My Folks #1: Droning and Dying

Mountain Home Air Force Base was built in the early 1940s to train World War II bomber pilots. It was located forty miles east of Boise, Idaho—far enough inland from the Oregon coast to provide protection from light bombers launched from aircraft carriers yet within range for our heavy aircraft to reach islands in the Pacific, where they could refuel. After the war large formations of transport planes left Mountain Home to supply the food and materials to rebuild the decimated lands where the war had been fought. 

One of those formations of planes is one of my earliest memories. Perhaps I was three. It was a warm afternoon and my two sisters and I were on the lawn being watched over by our mother. We were sitting in the grass when a distant rumble grew to a deep, droning roar and the clear sky became thick with planes, all flying a fixed distance from one another, their four mighty engines powering propellers that pulled them forward. Behind each hard working engine dark trails of smoke blended together to turn the sky gray. It took some ten minutes for them all to pass. 

Years later Mother told me that when we had been sitting on the grass that day she had been convinced she was dying of tuberculosis.

Barely thirty years old. An infant daughter. A three-year-old son. A five-year-old daughter. Feeling the cool grass of a new home. Breathing the spring air and playing with her children. Every possible future being cut short. 

The winter before my parents had managed to get hold of a used Model A Ford. In those days ammonia was used as an antifreeze. Ammonia lowers the boiling point of water which is exactly not what a summer radiator needs, so regular maintenance meant flushing the antifreeze and replacing it with water. My dad was diligent about mechanical maintenance and performed his first flushing of the Model A’s radiator once there was no danger of an overnight freeze. 

When ammonia quit escaping the radiator, Mother’s lungs cleared up. 

I can only imagine the relief and joy my mother felt, knowing her life with her children and husband was hers to enjoy. I know for sure that tears well up when I think she may not have been around to be my Mom. 

3 thoughts on “My Folks #1: Droning and Dying

  1. JAMES GARDNER

    I never new that they used ammonia.glad it turned out well for your mom.

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  2. rangewriter

    I was also quite unaware about ammonia use and what it might have done to your poor mom’s lungs. Nor did I know that exact detail of why Gowen was built where it is: close enough to get to the Islands but not close enough to get bombed. Thanks for the education. I love the pic of your house and of you and your mom. That one is pure Rockwell. Where was the house located?

    Reply
  3. deansgreatwahoo Post author

    I remember Mother telling me it was ammonia in the radiator that caused her trouble. I have also run across accounts of ammonia as an antifreeze. Actually, Rangewriter, it was Mountain Home AFB that was located there to be protected from the west coast according to my family’s accounts. Gowen Field was never large enough to stage fleets of heavy bombers. Our house was three blocks south of Lowell Grade School. It was in the county back then so had dirt streets until after I left Boise High. That entire block is now three-story community housing. The photo with Mom and I was at the family’s homestead on Old Horseshoe Bend Highway, now a vacant lot.
    Always a treat to read your adventures, Rangewriter. What a spunky gal!

    Reply

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