Runways from around the world seem to feature prominently now in the lives of the Francis X. Stevens family. Last we heard from them, Frank and Norma and their three children were headed to Japan while Frank attended to his official duties with the United States Air Force there.
Now, they are coming home again.
Well, not nearly as “home” as they would hope. This time, they are headed to a town near the opposite border from the one near Frank’s childhood home in Chicago. Their destination is a little-known town called Alamogordo in New Mexico.
In 1942, just four months after Frank had begun his military career in the Navy, Alamogordo Army Air Field was established six miles west of town. Little did that sailor dream that he would someday serve in such arid surroundings. But now, sometime before 1960, achieving the level of a hospital administrator with the Air Force, Frank is headed for that Army Air Field that is now renamed Holloman Air Force Base.
Of course, I don’t have any official documents to, well, document that move. And the National Personnel Records Center’s promised three- to four-week delivery date for the real details still looms off in the future. But I can guess by virtue of the tale told by a certain nuclear family constellation.
Yes, Norma Flowers Stevens is due with another baby. And this one will be born at Holloman Air Force Base.
Though Alamogordo seems to be located in the middle of nowhere, at that time, it was a happening place in the aerospace world. Holloman Air Force Base was home to the world’s longest rocket sled track, and that was not a ride that Frank was going to miss! Somewhere, in all those boxes of family-history-related stuff, we have a picture or two of Frank, strapped into one contraption or another, serving as human guinea pig in the name of science—research and development being a major aspect of this military site.
When I do stumble upon that missing photograph, it will make for a fun post here—as will the impatiently-anticipated personnel files from the Saint Louis branch of the National Archives. As the promised delivery date of the latter will not occur for at least two more weeks, though, we’ll need to satisfy ourselves in the meantime with other family-history-related diversions.
Photograph, top right: Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico, in 1944; in the public domain; courtesy Wikipedia.
Photograph, lower left: Holloman Air Force Base rocket sled track, Alamogordo, New Mexico; in the public domain; courtesy Wikipedia.