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[Full family history]
Frankfurt, Germany, 1959-61
This document is about when my Mom, Dad, brother, and I were in Frankfurt,
Germany, 1959-61. It's just one part of a much larger family history
written for my children, Peter and Amy.
To me, the Army base at Frankfurt Germany
was a model for a near-ideal society, composed of people from all parts of
the country, of all races and religions and economic classes, living
together, working together, going to school together, learning about one
another, all in low-stress economic security, none too rich, none too poor;
a way of life virtually extinct today. 'Nuff said!
Cast of characters:
Mom: my mother
Dad: my father
Frank da Cruz Sr.
worked for the CIA;
Dennis: my younger brother
Dennis da Cruz
, who died in 1978;
Judy or Mommie: my ex-wife
, mother of my children;
, Judy's father.
were taken by me or my father; others were found on the Internet. If you
have photos of the area
that you think would fit, please send them to
me; if I use them, of course I'll credit them however you want.
—Frank da Cruz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Most recent update: 18 March 2021 15:06:44
Frankfurt, Germany, 1959-61
My dad's job takes us to postwar Germany for two and a half years.
We lived in US Army housing and I went to the Army high school for 9th,
10th, and 11th grades.
Frankfurt aerial views
and WWII bomb damage
(Click image strip
to see gallery)
Also see (onsite)...
- Screenshots from Berlin Express
(1948 - Frankfurt rubble + IG Farben building)
← New 9 August 2020
- Miscellaneous Frankfurt Photos
(from various sources) ← Expanded 6 August 2020
- Color photos of Frankfurt 1959-61
(by my father)
- Frankfurt Photos 1960-62 from Robert Paul
- Family history: Army 1963-66 (me in Germany again)
- Focus, the 1960-61 Frankfurt
American High School Yearbook*
Part B, 1958-59 (the Frankfurt section
← New 27 November 2020
Part B, 1959-60 (the Frankfurt section
← New 27 November 2020
- Frankfurt High
School Directory, 1959-60 (Searchable sortable table)
- Frankfurt High
School Directory, 1960-61 (Searchable sortable table)
- German beer coasters from the 1960s
- My old Frankfurt website, which I'm
gradually moving to here.
Also see (offsite)...
- Frankfurt American High
School (fhs63-66.org) Alumni Association, 1963-1966.
American High School (frankfurthigh.com), 1967-1973 alumni site.
American High School, public Facebook group
American High School, Wikipedia
- US Army in Germany 1945-1989,
a massive online archive by Walter Elkins.
AND (on Youtube)...
- The Abrams
Building and the American Experience in Frankfurt, a 30-minute video
production by the US Army V Corps with Hessischer Rundfunk on the occasion
of the withdrawal of US forces from the area in 1995. It focuses on the
Farben building (which the Army called the Abrams building) from its first
conception in the 1920s, through its construction, its role in the War, the
bombing of Frankfurt, the allied entry into Frankfurt, Germans living in the
rubble, soup lines, the Sperrgebiet (when the whole area was enclosed in
barbed wire in the late 1940s), the construction of American housing and
facilities, the Berlin Airlift, AFN Frankfurt, formation of the
Bundesrepublik in 1949, and the Cold War. The first 20 minutes are mainly
archival footage from 1930s-50s, with a little borrowing from the 1948
film, Berlin Express. The video ends
with interviews with Germans and Americans upon its closing in 1995,
Leslie Spear, who was born in Frankfurt in 1948, graduated from
Frankfurt High School in 1967, and liked it so much there that she stayed on
and worked in the Farben building until it closed in 1995; she died in
Frankfurt in 2000.
- Book: Lemza, John W, American
Military Communities in West Germany, McFarland & Company (2016).
Dewey Arthur Browder, The
Impact of the American Presence on Germans and German-American Grass
Roots Relations in Germany, 1950-1960, Louisiana State University and
Agricultural and Mechanical College PhD dissertation (1987), 274 pages.
Detailed social history of the early Occupation. In 1987 Browder was a
Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army with a German wife.
- Book: Knef, Hildegard, The
Gift Horse, McGraw-Hill (1971). Life in Nazi Germany and the early
postwar, an intense, fascinating, and unique narrative. Out of print; used
copies can be found at Amazon and EBay. It's better in the original German,
if you can read it (and find it), as Der
- Hildegard Knef,
brief biography at the DEFA Film
Library at the University of Massachusetts.
Mörder sind unter uns (the murderers are among us) with
Hildgard Knef (1946), the first postwar German film and the first "rubble
movie", shot in Soviet Zone of Berlin.
Express, Jacques Tourneur, 1948: extensive footage
of the Hauptbahnhof, the IG Farben building, and the ruins of Frankfurt.
I have a gallery of screenshots here.
Ein Tag in Frankfurt,
Lisa Kestel -- what Frankfurt is like today (nothing at all like what we
Frankfurt 1959-61 narrative
|German occupation zones
|US forces in 1959
At the beginning of 1959 (for me, the middle of 9th grade at Willamsburg
Junior High School in Arlington, VA) my
was sent to Germany and the government paid for the whole family to
go. Germany was still carved up into US, Soviet, British, and French
occupation zones, although technically the occupation ended in 1949. By the
mid-1950s, the French zone (mainly the Rheinland) existed only on paper; it
was full of American military bases, such as at Kaiserslautern where I would
be stationed as a GI just four years later, and many others including
Baumholder, Zweibrücken, Pirmasens, and Bad Kreuznach. Berlin was in the
middle of the Soviet zone which became a distinct country, the German
Democratic Republic (DDR) or "East Germany"; Berlin itself was still divided
into Soviet, American, British, and French zones. The geopolitical events
of this period lent an intensity to all of our experiences that now, 5-6
decades later, still has not faded:
(By this time I'm back in Virginia)
- 10 November 1958
As we were packing up to leave Virginia for Germany, Soviet Premier
Khrushchev gave a speech demanding that the Western powers withdraw from
West Berlin because they had violated the Potsdam agreement by rearming
West Germany and bringing it into NATO.
- 25-26 September 1959
- Camp David summit where President Eisenhower and Premier Khrushchev
de-escalated the Berlin situation.
- 1 May 1960
- The U-2 Incident, in which an American spy plane was shot down over the
Soviet Union, and which reignited US-Soviet tensions and re-escalated the
- 17 April 1961
- The Bay of Pigs Cuba invasion.
- 4 June 1961
- Vienna summit between Premier Khrushchev and the new American
president, John F. Kennedy, in which Khrushchev renewed his insistence that
Western forces leave West Berlin.
- July 1961
- President Kennedy, unwilling to abandon West Berlin, prepares for war by
calling up reserves and doubling the US military draft.
- Sunday 13 August 1961
- Stacheldratsonntag — Heavily guarded barbed wire is strung
along the East-West Berlin boundary line, which would soon become the Berlin
Wall. This marked the end of the Berlin Crisis of 1958-61 by averting World
(Now I'm in the Army, back in Germany)
- 22 October 1961
- The Checkpoint Charlie standoff in Berlin.
- 16-28 October 1962
- The Cuban Missile Crisis.
- 26 June 1963
- President Kennedy visits Berlin and says "Ich bin ein Berliner".
- 22 November 1963
- President Kennedy assassinated.
During each of these incidents, US forces (our parents and, starting in
1963, myself) were on high alert, expecting either nuclear war or a massive
armored ground invasion of West Germany at any moment.
History in Documents and Images (GHDI), German Historical Institute,
by Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, November 10, 1958 (GHDI).
- Peter J. Ortmann, Berlin
Mitte und die Welt - wie sie einmal war, ISBN 978-1-4452-6699-2 (2009),
- The Berlin
Crisis of 1961, Wikipedia (accessed 21 December 2019).
- Donald A. Carter,
Forging the Shield - The U.S. Army in Europe, 1951-1962,
Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington D.C. (2015)
541 pages, with photos.
- Memories from
Germany, American Overseas Schools
Historical Society. I particularly enjoyed
of an American teacher, Nancy Siler, who went to Germany on a troopship
The Voyage to Germany
|View from Hotel Dixie 1959
On February 9, 1959 (give or take a day or two), we drove from Arlington,
Virginia, to New York City, which I had never seen before, and stayed at the
Dixie Hotel on 42nd Street, just off Times Square, which in those days was
100% drugs and prostitutes and peepshows and pickpockets (Times
Square, not the hotel, but the hotel was pretty sleazy too). My mother was
scared to even leave the room so I didn't see much of the city; only 42nd
Street and the view from the hotel window (second photo). We were on a very
high floor and couldn't see much through the filthy windows but I remember
we had a view of the light-blue McGraw-Hill building (where I would go many
years later when I published some articles in their magazine, Data
Communications). I don't remember this part, but my brother told me
that dad took him to a movie at a sleazy Times Square theater and it was a
traumatic experience for him, creepy people grabbing at him, etc (I took
Peter — at his own insistence — to what might have been the same
theater 30 years later to see a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, Blood
Sport (his idea, not mine), and it was still just as sleazy; I'll skip
|Dixie Hotel 1959
|SS America tag
|Pier 86, 42nd Street 1959
|NYC from SS America 1959
|Promenade & deck chairs
|On the deck 1959
The next morning we drove straight to Pier 86 at the west end of
42nd Street, where the Intrepid is now. We boarded the ship, a luxury liner
in fact: the SS America (1939, christened by Eleanor Roosevelt, served as a
troop ship during WWII), occupying two first-class cabins, all expenses paid
by the CIA. Dad rented out our house while we were gone and we took the car
with us, a 1959 Studebaker Lark station wagon, which they hoisted with a
crane and lowered into the hold. I remember as we left, we passed under the
Verazzano Narrows Bridge, which was only about half built and seemed a mile
above us, the construction workers looking like ants hanging from strings;
25 years later I would run across it in the NYC Marathon.
|SS America interior
The crossing was great fun, Dennis and I ran wild all over the whole ship.
Ping-pong was a fun activity because the ship's rocking caused the table to
move under the ball. Swimming in the small indoor pool was even more
fun… Just when you dived in, the water would slosh over to the other
side of the pool and you'd land on the bare bottom and then, while you tried
to recover your senses a huge tidal wave came down on top of you. Dennis
and I shared a cabin; he got seasick and I didn't. I was always playing
tricks on him to make him feel even more seasick like in the Fred and Ginger
movie Shall We Dance.
|Bremerhaven 1959 - Was ist los???
After a week at sea we docked briefly in Cobh and in Southampton (so
technically I have been in Ireland and England even though we weren't
allowed to leave the ship), then finally in Bremerhaven on February 16th.
We waited for the car to be unloaded, then got in and started to drive
south. We had only gone a few blocks when the car stalled and couldn't be
started… And we were on train tracks! And a train was coming!!!
