Smalls, Deirde: Erlangen Elementary: 1969-1972

It was October of 1969 when we arrived in Erlangen Germany and I was in the middle of my 3rd Grade year. If memory serves me correctly, Erlangen elementary was located outside of the back gate of Ferris Barracks. I remember the bus going through the Post gates from the housing area and out the back gate to arrive at school. The school was an old, white one-story structure with lots of windows in the classrooms. The scenery would sometimes prove to be a welcomed distraction at times.

There was a Weeping Willow tree right outside of the 3rd grade class window. I remember this tree so vividly because we were asked to draw it one day in class. I remember just staring at the tree for a long time and then trying to get every detail perfect. I don’t know why I was so mesmerized by that tree but to this day, the Weeping Willow is my favorite tree! The building was small and the playground was very “sparse” in comparison to The Alamo Elementary School (SF California – Presidio), which we attended before our Dad received orders for Erlangen. There was no cafeteria/lunchroom and those of us who lived in Erlangen took the bus home for lunch. There were other kids from the surrounding areas that were occasionally invited home with us locals or ate packed lunches in the classrooms. There was a small library near the front office. As a child, the building looked long but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as long of a building as I thought.

I remember that my 3rd grade teacher was Miss Archer. She was a “pretty” Phyliss Diller looking lady. She had the big, blonde bouffant hairdo and was a very pretty and petite lady. I remember having Mrs. Mitchell in either 4th or 5th. I believe 5th because I recall her as being the teacher that taught “Sex Education” and I know that was my 5th grade year. She was older than Miss Archer but still very nice. I can’t remember my 4th grade teacher right now but I’m sure it will come to me in the middle of the night some time! My 6th grade year was Mr. Jones and that was the year we moved back to the states. He probably goes down in history as one of my “most favorite teachers.” Before there were labels, and while my innocence was still intact, I just knew that Mr. Jones was a “nicer man” than other men in my circle. I also remember the first African-American teacher that came to Erlangen Elementary. Maybe it’s her name that eludes my memory for 4th grade now that I think about it?? She arrived in the middle of the year. I do remember seeing her for the first time and thinking how cool and interesting it was to see an African American teaching. I believe the other teacher, whose name I can’t remember either, was out on maternity leave or something. I also remember wondering where she got her green stockings from because I didn’t know stockings came in different colors! 🤔😅.

Our field trips to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg were fun and it was exciting to have your own “marks” to spend! The MOST memorable field trip was to the Dachau Concentration Camp. It was (literally) an “experience of a lifetime!” I have never, not even 50 years later, been able to shake the feeling I was left with at seeing the ovens and hearing the history of what took place in the Concentration Camps. I remember wondering what would happen if we were suddenly locked in and the relief I felt when we were finally outside again! I also recall class pictures being taken in the back of the school, near my Weeping Willow tree!

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