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Submitted by Charles Brantley '68

My Memories of France and Dreux American High School.

It was sometime in November 1963 when my mom packed up all five kids and an Air Force car picked us up at the motel where we had to stay for two days in one room with two beds and a cot. For some reason, we didn’t care or mind that the room was cramped and stuffy. It was another adventure as an Air Force family. Dad was already at Evreux Air Force in Evreux, France and had been for a while. I am sure that he was anxiously awaiting all of us after being TDY for so long.

From the motel, we were taken to Andrews AFB in Maryland to catch our prop bird to France. While waiting at the terminal I still remember watching my favorite black and white TV show, The Twilight Zone with Rod Serling, before we had to board the plane for Paris. Somehow that has always stuck with me and I still love to watch reruns of the Twilight Zone.

The flight was long, boring and noisy. I think that Phil, my brother, got sick and threw up which almost made me throw up. I came close a few times.

It was cold and damp when we arrived in Paris, but we didn’t care because dad was waiting to pick us up. We gathered up our bags and mom counted heads (remember Home Alone) as we got into the white four door station wagon that dad had bought. I just found a b/w picture of that station wagon parked in front of the tin cans that we lived in at Dreux.

Yes, does any one remember the ugly, small trailers? This was base housing as we knew it then? Again, it was winter and snow was on the ground and those trailers were like refrigerators. It is a wonder that none of us died from having colds all winter. Luckily we only lived in the trailers for a short while before we got off-base housing. I think we lived in De Nouches.

My memories there were of “billy-goat hill” a 45 degree hill that we kids rode down on card board, or simply rolled down. We rode garbage can lids down the hill when there was snow. Somehow none of us got killed, from what I remember, because at the end of the hill was a huge drop-off. We didn’t care because we were fearless back then.

One episode at billy-goat hill involved my brother Phil and me climbing down the hill into an old grave yard. All I recall is that I found a WWI French soldiers helmet that was rather rusted and I took it. I know, I shouldn’t have taken it, but I was all of 13 years old and it was a soldier’s helmet. Mom still has that helmet. It is spray painted gold now and in one of the back rooms. I plan to retrieve it some day soon.

Other memories of Dreux housing included the cave people who actually did live in caves dug out of a hill side. Of course, there were the gypsies who came around to try and sell us stuff, or steal what they could when we were not looking. There was Monsieur Van Dame the artist who sold us original oil paintings dirt cheap. I still have one of a castle that was done by Claude Van Dame. He would just knock on your door and do a picture gallery show of his paintings. My folks bought a few from him and my mom still has most of them.

I assume that I attended the end of my 7th grade and my 8th grade at Evreux AFB, but not really sure. I have my 8th grade class picture. Boys we looked like geeks back then.

We eventually moved to off-base housing in Evreux. The housing was nice and I had a good time there. This is where I met my first group of young Frenchies that I hung out with. Yes, I had my first French girlfriend. I seem to remember that her name was Monsai or something like that. I don’t want to brag, but that is who gave me my first “french-kiss”. Oo la la! Sorry Renee! More about Renee later.

I enjoyed Evreux. It had lots of stuff to do. Phil and I spent a lot of time at the recreation center. I attended Boy Scout meetings there. By the way, I was at a Boy Scout meeting when someone came in to tell us that President Kennedy was shot. Stuck with me ever since.

Phil and I had our first big fight with a known bully. He was picking on Phil and of course, I had to take up for my little brother. After it was all over, we all became good friends. I wonder whatever happened to him? He was a great guy once we taught him a lesson not to mess with the Brantley boys from Georgia.

I got my first real job at the Commissary bagging groceries for tip money. It was good money, especially at the end of the month when everyone got paid. I bagged a lot of groceries and actually earned lots of money at the time. Had to loan my dad some money for the NCO Club a few times. I was living high on the hog with money to spend at the snack bar, for the movies and bowling, and of course, there was Renee.

