Omaha, Nebraska is a very nice place to live, in the spring and fall. Winters can be brutal, and summers are oppressively hot and humid. The people we met there were some of the nicest people anywhere. They made up for the weather.
Our winters there were some of the coldest the region has ever experienced. There was talk of global cooling at that time. Our first day in our newly rented house on 38th Avenue was one of the brutal days. It's good that we were young and resilient. The temperature was 17 below zero and the wind was blowing directly from the north pole at high speed. Our furniture was being moved into the house, so we had to have the doors open.
The next winters we were in a different house, in Greenfield Village, on 3rd Street Plaza. One of the problems there was that the wind frequently blew directly into the engines on the cars. Most of the residents had extension cords running the 40 feet out to their cars, with large light bulbs or engine block heaters plugged into them at night, so the cars would start in the morning. Even then there were days when they would not start, because of the cold. One morning I even got out there in the cold in my Air Force cold weather outfit to change the spark plugs so the car would start.
We learned the hard way that it was necessary to keep the gas tank more than half full. Otherwise, water vapor would condense on the inside of the tank, work its way into the fuel line, and freeze. One Thanksgiving we were on our way to Fargo, North Dakota to have dinner with Georgia's Aunt Pat and Uncle David Cobia and their family. We got about half way when the engine started to miss. We could only drive about 20 mph because the fuel line was partially blocked with ice. There was no place open where we could buy anything to solve the problem. We had to turn around and go home.
Snow never just fell. You never saw snow on top of a post. It was always plastered on the side. One storm dropped 13 inches on the city. But the front lawn was bare, while there was a drift 6 feet deep behind the car. After it finished, the town was paralyzed. All major and minor roads were closed. It took over a week to clear most of the roads. The residents of Village Green came out in mass to clear our road. It took a couple of days with snow shovels to clear it out to the intersection with Bancroft Street. Bancroft Street didn't get plowed for a couple more days. So no one could go to work for several days after the storm.
We experienced ice storms in Omaha. The temperature would be well below freezing for many days, and it would suddenly warm up and rain. The rain would turn to ice as it hit the cold ground. Travelling on the roads in that stuff was a real nightmare. One ice storm hit while we were at church. Our friend, Carol Curtis had never driven on ice before, and her husband, Alan was out of town. She asked us to follow her home, as her tires were not too good, to make sure she and her two boys got home OK. We prayed for protection on our trip, and were blessed to get home without incident, while we passed dozens of other vehicles that had spun off the road.
We bought our first window air conditioner for the house on 3rd Street Plaza. It was a used unit that had been used by a smoker. It stunk badly, but it was all we could afford, and it worked great. Most of all it removed the humidity from the air. When it was on, there was a constant stream of water pouring out of the drain on the outside.
Everyone complained about the heat and humidity. The combination, 90+ degrees with 90 percent humidity made things extremely uncomfortable. A newspaper article compared various cities for "discomfort level" and only St. Louis, Missouri was more uncomfortable than Omaha.
When winter ended, however, it really ended. None of the back and forth, winter to spring to winter to spring like we have in Utah. About St. Patrick's Day every year, the weather turned warmer, and we did not have any more frost until the next winter. Spring was very pleasant. Fall was similarly a very pleasant experience.
Georgia started reupholstering furniture as a hobby. It was easy to find used furniture that we could afford. Then Georgia would recover it with nice material, and we'd have some great furniture. One mistake we made was in not buying a used Singer commercial sewing machine that was on sale for $100. We could have used it for a few years, and then sold it for much more, but we were too young and inexperienced to recognize the opportunity.
Our first house on 38th Avenue was a prefab 2-bedroom house. It was built by U.S.Steel. Most of the houses in that area were placed to house soldiers coming home from World War Two. Our back door neighbor had a German Shepherd dog named Heidi. That was very confusing to our daughter Heidi, who was only 18 months old when we moved in, and just 2 years old when we moved out.
We were surprised about the garbage collection there. Nobody put their garbage out on garbage day. Men carrying over-sized plastic cans walked into the back yards and dumped our cans into theirs, and then took theirs to the truck in the street to dump it.
We attended the Omaha 2nd Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Our first Sunday we were approached by Virginia Hinckley Pearce, who remembered Georgia from Olympus High School. She had a daughter, Rosie, who was the same age as Heidi. Her husband, Jim, was in medical school there in Omaha. We became good friends with the Pearces. Georgia also found a couple of second cousins from St. George, Utah, Clark and Dick Whitehead, living in the ward. They were in dental school at Creighton University in Omaha.
We soon found that several of our friends from the Omaha 2nd Ward lived in the new Village Green townhouse apartments. They were about the same monthly price as we were paying. We asked our landlord if there was a way to get out of our lease, so we could move close to all those friends. He said we could in the summer, as it is easier to get tenants in the summer, and if we would find someone to take over our house with a new one year lease. We found a sergeant's wife and family from Offutt AFB to take the house. He had just been ordered to serve a year in Vietnam. They were living in base housing, and had to move out since they couldn't go with him to his new assignment.