Seriously, we got out and pushed and saved the car and ourselves just in
time. Turned out the gas tank was full of water from condensation in the
hold. We got that fixed and then drove to Bremen where we had our first
German meal in a Gasthaus — sausages and black bread, and Fanta to
drink — then on to Frankfurt, where we were going to live for three
|Bremerhaven Feb 1959
|Frankfurt Römerplatz 1945
Germany was still a poor country, still marked by war and full of amputees;
the Wirtschaftwunder had not quite taken off yet. Most people didn't have
cars, or if they did, they were the extremely cheap postwar "microcars" like
(basically a fighter plane cockpit with a lawnmower motor over three
partially repaired in 1959
|Dennis & accordion
Huge numbers of Germans depended on the American occupiers
for their living: working as Putzfrauen (cleaning ladies), cooks,
nannies, or prostitutes; giving music lessons to American brats
(like Dennis's accordion teacher shown at right), working as B-girls in
bars, working on the base in the PX or Snack Bar, or working the black
market. Most Germans got around on bicycles or (in the country) horse-drawn
wagons. Some German amputees and cripples had self-propelled wooden
wheelchairs that had a big lever on each side; the rider pushed and pulled
the levers to power the wheels. They could go fast, I even saw them zooming
down the Autobahn.
|German accordion teacher
|Typical street 1940s
In general Germans were extremely friendly and polite. They greeted you
when you passed them in the street or when you entered a store and there was
always a lot of hand-shaking. But clearly they had mixed feelings about
Americans and about themselves too. Almost every male over 30 years old had
been a Nazi, or supported them, or went along with them, and everybody had
been involved in the war in one way or another. Few ever talked about it,
unless to say that they had been on the Russian front. Germans were
infinitely more friendly and jovial than (say) the French or Belgians or
Swiss. They loved to drink, sing, and have big festivals, they invited you
to their homes. But walk down any street, and you could imagine it
festooned with Nazi flags not so very long before. Living among millions of ex-Nazis who were such nice
people was surreal.
- Schulze, Inga,
Warum Frank aus N.Y. nicht von Frankfurt lassen
Frankfurter Neue Presse,
22 June 2006.
Living in Frankfurt
The City of Frankfurt am Main had been mostly leveled by Allied bombing but
was largely rebuilt by the time we arrived. There were modern office
buildings downtown but no skyscrapers. In every town and city the church or
cathedral (Dom) was supposed to dominate the skyline, and in 1959 they still
did; no matter where you lived, you could always hear church bells. Beyond
downtown, there had been less destruction so buildings were older, although
where I lived you could still see that many of them had been raked by
machine-gun fire. "AMI GO HOME" was written on walls all over the place.
There was not actually any perceptible anti-American sentiment in daily
life; the graffiti was mainly just from kids. If you went downtown at
night, it was dark and quiet and there were rabbits hopping around the dark
|27 Raimundstraße in Frankfurt 1959
|Raimundstraße: our car with US Forces plates
|Klaus-Dieter, Dennis, 1959
At first we lived "on the economy" in a German apartment
at 27 Raimundstraße, right over a loud bar, Rudi's, second
floor far left in the left-hand color photo. No kids my age lived there but
there was a family with two kids Dennis's age, Klaus-Dieter and Michelle,
and they became great friends; Dennis learned German very fast playing with
them. If you click the left-hand color image to enlarge it you can see
Dennis (red shirt) with them and a third person, don't know who, on the
balcony next to ours.
Our first day in the German apartment, my dad went to work and my mom was
panicked, she didn't know what to do. She sent me out to buy food…
There was a Lebensmittel (a small food store, like a bodega) up the street.
I didn't yet know where the PX and commissary were. I went in and bought
black bread, unsalted butter (the only kind Germans use), sausages, mustard,
milk, eggs, salt and pepper, etc. I knew a little German already from
phrase books. I was struck by the fact that food wasn't packaged at all.
If you wanted (say) five eggs, you just picked them up one by one. You also
had to bring your own shopping bag or basket (I don't remember what I did
about that). I managed everything OK, I understood numbers and basic
phrases and the money — 1 Mark had 100 Pfennig and was equal to 25
cents, pretty easy to deal with. Sixty years later (as I write this),
"zero waste" stores like this are starting to pop up in the USA.
|German coins in circulation 1950s-60s
Walking to the Lebensmittel I was struck by how clean everything was. In
those days, at least, Germans were fanatics about cleaning everything. Every
morning early everybody would be outside sweeping the sidewalks and streets
with those old kinds of brooms like in fairy tales. They also washed
sidewalks and steps and cobblestones. Nobody left trash behind, not only
because they were neat but there wasn't much to discard.
German forests were different too. In the USA forests have all kinds of
underbrush growing between the trees and there are fallen branches and
rotting tree trunks. In postwar Germany, the forest floor was perfectly
clean, a beautiful carpet of green grass. Germans scrounged everything else
for fuel, kindling, or food.
|A German forest
In fact the whole way Germans use land is completely different. In the USA
everybody is an individual, on their own. So American farms are isolated
from each other: a house surrounded by land, far from any other house. In
Germany they put all the houses together in a little town that might also
have a church and a Gasthaus and maybe a shop or two. Everybody lives
together. If a family has a milch-cow, it lives in a room of their house,
not in a separate barn. So if you look at the German countryside from the
air you see little clumps of buildings surrounded by vast amounts of
cultivated land with no buildings, as in the aerial view in Rheinland-Pfalz
near Kaiserslautern. This way the people are closer to each other and
they can share resources more easily, so not everybody had to have a car or
a pickup truck or a tractor. Some of these little towns are 500 or 1000
years old and they have a very distinctive smell (see description of
|German farms in the Rheinland
When I lived in Germany there were hardly any suburbs, and never had been.
You could be in a town or a city, or you could be in an agricultural area
or a forest. The boundaries were sharp, you could literally step out of
the city into the country. But it's not like that any more; even in the
mid-60s suburbs were sprouting up.
German apartment buildings are different too. In the staircases at night,
the lights go on only if you push a button, and then they go off
automatically after one minute; you have to push the button on each landing
as you go up the steps. Doors have latches instead of knobs. Bathrooms
don't have showers or shower curtains; toilets have a "continental shelf"
instead of a bowl and the water tank is up on the wall with a pull chain.
Supposedly the reason for the shelf is to prevent splashing and to allow
|German toilet with shelf
Germany, like the rest of Europe, uses 220V 50-cycle current, so if we
brought anything electrical from home (toasters, radios, etc) we needed a
transformer for each thing. Electric clocks were no good even with a
transformer; they only showed 50 minutes per hour due to the lower
frequency. We didn't bring a TV either because in those days AFN (Armed
Forces Network) didn't broadcast TV and all you could see on German TV was
|Raimundstraße 1959 (panorama stitched from several photos)
Our German apartment looked out over Raimundstraße, which was
paved with cobblestones and had trolley tracks, with the Number 17 trolly
(Straßenbahn) running on them, which consisted of one or two cars made of
wood. Frankfurt did not have a subway until years later. The 17 went to
the Hauptbahnof, the majestic but war-blackened Bismarck-era main railroad
station, where you could transfer to any of the other trolley lines, some of
which went to neighboring cities like Höchst or Offenbach or even up into
Taunus mountains. The seats near the trolley entrance were reserved for
Schwerbeschädigte, badly damaged people — war casualties, amputees,
who were a large segment of the population.
|Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof 1960
|Frankfurt Straßenbahn Nº17 at WAC Circle
The trolleys had a driver and conductor. The conductor would walk up and
down the aisle selling and punching tickets — "Noch jemand bitte?"
— it was pretty much an honor system but fares were so cheap there was
no point in cheating. Some of the other trolley lines were starting to get
sleek modern metal trolleys where you had to stop at a ticket desk when you
entered, like the Nº.11 to Höchst.
|Trolley tickets early 1960s
When standing up in a crowded trolley, or even walking around in downtown
Frankfurt, I towered over all the Germans. I guess this is why I never
thought of myself as short until recently. In countries like Germany and
Japan, it was only the postwar generation that started to grow taller,
supposedly due to the influence of the American occupation on their diets.
bottle from 1960
from the 1960s
|Frankfurt Trinkhalle 1960
Across the street from our apartment was a Trinkhalle, a kiosk similar to a
NYC newsstand except it sold beer and schnapps as well as snacks like
Gummi bears and soft drinks called Limonade (four syllables) in big glass
bottles: sparkling mineral water with fruit juice, normally citrus (somewhat
like Orangina), or German sodas such
as Fanta or Florida Boy.
There was also German Coca-Cola with a lemony taste. As for alcohol,
anybody could buy it, even little children. German beer was so much better
than what we can get here that I can't even describe it. It came in
half-liter bottles with ceramic tops (Bügelverschluß) like on the big
Grolsch bottles. My dad had a wooden case of Henninger Bier delivered to
our apartment in Frankfurt every week, much like New Yorkers used to get a
case of seltzer delivered every week the in old days. If he didn't drink the
whole case within a week, it would spoil. Seriously, it would turn into big
globs of slime. That was the difference, local beer was unpasteurized.
Once you boil it, it doesn't spoil but all the taste disappears. That's why
European export beer and all American beer is so tasteless.
|Raimundstraße Trinkhalle and Binding beer truck, 1959
|Seen from Raimundstraße
|The Platenstraße housing area 1960
In May 1959 we moved to American housing in Platenstraße, the housing area
just across Raimundstraße from our first apartment; I could even see it from
my bedroom (left photo). Our new address was 2231 Platenstraße,
apartment on 3rd floor all the way to the left. Platenstraße was
medium-level housing; for NCOs (sergeants) and company-grade officers
(lieutenants and captains) and their civilian equivalents who had families.
There was a higher-level housing area for majors and colonels
called HiCoG ("High Commissioner of Germany"), a.k.a
Carl Schurz Siedlung, a few blocks away, and there were also some
Platenstraße clones (Hügel, Von Steuben) nearby to the northeast. Near the
high school there was a little neighborhood of private houses for generals.
For unmarried officers there was the BOQ (Bachelor Officers' Quarters).
Married enlisted men ranking below some level of sergeant lived "on the
economy"; i.e., in a German apartment. Unmarried enlisted men lived in the
|HiCoG building architectural rendering 1951 - click to see gallery
|Picture window and balcony
|Our Platenstraße apartment
The Platenstraße apartment was palatial by NYC standards: three bedrooms,
two baths, big living room, nice kitchen with a cutout onto the dining room
so you could eat at the bar or at the table. Fully furnished, picture
windows on both sides with ample views of the other buildings and a balcony,
plenty of closets (which were virtually unknown in Germany, where they use a
piece of furniture called a Schrank the way we use closets). The windows of
all the buildings were lined up so perfectly that if everybody had their
curtains open you could see through them all at once. The buildings were
arranged face-to-face and back-to-back, with free parking for everybody.
Our apartment was directly opposite the apartment of a friend of mine; we
used to have balcony-to-balcony snowball fights in the winter. I don't know
what the rent was, or even if there was any at all!
|Platenstraße buildings 1960
The attic of each building was a huge empty room, 250 feet long, that could
be used for parties or playing; usually they had at least ping-pong tables.
And in the basement there was not only a common laundry room but also
private storage rooms for each apartment. Every building had its own
parking area. Almost all the American families had American cars, but
there were also a few small cars (mainly VWs) and one guy, a sergeant and
father of the drummer in our band, had a
Cord in perfect condition; it would be worth millions now. I saw it
every day, wish I had taken a picture of it. Obviously it was a horrendous
gas-guzzler, but since we Amis only paid 10 cents a gallon for gas, so what?
Germans paid ten or twenty times that, and had 10 or 20 times less money.