Oh yea, I also was cured from ever smoking when dad caught me with cigarettes. He made me sit down on the back porch and smoke the whole pack. Of course, I turned all shades of colors, but have not smoked since then. Thank you dad for doing that for me. Too bad that he didn’t follow his own rules for me since he ended up passing away from lung and blood pressure complications in his early 60s.

By this time Monsai had disappeared from my life. That was OK because I didn’t speak French anyway and my lips hurt all the time when she was around.

Renee was a cute, pixie blonde that reminded me of Lulu, the singer. She was as sweet as she could be and we started hanging out a lot, even though she was younger and an Officer’s kid. You know, ranks don’t mix well in the military. Her dad seemed to be gone a lot anyway so there was no problem. We became a couple which was great. I was more afraid of her sister Rory who was going through a rebellious time.

Rene was born with some issues with her back and had to wear a metal contraption that went from her lower back and up under her chin. It didn’t really matter much to me and it didn’t seem to get in the way much….once again, my lips started to hurt again, even more.

For my freshman year, I got to leave home and go to boarding school which was back at Dreux AFB. Every Sunday I had to make sure that my clothes were washed and dried and ready for packing. This is when I learned how to iron. I didn’t have many clothes, including jeans and my pants were polyester or something like that and they wrinkled terribly. So either I went to school with wrinkled pants or I ironed them on Sunday night. I ironed them.

We met the bus around 6:00 am on Monday morning, rain or shine, for the drive to Dreux. I think that it must have been 1 ½ hours away. We got to Dreux, grabbed our bags off the bus and ran to the dorm to leave them and go grab some breakfast at the cafeteria. I loved to eat the food at the cafeteria, most of the time. I actually loved SOS and to this day, I love to eat biscuits and sausage gravy. Not too healthy for you, but always brings back some good memories.

I got elected as Freshman Dorm Representative and got to hang out with the older boys some.

We had four roommates to a room, although the seniors either got their own room or at least one room mates. They were the kings of the dorm.

I always had some extra money from bagging groceries, so I would go to the BX and Commissary and buy a bunch of sodas, candy and chips and bring them back to the dorm. I started my own snack bar business and sold them during the study breaks. We had study hall from 7:00 to 8:00, 30 minute break and study until 10:00. Then showers and lights out. I always went home with more money than I came with and Renee was waiting for me.

I also did some ironing for the seniors. Not sure if I got paid money but they sort of adopted me as their little buddy. That Sunday night ironing came in handy after all.

I won’t get into all my room mate stuff and the points that we accumulated over time, but I had some good mates and we had some good times. I do want to mention their names though: Ralph Cave, Casey Davis, Tom Kolakowski, Robert O’Connell and Jan Tatala. There may have been others, but I just can not recall their names right now.

One incident does need mention because it was made of rebellion, challenges and consequences. One night around midnight, a spontaneous, maybe planned but I was not party to that, eruption started with trash cans being thrown down the hallway, clanging of tins, door slamming, hooting, yelling, etc. Well, our dorm Counselors did not think that this was very funny. We were all herded into the meeting room and the Counselors proceeded to make us do exercises for several hours until we dropped. Not much fun, but it was worth whatever reason that we went crazy for the night.

I was into sports at Dreux HS and earned a letter in Cross Country and wrestling. This meant spending some weekends at Dreux or travelling with the team to other schools. I did place 3rd in ComZ at 95-101 pounds in my sophomore year. I also played Babe Ruth baseball with some great guys during the summers at Evreux.

I was a good kid and never had to go see Principal Ross Tipton. Principal Tipton is still with us at 102 years of age. He and his wife of 75 years live close to me and I plan to visit them soon to do some remembrances of Dreux.

Probably one of my saddest days was when dad told us that we were to rotate back to the states in September/October of 1965. I was having a wonderful time with Renee who was now attending Dreux, travelling all over France, Germany and England with my sports teams and living away from home. This was the first time that I felt like I was losing friends, freedom and myself. I did not want it all to end, but it had too.

