My family arrived in Austria in January 1947 which was the middle of 10th grade for me. We were told to remember “Ya nay goveru Paruskie” (I do not speak Russian) and “Nicht verstede Deustch” (Don’t understand German) which we were to state if we were accosted by a Russian or Austrian for being American. We rode the Austrian bus to school at HQs US Forces Austria. Our forces and families were behind the Iron Curtain and the US wanted to show Austrians they were not there to conquer Austria; they were only there to prevent Russia from overtaking Austria. The 10th, 11th, 12th, students had a special bond. We had Friday night dances at someone’s house, Saturday night Dances at T-Club and Sundays movies. In the fall of 1947 and 48 we had 17 kids on a football team. Although we lost most of our games, we had a team. Basketball was better. In fact, I managed 13 points per game. At the school the eleventh and twelfth grades were in same room as were the ninth and tenth grades. One teacher taught biology and geometry to all grades.
Some of my fondest memories were:
- Seven Boy Scouts and two Scoutmasters missing the Orient Express departing Vienna at 8:00 AM then driving through the Russian Zone on route to Paris. They then stopped the train with a jeep across tracks 60 miles away from Vienna and got on. Now, that’s a unique memory. I earned my Eagle Scout even though at times I was the only scout and had to find counselors to pass my badges.
- A typical date was going to the opera instead of the movies and the memory is even better when it was a sophomore dating a junior.
- Seniors sneaking a beer or two at Leopold Castile above Vienna in the Vienna Woods.
- Seventeen freshmen, juniors and seniors with a couple of 18 year old GIs from the Special Services Office playing a 50 kid football team from Heidelberg and losing 50 to 0………Then I remember the parents canceling football for us transferring to basketball instead. It was said that the Heidelberg team had college freshman on it.
- Visiting Dachau and it’s no longer used furnaces on a basketball trip to Munich.
- Our biology class with only two students and a teacher. Our German III class had a New York teacher who gave the Regents exam to three of us, two girls and me.
- Family trips to Switzerland in the winter, to Paris, a cruise to Sicily, Malta, Egypt and Marseilles.
These are my memories of the Class of 1949, Vienna Dependents High School. I miss it all. Such fond memories!
Paul Winkel, Class of ’49, West Point Class of ‘56
Mr. Winkel is also in the book We Were Soldiers Once … And Young by Moore & Galloway. He was stationed in Heidelberg with his family from 1975 – 1980 and his son graduated from Heidelberg in 1980. Mr. Winkel served two tours in Vietnam, 1965-66 and 1968-69. He retired as an Army Colonel with 31½ years of service. June 2019. he was nominated for the Medal of Honor and will know the results of his nomination mid-2021.