Another Platenstraße resident had
a Nash Healy
("America's first postwar sports car"), a combination Nash Rambler and
- Chadbourn, Dorothy, "HICOG Houses Its
Employees", HICOG Information Bulletin No.187, February 1951,
pp.19-23, unearthed by FHS veteran Dennis Healey in 2018
Information Bulletin index 1945-1953).
- Horst Bosetzky, Alfred Gottwald und einem Mann an der Kurbel,
Noch jemand ohne Fahrschein? Straßenbahnerinnerungen, Berlin,
Jaron Verlag (1997).
Frankfurt High School
|Frankfurt High School
My brother and I went to the American Army schools —
9th-11th grade for me, Frankfurt High School; elementary school
for Dennis. The FHS student body was 900 and included kids like me who
walked to school, kids from farther away (Drake-Edwards or Gibbs, or
neighboring towns and cities like Aschaffenburg, Babenhausen, Bad Homburg,
Bad Nauheim, Bad Vilbel, Butzbach, Büdingen, Darmstadt, Friedburg,
Gelnhausen, Hanau, Höchst, Langen, Mörfelden, Oberursel... or the
Rhein-Main air base near Wiesbaden) who arrived in 25 big olive-drab Army
buses each day, kids from even farther (e.g. Bad Godesberg, Gießen, Fulda,
Kassel, Wildflecken) [apparently, at least Fulda and Gießen got their own
American high schools in later years]
who lived in the dorms all week but went home on
weekends, and kids from REALLY far away like Moscow, Damascus, Warsaw,
Helsinki, Lisbon, Tunis... (children of diplomats in places where there were
no American schools), who stayed in the dorm all semester. Although 900
sounds small to a New Yorker, it was far too much for the original 1954
building so we also had some "Quonset huts" for the overflow (strictly
speaking these were Butler Buildings; real Quonset huts are half-cylinders,
but it's the same idea: prefab temporary buildings made of corrugated metal
that can be erected in a few hours).
|FHS dorms (right) and "Quonset" huts (Silver City)
|Me in 1959
When I started school in the middle of the 9th grade, it was quite shock.
Instead of all white kids like in Virginia, there were Black kids, Puerto
Ricans, Hawaiians, Mexicans, Filipinos… and even the white kids were
from all over, with every kind of background and accent. Plus people were
from all social classes from aristocracy (children of ambassadors
or generals) to dirt-poor. It was the complete opposite of my junior high
school in Arlington, where everybody was exactly the same: white, middle
class, and Virginian.
|Frankfurt High School aerial view 1960
Some of the FHS kids in 9th grade were hoodlums like in Blackboard Jungle,
with leather jackets and collars turned up and ducktails and
switchblades but there was never actually any fighting, although my
friend Joe Caranci always spent Geography period carving things into his
desk with his switchblade and one day when the teacher said something about
it, he cut off the teacher's necktie and threw his briefcase out the window
(that was my only Blackboard Jungle class). And yes, there was a Geography
class; in those times everybody learned what all the countries in the world
were, and something about them.
|Miss Costello's Latin Class in Silver City
In reality, it was an excellent school, and the best thing about it was that
if you did well in class, there was no social stigma as there was in
Virginia. Consequently I got high grades the whole time I was there and had
good relationships with many of my teachers, for example Miss Costello, my
Latin teacher for two years who acted like a Marine drill sergeant but who
was, in reality, a sweetie. Or Miss Rotter who taught AP English and
encouraged me to write down any crazy thing that came into my head. I could
do that and still be a cool guy. She was also
the Radio Club adviser in 1960-61.
Or Mr. Thompson (more about him below).
|Creative writing story 1961
To top off the differences from "back home", there were interracial
couples… This was at the exact same time as the huge uproar in
Virginia — in Central Point, not far from where I had lived —
Lovings (a white man and black woman who married and were prosecuted for
it), that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Honestly, we all felt
so lucky not to have to worry about any of that... Imagine, living
in a diverse community with no racial barriers in the late 1950s and early
60s. We knew how precious a gift this was; we lived in a virtual paradise
safe from all the ugliness and brutality of our own country.
|The Lovings of Virginia
In 9th and 10th grade I was friends with a girl named Carolyn Parker. We
sat next to each other in class; I helped her with her homework (she didn't
really need help, it was like a game). We just enjoyed each other's
company; she was very sweet and soft spoken. But that was 1959-1960 and it
simply didn't occur to us to see each other outside of school, or if it did,
we were probably both thinking about how our parents (or in my case, just
the one) would react. Plus we were both pretty shy. She "rotated" before
my junior year which was when I started to have a social life. But I still
Speaking of rotating,
I quickly realized that another big difference between a military base and
everywhere else I had ever lived is how easy it is to make friends. Because
kids are so diverse, there wasn't the kind of cliquishness I recall from my
junior high school in suburban Virgina. And because nobody stayed in the
same place more than two or three years, military brats grew up learning how
to make friends rapidly and how to be openminded and honest and not play
games. I never felt more comfortable with people in my life than I did
there, and never had so many friends, not before, not since.
Another interesting facet of life as a kid on a military base is how the
parents are so conscious of rank: who's more important than who, who can
socialize with who, who can go to which club (Officers, EM, or NCO)...
whereas the kids instinctively rebelled against all that and we all
developed a healthy antiauthoritarian streak. For example if a General
found out his daughter was dating a Sergeant's son he would almost certainly
order her to break it off and that would only make the relationship stronger.
Meanwhile, there were endless facilities on the base for service members and
their families. The Post Exchange (PX, center in the photo) was like a
department store that sold clothing, records, books, pots and pans, etc,
(and of course, transformers) at no markup or even subsidized, in
recognition of the low military salaries. The Commissary (right of the PX
in the photo) was like an American supermarket for food shopping, also
nonprofit and subsidized. The Snack bar (left) was a huge cafeteria
featuring approximately the same fare as a Burger King or IHOP. There was
also a "Class VI store" somewhere, that's Army-speak for a liquor
store. Behind these buildings was a gas station where gas was 10 cents a
gallon. Scattered all over the base (after 1948 it wasn't a fenced-in
base, just buildings and neighborhoods all over the city) were countless
smaller snack bars, field houses, clinics, athletic fields, running tracks,
dispensaries, clubs, and so on. Barracks for soldiers were fenced in,
however; they were called Kaserne since most of them were old Wermacht
barracks with swastikas chiseled off the gates (♪♫ Vor der Kaserne, vor
der großen Tor... ♪♫).
|Frankfurt PX, Commissary, and Snack Bar
Medical care was free and universal, school was free and excellent, and
housing was heavily subsidized. Ordinary working people of all ranks could
live modest, comfortable, and relatively secure and stress-free lives
without being millionaires and billionaires. Our parents (or more often than
not, just our fathers) did their 40-hour-a-week jobs (and we did our jobs by
going to school), and the government took care of us. No wonder we liked it
so much over there, it was Socialism!
|Bob Engs (yearbook)
|Bob Engs at home 1959
Aside from that I don't remember much about 9th grade, it was only a few
months. In 10th grade, Bob Engs was pretty much my main outside-of-school
friend. Bob was a year older but we had the same birthday. He was also a
year ahead of me in school and president of his class, a super-achiever. He
lived far away in the industrial city of Höchst, about two hours away
dominated by the huge Höchst AG chemical plant that spewed out toxic black
smoke, the air was always thick with it; in those days if you took a color
picture of Höchst it would still come out grey. The chemical plants
employed thousands of Turkish "Gastarbeiter" under horrible conditions, we
never saw them because they weren't allowed to go into town. My dad was
scandalized about Bob, but said it was OK for me to have black friends as
long as we were in Frankfurt, but not in Virginia. My brother's best friend
was also black. My parents were pretty impressed I could navigate the
trolley system from city to city, negotiating the hair-raising transfer from
the #17 to the #11 at the free-kill zone in front the Hauptbahnhof.
The Engs family returned to the USA at the end of the 1959-60 school year,
ending up in Fort Eustis VA, near Newport News; I visited them there in
1962. Bob had a long and distinguished academic career and then died in
2013 at age 69; read his
Find A Grave obituary.
American High School, Wikipedia (accessed 31 March 2019).
- Wertsch, Mary
Edwards, Military Brats,
Harmony Books and/or Brightwell Publishing (1991, 1996, 2006).
- Curtis, Marc, Growing
Up Military, CreateSpace (2009).
- Willis, William, Base
Jumping, William Willis Books (2013).
- Tuscott, Mary R., Brats,
America' Fence in Frankfurt Seen Doomed", George Bria, Schenectady
Gazette, 9 February 1948 (via usarmygermany.com).
& Air Force Exchange Service, Europe, Walter Elkins'
U.S. Army in Germany website,
accessed 7 July 2020: The European Exchange System: "The mission of EES is
service to the troops in Europe. Basically, this means providing services
and goods at minimum costs and in the most pleasant, courteous, and
efficient manner possible."—Col. Charles L. Redman, QMC, EES
Chief. EES was responsible for PX's, commissaries, liquor stores,
snack bars, delis, laundries, dry cleaners, barber and beauty shops, photo
processing; watch, radio, and shoe repair; florists, tailor shops, photo
studios, gas stations, car repair garages, libraries, athletic fields,
service clubs, teen clubs, service shows, as well as central butchers,
bakeries, dairies, and ice cream plants that supplied the commissaries and
snack bars. There were also EES service stations and snack bars on the
Autobahns. Also there were mobile PXs and snack bars for troops in the
field. In Germany the large majority of employees at EES establishments was
The 1960 Artillery Accident at Grafenwöhr
The morning Friday, September 2, 1960, an 8-inch Howitzer round crashed into
3rd Armored Division encampment at the Grafenwöhr tank range, killing 15
soldiers and wounding another 28 (one of whom died later).
We were in school that day, as I recall it was announced over the PA system.
The fathers of many of the students were at Graf at the time, and when the
announcement was made the details were still not known. Everyone was
worried, scared, upset. I remember big crowds in the halls, I think they
must have let us out early so we could be with our families. Nine of the
dead were PFCs and probably not old enough to have kids in high school.
Three were sergeants (two of them SFCs) and could have been old enough but
their surnames don't match anyone in
the 1960-61 FHS directory. The rest
were SP4s and SP5s, and only one of them, Earl Johnson (an SP4, therefore
probably pretty young), had a surname also found in the directory (seven
times). In any case I don't remember that any FHS parents died, but there
were also 27 wounded. I have the impression that some FHS families were
affected but it was sixty+ years ago as I write this, and memory fades. The
photo was taken by SSG Lowell Fox of the
3rd AD, one of six sent in by his son Farley in 2008
(decode Army ranks here).
|Memorial Service 4 September 1960
For more information, use this
- Howitzer Overshot Kills 15, Injures 27 at Grafenwoehr,
Stars and Stripes vol.19 no.138, Saturday, 3 September 1960, page 1:
"Fifteen 3rd Armd Div soldiers were killed early Friday [September 2],
and 27 injured when an 8-inch howitzer shell with an incorrect powder
charge overshot its mark and landed in a camp area after a morning roll call
... The shell smashed into three tents occupied by soldiers. It tore
through one tent, exploded in the second, and sent fragments hurtling into
Grafenwoehr accident remains vivid to those who lived it, nearly 60 years
later, Martin Egnash, Stars and Stripes, 1 September 2018: "the
memory of that day lives on in the soldiers who were there. Retired
Gen. Colin Powell ... was one of them."
