Vallie Marie Szymanski

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My father was a practicing veterinarian in the United States and was in the Army Reserve during World War II. At that time there was a greater need for veterinarians "stateside". Along came the Korean Conflict in 1952, Uncle Sam needed his expertise in the United States Air Force. A veterinarian in the Air Force you ask? Yes and my parents were jumping for joy and gleefully began a 20 year global odyssey! This Air Force Brat is going to share some of those adventures and the evolution of lifelong career in the glamorous ( ?) aviation industry.

Best Friends

Best Friends

And then there is my dear friend Linda.  We have known each other since we were five years old…when our fathers were stationed at Larson Air Force Base, close to Moses Lake, Washington.  Larson AFB was a Tactical Air Command base under the 18th Air Force during the Korean War.  The year was 1953.

Our parents were the closest of friends, we lived at Larson AFB for several years.  Then Linda’s father was assigned to Wiesbaden Air Force Base, Germany and my father was assigned to Prestwick Air Force Base, Scotland & Chateauroux Air Force Base, France.  We visited each other frequently.  Her family lived in Wiesbaden when Elvis Presley was stationed in Germany.  Elvis met his future wife there, the step daughter of Air Force officer. Extraordinary times!

We always kept in touch and both families ended up in Washington DC in the latter part of the sixties.  When Linda and I graduated from college in 1969, our families sponsored our 6 week “Europe on $5 a Day” graduation trip.  Oh what a trip that was…two other friends joined us.  We arrived in Europe via a combination of cheap tickets on Icelandic Air and a military dependents charter.  We also purchased a one month EuRail Pass.  Planes, boats, buses and trains took us to England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, France, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and finally Germany with only $10 to spare and an emergency American Express Card.  So many stories and so many close calls!!!

Upon our return to the United States, we both were hired by Pan American World Airways and to the delight of our parents became roommates in a smashing 2 bedroom apartment in Arlington, Virginia.  Linda met Jeff.  Linda and Jeff got married and moved to West Virginia.  I of course, visited them.  Jeff and Linda decided to walk on the wild side and sign up for the United States Foreign Service.  They were accepted and traveled the world.  I met Joe, got married, still worked for Pan American World Airways but now resided in Chicago.

Fast forward several years, I am now working for United Airlines and I have a Star Alliance meeting in Vienna. It was perfect time to visit Linda and Jeff who were assigned the U.S. Embassy in Budapest.  Frequent travelers sometimes get a “Tad” smug about their knowledge of all things travel related.  I had checked Joe’s passport and confirmed it was still valid…I should have had my glasses on because it had expired.  And NO ONE caught that error until we took a hydrofoil from Vienna to Budapest!  Our friends to the rescue and in 3 days, Joe had a new passport and we were able to safely depart Budapest for the United States. 

Best Friends

 

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
' So many stories and so many close calls!!!' Way to tantalise us, Vallie! :-) Looking forward... ... Read More
Monday, 22 February 2016 15:47
Vallie Marie Szymanski
It was about those men chasing us down a dark alley in Madrid and we were rescued by 2 U.S. Navy Sailors, who were lovely gentleme... Read More
Monday, 22 February 2016 16:08
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Rendezvous in Kathmandu

Two good friends worked for Pan American World Airways when the Clippers ruled the skies and first class travel reigned.  Mary Lee Reshkin and Vallie Szymanski would plan their trips a year in advance and when they discovered that they would rendezvous in Kathmandu for one single night they were inspired! The Reshkins’ trip concentrated on the exotic wonders of Nepal.  The Szymanskis’ trip included 3 days in Hong Kong and 3 days in Bangkok before joining Mary Lee and Jerry for dinner at the Yak & Yeti in Kathmandu. 

Vallie and Joe met an extraordinary man on their flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu.  Charlie Rickert was a 75 year old retired principal from Pennsylvania, “bumming” his way around the world.  While we stayed at the Peninsula in Hong Kong, Charlie stayed next door at the very popular and “cheap” YMCA.  While we stayed at the Annapurna Hotel in Kathmandu, he stayed at a Japanese guest house right next to our hotel for a fraction of the cost.  (We wanted to splurge as only airline employees can do in the most economical of ways!!!  Long live airline discounts!!) Our most memorable excursion was a trip to the Tibetan Border with our friend Charlie on a “luxury” bus that broke down twice.  We will never forget a rest stop where the men were directed to a tree in the middle of town and the women utilized a slightly more primitive convenience.

 Then, the much anticipated dinner date at the Yak & Yeti!  That hotel was famous for providing a base camp for teams beginning their ascent of Mt. Everest. What a memorable evening we had...the beef stroganoff was so much better than the mutton curry we had the day before, even if the only wine they could offer was a $33 bottle of a California Sauterne. It was the time spent with our friends that we loved!

 For many years afterwards, Mary Lee and Jerry would join us for our legendary Chinese Hot Pot dinner on New Years Eve.  Every year, we would reminisce about that very special dinner date at the Yak & Yeti.

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Such memories are jewels as we get older. And priceless. Thanks for sharing your joy with us, Vallie!
Friday, 29 January 2016 12:37
Vallie Marie Szymanski
Thanks, Rosy, seems just like yesterday that we took that trip....... Read More
Friday, 29 January 2016 16:59
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The Feast of the Three Kings

 The date was January 6, 1959 and it was our family’s first French assignment.  For the next 2.5 years, our home would be Chateauroux Air Force Base in the Loire Valley in France.  Jim, my father was a veterinarian in the United States Air Force assigned as the MATS (Military Air Transport Service) public health officer charged with the inflight sanitation of all U.S. Military aircraft in his territory of England, France, Germany, Greece, Scotland, Spain and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia .  My parents were giddy with anticipation of what we would learn and who we would meet.

 Our French adventure begins with an invitation to Chateau Montbel, the home of the Count & Countess de la Rochefaucauld to celebrate the Epiphany.  The Rochefaucaulds, whose friendship and loyalty began during World War II graciously hosted “the Americans” on many occasions..  Hettye, my mother was in seventh heaven…an invitation to an authentic  “Fete des Rois” with real “King Cakes”!! It is traditional to include one bean or ceramic figure in the batter.  The cakes are part of the celebration of Epiphany and whoever is lucky enough to find the bean or figure in their cake is named King or Queen for the day and is rewarded with a paper crown.  What fun we had! My mother celebrated The Feast of the Three Kings every year for forty years…sadly my brother Jack and I never did find the bean in our “King Cakes”.

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
You bring back memories! I spent six years in France (age 9 to 15), in Nice and I remember well La galette des rois. I never got ... Read More
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 08:58
Rosy Cole
The respective customs of nations on the same Feast are always fascinating. Thank you, Vallie :-)
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 10:56
Darlene Arden
I loved this peek into your childhood, Vallie! I'm so glad you're here! Welcome to the Green Room from another new member. ... Read More
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 19:31
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Thanks, Di.
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Pure poetry - very evocative - you are a painter with words..Di
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