Meinke, Erna: Germany: 1950 – 1977

MY FIRST TEN YEARS: GERMANY

It has been a great experience, my twenty-seven years with the DOD Schools overseas. My only regret is that I didn’t get into the program sooner. Teaching is teaching wherever one is but this was also an adventure. I applied for an overseas teaching position while I was teaching in Seattle, Washington. I was accepted and left for Germany in August, 1950.

My first assignment was in Bad Wildungen as a first and second grade teacher. Subsequent assignments in Germany were Hochest am Main and Wiesbaden. I spent two years at each location before I was finally given an assignment in Sevilla, Spain.

Germany was an uncomplicated assignment for me because I had the advantage of speaking, reading and writing the German language. That also provided a few chuckles along the way. For instance, one day traveling on the train, two German ladies seated across from me in the compartment were discussing me, unaware I understood everything they were saying. They were determining my nationality. They came to the conclusion I was American because I had an American nose. Another time while sauntering along the street in Wiesbaden and behind two well padded German women and passing a conditerri (pastry shop) I heard them say, “No point in going in here if they have no whipped cream”. My German improved greatly by listening to many conversations. One little boy described me as “Die Tante mit die rotten fingernagel” (The aunt with the red fingernails.)

In most places I lived in German hotels under U.S. Army management with meals usually taken at a nearby Officer’s Club. The rooms also provided cockroaches, which were much in evidence when the lights were suddenly turned on at night.

I brought my car from the U.S. and thus covered much of the German landscape in my spare time. Train travel was also fast, prompt and inexpensive. That is how I went through “Checkpoint Charlie” to the East Zone. There was evidence of much destruction from World War II wherever I went.

I recall a few vivid memories of my first introduction to Germany after disembarking the “General Patch”, a ship put in service to transport civilians arriving or leaving. Women in slacks were frowned upon. Since it was a weekend some of us decided to attend a church service. We stood out like sore thumbs in our bright colors while the local congregation were attired in very somber colors; brown, black, gray, and navy.

My other assignments were in Morocco, Japan, Island of Majorca and Madrid; great assignments, all of them.
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Erna Meinke retired from teaching in 1977 to her home in Seattle where she keeps busy with volunteerism. One great service to her community has been in repairing dolls and sewing clothing for hundreds if not thousands of dolls to be distributed to children at Christmas time. She also spends much of her time at the Food Bank and other volunteer positions. She is extremely diligent in all that she does and while overseas was an outstanding teacher who cared for and taught her children in many happy and exciting ways. (Comments by Lucille Hansen)