If you have photographs of the old library at Homestead Air Force Base before it was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew, please send them to me ( jameswallaceharris symbol outlook point com ).
My friend Linda and I had breakfast last Monday and somehow we got on the topic of the first books we remembered. We were both born in 1951, but she grew up in Memphis, and I grew up in Miami. Neither one of us could remember the first actual book we owned, but Linda remembered discovering libraries in the third grade, and I remember finding them in the fourth.
We both figured we had children’s books when we were little, but we can’t remember them, but it was discovering libraries that turned us into bookworms.
I have vague memories of school libraries before discovering the Homestead AFB Library in 1962, when I was ten. And I have fleeting memories of one other base library, but I can’t remember where it was. Maybe New Jersey. My father was stationed at Homestead Air Force Base in 1962 and 1963, and then after he retired, we returned to live near Homestead, so I got to use the base library again, while in the 8th grade.
I still remember so many books I found at the Homestead AFB library. I have many memories roving up and down the bookshelves, but what I would really love is photographs from inside and outside of that library. My mind aches for some kind of validation to those memories. I have no idea what the outside of the building looked like, and I’m guessing it was pretty small. The check-out desk was in the middle of the building, just as you came in the door. Going right led to a small wing holding the kids and young adult books. Going left held the adult books and a small nonfiction section. If memory serves, going left from the entrance, and then turning right just as you went into the room, was the science fiction section, which I didn’t know about in elementary school, but was a major discovery in junior high!
Straining my brain I’d guess that the science fiction section might have had no more than 6-8 shelves of books. It wasn’t huge, but it was gigantic to my impressionable mind. Going left, rather than right led to several sections of metal shelves in the middle of the room that held the nonfiction books. I loved looking for books about space travel, fighter jets, astronomy, oceanography, maps, etc. I loved this library. It depresses me to think all of this was destroyed by a hurricane.
For a long time now I’ve had this fantasy that someone would create a database of all the photographs in the world so people could share them. I envision going to the site and putting in a location and date, and seeing all the pictures taken that was closest to that date and location.
Did anyone ever take pictures of the library at Homestead Air Force Base? They could be lying around in drawers, totally neglected, or even been thrown away, now decomposing in a dump. How many photos were ever taken at the base in 1962 or 1963? And how many people like me wish they could see them now? Am I the only one?
Google and Bing found me a few photographs, but I’ve got to say their search capabilities stink to high heaven. No matter how I phrased the search I’d always get photographs from other air bases, or even totally unrelated images. But I was able to dredge up a few photos that validate some of my wispy memories.
Homestead Air Force Base was a rather compact site. The flight line was is the major feature of the bottom right quadrant. My father worked on the eastern end. I remember hearing there were twelve B-52s stationed at the base at the time, with almost a hundred fighter planes. At the far eastern end of the flight line they had a couple each of F-102s, F-104s, and F-106s. Most of the planes were F-100s. I remember seeing one F-51 on the field, and heard Airmen saying it belong to a doctor.
I believe the library and the base theater were on a road that paralleled the flight line. For all I know, I was riding my bike somewhere in that photo. I road my bike all over the base during those years, going to the library, theater, base exchange, or along the road near the flight line. Hearing the B-52s rev up to fly was powerful.
Our base house on Maine Avenue didn’t look as fancy as this one, but it was the same design. A duplex with a doubled shared carport in the middle. Housing on the base was by rank, and my father was a NCO. Kids of officers lived in nicer houses closer to the center of the base. But I loved our house, and have many fond memories living there.
In October of 1962, President Kennedy came to visit the base, just after the Cuban missile crisis. If my memory serves me, the Homestead Air Base Elementary let us kids off the the afternoon to go see the President, but me and my friends skipped JFK and went fishing at the rock pit, which I believe is the dark rectangle at the upper right quadrant of the aerial view above. I’ve always regretted that I didn’t go see the President, but hell, I was ten, and waiting for some old guy to drive by in a big car didn’t sound like fun. Going fish did. I’m sure many of my classmates are in the photo above.
These four photos are a pretty skimpy haul for trying to recreate the past. For all I know, the library might be in one of the two pictures of JFK, but the only landmark I really remember is the red and white checkered water tower. How many people in these two photographs were holding cameras that day and snapping pictures? How many people took family pictures in their base homes? How many people took pictures at work with their friends?
Nowadays reality is so well recorded because everyone carries a camera built in their cell phones, but back in 1962 people only took photos on special occasions. My family had a camera, but we could take a year or two to use up a 12 picture role of film.
If by chance, you’re an old Air Force brat and have some photos of Homestead AFB, please contact me at ( jameswallaceharris symbol outlook point com ).
JWH – 9/19/13