A 70's - 80's Childhood

Growing up as a nomad
February 28, 2011
This may be a bit different fom your normal childhood story as my dad worked for the DoD (Department of Defense). We moved around a few times as I was growing up, so it was quite the experience.
I remember very little from the 2 to 6 age period, a little private school, swim lessons and a guy that told us "don't ever smoke kid, it really sucks." ( Something I have stuck by to this day). We moved to the island of Okinawa when I was 7, sometime in mid 1977.

We spent three years there, which for a kid at that age, was quite crazy. You remember '77 I'm sure....Star Wars anyone? Well not so much overseas, never saw it in a theater, we did go see a Japanese knockoff version that was pretty cool, but not Star Wars cool ;)

"War in Space" 1977

We lived in Government housing and there was only 1 US movie theater on base. New movies were pretty slow to get to the area also, think 6 months later ;) however, the toy situation in Asia more than made up for the late movie syndrome!
Sure there was an American toy store on base, but the Japanese stores had toys years ahead of ours! These things had plastic missiles that actually fired!?! Really...not the safest thing, but at 7 thru 9 years old!?!? COOLEST THING EVER!

These weren't just random toys either, they were cartoons on TV also. Granted, couldn't understand a word they were saying, but you didn't need to. You figured out who the good guys were, cartoons are truly universal. These were quite a bit ahead of American cartoons at the time also. Giant robots beating the crap out of each other?!? A kids nirvana.
The culture shock wasn't so bad honestly. We lived with americans in a "normal neighborhood", went to a US school, had a Post Exchange store and commissary. But the thing I remember most was walking into any of the Japanese toy stores. It's hard to explain, they smelled of new pencils, and erasers and had a distinct "New Toy" smell that I can't begin to explain. I would love to go back...but as it's been written before, it just wouldn't be the same, the magic is gone I imagine.
Another crazy "perk" to the island life, we had caves to play in! Well actually they were WWII bunkers and tunnels, but hey....it's a cave to kids!

Not the smartest thing we ever did either. Okinawa has some nasty snakes and spiders, but for some reason, we just didn't think about that. Too busy shooting each other and climbing trees. We played endlessly it seemed in those dark tunnels and on the hillsides. Toy machine guns, bows and arrows, anything else we could make up. Tropical weather was incredible, year around spring and summer, making it easy to be the next SGT Rock.
Alas those few years went by quickly and pops next assignment was Wiesbaden, West Germany. Yes this was back before "The Wall" came down ;)

We lived in Germany from roughly 1980 to 1988, or the rest of my childhood/teen years. Completely different atmosphere from Okinawa. That and I was hitting the teenage years. We lived in a hotel for a year before we found a house to live in, which wasn't quite as bad as it sounds. There were plenty of other kids my age staying there as well. We did the hide & go seek thing and went across the street to bowl and play a great new arcade game called Asteroidsâ„¢

Again with the movie situation in germany, always about 6 months after US release, so again I missed Alien, Blade Runner and quite a few other Theater releases. This was offset by the ability to travel just about anywhere in Europe cheaply and quickly.(The US dollar was very strong during the 80's making conversion to other currencies....AWESOME! Also before the Euro.) We visited, Italy, Spain, France, Austria, England and Switzerland. Now for a teenager at the time...crazy! Climbed the Leaning Tower, walked around the Colliseum, saw Auschwitze, the Alps, London Tower and stood on the GMT line. You get the idea. Wiesbaden was just getting a Pizza Hut and McDonalds downtown, but the German restaurants were pretty good as well.
Of course I went through the comic phase also. Haven't we all? I even still have a box or so of old Uncanny X-Men and Avengers. The stories were amazing back then. Not real fond of the new stuff.

It was around '82 my parents got me this nifty new thing called an Atari 800.

Just wow! I spent a couple hrs every evening playing various games on that new wonderous machine.Star Raiders and Castle Wolfenstein were two big ones. Simple but hours of fun.

I was getting older and the gaming phase of life faded a good bit, there was this new thing coming over from the US. It was called Heavy Metal, and with it came

Suddenly I wanted to play guitar! This was about the time that the magic of youth faded away. I spent hours into years playing guitar, but that's another story for a different site. Needless to say,(yet I'll say it anyways..) to this day anytime I see an old Atari game, a toy machine gun, even an Uncanny X-Men comic I slip back to those early years. The thing that I really miss was the sense of safety. Even though we were in two different countries, it still felt safe. Maybe it's just the memories are like a safe place and that distorts my perception.

Any way, this is my first attempt, I apologize for the length and hope you get something out of this, if nothing else perhaps the simple wonderment of a boy living in another country in complete awe of the place.

Be safe all.
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