Carr, Mary E.: Japan: 1952 – 1978

I was with the DOD schools only one year of this first ten year period I had been teaching at a Methodist Mission School in Palembung, Indonesia so I hadn’t even heard about the military overseas schools until I came home to Fairfax, Virginia in 1953. If I hadn’t made this trip to Indonesia I would most likely never have had the nerve to go to all the strange places that came later.

I think I was quite timid about doing anything on my own at that time but Indonesia changed all that! This was brought about when friends of mine were going to Indonesia to start a business. They asked me if I would like to go with them and teach there. They always declared that my answer was “Sure, where is it!”. I think they may have figured they might need me to teach their kids too. Their eight year old had been in my first grade class in Fairfax.

I did start a little class in Indonesia which included their eight-year-old boy and their five-year-old girl plus several other children from Holland, England, etc. This was in Bandung, Indonesia. After I had the little class working pretty well there was an American wife who thought she could handle it so I could go on to my original destination.

When I got to the Mission School I found that the children didn’t speak any English. We played a lot of charades! The children quickly learned to read the English books we had but they didn’t understand anything they were reading! That’s when I realized that I had to learn the Indonesian word for each English word so that I could have the children tell me in Indonesian what they understood.

Someone was always thinking I knew many languages because of the many countries I went to after Indonesia. My answer was “Thirteen, three words of each”. The exception was Indonesia. Every place else I went I could usually get along with English.

When I returned home to Fairfax, Virginia, I lasted two years then decided to try another tour of overseas teaching. That’s when I went to Japan with DoDDS (school year 1955-56) and kept it up until I retired in 1978, going to many different bases in that time. Nearly always I chose the “Far out” bases after I left Japan. Bermuda was the only exception.

I enjoyed my first DODDS tour in Japan very much. I was surprised how wonderful the Japanese people as a whole were to us. The school was at Tachikawa, not too far from Tokyo. It was on an Air Force base. We had very good administrators, Ada Ruggiero, Principal and Eve Vaught Asst. Principal. We also had a Japanese Culture Teacher, Marie Furukawa. Classes included nursery, kindergarten and grades 1-6.

I have a copy of our yearbook for that year “Bamboo Omoide 1956. I can’t remember too many details of all the things we did that year except what the yearbook shows.

I do remember the details of a Flower Show that the school had. The children were to bring flowers and containers to school but not arranged. They had to do that at school. Then our class won the Grand Prize overall. There is a picture in the yearbook with my class and myself admiring our entry. Our school activities included Tea Ceremony, Girls’ Day, Boys’ Day, and Japanese-American Friendship Day. We also had the regular American holiday activities of Halloween Parade, Christmas bazaar and program, Valentine’s Day, etc.

I remember enjoying many trips around Japan encouraged by our Principal: Mount Fuji, Mikimoto Pearl diving, the Big Buddha, etc. I remember a sort of funny end to the tour in Japan. We had been given early papers letting us know that we had a choice as to the route to get back to the U.S. One choice was by plane to Hawaii, another was by military ship to Seattle. I choose the Hawaii route for two reasons. I was sent to Japan by way of a military ship from Seattle and the other reason was that I had a cousin stationed in Hawaii with her husband. She had been homesick and was looking forward to having me visit on the way back.

When we got our paper for leaving it seemed that those of us who asked for Hawaii were sent to Seattle and the ones who asked for Seattle went to Hawaii.
I thoroughly enjoyed my year in Japan. It and the other places I got to see have left me with many things to recall and talk about over the years.

I wouldn’t change a thing about those years even if I could. I’m sure there were some problems but evidently they haven’t stayed with me like the good times did.