My mom was apparently willing to take a chance in order to travel. Growing up in Detroit, she chose to go to college (history major) in upstate NY, and when she returned she got her Masters in special education from the University of Michigan, with an emphasis on the elementary level. After teaching in Detroit, she applied to become a DoD teacher. In 1954, her first assignment was Camp McGill Dependent School in Japan. (more…)
When I transferred from Pacific Middle to Kubasaki High in 1975, I had to adjust to teaching juniors and seniors after six years teaching young teens, grades 7 to 9. It was a refreshing change to work with near adults requiring less constant supervision and guidance.
Junior and Senior English involved composition writing and study of literature. Each Wednesday, the entire English department observed Sustained Silent Reading for the entire period. Students could bring any book or magazine of their choice and most not only made good choices but honestly appreciated the time for uninterrupted reading. The philosophy was that reading enhanced spelling and grammar skills as well as reasoning skills. (more…)
Just three months before I arrived in Okinawa, the American Occupation officially ended and the island government reverted to Japanese control. Instead of dollars, people used yen. Americans lived under Japanese law, signing rental contracts that conformed to Japanese custom and registering our cars paying the Japanese a tax and using Japanese license plates. We did, however, have special privileges under the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) regarding importing of American products to the exchanges and commissaries, and nearly another 20 years would pass before the switch was made from driving on the right to the left side of the road in accord with mainland Japan.
When I reported to teach in 1972, Pacific Middle School was in the initial transition phase from a junior high to a middle school under the leadership of Principal Don Taylor and Vice-Principal Dorothy Weihe. Faculty members planned units of study together, combining, for example, history study with English composition and literature. (more…)
Growing up in Japan
My memories of Japan start on May 1, 1958 when our ship pulled into the port of Yokohama and seeing all these red flags waving and signs that said “Go home Yankees” . I ask me dad about it and he told me that some of the Japanese didn’t like Americans but I didn’t need to worry about it, but as a seven year old that made me wonder if we should go back to Kansas the next day on another ship.
The place we would call home for the next 4 years was Tachikawa Air Base which was about 18 miles from Tokyo and we made the trip that first day in a very small taxi which took over 2 hours. I remember my mother was very worried that we would all be killed on the way because of all the traffic and so many people on bicycles on the road, but we made it. (more…)
TACHIKAWA, JAPAN, 1947-1948
On a cold, gray, rainy day mid October of 1947, four travel-weary teachers from California arrived at Tachikawa Army Air Base where the 317th Troop Carrier Group was stationed.
After two weeks on a stormy voyage from Fort Mason, San Francisco, to Yokohama aboard the troop transport, M.M. Patrick, and processing at 5th Amy Air Force Headquarters in Nagoya, we were ready and eager to assume our teaching positions as the last group of teachers to be assigned there. At the time of our arrival on the base, the School Board was in session. The presiding officer of the School Board had given orders for us to be brought to the meeting as soon as our suitcases had been deposited at our living quarters, which were in a Quonset hut. (more…)
In July of 1954, 150 American schoolteachers left Seattle on board the Navy transport, General William E. Mitchell, destination and assignment unknown. The teachers knew only that they had been assigned to the Far East Command, which included the four main islands of Japan and the island of Okinawa. Previous to their departure, these teachers had been interviewed at leading universities throughout the country, screened and selected as representatives of the American Government to a foreign land.
