Nash, Allison: Dorm Memory from Korea

We were living on base at Two Ranch Station, near Petaluma, California, when my dad got orders for Hialeah Compound in Pusan, Korea. My mom was disappointed, hoping for Europe. When she heard that there was no high school on base, that I would be shipped off to a dorm starting in the 9th grade she was devastated. I was delighted! My dad ran the house like a boot camp, so I saw freedom in my future!

On a Sunday afternoon early in September of 1965 I boarded the train, along with about 10-12 other teenagers on the first of many seven-hour train rides from Pusan to Seoul. The first hours were quiet, then we stopped in Taegu to pick up another load of kids from the Air Force base there. Things got pretty lively from that point onward. This was repeated in reverse order every Friday afternoon. There was a girls’ dorm and a boys’ dorm, all our meals were in the school cafeteria, study hall was from 7pm to 9pm. There was one phone in the hallway to make calls home. We were essentially “locked in”; but it didn’t take long for the intrepid to figure out how to bypass that minor problem!

The school was rigorous, the teachers fantastic, wonderful friendships were forged, and my sense of emancipation was spectacular.

My two years at that school were life changing. Bob Dylan, folk music, the Mamas and Papas, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones were all the rage. Everyone had a guitar. We tried to keep up with the news from the States; but Armed Forces radio and TV stations censored a lot of the antiwar protest news. Someone smuggles in a tape of “The Eve of Destruction”, and its message swept through the school. Boys started to leave the crew cuts behind and grow their hair out. Girls were ironing their hair and sleeping on orange juice cans for the smooth, straight look. I wouldn’t exchange that experience for anything!

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