From: J. Stuart Cundiff
Received: Nov. 28
I served 22 years on active duty in my beloved U.S. Air Force. Counting the times that we arrived at a new duty station and stayed in transient quarters until we moved into our permanent quarters and counting the times we moved within the same area into larger quarters as our family grew, we moved a total of 27 times.
Most of these moves were a major undertaking, i.e., from New England to Omaha, from Omaha to Wichita and from there to California and then overseas. Our longest tour was five years; our shortest was 11 months in New Mexico.
During our first tour in the Middle East, I noticed that there were good wrought iron craftsmen in the area. If you could sketch it, they could make it. During the two years we were in that location, I sketched several items of furniture and had them made by local artisans. That was almost 40 years ago, and we still use the tea cart, room dividers, coffee table and end tables (with marble tops) and book shelves that we had made.
Due to terrorist activity and our lives being in danger, we moved from a large city where there was no military installation to a Common Defense Installation about 250 miles away. Because of that move, I got into the January cycle for rotation between assignments. We moved in January 1973, January 1976, January 1977, January 1979 and January 1980. The standard operating procedure was to ship household goods 30 days before your departure. The theory was that the goods would arrive at your destination at about the same time you did. It didn’t always work that way, of course. On one occasion, we arrived, stayed in the transient hotel 30 days, moved into our house and “camped out” for the next 99 days until our furniture finally arrived.
That meant “camping out” with five Army cots, a card table and five folding chairs, five plates, etc., and an electric coffee pot, an electric skillet, a two-burner hot plate, and enough sheets, pillows and pillowcases on loan from Family Services.
In December 1972, we found ourselves in the Quonset hut transient quarters of the CDI, waiting to depart Jan. 5. Of course, there were no Christmas trees or decorations, and I had three children.
I sketched out a folding Christmas tree, complete with holders for candles, and went out to the local village looking for a “demirci” (iron monger). I found just the person, explained what I wanted and the next day picked up our black, wrought iron Christmas tree. We used it that Christmas and for the next four times we were “homeless” at Christmas time.
It is so designed that it folds out, with candle holders, and stands about 15 inches high. After we have used it for the season, it folds flat. It was easy to fold it flat and place it into our checked baggage. We became so attached to the tree that it is still, 40 years later, an integral part of our Christmas decor. It always reminds us of the many times that we were huddled together in a hotel room or empty quarters at Christmas time, celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We were together, we had each other and that was the important thing.