Thursday, March 27, 2014

Back to US Naval Air Station - Argentia Newfoundland 2013

Me with my Family in Argentia around 1967
with the Atlantic Ocean behind us
the shadow of our house to the right of me

It was late spring of 1969 when my family left the U.S Naval Air Station in Argentia Newfoundland, Canada.  After 22 years of service, my father was retiring from the Navy due to a chronic illness.  After being near my mother's family for the past few years in Argentia, I remember being told we were moving "back to the states", to the Chicago area to be near my father's family.  I was eight years old when we left and I have some very vivid memories of our time in Argentia.

During my recent trip home to Newfoundland, summer of 2013, I put Argentia on my list of places I wanted to visit.  Although my Flynn cousins warned me, that there was not much left of the Navy Base and there was not much to see, I found it did not prepare me for the impact of the deserted state of the once prominent Air Station, "Guardian of the North Atlantic"

We drove from St. John's on Hwy 100, through Placentia, which was about a 90 minute drive. Approaching the base we were greeted by tall fencing and an open gate, with a sign that said "Enter at Your Own Risk".  We followed what was left of a road which was extremely rough and worn.  There were a few warehouse type buildings to the right or East edge of the base which were fenced off with signs that said, "Do Not Enter" and several designated fenced areas that looked like scrape yards of material, seperated and sorted waiting to be hauled away for recycling or disposal.

We drove to the far end of the peninsula, the Northside, and came across long strips of pavement in the shape of a triangle, these were the runways or I should say what was left of the runways of the once "Bristol Field".

Front Steps of Housing Unit
Argentia Newfoundland
Me with my siblings and Neighborhood Friends
 My sister MaryLeah holding our little puppy "Cindy"
taken around 1967








I thought how nice it would be if there was someone I could talk to about the history of the base, the memory I was relying on was that of a young child. I did have a old map of Argentia that I had downloaded to my I-Pad, this gave me a visual as we continued our tour.

I stood at the far end of the Old Base and thought about the childhood memories I had of living in Argentia, I remember directly behind the housing unit we lived in, was the ocean! We had to walk a good bit through the grass and the only thing between our house and the ocean were fallout shelters that we often played around in the summertime. Then came the big rocks by the water, I loved the big rocks! I was only allowed to go down by the big rocks with my brothers or sister.  I remember climbing on the rocks as the waves from the ocean crashed into them and shot the water up to the sky making a great sound.  Occassionally, I would step directly in the water between the rocks, getting my foot completely wet. We often searched for colorful "sea pebbles" down by the rocks, which were pieces of broken glass that became round and smooth from the ocean's repetative movement, I would collect them and put them in my coat pocket, taking then out to admire the beautiful colors,  and sometimes tasting the salt from the sea.

In front of our house was the road, we had to cross the road to catch the bus that took us to school, and took my brothers to basketball practice on Saturday mornings, and to the swimming pool, bowling alley on the North-side or just about anywhere we needed to go. The bus then brought us back home letting us off right in front of our house.

My brothers, sister and I often reminisce about the special events held at the Officers Club, especially the time the "Three Dog Night" came and gave a performance in their early years, we would get to have a "Shirley Temple" non alcoholic drink, to toast the special event. Life in Argentia was really pretty good!

We got back into the truck and drove toward the entrance, I remember reading that the housing section was on the south-side, I got out and there they were, the big rocks I remembered. ( This was the only area that had big rocks) The earth in this area seemed to be out of place, possible from removal of the cement footprints of the buildings or fallout shelters. I sat for awhile just looking around and then walked down by the water. I think we were pretty close to the area where we had lived.




The US Naval Air Station was decommissioned in 1973, and land was transferred to the Canadian Government in 1975. Until 1994, the runways of the former airfield were utilized by the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. [1]

The US Naval Air Station was an important facet for my family as far as economic stability, with many family members finding employment on the base. My grandfather, Stephen Flynn Jr, who then found a job for my mother, my Aunt Agnes, "Uncle Bill" my mother's cousin who work for 29 years on the base.

Below are some photos I took during my visit, I thought they would be of interest to those who had lived on the Naval Air Base - Argentia at one point in their life. Please feel free to leave comments or memories of your time in Argentia.

