Kahn, Vilma, I.: 1955 – 1956: Schwabisch Hall

What a wonderful experience! To teach and live in Europe! To meet people from all over the United States and Europe with various backgrounds and cultures. Teaching overseas is something that has truly enriched my life. I enjoyed every moment.

My journey began on August 15, 1955. I left Los Angeles with a group of teachers by train and arrived in New York. We flew from New York to Frankfurt, Germany with a Flying Tigers transport. Many teachers were arriving in Frankfurt from many parts of the United States. Everyone was excited about where they would be teaching in Germany. As soon as each person had their assignment they were seeking others who might be going to the same school. I heard names like Kaiserslautern, and N├╝rnberg, but no one was going to Schwabisch Hall. I thought to myself, Where am I going?” and “How do I pronounce the name of this place?” Everyone found someone that would be in their school. I found no one!

The next day I trained from Frankfurt to Stuttgart with two teachers that were going to another assignment. At the processing station in Stutgart I met Winifred Cotter. We were both delighted to find out someone else was going to Schwabisch Hall. We trained for about an hour passing beautiful fields being harvested. When we arrived at the train station in Schwabisch Hall we were met by the German teacher Inge Linden. That evening they would pick up another teacher by the name of Arveta Weber.

What an adventure! We were going to live in a large German house with four special service girls and a female German dentist that worked on the base. We had the attic bedrooms because all the other bedrooms were taken. The house was about two miles from the base. We all shared the expenses of a German housekeeper that cleaned and did the laundry. A staff car would pick us up each morning to take us to school on base and return us home in the afternoon.

We were a three-teacher school with a teaching Principal, Harvey Owens. What a change! My previous experiences had been in a large elementary school. What a unique experience! I taught first and second grades, Arveta taught second and third grades, Winifred Cotter taught fourth and fifth grades, and Harvey Owens taught sixth, seventh and eight grades. Inge Linden was our secretary and German teacher. She taught our classes German on a rotating basis.

Our school did not have a cafeteria, so arrangements were made with the snack bar on base for lunch. Students were able to purchase lunch tickets, and we walked them to the snack bar each day. We rotated lunch duty on a weekly basis.

A few months later we moved into an apartment on base. It was a three-bedroom apartment, fully furnished with Rosenthal china and crystal. We enjoyed being on base because we had the opportunity of flexibility in our schedules, and the use of the base facilities. We did not have an automobile, and had to have taxis to take us back and forth.

A few months later Winifred Cotter was transferred to another school, and now we were a two-teacher school with a teaching Principal. I continued with first and second grades, and Arveta Weber added fifth graders to her class. We had around sixty students in our school.

Schwabisch Hall is an old medieval town that dates back to 1156. There are cobble stone streets, and small shops. On Saturdays there are outdoor markets. It is famous for St. Michael’s Lutheran Church. Each year they produce outdoor performances on the front 50 steps of the church. The Kocher River divides the town, and there is a covered bridge. It is like stepping back to medieval times.

What made this an extra special assignment were the parents and students. The parents had a house warming for us when we moved into the apartment on base. They became our friends. They invited us to their homes for special occasions, and included us in their activities. On our last day of the school year they surprised us with a lovely party attended by the parents. Each student presented us with a gift. Arveta and I were overwhelmed. The students had kept this secret from us. This is truly what education is all about. Parents, students, and teachers working together and appreciating each other. This will always be my “special” school.

Living in Germany offered me the opportunity to travel to many different places in Europe. I was able to meet aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of my family, as my parents had emigrated from Europe.

Arveta Weber and I are still friends today. She lives in Ohio and we have visited each other over the years, and always correspond with each other. Winifred Cotter married Lt. Douglas Eye and returned to the States. We have lost touch with each other. Harvey Owens returned to the States and became a Catholic Priest in the State of Washington. He passed away about fifteen years ago. Inge Linden was killed in an automobile accident about fifteen years ago. We had a reunion with Inge’s husband, Arveta and my family in September 1989. We reminisced about our times in Germany. I still correspond with two parents from our school. The students are adults now.

Time flies, but memories are wonderful treasures.

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