Before we left for Giessen to meet dad, I recall mom taking our car to be shipped to Germany – our 1962 white Chevrolet station wagon which we would learn would be huge compared to German cars. We traveled a lot in that station wagon sightseeing and camping around Europe. We truly got to see so much, so much more than if we grew up in one place.
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When it was time to meet dad in Germany, mom’s cousin Daniel and his family brought us to the airport in Lafayette. Every time I go to that airport, I think of the time we left from there to go to Germany. I can still feel the aura I felt when I stepped out of the airplane door in Frankfurt, Germany and the sky was dark and gloomy. Perhaps the aura I felt was due to our travel to there, perhaps it was the due to me as a little girl being scared being in a totally new place. And we had to go through the processing in when we got to Germany, something I don’t remember experiencing before.
We first lived in a basement apartment in Giessen until we got temporary housing in the Marshall Housing Area at the Army post. Coal was used to heat the apartment and I remember going to the coal yard for us to get coal. We were in the basement apartment for about two months when we got temporary housing which was on the 4th floor and it had eight bedrooms! Glenn told me recently when moved from the basement apartment to the temporary housing on Halloween. The temporary housing was formerly the maids’ quarters. We later moved to permanent housing on the 2nd floor with three bedrooms. Glenn and I like other kids loved sliding down the bannisters – from 4th floor to the 1st floor!
In the housing there were two, three- and four-bedroom apartments. All apartments looked the same and the military issued furniture was all the same which left little for creative regarding decor. Mom was a neat person and were minimalistic for the most part. I am a lot like mom in that regard.
Glenn and I read a lot of comic books and soon learned other children went from door to door to trade comic books. Once we finished reading our comic books we would trade with other children. We had so many children to play with, we sledded, played marbles, played on the playground and went to the Saturday matinee at the theater almost every Saturday.
We visited many castles, towns, restaurants either on day trips or for vacations. There was an American park with a swimming pool. We went there often during the summers for BBQ and swimming. The post exchange (PX) and commissary (grocery store) and movie theatre were within walking distance. Glenn and I would usually go to the Saturday Matinee, our first being for the Beatles “Hard Days Night”.
Our Christmas presents along with much of our clothes were ordered from the Sears catalog. We would get candles that dripped different colors down the side of the empty wine bottles we used to hold the candles. Mom taught us how to make Christmas trees from catalogs, then we spray painted the trees for decorations. We baked cookies at Christmas including making the spritz cookies.
Mom would make cream puffs often but instead of using vanilla pudding would use chocolate pudding – yum! She would often make the cooked chocolate pudding and pour it hot over vanilla wafers – it was delicious. I thought everyone made that dessert but have learned many people has never heard of it.
We listened the radio (no American television), played outside every chance we got. When mothers came from grocery shopping Glenn and I were among the other children asking if they needed help getting their groceries out. Most families shopped once a month when payday came so there were usually a lot of groceries to bring in for them. And we all of course would get a dime for our help.
Mom and dad’s friends Bob and Elaine from Fort Chaffee were also in Giessen. Elaine was on our airplane flight to Germany. We visited often and Elaine showed me how to crochet, which I still love to do. When it was time for Bob and Elaine to leave, we took them to the airport in Frankfurt. We brought many families to the airport in Frankfurt when they left Germany. After both Bob and dad retired, they visited each other a few times.
Bob entertained Glenn and I with the invisible ball trick. He would reach into a small paper bag to pull out an invisible ball, throw it into the air, then catch it in the bag in which we heard a thump sound. Being young children, we were amazed. It wasn’t until we were older, we realized Bob and snapped his fingers on the bag which made the thump sound. It seemed silly we hadn’t realized he made the sound.
Dehart and Ingrid, who are German, became friends of mom and dad and they liked to do things with Glenn and me. They had a 3-wheel car and took us swimming. Glenn and I had to take turns sitting on the floorboard as there was barely room for three on the seat, but neither of us minded. It was nice having someone to pay attention to us. Dehart and Ingrid were always nice to us and I admired Ingrid’s beauty. I found an old post card Ingrid had sent us when she visited Italy. She signed only her first name. If I knew her last name, I would try to look her up online with the hopes she is still alive and remembers me.
Dad took me to my first day of school for 1st grade in Giessen. It wasn’t until about a week later the class he brought me to was 2nd grade class, so I had to move to the 1st grade class. My teacher’s name was Miss Curran and if you didn’t behave, she would dig her fingernails into your shoulder. She did it once to me and never had to do it again. Aside from her doing that, I like her and school.
A boy from my class, Richard who had blonde hair had a crush on me and asked me to be his Valentine. He came to go to our apartment to meet me so we could walk to school together on Valentine’s day. First grade with a crush, I felt special!
My first-grade class was in a metal building behind the chapel which was in Marshall Housing area. Next to school and the chapel was Chapel Hill. Glenn and I both had snow sleds and we learned to maneuver our sleds in various ways. It was so much fun and so many of the children in our housing area were sledding. It is one of my greatest joys and memories as a child.
My second-grade teacher’s name was Miss Droweski (she said we could call her Miss D). My class was in a metal building by the Junior High. Miss D was tough, and I don’t recall her giving anyone any slack. My third-grade class was in the main elementary school and my teacher was Joan Lawson. I loved her. One of the things I remember Miss Lawson asking us whether we would rather have dessert first, then our food. We all choose dessert. She then asked wouldn’t it be better if the last taste in our mouth would be the dessert? We all agreed, then she said it was the same as with homework. Best to do our homework first so we could then enjoy playing without the dread of doing homework afterwards. This was something I always remembered when deciding what to eat/do first.
While living in Giessen, mom and dad took advantage of all the many places to see. We would often take drives on Sundays to new places when we were not at the NCO (non commissioned officers) club playing Bingo or going to the movies. The area was stunning and beautiful! Many castles to see and we visited many of them. We also went to Bavaria where the Black Forest is and to Chiemsee. King Ludwig II had Herrenchiemsee which is a castle on an island within Lake Chiemsee. We also went to the park where there was a swimming pool. We got to swim and had BBQs.
Mom and dad became antique clock collectors while we lived in Giessen. A big grandfather clock which is now at my house along with one wall clock, a small grandfather clock and many wall clocks. They kept the grandfather clocks, a wall clock for them and one for each of their four children, gave one to their parents and siblings and sold the rest of the clocks.
While touring areas of Germany, we often camped with tents at campgrounds. We often had Vienna or Polish sausage for snacking. Occasionally we stayed at guesthouses which had feather beds. Dad bought each of us a wool German Fedora with a feather pin on it. Each place we went, he would buy a pin from that place to pin on our hats. We also each got a pair of German Lederhosen and since I was the only girl at the time also got a German Bavarian style dress. My grandchildren Jack and Maeve now have these things from my childhood and hopefully will pass on to their children.
After being in Giessen several years, I began to miss home, especially my grandparents. I missed them terribly. I longed to be back home – back home where my grandparents were, with other family was around. We had no family to turn to in Giessen. And back in the 1960s, there was none of the current technology today that would allow us to communicate more with family back home except for an occasional overseas call and letter writing.
Several months before we left Giessen a couple with five children moved in on the floor below us. Ironically, Josie was from Opelousas – how ironic! She and mom had a lot to talk about, especially since they knew many of the same people. Years later Josie’s brother became a judge in Opelousas.
We left Giessen two months shy of the end of my third grade and went back home to Opelousas while dad went for his 3rd tour in Korea. We flew into Mcguire Air Force Base in New Jersey and made the long drive home to Opelousas.