Typhoon Elsie and the Habu

Posted in Love Letters | 4 comments

In late September of 1969, Typhoon Elsie was in the Pacific Ocean heading towards Okinawa.

Living in approved Military Off-Base housing, Frank was released to be at home with me until all threat of it hitting Okinawa had ended.

Frank and I were originally from the Gulf Coast of Texas. So we were educated as to what to do and how to prepare for a Hurricane.  We decided a Typhoon would not be much different, so we prepared accordingly.

What could happen?  Enjoy.

“Typhoon Elsie”

Our home, made of concrete blocks, was very sturdy.   Inside the wooden stealy bars that were on all windows, there were wooden shutters that slid shut, which meant we would not have to figure out a way to protect the windows.  The doors on the house were metal without windows, so flying debris would have a hard time trying to penetrate them.

Frank and I had purchased nonperishable groceries:  canned spam, canned chili, crackers, cheese, canned pork and beans, sardines, and canned milk. We also bought a small folding sterno stove, small cans of sterno, batteries for our radio, candles, and matches.  I cleaned the kitchen sink to hold water and filled every large container we had with water for drinking.

Sterno Stove and fuel

A Replica of Our Sterno Stove with Sterno Fuel

Frank had parked “Ole” Bondo next to the house, which faced North because the driveway faced South towards the China Sea. We had decided the house would block the worst winds from hitting the car.  After the home and car were secure, we pulled the mattress off our bed and put it in the living room.  Frank, Ralph, and I would weather the storm in the center of our home with all doors to other rooms closed.

After our home was secure, we decided to walk to the China Seawall and the human-made beach one more time to see how high the waves were before we hunkered down inside our home.  The sea was rough, and the power of the typhoon churning the water was threatening but beautiful.  We took some pictures, then we walked back to our home and settled in for the evening and night.

Typhoon Elsie 1969 Okinawa

China Sea in Okinawa Before Typhoon Elsie in 1969

Frank and I had made a Typhoon tracking map from four large pieces of paper, which we had taped together.  We played cards while listening to the radio for the latest coordinates of the storm to plot them on our map. Being too excited to sleep, when the lights suddenly went off in the middle of the night, we lit candles for some light.  We decided it would be best to sleep in shifts so that one of us would be awake to plot the newest coordinates.

As soon as it was morning, we could hear the wind picking up and roaring outside the house.  Frank suddenly remembered an important thing we had forgotten to do.  “Ole” Bondo had been protected from harm but not the wind, and we had forgotten to unplug the battery to keep the headlights from coming on, which would drain the battery so the car would not start.  The car lights turning on would happen every time it rained, or the wind blew, so we always kept the battery unplugged when we weren’t driving the car.

Of course, the wind suddenly gusted and loudly howled as Frank said, “Nancy Lou, I am going outside to unplug the battery in the car.”

I looked at him in disbelief then told him, “Frank, you are not going outside in the wind and rain while a Typhoon is here.”

Frank laughed as he ran, then opened the front door of the house, held on to the door then pushed it hard to close it as he disappeared from my site.  I could hear him laughing loudly over the loud howling of the wind as he ran around the corner of the house to get to “Ole” Bondo.

Finally, in what seemed like hours but was only a few minutes, I heard him at the front door. Frank opened the door, a gust of wind grabbed the door, which swung open to the outside of the house.  He was holding on to the door, trying to pull it closed behind him when the next gust of wind ripped the door off of its hinges, nearly hitting Frank as he let go of it.   The door went flying down our driveway as Frank ran into the house.

I looked at Frank, who had suddenly stopped his laughing, then said, “Really, Frank?  What are we going to do for a front door now? You know what that screen door will not keep the wind and rain out.”

Frank said, “Nancy Lou have no fear; I am going to get my hammer, some nails, then go outside to nail the door back into the door frame.”   Pretty sure the look I gave him was not a pleasing one as I shook my head side to side, but before I could speak, Frank ran to the laundry room, grabbed the hammer and some nails, then went out the back door.

With the wind gusting, Frank drug the door back to the house then stood it up, trying to fight against the wind as he tried to put it back into the door frame.  The wind kept pushing him backward, so I decided to run out the back door and help him.  It took both of us to get that door back in the frame.  I held it while Frank nailed the door shut.

We were both soaked from the rain as we crawled our way to the back door to get back inside the house, but once inside the house, we both could not stop laughing.   We were a fearless team, and probably being only nineteen kinds of helped.

Frank and I survived the Typhoon Elsie.  Frank had to go back to work at the base two days later when the threat to the Island ended.  We used the back door since he was working night shifts and had not fixed the front door yet.

What more could happen?  Enjoy!

