Liaison Work

by Allen Dale Olson

In May 1967 I checked into the Directorate of the United States Dependents Schools, European Area (USDESEA) in Karlsruhe, Germany, beginning a twenty-plus year career of working with remarkable educators and military officers. USDESEA had been established by the Defense Department to operate under the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) some 200-plus elementary, middle, and high schools for the sons and daughters of military personnel assigned to the European Area.

For school purposes, in 1967 the European Area extended from sub-Saharan Africa to the Arctic Circle, from Rota, Spain, to Ankara, Turkey, and enrolled more than 100,000 students in schools on Army, Navy, and Air Force installations. USDESEA also had responsibility for paying tuition to international and State Department schools in locations where too few military dependents precluded operating a school. These “tuition-fee”  schools were all over Africa, the Middle East, and in European cities where there were no U.S. military installations. USDESEA was responsible for ascertaining that these schools were providing an acceptable American-style education.

The USDESEA Directorate was organized much like the superintendencies of civilian school systems in the United States – a Director with heads of Curriculum, Logistics, Finances, Facilities, Personnel, and Elementary and Secondary Specialists. Subordinate District Superintendents were based in parts of Germany, along the Mediterranean Coast, and in England. School facilities and transportation services were the responsibility of local host installation commanders, reimbursed by USDESEA.

(It should be noted that while schools in the European Area were supported by the Army, the schools in the Pacific Area – Japan, Korea, etc. – were under the Department of Air Force, and the schools in the Atlantic Theater – Azores, Bermuda, Iceland, etc. – were under the Department of Navy, all with their own civilian school Directorate.)

I arrived to fill a new position for which a job description evolved, ending up with a vague Executive Officer title responsible primarily for public affairs and school-community relations. I loved those duties!

Not only did they necessitate my working with all the Directorate staff but they also meant I had to circulate among the district offices and the schools to meet with local commanders and school staffs. In short, I was not only immersed in the education profession and in communication with strategic military missions and stationing plans, I was also really seeing the world!

My position led to becoming the school system representative to the Transatlantic Boy Scout Council, the North Atlantic Girl Scout Council, the European PTA, and management spokesman for negotiations with the Overseas Education Association and the Overseas Federation of Teachers. It required me to be acquainted with all aspects of school system policies, military populations (to include nature of missions), curriculum decisions, and involved in the development of new and unique programs such as Project Bold, D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse and Resistance Education), African-American Studies. I met with Education Ministers throughout Germany, in England, Holland, and Belgium in search of host nation resource teachers to help our students with language and cultural studies. I was part of numerous meetings working out support details for the establishment of international schools at AFCENT Headquarters in the Netherlands and at NATO-SHAPE Headquarters near Brussels. I met almost weekly with reporters for STARS and STRIPES and the American Forces Radio Network for discussions about school programs, personalities, and current education issues. (Because of the number of letters I answered for STARS and STRIPES, one of the editors referred to me as “The Ann Landers of USDESEA.”)

Other duties included scheduling, planning for, and hosting visiting dignitaries from the Congress, the Defense Department, and Stateside universities and attending national education conferences in the United States. Another very big project in the late 1970s reached my desk: develop a plan to establish a local  advisory council at each school; a regional advisory council for each Directorate, a European level school advisory council, and a similar council at the DoD level!

In short, these duties added up to more than 100,000 traveling miles a year!

Twelve years later, in 1979, Congressional Committees and Defense Department officials determined that the central authority for the schools should be in the Pentagon and that the overseas areas should be broken into smaller “regions,” each with its own regional director and staff. It took a while, because interests within and without the school system and the military departments were not convinced this was a good plan. At the same time, an initiative that reached the White House level would have the Defense Department schools transfer into the new Department of Education and be assigned to an Under Secretary. (Full disclosure: my name was a finalist on the White House list for that secretarial position.)

The services and many long-time veterans of the school system were opposed to the transfer to the Department of Education. When it became obvious that many international Status-of-Forces Agreements and federal employment benefits would have to be revised, the transfer proposal failed, and the DoD centralization happened instead.  USDESEA was dissolved; DoDDS Germany Region North and DoDDS Germany Region South as well as  DoDDS Atlantic and DoDDS Mediterranean Regions were created to replace it.

The USAREUR staff requested a DoD liaison to work with them on their school responsibilities. DoD and one Regional Director resisted the idea; other Directors and the Navy and Air Force both pushed for a liaison. When DoDDS Washington concurred, the USAREUR Commander-in-Chief name-requested me but the DoDDS Director insisted that I also maintain a desk in the DoDDS Germany South office in Karlsruhe. USAREUR accepted that for a while but soon realized that to be credible to their school-hosting installation commanders, the liaison would have to be a full-time USAREUR employee, not a DoDDS employee, so they created such a position to which I was appointed.

