I was with the delayed first group of some 120 teachers. We sailed from New York on the ship “George Washington” the first week of Oct. 1946. We were delayed because of the New York boat strike. The first two groups waited for us in Frankfurt.
My orders got sent to Bloomington, Illinois instead of Indiana. I was corresponding with one of the three Indiana teachers selected and found she had her orders. I phoned and was told to proceed without orders. Things worked out well in New York.
We arrived at Bremerhaven and took the train down to Frankfurt. Our first meeting was aboard Hitler’s yacht on the Rhine River trip. The 65% damaged Frankfurt was unbelievable. My assignment was at Frankfurt Headquarters Command in the military compound. After assignments and some nights at the hotel, I was taken by a German driving a jeep to my apt. building that was half bombed away. The old school building across the street was where I taught 4th grade. There were trees around the building and a playground.
Soon our principal decided to go home. I was asked to take the principal’s job. Having not chosen to be a principal at home because I preferred teaching I hesitated. I did offer to take it temporarily until they could get someone. They did, but would be happy for me to continue. I thanked them, but said I would be glad to return to my fourth grade class.
Early in a meeting our Colonel Supt asked we remember the status in service for the fathers of our students. One brave teacher spoke for us saying American teachers could not consider rank, and we would be the wrong if we did this. We didn’t hear of this again.
My German teacher usually found I hadn’t studied because of my duties and some weekend travel but she took me to places with information so I could take my class. She went on some trips with classes like to an old fort dating to 400 AD. However, the Estonian refugee lady who came to class daily to give a German lesson found the students could get the language quite quickly, while I prepared for my work. All Germans wanted to speak English. That first year it was easier to meet German people if you had letters of introduction. I did from Indiana University friends. I got to know Dr. Beutler and family, curator of the Goethe Museum, and saw some things he had in their apt. that had been saved in the caves. I saw them when I returned to Germany in 1967, as well as a few others I had gotten to know well (and saw Germany remarkably rebuilt).
We had hoped for more contact with German schools than we had but there were some exchanges.
I had hesitated to accept the invitation of my superintendent to be interviewed for the job for which I was selected from a good many applicants and I have never regretted that decision to go.
Our food, furnished by America and well cooked by the Germans, was good. It was the coldest winter for 50 years but we found field coats kept us warm while teaching. All our children’s parents invited us for dinner. On one such occasion a mother told me her son said upon their arrival, “The German children next door, I can’t understand what they say but they laugh just like we do!” Good observation.
I had opportunity to travel to most countries in Europe, which later I could not have afforded to do. Some of us decided to come home on the latest ship in August and was able to go to some countries we had not visited. All of these experiences, I believe, were valuable in my following teaching years.