As I write, the headlines in today’s NEW YORK TIMES are no different from those that have captured our attention for many months about the battles in Yugoslavia. Yet when I think of the Yugoslavia of 1957, my recollection is of two verbal disputes. One confrontation was with a border guard and the second with a trio of Communist officials in Niska Banja about obtaining lodging. Oh yes, there was also a tussle with bedbugs.
There was no conflict in my mind about wanting to teach overseas. I just needed a little shove. During my first two years of teaching third grade in North Plainfield, New Jersey, I eagerly corresponded with a friend who went to Japan. The following two years I taught in Clearwater, Florida and met another teacher who had taught in the Panama Canal Zone. She gave me the encouragement I needed to send in my application. Nine months later I was aboard an Army transport, the Darby, bound for Europe. Continue reading
JEAN MCDONALD RECEIVED THE GUAMANIAN OUTSTANDING TEACHER AWARD
OF THE YEAR PRESENTED BY THE GOVERNOR OF GUAM 1955
It was 1954 and the U.S. was at war in Korea. My husband had been called into the Navy the year before, and after training in San Diego, California was sent to Guam M.I. (Marianas Islands). Luckily I was able to join him, and arrived a few months later with my six-month-old son. I was in for a shock.
The housing available to us consisted of a room with two cots and a crib. The bathrooms were shared by many families as were the cooking and washing facilities. With luck and ingenuity we soon found a nice little house of our own and were happily settled. Continue reading
Hanau, Germany (U.S. Army) 1950-1951
Wiesbaden, Germany (U.S. Army & Air Force) 1951-1956
From the first declaration that I had been accepted by the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DODDS) – to the trip across the Atlantic Ocean by ship, my wonderful adventures began.
Three other teachers and myself traveled from Bremerhaven to Frankfurt, Germany, by train – then on to Hanau, Germany. In our blissful state – and trying to help the teacher who had broken her leg on the ship – we got off the train hoping someone would be awaiting us to take our heavy luggage. While we were looking about (no red caps available!) the train started up with all our luggage on it The result was I was elected (since I understood and spoke some German) to go to Aschaffenburg with a German driver in a large Army truck to retrieve the luggage – only to find I didn’t know which billets we were assigned – nor where they were at the Kaserne. The School Officer solved this for us. Continue reading
BAMBERG AMERICAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, NORTHERN AREA COMMAND
PARIS AMERICAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, SEINE AREA COMMAND
The telegram of May 16, 1953 began: YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED TO TEACH IN THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS IN EUROPE. LOCATION OF SCHOOL WILL BE ANYWHERE IN FRANCE OR GERMANY.
Shortly thereafter I left by train from Alhambra, California and traveled to New York to report for indoctrination at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. After several days we sailed from New York on the MSTS General Buckner, a ship carrying supplies, troops, a few officers, one other male teacher and some 200 female teachers. After an interesting, but uneventful voyage we docked in Bremerhaven, at that time an American enclave in Northern Germany. From there we were sent by train to Frankfurt am Main for assignment at the I.G. Farben building (with open, no-stop elevators one jumped on.) Continue reading
A Memorial of John Sigler Robertson: 1954 – 1964
By: John F. Robertson – Son
John Sigler Robertson, GS-9, entered Federal Civil Service in 1954. He began his initial employment as Procurement Officer for HQ US Army Europe at Campbell Barracks, Heidelberg, Germany, from October 1954 to June 1956.
In 1956 the unit was slated to move to France. John arranged a lateral transfer in 1956 from the Department of the Army to the Department of the Air Force, HQ US Air Force Europe, USAFE Dependent Schools, Lindsay Air Station, and Wiesbaden, Germany. He was initially employed as Statistical Analyst working for Mr. Arthur Strommen. Continue reading
I had graduated from San Diego State College and taught elementary school for four years (in California and New York), when I signed with the US Army in 1948 to teach the children of dependents in Germany. I was 24 years old.