Tragedy at Grafenwoehr in September, 1960, 3rd Armored Division History
Foundation. Includes list of fatalities.
Artillery Accident of 1960:
The deadliest event in the history of the Grafenwoehr Training Area,
Johanna Pschierer, USAG Bavaria Public Affairs, 23 August 2018.
Armored Division, Cold War, Wikipedia (accessed 6 March 2021):
"Throughout the Cold War, the division headquarters company, the 503rd
Administrative Company, 503rd Adjutant General Company, and 503rd MP Company
were based at Drake Kaserne, with 143rd Signal Battalion and other support
units stationed across the street at Edwards Kaserne in Frankfurt
... subunits were based in other Kasernes [in Kirch-Goens, Butzbach,
Gelnhausen, Friedberg, and Hanau]", which are all places where FHS students
11th grade and Pam Ives 1960-61
|1961 yearbook photo
In 11th grade I made tons of new friends, started going out
on the town and drinking beer (and anything else I could get my hands on -
cognac, Schnapps, Jägermeister...), having all kinds of fun. Maybe too much
fun because now I recognize that, for the two full years 1961 and 1962 I
drank to excess almost every day. At first it was some combination of
dulling the stress and oppression of "life with father" and the fact that
drinking in Germany was easy, cheap, legal, fun, and everybody else was
doing it. Later, back in Virginia, where it was not legal, I still did it.
But after I left home the compulsion gradually faded to near zero.
|Look: saddle shoes!
I often felt that my time in high school in Germany was the best time of my
life. It was such an adventure to be in postwar Germany, still pockmarked
with the scars and rubble of war, still relatively poor, still full of
Nazis, and with Elvis stationed just down the street. And on the base, to
be among people of all races, nationalities and social classes after living
in racial and economic segregation up until then. And my first love, Pam
Even in 11th grade I was still shy around girls and had only been on a
couple awkward dates. Pam was in 10th grade and a Junior Varsity
cheerleader. We clicked instantly, we were inseparable; we did everything
together, she was funny and she was fearless. And (as she says herself)
kind of smart-ass. We always enjoyed each other, never argued, no egos, no
drama, just romance, affection, and tons of fun. Everything was hilarious
to us. We went on long trips in Army buses to away-games in places like
Mannheim and Nürnberg (and then didn't bother going to the games), we went
up in the Taunus mountains and drank ourselves silly with no idea how
we would get back. I would go to basketball games just because she was
cheerleading. She came to the radio station
with me on Tuesday nights sometimes. I'd meet her
in HiCoG every morning, where
she lived, to walk to school together.
We wrote notes and slipped them into
each other's hall lockers. We went to the Teen Club
after school and then again after dinner at home, when it became like a
night club: lights low, dancing to the jukebox
or a band... and everybody forming little
groups for sorties into the neighborhood or downtown — restaurants,
the Jazzkeller — then coming
back to the Teen Club to share our adventures. Typical corny teenage stuff
but I was never so happy before or since (until recently).
The time we went to Nürnberg we wandered around the city and stumbled onto
the Luipoldhain, which is where big annual Nazi rallies were staged from
1933 to 1938. Spooky!
|The Casino Officers Club seen from I.G. Farben
|Prom night April 1961
You can see how ridiculously happy I was in the pre-Prom photo, in which the
other two are our friends Joe Martin and Genell Roberson, and in which Pam
is wearing the dress her Mom made for the occasion. Joe had his dad's car
that night. The Prom was a very big deal,
held not in a crepe-paper-decorated school gym like most proms but in the
Officers' Club, the "Casino" part of
the I.G. Farben
complex and probably a major "venue" for the Nazi elite during the war.
It was in the Casino's enormous, elegant ballroom. Honestly I don't
remember much about it (was there an orchestra? Was there food?) but Pam
and I danced and danced. And then as the Prom wound down we drove to
a classy nightclub downtown with a stage show and had fizzy mixed drinks
with umbrellas instead of beer steins. We stayed out very late, culminating
in a Prom breakfast at 3:00 or 4:00am in the main Snack Bar. It was a night
like in the 1940s Hollywoood movies. Pam is the only one I ever danced
|Pam's Prom book 1961
A Prom-related incident resulted in a bump in our relationship (my fault)
and before it could be fixed the school year ended and Pam's family rotated
back to the States, Pan Am Flight 73, Frankfurt to NYC, July 2, 1961 (just
after her 16th birthday). I would have been devastated by this if it were
not for the fact that we were being rotated too! A year prematurely, due to
a f**kup by my dad. I was devastated anyway; back in
Virginia I missed her like crazy. We stayed in touch by mail. A year
later she was thinking about college, wanted to major in psychology, wanted
to come to the east coast somewhere but said her grades weren't good and
probably she would wind up at Iowa State ("Anything! Anyplace! Just to
leave home!"), wished we could talk about it and do the things we used to
do, and closed by telling me not to do anything crazy like getting married
or... Joining the Army! But then her
father was transferred to Fort Leavenworth and I left
for UVA at the same time, and then the Army,
and then my Mom left my Dad and my Dad lost the house — the
address Pam was writing to — so we literally lost touch.
Forever. Or so it seemed!
Maps of Our Frankfurt
|Our part of Frankfurt in 1961 - Click to enlarge
This is a piece of a German map from 1961 showing the part of Frankfurt we
inhabited. Click on it to see a full size version with notations
in pencil that I made at the time. At C-12 I have the Platenstraße housing
area circled and building numbers penciled in, plus I drew in the baseball
field. A line is coming out of 2231 showing the shortcut I used to take to
school, which is in the upper left of D-10 marked FHS, north-northwest of
the IG Hochhaus (I.G. Farben building, shown in red). The Teen Club (TC) is
on Siolistraße right across from the school. In E-11, WAC Circle is
circled: the PX, Commissary, and big Snack Bar. Pam lived in Carl Schurz
Siedlung, a.k.a. HiCoG; her house is circled by the lower left corner of
D-11. Our hangouts are also indicated: D'Angelo's is on Raimundstraße near
Am Dornbusch indicated as DA's in D-12. Kurt's (with the jukebox that played
Milord) is at bottom center of D-12. Some other places I don't recall are
indicated there too: D.S. and 7-Up, then just below the lower right corner
of the same quadrant, the eat-in family Italian restaurant, Bologna. Then
going south on Eschersheimer Landstraße (E-10 and E-9) was bar country:
Stark's, Frank's, Bodega's (indicated as BO's), Leon's, Torrero, and finally
the Straw Bar. These were the places we could walk to. There were also
some other places not on the map, e.g. in Ginnheim. The next map shows
the hangouts we went to by trolley.
area in 1961 - Click to enlarge
|Ristorante Santa Lucia 1961
This is another part of the same map that shows the Hauptbahnof area,
directly accessible by Straßenbahn Nº17. Various hangouts are indicated
near the Bahnhof (C-D 5-6): Maier Gustl's on
Münchener Straße (a huge and rowdy Bavarian beer hall complete with Oompah
band), and next to it Santa Lucia (Italian
grotto restaurant up a flight of stairs), Maxim's (which I don't remember).
"Little Maier Gustl's" was as quiet and sedate as the big one was loud and
chaotic and it had the best Ochsenschwanzsuppe.
The yellow area in front of the red Hauptbahnhof was the free-kill zone
where all the trolley lines met up in a huge chaos and you could transfer
from one to another if you were lucky.
|Maier Gustl's 1956
Other things to do in Germany
Besides drinking in bars? On base, there was every conceivable kind of
recreation for us, either free or very cheap — a movie theater
(25¢), game rooms, a roller rink, the
post library, music rooms (where you could check out any musical instrument
and practice on it), libraries, athletic fields, judo classes, bowling
alleys, a baseball team (the Vikings), the Teen Club, plus a huge selection
of after-school activites... No end of fun. And to top it off, we were in
Germany! So there was even more fun to be had off base... We could go to
nearby Grüneburg Park or ride all over the city on the trolley, all the way
to the Taunus mountains for pocket change, go swimming at the German pool in
Oberursel (that was the one thing not found on base).
The Platenstraße area in Frankfurt was like Smurf Village; everybody lived
in one place and it was just a couple blocks from the high school and main
PX. When you walked to school in the morning you'd bump into all your
friends. You could go outside any time, around the corner to the ball field
bleachers (a popular hangout) or a couple more blocks to the Teen Club and
all your friends would be in one of those places or the other. We'd just
hang out or decide to go somewhere together, there were no end of escapades
we could have in postwar Germany.
Plus there were part-time jobs for teenagers, bagging groceries in the
Commissary for tips, setting pins in the base bowling alley for 10 cents a
frame, and working the concession stand at the movie theater. In those days
bowling alleys and pool halls were everywhere. I never bowled much, but I
played pool quite well, starting in the Teen Club up through Army discharge,
six years of solid pool playing. After that I think I played pool 3 times
total, once with Granpa who used to be a pool hustler (I did pretty well,
but he won of course — this was in the marina
At the Teen Club, one room had a grill with
hamburgers and french fries and a soda fountain, with tables and chairs and
a nickel jukebox with good music in it. At night the lights were turned
down low for dancing. The songs that take me right back there
Moon by the Marcels,
Mother In Law by
Ernie K. Doe,
by Sam Cooke,
This is Dedicated to the One I Love by the Shirelles,
Gee Whiz by Carla
Thomas, Who's Loving You by
the Miracles, and
Suddenly There's A
Valley by The Drifters. The bars had different songs on their jukeboxes,
Piaf's Milord at
Kurt's in Dornbusch.
|Frankfurt Teen Club 1960 looks like a dump but inside it was magic
|Framus Hollywood 1958
Meanwhile, back in the Teen Club there was also a stage
where my first rock band used to play
for evening dance parties. I played a German electric guitar, a red 1958
Framus Hollywood (the one on the left in picture) that I got at Musik-Hruby
on Marbachweg in Dornbusch, the same street where Anne Frank was born in
1929 and lived as a little girl... The Teen Club was totally
unsupervised, the only adults there were the German ladies who ran the
grill. We'd go out drinking in bars, come back to the Teen Club, go out
again, come back... The way I remember it, this was just about every night.
For the record, everybody's favorite local spot for drinking and eating was
D'Angelo's, a tiny hole-in-the-wall pizza place on Raimundstraße (just on
the edge of the American housing complex), run by Marco and patronized
exclusively by Frankfurt High students (as opposed to, say, GIs or Germans).
Marco's pizza was the best I ever had in my life (Pam says it was strange).