My USAREUR duties were not terribly different from my former duties with USDESEA, though I no longer handled press relations. I became a voting member of the European School Advisory Council which met quarterly at one of the command headquarters – Navy in London, USEUCOM in Stuttgart; Air Force in Wiesbaden, later Ramstein; and Army in Heidelberg; and  I became a voting member of the Dependent Education Council which met quarterly in the Pentagon. Agendas included issues obtained from school level and subordinate command officials, such as V Corps (Frankfurt), VII Corps (Stuttgart), 21st Support Command (Kaiserslautern), SETAF (Vicenza), and 7th ATC (Grafenwoehr). I continued to  meet regularly with the Regional Directors (Wiesbaden, Karlsruhe, London, and Madrid) and with designated school officers at subordinate commands, with Air Force and Navy counterparts, and to attend all the regional conferences of school administrators.

The effectiveness of a liaison officer is almost impossible to quantify. If the number of meetings attended and miles traveled or hotel beds slept in were the chief criteria, the evaluations would go through the roof!  But when a school principal needs clarification for his or her installation commander that it’s really the host’s responsibility for school lunch programs, bus transportation and discipline, and for facility maintenance, it’s helpful to have an Army headquarters staffer at his side. Or when a commander or parent committee has concerns about a school issue or employee, it’s useful to bring in opinions from one who has been on the school side to help bring the parties together.

As one who performed liaison duties for twenty years, I can only say the experiences were richly rewarding: because of the caliber of people I met and worked with. The principals and teachers were some of the most imaginative, creative, and dedicated as any I could ever meet; and the military personnel with whom I was surrounded proved over and over how much they honor country, citizen, and duty; and because of being involved with the missions on Freedom’s Frontier with those who served NATO and protected America and Americans.

Not only that, I learned where I could find the best meals near train stations, motor pools, in airports, and along the Autobahns!


JOANIE AND HER CAMEL

by Allen Dale Olson

It isn’t every day a groom sees his bride atop a camel racing toward the horizon of the Sahara Desert. Certainly not something we had planned for on our spring break trip to Cairo and the Valley of the Kings.

We were not really bride and groom – we had been married almost six months but because I had gone off to Turkey right after our 1957 wedding to start my teaching duties at the Izmir High School on the U.S. Air Base and she hadn’t got there until her term started at the Kiz College some weeks later, spring break was our first vacation together. From Turkey it seemed only natural that we should “do” the Middle East. Spring Break saw us in Damascus, Beirut, Jerusalem, and Cairo.

At Giza, with plenty of help from an official guide, I climbed to the top of the Great Pyramid feeling that would be my most exciting adventure in Egypt. Pepsi-Cola changed that feeling.

Reunited with Joanie at the foot of the pyramid, we walked through a gauntlet of vendors and peddlers all hoping and working hard at selling us jewelry, trinkets, carvings, rugs, and camel rides. Yes, camel rides.

Almost every Egyptian vendor had a camel or two and for a few piastres we could take a ride on one. Joanie wanted nothing to do with a camel ride. But one persistent hawker shamed her into thinking about how she’d feel once she got home without having had even her picture taken on a camel. For just a couple of dollars, he would let her sit on his camel named Pepsi Cola for a photo.

With some trepidation, I helped the camel driver hoist her into Pepsi Cola’s saddle. And while she forced a smile, I began snapping pictures.

However, as I put my camera away, Pepsi Cola bolted from the driver and started running toward the desert with the driver yelling for him to come back. But Pepsi Cola, with a screaming passenger, continued into the sands and ran as if he was headed for Libya.

“Come on,” the driver shouted at me; “we’ve got to get her.” He helped me on to his neighbor’s camel – Coca Cola, by the way — got on his own camel and we started the chase. Some two or three hundred yards away from the street, Pepsi Cola came to a stop, and the driver and I could pull to him on both sides. I confess that my camel did it all by himself; I had no idea how to guide Coca Cola.

The driver simultaneously shrieked angry reprimands at Pepsi Cola and reassured Joanie that she was now safe. He said that he and his camel and I and Coca Cola would walk slowly back to the pyramid on either side of Pepsi Cola so that naughty camel could not break away again.

I thanked the driver as we helped Joanie off her mount, but he turned to me with an aggrieved expression and said that since we had had a camel ride, surely we would feel obliged to compensate him, especially since his companion had let us use his camel to help with the rescue. I couldn’t help but notice that the chase had attracted quite an audience of other vendors and passersby, all seemingly curious about how this was going to turn out.

