by John Sullivan

The “Itty Bitty Cake Sale”…Well how do I begin this?…Ok.. 1969-70 school year Subic Bay Philippines. Our GDHS junior class was holding bake sales on Saturdays to raise money for our Senior/Junior Prom( we did the prom for both classes together because we didn’t have a ton of seniors). Anyway my buddies Ed..Ron… and I thought it was better time spent going to the beach on Saturdays drinking beer and waterskiing all day. Well one day we were informed that if we didn’t contribute money to the prom committee we weren’t going to be allowed to attend the prom! Our girlfriends were furious with us! So we got our mom’s to make us a couple of cakes each. Dad informed us that a carrier was coming in to the Cubi side pier from a Vietnam Nam deployment. So one Saturday when the carrier arrived the three of us put the cakes in mom’s car along with a card table….Ron’s cute sister Vickie and we drove down to the carrier pier. We had planned to set up shop at the bottom of the gang plank. When we arrived the Master at Arms wanted to know what the heck we were doing there!! We told him we were there for a bake sale if it’s ok with him. He told us to wait a minute and then went to speak with people. When he came back he told us they would allow us to go up to the hanger deck level and set our table up there! Oh yeah!!! We thanked him profusely and went up the gang plank. We set up our table and put the cakes out…. Once the sailors and marines saw Vickie they all piled over to us! These guys had been on station for weeks off Viet Nam and had spending money in their pockets! We sold out in 10 minutes, thanked everyone and then headed out to our dependents’ beach which was right around the corner from the carrier pier and joined our gang. We drank beer and water skied the rest of the day and then turned in our cash at school on Monday. We all went to the prom and life was good again. We all added another wild story notch into our Brat lives belt!

The Museum’s Blogs & Podcast

Did you know that the museum has six blogs and its own podcast? Click on the links below to read stories and articles by, and for, military families. Check out MAMF Media to listen to our interviews and stories.

A blog about schooling overseas

A blog about military families and service organizations

A blog about military families

The museum news blog

From the Frontlines to the Homefront-

MAMF Media-the museum’s podcast


by Allen Dale Olson

It was one of those hot, muggy spring Sundays in Washington when I decided on the spur of the moment to take my wife and daughter for a drive through Rock Creek Park and follow the scenic street around the National Zoo to Connecticut Avenue to a little pizzeria for an early dinner. Traffic on Connecticut Avenue that evening seemed far more congested than ever, so on a hunch I turned onto a side street gambling that we would find a way to sneak into that little strip mall and find our pizza.

“Hey,” I shouted out, “that looks like Sue – and Doc.” Indeed it was Sue and Doc, and it had been at least three years since we had seen either of them. They were trying to push a car along the little street.

Dr. (Doc) Joseph A. Mason had been Director of the U.S. Air Force Dependents Schools System in Europe from 1956 through 1961 when he and his wife, Sue, had gone off to Uganda to head the A.I.D. mission there. During his years in Europe, I had been a teacher and principal in schools on U.S. Air Bases in Turkey, Germany, England, and France and had seen him several times but never on any sort of continuing basis. Coincidentally, when he left for Africa, I left Europe for a senior position on the staff of the National Education Association just up 16th Street from the White House.

Doc and Sue were glad to see us. They had borrowed a car from a friend in whose apartment they were staying, and it had run out of gas. They had seen a gas station at the end of the little street and had been hoping to shove the car to a pump. There were hugs and exclamations of surprise at the chance meeting and words of astonishment at how much our four-year-old had grown.

Together we eased the car to the curb, and I drove Doc to the gas station where we got a two-gallon can, filled it, and made sure the car would start. They, too, were ready for pizza, and our place was just past the gas station.

They had come to Washington because his tour with A.I.D. was over, and he wanted to claim his job rights to the Directorship of the Air Force schools as he had been promised when he took the Africa job. But there were complications.

The Congress had since mandated the Secretary of Defense to merge the Dependents Schools Systems of the Air Force, Army, and Navy in Europe into a single Directorate under the supervision of the Army. In effect, Doc would be competing with former Directors of the Army and Navy systems for the new Directorate.