It cost one Mark per slice, and he'd also make a custom pie in any size at
all... decades before anyone had heard of a "personal pizza".
|Teen Club band 1961
Armed Forces Network
|NACOM Chronicle 1960
|Höchst Castle - home of AFN Frankfurt
Bob Engs was in the Radio Club at school (and also the president of it
of course) and convinced me to join in 10th grade (1959-60). We had a
weekly show, "Teen 20", on AFN Frankfurt, at the time the most powerful
radio transmitter on earth at 150,000 Watts. It was kind of a silly show
but the experience was magical. The station was in an actual 12th-century
castle in Höchst
Brüning); every Tuesday after school we'd ride in a big olive-drab Army
bus, about 12 of us. Everybody would take turns in each job: engineer,
director, announcer, writer, sports news, DJ... So, for example if I was
the sports reporter I'd have to go to the games and take notes, even away
games in Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Wiesbaden... If I was DJ I had to
know how to cue records and segué from one to another while talking, watch
the sound levels, making sure there was never any "dead air", and finish
exactly on time, cuing the closing
Walk by Santo and Johnny. The real AFN staff, merry-prankster
enlisted men who had worked in radio before they were drafted, taught us
everything. We had sound-proof studios with director's booth,
super-expensive Telefunken microphones, control consoles, and 16-inch
turntables, it was unbelievable amounts of fun.
|AFN entrance with Dennis and Mom
|AFN 16-inch record
|AFN Library sign
The "Frankfurt library" photo shows my Teen-20 friends Mike Sanborn
and Stephanie Smith retrieving a 16-inch vinyl record for a show in 1960
(another photo shows the card catalog
used for finding records).
AFN had the largest music library on earth, all on 16-inch vinyl records.
Not just music but also radio shows (dramas, comedies, soap operas, variety
shows) from 1942 to 1980. I don't know if it has been preserved, but it
would be an incredible resource for music historians and archaeologists.
Later I found out that when AFN converted from vinyl to casette tape in 1980,
all the vinyl records were supposed to be destroyed. There were about
25,000 distinct records, each holding about 30 songs (or other types of
audio), of which apparently about 20,000 have been found and archived
The selection was comprehensive; there was never even one single obscure
R&B song from the 1940s or 50s that I couldn't find.
|1960-61 Radio Club
In 11th grade I was president of the Radio Club. We were a close group and
enjoyed ourselves immensely. Aside from playing music (not only pop music
but also recordings we made of school choirs and orchestras), doing
high-school sports news, and so on, we sometimes interviewed
celebrities who happened to be on the base, like the singer Joni James (I
still have a vinyl Christmas album of hers). I'm pretty sure we interviewed
Elke Sommer ("America's Sweetheart") and we almost interviewed
Bridgette Bardot; it fell through at the last minute. But the biggest
interview we almost had was... Elvis. It was scheduled for
December 7, 1959, at his house in Bad Nauheim (click the image to see
proof). But Colonel Parker wound up nixing it so we did all the other stuff
on the list instead.
|Elvis interview schedule
Before leaving the topic of Elvis, he was filming parts
of GI Blues while I was there; there was some location shooting
near me. This was kind of a joint Hollywood-Army production, and the Army
did things the Army way. For example, painting the tires of Army Jeeps and
trucks black and painting the grass in front Army buildings green. I saw
this. Just two years later I'd be doing it.
|Consulate General 2017
Anyway since I was now well-known at AFN, they asked me to take over a show,
"Bedside Rock", previously hosted by Roger Norum (also of the FHS Radio
Club, who had graduated) at the 97th General
Hospital, a US Army hospital originally built for the Luftwaffe in 1941;
it was almost solid swastikas inside and it was enormous; the photo shows
only a tiny part of it; click here to see
a schematic of the whole thing. After the US Army pulled out Germany in
1994, they kept the hospital to serve casualties in all the wars they'd be
having in the mideast but later that role was taken over by the hospital in
Landstuhl and the 97th is now the American Consulate; the red crosses on the
roof to ward off bombing attacks dated from the Luftwaffe days and were
still there until the early 2000s, when they were painted over with light
grey paint so you can still see where they were (second image, from Google
|97th General Hospital 1960s
Owing to its vastness, the hospital had its own internal closed-circuit AFN
"Bedside Network" station and I had the whole studio and record library all
to myself every Thursday evening; this was the highlight of my radio career.
I'd take the No.13 trolley after school to the hospital, eat dinner in the
hospital snack bar, and then go up to the studio. I played the most obscure
possible rhythm and blues from late 1940s and early 50s plus a lot of jazz,
and I also talked about whatever I felt like and invited anybody who might
want to stop by and chat on the air. Since hospital workers were on duty
and most patients were bedridden, I mainly got mental patients which made
for lively discussions! I had no bosses, no supervisors, no reports to
make, nothing. It was great fun with no pay.
Before leaving the topic of the Armed Forces Network, it should be noted
that AFN Frankfurt played music of interest to teenagers only scant hours of
day; there was also "grown-up" music, country music, religious programming,
"music in the air", Don McNeill's Breakfast Club, and so on. The other
alternative for rock & roll and rhythm & blues
Luxembourg, which broadcast our kind of music about five days a week,
only in the evening. We thought it was a pirate station broadcasting from a
ship in international waters, and in fact sometimes it was.
Forced Network, Europe, at Walter Elkin's monumental
U.S. Army in Germany website.
- The Story Of
American Forces Network (AFN) (video), The Big Picture, Army Pictorial
Center. A 30-minute film from 1963 about the history of AFN in Europe; it
includes footage of the studio and record library where I worked in the
Höchst castle just outside of Frankfurt.
- On The Air Over There, AFN Europe:
Part 2 The Castle Years, 29-minute video about AFN Frankfurt at the
Höchst castle... End of the War, Nürnburg trials, Berlin Airlift, Elvis,
Beatles, Berlin Wall, JFK (there are three other parts to this series).
- Meria Petrich,
vinyl collection returned to AFN home, Northwest Guardian,
9 December 2011.
Forces Network, Wikipedia, accessed 10 December 2018.
Forces Network, German Wikipedia, accessed 10 December 2018.
Blues, a very silly Elvis movie made while he was in the Army and
partially filmed on base. He sings a song in German (Muß i denn).
Interlude: "The Warriors" Frankfurt style
Peter and I were watching one of his favorite movies recently (summer
2015), The Warriors (1979), in which one gang is chasing the members
of another gang all over the NYC in the middle of the night. I told Peter,
"you know, I had a night like that once", and described it to him. Peter
said I had to put the story in here so here it is… When I was in high
school in Frankfurt we used to go out drinking almost every night (not just
the guys, the girls too, but this night was just the guys, about four of
us). We went to random places, bars, Gasthauses… So we went in a bar
on a dark side street that was very dark inside, sat at the bar and were
drinking. One of us, Tom, goes to the bathroom. A bit later he comes out
and says, "Let's get outa here", and hurries us out. We're walking (maybe
staggering) down the block and suddenly a whole swarm of guys busts out of
the bar and runs at us, like maybe 20 guys. So we we start running too, and
they chase us through all the dark streets, yelling and cursing. Eventually
they catch us and they restrain me and the other guys except Tom, and they
beat the crap of him, I mean REALLY… One ear was half torn off, teeth
missing, eyes swollen shut, face unrecognizable, blood everywhere…
(at least that's how I remember it). Then they leave. We take Tom in a
taxi to the dispensary (Army word for small clinic on the base). They sewed
him up, put bandages all over. Very painfully he explains what happened.
When he went in the bathroom, the guy at the next urinal made a play for him
so Tom clobbered him and left him on the floor. The place turned out to be
a gay bar, but we barely even knew what that was!
Food and drink
Most of the German places we went to for drinking also served food,
sometimes just Butterbrot (chewy German bread with unsalted butter or
cheese), or soups… Bouillon mit Ei (chicken broth with a raw egg in
it) or my favorite, Ochsenschwanzsuppe: thick, dark, and rich oxtail soup
served with chewy Brötchen — white bread rolls but much tastier and
crustier and chewier than American ones. And for a whole meal there was
Wienerschnitzel, Jägerschnitzel (which is Wienerschnitzel with mushrooms and
gravy), Zigeunerschitzel (spicy "Gypsy" Schnitzel), Leberknödel (liver
dumplings), Rouladin (flank steak rolls with stuffing), roast
chicken... these would be served with a delicious kind of marinated "soft"
salad that I've never seen anywhere else, and potatoes (or in Schwaben,
Spätzle, where also in the Weinstuben, Westfälischer or Schwarzwälder ham
would be served with the wine). Also in some places you could get a
charcouterie, which was an assortment of meats and sausages on a bed of
Sauerkraut soaked in champagne (Mommie had that once in Heidelberg and it
made her very silly).
On the street there were Bratwurst vendors, flame-grilled Bratwurst with
Brötchen and German mustard, and later on (when I was in
Army) there were a lot of Yugoslavian food stands and the things they
sold were called Ćevapčići
(phonetically chee-WOP-chi-chi) (Wikipedia)
and (phonetically) DZHI-vich, which were both super-spicy, I think this was
the first fiery-hot food I ever ate. And then besides these, there were
Chinese and Italian restaurants that were uniformly excellent. A sit-down
meal in a German restaurant never cost more than 4 Marks (one dollar) when I
|Waitress with twelve big beer steins
German Gasthauses (Gasthäuser) served beer in half-liter and liter steins,
and serious beerhalls like Maier Gustl's
in Frankfurt and the much larger Hofbräuhaus in Munich also had
five and even ten liter steins. The waitresses could carry five or six
one-liter steins in each hand and they did this all night; it was pretty
video). At the Hofbräuhaus in Munich you could earn a 5-liter
or 10-liter pin if you drank that much in one sitting (I could have done
that, but only went there once, very briefly, and it was kind of a zoo).
|Henninger Bier Stein
Beer culture in Germany was unique. Each town or area made its own lager
beer with a distinct taste, following the Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law) that
dates from the early 1500s and says that beer may contain only water,
barley, and hops. Note: no chemicals, no flavorings. Of course big cities
might make several brands. There weren't nationwide brands because the beer
was unpasteurized and it might spoil before it reached some distant
destination by truck. Many German brewing companies have been in business
for hundreds of years, in some cases a thousand years. When I lived there,
each bar, restaurant, and Gasthaus served only one kind of beer. Besides
lager, by the way, there was also a completely different thing called
Weizenbier, or wheat beer, usually found only in Gasthauses frequented by
old men; it was famous for causing fart storms so Weizenbier establishments
were not for the squeamish.
|Founded 1040 AD
|Mr. Thompson teaching Russian
When I was in 11th grade, a math and science teacher offered a Russian
class, which I took. He taught Russian to himself, I don't know how. It
was the best class I ever had in any school. His name was John Thompson, he
was a WWII and D-Day Normandy Beach veteran, Battle of the Bulge, etc,
something he never mentioned and I found out only 50 years later. He had a
great fondness for the Soviet Union, probably owing to their part in the
victory over Germany and he had us learn and sing Soviet songs, listen
to Radio Moscow, and read Pravda. Bear in mind, this was in a US Army
school! We had no textbook; he typed out the lessons on Russian and English
typewriters and mimeographed them, even painstakingly adding two-part
harmony sheet music in the case of the songs, such as
поле: the marching song of the Red Army.... by
hand, with the aid of only a ruler. He liked to
|Gift from the class
talk about the USSR… One day he said, "In the USA we have a lot
rights, but the Soviet Union has one right that we have never had: the right
to work!" I had to think about that for 30-40 years before I got it. Bill
Fedor ('62) tells me that the next year (1961-62) "Russian II at FAHS
ushered in Nina Potopova's Russian I and II textbooks that Mr Thompson
purchased in Düsseldorf for DM4.20 each." Thanks to Bill for the song
|Binding Bier mug
John Thompson was so enthusiastic and he worked so hard; he loved what he
was doing. Besides Russian he also taught physics, math, biology, and
photography. True, he was kind of a hardass (and he looked the part, like a
Prussian)... He didn't appreciate kids fooling around in class; he could
throw chalk at anybody in the room — hard! — and hit them
square in the forehead. One day my friend Jerry Jacobs (who was to die
within two years in a car crash at Fort Bragg) and I stumbled out of a bar,
literally falling-down drunk. Mr. Thompson happened to be walking by just
then and he helped us get home like he was our best friend. The people in
the picture are Jerry, Johnny Johnston (alias DJ, "Drunkard Johnston", a
self-bestowed nickname), and me in the photo booth at the PX. The color
picture shows the Binding Bier mug that Jerry sent me for old times' sake
shortly after I rotated but after 50-some years of washing now it's just a
dull gray mug, no logo.
