Stories about my family

Day: August 13, 2020

The Day After Snow in Columbus, Chapter Two, pg 17, “We Family”


This day was going to be a good.  The first day in our new camper and snow on  the ground, but all most gone.  It’s amazing how quickly the snow melted.  We loaded up, checked if we had everything and started on our journey.  We just had a couple of names and addresses of campsites nearby.  The kids still talk about this camping experience.                                            After finding the first one closed we moved to the next one on our list.  The owner was outside cleaning up around the campground.  The snow was melting and would all be gone today.   

Mr. Paul Bunyan

We asked if  it be Ok to stay.  the owner said  there wasn’t any thing to do.  Well, the kids asked if they could help.  The owner smiled and said OK.  So we stayed. 

Randy’s an old hand at driving tractors.  Just ask him, there is nothing to it.

As it turned out, it was one of our best experiences as these pictures show.  It was a fun day for the kids


After a day’s hard work. we better get some rest because there’s more work to be done  tomorrow.

The Big Snow in Columbus, GA, Chapter Two, Pg 16, “We Family”


After graduating Oklahoma University in the fall of 1972, our family of five traveled to Fort Benning, GA.  My orders read report to the US Army Infantry School and perform duties as a Company Tactics Instructor.  Sounded like the duty assignment to be enjoyed.  And it was. 

Neighborhood snowed in

Usually a teaching job is 8-5 with no weekend work.  Since I was on a list to be promoted to major soon, we could anticipate good quarters for the family.  Since one was not  available we were put on a waiting list as we moved into an older house.   Picture of neighborhood  in Columbus, Georgia. 1973.         More snow in the neighborhood

Phyllis and I began thinking and talking about going camping somewhere.  After all, camping was one family activity that had always been important to us.  As fate stepped in, we didn’t expect to get a camper this way.  We were driving in town past an auto dealership, when we noticed a new looking Wlnnebago campers sitting in an empty lot across the street from the dealership.  We turned around and went in.  As a salesman meet us, I asked how much he wanted for the camper.  He gave an outrageous price so we just turned and started for the door.  He stopped and asked what we would pay.  I looked at Phyllis and quoted him a price half of what he asked.   He shook his head and acted insulted, then said something like, that’s.  ridiculous.  We started again for the door and I asked him to think about it and  gave him our telephone number.  After we got in our car we both agreed he would never call us.  Two days later he did.  And at the price we offered.

We parked it in front our house as we packed and got ready for a trip.  The next day we woke up to an unusual site.  Especially, for this part of the country.  Our family would never forget what happened after that. The headlines read,

“One of the greatest snowstorms in Southeastern United States history occurred February 9-10, 1973. This storm dropped one to two feet of snow across a region that typically sees only an inch or two of snow per year”.   We took several pictures that day.  A local broadcaster gave this account of the once in a lifetime event.  The broadcaster continued with his  description of the snow event.    As I looked out my window this morning and enjoyed the novelty of snow in Columbus, Georgia,  I had to reflect on the biggest snowfall in Columbus in my  lifetime.  It happened on February 9th and 10th, 1973.  Columbus got 14 inches of snow.   It just about paralyzed the city with mainly only police and emergency vehicles traveling the streets.     This is our Oldsmobile 98, equipped to tow a camper in the snow parked in street in front of our house.   Meanwhile Phyllis drove around and didn’t have a problem at all.  We hurriedly  loaded our new camper and left the following morning to find a campground that might be open.  We found one and stayed several days.  That is the next story.

Rock Bridge Mill, Chapter Two, Pg 15, We Family”



Rockbridge is located in northern Ozark County, MO.   It is the site of an oldmill on spring feed creek a tributary of Bryant Creek, which still houses the post office. It lies twelve miles north of Gainsville.  Bill and Ellen suggested the family visit Rockbridge Mill.

Both were familiar with the Mill since they visited the area several years earlier.  Morris built a general store in 1894 and a bank was founded in 1903 by John Edwards.

It is a chilly day.

Phylls, What’s with the look?

The Rockbridge Mill now is a 2,000 acre resort that attracts visitors year round what is now called ROCKBRIDGE Rainbow Trout & Game.   



Some things have changed since the beginning, but some things do not change

Fort Wolters Texas, Chapter 2, Pg 7, “We Family”


I’ve done some dumb things in my life but one of the dumbest was the decision to buy a house trailer instead of living on base at Ft Wolters, TX.  Trailer parks are not necessarily

an undesirable place to live but when alternatives are available which are provided as a benefit of service.  Well that’s another matter.   

