RT Cunningham


Yuma, Arizona - The City and the Marine Corps Air Station

old building in Yuma While I was in the Marine Corps (1978-1998), I was stationed at the Marine Corps air station in Yuma two times. The first time was in 1981. About a year later, I got orders for Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, which included orders to return to Yuma after two years. I was back by the end of 1984.

I worked in the admin section in all of my 20 years (minus basic training and various schools, of course). In all that time, I never saw anyone with transfer and assignment orders like mine. The summer heat didn’t agree with me and being stationed in Yuma felt like punishment.

Things to Do in Yuma in the Early 1980s

Both times I was stationed in Yuma only added up to a total of about three years. The only things I got good at was bar hopping on the weekends the first time around. During the weekdays, I’d head downtown to the arcade. The name of the place was “Gold Rush”, where I played “Donkey Kong” and a few other games I don’t remember.

I always had a car, from my first duty station on. Many Marines did not. Yuma didn’t have a bus service and the taxi service was almost nonexistent. If they wanted to get off the base and head downtown, they either got a ride from someone or they walked.

There really wasn’t a lot of things to do other than what I mentioned, even after I got married. I went to every visitor attraction, including the prison. Well, my wife (Josie) and I watched a lot of movies at two drive-ins and one cinema – we didn’t go bar hopping at all. That is, if there was anything good to watch. Otherwise, we just stayed home and watched HBO.

Yuma Today

I can’t tell you much. I don’t think I’ve been there since sometime between 2001 and 2005. A friend of mine, another Marine, retired there with his family. His wife’s a Filipina, like Josie. We were both in the same squadron in 1985 and 1986. I worked in admin and he worked with the crash crew on the airfield.

Naturally, the city grew. In 1981, the city population was around 30,000. Today, it’s at least three times that size. Although Yuma is only about three hours from Phoenix, where my family lived when I retired, I had no desire to spend any time there.

We “saw” Yuma a lot as we passed it by. We took I-10 to Buckeye, highway 85 to Gila Bend and then I-8 to San Diego, California. Josie has relatives in National City, just south of San Diego. Speaking of National City, I thought it was of full of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans when I was stationed at the base in San Diego. It wasn’t until after I married that I found out they were mostly Filipino.

If there are places I consider forgettable, Yuma has to be near the top of the list. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was stationed at the base, seeing it from the interstate would probably be the only thing I’d remember about it.

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By RT Cunningham
February 8, 2017