Ralph and “Ole” Bondo

Posted in Love Letters | 8 comments

Ralph and “Ole” Bondo

Frank and I had settled into the daily living in Okinawa.  Okinawa was such a beautiful island.

We had made new friends with couples living in homes around us on three different sides which were designated as off-base military housing.  Across the road, in front of our home, was an area which was not a part of off-base military housing but had homes of Okinawan families.  Both of us felt that we were so lucky to be living in a home that touched different cultures depending on which way you faced or looked.   Frank and I  loved this so much.

The single soldiers who lived on the base at Torii and worked with Frank came to see us fairly regularly for some home-cooked meals which delighted both of us.  They were far away from home and their families, so we had become their new family.

Okinawa Off Base Housing 1969

Okinawan Boys Climbing the Fence for Cookies and to Play with Ralph

After making friends with two little Okinawan boys and their Mom who lived across the road from Frank and me, if I made cookies for Frank,  those two little boys would always seem to know.  I think the whole neighborhood could smell those cookies cooking.

When the cookies were done, I always walked outside with a plate full of them.  When getting to the edge of the house, I would see those two little boys sitting on top of the fence waiting for me to come outside.  Their Mom was always at the door of their home watching for me too.  She would shake her head up and down to let me know it was okay for them to have the cookies.  I really loved this.


Frank and I took lots of walks to the China Sea beach in the afternoons when he was working days.  On one occasion as we were walking near the coral cliffs we heard some tiny yelps which sounded pretty desperate. As Frank pulled some of the vegetation away from the bottom of the cliff, there was a small cave about as big around as a small car tire.  The sound we heard was coming from inside the cave.

Frank decided to crawl into the cave to investigate.  Once inside the cave,  he found three small puppies hidden away, crying, and obviously abandoned by their momma for some reason. Frank decided to pull them all out of the cave.  All of the puppies looked very thin, weak, and wanted their momma.

Man climbing a cliff in Okinawa

Frank Climbing a Cliff Next to a Cave on the China Beach 1969

As we stood there holding the puppies, Frank and I saw the body of their momma lying motionless in the vegetation nearby.  She had passed away trying to get to her babies.  I was longing to take them home with us which Frank could see all over my face.  He smiled at me then said, “Nancy, we need to take these puppies home with us.  They need a new momma to take care of them.  What do you think?” I didn’t answer but jumped for joy while holding one of the puppies in my arms then I gave Frank the biggest hug and kiss!

We carried the puppies back to our home then we hand fed them milk by dipping a torn piece of a sheet gathered into a cone shape dipping the tip into the milk for them to nurse on.  Frank and I fed these puppies this way night and day for two weeks until they could eat soft food.  When they were strong, two of our neighbors decided they wanted one of the puppies, so we let them each have one but the third puppy, a male, we kept as our own.

We named our puppy, Ralph and he was awesome. Ralph was a beautiful puppy with white hair with a tail that curled up onto his back.  We found canned dog food at a little Okinawan store a couple of blocks from our house which he liked but his favorite thing to eat was leftovers from the fridge.

Dog in chair

Ralph Okinawa 1969

Frank and I always took him with us when we walked to the China Sea beach.  He loved to run up and down the beach with us.  Ralph could run faster than any dog I could remember ever having. After we bought a car we actually clocked Ralph running thirty miles an hour in front of that car.  He was like a lightning bolt darting and dancing down the beach.

The single GIs loved Ralph as much as we did and would bring him things to play with that he shook and tore to shreds.  The little Okinawan boys would climb our fence every day to play with Ralph.  I think they loved Ralph even more than my homemade cookies.

The only problem we had with Ralph was that he loved leather.  He not only liked to chew on leather but he actually ate leather.  Any shoes we had that were made of leather had to be put high up in the closet or he would totally shred them then eat them in what seemed like seconds.  In another story to come, you will read about another incident involving leather shoes.

Woman on China Beach Okinawa 1969

Nancy on China Sea Man-made Beach Okinawa 1969

Ralph loved Frank and me as much as we loved him.  He was an excellent guard dog and would attack snakes if they got into the yard. Not a person, reptile, or any other animal came into our yard unless he thought they should be there.  Many times we had to save Papasons and Momasons carrying baskets on their heads full of their homemade wares. They were only trying to open the gate to come inside the yard to get to our door to sell their homemade goodies.”

Ralph will come up in many more stories but I want you to know how we found him and how much we loved him.

When some friends of ours were leaving Okinawa to go home to the states, they had a car that they had to get rid of, so Frank and I decided to buy it from them.  They sold it to us for $30.00.  It was old but it ran and we thought it was amazing.  The following story is about that car.  Enjoy.

