Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Kubasaki High, Okinawa: 1975-1977

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…)

Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Pacific Middle School, Okinawa: 1972-1975

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…)

Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Ansbach Jr. High, Germany: 1970 – 1971

Photo of Ansbach Jr. HighWhen I arrived for the first time in Europe, vaguely retaining some high school German, I felt much relief to be passed along to my destination by veteran DoDDS teachers through their amazing relay system. A fellow teacher met my plane at Rhein-Main AFB and registered me at the military lodge. The next morning, another teacher delivered me to the Frankfurt Main Train Station with instructions to get off the train when it stopped at noon, for that would be Nürnberg. Someone from the Nürnberg faculty settled me, jet-lagged, into the American Hotel across the street for the weekend, and on the following Monday, he sent me by train on the last leg of the trip to Ansbach.

My first impression of the Ansbach Junior High was that it looked like a Girl Scout cabin in the woods. “L-shaped,” all the rooms opened to an outside covered walkway while the library and principal’s office was in the corner. We were a small faculty—I can only recall five or six of us—because we only taught grades 7-9, each our own department head.  (more…)

Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada: 1969 – 1970

In an “ice-olated” location like the Strategic Air Command (SAC) base at Goose Bay, Labrador, the arrival of a planeload of new teachers was a Big Occasion. The airport lobby was packed with parents, children, and a few single Air Force officers looking over the mostly single women hired by DoDDS. Our appointed sponsors waved signs with our names and greetings of welcome.

By evening, we were unpacking in the single rooms assigned to us in two long green barracks and getting acquainted like the college freshmen we had once  been. The Officers’ Club where we would take most of our meals was a short walk across the street. But we rode buses to and from the high school, even before the snow began to fall—180 inches worth that winter.  (more…)

Burdette-Dragoo, Anita: Inçirlik AFB, Adana: 1971-72

When I arrived at Inçirlik AFB in 1971, the elementary students met in a regular school building, but the junior high, which consisted of grade 7-8-9, met in about a dozen quonset huts on the periphery of a large grassy field, while grades 10-11-12 students boarded at Karamursal near Istanbul, returning to their parents at holidays. 

Those quonsets were primitive compared to DoDDS school quonsets elsewhere, such as Pacific Middle in Okinawa. The curvature of the building began at ground level, so we lost considerable stand-up space around the outer walls. Many of the floor tiles were cracked so I pulled grass from time to time and I would hear the scurry of mice when I opened the door in the morning.  The quonsets were heated with coal oil furnaces which we teachers lit on chilly days, igniting a wad of paper jabbed onto a wire coat hanger with a match, then inserting it into the furnace. 

There were no bells, so all teachers were supposed to synchronize watches with the office clock each morning when we signed in. That could have worked, if only people had resisted the temptation to dismiss an unruly class early. Let one group of students loose outside their building, and teachers around the campus had difficulty finishing any lesson underway. 

I recall very few disciplinary problems that year. Fathers had discovered an effective method of punishment for poor grades or misbehavior. During the early 1970’s, the Beatles had popularized longer hairstyles for civilian men and boys. Nevertheless, the military still required short cuts around the ears and neckline, and for the most part, DoDDS schools maintained a dress code that conformed to military standards forbidding the wearing of hats inside buildings. I recall the first time an eighth grade boy begged me to let him wear his knit cap during class because his father had given him a military haircut for having poor grades. Well, I had to uphold the school dress code, of course. It didn’t take long for the boys to make behavior choices to avoid their dads’ punishment.

Inçirlik in southeastern Turkey was isolated not only geographically from large cities, but the Americans were isolated culturally, religiously, and linguistically from the surrounding Turkish communities. This resulted in close bonding within the base itself.

Parent sponsors welcomed incoming teachers to stay with them until the teachers, who were required to live in Adana, could find an apartment. Many continued to socialize throughout the year but few of us developed relationships with the Turkish population. 

