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”.