Chateau de la Barre:
Built in 1882, for a French Count, The chateau features over 60 rooms and provides ample space for the 11 Dreux Airman families. Even though window cleaning day stretches for weeks. The families enjoy their unusual residence
Life in a big Chateau in France means Different things to various people. To most Americans, thoughts of life in a chateau will conjure up romantic images of gracious ladies in swirling skirts dancing in the ball room, of the opulent furnishings of the Renaissance, of the leisured class riding on the large estate. Other Americans will think of the drafty, hard to heat, high ceilinged rooms, inadequate bathrooms, and the lack of central heat, running hot water, and modern kitchens.
For 11 Dreux Airman Families
To eleven young airman and their families at Dreux Air Base, life in the 60 odd rooms of the chateau de la Barre, is a strange mixture of romance and inconvenience. The attractive ivy-clad elevation of the chateau is the side which is photographed for the pictures sent home to relatives and friends. The other sides show the evidence of a building which has been deserted and become run down. As French Chateau go, de la Barre is new and modern. Constructed about 75 years ago for a Count, it subsequently was sold to a general. Unoccupied for a while, it became a home for the aged prior to World War II. During World War II the chateau was used a Headquarters by a German Air Force Unit. The chateau remained empty until 1951 when Army Engineers arrived on the scene to Dreux Ari Base. Desperate for family housing but fortunately blessed with mechanical aptitude of the Arm Engineers, a group of men rented the chateau. The still continuing process of converting the huge chateau into 11 family apartments began. The army men were without water, electricity, or heat. The present owner Vicomte De Foy cooperated in the renting the chateau at a low price. He had the house rewired and connected to public power lines. The inhabitants themselves have made numerous improvements in converting their 2 and 3 rooms into small apartments. "Mayor" of the chateau is A/1C Arthur A. Terry of the 60th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. He has the final word as to whom may move in, what improvements can be made, and on supervision of cleanliness. Cleanliness is somewhat of problem 29 people must share two baths, five lavatories and common hallways. Here the military background is evident as a duty roster is used to rotate the clean-up detail among the various families.
Lower Four Grades Only
Our policy on admitting new families" said' Mayor Terry is to bring in lower grade airmen or, in special cases people who need temporary assistance. This policy is becoming increasingly important, now that lower grade airmen who bring their families overseas no longer have Commissary or AFEX privileges and do not receive station allowances." Of course the financial status of these airmen is further complicated in that they bring their families overseas at their own expense. Most of our furniture is hand made because we were not authorized to ship any at government expense.
Life in the chateau is sometimes dreary but the young people who live there look to each other for wholesome, inexpensive entertainment. Their favorite recreation includes Volley Ball, group picnics, and Saturday dances in the Ball Room. A/2C John Cardenas, Base Operations dispatcher sums it up in this way "Living as closely as we do we have occasional arguments, but our mutual sharing of expenses makes it possible for us to have our families here. Common problems being in the same age group and sharing the wonderful experience of seeing Europe all combine to keep us on an even keel"
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