by Allen Dale Olson
When I returned to Porter County, Indiana, in 1956 after a tour in the Army, I came as an assistant basketball coach at the high school where I had played and graduated. The percentage of African-Americans in the county hadn’t changed much, and not at all in my high school. We were still a white farming community, though suburbanization and ultimately town and city status were on the way.
One evening I got an interesting phone call from a coach in another county town. The Harlem Globetrotters were coming, and the caller had been tasked with forming a team to play them. I don’t know who organized the event, but I knew that it was for a charity and that the Globetrotters were the hottest name in basketball in those days.
Because I hadn’t played much during my Army tour I declined to suit up for the game unless some unforeseen emergency hit the roster – nearly all former college players working as coaches in various area high schools.
The game was in Boucher Gymnasium in Valparaiso, the county seat. The Globetrotters were an all-Black superstar team who played the game as entertainers but with such skill that hardly a foe ever beat them. They had even beaten professional teams in Chicago and Green Bay.
Their names suggested their showmanship: Meadow Lark Jones; Goose Tatum, Nathanial Sweetwater Clifton, and so on. These players were the first to dunk, the first to fire from three-point range or even to bounce in a basket or two. Their fakes and no-looks and baffling dribbles not only revealed uncanny skill but also evoked never-ending laughter and applause.
Our team, with the discipline of college experience, tried to keep calm and for a while seemed to give the Trotters a real game. But in the end the head fakes, body blows, and clownish antics carried the evening, and the visitors won by some twenty points, a close game for them.
Formed in the 1920s, the Globetrotters were something of an advance party paving the way for African-Americans to enter major professional sports leagues. While racial integration in 1956 was not fait accompli, those Porter County families and the Globetrotters interacted with humor and good will. There were friendly taunts and outrageous dares, as the Trotters did their part in their unique way to further the Civil Rights movements of post World War II, and the white families who supported them provided evidence that the movement’s time had come.
This is a promotional video from that year, but not from the game I wrote about.
I grew up a military brat, in playgrounds and schools on Army bases all over the world, with children of every nationality, every color & creed, every race & religion, in a musical theater family, performing arts, and concerts, and shows in playhouses all over the country, where all the kooky, crazy, misfits go to be themselves. I was hopeless. I was destined to grow up color-blind. I couldn’t tell one color from the next, there were too many of them to count! I thought “normal” meant to be unique & different, and the more eclectic & eccentric the person, the cooler they were to me?
I remember the very day my father tried to take my blindfold off, as if it were only yesterday. It was 1976, I was 11 years old, living on an Army base in Wurzburg, Germany, and my father had received his orders to transfer to Ft Bragg Army base in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It’s a day that will be forever stuck in my social memory. He sat my sister and I down in the living room, and began to tell us about what it’s going to be like moving to the “South” in 1976. He showed us tapes of the Martin Luther King riots where people were yelling and fighting, police dogs were attacking people, and there were fire hoses being sprayed on women and children. I was so confused and I didn’t understand. I asked him why they were doing it? His answer was only that because they were “different”. I was too young to understand racism, or discrimination, or the civil rights movement, and I was certainly never exposed to anything like that growing up? So, I just put my blindfold back on and forgot all about it, as if I had never been told.
We moved to Ft Bragg in 1977, and I was right back in my comfort zone, living in Normandy Heights on Ft Bragg Army base, back in the schools, and the playgrounds, and the DYA, and playing sports on another military installation, surrounded by kids of every color & creed again. Finishing the 6th grade at Bowley Elementary School, then 7th & 8th grade at Irwin Jr High School, right on the base as usual. Nothing had changed? All was the same! So, I quickly forgot everything my father had tried to warn me about, had tried to prepare me for, and with my blindfold tightly fashioned over my eyes, I went on to public school at Reid Ross High School, in Fayetteville, and off the sheltered facade of military base living and growing up with other Army brats of every color and creed, from all walks of life. You would think this is where my blindfold fell off, but you would be wrong. Read the rest of this entry »
I was just reminded of was the young enlisted men who drove us to school. I can just imagine how they felt, like “I joined the Marines (or whatever) to be a big tough guy, not to drive a bunch of brats around!”
