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.)
Because of the coming weekend we were then sent to Bad Homburg, a beautiful R&R city just north of Frankfurt. They were having their annual Latemefest, so it was a pleasant introduction to German life. The next week most of us were sent out by train to our assigned posts. I traveled east with several other teachers to a destination called Bamberg. The others dropped off along the route until I was the lone American on the train. I have to mention the terrible destruction and ruins I observed passing through the cities, as this was only eight years since the end of the war. At last I arrived in Bamberg, a beautiful medieval city, virtually untouched by the war physically, but still recovering economically.
Bamberg is a beautifully preserved ecclesiastical center, and like Rome, is situated on seven hills, each crowned by a church, with the Dom or cathedral being the most famous. To the east of the city the military post was located, which during WWII was the German Panzer Kasern. In 1953 it was the base for an American infantry regiment called the BLUE SPADERS.
The American School, grades 1-8, was a new two-story concrete structure on a large grassy area with woods in the background, and nearby, similar, but much larger buildings housing dependent families. Our school principal was Margaret Bushore. There were four women teachers and yours truly, who ended up with grades 6, 7 and 8 in my classroom. The names of two teachers I remember were Jan Keeling and Loretta Belgum. The female teachers were assigned to a house in town. At first I settled in the BOQ and was later assigned, along with the post doctor and PX manager, to the second floor apartment of the Bamberger Hof, a requisitioned hotel on Schonleinplatz near the center of the city.
The teaching situation was good; supplies and books were always available, class sizes were comfortable and discipline was never a problem. Without my asking, it was always YES SIR and NO SIR. I was told that a disciplinary complaint was a mark on the father’s record as well. The support from the Army was outstanding. PTA attendance was virtually 100% and the military athletic and transportation facilities were always available to us. I remember especially one field trip in amphibious vehicles down the Regnitz River, which flows through Bamberg. And of course, we had a German teacher, who gave lessons to each class every day.
Near the end of the school year in Bamberg I requested, and fortunately received, reassignment to Paris France. At the end of the summer I checked in at the American Elementary School, which at that time was a theater downtown. I was pleased to learn that horn blowing had been outlawed that year. That helped the beautiful city of Paris to be even more romantic. The new school was to open the following week in Garches, a western suburb of Paris. The new building was a large two-story structure with perhaps 40 classrooms, situated on a large undeveloped playground. Next to it was an equally large high school facility and a cafeteria building, that served what I felt were pretty good meals.
Our principal was Jean Mathews Littlefield, who ran a tight ship and had the respect and cooperation of all the teachers. I was assigned to one of the four fifth grades, along with Bill Lutz, with whom I have remained in touch through the years. Other teachers from that era that I still correspond with are: Bill Horn, Barbara Barkman, Cecil Driver, Cherie Jova Campbell, and Bob and Nora Serra. Because Paris was headquarters for NATO and SHAPE the pupils were mainly from officers families, and again, discipline was hardly a problem. The teachers felt appreciated and were welcome in the military community.
We were responsible for our own housing on the local economy, as well as our medical needs. Of course the PX along the Seine was a very popular spot for all American personnel. My salary in 1954, as a GS-7, was $4,205 per annum. However, we all seemed to live well and travel a lot.
Virtually all the students in the Elementary School commuted by school bus and every afternoon, some 100 buses were lined up to deliver the children to every corner of Paris and its environs. There was a certain camaraderie among the teachers of our school that still exists today, more than 40 years later, with those of us who maintained contact in one way or another.
I remained in Paris for three years, and great years they were. I took advantage of the Parisian cultural opportunities as well as traveling to 20 countries, including visiting my ancestral home in Sweden. My only disappointment was not fully mastering the French language. During my second year in Paris I became acquainted with a first grade teacher named Mary Joan Aita from California. Joan and I were married the following year at home and returned to Paris for one more school year. However, that was 1957 and that chapter will have to go in your next book.
The American Schools in France have long since moved with NATO and SHAPE to Belgium. I visited the Paris American Schools in Garches in 1977 and found the elementary school closed and fenced off, however the High School was being used as a private school, but not well maintained.
Bamberg Elementary School, in spite of the military downsizing in Germany has grown to 500 students in grades K-5 with a staff of 63 in 1994. Additionally, there is a High School, grades 6-12, with 180 students and a staff of 55.
Finally, a word about this acronym DoDDS. It is unknown to us teachers from the early era, and I didn’t know we belonged to that fraternity. We were designated DAC (Department of the Army Civilian) with the DSD (Dependents School Detachment) later the DEG (Dependents Education Group) with USAREUR (United States Army, Europe). However, no matter what you call us, we were a dedicated group of teachers and proud of the small contribution we made to the eventual conclusion of the Cold War.
LYMAN F. SCHEEL
1953-1954 Bamberg American Elementary School Northern Area Command, USAREUR
1954-1957 Paris American Elementary School, Seine Area Command, USAREUR
December 31, 1998
Copyright 2004 American Overseas Schools Historical Society