In the spring of 1952, Lester Beck offered me a great opportunity. Because he knew I had a religious background and had gotten myself involved with religious films and the Methodist church, he approached me one day about a government project. The purpose was to study the various types of audio-visuals being produced and used in post-war Germany. I guess our government wanted to keep an eye on what was going on over there, and also to offer any help they might need. As I remember it, there were to be three types of audio-visuals studied: industrial, general education, and religious.
"Glenn," Dr. Beck said, "you can handle the part of the project dealing with religion. First you will report to Washington for briefing and then you will be sent to Frankfort. The project will last for about three months."
What a break! Not only would the government pay all my expenses, per diem at so much a day, but give me $2,000 cash at the end of the project. The two grand couldnít be touched until I returned to Washington, DC, and submitted my report. Wow! That money could help us make a down payment on a house when I got home!
I could hardly wait to get back to my office and call Darlene about the possible trip to Germany. Of course, she was excited about the project, too.
As we discussed the project, we both knew we were going to accept the offer, but there were some problems to solve. Just what would I do with my family while I was gone? There was no way I could afford to take them with me. I wondered how I could stand being away from them for so long.
This was a very important year in my life, 1952. In March, Gregory LaMont had been born. That meant all five of us were sleeping in that small bedroom in our trailer. We had already decided it was time to face the fact that we were staying in California permanently, and it was now necessary for us to get into larger living quarters.
Quickly we made several decisions. The family would stay in Hutchinson
while I was gone. We sold our trailer, which we had learned to love for
the four years we had lived in it. It had served us well, and now we couldnít
stand the thought of not having a trailer. We decided to buy a small 12í
trailer just to use for trips back and forth to Kansas and other vacations.
Of course, the folks were delighted that Darlene and the children would be staying on the farm with them. It was a comforting feeling for me also to know they would be living in our new little trailer parked at my folks.
The trip home, pulling that new trailer, was different, and slightly discouraging for me. As we had gone back to Kansas the previous summer, this was our fourth trip over these same roads. However, getting used to the feel of pulling that little trailer was a problem. It was so much smaller and weighed so much less that it seemed I not only had to work at pulling it uphill, but also had to learn how to go downhill. Our old heavy Liberty trailer always seemed to push me downhill and then furnish momentum for starting back up the next hill. At first I was sure there was a stability problem with this little light trailer. Before too many miles, however, I realized it was really easier to handle than the big heavy one we had been hauling around.
We finally got to the farm, and the next day Darlene drove me to Wichita to catch my plane to Washington, DC. I decided upon arrival that it was the most beautiful city I had ever seen. I was sorry that my family wasnít with me.
My orders directed me to the United States Office of Education building. I located the person in charge of my project, and was given extensive instructions and scads of paperwork, along with my plane ticket to Frankfort.
I felt I was well prepared for my work. I had brought along a little Revere tape recorder and reels and reels of tape. Every night and even sometimes during the day, I spoke into that mike recording my impressions. I wish I still had those tapes. After the material had been transcribed into my typewriter, I got tired carrying all those tapes from one place to the other and finally destroyed them. It was really a stupid thing to do. Now, years later, I would love to listen to what I said back there in 1952.
My flight to Frankfort was on a huge four-engine Globemaster airplane. All was well until we ran into a storm near Greenland where we were to refuel. We really got tossed around. I was scared weíd crash, but as we got closer to the ground, the wind became calmer. We refueled and the rest of the trip was uneventful.
I arrived in Frankfort seven years after the end of World War II. However, there was still a lot of rubble strewn around. I had seen some devastation in Manila before I got to come home from the Pacific, but nothing like this. In spite of the re-building that had been done, the place was still a mess.
I was met at the plane and driven to the embassy. There I met Mr. Berry, who was in charge of my project.
"Well," he said after he finally found the files on my project, "it appears that you have lots of leeway to plan your own program, carry it out and make a report on it. By the way, while you are here you will have the same privileges for travel as that of a Brigadier General."
I was really surprised at such vague instructions. However, I was pleased that I wasn't given a long list of do's and don'ts. This was going to be fun!
I was placed in a private home for my stay in Frankfort. I learned that my maid had relatives in Philadelphia, so in a way I felt I was already with friends. She left me strictly alone, however, except when I asked her for help or when she served my meals.
