Larner, Thomas M.: Norway: 1954 – 1990: Oslo

I retired in 1990, but I frequently visit the Oslo American School. OAS will terminate this June as NATO is moving mostly to England and a smaller group will move to Stavanger. There will be a farewell dinner 27 May and I will give a speech, being the oldest long time teacher of over 37 years.

OAS was started up in the fall of 1954. Before that it was privately run by the Embassy. I was a substitute teacher in 1953 while attending the Oslo University and was offered a job in 1954. Two rooms in a hotel and a private home a mile away from the hotel was the best the Embassy could obtain. When the military took over, a former German barracks in Smestad was made available and there was just enough room for eight grades.

There were eight teachers, a principal and secretary for about 150 children, grades I to 8. There was excellent morale with the teachers and we were quite content in spite of crowded conditions and few “goodies”.

By 1957 enrollment made it too crowded and we needed more space, plus the fact that we were to have a correspondence high school. There was another former German WW II barracks about 500 yards away. There was room for four classrooms on the first floor and the second floor was being used as sleeping accommodations for the Norwegian Home Guard. The seventh and eighth grades plus about 10 correspondence students took up three rooms and the fourth was the store room, teachers’ lounge and tutoring room now and again when tutors were scheduled. Naturally the rooms were small and heating was a problem in the winter. The first year they installed a coal burning stove which took up much space in seventh and eighth grade room and had to be replaced the following year by a kerosene stove.

More children were enrolled and I had to replace my desk with a small typing desk, which was hidden from view whenever the door was opened. Communication to the main building was by a WW II field phone system, which was not in good working order. Naturally we three teachers were mainly on our own. One day the Principal came by to inform me I was to have a few more seventh grade students. When he opened the door he saw no teacher at first. I must admit I was most unhappy to have another student as there was so little space. My comment was “Fine, move me out into the hall and the student can occupy my small typing desk”. After much discussion I agreed to squeeze in one more and the second one was ‘promoted’ to the eighth grade where there was enough space. Fortunately one of my students was sent back to the States the following week. It was a good thing no military fire marshal had visited us. The following year a new school building was made available.

In spite of the working conditions in that barracks, these were the best teaching years at OAS. We three teachers got along very well and the students were extremely cooperative. I don’t feel the students suffered at all or received a poor curriculum.