Who Am I?
I am James Jeffrey Bales Jr. – call me Jeff – and I want to tell you more about who I am. I was born to James Jeffrey Bales Sr. and MaryAnn (DeMarc) Bales at 6:56am on Friday, November 10, 1967, in St. Francis Hospital, New Castle, Pennsylvania. New Castle is located in Lawrence County in western Pennsylvania, about fifty miles north of Pittsburgh. I was the second child for my parents, who first met at Cascade Park in New Castle, as my sister Carol Ann was born in October 1966.
My dad was in the Navy and before long we were off to see the world. My dad’s rate was that of a Cryptologic Technician (CT) and according we would live at various Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) commands – which featured the use of massive antenna fields to eavesdrop on Russian radio traffic – around the world.
After stops at NAS Pensacola, Florida, and Fort Meade, Maryland, we were off to the Highlands of Scotland in June 1970. For four years we lived in the quaint town of Edzell, as my father was stationed at nearby RAF Edzell. The Scottish Highlands region is quite a place to live and I vividly remember swimming in the River North Esk, visiting my parents’ friends in London, tagging along with my dad on fishing outings to Loch Wee, our Scottish babysitter Winnie, and riding my tricycle in our big backyard. I started school aboard the base at Edzell and attended William F. Halsey Elementary School for grades K-1.
After four years at Edzell we returned home to Chewton in western Pennsylvania in June 1974 just in time for my aunt Carol “Jeannie” DeMarc’s wedding at St. Monaca’s Church in Wampum (and reception in nearby West Pittsburg). The next year was one of constant change. In August we were off to Pensacola again where my father attended school at nearby NTTC Corry Field. My father soon took an assignment to exotic North Africa.
In October 1974, after a brief stop in western Pennsylvania, we were bound for Morocco in French-influenced North Africa for a six-month stay. We lived inland from NAS Kenitra (near Rabat), on a small military outpost known as NCS Sidi Yahia. At Morocco I remember the tight security when we landed at Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, the German Shepherds and their U.S. Marine handlers that guarded our base, watching my parents play tennis, learning the French phrase tout de suite, going to the on-base movie theater, collecting American comic books, an unusual weekend fishing outing to a secluded lake in the Atlas Mountains, and roaming around our small base with my friends.
In April 1975, as U.S. bases in Morocco prepared to close due to a changing political climate, we returned home to Pennsylvania. We spent the next few months with my Grandma Irene (LaPatka) DeMarc in Chewton and my aunt Josie (LaPatka) Teck in Koppel. When it was all said and done I attended four different schools during grade 2 – Warrington Elementary in Pensacola, Wampum Public School in Wampum, Sanford G. Hooper Elementary in Sidi Yahia, and finally Koppel Elementary in Koppel.
This was followed by three years at Fort Meade, Maryland, beginning in mid-1975. It was during this time that my new sister, Alison Lynn, joined our clan in January 1976. At Fort Meade I attended Manor View Elementary School for grades 3-4-5. At Fort Meade I have memories of all the many kids in Thompson Court, my good friend Mike Brouillette, playing marbles in the middle of the court, getting hooked on Little League, and our feisty little terrier Rex.
Next up was the far-flung island of Guam in the Western Pacific where we spent four years in paradise beginning in June 1978. I attended school off-base at Finegayen Elementary School for grade 6 and Dededo Junior High School for grades 7-8-9. I vividly remember our three-week stay at the Guam Reef Hotel, our family outings to various beaches especially NAVFAC beach at Ritidian Point (pure heaven!), living at the softball fields at NCS, playing Little League with and against the local boys, the day my dear Daisy showed up on our front porch, those great boonie stomps with my dad to Segua Falls, night fishing at Pago Bay, the incredible food of the island, playing Atari 2600 and being the first to have Ms. Pac-Man, discovering music and listening to Billy Joel, Rush, AC/DC, and Foreigner, and my many friends including Duke Rogers, Chris McManus, Ronnie Geary, Jason Hjelmeland, Joe Tedesco, Jimmy Key, and “Key Ray.”
I remember landing at the airport in Pittsburgh in June 1978 and being happy to be back home, but I look back fondly on Guam now. We spent about six weeks in western Pennsylvania before driving to our next stop.
Next up was Washington D.C. My dad was stationed at NIPPSA in Suitland, Maryland, but we lived on Bolling AFB in our Nation’s Capital. I attended Frank W. Ballou Senior High School in DC for grades 10-11-12 and certainly learned some street smarts while there. My memories of Bolling include my good friend Terence Jones, playing lots of tackle football, running games of hoops in front of Blanchard Barracks and at the Youth Center, hanging at the base pool during the summer, and the Friday evening staple of Slip Inn chicken and potato wedges. My dad finally retired in June 1986 and my family settled in the suburban Maryland area.
As my family transitioned to civilian life I was off to college at the age of 17. I attended Penn State-Behrend in Erie, Pennsylvania, starting in September 1986 for two years. While there I lived off campus with the Ebner family in the Lawrence Park section of Erie. I remember my good friend Richard Weiss, watching David Letterman every night and getting little sleep, playing lots of basketball in Erie Hall, and the Ebner’s Irish Setter named Dandy. Oh, and I studied a little bit.
In the meantime my family lived with family friend Pat Bowen in Rockville, Maryland, and later at the Peppertree Apartments in nearby Silver Spring. During the summers my dad and I worked as a roofers and I was even close to starting my own business in the field. My parents bought a house in 1988 and finally settled in Fort Washington, Maryland. My dad, after a stint with NASA, took IT job with the Department of Defense (DOD) in DC. My mom and sister Carol (briefly) also worked at the same agency, and beginning in April 1989 I was hired as well. It was my first fulltime job and I performed a mixture of IT and law enforcement-related duties.
A lot has transpired in the years that followed: I lived in various locales in the suburban Maryland area around DC including in Prince Georges, Anne Arundel, Frederick, and Carroll counties. I met a lot of great friends. I played my share of ice and roller hockey and traveled to many tournaments. I did countless hours of research on World War II’s Pacific Theater. I got heavily involved in researching my family history and connected with many new relatives. I learned more about the New Castle PA area then anyone may ever want to know. I enjoyed spending time with all my dogs and saw my precious Daisy live out her last days. I collected and read many, many books. I raved it up with George Acosta, Tiesto, and Ferry Corsten. I got hooked on collecting sports memorabilia. I watched the Phillies finally win a World Series again since the last in 1980. I endured my share of heartache (especially from late 2006 until now) culminating in losing my dad to cancer. And after twenty years I still basically work in the same capacity as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst with the DOD. I am very proud of that!
I am extremely grateful to my dad (and the U.S. Navy) for showing me the world – and everything else he did for me along the way. I hope that with this website that I can share my menagerie of experiences, memories, research endeavors, and other random interests of mine with anyone that might be curious….or seriously bored. Ha ha. Thanks again.
Jeff Bales Jr.