I could not deny that we had each had a camel ride and that the threat of a run-away had seemed very real. I thought about how I should report that perhaps we had been framed but could not identify a single presence in the small crowd who looked as if he would be sympathetic to such a plea. I recalled the price he had quoted earlier for a ride, so I opened my wallet and took out double the amount and paid him in piastres. I also saw a five dollar bill in the wallet and added that to the mix, which seemed to brig him great satisfaction, because he turned to the admiring crowd around us to proclaim what a fine gentleman I am and brave as well, to help rescue his beautiful wife from desert dangers.

On the bus back to Cairo, I could hardly remember my climb up the Great Pyramid.

 


CALL FOR STORIES-75th Anniversary DODDS-DODEA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

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 OlsonAllen@msn.com.

To learn more about the museum visit the website: www.militaryfamilymuseum.org and follow us on FB http://www.facebook.com/MuseumoftheAmericanMilitaryFamily.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO SOME REMARKABLE MEMORIES!

 


On Having your Senior Year Turned Upside Down


A.W.O.L. EXHIBITION

by Allen Dale Olson

On the second of January 1992, the university president called me to say he had “volunteered” me. Because the call came to  my home, I knew it was something of great interest to him. “You need to go to Nice next month,” he said.

There can’t be many employees who get to sent to Nice in the middle of winter, I thought.

He had been approached by a London-based event promoter to provide a keynote speaker for a first-time event – a Resort Hotel Exhibition – bringing owners and representatives of luxury hotels from around the world for three days of networking and education in one of the globe’s most popular tourism destinations at the height of Carneval, one of Europe’s grandest festivals. The promoters wanted to tie the business of tourism to the schools of tourism, and Dr. Leibrecht offered his Director of the International School of Tourism for the assignment. He always enjoyed having Schiller International University on stage.

In Strasbourg at daybreak on Tuesday, February 18 I boarded an Air Inter flight to Lyon to connect with another flight arriving in  Nice before noon. The conference was to open next morning.

My room at the Hotel Plaza wasn’t ready so I walked a few blocks to the Akropolis where I could pre-register for the event. The hostess was pleased to see me, saying that registrations had been very slow. I told her the receptionist at the hotel had also said that I was the first convention-goer to sign in at the Plaza. She did not seem pleased with that information.

After a leisurely lunch at la Dent de la Mer and a stroll through Vieux Nice, I returned to the registration desk where I learned only a few attendees had signed in. Having no commitments, I was free to visit the elegant salons and picture galleries of the Hotel Negresco and to set up a vantage point on Place Massene to watch the great Mardi Grasparade, a spectacle worthy of its world-class reputation.

Wednesday, February 19 – Speech in hand, I walked to the auditorium of the Akropolis eager to get the keynoting over with and enjoy Nice. Though it was still an hour till start time, it seemed there should be more than thirty or so people in the auditorium, nearly all of whom were involved in working on light and sound systems, wall hangings, and other busy work. A notice flashed on the screen on stage announcing that the morning general session would follow the Organizers’ Reception at 1:00 pm.

There were some impressive displays set up in the Exhibit Hall – things like miniature golf courses, indoor gymnasia, spas and saunas, boat docks, lobby furniture, and the like. Overhearing American English, I approached and met Patrick Willis from a heating system company in Wisconsin. He was furious.

“I spent more than $20,000 to bring my display and five staff members here, and they’re telling me only about 50 people have registered for the whole darn conference,” he said. Other exhibitors told similar tales. One of them said the organizers had sent urgent invitations out to spa and resort owners along the Riviera Coast in the hope of getting some attendees, but so far the response had been negligible.

At the organizers’ reception I met John Knight, a professor from Purdue, who had been invited to address the general session following the reception. He, too, had been hearing angry reports from exhibitors about the lack of attendance. After some snacks and a glass of champagne, John and I headed to the auditorium to find every seat occupied – by irate exhibitors screaming for the heads of the promotion company. It was obvious they were in no mood to hear John’s speech.

One of the promoters got the group quiet enough to apologize and to explain how the company had really fouled up by failing to get invitations mailed and distributed for reasons beyond their comprehension. After that, there was little civil discourse, as exhibitors began shouting in English, German, French, Italian about refunds, law suits, criminal charges, fraud, and other crimes which may or may not have been relevant.

Security officers managed to restore sufficient order so the event promotors could explain they would set up an office in the convention center where exhibitors could meet and try to work out a solution to all their expenses and concerns. They pronounced the Exhibition and Conference program over.

On the way out, one of the exhibitors invited John and me to a champagne reception in the Royal Salon of the Hotel Negresco that evening.  In spite of their anger, the exhibitors hosted an elegant little party in an elegant place.

Thursday, February 20 – Caught the 9:05 am Air-Inter to Paris-Orly from where I called my boss before boarding the Strasbourg flight.