Not only is it more convenient to live on base but it is also less expensive.  When it rained the trailer park roads were muddy.  Not only the car got dirty, the boys always found it was

Our third child. Cynthia

more fun to play in the street than in the yard.  Well, that’s enough about bad decisions.        The next most eventful remembrance of our stay in mineral wells was the time we went to

Possum Kingdom and fished below the dam.  After fishing for a while, we spread out a blanket to take a nap.  The river below the dam was notorious for flooding when the gates were opened.  This was one of those times.  While we were sleeping the water was rising. You can imagine the scare when we woke up and the water almost up to our blanket.  The trip was not a total bust, we caught several white bass.   Our girl,  Cynthia was born on base at Ft Wolters.  She was cute.  Of course, she was.  She looked like her mother when she was little and when she was growing up.  She was photogenic, as you can see.

Ellen came to stay for several days when Cynthia was born.  We were stationed there for two years.  Cynthia was about 6 months old when I received orders for Vietnam.  The boys were two and four.We moved to Tulsa a few months later.I left for Vietnam in September, 1966 I loved my boys.  Of course Cynthia was my sweetheart.  NaturallyTaken in Bill and Ellens front yard a few weeks before I left for my next duty assignment.

We were a young couple with three kids and a future of great things

Living in Norman, Chapter Two, Pg 14, “We Family”


Living in Norman Oklahoma was quite a departure from the lifestyle our family  was  accustomed to.  First, living in a non-military community required a bit of adjustment. For example, one day the lady next door  asked Phyllis “does your husband like killing people”.   Such a question would never occur to a neighbor in a military community.  Another difference was the job, if one could call it that.  I was given a two year leave of absence from military duty to complete a degree at Oklahoma University.   You can get good grades with a minimum of work outside of class.  The key was to sit up front, listen carefully, take copious notes and review mentally while doing other tasks.   The family had more time to do other thing, like fishing.  So we made several trips to Lake Thunderbird, a reservoir located a few miles east of Norman. One particular event bears telling since it is a common tale at family gatherings when the topic of fishing is brought up.   Since Cynthia was not old enough to fish for fish, Phyllis helped her tie a piece of bait on a string tied to the end of a 2-3 foot stick.She was having a good time catching crawdads.  She never actually touched the crawdad, she simply shook it off the bait.  She and her mother were have a laughing good time, when this happened.  We were fishing under a bridge with large rocks leading out into the water.  Cynthia was standing on one, as she was catching crawdads.  She lost her balance and starting falling into the water.  I said starting to fall, because by the time she touched water, she had turned in mid air and was on way out as soon her feet touched the water. Fortunately, it wasn’t deep and we all were there as Phyllis helped her to her feet.  Cynthia knew the large  crawdads had large pinchers and she wanted no part of it.

The year was 1971 and anti military sentiment was common, especially on university campuses.  The requirement to wear my military uniform once a week was a requirement which I willingly obeyed.  A few times a students made derogatory comments about the military, I did not respond verbally.   Military bearing and composure under these circumstances required no response, but walking ahead, stepping aside for no-one.

The family took on an outside project in Norman .  We bought a new house when we first moved and the yard was not established.  It needed a lot of work.  

The back yard was barren and sloped up from the back of the house about 3 feet in elevation.  We decided to take out the sloop and put the removed dirt in the back 1/3 part of the yard, making a 2 tier terrace.  To add pleasing lines, we put-in a brick path next to the wall.  That made a walkway entering the back yard from either side gate around to the other gate.  To add additional eye appeal, we put white rock on top of the elevated part and spaced flowers and small shrubs to further enhance the look.  To top it off we put a planter box about a foot wide on top of the wall next to the walk.

To get an idea of how much work was involved, we moved the following materials from the front driveway to the back yard, one wheel barrow at a time.   3 tons of white gravel, about 2 tons of sand (for making cement and as foundation for the sidewalk, 3300 used bricks for the wall and sidewalk.  Several bags of cement and other building materials for making forms, etc.  A family project that took a lot of time and work but it it turned out nice.   Unfortunately, it did not help sell the house since the economy was in a slump when we left Norman.  We paid about $26,500 for a new 3-bedroom brick house with fireplace and now, with a nice backyard.  We sold the house about 3 months after we moved for the same price we paid.   Back


to Fort Benning for the third time.  This time we would be there for three years.  As an instructor, I would not have to work overtime much.   We could have more time for Davis Lake or even the Army RV Park in Destin, Floridia, about a five hour drive south.  More pictures of three kids that worked to help the mom and I to finish this project.   We thought the back yard work would help sale the house when the time came but it did not.

