One of the great things about the military is that where ever you are assigned, there is a good chance that you will run into friends you have served with before and, also, you are guaranteed to meet new friends. In the late Sixties, I was wrapping up three years in Germany and knew I would be going to school for a year. and then on to Vietnam. The school was in Chicago and we decided we would live in Evanston, but Carole had to decide where she and the kids would live while I was in Vietnam. She selected Schilling Manor.
Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, Kansas ceased operations in 1965. There were over 700 family housing units and I believe it was about the same time that the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas was getting ready to deploy to Vietnam. If my facts are straight, many of the wives from Fort Riley moved 50 miles west and opened up Schilling Manor. It became a waiting wives home.
Schilling Manor turned out to be an excellent choice. Three years in Germany reading the Stars and Stripes Newspaper hadn’t prepared us for what we found in Chicago in 1969. The Chicago Seven trial was in progress and there was a lot of ill feelings toward the military. They (student & faculty) shut down Northwestern when the Army went into Cambodia. Carole found a great group of like-minded wives at Schilling (Also, Salina is a little different from Chicago).
Schilling Manor was attached to Fort Riley for support and before you knew it, there was a commisary, PX and medical and dental support. By the time Carole and the kids arrived in 1970, it had been running smoothly for a number of years. They had figured out security for this large housing area void of husbands. Each house had four or five outside lights and they were required to be turned on every night. It looked like 10 o’clock in the morning. Couple that with a civilian security force driving around and there weren’t many problems. If a car showed up in the housing area with a Fort Riley decal, it was quickly checked out. It the GIs were up to no good, their commander knew about it the next morning.
After completing my tour, I had about a month before I had to report to my next assignment. This gave me a chance to meet some of Carole’s close friends. One we will never forget was an Air Force wife named Ruth. Ruth was going to join us on a shopping trip to Fort Riley. We also planned on picking up some booze at the Class VI store.
At that time many of the Class VI stores were run by either the Officers Club or the NCO Club. The Fort Riley Class VI store was operated by the O-Club. Ruth kept insisting that she believed you had to be a member of the O-Club to buy liquor at the Class VI. Each time Ruth mentioned that, I would tell her that they were not going to keep an officer, in transit (between assignment), returning from Vietnam from purchasing liquor. She felt very uncomfortable about going to the Class VI. This was a big Class VI where everyone used a shopping cart. I told her that when it was time to check out, she could get right behind me and just do what I did.
When we were done shopping, we headed for the check out line. It was a long counter with three cash registers spaced along the counter. Only the last register was in operation, so we stood in line waiting our turn (Ruth close behind me). Ruth was extremely nervous. I was the next customer. Just then a man came out of the office and went to the second cash register right in front of Ruth. He looked at her and said, “Will it be cash or charge?” Ruth immediately responded, “I’m not a member.” I was so startled that it took me a minute to respond. I said, “Cash” to an obviously confused clerk, who then, checked her out.
As soon as we got outside, I looked a Ruth and said, “I’m not a member?” Ruth smiled and said, “Well, I’m not.” You can see why we will never forget Ruth, nor the many other experiences at Schilling Manor.