                                                                                                                         Elaine

A few buildings still standing

Storage Bunkers
Storage Bunkers

Old road along the outer edge
Far North-side of the Base
near old runways
Looking out over old runways - Northside
Marine Atlantic Ferry Service
Nova Scotia to NFLD
Southside
[1]  Naval Station Argentia - www.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Station_Argentia 
        

14 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Great blog! Are you on Facebook? I have a group there Naval Facility Argentia, Newfoundland. There's lots of members with similar stories and happy memories. We'd love for you to join!

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  3. Thank you for sharing these photos and memories. I was a new Ensign (Utilities Officer) stationed at Argentia from the fall of 1969 through the summer of 1970. I loved my tour of duty there and the Canadian/Newfoundlanders people. I participated in the difficult process of "down-sizing" the base, which for me consisted of the gradual reduction in power generation and the (sad) lay-off of civilian workers. My first child was born at the naval medical center during my tour. I have often thought of returning to the Avalon peninsula for a vacation and to show my now-adult daughter where she was born. But I'm sorry to hear that what was once the Argentia Naval Air Station has now gone back to virtual wilderness.

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  4. There is a good chance our boys are in the pic with your neighbor kids at Argentia (on laps) especially the one on the lap behind you. Would you happen to have names on the pic.
    Do you have any memory of a neighbor boy falling into outdoor cellar while kids were playing with dog on ocean side
    (back) of housing

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  5. I was a young 3rd Class Petty Officer and a Postal Clerk at the base from July 1968 to February 1970. I transferred to the US Air Force from the Navy in November 1972 and retired in December 1990. I cannot understand the Canadian government allowing the buildings to fall into disrepair and finally have to demolish them. It was a well maintained base and the buildings were in good order when the Navy pulled out. I was there a short time and just visited with 2 other sailors that were stationed with me there. We miss the times we had and the people we met. If you ever went to the base Post Office during your time there I was on the front parcel post window. It was across from the Exchange.............Sergeant Mike Twigg

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    1. At that time you worked as a Postal Clerk with Ralph? -can't remember last name, from Baltimore I think.
      My husband was an AK at the hangars. Wished had taken pic of different facilities on base, like Post Office, Exchange, etc.

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  6. I served at the U. S. Naval Facility in Argentia from 1964 to 1966. I was 21 years old at the time. I bought a 1961 VW Karmann Ghia in St. Johns while I was stationed there and drove back and forth to St. Johns and all over the countryside when I was off duty. Overall I have very fond memories of my time in Newfoundland.

    I assumed that there was no longer a Naval Base there but I wasn't prepared for what I found on your blog. It is sad to see it abandoned and completely deserted.

    I agree with Sgt. Twigg; it's a waste that the Canadian government or local municipalities could not find a use for a ready-made airport and an already well-established community.

    Robert Cressman

    Pennsylvania

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  7. Jose Alejansei SKC USN ReturedJune 22, 2016 at 11:57 PM

    I retired in 1980 and I am writing my bio and I remember landing in a VC54 from Norfolk VA in 1962 we arrived during a storm in which we were about to ditch in the Atlantic but by a miracle we made it. just to let you know that I was there in transit I am in facebook Jose Alejandro best of luck to you and all the respect to yur father.

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  8. My name is Mariann Deola. I'm from Vineland N.J. My maiden name was DiFrancesco.The picture of you sitting on the front steps of housing unit is me on the left with my brothers. I was looking up pictures of Newfoundland online and came across this picture! I remember walking down the hill to the ocean and collecting tumble stones, playing in the dumpsters, going to the pool and the movies on the base. I also remember the only time they canceled school and then called it back in session because the principal saw the kids playing outside in the snow. They had snow chains on the buses tires following the snow plows.

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  9. Thanks - I was there with VP-5 in 1958

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  10. Thanks for the story - I was there when I was 17 with VP-5

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  11. As a child was there 57 to 59. My dad flew constellations wv2 11 13 and 15.

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  12. Your story sounds alot like your i was there about same time as you and age i believe. My dad was cheif on the base one of many. Good memories and some tuff ones. Said seeing its gone. God bless

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  13. Your story sounds alot like your i was there about same time as you and age i believe. My dad was cheif on the base one of many. Good memories and some tuff ones. Said seeing its gone. God bless

    ReplyDelete