Staying in this home was like a fairy story come true. The furnishings in my room were very old fashioned. I believe, some of the pieces of furniture would qualify as antiques. The bathroom had a very, very, large tub, and the toilet had an overhead water tank that made a very loud gurgling sound when flushed.
The bed was a surprise. It looked unmade until I realized that it was a feather bed. I hadnít seen one of those for years. We had one stored in our upstairs closet when I was kid. I never saw my folks use it. I tried a few times to use it either on top or under me, but it was too hot and heavy on top and too awkward to lie on.
While in Germany I had my first experience eating continental breakfasts. I wasnít very impressed with only rolls, butter, jelly, fruit, and tea or coffee. I always felt cheated. Where were the eggs and bacon or sausage?
I spent a lot of time thinking about just what kind of report I would make. I thought about the surveys I had done when writing my masterís thesis in college and decided to follow a similar plan here. I soon found that there were virtually no religious audiovisuals available in Germany. I ordered some, mostly films, from the states to show. I was quite surprised at some of the reactions in the churches. The Protestants generally thought that pictures of Christ were a form of idol worship, but the Catholics seemed more accepting.
I soon discovered that there were just three of us on the audiovisual project in Germany, one for each subject. I never did see much of the "industrial" research fellow. However, Hank, the man assigned to "educational" research, and I became good friends. Another friend I made was Frank, a diplomat in the embassy, who happened to room in the same house where I lived. His wife lived in a nearly city where she was a teacher for kids of Americans working in Germany. Each weekend she would come to Frankfort. They often planned sightseeing trips and invited my friend and me to come with them. We visited many places throughout Germany, and even went to Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
One Friday Frank informed Hank and me, "We are going to Salzburg this week-end. We'll want to leave early in the morning. Salzburg is a far piece away. On our way back home, weíll stop to visit the "mad" King Ludwig's castle."
On the way to the Austrian border we passed through the famous Black Forest and the cities of Stuttgart, Augsburg and Munich. Since Frank had a diplomatic pass, we had no trouble with the guards on the Austrian border.
The Austrian countryside was beautiful. Everything was so green and nestled in the hills were many tiny villages. My daughter, Jean, spent a semester in Salzburg during her college years. She, too, was awed with all the scenery. We both agreed it made a perfect setting for the musical, "Sound of Music."
The city of Salzburg, itself, added to the excitement of the trip. On top of the highest mountain was a beautiful castle. Frank drove to a hilltop restaurant for lunch where we could get a better view. After driving around through the picturesque area, we headed back through Berchtesgarten, the place Hitler took his vacations.
After crossing the Austrian border back into Germany and driving another fifty miles or so we reached our destination, a huge castle built right into the center of a large lake. It was a magnificent sight. It was the last and the finest of the many castles built by King Ludwig, who was known as the "mad" king.
To get to the castle we had to take a short boat ride across the lake. Inside, that castle was breath takingly beautiful! Everything looked brand new. This was due in part to the fact that the king died before he had a chance to live in it. There wasnít a flaw anywhere. The grand ballroom was a dazzling sight. Hundreds and hundreds of wax candles lighted it. Crystal and gold candelabra hung from the ceiling, were attached to the walls, and were sitting on the tables. Throughout the castle there were candles lighting our way, and all the rooms were beautifully decorated. We spent about an hour in the castle and then took the boat back to our car. By the time we got back to Frankfurt, it was very late.
I had visited several castles in my travels, but none can compare with this last one that "mad" King Ludwig ordered built.
"Tomorrow we are going to Liechtenstein," Frank informed us one Saturday, and you bet that Hank and I never turned down an invitation such as that.
When we left from Frankfurt the next morning, there were a few clouds in the sky. Frank and his wife, Rose, didnít seem the least concerned, however. Nothing bothered them when a trip was in the offing.
As usual on our trips, Rose kept up a continual patter of information about the place that we were planning to visit. She paid no attention to the rain that was starting, but continued to tell us about the wonderful little country of Liechtenstein.
"It is a small principality between Austria and Switzerland. It is only 65 square miles in size."
Rose went on to inform us that although people could visit, one wasnít allowed to settle there. Sounded like a prison to me.