|Jerry Jacobs (front)
Trips while living in Frankfurt
One good thing my Dad did while we were in Germany was to take us on lots of
trips. As a teenager in high school I was kind of embarrassed to be
traveling around with my parents, but in retrospect I'm glad we did.
|Don't Miss Berlin!
|The DC-4 that took us to Berlin 1959
Our first trip was to Berlin in early 1959 which was in part still in ruins,
like you can see in movies
Big Lift and
Two Three. The flight to Berlin was on a Douglas DC-4
(4-engine propeller driven airliner, the
civilian version of the C54 cargo plane used in WWII and in the airlift).
|Landing at Tempelhof Airport
This was my first plane ride. I remember looking out the window and
thinking East Germany looks the same as West Germany, just a lot of farms and
little towns. But traveling across or over East Germany was a tricky
business, there could be no deviation from the approved route. So…
At some point the pilot comes back in the passenger cabin and sees Dennis,
who was a cute little 9-year-old, and asked him if he would like to fly the
plane. Dennis said OK, my Dad said OK, so the pilot took him into the
cabin. Next thing we knew this huge aircraft was peeling off to the
right and in a steep dive. Then it recovered and the pilot, his face
drained of blood, brought Dennis back to his seat without a word.
Landing at Tempelhof airport in Berlin was an adventure in itself. The
airport is in the middle of the city and as the plane makes its descent
there are apartment buildings are on both sides, sometimes so close you can
see in the windows. Tempelhof (which dated from 1927 and claimed to be the
world's oldest operating commercial airport) lasted until 2008, when it was
closed and converted to a "green space".
For the record, it was also possible to go to Berlin by auto. You could
cross into East Germany at Helmstedt/Marienborn (the
nearest to Frankfurt of several crossing sites) and take a special route
that was totally unmarked; if you lost your way you'd be arrested. Another
way to go was by a sealed train like the one Lenin rode in. Anyway while in
Berlin I took some pictures with my Brownie Hawkeye that are now famous from
having been published in several books, including a photo similar to the first
one below left but no family (obviously I didn't take that one because I'm
|Helmstedt checkpoint 1963
|Brandenburg Gate 1959
|East Berlin 1959
|Reichstag 1959 (burned out since 1933)
|Soviet War Memorial
|Red Army soldiers
|1936 Olympic Stadium
|Olympic Stadium Eagle
In Berlin I saw the Brandenburg Gate
(which was not yet walled off), the Reichstag, the 1936 Olympic Stadium
(where the swastikas had been chiseled out from under the eagles), the
Soviet War Memorial, and Spandau Prison where Rudolf Hess, Albert Speer, and
Baldur von Schirach were serving their Nürnberg sentences (Karl Dönitz had
been released several years before; Speer was released in 1966 and published
"Inside the Third Reich"; after Hess died in 1987, the prison was demolished
to prevent it becoming a shrine). I saw the bust of Nefertiti at the Berlin
museum. I crossed into East Berlin by myself because my father couldn't go
there and bought some snacks at a Trinkhalle. I paid with Deutschmarks
and got change in Ostmarks made of
aluminum. In the Stadium photo I'm standing where Hitler stamped his
feet when Jesse Owens won the 100 meters.
Berlin 1945 in
color (7 minutes, silent).
1961-62, photos from Robert Paul, a Frankfurt Elementary schoolmate
of my brother Dennis, who visited Berlin in
1961 and again in 1962 with his family.
(Rubble films), Wikipedia, accessed 25 February 2020.
- Stunde Null,
early postwar Germany and Berlin, Wikipedia, accessed 25 February 2020.
Die Mörder sind unter uns (1946), the first postwar German film, and
the first Trümmerfilm (rubble film), starring Hildegard Knef and Ernst
Big Lift with Montgomery Clift and Cornell Borchers, about the Berlin
Airlift, filmed in the rubble of West and East Berlin in 1950. It was
originally going to star Hildegard Knef, but Borchers was substituted at
the as moment for reasons Knef relates in her book.
Two, Three with James Cagney and Horst Buchholz, filmed in
West and East Berlin in 1961, just before the Wall.
- Hildegard Knef, Der
Geschenkte Gaul / The
The Gift Horse, Verlag Fritz Molden (1970) / McGraw-Hill (1971),
describing her harrowing wartime experiences and the postwar in Berlin and
- Horst Bosetzky, Der
Kalte Engel – dokumentarischer
Kriminalroman aus dem Nachkriegs-Berlin, Berlin, Jaron Verlag
(2002). Highly detailed descriptions of 1949-50 East and West Berlin.
- Victor Grossman, The Wall
30 Years Later, 10 November 2019, in the website of Martin Nicolaus. Was East
Germany really all that bad?
- Victor Grossman books,
a review by me of two books about East Germany by Victor Grossman.
battle scars remain 75 years after end of WWII – in pictures,
The Guardian, 8 May 2020.
Bavaria and Austria
|Koenigsee St. Bartholmä
|Salzburg double exposure
|Out Mozart's window
|Nazi ruin Berchtesgaden
|Us at the Obersalzberg salt mines
High in the Bavarian Alps, Berchtesgaden and Obersalzberg
where we saw the ruins of recently blown-up houses of Hitler, Goering, and
Bormann, along with their secret bunkers and tunnels, Hitler's Kehlsteinhaus
(Eagle's Nest), from there to Salzburg in Austria to see Mozart's
birthplace, with a stop in the salt mines that you enter by sliding down a
wooden ramp about a mile long.
|The Venice of the North
Once my Mom took me and Dennis to Holland on a bus tour, that was the only
time she ever did anything like that, being in charge on her own. Aside
from that, Bonn (to see Beethoven's birthplace), plus countless castles and
museums all over Germany. Neverending castle visits are pretty boring for
teenagers. The Holland trip was kind of cool though; click on the first
picture to enlarge it and look at it until you notice something odd.
About Holland… It was the first place I ever saw besides Army bases
that was totally diverse. The parks were full of children of all races
playing together, everybody intermarried, etc. I thought it must be the
most progressive, enlightened place on earth, and maybe it was. Until it
became the first capital of Islamophobia in the 2000s.
Evacuation Dry Run
Another trip we took was a mandatory one for every family: a practice run
for evacuating from Germany in case of a Soviet attack. You have to leave
at an appointed time and only then do you find out the route and
destination. It was on back roads, not the Autobahn, so it's hard to
imagine all the 100s of thousands of American families trying to get out at
once. Anyway we drove almost all the way to France on picturesque country
roads. Still, this was 1960 and we were always expecting to be vaporized at
any moment, hence my little Creative Writing story at right.
|Evacuation story 1960
Hamburg and Scandinavia
|Die Große Freiheit, Hamburg 1960
But our most epic trip — 2000 miles driving! — started with
Hamburg (300 miles from Frankfurt), where I took a famous picture (left) of
the street where the Beatles were playing before I had even heard of them
(the photo has since been used in some books); this was in the Reeperbahn
district of Hamburg on the street called Die Große Freiheit. The color
photo was taken by my dad at the same time; I include not only because it's
clearer and higher resolution, but it's taken from an angle where the sign
for the Beatles' first Hamburg spot, the Indra Club, is visible towards the
end of the street (click on the photo to enlarge it). They had only started
playing there a few days before. He took us to the Reeperbahn not because
of the Beatles, obviously, but because this is one of the places he came for
sex while in the Navy.
|Another view of "Beatles Street"
|Hirtshals, the ferry Skagen
Then up through Denmark — Aarhus, Aalborg... In one of these "Aa"
towns we stayed at a small family hotel where my father told the owner that
I played the guitar, so he insisted on giving me a huge pile of classical
sheet music (with swastikas on every page). From Hirtshals — the very
tippy-top of continental Western Europe — a four-hour ferry ride to
Kristiansand, Norway... It was dark and cold and foggy so my family stayed
inside but I was on deck at the rail, there was a girl there about my age
and we tried finding a common language to speak in... Not Danish, not
German, not English... Russian! A fleeting moment in life. We landed in
Kristiansand about 8:00pm on a Saturday night and the place was totally
dark, everybody was asleep, not even the street lights were on. No signs on
anything either. We had to bang on doors until somebody told us where to
find an inn, Mom remembered her Norwegian a little bit, then we banged on
the inn door and the grumpy inkeeper came down carrying a candle and wearing
one of of those sleeping costumes like in Dickens movies.
|Aalborg Viking rocks
|Frogner Park, Oslo
We visited lot of spots in the countryside... Arendal, Brevik, Larvik,
Drammen... as well as Oslo, spent almost a whole day in Frogner Park
with the surreal statuary of Gustav Vigeland. From Oslo to Sweden on the
only connecting road at the time, a one-lane dirt road through the mountains
and forests (at one point we met a car coming in the opposite direction, and
as there was no shoulder we had to back up several miles before it could
squeeze past us). In Sweden we visited Jönköping, Linköping, Örebrö,
Stockholm, and Nyköping (in that order I think) and spent a lot of Kroner
and Øre, and learned that if we got into an accident and were lying in the
ditch we had to holler "Hjeyelp, Hjeeyelp!", which Dennis and I did at every
road stop. In those days hotels in Europe were mostly pensions, family-run
small establishments and the rooms did not have baths; normally one bathroom
was shared by all the rooms on each floor, or even the whole building.
Furthermore, the shared bathroom didn't have a shower so bathing meant,
literally, taking a bath. Inevitably, other guests would be pounding on the
door the whole time.