Postlude – A couple years later I met John on the Purdue Campus at Fort Wayne where we  reminisced about what could surely qualify as anyone’s oddest trip to Nice. Neither of us had ever heard about how it all turned out.

 

 


CALL FOR STORIES-75th Anniversary DODDS-DODEA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

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 OlsonAllen@msn.com.

To learn more about the museum visit the website: www.militaryfamilymuseum.org and follow us on FB http://www.facebook.com/MuseumoftheAmericanMilitaryFamily.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO SOME REMARKABLE MEMORIES!

 


A NEW YEAR’S DAY TO REMEMBER

One New Year’s Day, my family drove to the town of  Lembach in Alsace for lunch. As we meandered through the woods on the last leg to the Gimbelhof restaurant, we came across a woman standing next to the road. She was crying. She frantically flagged us down, explaining that she and her husband had been hiking and her husband suddenly collapsed. She needed a ride to call for a doctor.

My dad drove her up to the restaurant, where they placed the call.  After, we drove her back to the walking path where she had left her husband. He was still there, lying alone in the woods.

I was just a little kid. While my parents and she conversed, I observed the man: his eyes were closed, and he was kind of purple. I looked up at the woman and said, “maybe he’s sleeping.” She managed a weak smile and said, maybe.

A French doctor showed up, pronounced him dead, and the adults discussed what to do.

The couple was German; he had died in France. All she wanted was for us to drive them back to the border to where they had parked their car and she would take him home.

The paperwork would be a nightmare, otherwise.

I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember my dad and the doctor putting the man into our car’s passenger seat. They had to lay the seat back, because they couldn’t bend the man any more. The doctor, not wanting to be involved in body smuggling left. Because there was no room in the car, my mom and I walked down the footpath towards Germany, while my dad drove the Germans to the unmanned border crossing where they transferred the body to her car. My mom and I soon caught up, and after we said our goodbyes and thank yous, we went to back to the restaurant and had  a late lunch.

 

 

 

 


The Bottles

By Allen Dale Olson

First, the wine rack, a 1967 Christmas gift to me from my wife Joan for use in storing very special wines. It was made in Karlsruhe where we lived from 1967 to 1979. Each of the empty bottles in it represent a very special memory, some even still tell a story about our serving them in Karlsruhe and our next home in Heidelberg.
As an off-duty wine writer, consultant, and collector, I always refused to admit to a favorite wine, claiming impressions always depend on how the wine is served, under what circumstances, and with whom.  However, I always recall  one wine with very special feeling…IMG_0875

 

 

…A nonvintage rose from an obscure Bergerac winery at Chateau Malfourat –. That story began in the spring of 1989 in a very fine restaurant in the suburbs of Bordeaux where, just as dinner was ending, I told Joan I was having alarming disturbances in the  stomach. By the time we had got to the car for the drive back to our hotel, the disturbances had turned to acute pain. For most of the night in the hotel room the pain and vomiting had become excruciating. The hotel owner at dawn called a doctor who actually came to our hotel room and diagnosed appendicitis, arranging for immediate admission to the Jean Villar Hospital in the city.

For the better part of a day, doctors and medical technicians studied my every organ and movement, determining finally that surgery was required. That evening a surgeon removed a ruptured appendix. For a week I lay chained by feeding and medical tubes to a hospital bed, comforted faithfully by Joan who seldom left my side. On the seventh day the surgeon came for a visit, pleased with his work and happy that recovery was nearly complete. He gave permission to start eating real food again and said that if Joan would drive, not me, he would let us go back to Karlsruhe with a note for our German doctor explaining what had been done and how the stitches should be removed.

Two hours out of Bordeaux, it was lunch time. In a village, Joan went into a grocery store and came out with sandwiches and a bottle of wine. Having just left a place where some of the most famous wines in the world are produced, she was almost embarrassed to show me the bottle. “It’s just a little grocery store,” she explained, and “this looked like as good as they had.” It was a rose of no particular character. But my palate and my stomach remember it as one of the best wine tastes I ever experienced. That bottle has been in the rack ever since.

Chateaux Margaux 1934 As one of the Princes of the Bordeaux blood, you don’t find Chateau Margaux on very many store shelves. That’s why I was surprised on a hot July morning while jogging around the narrow streets of my Karlsruhe neighborhood to see in the window of a tiny delicatessen a bottle of Chateaux Margaux 1934, at the time forty years old. I stopped and stared at it, then entered the store, sweaty in my running skivvies. The elderly proprietor was about to lock up (stores in Germany were seldom open on Saturday afternoons in those days.) but told me the asking price was a hundred Marks – about $60, a very modest price even then. We both agreed that it may well have passed its prime. When I explained that I would like to buy it but had no money on me, he suggested I take it home and come back next week to pay for it, an incredible suggestion from a merchant who had never before seen me. I walked it back home and put it in the rack. (And I did pay him the following Monday!)

