The air base had been closed by the government. That's what I had heard, and it was, as far as my 5 year-old brain knew, a bad thing. It was the early 90's, America was in a mess of a recession and the Air Force simply couldn't afford to maintain an otherwise superfluous base near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Air Force people could just move, that's what they always did, that was their life. But we were Red Cross, our lives were tied to that base, so we were stuck quite royally.

We're gonna move was what I heard next. My five year-old brain really knew that was a bad thing. Father had been developing a succesful janitorial company there, we had about 20 employees, we were making good money, we had moved into a classy Victorian house, the kind that say George Washington slept here. We can't give that all up, can we? But, we had to. Without the airbase Father could see that this town was going to economically collapse.

He was right. Father had been born in Detroit, he had seen what economic ruin can do. He did not want to see it again.

Wrestlemania was what I was all about. The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage! The Rockers were going to fight the former tag-team champions! This was so cool! While all of this important information was circulating through my five year-old brain, father and mother were busy packing, setting plans into motion, deciding where we would move next.

Aunt Karen had offered dad a nice home in Detroit, all paid for, only if he'd come back to the family, to his hometown. No, no, never. He didn't want to go back there, not now more than ever. Mother didn't want to go there, she had been a fundraiser in the 70's, she had seen it too.

Father had been keeping a steady computing hobby then, he could see their potential since he got his first Sinclair calculator in college. If we were giving up Red Cross and if we were giving up the company then, by Father's reasoning, computing would be a safe bet. Computing was not very big on the East Coast, and the recession had hit there hardest. Mother's family was scattered, so we would get no help in choosing from them. Eventually father narrowed it down to three potential choices:

Hawaii. Warm, isolated. Not really much in potential industry, but father had created two succesful companies in the past, he could do it again. Father had enough ideas and enough know-how to build a thousand succesful companies. Problem with Hawaii, though, was bugs. Flying cockroaches. Father hates cockroaches, Mother hates cockroaches, even my five year-old brain hated cockroaches. Cockroaches with wings were worse. Scratch that.

California. One of father's old companies was here. Father had done lots of work here, he knew the scene. Lots of computing presence here. Still, it had the same problem. Bugs. We wanted to avoid bugs as much as possible. So we came to the last possible choice:

Seattle. Somewhere nobody in the family had been to. Father knew that that upstart Microsoft was there. Boeing was there. Too cold for bugs, but not too cold, much warmer than Portsmouth. The University of Washington offered thousand dollar tuition to residents. Looks good. Let's go.

We packed things up into our two vehicles. A generic white utility van and a beat up Honda. Terry, one of our employees, had decided to tag along. What for, we didn't know, we didn't care. Father got the van. Mother got the Honda. I rode in the Honda with my face glued to the window looking at endless pastures and the occasional cow. Man, Randy Savage was so much better than this.

The only event worth memory during the whole trip was closely following a car that had lots of sparks and smoke coming out of it. Mother didn't know, I certainly didn't know, but Father knew. He got her to pull over and scolded her for ignoring such an obvious danger sign. Father was right about that too. The car would later lose control and, had we been following, we would've been killed.

We arrived in Seattle one day or another, I had lost count, from boredom. My first reaction was: "I hate it, I wanna go home."

Getting a place was harder than we bargained for. We had to stay at a sleazy hotel that rested right next to the interstate in Bellevue for a few weeks till we could finally find a place. During that time I watched the news. I usually never watched the news, it didn't have cartoons, it didn't have Randy Savage, therefore, it was boring. But this time the news was about Portsmouth. It had been hit by a hurricane. How fitting.

After we found a nice apartment complex, we moved in. Terry vanished, never to be seen again. Her vanishing signified the end of my ties to Portsmouth.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is located along the Piscataqua River in Rockingham County at 43.1° north and 70.8° west. The population within the city limits is about 22000. Portsmouth is the third oldest city in the United States.

The land in the area around Portsmouth was originally the home of the Abenaki tribe. European settlers came to the area in the early 1600's, using the Isles of Shoals as a summer fishing base. The fisherman brought foreign diseases with them, which soon killed off 95% of the Abenaki tribe. English settlers first built homes in Portsmouth in 1623. Logging and fishing were early industries in the area. The English soon brought African slaves to Portsmouth, with the first arriving in 1645.

During the Revolution, gunpowder stored in Portsmouth was used in the Battle of Bunker Hill. While no battles took place in Portsmouth, the town contributed troops to the Continental Army. Portsmouth soldiers, under the command of John Stark, were crucial to victory in the Battle of Bennington.

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, located on Seavey Island in the middle of the Piscataqua River, is the oldest continuously operated shipyard in the United States. Thomas Jefferson authorized the purchase of the island as the site for the shipyard, and the facilities were opened in 1800. The shipyards deployed privateers to harass English merchant ships during the blockade of 1808 and the War of 1812. The shipyard would also be used in the war effort for WWI and WWII.

The end of the War brought about the decline of Portsmouth's shipbuilding industry, but ushered in a period of industrial growth in the area. Textile mills soon sprung up along the river, using the new railroads to export cloth to other parts of the country.

There was an effort in 1832 to turn Portsmouth into a whaling community. Starting out with a 98-foot ship, the Portsmouth Whaling Company set up business out of the city port. However, the young and inexperienced crew was not as efficient as competing whalers in Massachusetts were, and the company went bankrupt in 1839. By 1848, all whaling companies in Portsmouth had failed.

The tourism industry developed shortly after the Civil War. Vacationers from New York City and Boston soon found the New Hampshire seashore quite to their liking, and soon large summer homes and hotels covered the coastline. The first of these large hotels, Wentworth by the Sea, was built in 1874. The first tourism guide book was published in 1876 by Sarah Foster.

Prescott Park is located along the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth. Josie and Sarah Prescott donated the land to the city around 1900. The park is home to the annual Prescott Park Arts Festival. During July and August, performances by musicians and theater groups take place around the park, culminating in a large musical production.

The Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War, was signed in 1905. The Russians and the Japanese were invited to Portsmouth by then president Theodore Roosevelt to negotiate the peace. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s Building 86 was chosen as the site for the negotiations. The Negotiations began on August 8th and continued until September 5th, when the treaty was signed.

Portsmouth became a popular location for U-boat crews to surrender at the end of World War II. Four U-boats, with captain and crew, surrendered to US forces stationed at the Shipyards over a five-day period in 1945. Another U-boat anchored at the Shipyard, U-505, is now on display at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Much was learned from the U-boats stationed at the shipyards, and the government soon established the Navy Center for Submarine Design and Development. The Center is home to the USS Albacore test submarine, as well as repair facilities for the Navy's Los Angeles Class Nuclear Submarines.

Portsmouth still thrives on its tourism. The summer months find the beaches crowded, and the highways full of traffic. It's proximity to Boston has given the town a small dose of suburban flair.


References:
http://www.cityofportsmouth.com
http://www.portsmouthnh.com
http://www.nhhistory.org
http://www.ports.navy.mil
http://www.seacoastnh.com

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