News>Former Yokota residents return for a blast from the past
Tim Roberts and his wife, Margaret, take time to read through some old base newspapers at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Sept. 21. Roberts worked in the dental clinic here from 1973-1976. (Photo by Dr. John Treiber)
by Senior Airman Lynsie Nichols
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
9/23/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Yokota Air Base has gone through some major changes in the past 35 years. Tim Roberts and his wife, Margaret, had the chance to visit memory lane September 21 and see the changes for themselves.
Mr. Roberts was a Captain stationed here as a dental officer from August 1973 to 1976.
The Wing Historian and a member from the 374th Public Affairs office were standing by waiting to greet Mr. and Mrs. Roberts when they arrived at the Fussa Gate.
During their three years on station, the Roberts were able to see the modernization of Yokota.They shared about their experience here throughout the tour.
Originally stationed at Fuchu AB, where the headquarters of 5th Air Force and United States Forces Japan was located, Mr. Roberts was transferred to Tachikawa AB Hospital in the summer of 1974 when the headquarters staff was moved to Yokota.
While stationed at Fuchu AB, the Roberts family lived in a detached military housing development called Kanto Mura. In the early 1970s the Air Force returned most of its Kanto-area properties to the Japanese government. Residential development of Yokota's east side began in 1972 with the opening of the Garden units. Tower units were later constructed in 1973 to 1976.
With the close of the Kanto Mura housing development, the Roberts family moved to Tachikawa base housing. While packing up and moving from one base to another may prove difficult for most, the Roberts family experienced ease when moving to Tachikawa Base housing.
"We had the best of both worlds when we moved from Fuchu to Tachikawa. We didn't have to clean, since Kanto Mura housing was shutting down," said Mr. Roberts.
In the spring of 1975, all hospital and dental functions were transferred to Yokota where Mr. Roberts spent the remainder of his time in Japan.
The Roberts family continued to live in Tachikawa Base housing, even though many new housing units were opening up on Yokota's East Side, to include the towers.
Though the Roberts family never lived in base housing at Yokota, they had plenty of friends who were able to experience life in the new towers. Many of the things that were new to families back then are things that families today have adapted to.
"People were a little skeptical at first," said Mr. Roberts. "The previous housing they had lived in had yards. The towers required parents to stay with their kids and bring them to parks."
Mrs. Roberts agreed that her friends had a tough time with no longer having a yard, but she said the space in the towers made up for it.
"The new towers had plenty of space and were filled with new appliances," said Mrs. Roberts. "These were nicer than what they were living in before."
While stationed at Yokota, the Roberts family enjoyed riding bikes with their two daughters on and off base and exploring Tokyo whenever possible.
"We enjoyed riding bikes with the girls in infant seats around the base as well as the local area," said Mr. Roberts. "We ventured off base as much as possible, riding to the train station and then traveling by train to Tokyo to enjoy the culture and the cherry blossoms every April."
Aside from riding bikes and exploring Tokyo with their family, the Roberts found a relaxing way to keep cool during the hot and humid summers of Japan.
"Tachikawa had a wonderful swimming pool that was a blessing during the summers," said Mrs. Roberts. "Our whole family really enjoyed it there."
Now, as the Roberts took their present-day tour of Yokota, they remarked at the changes that have happened here since they left.
"We are amazed at how clear the air is," said Mr. Roberts when he arrived. "Back then, the air quality was really smoggy; if you put your arm in the sunlight, it would have an orange tint."
The Roberts began their trip down memory lane as they drove past the chapel on the main base, around the traffic circle to the Officer's Club and past the Kanto Lodge. During the drive, they noticed the new dorms.
After driving past the brand new Kanto Lodge, the Roberts family was taken down memory lane to the former commissary and the Base Exchange, or what is now commonly known as the BXtra and the Tomodachi Lanes bowling alley.
The last leg of the trip was probably the most exciting for Mr. Roberts. They drove around the north end of the flight line to the east side and to the hospital where the dental clinic he had worked so many years ago had been previously located.
Mr. and Mrs. Roberts were able to walk around the main lobby of the hospital and get a feel for the changes made.
"Things have completely changed, there is absolutely no sign that the dental clinic was ever here," said Mr. Roberts.
The tour ended with Mr. Roberts and his wife receiving a tour inside the current dental clinic and a lunch at the Officer's Club, where they ate when they were stationed here.
"I'm amazed at all the changes Yokota has seen," said Mr. Roberts. "The base has grown so much."
Mrs. Roberts said she had fun looking at old building and seeing the new changes.
"I had a ball! This trip brought back so many memories," said Mrs. Roberts. "I would love to bring my family back to visit someday."