I thought the Margaux would be ideal for Joan’s birthday dinner that October. I was wrong. It was far from ideal. The wine tried very hard to be Margaux, gasping up a touch of  color, but time had taken its toll. Not really spoiled, it was just tired. Vintage 1934 had not been particularly good in Bordeaux, so even Margaux of that year had a feeble pedigree. But you can never forget a Chateau Margaux and even after a dozen or more visits to that famous chateaux where we have sampled splendid vintages, that 1934 opened in 1974 remains memorable. It earned its place in the rack.

Domaine Romanee-Conti 1973 It cannot be denied that Romanee-Conti would get a mention when asked what is the most expensive wine in the world. Because of very high quality and very limited production, it is one of the most sought-after wines by collectors and wine investors. Today’s bottles run well over  five-figure price tags, but even back in the 70s and 80s, they fetched a pretty price. That’s why on my birthday in August 1984, in humid Chicago, I was stunned to hear that my daughter and her husband were treating me to a 1973 Romanee-Conti.

They were recently out of college and embarked on first efforts at careers and were in no position to shop for fine Burgundy. She told me it took her best powers of persuasion plus a store discount to convince the merchant to make a deal possible. Unfortunately, however, her tiny

Chicago flat had very unreliable air conditioning, and everyone knows that the Chicago Lake Effect has very little influence on hot Midwestern humidity.

The first sip confirmed my fears; it tasted “off,” but not really way “off.” I told her to put it in the refrigerator. After half-an-hour or so, its deep color was emerging along with an aroma. 1973 had not been an exceptional vintage but merely a “strong” one in the Cote d’Or, so the Romanee survival instincts were undaunted. It was a splendid drink, and the bottle rests proudly in the rack.

 Chateau Cheval Blanc 1982 – Two years (2018) ago a friend showed up from Florida with a bottle of one of the Left Bank’s royal family of wines. The 1982 vintage was one of the best in Bordeaux last century, and 1982 was the year that Robert Parker discovered the value in writing about and rating wines, especially those of Bordeaux. My friend and I had first sampled the 1982 in 1985 on a visit to the chateau, so there was a sentimental connection with this wine. It’s nice when a friend brings a bottle and especially so when the bottle reeks of prestige. He had bought a case of it some twenty years ago and kept it in his temperature-controlled  wine cellar. Both of  us wondered how it would fare out here in the desert.

We needn’t have worried. I opened it last year, and it nearly leaped out of the bottle. It was vigorous and sassy, so Joan and I sat back and let it aerate in the glass to calm down for a while. It became something to sip, to hold on the tongue, to let the finish take its time.

It fulfilled the Bordeaux reputation for producing wines that age well. I am proud to keep that bottle on the rack.

La Gravette de Certan 1985 and Lauriol 1988 On a rainy, wintery evening I answered our doorbell to see Dominique Thienpont with an embarrassed smile. “I’m nearly out of gas,” he said, “and all the stations are closed; besides I’m also out of Deutsche Marks.” He had hoped to get to his sister’s place in Strasbourg on the French side of the Rhine, but the rain and snow had slowed him, so when he neared Heidelberg, he thought he’d stop by. (No cell phones back in the early 1980s). He was ending a week of travels in Germany calling on restaurants and merchants who stock Thienpont wines, and was headed back to his home in St-Cibard not far from Bordeaux via a visit with his sister in Strasbourg.

We had known each other for more than ten years and had visited one another several times, so he was no stranger to our home. Given that the rain was turning to snow and the hour growing late, there was no letting him continue down the Autobahn to Strasbourg. Joan and I rounded up some charcuterie and baguettes, and Dominique pulled a couple bottles of wine out of his portfolio and used our phone to tell his sister not to hold dinner or turn down his bed.

After he left next morning, I was surprised to find a carton on the front landing. A thank you was taped to it, and in it were six bottles each of La Gravette de Certan1985 and Lauriol 1988, both products of Thienpont properties in the Left Bank. 1985 was an exceptionally good vintage year in Bordeaux, and 1988 was better than average. La Gravette is the “second wine” of Vieux Chateau Certan, next in line after Chateau Petrus for the most prestigious wines in Pomerol, and the second wine comes from grapes still a bit young to qualify for “chateau status.” Lauriol is a family name given to another of the Thienpont vineyards.  The circumstances of our obtaining these particular bottles earned them a place in the rack.