They probably prayed no one they saw on leave would ask them what kind of job they did! Some of them were very nice, but some got real annoyed.
I remember one day, in 1960-61, at Camp LeJeune, the driver kept yelling at kids to stop sticking their arms and heads out the windows, but kids kept doing it.
Suddenly, he pulled the bus over, came down the aisle and yelled “The next time I see a piece of flesh sticking out of a window, I’m going to come back and RIP IT OFF!” I didn’t see one kid stick anything out of a window for the rest of the ride home!
—Darillyn Lamb Starr
As we commemorate Patriots Day today and remember 9-11, let’s not forget the two Brats that were killed on that Day of Infamy:
-Rodney Brown, an 11 year old Navy Brat who was on American Airlines Flight #11 that slammed into the Pentagon, where his father worked as a Navy CPO;
-Kip Taylor, an Army Brat whom went to school overseas in Berlin and Heidelberg whom was an Army Major on duty in the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight #11 crashed into the Pentagon.
How are Rodney and Kip remembered? In a number of ways!
Today Rodney and Kip both have benches in their memory at the Pentagon Memorial. Both Brats have been featured in previous editions of OVERSEAS BRATS (OSB) magazine. The Army promoted Kip to Lieutenant Colonel posthumously. Kip is remembered by those that went to Heidelberg and Berlin High Schools. Kip is also on the OSB Brat Memorial because he died while serving his country. At the all-Brats event called Homecoming 2010 held in the Washington, DC, Brats attending the event went to the Pentagon Memorial and paid homage to the memory of Rodney and Kip.
Dr. Allen Dale Olson
MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN MILITARY FAMILY & LEARNING CENTER (MAMF) LOCATES AT BATAAN MILITARY ACADEMY (BMA)
Groups Call Move a “Good Fit”
Albuquerque, NM – An Albuquerque charter school has just joined forces with the only museum in the country dedicated to the collection and preservation of the stories, documents, and artifacts of America’s military families. Both the Bataan Military Academy Charter School (BMA) and the Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF) have moved into 5555 McLeod Boulevard NE, Albuquerque.
BMA serves grades nine through twelve, meets U.S. Navy standards in curriculum and in Naval sciences, including standards in physical fitness and in honoring traditional Naval standards. The school is in partnership with parents, teachers, military organizations, and with the military services. Principal, “Captain” Jan Zink, works closely with the Academy’s Board of Governors, chaired by Dr. Alan Holmquist.
BMA students are cadets grouped as in a military organization and follow the rank structure of the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Corps (NJROTC). In addition to traditional high school activities and sports, BMA cadets also form color guards, drill teams, and rifle teams. The school is named for the 70,000 soldiers and sailors forced to surrender on Luzon in 1942, some 70,000 of whom died during the infamous “Bataan Death March.” Many of those who died were from New Mexico. Annually BMA cadets simulate that march in a 26-mile hike at White Sands Proving Grounds.
MAMF, founded four years ago by Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, a DoD “Brat,” an Army wife and an Army mother, has been active throughout Albuquerque– even without a facility– by presenting documentary film programs, stage performances, military ceremonies and major exhibits in various venues, including the National Nuclear Museum, the South Broadway Cultural Center, the International Balloon Museum, and the Wheels Museum.
MAMF’s volunteer Board of Directors includes an Artist-in-Residence, a Writer-in Residence, and liaison chairs to military spouses, military organizations, “Brats” and Veterans’ organizations. Its programs reach throughout the country through its Operation Footlocker, mobile exhibits which go to public schools, nursing homes, USO events, and to reunions of former students of Defense Department schools. MAMF is a 501 c 3 not for profit.