I suggested he might consider applying for the Superintendency  of the Montgomery County Public Schools. He shook his head; his heart – and Sue’s – was set on getting back overseas, which caused him to ask me about how I felt about returning to Europe.

My wife and I both told him we missed overseas life and working with the military. He said  that he therefore assumed that if he got the appointment, I would consider joining his staff.

“It all depends,” he said on the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Europe. “The Directorate would be in the same buildings used by the former Army school headquarters in Karlsruhe, Germany, and the Commander would make the appointment.” He explained that when it was decided to make the merger, the Army had hired a civilian superintendent who had had no military experience. It now seemed that both the superintendent and the three military service commanders were unhappy about the appointment. If he would leave, the position would be open for the Army commander to make a new appointment.

Doc was leaving for Germany the next week to be interviewed by the general and felt that  because of his previous experience with the Air Force school system and the A.I. D. appointment, he would be extremely competitive for the job.  Some six weeks later, he sent me a telegram that he was getting the job and would want to see me when he came “soon” to Washington.

“Soon” was right after New Year’s 1967. My wife and I met him at the Watergate Inn for dinner. (Yes, THE Watergate office/apartment complex of Nixon notoriety not too many years later. ) Over some good German wine, we talked as if I had already hired on. Since his appointment, he had been working to assure that the Directorate would properly serve Air Force and Navy installations as well as those on Army installations throughout the “European Area,” now described as Sub-Saharan Africa to the Arctic Circle, all of Western Europe and the Middle East, some 200 schools to operate, another couple hundred of international and host nation schools to whom we pay tuition for  military kids.

“Charlie Ross will stay as my deputy,” he said, “and I don’t think you know him, but I’ve made Tom Wilber my Chief of Staff; now I need an executive officer who can travel to military communities and interact with commanders and parent groups and the press.  Your recent exposure to national education issues and past work with the military makes you a natural for this.”

A month later, another telegram summoned me to an Army recruitment office in the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue (YES, the future Trump Hotel), where I met Doc’s personal chief recruiter, Helen Johanns, who walked me through all the Civilian Personnel offices necessary to sign me on.

Memorial Day in May 1967, my wife, daughter, and I flew to Frankfurt where we were met by a German driver in an Army sedan and driven to Karlsruhe and a new career I learned to love and which ended more than 20 years later as a senior staff member on the Heidelberg staff of the U.S. Army Europe Commander-in-Chief.

Oh, fate!  and a pizza pie and an empty gas tank.




On October 14, 2021,  the Museum of the American Military Family will observe the 75th anniversary of the opening of Defense Department Dependents Schools in Europe and the Far East by releasing a commemorative anthology,  “SCHOOLING WITH UNCLE SAM.”

The anthology will not focus on the school system history or governing policies but on  personal memories–what it was like to work or study in the school system, to live and work in a foreign country or military installation and move from year to year to another country or state  – the mundane, funny, or tragic events and interactions that made for a memorable experience. Stories should be about a certain time, event, or experience about school/work/life with DoDEA (or with its predecessor organizations such as DoDDS, USDESEA, DEG, etc.)

This is a chance to preserve a unique history and to be a part of it. It’s an opportunity to share a personal look at a world-wide school system serving America’s world-wide interests and assuring that your involvement with it will be recognized.

Your story  should be first-person and can be as long or short as you choose. Please also consider including black-and-white photos to help illustrate your memoir. You can submit up to three different pieces for the book.

Authors included in the anthology will receive a free copy of the book in lieu of payment.  All stories become the property of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collections Library. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to help the Museum continue to bring exhibits and programming to the museum community free of charge.

Story suggestions … a unique classroom, your daily commute to school, your host nation neighborhood, a military “incident” in or around school, a favorite host nation restaurant or field trip experience,  a celebrity or high ranking or local dignitary visiting your school, something funny at school. Or an event memorable to you.

You need not be an accomplished writer to participate. MAMF will provide minor editing to sharpen your contribution.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, July 2, 2021. The anthology will be released at a public anniversary observance in October of 2021.

To submit a story, or for more information, please e-mail the submissions to

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