After 4 months at school we would have two months at home. For this entire period my family lived in Korat, Thailand. There was another missionary family in town. Their daughter Barbara and son Jim were close to my age, and also went to Dalat School. We hung around a lot. We played badminton with our Thai friend Sawat. We would also ride our bikes all over town. One favorite destination was the rice mill. Next to the mill was a hundred foot high pile of rice husks. We had fun climbing it and sliding down.
I also enjoyed riding out to the Thai Army base, which was next to the Thai Air Force base. The Thai Army base had a race course. They let me ride race horses around the track, which was quite exciting.
In the early ‘60’s we had several families move to town who were with aid agencies. Israel sent a farmer to show the Thai how to grow cotton in the arid climate of Northeast Thailand. They had a son and daughter about my age, so we hung around together. They liked horses too.
Several American families with the Joint U.S. Military Advisory
Group (JUSMAG) or with the U.S. Overseas Mission (USOM), now called USAID, also had kids my age, so pretty soon we had a regular foreign community! One of their kids also went to Dalat School.
But bigger changes were in store for Thailand. I was out at the airbase one day in the very early 60’s when a U.S. Air Force 707 landed. I hung around to see who was arriving. It was William Averill Harriman, President Kennedy’s Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, and General Maxwell Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were there in preparation for the first U.S. troops to deploy to Thailand in support of the Vietnam War. I had been leaning against a jeep, but snapped to attention when they approached me. They probably wondered what an American kid was doing there. Word got back to me that they thought I was very respectful. That’s about the only time I have been respectful of authority! While they were doing their thing the crew showed me around the aircraft, and I got to sit in the cockpit with the flight helmet on.
Not long after that battalions from the
25th Infantry (Tropical Lightning) Division were deployed to our province. That’s when I started to collect unit badges. Soon the Thai army and air bases were converted to U.S. Army and Air Force bases. F-105 bombers were stationed at Korat Air Base in support of the bombing of North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; creating constant noise as they thundered off for their missions. We would wait for their return, and count the number of planes hoping they all made it back safely
My parents would host a Bible Study at our home that provided our troops an opportunity to get away and enjoy some home cooking. I got to know a couple U.S. Army pilots who flew the C-9 Canadian DeHavilland Caribou, a transport aircraft capable of landing and taking off of short runways. They once visited me at Dalat and brought boxes of American chocolate bars. It was difficult having to share with all my classmates!
The trips I took while in Korat were mostly within Thailand, to visit Darrell and Don in Roiet and Johnny in Ban Phai. It was rice harvest time when I got to Roiet, so we helped the farmers harvest their rice.
A day bending down in the hot sun, then grabbing a bunch of rice and using a sickle to cut it, was hard work. I decided riding water buffalo across the rice fields was much more relaxing!
One memorable trip was to Phu Kra Dung National Park with my Dad, Uncle Wayne, Johnny, and his dad. It was about a four hour hike to the top of the mountain which was a flat plateau. We stayed in a nice lodge, and hiked to waterfalls and other sights.
In 1962 Khao Yai (Big Mountain) National Park opened about an hour west of Korat. Our family would take short vacations there to get away from the heat. The temperature on the mountain was about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the low lands. The park had a lot of wildlife including deer and wild elephants. Gibbons could be heard hooting as they swung through the trees. There were also hiking trails to the many waterfalls. Our favorite was Heo Suwat falls.
Our favorite vacation spot, however, was to the Presbyterian mission cottages at Nong Kae or the Railroad Hotel in Hua Hin, each at opposite ends of a long
beach. At the Nong Kae end there was Khao Te Giep (Chopstick) Mountain that we climbed. Over the years the local people built a temple on top. We would spend two weeks or so at the beach. I learned to swim there and got my Cub Scout merit badge. Jelly fish were the only nuisance; except for sun burn. We didn’t seem to know about suntan lotion so we always got burned. I still go to the dermatologist every year to make sure that the damage hasn’t caught up with me.
The Asian Fair was held in Bangkok, and when it was over my Dad arranged to have one pavilion delivered to Korat to serve as an interim church. He also built the permanent church, where Sunday mornings he preached in Thai, and Sunday evenings he preached in English where many servicemen attended. I remember one evening, the lights went out and he continued to preach without his notes.
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