I started with the dependent schools in 1948. My first employment was under Mary Palmer at the Hoyt S. Vandenberg Elementary School in Wiesbaden as Head Registrar for all the schools. That included the elementary schools at Hainerberg, Crestview, Camp Lindsay, Aukaum, and Wiesbaden Air Base. All incoming parents with dependent school children processed through me. I checked the student’s paperwork to determine grade placement and the parent’s paper to determine eligibility. If the parents were civilians not connected with the government, I informed them of tuition requirements.
Students whose sponsors were military were placed in the school that served the housing area where they would be living. Since many sponsors were living in transient quarters when the student was first enrolled, it was important that I maintain close liaison with the housing office to know where the family would be assigned quarters. It was important, obviously, that they kept me informed of any subsequent changes in quarter’s assignments.
I also maintained a large blackboard display of all the classes within each elementary school showing enrollment. This was important in placement of incoming students as well as the compilation of the monthly statistical reports. Naturally, the information was vital in planning for the following year. You can imagine my shock one morning when I reported to work and found that cleaning personnel had cleaned the blackboards in my office! They never did a good job cleaning but this one idiot erased everything. I had to start from scratch by calling each Principal who in turn had to get the class count from each classroom teacher. To this day, I’m not sure that I got a completely accurate recount since many teachers were never sure exactly how many students they had in their room. It took many days to get this mess straightened out. After this incident, I put up signs all over the place warning people DO NOT TOUCH! DO NOT ERASE!
In addition to keeping the statistics, I was also responsible for the sale of meal tickets. The cost of a meal ticket was 25 cents. This was a real good deal, don’t you agree?
I held this position for approximately five years. During that time, in addition to Mary Palmer, I worked with Max Leonard, and Eunice Chute.
I got started in Host Nation education shortly after accepting the assistant librarian position in the new junior high school. Teachers soon discovered that they had a living German resource in me. Whenever their lessons dealt with any question having to do with German history or culture, individual students and eventually whole classes were being referred to me. Since much of German history is entwined with Europe, I soon became the resource for the whole continent.
It wasn’t long before my position evolved into the school librarian. I set up a German resource section in the library and spent almost all of my time developing it as well as working with the German language teachers and the now formalized Host Nation program. In reality the language teachers and even the Host Nation teachers worked mostly with the language aspects and they left the cultural things to me. I gathered materials from the various Lande, sport authorities, railroad, and other travel sources. This led to much interest in field trips once staff realized the potential for learning that lay outside of the school building walls. I was soon spending a large part of my time acting as liaison with railroad officials, travel authorities, sports officials, and German press as well as conducting field trips all over the place.
I’ll always remember the arrangements made for a teacher who wanted to use the official flag of the city of Wiesbaden for a special Awards Assembly. I had to get permission from the Burgermeister for that deal, but it was worth it. The time I spent arranging for the training of our School Safety Patrol was also very rewarding. Arrangements were made with the Verkehrs Polizei to train the American youngsters in German procedure and legalities. I am proud to have been a part of this effort that certainly helped to prevent accidents and probably saved children’s lives. I must also mention the German-American Family exchange that was developed at the Wiesbaden Middle School. We brought together families from both nations that had one important thing in common – teeny boppers. This family exchange evolved from the class exchanges we had set up between our school and a local German school. Students got to be friends and wanted to meet after school hours – viola! The family exchange program was born.
Coming back to the subject of field trips, I must say that it was a lot of fun but also a lot of work. Selling three hundred or more train tickets is no small task. I not only collected all the money but then had to take it to the railway station (banjo). Imagine me carrying a nice briefcase with thousands of marks in it some two miles down the Stresemanring hoping all the time that no one would figure out what I was carrying and decide to hit me over the head! When I got to the bahnhof I came to a special entrance reserved for employees and was escorted back to the headman. Then the fun started, counting the thousands of marks, all in small denominations, trusting, of course, that the total would be correct. Of course it was because I had counted it in the first place. Now I received all the tickets and usually took them home by bus since my visit to the bahnhof was normally done after the regular school day.
The following day, I brought the tickets to the school for safekeeping until the day of the field trip. My next task was assigning students to teachers and everyone to compartments on the train. Since the compartments sat six passengers, I had to attempt to find five contiguous compartments per teacher. Mathematically, this was not too difficult. The problem was with the parent- chaperones who wanted special consideration as to where they sat and how many people would be allowed in their personal compartment. Usually such an occurrence resulted from the wife wearing the husband’s rank. This usually resulted in dialogue something like this:
Mother. “Yes, I did tell those children to leave this compartment. It was too crowded for me and my daughter.”
Me: “I’m sorry but each compartment has to accommodate six passengers.”
Mother. “Perhaps you don’t realize who I am. I’m Mrs.__ and my husband is__.”
Me: “That makes you what?”
Mother: “And who are you?”
Me: “I’m the Host Nation Coordinator and I’m in charge of the group. I think you had better move.”
With that she left the compartment with her daughter and I reminded her that since she was taking her daughter from the school group that she was responsible for the both of them.
One of the special field trips we took each year was to the Chriskindle Mart in Nürnberg, the birthplace of Albrect Durer. This city is full of special sounds, odors, and feelings at Christmas time. I did not want the magic of the place disturbed by blasting boom boxes, therefore I warned the students not to bring them on this trip. Of course, some always did. So I handled the situation by having the offender’s hand over their batteries on the train. There were the usual protests by a few who felt their rights were being violated. Nevertheless, I insisted. I collected all the batteries in a satchel with the understanding that the owner could have them back on the return trip to Wiesbaden. When someone would protest that they wouldn’t know one battery from another, I reminded them (1) it was their tough luck, (2) that they were told not to bring the boom boxes and (3) that it was their responsibility to find their own batteries in the sack.
Perhaps the trips that caused the most disquietude were those taken to places outside of West Germany. For instance, one of our favorite destinations was Strasbourg, France. In addition to the rail tickets, compartment assignments and the occasional difficult mother, we had to be concerned about passports. Since this trip usually involved several hundred students, it meant that I had responsibility for several hundred American passports in addition to everything else. Even though Strasbourg is considered a gourmet’s delight, I can assure you that we did not have the opportunity to sample much of the French cuisine while there. How could one savor escargots with a sack full of passports in one’s lap? How could you buy something like pate de foie gras without worrying that you might misplace the passport sack when attempting to pay for your purchase? Viola! It all worked out, everybody had a good time and we arrived safely back in Wiesbaden.
In retrospect, the closing moments of some of these field trips were as memorable as the trip itself. I remember one all-school field trip when I took a group to one destination and our principal, Paul LeBrun, took a group for a nature hike in the Taunus Mountains. Since our return trips were scheduled to arrive back in Wiesbaden about the same time, we had agreed to meet in the bahnhof and walk the students up Stresemanring together. Mr. LeBrun had encouraged his group to pick up sticks (to be made into walking canes later) and stones (for science classes). Little did they realize that they would be returning to a bahnhof filled with police and students holding a protest demonstration. Imagine the reaction of the police when they saw a bunch of students getting off a train with sticks and stones! Fortunately, Mr. LeBrun was able to keep the students close by his side and we were able to convince the police that they were not part of the riot scene but merely American youngsters returning from a nature walk in the forest.
In closing, I want to say that our outstanding Host Nation Program at Wiesbaden from 1975-1981 would not have been possible without the full backing of our Principal, Mr. Paul LeBrun. He not only provided the encouragement for this program but also made the necessary resources available. I think his personal participation as a group sponsor did much to convince all that he was willing to practice what he was preaching. I want to express my deepest thanks to him.