The Scandinavia trip was an adventure… it was the first time I ate
yogurt, or even heard of it. Besides that the only good thing I had to eat
was big bowls of berries with milk — blackcurrants, lingonberries,
bright-orange cloudberries… One restaurant we went to, what they
brought to eat when we asked for a "sandwich" (the only word we could say
that they understood) was a slab of black bread with a raw whole fish on it,
with a raw egg over the fish and whole peppercorns embedded in the egg
slime. I couldn't imagine taking even one bite. My mom ate it though,
scales, bones, eyeballs, and all. It's how she grew up; she never wasted
food. Anyway, she liked it.
|Little Mermaid Copenhagen
|Stave Church side view
In Norway Mom mostly wanted to see the countryside because her family
were peasants and she heard lots of stories passed down from her
grandparents. We saw the wooden stave church (Stabkirche) at Borgund, built
about 1100; it impressed me a lot, it looks like cross between a Chinese
pagoda and huge Viking ship and it was amazing to me that wood can last so
long. Perhaps because stave churches are built without nails. Elsewhere we
saw houses with sod roofs (pictured), but not the ones with flowers and
shrubs growing on top and goats up there grazing, like she had always told me
|Houses with sod roofs
|Oslo Olympic ski jump
|Viking ship prow
In Oslo we went to the Viking museum that had a perfectly preserved Viking
ship that had been found in the water just outside. And the 1952 Winter
Olympic stadium where we went up to the top of the ski jump. On the way
back we stopped in Copenhagen for a few days, the only part I remember is
the Tivoli Gardens one night where I wandered around on my own and saw the
Delta Rhythm Boys performing in a tent. Speaking of vocal groups from the
1930s and 40s, once I also saw the Ink Spots at the Frankfurt Officers Club.
|Viking ship in Oslo
A trip we did NOT take, my Dad's idea of "bonding"… He wanted to take
me to Villefranche to the brothel he frequented when he was a sailor in the
1930s. No thanks.
I have to hand it to my dad, he spared no expense nor effort to take us
everywhere. When I sat with him at his deathbed, it was the main pride he
had in his life. I had to agree with him. I can't even remember all the
other trips... Heidelberg, Köln (Cologne), Rothenburg (an ancient walled
city that people still live in)... Rothenburg was untouched by the war, but
Köln was flattened, all but the
cathedral, like Frankfurt. Of
course every cathedral we visited, we climbed up to the top on ancient stone
steps worn down smooth and contoured over the centuries. The photo of
Rothenburg is probably the most-photographed spot in all of Germany. There
was also a barely remembered trip to Switzerland, where there was some kind
of expo going on in Luzern.
We were supposed to stay in Germany until I graduated from high school in
1962. But my dad was caught having an affair with a woman in his office and
we were sent back a year early, in June 1961. This was a terrible blow to
me, I loved living there, I had never been happier anywhere else. I really
did not like Arlington and knew I would like it even less after finding out
how much better life could be. I tried to convince him to leave me behind,
I could be a dorm student, but no dice.
I had to give up the Radio Club and my radio show at the hospital; I turned
it over to a friend, fellow FHS-er and Radio Club member Diane Sutton.
She was surprised and a little apprehensive but I took her along a few times
and showed her how to do everything, and she did it and she was fine.
|On the SS America 1961
Now it was our turn to rotate. We traveled back the same way we came,
on the SS America, but from Le Havre (France) this time instead of
Bremerhaven. We drove there, of course, from Frankfurt, stopping in Verdun
for lunch where I was surprised to find out my dad spoke French!
I don't think he ever studied it in school; he just picked it up from
prostitutes when his Navy ship's home port was in Villefranche in the 1930s.
Anyway, some of my Frankfurt friends were on the same ship and we got our
old band together and played in the
ballroom and people danced. The voyage was from July 14 to July 21, 1961.
|SS America today
Pam, Part II
As the years and decades piled up I realized that I had never felt so good
with anyone as I had with Pam Ives back in the Army high
school in Germany. We were always comfortable and totally open with
each other. We had very similar lives and temperaments and backgrounds, we
understood each other perfectly. I looked for her over the years, hoping
she would show up in the Frankfurt High School reunion lists, but she never
did. When the Internet was born I looked there too, every year or so:
nothing. When I finally signed up for Ancestry.com in the course of writing
this history, I discovered that instead of going to Iowa State, she entered
the St. Lukes Hospital School of Nursing in Kansas City, Missouri.
This is her picture in the 1964 yearbook
("Luke O Cyte" :-)
Long story short, in September 2018 I was finally able to track her down. I
wrote her a letter, and poof! — after 50-some years (closer to 60 if
you must know), we were back touch. She's a retired nurse, was married
twice and has four children and four grandchildren
and is now single. She's active, in good health, and lives in New Mexico
("the Land of Entrapment", she says, because the cost of living is so low
there, nobody could ever afford to move away). She had hard times in her
life but she survived. All these years I didn't even know if she was alive
That month we were talking and emailing full time, early morning to late
night. It was the most fun I'd had since I could remember! A little
tentative at first because neither of us had any idea of what directions the
other had grown in. But each little feeler resulted in another revelation
that we were the same... sense of humor, politics, disrespect for authority,
likes and dislikes... I hadn't laughed so much in years! Pam's second
husband died in 2011; we both confessed to being sad and lonely, and now
suddenly we both weren't. We each found ourselves waking up ridiculously
early, eager to continue. Then she left on a long-planned trip to Paris
with her sister, brother-in-law, and cousin. I told her I hoped that
when she comes back there would be lots more weeks like this one, she said
"you bet there will be". One thing's sure: we'd never be bored because
between us we have 140 years' worth of life to catch up on.
|Four generations: Juliet, Ruth, Pam, Ellie
Pam is a pretty historic person too. She was stationed inside her Mom Ruth
while her Dad Charles, a 1st Lieutenant in the 75th Infantry ("Diaper")
Division, fought the Battle of Bulge. So like me, she was born into the
War. Pam's earliest memories are of crossing the ocean in the hold of a
troop ship in 1946. Until 1949 she lived in the rubble of bomb-flattened
Stuttgart, "on the economy" in a requisitioned German apartment because the
American bases and housing weren't built yet. She and her brother Warren
were raised by a German nanny, Anna Katrin von (something... every American
family hired German domestic help during the early occupation) so German was
their first language. They moved a thousand times, she has lived almost
everwhere, including many places I lived but at different times, like
Stuttgart, or (to mention just two of the K's) Kaiserslautern and
Kentucky... She has guts too. Just one example: as the first leg of her
Paris trip, she hopped in her car and drove 450 miles by herself to meet her
daughter Juliet in Colorado.
|In France September 2018
Three weeks later we had arranged to meet again after 57 years; I flew to
Albuquerque November 5th (never thought I'd fly again!) and stayed with her
for two solid weeks; we picked up where we left off in 1961 like we were 16
again. Except instead of going to the Teen Club and to bars we drove all
over New Mexico photographing
New Deal sites... Talk
about compatibility! I met Pam's mom Ruth again after all this time. She
lives nearby; we saw her a lot and she is awesome. I met some of Pam's
friends too and (on the last day) also her sister Penny (last seen in HiCog
in 1961) and brother-in-law Tom. We also dropped in on FHSer Sue Topp at
her shop in Santa Fe. Besides zooming around all over the state and seeing
people, we also ate well, enjoyed some good movies, and talked and talked
and talked. We have never stopped talking. And laughing!
|Pam and me at White Sands November 2018
|Pam and her Mom Ruth
|Pam at WPA site
Pam came to stay with me in the Bronx for a week in January 2019 and we had
tons o' fun. We toured the neighborhood, cooked and ate well, listened
to music, danced(!), watched movies, slept, all the things of life (retired
life, that is)... She met Peter and Amy; Peter cooked
chilis relleños for us one night. Then we had a second Bronx rendezvous in
March, and I met her son Billy, wife Claudia, and their son Sean. I went to
NM again for a couple weeks in April, she came to the Bronx again in
September, and again in February. Then the Coronavirus called a halt to
everything. Eventually we'll figure out what comes next. I'll say this:
finding Pam again feels like coming home after a nearly lifelong exile.
|Pam, Tom, Ruth, Penny at El Pinto
|At the Bronx Botanical Garden Jan 2018
|In Oval Park March 2019
|Dinner March 2019
The last photo is of a guy we met on one of our epic walks... the
volunteer caretaker of the 1948 Memorial
Grove in Van Cortlandt Park, where trees were planted and markers placed
for 21 World War II veterans who never returned. If
you enlarge the photo you can see several of
|Van Cortlandt Park
|Pam's birth notice 1945
|Pam meets Dad
|Charles, Pam, and Ruth
|Stuttgart 1945 (RAF photo)
|Family in Stuttgart 1947
|Pam in Stuttgart 1947
Pam was born in June 1945 in Rockford, Illinois, while her Dad was fighting
in Germany; her Mom Ruth was living with her mother, Olive, in Rockford.
Her dad was able to come home on leave for New Years 1945 to meet his
7-month-old daughter for the first time, then he went back to Germany and
Ruth and Pam sailed to Bremerhaven about a year later on a troopship and arrived in bomb-flattened Stuttgart to
settle into a German apartment requisitioned by the Army on the outskirts of
the devastation. The two photos in the apartment were
taken by a neighbor, Ilse Heinhoff(?), in 1947.
|Ruth and Charles Ives
|Lt. Charles Ives 1945
|Col. Ives 1970
|Charles Ives medals
Pam's dad was Charles G. Ives, known as Chad, born in 1923
in Rockford, Illinois, son of Navy doctor Captain Warren Chamberlain
Ives (1892-1952), son of Dr. Charles Gustin Ives and Helen Chamberlain Ives.
According to Chad's 1940 Rockford High School yearbook he studied German,
was in the school band, and "After leaving school 'Doc' will attend college,
aiming to become a capable physician and surgeon" (like his Dad). He was at
the State University of Iowa when Pearl Harbor happened and
he enlisted in the Army at age 18. Quickly rising to the rank of Corporal,
he was sent to (racially integrated) Officer
Candidate School at Fort Benning Georgia and commissioned Lieutenant in late
1943, then became a squad leader in the 75th Infantry Division, where he was
awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for
his actions at the Battle of the Bulge (click the medals image for details of his
medals). Meanwhile, his father Warren was a Navy Captain stationed with a
hospital unit in the Marshall Islands, working as a surgeon.
|Pam, Warren, Penny
When the War ended Chad was appointed Provost Marshall of occupied
Stuttgart, and at one point he drove Eleanor
Roosevelt on her postwar goodwill tour through the rubble and DP camps of
Frankfurt am Main and Wiesbaden[2,12]. In the
late 1940s or early 50s he was one of the guinea pigs at the A-bomb testing
sites who stood there and watched the blasts with only sunglasses for
protection. He was sent to Korea twice, once during the war there, and to
Germany again in 1958-61 (Kaiserslautern and Frankfurt), and to numerous
military bases all over the USA throughout his 30-year career, some of them
in the deep South in the Jim Crow era, where Pam tells me he made a point of
sitting in the back of the bus. His peacetime achievements are listed in
his Legion of Merit
citation: Batallion Commander, Base Commander, Professor of Military
Science... He retired a full Colonel in 1972 and moved to New Mexico for
health reasons, where he became active in local affairs, serving as chairman
of the Rancho de Placitas Water Board and of the board of El Pueblo Health
Clinic in Bernalillo (on which Pam herself serves today). He was a fan of
Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Benny Goodman and played the clarinet.