“Ole Bondo”

Some things are not pretty to look at but you just learn to love them and they become priceless.  “Ole Bondo” was one of those ugly inanimate creatures.  It was a car that had more grey Bondo filler on it than paint.  Since it was originally painted light grey before the outside holes had been filled with Bondo, it really wasn’t that noticeable.

The tires were slick with very little tread on them, so we tried to not drive to fast in the rain.  Of course, there were other reasons to drive slowly in the rain too. The front seat was held up by a two by four which had been placed under it because the floorboards had some very iffy with large holes in them.

Car in Okinawa 1969

Frank and Nancy’s “Ole Bondo” Okinawa 1969

Heavy cardboard had been laid on either side of the front floorboards which prevented junk from flying into the car as it was driven.  Of course,  the cardboard also prevented the rainwater from flying into the car from the road if it was raining.  Sometimes the cardboard would have to be taken out to let it dry for a while if we drove it in heavy rain.

If the wind blew hard or if it rained hard when the car was parked the lights would come on mysteriously by themselves, so we always unplugged the battery at night.  There was also some weird electrical problem going on with the headlights, brake lights, taillights and blinkers when we drove the car. Frank and I learned to roll down the windows to use hand signals while driving to do turns and brakes signals.

We tried not to drive it too much at night because the headlights would suddenly go off by themselves for a brief moment but they always suddenly came back on.  Even with all of its quirky ailments, Frank and I loved “Ole Bondo”.

Finally after several months, Frank and a friend of his totally rewired the whole car.  It was simply amazing how many wires were broken and had to be replaced.  They worked on it in the evenings when they were working day shifts and after a few weeks, “Ole Bondo” did not do its quirky electrical fun things.

We could actually use the blinkers,  the headlights, the brake lights, and the taillights actually worked right.  This was truly Amazing!

The next thing they did was to get another friend to weld some pieces of metal to the front floorboards because the cardboard was getting a little mushy and stinky.   Also, this totally prevented our feet from getting wet if driving while it rained.  Now we could go barefoot in the car without worrying about junk flying up from the road to hit our feet.

The two by four remained under the front seat but good grief you can’t have all the luxuries in life.  Although, we thought about spray painting the car one color but decided that we would have to then change its name.  Why would we do that?

I am not sure what kind of car this was but as far as I am concerned it was an “Ole Bondo”.


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  1. What a delightful read! $30 for a ‘family’ car, albeit with little no floorboards! I wonder if young couple today can ever experience such wonderful Lack of things and an abundance of Love?

    • Chuck, I certainly hope they experience the abundance of love. Somehow I think the lack of things made our love into what it was. We just didn’t need stuff, just each other. We actually thought this was the coolest car ever. Lol.
      What can I say about Ralph? He was our very first child and we loved him so much. Soon he would have some siblings but that is another story.
      Thank you for your comment and always being there for me. I don’t know what I would do without your friendship and help.
      God Bless You, Chuck
      Lots of love to you and Shirley,

  2. Yes, I agree with Chuck, a delightful read. Reminds me of my first car, an Austin Healy Sprite. The soft top used to fly off if I got up to 60mph. Did many makeshift roadside repairs on that car.

    • Peter that is hilarious. Cars that had little old quirks were so much fun.
      Thank you for sharing and commenting Peter.
      God Bless You.

  3. ole bondo looks like a chevy corvair….. thanks for the memories, of visiting married friends off post and getting away from the barracks if only for an evening, of driving around in old beater automobiles, of being in a near constant state of broke….. and thoroughly enjoying every minute!!!

    • Kim, we did have fun. Having money was not the key to us having fun. The single guys did take us out to eat in places we couldn’t afford.
      I have eaten Kobe Beef once and it was in Okinawa when the single guys surprised us on our birthdays which were 4th and 6th of October.
      They told us they were taking us out to eat and to our surprise it was at a high price Okinawan restaurant.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.
      God Bless you, Kim

  4. Another fun story. That sounds like some car! But it got you where you wanted to go and saved wear and tear on your feet. 🙂 It must have been an interesting place to live.

    • Okinawa is a Beautiful Island! There are still paths for rickshaws and they still use them. We saw so many old ruins. One side of the Island was the China Sea and the other side the Pacific Ocean. Totally different but both beautiful. The Island was 70 miles long and 2 to 7 miles wide. At the 2 mile wide area you can see both the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
      Thank you again for reading and commenting.
      God Bless You, Diane

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