Lee, Carmelita (Caballero): Orleans, France: 1959-1962

I was a student at the high school (both Maison Fort and Foret D’Orleans) in Orleans, France during my father’s Army service. We arrived when I was in the 6th grade in 1959, and stayed until May of 1962. Honestly, they were the best years of my life as far as being in an enchanted place, and loving the country where we were stationed.

I do remember that they provided us a “teen club” at the Maison Fort school that was opened on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons and evenings. You could listen to music, dance, have birthday parties, and you could buy cokes, popcorn and candy there, and I think I remember they served hotdogs as well. The other school didn’t have that, but there was a teen club that operated on essentially the same hours, and having all the same provisions, et cetera, at the Coligny Casern. I realize that has little to do with your article, but it’s something I remember. I remember that they also provided full-service cafeterias for our meals with some great variety. I had a very strict father, but when my parents went to the movies at Harbord Barracks, they would drop me off and let me see my friends there, and then pick me up with the movies were over.

The thing I look back on, from being an Army brat with experience in schools all over the world, was how diligently the school system tried to provide us with as many of the experiences as they could that we would have normally experienced in a State-side school; i.e., the ability to be in a choir, present concerts and plays, all the clubs normal schools in the states had, Future Teachers clubs, science, chess clubs. We (or at least I) never felt deprived of anything. The school also hosted the normal dances, football, basketball, homecoming, prom, everything. The only wonderful difference was that we also got to take field trips to castles and fabulous places like Paris, explore downtown Orleans, we could picnic beside the Loire with our classes.

Because of the extraordinary experience of living in France, I chose a career path that would allow me to travel the world also, and I took my children with me so that they could experience the different cultures, foods, languages and beauty to be found elsewhere. All served to enrich our appreciation of our own culture, but I think it also gave us a more “world view” as to how Americans are seen and perceived. One cannot help but see what others think of us as we travel. It helped me to be adventuresome; it helped me be an observer more and a user less. It helped me to relate to just about everyone, how to be friendly to strangers, helpful even.

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