Their departure followed three days of indoctrination in Seattle, during which time they were given opportunity to turn back as they were reminded that they were going to a land of former enemies where human life is very cheap and nature often chaotic. (more…)
Len Sylvanus McCartney
Superintendent and Principal, Yokohama American Dependent Schools
by: Col. William F. Wollenberg, U.S. Army (Retired)
LOREN SYLVANUS MCCARTNEY
Lieutenant Colonel Loren Sylvanus McCartney, U.S. Army, Retired, was the first Superintendent of the Yokohama American Dependent Schools and the first Principal of Yokohama American High School. (more…)
Narimasu (Grant Heights) High School, Japan 1952-1954
Heidelberg American High School, Germany 1954-1958
After teaching in Iowa for eight years, I applied for a music position with the Army School for Dependent’s children, hoping that I would be assigned in Europe. After filling out many forms, I finally had a personal interview in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where approximately 25 other music teachers were interviewed that same day. The interview went extremely well and I was pleased with it, but didn’t expect to get accepted. However, on May 5, 1952 I received a letter stating that I had been accepted … but for Japan. I knew so little about Japan, only three words: Mt. Fuji, geisha, Ginza. This was not the time for me to say no” to learn more about another part of our world so I sent a telegram saying that I accepted the position … somewhere in Japan. (One was never given a final assignment until you were actually in the country). (more…)
COACH AT YAMATO HIGH SCHOOL
In August 1964, I landed at Tachikawa Air Base in Japan. Meeting the plane was Joe Blackstead, Superintendent of Schools. It was then that I learned that I was assigned to Yamato High School. I was told by Principal Olan Knight that I would be teaching social studies, physical education and coaching football, basketball and baseball. This was the year of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The USA basketball team needed a gym in which to hold secret workouts. Coach Iba picked our gym at Tachikawa for these workouts. I volunteered my services to Coach Iba and I was asked to run the shooting charts during the Games. Some of the players on the team were Bill Bradley, Walt Hazzard, Mel Counts and Larry Brown. (more…)
Gathering thoughts for a trip down memory lane that occurred 44 years ago was an experience in itself. My mind was flooded with flashes of people, places and events. I realized my interpretation of these thoughts had been tempered by the passage of time and my own maturation process. The greatest revelation was the role that the years 1950 – 1952 played on the rest of my life.
Becoming a Department of the Army civilian or DAC, all began one foggy February morning in 1950. Arriving at school, my Principal greeted me saying she wanted me to be sure and read what she had just posted on the bulletin board. It was a very official looking letter from the Department of the Army (DOA) announcing the recruitment of teachers for the Overseas Dependent Schools. (more…)
Upon arrival in Japan for my first assignment in 1956, I and others were met by the Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Ed Pino. He inquired how we had enjoyed our thirty-six hour flight from San Francisco. I mention this because we flew in a four-engine prop plane, unlike the jets to be taken on flights to the U.S. just two years later.
We were taken to a Japanese restaurant where we consumed copious amounts of butterfly shrimp amongst other delicacies. It was a very tasty introduction to Japanese cuisine.
I arrived in Japan in Sept. 1953 by MATS ship, having courses in survival Japanese as we crossed. Not knowing whether we would be assigned to Florida weather or Alaska weather, it was hard to be prepared. Immediately I was put on a train that night for Misawa AF Base. Culture shock lasted for quite awhile as I wasn’t prepared to be tucked into a sleeping compartment on the train while the Japanese men undressed down to their BVDs in the aisle.
After getting almost settled at our base, several new acquaintances and I took off for Hokkaido to take advantage of the Labor Day weekend not realizing that no meals were served on trains and that 2nd class accommodations on the steamer meant sleeping on a raised tatami mat covered bed” with 100 Japanese tourists. (more…)
August 17,1955 was my date to leave for DEG schools in France. I was certain that I would find my assignment to be one of the isolated one or two-teacher schools that Charlie Tinder repeatedly mentioned while he interviewed me at the University of Minnesota. After our flight, via Flying Tigers to Paris, I was pleasantly surprised to be assigned to Verdun, France. Four of us that met at the Litre Hotel, were to leave by train the next morning. They were Margaret O’Hare, Marion Sather, Marian Carmody and myself. Also on the same train were Robert Miller and another fellow whose name I’ve forgotten. He was transferred out of Verdun early in the year.
I was with the DOD schools only one year of this first ten year period I had been teaching at a Methodist Mission School in Palembung, Indonesia so I hadn’t even heard about the military overseas schools until I came home to Fairfax, Virginia in 1953. If I hadn’t made this trip to Indonesia I would most likely never have had the nerve to go to all the strange places that came later.
I think I was quite timid about doing anything on my own at that time but Indonesia changed all that! This was brought about when friends of mine were going to Indonesia to start a business. They asked me if I would like to go with them and teach there. They always declared that my answer was “Sure, where is it!”. I think they may have figured they might need me to teach their kids too. Their eight year old had been in my first grade class in Fairfax. (more…)