When it began to rain harder and harder, Frank tried to act unconcerned. "I donít think it will get much worse," he said.
He had to slow down because the roads were getting slick. They were also very narrow and contained many unexpected curves.
"Shouldnít we pull off the road until the rain stops?" Rose asked. "I donít think its safe to drive further."
Frank had no intention of stopping. He knew that it was getting late and he wanted to get to our destination.
"See the lights ahead? That means weíre about there."
Sure, we were nearly there, but I wondered what we were going to do when we got there. It was raining too heavy to do any sightseeing.
"Good, thereís the gates to the town," Frank said. "Now we can at least get something to eat."
At the gates were two elaborately dressed guards. I find it hard to describe their uniforms with all those ornate trappings. They started to stop us, but when they saw Frankís diplomatic pass on the windshield, they waved us on.
After about an hour's search, we found a restaurant. As we were being seated, Frank's only comment was, "Iím afraid that this is about all weíre going to see of Liechtenstein. We have a long hard drive home, so weíd better eat quickly and head out."
Can you believe that we had been on the road only a short time when the rain stopped! After all that pep talk Rose gave about the wonderful sights we were going to see, you can bet I was disappointed. It was very late when we got back to Frankfurt that night. What a waste that trip was, I thought, feeling sorry for myself. Then I thought about poor Frank having to do all that driving.
Thank you, Frank and Rose, for trying to show us a good time in Liechtenstein.
Usually, I didn't head out on a weekend jaunt alone, but this time was an exception. Trains were easy to use all over Europe. They were always on time, fast and inexpensive. So, one Saturday I decided to visit the Jungfrau in the Austrian Alps.
I took the underground to the Frankfurt train station, paid my fare and away I went. The train to Interlaken, the jumping off place to the Jungfrau, took me through Stuttgart, Freiburg, Basel, Zurich, and Luzern. When I arrived at Interlaken, I tried to buy a ticket for the Jungfrau train.
"Iím sorry," the agent said. "You are too late. There is only one train up and down the mountain each day. Would you like to secure a round-trip ticket for tomorrow?"
Since I had no other choice, I bought the ticket.
Interlaken was a very quaint little village with interesting architecture, and narrow streets and sidewalks. The merchants catered to the travelers waiting to climb the Jungfrau.
"Bed and breakfast for one, please," I said to the innkeeper.
He was very pleasant and gave me a room and all the information I needed about catching the morning train up the Jungfrau.
The view from my window as I ate breakfast the next morning was fantastic. I could hardly wait until I finished eating and headed for the train. That mountain was topped with bright white ice and snow. I saw the path of a great glacier that was slowly, very slowly working itself down the mountain. I imagined that the many white strips of soft snow were potential avalanches, which would be dangerous to hikers and skiers.
As I remember, the first leg of the trip was quite like any other train ride. In fact, we were creeping upward so gradually I didnít think too much about it. When I began to notice that the trees were getting fewer and fewer, I realized we had gone up quite a few miles.
When we arrived at the halfway station, we stopped. I soon discovered that they were putting on a different engine. This one had a cogwheel, and from then on the train track had a center cog rail.
Although Jungfrau Mountain is only 13,668 feet high, the climb up from the halfway station is very steep. Several times I had driven up Pikeís Peak, Colorado, which is a lot higher. However, those roads donít go straight up. They just curve round and round. (Incidentally, I didnít have those figures in my memory. I got curious as I was thinking about that ride and consulted my atlas.)
When we started to move again, I could feel the engine give a slight jerk as its cogwheel grabbed onto the cog rail. From that point on, I felt as if I was going almost straight up. The trees finally all disappeared and the temperature, even inside the train, got colder and colder. I was glad I had brought along a good warm jacket.
We had passed through several tunnels on the trip, but suddenly we entered one that overshadowed all the others. This was a huge ice tunnel. Judging from the multiple layers of snow and ice, one would guess it had been there for hundreds of years. We traveled through it for about a half-mile when it widened and the train slowed. At that point sunlight lit the ice tunnel so we could see things better. On both sides were ice cravings. There were animals, such as bears and reindeer. There were even carvings of people, cars and wagons. They glistened in rainbow colors like crystals. I wondered who took the time and effort to carve them. For sure, I certainly enjoyed the sights.
