Rebecca West: Words & Music


by Bob West

As soon as Sylvia and I were married, I was sent overseas for a year. Our baby Suzanne was three months old when I returned, and we moved to Altus AFB, Oklahoma, to finish my enlistment. Now we were in an unfamiliar environment and everyone was a stranger. To a certain extent that was even true within our new little family.

My own work at the base was familiar to me because it was something I had been doing for years. But Sylvia now had housework and cooking to do, something she had not been doing much of since she lived with her parents while I was overseas. And she said her mother had taken care of Suzanne 95 percent of the time. Now Sylvia had housekeeping to do and she had to take care of Suzanne herself, which wouldn't be easy. Suzanne was a very sick little baby.

If that wasn't enough, we had a nosy, bossy landlady that came in without knocking, inspecting our apartment and harassing Sylvia while I was at work at the base. Sylvia was under a lot of stress and I decided to do something about it. We found a small furnished house for rent and moved.

We took Suzanne to the base hospital. The doctor there sent us to the hospital at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas, where a specialist was able to diagnose and correct the problem with surgery. Suzanne was in the hospital for a week.

Let me show you some photos of Suzanne. I thought there was something familiar about this first one which shows Suzanne sitting on my shoulder. Then I remembered the photo of me sitting on my Dad's shoulder. Placing them side by side I was surprised (and very pleased) to see how much baby Suzanne looked like me when I was a baby. Of course she is a few months younger in her photo than I was in mine.

Suzanne and her Dad 1955 Bob and his Dad 1934
Left photo: Suzanne and her Dad, 1955. Right photo: Me and my Dad, 1934.

And here are some more photos of Suzanne and her parents. The bandage on Sylvia's arm is a reminder of a traumatic experience we had. Especially traumatic for Sylvia! We invited the two single guys that worked with me in the art and drafting department at the base over for a home-cooked meal one evening. While she was preparing the meal, Sylvia accidentally tipped over the deep fry pot, pouring boiling oil down her right arm. We rushed her to the base hospital. One of the guys drove. The other one took care of Suzanne. And I tried to help Sylvia. She had a gigantic blister and a very bad burn! We never did have that home-cooked meal. I think we all lost our appetites anyway.

Sylvia and Suzanne 1955 Bob and Suzanne 1955

The way Suzanne is dressed in the other photo makes me think that we might have been on our way to church services. Or it may have just been one of those times when Sylvia wanted to dress Suzanne up.

And here is one more of Suzanne, this time in her crib.

Suzanne West 1955

In addition to my Ruff and Reddy serial comics, which ran regularly in the Altus newspaper, I also created single-panel cartoons, which were distributed by the Strategic Air Command Press Service. Here are two examples.

SAC birthday cartoon
Cartoon by Bob

I earned some extra money in some of my off-duty time by doing freelance art work for a local printer to use on letterheads and other printed materials. The following example is the illustration I did of the Altus Base Chapel for the program covers.

Altus AFB Chapel program illustration

Although the beginning of our time in Altus was difficult, it was a special time of spiritual growth for us. We made good friends and good memories there. Suzanne was healed. Sylvia became a good cook, housekeeper, and mother. And I think I learned a few things myself.

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