“The Habu”

Since Frank was working the night shift, I invited a girlfriend of mine over to stay the night.  We cooked some supper then made some of my famous fudge.  After we had eaten, we were listening to music on the stereo when Ralph started to bark loudly out in the backyard.

Earlier I had let Ralph outside the back door so he could to run around and do his business.  The front porch light was on because, in Okinawa, we had what we called “Stealy Boys.”  A quick explanation of  “Stealy Boys”:  they dressed all in black, had razor blades sewn into their clothes, moved like ninjas, and could get into your home quickly and quietly.  We had been warned never to engage them, never try to stop them, and to act like we were asleep if they entered our homes.

Since Ralph was in the backyard on the side of our home without windows, I could not see him or why he was barking.  I asked my girlfriend if she thought it could be “Stealy Boys” when she didn’t answer me. I looked at her and could see the fear in her face.

Frank and I did not have a porch light next to the back door, and I knew that the back door was the only way to get out or into the house.  The fear of my friend’s face made me feel protective of her, angry at our situation, and brought out my fearlessness. We did not have a phone or a car,  if we had to escape the front door was nailed shut, and the only way out was through the back door.  I decided to open it then look into the backyard.

As I started to open the back door, I heard Ralph barking on the driveway near the front door.  Instead of opening the back door, I ran to the window by the front door.  Looking out the window, I saw Ralph barking at a snake on our driveway.  It was such a relief to see the snake, even though I DO NOT like snakes.

Laughing, I told my girlfriend, “It is just a snake.”

She asked me, “Is it a Habu?”

I asked her, “What is a Habu?”

She explained to me that Habu was very venomous snakes that lived on the Island.  Suddenly, I realized that my precious Ralph was attacking a poisonous snake, so I ran to the window, opened it, and tried to get Ralph to get away from the snake, but he wouldn’t.

Okinawan Habu Snake

Venomous Habu Snake on Okinawa

The snake was crawling towards the front door, so I asked my girlfriend to watch it from the window while I ran to the bedroom.  After quickly putting on Frank’s black combat boots, I ran back to the living room then asked my girlfriend where the snake was.  She told me that it was in front of the front door.

After I positioned myself in front of the door, using all my strength, I kicked the door with my booted foot.  To my surprise, the door fell loudly to the ground, landing on the driveway.  Now, I had to lift the door to see if the snake was dead.   Before that happened, Ralph ran past the entrance to the fence. He was barking at the snake that was going under the gate, crawling out into the road.

My girlfriend and I started jumping up and down, cheering on the driveway.  We were about to walk to the door when we heard a car drive into the next-door neighbor’s driveway.  Suddenly out of nowhere, three people dressed all in black jumped the fence into my yard, ran across the front yard faster than a speeding bullet then hurdled the wall on the other side of the house.

My girlfriend and I stood there frozen and speechless, staring across the yard at the fence until we heard the neighbors come to the wall behind us and ask us what we were doing.  First, we told them all about the snake, and then the obvious “Stealy Boys,” who had just jumped the fence between their house and mine.

The neighbors checked their home, but nothing was missing, then they helped us put the front door back up and nail it into the door frame.  After we thanked the neighbors, Ralph, my girlfriend, and I went back inside the house through the back door, and then we listened to music waiting for our husbands to get home.

When Frank got home, I excitedly told him all about what had happened during the night.  After I finished talking, he said, “Nancy, I love you with all of my heart, but sometimes your fearlessness scares me.  You didn’t mess up my boots, did you? Do I need to punish you by making you spit shine them?”

Of course, then Frank ran, and I had to put on those black combat boots then chase him around the yard!

Frank fixed the front door that morning before he slept even though I asked him not to, but I knew in my heart why he did.

Typhoon Elsie, Habu, and “Stealy Boys,” it just didn’t get better than that on Okinawa in late September of 1969.

Thinking this song is for you, Habu!  I still DO NOT like snakes.

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  1. Ah….the adventures….the fun of being young enough to not let a simple thing like a typhoons cause any undue concern….lol

    • Kim, Frank and I had so much fun and seemed to get ourselves into the strangest situations but we always figured out how to somewhat solve them. Lol
      We were young and so much in love that we thought we could do anything.
      Thank you for reading and commenting, Kim
      God Bless You and I appreciate your friendship.

  2. I’m sure thinking you could do anything was the perfect mind set to have that enabled you to actually do those things. I’m glad nothing worse happened than the door coming off – something that could be fixed. Had that snake or those stealy boys got close enough the damage may not have been repairable. Glad you kept safe.

    • I am so happy nothing else happened during the storm. We got soaking wet that day.
      Thank you for commenting, Diane
      God Bless You,

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