It was late summer, 1966, and we were living at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, when my husband Sgt. Clancy Pinkston informed me that we would be deploying to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii by early fall. It was exciting news. I rushed to read as much as I could about our 50th state. Hawaii became a state in 1959. It had been a territory of the US before then. Schofield Barracks was established in 1908 and named after General John McAllister Schofield, who had been sent to Hawaii in 1872 as Secretary of War for President Andrew Johnson.
The history was interesting, but I wondered how I would spend my days with two small children while my husband was soldiering. Memories of the loneliness of living in France were still fresh in my mind. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about keeping busy.
It was not love at first sight. We arrived during a rainy season; it seemed to rain for weeks after we came. We were met at the airport by a sponsor from Pinkston’s company, and the drive to Schofield Barracks took us past Pearl Harbor. I caught a glimpse of the USS Arizona Memorial, where 1,177 crew members lost their lives on that fateful December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed the base and brought the US into WWII.
After a few days in the guest house, we were given quarters. Our apartment was a corner one with a townhouse design — with stairs. Now I had to worry about how my children, Tony and Pamela, were going to get up and down the stairs without falling. Actually, they did well. They would sit and scoot up and down until they were old enough to navigate them standing and holding onto the railing. Being a mom was challenging. Tony had been born with Down’s Syndrome, so he was behind in almost all of his development. Fortunately, he was inspired by his sister, and he rapidly caught up as she developed normally in the areas of walking, feeding herself, and toilet training.
Daily life continued on for me as a young house wife. My days were filled with childcare, keeping the apartment clean, preparing two meals a day, and gardening. I began to collect cookbooks and learned how to prepare gourmet dinners in addition to dozens of regular menu dishes. It was on-the-job training. I considered being a wife and a mother as a career. I also made friends and learned how to entertain with dinner parties and house parties, which were when someone would host a party by preparing food, others would bring beverages, and we always had such fun dancing. One of the records we danced to was Jo Jo Benson and Peggy Scott’s “Lover’s Holiday.” Little did we know that we would be moving to Fort Benning and Columbus, Georgia, the home of the singers.
Gardening was also a pleasure. The Hawaiian Archipelago was created by volcanoes, so the soil was rich enough that additional fertilizer was not needed. We had a banana tree in our yard. I harvested bananas from it and made one of our favorite deserts — old-fashioned banana pudding. We had a garden plot near our apartment where we grew vegetables. I remember the collards never did taste like collards grown in Alabama soil, though.
Though life as a wife and mom was fulfilling, I still regretted not finishing my degree. After graduating high school in 1963, I had completed a semester at Alabama A&M in Huntsville. Then I dropped out to get married and move to France. Now I decided to pursue my degree at the University of Hawaii. The school had a satellite facility on base, although prospective students had to go through the regular registration process. My grades transferred from A&M, and I registered for American History classes. I attended class two nights a week while my husband watched the kids. To get my studying done, in the mornings I would rise an hour before the rest of the household. In all, I completed several credit hours while in Hawaii.
The Vietnam war was raging in southeast Asia. Many soldiers were deploying from Schofield, but Pinkston did not have to go there at that time. During the three years of our sojourn, many tumultuous events occurred on the mainland: Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, riots erupted in major cities, and later a man walked on the moon. Looking back on that time, I can see that it was a time of major personal growth that has helped shape the person I am today.
When our time was up in Hawaii, we received orders to move to Fort Benning, Georgia. By this time, I had been thoroughly captivated by this island and living a few minutes away from the beach. There were many more sunny day than rainy ones. It was a tearful departure for me. I will always love Hawaii with special affection.
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