Wetzler, Germany 1950-1951
Erlangen, Germany 1951-1952
I was interviewed by Fred Miller from School Headquarters in April 1950 at Emporia State Teacher’s College. Mr. Miller had written the Social Studies program for the State of Kansas Schools. I was notified in May that I was selected. When my wife and I arrived in New York to go by ship to Bremerhaven, my wife had to share a cabin with five other women and I shared one with three other men. Upon arriving in Bremerhaven, I had orders to go to Kassel as the teaching principal. My wife, (although not a teacher) had orders to go to Vienna, Austria as a primary teacher. We went by train to Frankfurt then by bus to Bad Homburg where an all-educators conference was held. During the conference my assignment was changed from Kassel to Wetzlar and my wife could go with me, instead as a teacher in Vienna!!
Upon arriving in Wetzlar there were no billets available for a married couple. So we were sent to Bad Wildungen where there was a military hotel, some sixty miles away. This was one week before school was to begin. My wife had to stay in Bad Wildungen and I was taken by jeep to Wetzlar for a week to get the school ready for opening day. I stayed in the men’s B.O.Q. and was taken back to Bad Wildungen on Friday afternoon.
The school was located in the former Nazi Headquarters. It was a huge three-story building with many rooms and a dungeon. The children loved to explore it. The school was located on the first two floors. The janitor and his wife lived on the third floor with room to spare. So it was decided by the military that my wife and I could live up there and share the one kitchen and the bathroom with the janitor and his wife.
This worked fine until December of 1950 when the army got word that the Inspector General (I.G.) was coming and wanted to see the school. We suddenly got on top of the list for one of the new apartments that were being built. With us out of the school the I.G. inspection passed with flying colors. The I.G. got very little dust on his white gloves as he checked around the doorframes!!
The reason I was changed from Kassel to Wetzlar was because the school year before, there were two teachers at the school, a teaching principal and one other teacher and they didn’t get along. They talked to each other through one of the German teachers. They were both transferred.
Since the school was growing because the new family housing was being built, I and two other teachers were assigned to Wetzlar. A Miss Wunder had grade one with about 18 students, a Miss Price had grades 2 and 3 with about 23 students and I had grades 4 thru 8 with about 26 students. We had three German teachers. Dr. Heidt was my assistant and taught German to my class. He was quite a scholar. He wanted to know the origin of every word. A Ms Hacker assisted Ms Wunder and Ms Price and taught German to their classes. Kurt Pickett (a music student and a hope-to-be-opera singer) taught music to all classes and was my secretary. He was a good music teacher! Because of the opening of new housing, families kept coming and our school grew and grew. On February 1, 1951 we were sent another teacher who took over teaching grades 4 and 5.
At about that time the powers that be decided that America needed more space west of the Rhine, so Wetzlar was to be given to the French and we would take over Kaiserlautern. The families started leaving and by the end of March our enrollment dropped so low that we lost two teachers. Ms Wunder ended up with grades 1-3 and I had grades 4-8. When school closed in June 1951, we boxed everything and shipped it to Kaiserlautern.
In July of 1951, I was assigned to Erlangen, Germany where I had four other teachers in grades K-6. It was a big three story requisitioned private house. Here the janitor and his family lived in the basement. I had three German teachers and a German secretary. (Ilse Kreth who was the school secretary for 47 years from the opening in 1946 until she retired.) In two years I went from having one of the weakest secretaries to one of the very best secretaries that ever worked for the Dependents Schools. Unfortunately Ms Kreth passed away in January of 1998. She had cancer.
In April 1952 on our return from a teacher’s conference in Garmish we stopped and visited Harold Hemming, the Principal at Furstenfeldbruck. What a beautiful school facility. Since he was leaving the program at the end of the year, I put on my request for the next school year all three choices as Furstenfeldbruck. Mr. Ruby, Superintendent at Munich, called and said, John, that will be a one teacher school by opening day” (September 1952). I replied, “I taught a one room school for four years and I can do it again. I want Furstenfeldbruck.”
I was assigned to Fursty for School Year 1952-1953. On opening day, we had just over 200 students and nine other teachers. I called Mr. Ruby and told him, “I’m sure glad you sent me nine other teachers as I would have had a hard time with that many students alone.” Two days later I was authorized to hire a local hire and I became a full time principal. The reason we had so many students was because the military unit that was at Fursty moved to the new Air Base at Bitburg and the family housing wasn’t completed yet. A new military unit was being formed at Fursty, so school enrollment was changing daily as some families were leaving for new housing opening in Bitburg and families of the new unit were arriving. School enrollment rose to near 400 and remained near that for five years.
My first six years in DoDDS were very exciting and sometimes unbelievable.