MAMF has a partnership with the American Overseas Schools Historical Society which represents thousands of former teachers and administrators in the Defense Department world-wide school system and with “Overseas Brats,” representing thousands of adult military “Brats.”
Till this semester, BMA had been on Mountain Road in Albuquerque, and MAMF existed as an on-line presence. In the McLeod facility, MAMF occupies the second floor; BMA the ground floor. Both Captain Zink and Executive Director Woessner believe the shared home makes a “good fit” for the school and the museum. They agree that the MAMF library, archives, exhibits, and historical folios of military family life are valuable resources for the cadets, who in turn, provide ceremonial support for MAMF programs.
The Museum is open by appointment only.
For additional information, visit:
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MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN MILITARY FAMILY TO SHOW THE STORY OF SCHOOLS ON U.S. BASES AROUND THE WORLDSpecial Exhibit Opens July 11 in Albuquerque
By Allen Dale Olson
Less than a third of one of America’s largest school systems is actually in the United States. Its 78,000 K-12 students attend 181 schools, 58 of which are in the States, the rest spread around the world from the Far and Middle East to Western Europe.
Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, as part of the Defense Department (DoD), it has field offices in Peachtree, Georgia, and in Japan and Germany. The Department of Defense Education Agency (DoDEA) is a civilian educator agency serving the families of American military personnel.
The history, challenges, and achievements of this unique school system will be on display in the Main Reading Room of the Albuquerque Special Collections Library starting July 11 and running through August 22, with an opening ceremony on July 16 at 5:00 p.m.
An exhibit created by the Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF),“Schooling with Uncle Sam” uses quotes, photos, documents, and artifacts gathered from around the world from former students, teachers, administrators, and military personnel and curated by MAMF volunteers with decades of experience in the DoD schools. MAMF is the only museum in the country dedicated exclusively to collecting and preserving the stories of the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, spouses, and other relatives of uniformed personnel from our nation’s founding to the present. Read the rest of this entry »
In September of 1964, I’d graduated from high school in Rome, Italy, where my father was stationed at the American Embassy. It was time for me to go to college but my parents didn’t want me back in the states alone, so the University of Maryland at Munich was the obvious solution. I was 18 with no idea what I wanted. Naturally, I complained bitterly about “having” to go to Munich! The truth was I was terrified. I’d never been on my own, had no ambitions, didn’t speak German, and didn’t know which unknown to be afraid of most. So I was afraid of everything.
I remember being driven (crying) to the airport to pick up a military flight bound for Munich. I was surprised to see that all the passengers were American college students. Some were entering freshmen like me, but some were sophomores who could tell us where things were and what we needed to do next. I didn’t suddenly get brave, but I did start to ask questions, and that’s when I began to see that this Munich thing had possibilities. I had no idea then what a priceless experience it would turn out to be.
At the UM facilities on McGraw Kaserne, I learned that our dorm had once housed German SS troops. The classroom building, labs, meal hall, auditorium, and meeting rooms were all used by Nazi Germany. The year before I got there, The Great Escape had been filmed very near to us in Perlacher Forest. One U of M classmate’s father flew bombing raids on Munich and now his daughter was living in his former targets. The World War that had seemed distant when my parents talked about it became very real to me. Read the rest of this entry »
Like many Brats who lived at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, I enrolled as a ‘day student’ at Texas Military Institute. This photo captures the flair and status of TMI in the military culture of San Antonio in the mid forties-this one in 1948. I marched in many such parades. Every cadet was issued an M-1 rifle and taught to take it apart blindfolded. In 1951, I served on a cadet honor guard to greet Douglas MacArthur at the Alamo (following his return from Korea after being relieved of command.) Like the rest of us Brats, MacArthur’s father had been stationed at Fort Sam while he had been a day student at the same institution (then known as West Texas Military Academy.)
Hudson “Bill” Phillips