Renee tells me that I left France on the day that the Year Book pictures were taken at Dreux and the reason that her eyes looked so puffy in her freshman picture was because she had been crying all day. My eyes were puffy too! Good bye and thanks to Dreux, Evreux, France, all my fellow BRATs and some of the best times in my life. Times that I have never forgotten and never will.

By the way, Rene caught up with me on Face Book and we still talk about the good old days in France.

 

 

Submitted by Mary Roberti - Faculty at Dreux

Reminiscences of Dreux

                                                                 November 1, 2012

 

      I received the other day a card inviting me to "Reunion 2013" for Dreux American High School.  Although the "fragility of age" (I just turned 79) keeps me more homebound than I care to be, I am reveling in the memories that Dreux conjures up.  That year (1962-63) was, in retrospect, the most exciting year of my teaching career (37 years in all), not only because it gave me opportunities to travel, but because it brought me in contact with students whom I choose to think of as "special"--the students at Dreux were well traveled, especially "savvy" about the world, yet polite and eager to learn.

     I taught Latin and English at Dreux that year and loved it, perhaps more than some of my Latin students loved Latin.  Maryann Colaluca, I recall, was not overjoyed in her sophomore year to conjugate verbs.  But she stuck it out and I admired that.  My 12th grade English class intimidated me--they wanted a more dynamic teacher.  I tried, but they had a paragon of pedagogy in Marina Valenzuela, who taught French and Spanish, and who soon became a good friend of mine, in fact, my best friend on the base.  We traveled a lot together, many weekends in Paris, where we "hung out" at the Officers' Club on Rue Marbeuf, riding in Marina's 2-door sports car.  We took a trip through the Loire valley, went to Deauville, took in the French atmosphere (it helped that Marina was fluent in French, while I only pretended to be.)  By the way, Marina and I corresponded for a number of years.  In the late 60s, I flew to California from Michigan to see Marina.  She was the same--exuberant and challenging to be around.  Later, we lost contact, something I regret.  Thus, I did not know she was deceased. Marina was popular with the students, who revered her intelligence but loved the fact that she never took herself too seriously.  Other outstanding teachers were Sid Massey and Paul Francis, who had years of experience in the overseas system and were venerated as the "deans" of instructors.  I personally was intrigued by Greg Apkarian, principally because he lived off-base and looked so suave and sophisticated.  (His recollection letter to the Alumni of Dreux displays a prodigious memory for names and dates, with interesting comments about colleagues and students.)  George Aune also wrote "Dreux Memories" which I enjoyed reading.  He came to see me years later, while I was teaching in Monroe, Michigan, but left a note for me, as I was not in that afternoon.  He was a fellow Michigander, as he noted in his letter.  Joe Wade was a counselor who was close friends with Marina and me.  Joe did me the honor of flying to Ann Arbor to attend my Ph.D. ceremony in '72.

     Al Matthews, our principal, was new at Dreux in 1962.  I recall vividly the first faculty meeting in the Teachers' Lounge, when the chair he was sitting in tipped over (with him in it), but we teachers, astounded, noted that he kept right on with his orientation.  No one said a word.  That man could weather any storm.  That first day, as we exited the room, he called me "Mariuccia" (an affectionate term for "Mary"), much to my surprise.  As an aside, he said to me, "My mother's Italian."  We were buddies from that moment on.  He was an unusual combination:  a disciplinarian with a heart of gold.  But I avoided sending students to him or to Mr. Hagemeyer, the Asst. Principal, as whiffs of corporal punishment were still in the air.

     I do recall the Jr./Sr. Prom in Paris, where some of the faculty were chaperones.  One student stood out--Maureen Cassidy, a senior.  I knew more sophomores than seniors, as I was the sophomore class sponsor.  That "Bateaux Mouches" prom on the river Seine was memorable.  I also recall going with students to the Normandy Beaches on Memorial Day--it was cold the day we went by bus--on the original "Bluebird" bus (it really was blue then).  But it was a sobering experience for all.  Come to think of it, World War II was not so remote to us then.

