having to get it towed.



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2 Responses to Life in Okinawa Part 2

  1. Lara Updike says:

    I’m anxiously awaiting the next segment in your Okinawa series. I’m thinking I might try to live Asian style for a few years. Who needs beds? My kids like to sleep on the floor next to their beds anyway.

  2. Thatcher says:

    That hospital that I was born in is now on Camp Lester and is a Navy Hospital. Not only was I born there and then worked there, but I also was the doctor that delivered my son Hyatt at that hospital. Of course my wife played a part in the whole ordeal. She had encouraged me to deliver him because she thought that would be cool and it was going to be our last (it wasn’t, Hannah came later). She decided later she didn’t like me to turn into “the doctor” at the birth of our child. Personally it was a good opportunity but I do become completely focused on the process and the health of the two patients when doctoring. No time for emotion when involved like that.

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