In our search for a place to live, the Housing Office ran bus tours with realtors as guides to view available apartments. At the end of the day, we indicated our choices and were helped to negotiate a contract. When our household goods were delivered, we were instructed to make an inventory, or beyaname, of everything we owned. No furniture or appliances could be sold to Turkish buyers, so even if it broke or quit working, we had to keep it until we PCS’d out of the country, for our exit beyaname had to match our entry one. 

I chose a new apartment on the fourth floor of a building near the soccer stadium. There was no elevator and often no hot water. To this day, I remember the phrase “Yok sijak su,” but the building manager always shrugged his shoulders implying “what can I do about it?”   

The base chaplains organized dozens of bus outings to Goreme, Cappadocia, Castle by the Sea and its beach, Ephesus, the Roman ruins at Anavarsas, and Crusader castle ruins. On lengthy holidays, many of us traveled to Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Greece, or Cyprus. Space available travel was possible to Ethiopia, but planes had to leave at strange hours so they could arrive in Addis Ababa during daylight for there were no runway lights. Air Force pilots flew often to Iran, still ruled by the Shah, and were willing to bring back rock lamps, globes made of multi-colored broken glass. They would also bring back Greek flokati rugs as long as they landed at military airports and didn’t have to register them on beyanames. Women never went into Adana unaccompanied because men would follow us muttering under their breath, but we managed to shop for carpets, handmade, solid wood furniture with marble inlay, and antique copper or brass items with guys from the base along as chaperones.  

My year in Turkey remains as one of my most memorable with DoDDS. I think some of us felt a lot of anxiety in that culture. We were given many warnings:  smuggling or selling American goods to Turks could result in prison as could drug use; travelers had been accosted in the countryside when they had auto accidents and threatened with violence, some children would throw rocks at us when we took photos, a mob of school boys followed me and a friend as we explored a castle ruin, then beat on my car and broke off my rearview mirror when we didn’t give them a tip. 

Still, I’m glad I had the experience for it has given me a deeper understanding of current political events in the Middle East.  

Weihe, Dorothy C: 1955 – 1979

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.
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Meinke, Erna: 1950 – 1977

MY FIRST TEN YEARS: GERMANY

It has been a great experience, my twenty-seven years with the DOD Schools overseas. My only regret is that I didn’t get into the program sooner. Teaching is teaching wherever one is but this was also an adventure. I applied for an overseas teaching position while I was teaching in Seattle, Washington. I was accepted and left for Germany in August, 1950.

My first assignment was in Bad Wildungen as a first and second grade teacher. Subsequent assignments in Germany were Hochest am Main and Wiesbaden. I spent two years at each location before I was finally given an assignment in Sevilla, Spain. (more…)

Carr, Mary E.: 1952 – 1978

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…)

Cabana, Jewel: 1956 – 1974

My U.S. Federal Government Civil Service Career with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools began September 1941, when I was a young girl. I was hired and traveled from Ohio to Washington, D.C. to work for the Navy Department. Soon after World War II ended, I transferred in 1946 to the Island of Guam in the Pacific where I continued working for the Navy Department for 10 years.

In April 1956 I transferred back to Washington D.C. with the U.S. Air Force Overseas Dependents Schools Office where I began recruiting, selecting, and assigning school teachers to teach the children of our military serving at overseas military bases located around the world. Sometime later, the recruitment of schoolteachers for all branches of the military, the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and others, all merged their recruitment offices, and became known as Department of Defense Dependents Schools System. (more…)

Larner, Thomas M.: 1954 – 1990

I retired in 1990, but I frequently visit the Oslo American School. OAS will terminate this June as NATO is moving mostly to England and a smaller group will move to Stavanger. There will be a farewell dinner 27 May and I will give a speech, being the oldest long time teacher of over 37 years.

OAS was started up in the fall of 1954. Before that it was privately run by the Embassy. I was a substitute teacher in 1953 while attending the Oslo University and was offered a job in 1954. Two rooms in a hotel and a private home a mile away from the hotel was the best the Embassy could obtain. When the military took over, a former German barracks in Smestad was made available and there was just enough room for eight grades. (more…)

Bruehl, Giulia: 1948 – 1981

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. (more…)

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