     I stayed at Dreux only one year.  Marina urged me to sign on for at least another year, but I had other plans.  I later regretted that decision.  Where else could I have gotten teaching experience to rival the excitement of the ambience and fellowship at Dreux and the kinds of students there?

     I did continue with my graduate studies--an M.A. in Latin at the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the same institution.  I retired in '95 from Monroe County Community College where I was the Humanities/Social Studies division chair, moving to Phoenix, where I still live.

     Thank you again for your invitation and for listening to my reminiscences.  I will be thinking of you all during that weekend.  My compliments on your spirit and enthusiasm for Dreux American High School.

     Have a wonderful reunion!

                                                                     Mary Roberti         

                                                                                           

Submitted by Greg Apkarian - Faculty/Coach at Dreux

DREUX HIGH SCHOOL
September 1961 - August 1964
K. Gregory Apkarian  

“Memories are yesterday’s gifts to the heart” (Robin St. John)  

Having arrived on the cloudy side of 70 years old, I find myself more frequently thinking of where I have been rather than thinking of where I might be going.  As with all things, we tend to reflect upon those memories of our journey through life that were most meaningful and pleasant.  And, it is for this reason that I put my thoughts to pen to share with the reader those memories of mine from my Dreux days.  

Of all the assignments I have had serving with the Department of Defense Overseas School System, my experiences as a teacher at Dreux High School from September 1961 through August 1964 continues to remain as one of my most cherished time periods.  Why, you might ask?  I have asked myself that question many times, and have concluded that it had to do with the dynamic high school environment that I found myself in, side by side with other like minded teachers, students and administrators trying to get a new school off and running into its second year of existence.   

To start this journey of reflections, I would have to put my thoughts in context as to how I came to be assigned to Dreux High School and of my tenure as a teacher there.  Well here goes, and I trust you will enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed putting my thoughts to paper.  

In July 1961, I was finishing up my first year as a graduate student at the University of Stockholm , Sweden , where I was enrolled in a Master's Degree program majoring in Social Economics.  For my 2nd year of study, I was planning to move to Russia to begin a comparative study of the economic development of the Soviet Republics of Georgia and Armenia .  The completion of such a study would serve as my Master's Dissertation as required by the University of Stockholm ’s Economics Faculty.  

As fate would have it, in August 1961, and coincidentally, as I was swiftly running out of my financial resources I received a telegram from the Overseas School System inquiring if I would be interested in traveling to Paris to be interviewed for a teaching position.  After discussing my predicament with my academic counselor, we both agreed that it would be in my best interest to pursue this newly developed opportunity, as the political climate in the USSR in 1961 left much to be desired.  

The Paris interview went well and I was offered a Social Studies teaching position at Dreux High School .  Leaving Stockholm on 5 September 1961 , I flew into Paris 's Le Bourget airport very early in the AM on the 6th. It was around 2:00 AM , and I did not have the foggiest notion of where Dreux Air Base was, nor did I have a clue of how I would be getting there. Particularly at 2:00 in the morning!  Well, once again, chance intervened!  Getting off the airplane and passing through customs I struck up a conversation with a young man who turned out to be a dorm student who was also going to Dreux.  And, he had a staff car that had come down from Dreux to pick him up!!!  Needless to say, I immediately accepted his invitation to ride with him and his military driver to Dreux.  Arriving at Dreux I was let off at the main gate with the MP’s, while my Good Samaritan student was driven off to the student dorms.  

At 4:00 o'clock in the morning the MP's arranged for me to stay in the Military Police Station in an unlocked cell until I could report to the high school in the morning.  You might say “from jail-house to school-house!”  

