Gay Alta Long
My 27 years experience with the overseas dependent schools began in 1946. I was teaching Art Education at the University of Denver when Richard Meyerling, who was recruiting teachers for overseas, called to say he was looking for an art supervisor. Thus, I became one of five specialists flown over in August to set up and supervise a curriculum area for the American schools in the U.S. Occupation Zone in Europe. The five subject specialists were qualified in science, music, home economics, elementary education and art. It took 36 hours in a military C-54 to reach Paris. A two-engine plane flew us to Frankfurt. I did not know that day that in ten years, as an art specialist for the Air Force, I would fly thousands of miles in these “Gooney Birds”.
Frankfurt was a shattered city. No pictures, no words or newspaper reports had prepared us for the appalling destruction. In October, 116 teachers arrived on unheated trains from Bremerhaven. The first activity was a Rhine cruise aboard Hitler’s yacht, then a 3-day orientation to become prepared to teach without supplies, to understand the military, to be assigned to isolated bases in Germany, France and Italy, and, at first, to not fraternize with the Germans. We five specialists were told there was not enough money for our positions, so we were assigned as classroom teachers.
I became a first-class scrounger (I had never heard of the word before), and the high school art and woodworking program slowly grew. In the early years, the teachers alternated weeks living in the dormitory to supervise the students who lived too far for a daily commute, so we spent the entire week at the school when it was our turn.
That first year proved to be the coldest winter in 50 years and the Rhine froze keeping coal barges from getting through. We wore our coats and boots to meals, when in meetings and while teaching.
In 1956, I began a new pioneering job as Art Coordinator for the Air Force schools, which became centralized as the
7135th School Group in Wiesbaden, Germany. We began with 17,500 students and 1000 educators, but soon had over 200 schools, in twelve countries on three continents. It was an exciting, invigorating time – one week trudging through the snow in Norway, and the next, sweltering in the hot classrooms of Nouasseur, Morocco.
In 1966 another reorganization of the schools found me assigned to District VII in Wiesbaden, and I could reach my schools via car.
In 1973 I decided that I wanted another change. The hills of Tennessee and the mountains of Colorado were calling, so I decided to retire after 27 years of growing with the American Dependent Schools in Europe – in the most exciting, satisfying job I could imagine. It was a privilege to have had a small, but vital part in the development of that fantastic school system.
Gay retired to Kingston, TN and enjoyed visits from former colleagues and family at her home on the Clinch River. She passed away on January 6, 2000.
Gay is also recognized on ‘The Magnificent Seven’ paver given by AOSHS to honor its seven members who were part of the original group of educators to open the military’s overseas schools in Oct. 1946.
Prepared from Gay Long’s writings in “The Early Days” book.