I, Ada Bodmer, was recruited for a position with American Dependents Schools, Germany, in 1949. My assignment upon arriving in Germany was to the very remote Grafenwhör Military Post as teaching principal of a two-room school of some 50 pupils, grades 1 through 8. This was a bit of a disappointment in as much as my teacher shipmates spoke so enthusiastically about their assignments in Heidelberg, Munich, Stuttgart, etc. I was, however, excited about being chosen to come to Germany, so I decided to give it my best and enjoy whatever.
The little school was charming. My billet not quite so. I had two small adjoining rooms, one large enough for an army cot and a small chest of drawers. Oh, yes, it had hooks on the wall for my clothes. The other room had a small sofa and a coffee table. In one corner was a small wood stove and a little box of fuel. This stove was to heat both rooms. The bathroom and two showers were down the hall to be used by five other ladies – Red Cross, U.S.O., secretaries, etc. We all took our meals at the Officer’s Club. Not bad. One day I ate breakfast with General Patton’s son.
Our school rapidly increased in numbers necessitating the building on of another room and adding another teacher. I learned a good deal of German from our German-speaking custodian.
I must add that Grafenwhör was situated right on the border so we were constantly warned to stay on our side. Also Army supplies, at that time, were most limited and often rationed. The rationing of toilet paper was crucial for school children. The students and fellow workers were delightful and we spent a very rewarding year together.
Fortunately, I had my car shipped over with me so I looked forward to weekend travel, and travel I did! We explored places within driving distance and for longer vacations took trips such as the Mediterranean Cruise or Christmas in the Holy Land. In the spring of 1950 I was able to attend the Oberammergau Passion Play. What a thrill!
At the end of the year, when I was notified that I was reassigned to Grafenwhör for another year. I immediately phoned the Dependent Schools Detachment (DSD) headquarters and announced that if that was all they thought of my ability I would go back to the U.S. The following day I was contacted and told that I was reassigned to a very choice school, that being as principal of the Garmisch School. Indeed, it was a choice” assignment. The quaint school building had been the German Village Library. It was charming and I loved it. We had five American teachers and three German assistant teachers. These assistants also taught the children the German language.
The school had a secretary and a custodian, also a Colonel for our PTA president. My quarters were in a house with seven other ladies. I had the guest room because of my seniority. Our house was run by a housekeeper, a cook, and a houseboy. We were served three delightful meals daily. Our room care and laundry were supplied. Garmish, being a chief military recreation and tourist center, afforded many guests, inspectors and visitors in general. I spent two years there when I was asked to go to Nürnburg to open up the large new elementary school of 1600 pupils, 45 teachers, an assistant principal and two secretaries. Wow! Quite a change! We had a great staff, great kids and outstanding cooperation from parents and the entire post in general. Our housing was in a billet with a large room with private bath, a kitchen on each floor, and also near to the Officers’ Club where we dined.
I had just started my third year at the Nürnburg school when I was asked to take over the principal’s vacancy at headquarters in Heidelberg. I asked, “What if I don’t want it?” I was reminded that in the Army we don’t say “no”. So I was off to Heidelberg for that year and the next two years. I never regretted the move, for Heidelberg was truly the “cream of the crop”. It was a larger school than Nürnburg and grew so rapidly that a primary school, grades 1 to 3, was built to open the following year.
For my last year in Heidelberg, I brought my mother over to live with me. We had a lovely two-bedroom completely furnished apartment. My mother was born in Switzerland and had never returned all during the 65 years she had lived in the U.S.A. I was truly grateful for this special opportunity and she felt blessed. My eight years in Germany were most rewarding and I carry many wonderful memories.
Now for my sister, Tillie Bodmer, now deceased, who joined DSD in Germany in 1950 as a Special Reading Teacher. She was first assigned to Bad Tölz but after a few months of declining student enrollment it was necessary to cut one teacher, at which time she transferred to Stuttgart American School, and after three years, took the Munich assignment where she completed her eight years with DSD in Germany and returned to the U.S. in 1958.
As children, possibly because of our mother’s background, Tillie and I had dreamed of going to Switzerland and also seeing the Oberammergau Passion play. As I stated, in early 1950, I attended the Passion play. As soon as I learned that Tillie was coming to Europe that fall, I obtained tickets for us for the last showing in September. Our dream fulfilled, we attended the Passion play together.