Rest and Recuperation, Chapter Two, pg 11, “We Family”


Twelve months was the length of a tour in Vietnam.  Sometimes time seemed to stand still but other times it was a blur.  You see, I was an Infantry Company Commander in a dangerous environment and Phyllis was home with the burdens of caring for our family, doing her job and mine.  Sacrifices for both of us.   But such makes a strong bond.

For me, most of the time the enemy seemed to be nowhere around and the tendency was to let down your guard, a costly thing to do.  The 100+ in the company must not become compliance. It was my job to make sure they did not.   Such are the demands of command and leave little time to think of Phyllis and our three children, but in was there, in the back of my mind at all times.

My beautiful with a beautiful smile.  I loved her then and I love her now.  These pressures are the reason a period of Rest and Recuperation (R&R) is necessary.  The time was in September, 1969.   A week in Hawaii with the love of my life, Phyllis.If you look carefully you can tell by the shine on our faces how important this time together was to both of us.   Sights and sounds of scenery, people and activity were of little concern to us.

We were too busy enjoying the presence and happiness of each other.

To the Beach.         A stop on our bus route.  Time was a scarce .  A  commodity not to be wasted.   We made the best of it by seeing and doing together.  Time was short and we must prepare to leave.   Each our own way.  Three short months and we will not be separated again.   I have made up my mind, I will not accept being away from my family again.    No unaccompanied tours.   With my record and determination, the Army obliged.    

This is my last assignment requiring separation from my family.

As we reflect on these few days sixty-one years later, it was the most wonderful time we have spent together.  Memories are precious

Christmas Again, Chapter 2, Pg 12, We Family”


After returning from Viet Nam the first time I was assigned to Fort Bliss to command a Basic Training Company during the year, 1968.  Then I was given orders to return to Viet nam to the same unit as I served the first time.Near the end of my second tour the Brigade Commander announced that those scheduled for an early January departure would go home two weeks early.  Great news, but premature, a week after the announcement was rescinded.  No early departures would be allowed.  I would not be home in time for Christmas.    From the very first Christmas for our first child, my wife, Phyllis, had insisted on  making that day a special day for our family. Her efforts are legendary in the Burr family and persisted through the years.

First, I should say that Christmas was not particularly different from any other day as I remembered my youth.

It is no understatement to say that Phyllis did not see Christmas in the same way, especially for our kids, Rick, Randy and Cynthia.  She generated excitement for weeks before the date, the magic time of Christmas.

Christmas, 1966, Phyllis and our children celebrated with Phyllis’ parents.  I was in Viet Nam.  It was going to be different this time.

Only mothers can make a Christmas special like this one.  During family  discussions, years after the kids left home, the Christmas in January comes up.I was scheduled to come home from my second tour in Vietnam two weeks before Christmas, 1969. However, for reasons that only the military can understand, several dozen soldiers scheduled to go home before Christmas were rescheduled to leave after new years.

I was disappointed but staying a few days longer, no big deal.  But for Phyllis, it was a big deal because Christmas is a family event. She sat our kids down and explained why she was going to delay Christmas for the Burr family until I got home.

Of course, the kids understood that it would be best to wait. I believe this was a seminal event in the life of our family, as I will explain later.

However, when family and friends learned of Phyllis’s decision, they were quick to point the ways in which the children were being penalized. The principal complaint leveled at Phyllis was this: Your three children would be sad when the see other kids having fun unwrapping their presents and that would be unfair to your kids. Phyllis listened, smiled and did what she thought was right.

When we celebrated Christmas in the first week of January, it was a special time. First, the emotional reunion was especially heartwarming with lots of tears and laughing. Then the opening of presents took on another level of excitement. I had ordered many, many presents for my family from an Army PX catalog.

The kids were beside themselves with excitement and joy.  Each of us remember that day, except Cynthia who was too young to remember.  However, the story has be told so many times, she remembers vicariously through our memories.

Our oldest son, Rick, said something when he was about 18 months old that has been repeated several times since. We were in Germany, when I came home from work one day and hugged and kissed Phyllis, Rick held his hands up and

said “hold me”. We picked him up and held him between us. He looked at both of us and said,                       “we family”.

Rick was seven when we celebrated the January Christmas. The mantra became and is to this day “we family”. Which goes well beyond the holiday. Today when a member of our family has trouble the family rushes to help.                              The reason “we family”

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