“Holiday from Danger” was the name given to the base picnic when I was 7 and growing up at the Air Force Academy. It was quite an affair as I remember it. That was 60 years ago. My father was stationed at the Air Force Academy when it was at Lowry AFB. My very first memories date back to living in Denver. We moved to Palmer Lake Colorado when the academy cadets moved to the campus near Colorado Springs. Our house in Palmer Lake was at the top of a hill, and our 55 Ford red and white convertible wasn’t good on hills. Dad bought a 57 Chevrolet Townsman station wagon with a 283 V-8 Power Pack. I believe it was his all-time favorite car. He loved kicking it down into passing gear on the highway. We drove it all over Colorado Springs including a trip or two up Pike’s Peak.
Eventually, our base housing was finished in Douglass Valley on the Air Academy grounds, and it was there that I started to appreciate living in the “Air Force Community.” Our house was one half of a duplex—4601E. All the houses were similar. They all had hardwood floors and a flat roof with a carport. Some houses had more bedrooms ours had three. We also had unfinished basements which I enjoyed very much. Each house had a lawn and every “cluster” of houses had a common area with grass. The highest-ranking airman became the “cluster chief” and responsible for the maintenance of the common area. Normally, that involved scheduling the watering and grass cutting.
Living in the “Air Force Community” was great. Douglass Valley Elementary School was will within walking distance. All the facilities were there on base. At that time, Colorado Springs was about ten miles away, but we seldom needed to go into town. The Base Exchange and the Commissary were close. There was a recreation center and an in-door swimming pool. My father did all his maintenance work on the Chevy at the Auto Hobby Shop on base.
Memorial Day got me thinking about the “Holiday from Danger” carnival. It was held on the Picnic Grounds on base. The Air Force Academy is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the picnic grounds was a wide open wild grassy area surrounded by Ponderosa Pine trees. The base went all-out for the Memorial Day picnic. It started early. There were games for the kids: sack races, three legged races, and a “greased pig” contest. I did poorly, but I have vivid memories of those events. A dealership from Colorado Springs brought out some cars and had a timed obstacle course for the adults. There was a small miniature golf course set up by the Civil Engineering Squadron. (Some of the obstacles were there for years after the picnic). There were booths and prizes. I remember hearing some radios tuned in to the Indianapolis 500 race. Mostly, I remember a great time in the high dry altitude. Throwing spear grass. Drinking from the canvas water containers hanging from the trees…and how much my father and his friends enjoyed the free-flowing beer.
During the day, I asked my father why the event was called “Holiday from Danger.” He told me that Memorial Day was the start of the summer, and the party is an effort to keep as many people as possible from leaving the base and getting into accidents.
I spent my entire life in the Air Force and the “Holiday from Danger” picnic stands out as one of the greatest memories of living in the “community.”