At 8:00 o'clock in the morning, with suitcase in hand I found myself in Principal Gustafson's office where we introduced ourselves to each other and with him handing me a key to a classroom (I believe # 7).  He indicated that the students were already in place and waiting for their teacher.  I discovered that I was not only late arriving for school that day, but I had missed the opening day of school, which began on Tuesday, September 5th.  First impressions are certainly lasting I thought to myself as I hurried down the hall to my first class of students at Dreux. Thus beginning the start of a journey that would keep me at Dreux for the next three years.  

School year 1961-62 proved itself to be a learning experience for me.  In the first instance, Principal Gustafson wished to install an Economics course into the curriculum and by the second semester we had the course, along with Samuelson's college level textbook, and about 10 hardy students who signed up for it.  It turned out to be a fun course to teach. As a class project, we bought some Studebaker stock and tracked it for the school year before selling it and dividing our gains among the students who had made the initial contributions to purchase the stock.  I recall taking the class to Paris on a field trip to visit the offices of the brokerage firm of Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, & Smith to gain an insight into the workings of a brokerage house and the stock market.  

As part of our teaching responsibilities, teachers were encouraged to sponsor student activities.  In this regard, Principal Gustafson saw in me the ideal candidate to sponsor the Archery Club. Why?  I don't know!  But, in no time at all, I found myself poring over library books on the subject of sponsoring such a club.  I guess I learned as much about archery as did the students who signed up for their once-a-week experience.  We did set up the archery range just outside my classroom window, which faced a rather large open area.  Since safety of students was my primary concern you can imagine my nervousness when the time came to shoot our arrows into our straw-filled targets.  Thankfully, we emerged at the conclusion of the school year with NO ACCIDENTS!  

School Year 1961-62 proved to be memorable school year.  I met some great teachers and have been saddened by the passing of some of them.  Paul Francis jumps to my mind as being a 'stellar' teacher.  He taught next door to me and during the course of his teaching I was able to hear how well his students responded to him.  He was truly a great teacher.  I also remember well Marina Valenzuela, who taught French & Spanish and was very popular with the students. I am sure that her passing was felt by many of her students.  

Other teachers that I met that '61-62 school year included Pete Georgi, who, I believe was a reading specialist.  I can recall his classroom being a kaleidoscope of posters, pictures, and all sorts of interesting displays.  All of which were somehow related to encouraging students to become better readers.  Then there was Teacher Bill Horak, a very close friend, who decided to become a Dormitory Counselor while at Dreux.  Other teachers that I came to know were Bill Elstran, Leo Wax, Lee Mawby, Jim Close, Cedric Hannon, Gary Weiss, and then there was Bill Lee who went on to a distinguished teaching career at the University of Southern California, also Alan Dale Olson, who, upon leaving Dreux went on to serve as the USDESEA Director’s Spokesperson in all matters relating to the DoDDS European schools.   

The school year ended all too quickly, and upon returning for School Year 1962-63 we all discovered that Principal Gustafson had been transferred to Lakenheath , England and Mr. Al Matthews took over as Principal.  My memories of this school year are very hazy, but one incident does stand out that had to do with Principal Matthews.  It was our opening orientation meeting in the teacher's lounge and Principal Matthews had just finished introducing himself to the faculty and was expounding upon the goals of the school for the school year, when, as he was leaning back and balancing his chair on its two rear legs, he leaned a bit too far and went tumbling over.  A marked silence followed his fall by all the teachers and as he brought himself back to his feet still talking, we all noticed the same thing - that he had not missed a beat in what he had been expounding upon. That was Principal Matthews as we were all to come to know and to appreciate.  

I do recall that the winter of '62 had to have been the coldest on record in all of Europe .  Since I was living off base, in Nonancourt, with only a fireplace as the main source of heat, those winter months became deeply imbedded in my memory and were something to remember.  For me, it was a joy to arrive at school during those cold, frigid winter months to just relax surrounded by the school’s central heat.  The winter months slowly receded with the onset of spring, and as the weather changed we all came to appreciate a bit more the changing of the seasons.   

Other events of this school year included the Jr/Sr Prom, which was held on the Seine River aboard one of the Bateaux Mouche boats.  I do recall that being a fun evening, with no one falling overboard!!!!  

