An admitted Army brat



I am an Army Brat. My father was a captain at the time we were assigned to Vancouver Officer Row. It was the year 1949 I think when we lived in one of the the duplexes where I-5 is now. I was seven at the time.

My favorite play thing was in front of the headquarters building. It was an early Gatling Gun. I still can remember the many times I fought off a lot of bad guys while rotating the handles. I could play with the gun as long as I liked, I don’t think anyone ever said I couldn’t so I thought it was there for me.

There was a playground nearby that had the usual gym type of things to play on. My favorite was the slide. I got to a point that I thought I was part monkey. I got a little too brave and went down the slide standing up. I broke my arm doing that trick.

My parents bought me a new bike one summer while on Officer Row. It was a little big for me but they said I’d grow into it. Well, a friend of mine and I thought it would be great to hang a rope from one of the trees and ride our bikes under the tree and grab the rope and swing off the bike. That didn’t last very long once my folks found out. No more rope tricks. Of course, I didn’t see the damage the bike was getting when I took off into space.

It seemed like we had more snow in the 50s. My dad would take us for a ride once in awhile behind the car. We would be on our sleds hanging onto a rope. There was also a nice hill that ran down into a parking lot which was a great sled route.

From my bedroom I could see the Lucky Lager Beer sign and Jantzen beachwear sign down the road.

I believe my father was in charge of the NCO at the time. I don’t known if that was his full time job or not. I had my first taste of corn chips while waiting for him at the club.

One of the worst thing that could happen to a young boy just starting to get a male attitude was playing baseball with one of the neighbor girls. I still hate baseball to this day. I was playing catch with her and bent over to pickup the ball and went down to stay. My appendix ruptured and I passed out. Of course, I recovered but I never again played catch with much enthusiasm.

While staying in the Vancouver area we would go to Camp Bonneville to picnic and fish. I can remember going there and they had a fishing contest for us kids which was a lot of fun for me. I still enjoy fishing.

I met an old neighbor some 50 years later at a party at my folks. She said one of the nicest things about me. She said I wasn’t a brat but that I was just mischievous. That sounded a lot better to me.

As a young boy the large trees around our house and the headquarters was a challenge. I got to the very top of one large oak tree and was crying that I couldn’t get down. My Dad, the ever knowing officer he was, said I got myself up there I could get myself back down. Somehow I did.

We lived at Vancouver Barracks for a couple of years before Dad was shipped to Japan. We moved to a house of 26th street not to far from Clark College. After about two years, my Dad was able to send for us to join him in Japan. He was helping to plan the Korean War.

Getting ready to move to Japan involved getting a lot of shots and medical documents. Leaving Vancouver was very hard for me. I was just starting to form thought about friends and leaning how to play with all the neighbors. There was a family down the street that had the first TV in the neighborhood. I was going to school at Arnada. It was very difficult to leave all my friends and go to a strange country. I had a very difficult time when we got to Japan as I felt lost.

My folks said I was sick a lot and had asthma. What I did learn from Japan was to forget friends and make new one as we moved around to different assignments. A lot of my youth is forgotten.

Rick Hopper lives in Clark County.