Soon the train came out of the tunnel and stopped. The sun was so bright it was hard to see things at first. As my eyes got accustomed to the bright light, I saw a river of ice chunks. It was the first time I had ever seen a real moving glacier. Of course, it moved so slowly that one could hardly tell it was moving at all. It was at least a quarter mile wide, but how high up it started I couldnít guess. When I first got out of the train, I supposed we had come to the top of the mountain. However, looking up to find the source of that glacier, I could see I was far from the mountainís top.
I took pictures galore. I could only gaze in amazement and wonder how I could ever tell the folks back home about this grandiose experience.
Going down the mountain was great, but it was nothing like the trip up. All could I do was thank God for what I had seen that day.
I got off the Jungfrau train just in time to catch my train for Frankfort. At Freiberg the train stopped and we were informed weíd have time to eat in the station restaurant. I was really hungry, but to my surprise the menu was in German. I knew a little German, but couldnít understand any of those menus. I tried to explain in sign language that I wanted a simple sandwich. I waited at least fifteen minutes and nothing appeared for me to eat. Finally, the waiter arrived with a couple of assistants to serve me a five-course meal. I was bewildered and, checking my watch, I could see I had only five minutes left to get back on the train.
I jumped up and moved my hands trying to explain my predicament to the waiters. I cannot describe the expression on their faces as I ran for my train.
Iím sorry I didnít even take time to leave a tip. Getting back on that train was of utmost importance to me.
During the week when I needed transportation, I was furnished a car and driver. I attended a world church conference in Hangover for a few days. However, since I couldnít understand the German language enough to know what was going on, it proved to be rather boring. I was able to go to Bonn and attend a session of the Bundestag, the equivalent to our congress. Likewise, I couldnít understand a word, but I enjoyed it.
One of my most interesting, and, I might add scary times, came during a weekend trip to Berlin. Through our embassy, arrangements were made for my research friend and I to fly there and for a British diplomat to meet us at the airport.
After we had done some driving around in West Berlin, our British host asked, "Do you want to go into East Berlin?" This was before the Berlin wall was built.
"Sure," my friend and I said. "Letís go."
Our driver drove us across the border into Communist-controlled East Berlin. Since we had diplomatic tags on our car, the guards allowed us in. We hadnít gone far into the city before the diplomat asked the driver to stop and let us out to take a walk. It was absolutely the drabbest place I had ever seen. There was much rubble all around and two things really impressed me. First, there were many older women doing all kinds of heavy work and second, most of the railroad tracks were all red with rust from disuse.
As might be expected, we all had cameras hanging from our necks. When I started to take a picture, one elderly woman immediately held up her hands and motioned that I shouldnít take it. I didnít. After that we had an uneasy feeling about walking any further. Suddenly the British diplomat said, "Letís get out of here."
That was the scariest part of the trip. The whole place seemed to close around us as we quietly and quickly went back to our car.
"Look there," my friend said. "That driver is sound asleep. If the police had picked us up, who knows when he would have awakened and tried to find us."
That was really an eerie thought. Yes, we were very glad to go out past the checkpoint at the Brandenburg Gate.
After getting back to West Berlin, we realized what a contrast it was to East Berlin. Here was a bustling city. There were people on the sidewalks and many cars on the streets. In East Berlin, there were very few people on the sidewalks and even fewer cars on the streets. Weird!
I got so interested in all that was going on around us while I was in Berlin, I forgot to write home for several days. I had told my family that I was going to fly into Berlin, and that was troublesome enough to them. Then when they didnít hear from me as regularly as usual, they really got concerned. Later, when I got strict instructions from home that I should stay away from problem areas, I realized what a scare I had given my family. I felt sorry about not writing for that period of time. The rest of the time I was very regular about my letters home.
While I was in Munich one weekend visiting a motion picture production company, I decided to go to Dachau, just eleven miles north of there. As the whole world knows, it is the site of one of Hitlerís World War II death camps.
During the bus ride to Dachau, I thought about all the stories I had heard about the place. During the war, I was in the South Pacific where we were fighting the Japanese. We werenít so well versed on the horror stories from Europe. However, for years after I got home, more and more information about just what went on in Dachau and Buchenwald came to light.
