Terri Kennan remembers her time at Guantánamo, confronting adolescent anxieties like dating and dancing at the base youth club.
I came in December of 1958 and left in October of 1962, ten days before the evacuation. We began to get pictures, then I could actually see my friends walking up so that was just very traumatizing to me that those were my friends. We practiced this – for evacuation – all the time but we never really took it seriously and so, to think that they were going through it… And my dad and I had a bet. He said that they would never evacuate the base and I said, “No. They will, they will” and I remember him handing me ten dollars as we stood out in the snow, saying “You were right Theresa, you were right.” Told you so, told you so! I just wanted to be with them, not because it was so exciting but because I wanted to be with them. That was our family. And you can see, we are still family. This is like my sixth reunion so I have heard the stories, you know, getting on the ship, landing in Norfolk in cold rain and they were in shorts. So I have heard all those stories and I feel badly for them. That is a hard way to come home and a scary way. They were told at lunchtime, go home and do not come back to school. So I feel… My heart goes out to them.
Oh dating… Hello, I was not allowed to do that! Date? Not on this life. Actually I did have a few dates. I went on a hayride one time around Christmas time, went to a dance with another guy. We were good friends in a class and basically I asked him out. We went to the dance, we did not talk to each other at the dance, and never spoke again. That did not go well. And because I was not ever allowed to go to the movie, or go… I did not have a boyfriend for very long, but people have birthday parties, or we would get together at the teen club. That is where I would get to see Mike most of the time was at the teen club. We also went to church together and his brother drove so I would have to ride the bus to church but then Mike and Troy would bring me home and my dad would give me the evil eye and I would be like, “we just came home…” [laughter], you know, so…
People would go to the movies and horseback riding, go tot he beach for parties, so I heard. I just was not with them but not like kids today. Kind of what I think it would have been stateside during ’58 to ’62 years I think. I do not know.
The one that comes to mind that we were talking about last night – I could not remember what year it was, so now we have decided it had to be in ’59 – there were four carloads of us that were going home stateside for leave and we could not get a flight off the base so we drove through from Gitmo through Cuba to Havana and several times we were stopped by armed militia and in our four cars, there were four or five kids in the station wagon I was in and as soon as they saw how many kids there were they just smiled and let us go on and people hear that and, really? Terri Kennan