A Memorial of John Sigler Robertson: 1954 – 1964
By: John F. Robertson – Son
John Sigler Robertson, GS-9, entered Federal Civil Service in 1954. He began his initial employment as Procurement Officer for HQ US Army Europe at Campbell Barracks, Heidelberg, Germany, from October 1954 to June 1956.
In 1956 the unit was slated to move to France. John arranged a lateral transfer in 1956 from the Department of the Army to the Department of the Air Force, HQ US Air Force Europe, USAFE Dependent Schools, Lindsay Air Station, and Wiesbaden, Germany. He was initially employed as Statistical Analyst working for Mr. Arthur Strommen. Continue reading
What a wonderful experience! To teach and live in Europe! To meet people from all over the United States and Europe with various backgrounds and cultures. Teaching overseas is something that has truly enriched my life. I enjoyed every moment.
My journey began on August 15, 1955. I left Los Angeles with a group of teachers by train and arrived in New York. We flew from New York to Frankfurt, Germany with a Flying Tigers transport. Many teachers were arriving in Frankfurt from many parts of the United States. Everyone was excited about where they would be teaching in Germany. As soon as each person had their assignment they were seeking others who might be going to the same school. I heard names like Kaiserslautern, and Nürnberg, but no one was going to Schwabisch Hall. I thought to myself, Where am I going?” and “How do I pronounce the name of this place?” Everyone found someone that would be in their school. I found no one! Continue reading
I had graduated from San Diego State College and taught elementary school for four years (in California and New York), when I signed with the US Army in 1948 to teach the children of dependents in Germany. I was 24 years old.
It all started with an article in the New York Times. I filled out an application, was interviewed, took a physical and was hired. My salary was $4, 659 a year, which was more than I was making teaching in Great Neck. The Army said there would be 200 American teachers in Germany in 1948. Everyone was hired for just one year.
We sailed in the rain August 3, 1948 from the Brooklyn Naval Yard in an old hospital ship, USAT Zebulon B. Vance. We were told the ship had its bottom filled with cement so it would be steady when it carried wounded soldiers. And it was steady … steady and SLOW. New York to Bremerhaven, Germany, took us 15 days. The Queen Mary passed us three times! Going, coming and going again. But of course, we were in no hurry, having a wonderful time aboard ship and enjoying every day. Our accommodations were bunk beds, maybe three tiers high, in an enormous room. We had one big communal bathroom with a long row of showers. Continue reading
The period of 1954 through 1956 will only include two years of my sojourn with the Dependent School system, and will only include Air Force Schools.
In 1953, I was Supt. of Schools in Rockford, Washington and my High School Principal, Ray Reistad, had applied for a position with the Air Force Dependents Schools in Europe, and had received notice to appear for interview with Mr. Robinson (to be referred to as Robie from here on). A position with the Dependent School System sounded good to me, and I asked Ray about the possibility of my also getting an interview with Robie. Ray and I found a telephone number on the application form and called. I was also given permission to come for an interview. We talked with Robie and later received notification that both of our names had been put on an alternate list. Continue reading
Reminiscences of my first year teaching with the dependent schools was in, 1955 and 1956 in Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany, a former capital city, rich in history, culture and location. It was a wonderful background setting for me to teach a combination of grades two and three.
My sister Nancy was assigned to teach grade one. Six grades were taught in a former shoe factory by a faculty that represented several States, as did the military personnel. The relationship and cooperation of the military families was great for a successful academic year.
Besides teaching, I studied German to add to my list of languages which I used in singing lessons. I gave a fine recital in one of the oldest Stathalle’s of the city that spring. Continue reading
Life begins at 40″ was not the lure which prompted me to ask the St. Louis Board of Education for a “Leave of Absence” in mid-term from my top-pay position as a 19-year-veteran earning $5000.00 yearly. Rather it inspired me to attempt a whole new way of life when the death of my mother severed filial ties, even though it meant nearly a $1,000.00 cut in salary. (I figured transportation and lodging, less income tax would make up the difference.)
Having decided to go, I had to research, “Where is Tripoli?” since all I knew was the song, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli” and the library didn’t yield much more information! I received instructions to bring “lots of formals and swim clothes,” which meant a frenetic shopping spree in mid-winter since it was January when I received confirmation of my acceptance. Continue reading
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.
The USA team defeated the Russians in the Championship game in Tokyo 73 to 59. This was the sports highlight of my 25-year career in DODDS.
However, this was not my first visit to Tachikawa Air Base. In December 1945, I landed at Tachikawa in a B-25. When World War II ended, I was stationed at Buckner Bay in Okinawa. I had gone through the Battle of Okinawa as a Navy Mo.M. 3/c. After landing, I needed a ride to Tokyo to meet a friend. So I caught a train at the Tachi train station for U.S. military personnel only. However, I made sure no Japanese civilians got in back of me at the train station. I had gone through too many Kamikaze attacks and had been shot at too many times at the Okinawa Battle. I just didn’t trust our former enemy. Tokyo, I found to be devastated by B-29’s. The firebombs had done their job. However, I did notice the only thing left in many of the burned homes was a safe. I never saw so many safes in my life. After a five-day leave, I returned to my base in Okinawa.
Sincerely, Joseph Steffen
P.S. I hope you can use the above for The Early Days Book” for the period 1956-1966. (Report written January 9, 1999.)
Copyright 2004 American Overseas Schools Historical Society
Memories of Elite First Decade DODDS Teachers”
When I was in college at New Mexico Highlands University, I’d hear “Far Away Places” and in my heart I knew that song contained a secret message for me. So I started pursuing my goal of “traveling in far-away places!” I think it meant Europe.
In 1954, by then a college grad and teacher in Albuquerque, I applied for a job as a DODDS teacher through Washington, D.C. from an article in the newspaper. Beautiful French Morocco, near Casablanca, was my first assignment. Aside from the washing machines in the BOQ’s and colorful Arabs everywhere I turned on base, it was very much like Albuquerque – warm weather, golden sunshine, and cactus plants. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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). Continue reading