Weihe, Dorothy C: France, Germany, Japan (Okinawa): 1955 – 1979

August 17,1955 was my date to leave for DEG schools in France. I was certain that I would find my assignment to be one of the isolated one or two-teacher schools that Charlie Tinder repeatedly mentioned while he interviewed me at the University of Minnesota. After our flight, via Flying Tigers to Paris, I was pleasantly surprised to be assigned to Verdun, France. Four of us that met at the Litre Hotel, were to leave by train the next morning. They were Margaret O’Hare, Marion Sather, Marian Carmody and myself. Also on the same train were Robert Miller and another fellow whose name I’ve forgotten. He was transferred out of Verdun early in the year.

Verdun was an interesting historic town of WWI days. We were billeted at the Bellview Hotel. Our school was quite a distance away at the base and consisted of temporary-type buildings. Quite a contrast for me, having left a new building where I had taught algebra the past years in Hastings, Minnesota. Supplies were very limited. I found it especially difficult to use the same reader for the different level reading groups.

My first assignment was to have been a 5-6 grade combination. Just before school started Ken Parsons, our principal, informed me that the enrollment didn’t warrant a 5-6 but rather a 4-5 grade combination. On the day school opened I was given a 3-4 grade combination. It had been years since I taught the lower grades in my rural school experiences. I had taught 4-5th before going into two years of Jr.- Sr. High math followed by eight years of 9th grade algebra and general math. Added to my disappointment, in October, I was given a straight 3rd grade. Due to over-staffing, teachers were being reassigned. Just before Thanksgiving I was given a fourth grade, an assignment I was most happy to accept.

During summer school we were told our principal was being assigned to Orleans. He told us that possibly several of us could be reassigned there if we so chose. The four of us that originally came to Verdun together got the chance to go. We all taught at La Chapelle and I was happy to get a fifth grade. More temporary buildings! The principal’s office was housed in the remains of a chateau on the Loire.

Housing was another story. We were told that we would be assigned to a BOQ. We packed our cars accordingly carrying all but what transportation moved for us. Orleans however had no BOQ space and we were left to shift for ourselves. Hotel space was hard to find as it was hunting season and rooms were filled. We took whatever rooms we could find even if it was for only a few days. One evening we returned to our hotel to find our things in the hall. The room no longer was ours. Fortunately we found rooms in a new hotel that was just being completed. We stayed there until two girls moved into the BOQ at Maison Forte. In November, the two of us left were lucky enough to get an apartment on Rue Recouverance. A few weeks before this we were called to the transportation office to get our things out as they were not packed for storage. We explained our packing and being exhausted trying to find housing along with teaching. I suggested they pack my belongings and I would gladly head for the States. Luckily things worked out and I spent 24 years with DOD schools.

Rue Recouverance was a most interesting street. It dated back to Joan of Arc days. At the top of the brick paved street was the chapel of the Black Virgin. It was said Joan of Arc worshipped there. Our apartment, too, was old and interesting, located over what was once a carriage house. We had to enter through huge wooden doors locked with a large iron key. Circular stairs took us to the second floor. There was no doubt that it was old. Water pipes lined the inside walls both in the kitchen and bathroom. Heat was turned on from November to April even if temperatures were still low and cold. We were so relieved to have a place to live. I enjoyed living there for two years until I left France.

On return from home leave for the summer 1957, I was called into the District Office by our new Superintendent, Dr. Heiges. Unbeknownst to me, he was looking for a curriculum person for the District Office. Two days later, he came to the school to inform me that I would be working in his office.

This turned out to be two of my most interesting years. I got to visit schools scattered throughout France. My travels took me from Metz in the north to Captieux in the south. As I traveled to visit schools and working with teachers, I got to see France, live in French hotels and enjoy French food.

Our schools were housed in all types of buildings from quonsets to the “real” schools buildings in Paris. I shall always remember our school in St. Nazaire. A married couple was assigned to the two-room building. On one of my visits it was cold and rainy. One had to walk over planks to get into the school. The next morning the furnace didn’t work and it took quite some doing to get it warm. In those days supplies were limited. One had to admire the courage and resourcefulness of the teachers in the remote areas. I would try to collect materials and help as much as I could.

I chose to stay in Bordeaux when visiting schools in the southern area. On one of my visits as I headed inland for Rochefort to a small school at Fontenet. This was during the Algerian uprising. I had been warned in Bordeaux of places to avoid and again heard more at Bussac. I had no cause to be alarmed until after I left Rochefort. I found I was being followed and at times feared I was going to be forced off the road. The first village I came to, I turned off and criss-crossed the village until I was sure I was no longer followed. The farther north I traveled on my way back to Orleans the safer I felt.

In the spring of ’58, Dr. Heiges had me attending a meeting at Karlsruhe headquarters. This was the first time I met all of the Superintendents and Headquarter’s staff. My previous meeting were curriculum meetings with Fred Miller and Helen Slosberg along with the other two District curriculum people, Marjorie Pamell and Nora Waite.

SY 58-59, Herman Search took over as Superintendent of France. While attending my first administrator’s conference in Berchtesgaden that fall, he told me I would open the elementary school at Maison Forte. Our high school Principal was late arriving so Milton Block was temporarily moved to the high school and I to the elementary school, which consisted of grades one to three. I was just beginning to enjoy my new position when I was called back to the District Office.

That school year I was chosen to be on my first recruitment team for the Army Schools. Our team consisted of Paul LeBrun and Dr. Latimer from the Karlsruhe office, Sidney Crowder from Frankfurt High School and myself from France. We were joined by Robert Moss from Japan and Homer Tennant from Okinawa. Recruiting took us through the United States interviewing prospective teachers.

Upon returning to France, I soon found that I was being transferred to the Germany office. After spending a month, helping the new Superintendent, Sid Crowder, with staff placement, I left for my new office in the IG Farben Building in Frankfurt. District staffs were adding new personnel. We had a librarian, Beulah Winchell, and Hester Templin for music. My travels now took me visiting schools throughout Germany.

In the fall of ’62 I joined the curriculum staff at Karlsruhe. I shared an office with Dr. Meckel (English) and John Ed Lee (Math/Science). My field was Social Studies. Under the direction of Norman Naas, Head of the Curriculum Branch, we seriously worked to do much to improve the Social Studies Program. The following year Dr. Ford replaced Norm Naas. For SY 64-65 and 65-66 I was back in the District Office in Frankfurt. Dr. O’Kane felt the curriculum people needed to be at the District level.

In 1966, I transferred to Okinawa as Coordinator of grades 4-6 until my reassignment to help begin the Middle School concept. We had three Middle Schools: Kadena, Pacific and Naha Middle Schools. In ’72 a REP action reassigned us. I asked to go back to school level. I was assigned as Asst. Principal to Don Taylor at Pacific Middle. When he transferred to the Philippines, I became Principal until the end of SY 76-77.

Pacific Middle School was housed in a former campsite and consisted of over 90 quonsets. Grades K-9 had, at one time, been part of the school, and then moved into the high school. The school was located away from any base and on an area facing the West Pacific.

During my years at PMS, I had my first experience with NCA. I was on the NCA team visiting Kadena Middle School. Two years later our school was visited by NCA. I best remember a team member’s quote, “Buildings do not make a school, teachers do”.

My last two years with DODDS, (SY 77-78 and 78-79) were spent as Principal of Zweibruecken Elementary School located on Kruezberg Kaserne in Germany. I retired in August of 1979 leaving many pleasant experiences and a few more trying. I enjoy the memories of many friends and dedicated people I had the opportunity to work with.