He died at his home in Placitas in 1997 with his family present.
|Chad Yearbook 1940
|Ruth Yearbook 1941
|SUI Yearbook 1944
Pam's mother Ruth was born Ruth Ann Lawrence in 1922 in
Mendota, Illinois. Ruth's mother was Olive Safford, who was born 22 March
1894 in Rockford to John Darius Safford and Nellie Ann Johns, and died 25
April 1990 in Rockford. Olive married Robert Alexander Lawrence 12 July
1919. In 1930, they lived at 510 Oakley Avenue in Rockford with their
children Mary B (born 1921), Ruth Ann, and Roberta O (born 1925). Olive
(Pam's granma) died 1990. Ruth was attending West High School in Rockford
when she met and dated Charles so they — like Pam and I —
were high school sweethearts. Ruth graduated in 1941 and then attended
Layton School of Art in Milwaukee. Meanwhile Chad went to the State
University of Iowa (SUI) in Iowa City, which he left to join the Army in
mid-1942. By then he and Ruth had drifted apart, but once in the Army he
came across her photo in his locker, wrote to her, and they wound up
marrying in July 1944 at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, where he was
stationed. Later that same year he was
back at SUI as a staff officer in the ROTC program until shipping out for
the war in Germany, and would remain in Germany until 1949. In 1946 Ruth
and Pam sailed to Bremerhaven and made their way to Stuttgart somehow to
join him. Their second child, Warren, was born there.
|Olive Yearbook 1912
From that point on, it was the nomadic existence of a military family. Ruth
lived the busy life of an Army officer's wife (Stuttgart Economy Wives Club,
Officer's Club, Officers' Wives Club, local charities, U.S. Lady
Magazine...) Pam and the other children went to countless schools; for
example, Pam went to six different schools in six years: an elementary
school in San Bernardino CA for 6th grade; Kaiserslautern Elementary for
7th, Frankfurt Elementary for 8th, the brand-new Frankfurt Junior High for
9th, Frankfurt High for 10th, and Fort Leavenworth High for 11th grade.
When Chad was sent somewhere that was not set up for dependents, Ruth would
take the children back to her mother's house in Rockford, as when Chad went
to Korea. Pam lived in Germany 1946-1949 and 1958-1961, about six years out
of her first 16.
|View from Ruth's house
|Pam and Ruth in Placitas 2018
Ruth is a very creative person. She drew and painted whatever she saw
wherever she lived, from occupied postwar Germany to New Mexico. Since the
1970s her work has been shown and sold in New Mexico art galleries. She's
also a patron of local Pueblo artists and made a series of paintings of
Pueblo dancers and children. Not to mention that also she is a
skilled "modiste" who made Pam's 1961 Prom dress!
And her mother Olive's first pants suit when she came to Germany to visit.
Today (2019) Ruth lives in the house that she and Chad bought in Placitas
when he retired in 1972, in the foothills of the Sandía mountains, about 20
miles from Pam in Albuquerque. Ruth turned 98 on December 4, 2020.
|Ruth in her studio 1997
Pam's family tree
Click image to see the whole tree
Pam's part of the tree puts the other
parts to shame, in height if not in breadth; it goes all the way back to
1066... no, make that 540AD! On her father's side...
- Chad's great-great grandfather Levi
Chamberlain (1792-1849) founded a whole branch of the family in
Hawaii in 1823, when he went there for missionary work. Levi's
granddaughter, Helen Stoddard Chamberlain
moved to Illinois (year unknown) and married Charles Gustin Ives, Chad's
- Chad's 4-great grandfather, Thomas
Patton (1725-1812) came to America from County Tyrone Ireland in 1744,
marrying Isabella Hayes, and eventually winding up in Pequa, Lancaster
County, where they had some children including James Patton, who is the
father of Maria Patton, the wife of Levi
Chamberlain, which makes Chad at least 1/64 Irish. But James Patton
married Martha Parke, whose paternal
grandparents also (both) came from Ireland, adding another 1/128th Irish to
Chad's heritage, or it would if one of their parents were not from
- Sidalia Niswander (1866-1926), is
Chad's maternal grandmother. Niswander is a Dutch name, so it seemed that
Chad was part Dutch. This is theory was reinforced by the fact that
Sedalia's uncle's first name was Jos, which is Dutch or (same thing)
Flemish. But it turns out Sedalia is descended from Swiss immigrants named
Neuenschwander; the name was "anglicized"
in the late 1700 by changing "Neuensch" to "Nis".
- Sedalia Niswander's husband, Chad's maternal grandfather, was
Lincoln Shaver (1866-1936). There is a
big tree above him in which most branches end before we see country of
origin, but at least we know that Shaver is an anglicization of Schaeffer
(= Schäffer), going back to Goerg
Barthel Schaeffer (1682-1731) and his wife Anna Maria Driefmeijer
(1686-1731) who emigrated from Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
- Georg Schaeffer (1714-1796) (son of
Georg Barthel Schaeffer and Chad's 5-great grandfather) was commissioned
a Lieutenant in the Maryland Militia September 26, 1776, and served in the
Continental Army in
Batallion, which fought nine battles between 1776 and 1779.
- John Ives (1729-1818), another of
Chad's 5-great grandfathers, served as a private in the 10th Connecticut
Regiment, Continental Army.
- Chad's father, Captain Warren Chamberlain
Ives (1892-1952), was a Navy doctor who served in both World Wars.
Pam's mother's side goes all the way back to the
Conquest (1066 and all
that), starting with Normans Sir Hugh de
Ville and Lord Robert de Hatton,
language who founded a dynasty of Lords and Sir Knights in Hatton,
Warwickshire, near Coventry, that lasted until at least 1260, at which point
the tree branches off via
Beatrix de Hatton and the Hatton Lords go
off in another direction. Never fear, Beatrix's son-in-law was
Sir Peter Pierce Thornton,
Baron of Cantilupe. Other highlights include:
- Three more generation of Sir Knights after Sir Peter (1340-1471).
Brandlings of Newcastle, comprising several generations of Sirs, Lords,
members of parliament, as well as Sherrifs and Mayors of Newcastle from 1497
until about 1700, including one Henry Brandling (1515-1578, Pam's 12-great
grandfather), who is said to
be Princess Diana's
- The Bucktons of Yorkshire,
culminating in Ursula Lady Buckton
(1526-1593, the wife of said Henry Brandling) and her daughter Ursula of
Newcastle, who married William of Ford, and whose brother was Richard Lord
- Elizabeth Jane Carr (1570-1594),
daughter of Ursula of Newcastle, who was related to the Catherine Carr
family, the only wife of King Henry VIII who was not put to death by him.
- A large number of Puritans who arrived at the Massachusetts Bay
Colony in the 1630s including including William Towne (1598-1773) and his wife Joanna
Blessing (1593-1682), three of whose daughters were accused of
witchcraft in Salem:
Nurse and Mary Towne
Estey (both were hanged),
and Sarah Towne
Cloyes (or Cloyce), who was indicted and imprisoned but not tried or
executed. At the time of the trials their ages were 44, 58, and 71. Their
names and stories are still well-known today, told in countless books and
portrayed in Arthur Miller's
play The Crucible
and the PBS series
Sovereigns for Sarah.
- John Hall (1723-1777), officer in the
Continental Army, killed in 1777 at
the Battle of
Hubbardton VT; he is Ruth's 5-great grandfather and Pam's 6-great.
- Jesse McCrary Dickey (1841-1914)
served in the Missouri State Militia, 51st Regiment, Company D, in the
Civil War, 1861-1865.
- Philip Shaver (1829-1904) came to
Iowa in 1844 with his parents. In 1850 he drove an oxcart to California in
the gold rush — a journey of five months — retuning to Iowa in
1853 with enough money to buy a cattle farm. He served in the US Army
several times, including during the Civil War in F Troop, 1st Iowa Cavalry,
enlisting as a Private in 1861 and commissioned as Captain later that year.
- Ruth's great-grandparents on the all-maternal line are
Richard Johns (1828-1911) and
Jane Ann Hocken (1830-1912),
both from Polperro, Cornwall.
After another trip to New Mexico in June, 2019, I dug deeper into Ruth's
side of the tree and found that she is a direct descendent
of Charlemagne, and of the English kings from William the
Conqueror to Edward III and their queens, and of a Spanish king, of
several French kings, of Henry "Hotspur" Percy (from Shakespeare's Henry
IV), of the Viking conquerors of Normandy and Russia, of Queen Anna of
Kiev and of Saint Anna of Sweden, of Yaroslav the Wise and of his father
Vladimir the Great of Kiev, and on and on;
see this page for highlights.
Many more branches remain to be explored.
- Charles Ives Medals, Pam's father's
- Headquarters, 75th Infantry Division, Office of
the Commanding General, CITATION, General Order Number 150, 25 May 1945.
- Mrs. Roosevelt
in Germany, British Pathé newsreel, 1946 (no sound). Unfortunately
it doesn't show Pam's Dad, even though he is driving the car. More about
Mrs. Roosevelt's 1946 German
in the New York Times (15 Feb 1946).
Mexico New Deal Sites, the photo gallery Pam and I made in
Mexico snapshots, November 2018.
Candidate School Hall of Fame [Inductee List]
(Charles G. Ives).
Wiederaufbaulüge der Bundesrepublik, Karl Dietz Verlag, Berlin (2008);
pages 54-55 describe a food riot in Stuttgart in November 1948 about which
Captain Ives (commander of the MP detachment that was called when the German
police failed to contain the disturbance) commented to an AP reporter that
he didn't know if the instigators were Communists or Nazis, which caused
a major uproar among German "conservatives".... Nazis????
In Germany?????? This incident is known as the Stuttgarter
Vorfälle; it was the "only instance since the end of the war that American
military forces acted to quell a public disturbance"[8,p.117].
- Stuttgart Post News, 1940s, for example the February 21, 1948,
Stuttgart Commissary, which indicates there was still some degree of
more Stuttgart Post News articles.
- Lemza, John W, American
Military Communities in West Germany, McFarland & Company (2016).
- "5 Reds in Stuttgart
York Times, 30 October 1948, p.4: "Capt. Charles G. Ives, United States
Provost Marshal for Stuttgart, said, 'I don't know whether they were
Communists or leftovers from the Nazi regime'."
- Jardineros de
Placitas 50th anniversary, interview with Ruth Ives, Youtube (2015).
Kids Enliven Artist's Work", Albuquerque Journal, 11 February
1997, p.45 (West Side Journal section, p.7).
Postwar Europe: A Haunting Horror (1946), Eleanor Roosevelt Papers
Project, George Washington University, according to which ER spent three
days on the ground in West Germany and visited DP camps in Zeilshausen
(about 7 miles outside of Frankfurt, the next town past Höchst) and
Wiesbaden (11 miles past Zeilsheim). She also visited Frankfurt itself
including the I.G. Farben building, and also Höchst, before flying to
Berlin. So this was when Pam's dad was ER's escort, February 13-15, 1946.
February 1946 Frankfurt/Berlin itinerary.
Candidate School (United States Army),
Wikipedia (accessed 26 February 2019).
- Wallace, John P.,
Genealogy of the Parke family nine generations from
Arthur and Mary Parke, 1720-1920, privately published, 1919.
- Chamberlain, Levi, Journals 1822-1849, typed transcripts on microfilm at
the Online Archive of California at the University of California at
Berkeley, Collection Number: BANC MSS 67/9 p FILM.
- Melville, Herman, Typee and Omoo, written in the 1840s, in
which he takes a dim view of the protestant missions in the Sandwich
Most recent update: 18 March 2021 15:06:46