That sergeant's wife turned out to be an annoying tenant for the landlord. She called him about any little thing that went wrong, or that she didn't like about the house. I had taken care of all those kind of problems myself. She also called me whenever she couldn't reach the landlord. One problem she had turned out to be very dangerous. She and her kids started getting bad headaches every night. She called the landlord, who sent out a furnace guy to check it. He found the house was filled with carbon monoxide from five birds nests that were stacked on top of one another in the flue. Her penchant for complaining saved her life. Our moving probably saved our lives, because we would probably not have complained until too late.
While living in that house we got our first pet, a small dog we named Gretta. We got her in the winter, so it was necessary to quickly house break her. That turned out to be an impossible job. We first tried to paper train her, but she was afraid of the sound it made when she walked on the paper. The best we got out of her was when she put her front paws on the paper and then let go. Since we were in rented housing, and she could not be trained, we had to take her to the Humane Society.
There were several members of the Omaha 2nd Ward in the Village Green townhouses. The Pearces, Dick and Launa Whitehead, Alan and Carol Curtis, Richard and Saundra Smart - another Olympus High alumnus and also a Creighton dental student, and Craig Ririe and family, another dental student. I recently looked up Village Green townhouses on Google, and there are still a lot of LDS dental and medical students living there. Four of the seven board of directors have Utah phone numbers. They even have LDS Institute classes there every Tuesday morning.
Our grocery shopping was done at the Offutt AFB commissary. Since I worked at the base, I usually did the grocery shopping each week. The best buys were on milk products and frozen juices. The juices came in quart containers that made up into full gallons of juice. The milk was government surplus milk that the government bought to keep the price up for the dairy farmers. Our cost was 28 cents per half gallon.
Eric and Heather were born at the Ehrling Bergquist Hospital at Offutt AFB while we lived in Omaha. A funny thing happened when Eric was born. Georgia was past her due date and had been doing some serious exercise (walking) to try to bring on labor. We were at home when there came a knock on the front door. Georgia answered and there was a young lady selling magazines. As she went into her sales talk, suddenly Georgia's water broke. She dismissed the girl saying that she was going to the hospital right now to have a baby. The girl announced our good news to all our neighbors as she proceeded down the block.
When Lyle and Eric were about 2 and 3 years old we bought them plastic motorcycles to ride. This was before Hot Wheels tricycles were available. They had a blast zipping up and down the sidewalks in front of the house. One evening Georgia was giving me a haircut in the kitchen while the boys were riding around the kitchen and living room on their motorcycles. The door to the basement stairs was open and Eric suddenly decided to ride his down the stairs. Georgia frantically tried to catch him, but he was going just out of her reach. Amazingly, he didn't tip over until the last step. He was not badly hurt, but what a ride!
Our telephone in the townhouse was mounted on the kitchen wall. We were separated from our neighbors by that wall. The wall was sound insulated well, so that we could not hear much next door, except right at the phone, since theirs was mounted on the opposite side right at the same place. The neighbors on that side were heavy smokers, and in the evening smoke would come through the wall at the phone. Yuck!
Georgia served as a counselor in the Young Women presidency in the Omaha 2nd Ward. She was over the Beehive class. One of the girls in that class was Diana Walker, who went on to sing in the Metropolitan Opera. Diana, now Diana Neve, lives in our ward here in Salt Lake.
Omaha has tornadoes. Our one close encounter with a tornado happened one Sunday afternoon. We had given a ride to church to an elderly couple who lived not far from Village Green. As we were leaving church that afternoon we saw some debris swirling in the air in a parking lot to the west across the I-680 freeway from the church. Some of the boards looked to be quite large, and we realized that a tornado was about to touch down. We climbed in the car and headed away from the church. I wanted to get away from the storm as fast as possible, and that meant getting on the freeway. As we approached the entrance ramp the tornado struck with full fury. I got on the ramp, but it was raining so hard that I could not see the road. I thought I was headed the right direction, so I floored the accelerator and in a few seconds we shot out of the storm into the clear. We had been right in the edge of the tornado. The poor elderly couple in the back seat were terribly frightened. They had lived in Omaha all their lives and had seen what damage could be done. We watched the tornado move to the northeast from where we had been attacked, but we were safe!
One of our friends lived right next to the parking lot where the tornado touched down. They had gone to their basement when they heard the sound of the storm. When they came out they found an 8-foot long 2x4 sticking through their living room wall.
We found some excellent entertainment in town on a regular basis. We joined Ak-Sar-Ben (Nebraska spelled backwards), a service organization similar to Kiwanis or Rotary Club. They operated a large convention center that hosted major talent shows. Concerts by such artists as Liberace and Victor Borge came there on a regular basis. I also remember going to a Holiday on Ice performance as part of our annual membership. They also operated a horse racing track and para-mutual betting facility. All of the profits made at these venues went into the Nebraska state coffers. As a result, there was no sales tax or state income tax while we lived there. The profits from the race track paid for almost all state government operations.
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