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Joseph GAZDAK

Captain

Ankara

Unit

1955-1957

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(Below is a story from Joey Gazdak, son of Joseph Gazdak.)

THE TURKEY YEARS

1955-1957

My father, Captain Joseph Gazdak, was a supply officer at Clinton County Air Force Base near Wilmington, Ohio.  He was stationed there for three years after leaving Japan.  Our family consisted of my mother, his wife, Ann, me (11 year old Joey) and two younger sisters, Judy and Sandy.

In May, 1955 he was assigned to Ankara, Turkey.  I remember flying on various military transports to Istanbul.  We stopped for a day or so in Frankfurt and our shoes (in a bag) were stolen while we were waiting for transport to the airport.  We spent one night in a run-down place in Istanbul and then boarded the Turkish airline, DHY (“death has you” was its nickname),  (Note form Webmaster:  The actual name of the airline was THY, Turk Hava Yolari (Turkish Air Lines), but GIs loved to make jokes about the airline) for a bumpy flight to Ankara.  Turkey looked like a pretty barren place from the air.

We stayed in some temporary housing but not the Officer’s guest house where all the action was.  I think it was on Atatürk Blvd.  We spent many a day hanging out there in the summer while dad was at work.  There was a low stone wall in front that was topped with a short metal railing.  I attempted to walk the railing and another kid shook it trying to throw me off balance.  It worked and I fell and hit my mouth on the stone and chipped my two front teeth.  Pretty nasty.  Later my father took me to a Turkish dentist to have my buck teeth filed down.  It was pretty primitive, but my teeth remain fixed to this day.

After a couple of weeks, we moved into the bottom apartment of a two-story house.  The Turkish owners lived on the upper (street) level.  The neighborhood was hilly and had quite a few Americans and other foreigners.  Our apartment had three bedrooms and a “great” room that had a dining and living area.  There was a small kitchen and one normal bathroom and a Turkish latrine.  There was a nice sized yard that looked down to the next level of housing.  My father found a way to "import" our car, a ‘55 Oldmobile 98; it was blue and white.  And very impressive for Ankara.

We had a maid, Sophia, to take care of us.  I guess she cleaned up after all of us.  She also gave me some Turkish cigarettes (I asked her) because I wanted to be cool at 12.  I smoked a few outside a couple of times.  I remember thinking I had to eat pickles to cover up my breath.  Of course, my father smoked from the time he was younger than 12, but not hand rolled Turkish cigarettes…Luckies.  I gave up smoking after a couple of weeks and never took it up again.

Ankara seemed to have water problems… there wasn’t much.  And it would be shut off on a fairly regular basis.    We had a very large urn next to the kitchen and it was “all hands on deck” when the water came on during the day (kitchen taps were left on during the day if anyone was home).  We filled pots in the kitchen sink and dumped them into the urn until it was full.

We had “American” food for dinner from the commissary.  I can’t remember ever eating a meal with Turkish food.  I remember that there was only powdered milk.  It was awful.  My sisters and I began to refuse to drink it… my parents had a rebellion on their hands.  The compromise was that we could have it half and half once a day with instant coffee.  We were stimulated.  Bottled American sodas were as rare as hen’s teeth.  Instead we had a seltzer bottle (very stylish and I have one to this day) and a big can of Coke syrup.  It wasn’t as good as the real thing, but better than nothing.  Once a week we went out to dinner on the weekend.  The Washington Restaurant is the only place I remember going.  I had some sort of chicken and creamed spinach.  Every time, the waiters didn’t even have to ask me.  Nowadays I’m kind of a foodie, but my wife makes killer lemon chicken thighs and I eat spinach whenever I can get it.  Must be in the jeans.

Our neighborhood had a winery in it.  If we were walking (kids did a lot of that) we could tell when we were getting close to home.  The winery stunk.  I’m a wino now and I can’t imagine what that wine tasted like.  We also had a little shop.  They sold gazoz (we pronounced it Ga-zoose) a Turkish soda.  We bought it but didn’t drink it… we thought it had buggers in it.  It was so cheap to us that we used to shake it up and squirt one another.  We also bought matches at the shop, and would flick them at one another in the street.  Talk about Ugly Americans.

My sisters and I went to school on a regular basis.  We caught a bus across from the little shop.  I think we all went to the same school building, but I could be wrong as I certainly didn’t mix with them at school.  AAEA (Ankara American Educational Association) was our only choice.  There was one class for each grade... maybe less for high school.  I think the teachers were mostly military wives.  I was there for sixth and seventh grade.  I was a good student so I got a number of “awards” and I was also a reasonably good artist.  I wasn’t much of an athlete, but often at lunch time six of us would play 3-a-side football.  School lunch consisted of a lunchbox with what your mother thought you would want.  Trading food was fun.  The schoolyard was mostly dirt and rocks and on a slope.  I didn’tthink I was deprived.

SOME RECOLLECTIONS:

Church at th Italian embassay.  I got confirmed there.

Shot gazoz bought from the local store.

Stopped in rome... or was that going back?

Rock N roll started; Bill Haley and the Comets, Rock Around the Clock, 16 Tons, Tennessee Ernie Rord, etc.

Painting by numbers (Jesus and Swiss Alps).

Had dog die of distemper.

Ambassador high on the hill in a big white house.

In Izmir for an earthquake!

Collected stamps.  Got approvals from far away.  Then had stamp sale.  I switched to US stamps and went to stamp shops in downtown Ankara.

Friends:  George & his brother Steve from Valdosta, Ga.  Lived down a level from us.  I think their father was a pilot.  There was a boxer dog who lived in a cage in their yard.  Tommy Eason, not too bright.  Girl who I liked, but didn’t like me.  Colonel Borowski who played chess.  Gloria.




Snowman in Ankara!