After more than 14 months of living with few, if any, personal possessions, many of the 52 freed American hostages went on a shopping spree today.
Spending 90 minutes inside the post exchange of the large military community here, they bought $15,000 worth of clothing and other items -- about $300 each at cut-rate PX prices -- mostly to replace what was taken from them by their captors in Iran.
They bought suits, shirts, sweaters, jeans, ties, belts, dresses, socks and shoes. The suits were altered and delivered to them today at the Air Force hospital here. Some of the former hostages put their new shoes on immediately and left in the PX the sandals they had worn on their way out of Iran.
They also bought watches, wallets, cameras, lenses, flash attachments, film, pipes, cigarette lighters, electric shavers, hair dryers, toiletry bags, sunglasses and pocket calculators. Their purchases were paid for with money advanced to them by the government.
The shopping trip began before 6 a.m. to avoid onlookers and the attention of the army of reporters here. In a painful blow to the other networks competing fiercely here for every scrap of television tape of the returnees, NBC was ready with three camera crews who filmed the run on the PX through its frosty windows. No one was allowed near enough to the former hostages to interview them.