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1975 When Gustave Rinn learned that Joan and I were celebrating my 50th birthday in his one-Michelin-star restaurant, he said he had a special gift for me. We had been dining in his Hostellerie de l’Ange in Wissembourg (just across the border from Karlsruhe) two or three times a month for a decade. After dinner that night he brought out this bottle with a silver ribbon around its neck and cautioned me that it shouldn’t be opened until my 70th birthday. All five of the top Bordeaux Grand Crusneed at least ten years in bottle to reach maturity, and wines like Mouton-Rothschild are favorites of long-time wine investors. Gustave knew that I had visited Chateau Mouton several times and had sampled wines freshly harvested, right out of the barrel as well as some with proper aging, so he was comfortable that we would treat that bottle appropriately.

We didn’t quite make it to the twenty-year date. Our time to move from Europe to the States came fourteen years after Gustave gave us that bottle. It was one we didn’t want to risk shipping with our already over-large collection, for fear of breakage, theft, or spoilage. (None of that happened, however, with the some 2,000 bottles we did bring home.) So, we opened it in 1994, its nineteenth year.

The cork was firm. The aroma instant. The color rich. The finish lengthy. It was just we two. We accompanied it only with bits of Gouda and Rohschinken, no tastes of anything that would diminish the impact of this magnificent wine. It honors our friendship with Gustave and deserves a place of honor in the rack.

Madeira: Leacock’s Malmsey Solera 1863 Though my tastes do not favor sweet wines, my palate has considerable respect and occasional desire for a Sauternes or a Trockenbeerenauslesen. My experience with Madeira has been very limited, but historically I recognize it as a wine that helped the Pilgrims survive those harsh seventeenth-century Massachusetts winters, and the wine’s legendary staying power had always impressed me. That’s why when a wine specialist in Paris interested me in a wine harvested in 1863, I jumped at the chance to try it. I knew enough to know that the date refers only to the first pressings, fortified with brandy, and that the solera system would result in the addition of wine and fortification in the barrel for several more years. I had no documentation concerning the amount or timing of those additions, but I was content to know that some of the liquid in that bottle had been harvested 120 years before we pulled the cork in 1983.

We had a couple of friends over for the opening. The cork crumbled but did not fall apart. Joan had cheesecloth available to catch the cork bits and any other dregs (of which there were surprisingly few). The liquid was dark golden and released very little aroma. Malmsey is the richest of those wines off the Portuguese island of Madeira, so we anticipated, then realized its unctuous character and sweetness without being cloying. It gave credence to the British use of the word “length” for the time it lingers on the palate. Its power was such that the five of us could not drink the whole bottle, so I found a cork for a stopper and put the bottle in the refrigerator. Next evening, the wine had lost nothing. Joan and I used it for dessert on two nights after the opening, though fatigue was obvious on the second night. A century-old bottle deserves a place in the rack.

Chateau Pedesclaux 1947Let us not forget that the years immediately after World War II produced some of the greatest Bordeaux wines of the 20th century. But I’m getting ahead of my story. Throughout the 1980s I was organizing and leading wine tours throughout France, Italy, and Germany. About every third year, I would take a group to Bordeaux, making sure that not only did we get a visit or two to the great houses – Latour, Haut-Brion,for example – but also to the smaller, unfamous houses that produce the wines the Bordelaise drink every day. Pedesclaux, in Pauilliac very near the great Rothschild chateaux, was one of those places, though I hasten to add that it was ranked in the fifth tier of the unbreakable 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines, so it has something of a princely claim.

    In the spring of 1989, my group had departed and I was awaiting the delivery to my car of a case of the 1985 to take back home when the estate registrar appeared carrying a single bottle. It was a 1947 Pedesclaux — the proprietors wanted me to have it  “in appreciation.”  Bordeaux lovers know that 1947 ranks among the five or six best vintages of the last century. This bottle was one Joan and I didn’t keep very long. We had bounced it around in our car on the drive from Bordeaux back to Germany without air conditioning. We drank it within a week after getting home, and it did not disappoint. Its tenacity and defiance helped it retain color and taste as well as a place in the rack.

 

Listrac 1945Few people doubt that 1945 was a very great vintage year in Bordeaux. Some believe it to be the greatest ever. The fact that it occurred right after the end of World War II gave it the title le Vin de la  Victoire. The most fervent among us know that such a great harvest was willed by God Himself. Even so, the official documents and tasting notes confirm it was a  very great harvest.

In the 1970s and 80s, Joan and I made several trips a year from our homes first in Karlsruhe, then in Heidelberg, to Argeles-sur-Mer where we had a beach condo at the foot of the Pyrenees. At least once a year, we stopped for a meal at the Pyramide in the Rhone Valley about halfway along our journey, birthplace of the modern celebrity chefs whose owner was the mentor and instructor of people like Paul Bocuse, Pierre Troisgros, and others. Fernand Point had died before we first stopped at the Pyramide, but we came to know his widow – Mado very well. In fact, at the time of her death, I authored a homily to her for the Journal of the International Wine and Food Society.

