Van Wert, Grace, : Germany: 1946 – 1947

I was hired by Richard Meyering on July 23, 1946, as an instructor with the Dependents Schools in the European Theater. I was very excited about going to a foreign country to teach.

Eight Michigan teachers left Ann Arbor together for New York City on September 10, 1946. They were Donna Baker, Pearl Baxter, Philemena Falls, Alta Fisher, Constance Morrison, Roberta Snyder, Grace Van Wert and Kathryn Wilkenson. We were scheduled to travel on the General Alexander (I believe that was the name) but it hit a mine on its trip from Germany to New York so we were delayed in New York for ten days until September 20 when we left on the General Richardson.

It took us nine days to reach Bremerhaven. We left Bremerhaven the evening of September 30 for Frankfurt, the headquarters of the Dependents Schools. Later in the year the headquarters was move to Heidelberg. We sat on slat seats all night on our train trip from Bremerhaven to Frankfurt so we didn’t get much sleep. We arrived in Frankfurt October 1, 1945, very hungry, tired and dirty, but happy. Richard Meyering met us at the depot and took us to a hotel, the Excelsior.

Our first teacher’s meeting was on October 2 when we heard speeches by Colonel Murphy and Major Walker. On October 3 we traveled to Bad Homburg where we had meetings until October 8 when we were given our assignments. We did some sightseeing around the area of Bad Homburg and had a ride on Hitler’s yacht, which the Army had taken for its use. While at Bad Homburg we were saddened by the death of Gladys Jones Beerbaum who was hit and killed by a Red Cross bus as she and her husband were walking along the road.

Many of our school assignments were for one and two-room schools because so few families had arrived from the United States. My assignment was the Fritzlar Air Base, which was about one hundred miles north of Frankfurt and twenty-five miles south of Kassel in the state of Hesse. Because Fritzlar was so badly bombed, the American families lived in Bad Wildungen, a town of about six thousand people which was just a few miles from Fritzlar so the school was located there. My building was one of Hitler’s trade schools. I let my custodian and his wife live in one end of it as he had no home.

After having the floors scrubbed, getting some Army tables and chairs lowered by cutting off a few inches of the legs and unpacking books, I opened the school on October 17,1946. I had called on the parents previously. In fact they came over and helped unpack books.

My first four pupils were:

Jo Nell Roundtree = grade 2

Elaine Evans = grade 3

Clifford Wilson = grade 4

Dorothy Wilson = grade 6

On November 5 Major and Mrs. Williams of Frankenburg entered their two children:

Eleanor Williams = grade 6

Dean Williams = grade 2

The Williams children’s parents lived twenty-one miles from school.

On November 13 two children from Texas entered. They were:

Thomas Mansfield

Hazel Mansfield

The American Red Cross moved its headquarters to Bad Wildungen the last of November in 1946. I enjoyed the Red Cross personnel as many of them lived in the same hotel as I did. The daughter of one of the Red Cross workers entered school on December 6.

Faison Gordon = grade 5

I received six new children after Christmas on January 7,1947:

Sharon House= 1st grade

Catherine Nethery =1st grade

Jeanette Reinke = 4th grade

Mary Jane Nethery = 5th grade

Fay O’Neil = 4th grade

Paul Reinke = 7th grade

Two more children enrolled January 27,1947:

Richard Wills = 1st grade

Philip Marshall = 2nd grade

Date?

Vita Hardin = 4th grade

Bad Wildungen was a lovely place to teach. The mountains were so beautiful, especially in the fall when the trees were so beautiful.

I had lovely children and really enjoyed their parents who were so cooperative and helpful. Even though the school was not in the country it was like our country schools of the past with children in grades one through seven.

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The wonderful teacher, Grace Van Wert, submitted this detailed report of her teaching experiences in Germany during the school year, 1946-1947. (Comments by L. Hansen)

Copyright 2004 American Overseas Schools Historical Society