Friday, October 24, 2008

Boys Fall Clean Up Brigade - Japan 1982

Kids are amazing. If we parents had told them to go out and rake and clean up all the leaves on our end of the housing area, they would have whined and protested, and definitely not wanted to do it.

But something got them started on their own. I don't know which of the boys was the ringleader, or even why they decided to do it, but Peter A., Leif, Anil, Atul and a couple of other neighborhood boys decided to spend an afternoon of hard work in the woodsy area near our townhouses.

We lived at the farthest end of enclosed (fenced) and gated Sagamihara Family Housing Area, a facility for families with a member serving in the military at Camp Zama, which was about two miles away. In addition to housing, which consisted for the most part of row or town houses with some single family houses for upper ranks, the area had a club, child care center, movie theater, swimming pool, elementary school, commissary (grocery store for you civilians), racquet ball courts, Boy Scout hut, and probably more facilities I've forgotten.

Many of the townhouses, at least in our part of the housing area, were arranged around three sides of large grassy areas where kids played, with the fourth side on the street and parking area. Our end only had two sides with townhouses. The third side was a small wooded area that was an even better place to play at times. That's where all the leaves were coming from, and where they had piled up high.

My recollection is that this is the only time in the three years we lived there that the kids showed any interest in cleaning up the leaves or any initiative about doing it, but for some reason, they had a mission that day. Maybe they were going to do something special in that wooded area and needed to have it free of the carpet of leaves. If any of the boys (now all men, of course) who took part remembers whether there was some special reason, maybe if they see this blog they'll let me know.

Anil and Atul lived in the second set of townhouses, the one perpendicular to the street. Ours faced the street. Their delightful Indian family were our neighbors for the three years we were there, and they were good friends of Leif's from the start.

We stayed in contact with them for years after both our families left Japan, but we lost track of each other some years ago. Now we are back in contact, thanks to the internet, but it was with a heavy heart that I had to tell them of Leif's death.

It's hard to hear of the death of a treasured childhood friend, and I thank Anil for permission to post some of his thoughts and memories on this blog. He wrote to me that;

My memory of him remains that of a very unique, creative playmate who had the best Star Wars toys and probably the only Apple computer within a 50-mile radius of the base.

One memory I have was when my parents bought us a set of kites that were strung together in a daisy chain. Leif and I went to fly them on an extremely windy day. We had put together two spools of nylon and watched as we got to the end of the second reel. Leif and I held on to it as tight as possible, and the kite practically dragged us across the lawn before we let go, spool and all. The kite must have been over 500 feet high and drifted off into the horizon. We weren't sure whether we were angry at losing the kite or ecstatic that we'd launched it into the lower atmosphere!

How I wish I had photos of that adventure! I thank Anil for sharing it with me.

In the fall 1982 photo, left to right: Atul, Peter A. (nearly 14, Anil (behind), Leif (age 7). Sagamihara Housing Area, Japan.


  1. I am so sorry for your loss.

    I am a department of the Army civilian and currently live and work on Camp Zama. This is my second time in Japan and in the past I lived on Sagamihara Housing Area (SHA). By your description, I think our former house in SHA was closed to where you lived. I was on the cul de sac before the road ended and behind our house had more trees than anywhere on the SHA. We used to pile leaves into huge a huge hill and my kids and dogs jumped in it. My kids go to the elementary school on SHA too. According to the school website,
    "The school first opened in 1950 as Sagamihara American Elementary School; the name was changed to John O. Arnn Elementary School during school year 1982-1983. A new school at SHA was officially dedicated on August 28, 2003."

  2. Hello, Missy Lee, I am always so glad when anyone finds Leif's blog. Thank you for your comments and condolences. Yes, we did live by the "back gate" to the Sagamihara Housing Area. If you were facing the gate, our set of quarters was the last one on the left, and we lived second from right. I recently found a good photo of it that my mother took. The woodsy area was a great place to play. Leif went to John O, Arnn Elementary School, and had an especially wonderful kindergarten teacher, though he had a good first grade teacher (and was taller than she was), and a second grade teacher he loved.