Band Camp Capers.

Circe Olson Woessner

When I was in middle and high school, I played trombone in my school band.  One of the neat things about being in a DODDS school is that we had lots of opportunity to play with students from German, French, Canadian and other DODDS schools throughout the year.

When I was 13, members of the 33rd Army band came to work with us, and then we gave a joint concert that evening.

In my journal from that time, I wrote that we played “MacArthur Park”, “Spirit of ‘76”, Drums of America” and “Mississippi Suite”.  I also noted that one of the Army trombone players told me that while my embouchure was good, my breathing was off—I was breathing through my nose and chest, and I needed to fill my stomach with air. He gave me his gold-plated mouthpiece to use until he “came back down to Karlsruhe”. 45 years later, I still have it.

Sometimes our “pep” band would give short concerts downtown in the town square, or in front of the big Herties department store. On May 7th, 1976, I recorded that it was 90 degrees at our concert, and we were sweating in our white turtleneck sweaters and black blazers! I remember that because of the heat, I felt sick and had a headache, which lasted for days.

Our band usually traveled with our sports teams, and it was customary to swap spirit buttons or ribbons with kids from other schools. Once, we were at either Baden or Lahr doing a joint concert with the Canadian school kids, and I didn’t have any buttons to swap, so I asked the Canadians to autograph my brotchen instead.  One of the boys said, “You do set trends, Circe”. Later, while trying to preserve the bread roll, I inadvertently burned it to charcoal in the oven…so much for setting trends!

Because we did so many things regularly with kids from different schools, we developed real friendships, and often, we’d hop on a train and go visit each other outside of school events.

We all looked forward to the weeklong international band camp. Students from Karlsruhe American High School, Canadian kids from the bases at Baden and Lahr, and students from French and German schools came together in a castle/former monastery/ youth hostel in Maulbronn for a week of music and friendship. At the end of the week, we gave a huge concert to a huge crowd (probably mostly parents and military officials) and it was a Very Big Deal.

Reading back through my journal from that year, I noted that we had goulash for our first day lunch.  We roomed dorm-style—all of us Karlsruhe girls were together –but I didn’t necessarily get to room with my friends—it was luck of the draw.  I recall bunks and no heat!

Breakfasts at the youth hostel consisted of brotchen, jelly, cheeses and cold cuts—I remember drinking rosehip tea—a very distinctive taste, to be sure—not bad, but different.  I still love that kind of breakfast best!

Thinking back, we seemed to have very little supervision after hours. During the day, our watchful teachers made sure we learned the songs, and practiced for the big day, but according to my memory—and corroborated by my journal—we pretty much roamed freely at night.

(I have a feeling we were under more scrutiny than we realized, but, at the time, it seemed pretty free.)

While there were structured events –like discos and skit nights–to occupy us in the evenings, we still managed to sneak into town to hang out with our new friends and eat French fries and bratwursts in a local gasthaus. I look back at my notes, and I mention that I ordered wine for my table– a “Siegelsheimer Sylvaner”—not bad for a kid of 13!

That year, I “met” a boy.  He bought me ice cream and taught me how to break a full-nelson; that skill, I admit, I have never used. He lived in Baden- Baden and we were friends outside of band. We’d meet whenever my folks would go up to shop at the Canadian exchange, and he sometimes came down to Karlsruhe to visit.

Some of the crushes we developed in band camp developed into full-on romances and lasting friendships. Others, fizzled the minute the applause from concert died down and we boarded our busses back to our respective bases.

We looked forward to our annual trip to Maulbronn—while our friends rotated back to their respective countries, we made new friends and the hijinks continued.

We held “séances” in the ancient hallways, scaring ourselves silly. We sneaked into the boys’ dorms—and vice versa–some of the more brave ones climbing out the dormitory windows, inching along the windowsills –ignoring the possibility of a two to three story plunge to certain death.  One year, I cut my foot on one of my roommate’s suitcase clasps, and by the time I got home later that week, I had red streaks running up my foot and leg and required double doses of penicillin.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

One year, a group of us decided to scale the castle wall, just “because” it was a challenge, and we were teenagers. How could we get to the first level? The ancient battlements were built to keep the inhabitants safe from medieval invaders, how could modern teenagers manage to climb up?

Well, for one thing, we were taller than people back then, so we had a little bit of an advantage. We also were very determined. With the help of a large plank, which we stuck into a small hole in the wall, some acrobatics and a lot of pushing and shoving, lifting and dragging, we managed to get up. In a later journal, I described my 30-some bruises, scratches and lumps with great pride. It’s too bad we didn’t have a camera to capture our antics.

It was also a miracle no one got hurt!

We all made it back to band rehearsal on time, sore and tired but pleased with ourselves.

Maulbronn was a wonderful experience—and a very unique one. Students from different nations coming together under one roof –a mini UN bonding over the universality of music. Memories, even after 40+ years remain vivid, and some friendships remain intact to this day.








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Looking to Start a New Mexico Group of Former DODDS Teachers & Students

Recently, several former DoDDS teachers came to visit the Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF). They had such a great time going through it, pouring through our yearbook collection, admiring the artifacts collected by fellow teacher Dorothy Cox, and swapping stories of their own years of teaching at various schools around the world.

Since having moved to Albuquerque, I’ve run into several DoDDs teachers who live here. One of them, Betty Follett suggested there must be more living in the state.

She says, “I’d like to find teachers, aides, students–anyone connected to DoDDS in New Mexico who might want to get together once in a while to share our experiences overseas.”

I thought that it would be great to host the first get-together in the Museum’s garden on April 28, 2018 from 1:00-3:00. Light refreshments will be served.

MAMF is located at 546B State Route 333 (Old Route 66), right next to Molly’s Bar, in Tijeras.

Please RSVP to Betty Suva Barron Follett  at (505) 565-2451



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