At lunch one day, I ordered a bottle of claret but asked the late Louis Thomasi, wine steward at the Pyramide for more than 50 years, to let me read the wine menu for a while. I called him back when I spotted something. I told him I had forgotten my glasses but was that really true – a 1945 Listrac for then about $40. He assured me it was, that Mr. Point had bought many cases of it after the war and they still had some in the cellar. He immediately fetched one and gave us our first sample ever of the immortal 1945 Bordeaux vintage. There were several other occasions when we took advantage of that wine, including a meal for one of my groups.

Labelling was somewhat different in 1945 so this label bore limited information about its production, only indicating that besides being from the commune of Listrac, it was produced by Raymond Baudouin. I’m sure Raymond would be pleased to learn that one of his empty bottles had been taken from the Rhone Valley to the rack.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1945 Having established above that 1945 has the credentials to claim itself the greatest vintage year of the 20th century and possibly of all time in Bordeaux, it is reasonable to wonder about the greatest of the great. There are those who suggest Chateau Latour, others prefer Chateaux Mouton-Rothschild, but the overwhelming majority have anointed Chateau Lafite-Rothschild as the everlasting symbol of the Wine of the Victory. There are those who believe that the Rothschild 1945s were the best revenge of their Jewish faith against the horrors of the Nazi years. In any case, Lafite 1945 had become one of my goals.

Luck was on my side. A Swedish ex-patriot living in Paris made contact with me  via a pencil-written letter about his work purchasing and reselling wine cellars of restaurants and chateau owners who were going under or needed money. I never met him, but every month the list would come, name of wine and asking price per bottle. My go-between was an English funeral director married to a German whose family owned the business he was in charge of. I would take my order to him along with the French francs needed to cover the costs and pick up the wine. I had let both my English and Swedish connections know that I was on the prowl for 1945 Lafite and was told it was highly unlikely any would ever be forthcoming.

A note in summer of 1975 informed me in pencil that he had obtained six bottles of 1945 Lafite and I could have one for 1,500 francs, about $350. My English friend was on holiday in York, so I would have to come to Paris to get it, cash only please. A few days later I took a train, then a taxi to the address of a detached house in a Paris suburb. The doorbell brought a young woman in housecoat to ask why I was there. “The Lafite,” I told her. She smiled, nodded, and disappeared for a few minutes. She came back with a bottle and a tag on it bearing my name. I counted out 1,500 francs and returned to the taxi.

We kept that bottle for nineteen years during which time I asked everyone I thought would know about when would be the best time to open it. They all said the same thing: “Open it when I can be there.” In Strasbourg where I spent a couple of days hosting Robert Mondavi, he told me to drink it.” Don’t keep it forever. It’s a treasure to enjoy not just to talk about.”

That led me to ask about how best to serve it. My advice came from Serge Dubs, the sommelier at Auberge de l’Illin Alsace. Serge had a title in perpetuity – Best Sommelier in the World — so I knew he would know. “Your cork will crumble,” he said; “don’t worry about it. Keep cheesecloth to strain it. The wine will look dark, inky. Here in our cellar I would hold the bottle shoulder high and pour it into a basin about waist high, from which I would drain it into a decanter. The slapping of it in the basin will wake it up. You probably don’t have such a basin, so through the cloth pour directly into the decanter, then the glass. Wait a few minutes and it should start to turn from inky to crimson, very faint most likely, but it will keep the color for several minutes before it dies. That’s the time to drink it, after it colors but before it fades. I suggest with only one bottle, just you and Joan drink it, because half the bottle might be sediment, maybe not if you’re lucky. And I wouldn’t ship it to the States. It’s too tired to make a long trip like that. I wish I could be with you.”

In the fall of 1994, we closed the blinds and took the phone off the hook. Joan and I sipped on a glass of Bordeaux ordinaire to give the glass a “friendly aura,” then set off to follow Serge’s directions.

It was exactly as he said. As the color emerged, our room was filled with a floral-berry aroma. The color lingered longer than we had expected, but in every sense, the wine proved its legendary reputation and its worthiness for a place in our rack.

 


CALL FOR STORIES-75th Anniversary DODDS-DODEA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

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 OlsonAllen@msn.com.

To learn more about the museum visit the website: www.militaryfamilymuseum.org and follow us on FB http://www.facebook.com/MuseumoftheAmericanMilitaryFamily.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO SOME REMARKABLE MEMORIES!

 


AFCENT FIELD TRIP

by Allen Dale Olson

Tuesday, November 30, 1976, was just like any other day until I got to my office. Joan Tucker, the overseer of all things front office, greeted me by saying I might as well go straight in to see the man as he’s been waiting for you. The man (Doc) was Joseph A. Mason, Director of United States Dependents Schools, European Area (USDESEA).