It all started with an article in the New York Times. I filled out an application, was interviewed, took a physical and was hired. My salary was $4, 659 a year, which was more than I was making teaching in Great Neck. The Army said there would be 200 American teachers in Germany in 1948. Everyone was hired for just one year.
We sailed in the rain August 3, 1948 from the Brooklyn Naval Yard in an old hospital ship, USAT Zebulon B. Vance. We were told the ship had its bottom filled with cement so it would be steady when it carried wounded soldiers. And it was steady … steady and SLOW. New York to Bremerhaven, Germany, took us 15 days. The Queen Mary passed us three times! Going, coming and going again. But of course, we were in no hurry, having a wonderful time aboard ship and enjoying every day. Our accommodations were bunk beds, maybe three tiers high, in an enormous room. We had one big communal bathroom with a long row of showers. Continue reading
Reminiscences of my first year teaching with the dependent schools was in, 1955 and 1956 in Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany, a former capital city, rich in history, culture and location. It was a wonderful background setting for me to teach a combination of grades two and three.
My sister Nancy was assigned to teach grade one. Six grades were taught in a former shoe factory by a faculty that represented several States, as did the military personnel. The relationship and cooperation of the military families was great for a successful academic year.
Besides teaching, I studied German to add to my list of languages which I used in singing lessons. I gave a fine recital in one of the oldest Stathalle’s of the city that spring. Continue reading
COACH AT YAMATO HIGH SCHOOL
In August 1964, I landed at Tachikawa Air Base in Japan. Meeting the plane was Joe Blackstead, Superintendent of Schools. It was then that I learned that I was assigned to Yamato High School. I was told by Principal Olan Knight that I would be teaching social studies, physical education and coaching football, basketball and baseball. This was the year of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The USA basketball team needed a gym in which to hold secret workouts. Coach Iba picked our gym at Tachikawa for these workouts. I volunteered my services to Coach Iba and I was asked to run the shooting charts during the Games. Some of the players on the team were Bill Bradley, Walt Hazzard, Mel Counts and Larry Brown.
The USA team defeated the Russians in the Championship game in Tokyo 73 to 59. This was the sports highlight of my 25-year career in DODDS.
However, this was not my first visit to Tachikawa Air Base. In December 1945, I landed at Tachikawa in a B-25. When World War II ended, I was stationed at Buckner Bay in Okinawa. I had gone through the Battle of Okinawa as a Navy Mo.M. 3/c. After landing, I needed a ride to Tokyo to meet a friend. So I caught a train at the Tachi train station for U.S. military personnel only. However, I made sure no Japanese civilians got in back of me at the train station. I had gone through too many Kamikaze attacks and had been shot at too many times at the Okinawa Battle. I just didn’t trust our former enemy. Tokyo, I found to be devastated by B-29’s. The firebombs had done their job. However, I did notice the only thing left in many of the burned homes was a safe. I never saw so many safes in my life. After a five-day leave, I returned to my base in Okinawa.
Sincerely, Joseph Steffen
P.S. I hope you can use the above for The Early Days Book” for the period 1956-1966. (Report written January 9, 1999.)
Copyright 2004 American Overseas Schools Historical Society
Burtonwood Air Force Base,
Warrington, Lancashire, England
1953 – 1954
While attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, in June, 1953,1 decided to check out the possibility of teaching in the Dependent’s Schools.
The very small high school on Burtonwood Air Force Base needed a teacher and I was available. Thus began a most interesting and enjoyable year of teaching.
Some highlights in my memory of that year. Continue reading
Gathering thoughts for a trip down memory lane that occurred 44 years ago was an experience in itself. My mind was flooded with flashes of people, places and events. I realized my interpretation of these thoughts had been tempered by the passage of time and my own maturation process. The greatest revelation was the role that the years 1950 – 1952 played on the rest of my life.
Becoming a Department of the Army civilian or DAC, all began one foggy February morning in 1950. Arriving at school, my Principal greeted me saying she wanted me to be sure and read what she had just posted on the bulletin board. It was a very official looking letter from the Department of the Army (DOA) announcing the recruitment of teachers for the Overseas Dependent Schools. Continue reading