Seven years earlier the Allies had opened these death camps and released the starving, emancipated persons who were still alive. I knew I was about to witness the actual site where all the deaths and suffering had taken place.
The first thing we saw from the bus as we neared the place were the rusted railroad tracks which carried train loads of people to their death. Next the wire fencing topped with razor sharp rolls of barbed wire came into view.
The other sightseers and I then got out of the bus and went inside the compound. We saw the handwritten logs the Nazis used to keep records of those unfortunate people they tortured and killed. We were shown the rooms where the people were gassed to death after being told they were going to get a shower. Some of the clothing of the victims was still on display. Next to the showers was a large room for storing the bodies until they could be burned or buried. Then we saw the notorious ovens.
Outside the building were the wall where people were lined up to be shot, and the trench into which their bodies fell. We also saw the burial grounds.
The whole experience was terrible. On the way back to Munich, I kept
wondering whether or not I was glad I had gone. Such a sight is something
that can effect one for a long time to come.
Introduction to the American Field Service
I reported in at the American embassy from time to time. It was always a busy place. One day the door to Frankís office was open and he happened to see me walk by. He invited me in. I noticed a stack of papers on his desk.
"Iíd bet youíll be interested in what I am doing right now, Glenn," he said. "Do you know what these papers are?"
Of course, I had no idea that what he was going to tell me would lead me to an exciting project when I returned home.
He continued, "One of my interesting embassy jobs is to receive and evaluate teenage student applications from German and Austrian schools. A number of these lucky students will be chosen to attend a high school in the United States on the American Field Service program."
Since I had never heard of such a program, I asked him to tell me about it. With enthusiasm he told me the whole story.
The program was started in 1947 by a non-sectarian and non-political organization, the American Field Service, known as AFS. The members of the organization were volunteer ambulance drivers who served in both world wars, caring for men of many nationalities and beliefs.
These men experienced the horrors of war first hand as they cared for the wounded. After World War II ended, they began to think about some way to promote friendship and understanding among people. They decided that hatred came about because people didnít really know each other. They also decided that the best hope was to let young people get to know people who otherwise would be foreigners to them.
The AFS leaders, headed by Stephen Galatti, a World War I ambulance driver, lobbied congress and non-profit groups to make funds available to bring German and Austrian students to the United States. They were to live in American homes and attend school for one year.
Steve was successful in getting the endorsement of the United States Department of State. In fact, they gave financial support to the program.
Frank showed me a speech then President Eisenhower had once made to a group of departing exchange students. He said, "I would hope the groups that come after you will constantly grow in size. And that we in turn will find ways of sending our young people to your countries, to learn about you, to bring back to us better understanding of your cultures, your religions, your histories, your traditions, your hopes, your aspirations, so that we can be a little wiser, a little more understanding in the dealings we have with all the world."
I began to see what a wonderful idea the AFS student exchange program was. Steve Galatti and his AFS group had decided it was useless to influence the older people, but that our hope was in educating the teenagers who had a better chance to change the world.
"Glenn, to make a long story short, the American Field Service Student Exchange Program has taken hold. What do you think about it?"
"Sounds like a great idea to me," I said.
Indeed, my mind was already beginning to fill with plans. I decided that when I got home, I would meet this Mr. Steve Galatti and see if I could find homes for some students. Frank told me that so far none had been sent to Southern California.
To read the story of my involvement in the American Field Service (AFS) program, click here.
My time in Germany came to an end and I finished my report. With the aid of a duplicator I finally was able to find, I made multiple copies. I left some there and took the rest home to present to the proper authorities in Washington and USC.
When I arrived in New York City, I found the AFS offices and had a talk with Mr. Stephen Galatti. Then and there I resolved to place at least two students when I got home. After going on to Washington to make my report, I headed for Hutchinson and my family.
You can bet I was happy to see my family again. I had missed three months of my new baby's life as well as those of my two girls. I had missed being there when Glenda started to school at Elmer, the little country school I had attended many years earlier.
Our local newspaper wrote a story about my trip and our visit with
my paretns. The paper's photographer took this picture which was included
in the article. When you look at it, I'm sure you can guess why I was happy
to be back with my family again.
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