“Hey, I’m glad you’re here; looks like you’re going have to arrange for the whole AFCENT faculty to go to Washington.”  I knew he had spent yesterday with the Directors of the AFCENT school because of a number of problems, but I didn’t expect anything like what he had just said.

AFCENT (Allied Forces Central Command) had been established in Limburg Province, Holland, as part of the relocation of NATO forces from France into northern Germany and Holland and of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces from Paris to Brussels in 1966-67. The AFCENT military community, near Brunssum, consisted mostly of Americans, British, Canadian, and German forces with a sprinkling of Dutch, Scandinavian, and Belgian families.  It took a couple of years, but a school for the children of those forces was formed as one

complex, with four national units all sharing common areas, each unit headed by a principal with a teaching staff who would assure students received a national education but would jointly receive instruction in art, physical education, languages, and history.

Overall, the arrangement worked well, but in recent weeks there had been complaints that the American section had been using more than its fair share of time in the common areas, especially in the gymnasium and sports fields. In the beginning, that was acceptable because, after all, the Americans were paying the largest share of the common costs, and a little later, as the other nationals were told that the Americans had varsity sports programs with other USDESEA schools that required long hours of practice. Schools in the other nations did not have sports teams. They used their gym and sports field for physical education. Students wanting to play competitive sports joined local municipal or regional clubs.

At yesterday’s meeting, the German and British directors admitted they just did not understand the American school sports programs, and even the Canadian admitted that American schools were far more passionate about their school teams than anyone else.

Rudi Bewer, the former Director of the Free University of Berlin, and then Supervising Administrator of the AFCENT school, at yesterday’s meeting said it was a shame that the non-U.S. teachers could not actually see an American school with all of its many complexities so they could get a better feel for what school life is really like in the States. He thought the American local boards of education and parental involvement with PTAs and school volunteers would be very useful in understanding the American need for so much use of facilities.

Doc said the idea caught on, especially when the Luftwaffe representative opined that he might be able to persuade his Defense Minister to allow the faculty to fly on the daily courier to and from Washington. “I told him that if he could do that, I have the man who can make all the arrangements for school visits in the Washington area.” All the school chiefs excitedly signed up for giving it a try. Now I knew why Doc had been waiting for me that morning.

Next day Rudi called me to say the Ministry of Defense was amenable to providing the plane but needed a few details about the concept and what the teachers would actually do while in Washington. He proposed we plan it over the spring break.

Sunday, December 5, Pan Am took me from Frankfurt to Dulles, and next morning I caught up with John Wherry, Executive Director of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) so we could spend the day conceptualizing with his staff. Because his office was in the building of the National Education Association, where I had worked for several years, I was able to scurry around to see former colleagues and solicit their thoughts.

Tuesday morning, December 7, I met with the manager of the Hotel Harrington on 11th Street NW in downtown D.C. and initiated a contract to house the group in April should the trip materialize. Back at NSPRA, we decided that at least a day would be given to seminar-style meetings and that most of the week would be devoted to visiting schools : Montgomery County as one of the nation’s most affluent school communities; Fairfax County, home to most military families assigned to the area; and Washington, D.C. as an example of struggling inner city schools.

Wednesday morning, I met with Dr. Wesley Carroll, Professor of Education at The George Washington University (and my doctoral advisor) about resources available from GWU. The rest of the day was spent with Ken Muir, Public Affairs Director of the Montgomery County Public Schools and with Jim Hussan, a coordinator of cultural relations studies in Fairfax County and former USDESEA employee. With a bulging notebook, I flew back to Frankfurt and home to USDESEA Headquarters in Karlsruhe.

On January 11, 1977, Rudi called to say he liked the draft concept and that the Luftwaffe plane was almost certain. A week later, in Heidelberg, I called on Lynn Whittacre, Dean of the University of Maryland Campus, Europe, to ask about awarding graduate credit to participating teachers on this study trip. She suggested some possible topics for research papers and said she would certify me as the instructor. While in Heidelberg, I met with USAREUR finance personnel about obtaining fund citations for the U.S. side and got their support for working with the British, Canadian, and German commands for their share.

Doc approved the completed plan on Tuesday, February 8, and on the 11th I drove to AFCENT to review it with Rudi and the four national directors, after which I discussed it with the representatives of the Overseas Education Association and Overseas Federation of Teachers, with whom Rudi had been in continuing contact. Meanwhile, Ken Muir and George Hamil (Montgomery County and Fairfax County) worked on arranging school visits, and John Wherry on locating seminar presenters and D.C. school visits. Read the rest of this entry »