My fondest recollection of my experiences while assigned to Dreux had to be associated with the 1963-64 School Year.  With the transfer of Mr. Close, Math Teacher and Football Coach, to Lakenheath High School , Principal Matthews assigned me to be the new Head Football Coach at Dreux.  Bill Elstran and Staff Sergeant Alton Snead were my Assistant Coaches.  Both played a major part in our many successes that year.  

I still recall vividly our first team meeting in the base gym.  We must have had at least 60 students in attendance.  While reviewing the ‘rules of behavior’ that would be expected of all team members, we experienced an immediate attrition of participants that took us down to 50 students still in attendance, and we were still reviewing our expectations of Dreux student-athletes!!   

After our first week of practice we experienced a further attrition of participants leaving us with approximately 39 students who were committed to represent Dreux as football players.  And that was what we started with, and that was the number of student-athletes that remained with throughout the season.  And what a season it turned out to be!!  They enjoyed an undefeated season, and were crowned the following championships:  

            a. The Com Z Conference Champions
           
b. The Spain Conference Champions
  
         c. Tied for the U.K. Conference Champions  

We played 9 games, which included the 6 Com Z teams, and we played 3 post-season games, which included Madrid High School, Lakenheath High School and London Central High School.  We were the only DoDDS high school in Europe to play a nine-game season that year.  

I am confident that the students who were part of this team are still carrying with them the many memories of their participation in a football season that resulted in their being part of a football team that had no equal that season.  

Some statistics:                 Dreux-298      Opponents-40  

            Dreux              31        Orleans           0

            Dreux              27        Paris               7

            Dreux              29        Chateauroux    7

            Dreux              34        Poiters            7

            Dreux              46        Verdun            6

            Dreux              28        Orleans            0

            Dreux              39        Lakenheath     0

            Dreux              51        Madrid             0

            Dreux              13        London Central 13  

The European Stars & Stripes wanted to sponsor a European Championship game between Dreux and Frankfurt High School (also undefeated) with the proceeds of the game to go into a scholarship fund for student-athletes.  For whatever reason, those plans never got beyond the initial discussions with headquarters personnel, much to the disappoint of the players.   

What made all this possible?  First, of course, had to be the commitment and dedication of the student-athletes who prevailed during the course of a 9-game season.  Throughout the season, the team never faltered.  Our practice sessions were most grueling and demanding. Starting immediately after school, and, in some instances, stopping when we could no longer see the ball because of darkness.  Their team spirit never faltered.  I must confess that this group of young men set the standard for others to aspire to.  They became such a cohesive whole, that they dominated the teams they faced as evidenced by their team statistics for that year.  

Just who were the student-athletes that made up this team?  At the expense of slighting the memory of any athlete that I fail to mention, here goes:  

Pat McTaggart - the 1963 European Scoring Champion - 130 points in 9 games.

Sonny Edwards – tough as nails, second to McTaggart in scoring, yet his most satisfying game had to be at Lakenheath that only he knows why.

Jay Martin - an accomplished quarterback and passer.

Sam Goodrich - one of our main receivers.

Ray Posey - blocking punts and recovering them became his trademark.

Randy Crist - an outstanding tackle.

Walt Peterson - running back and receiver.

 Larry Lahusen - tough as they come on the front line.

 Ed Langston – excellent running back and equally good at recovering fumbles.

 Steve Howard – both a quarterback and running back.           

I apologize for being remiss in not mentioning a number of other student-athletes that made up the team, but I must confess that reaching the cloudy side of 70, does play havoc with one’s memory.  

 At the conclusion of the 1963-64 school year, I was transferred to Wiesbaden , Germany and assigned to the Wiesbaden Junior High School as an Assistant Principal, thus becoming a school administrator and remaining a school administrator until my retirement in 2003.  Although my journey with the Overseas School System would take me from France to Germany, to Africa, to Italy, back to Africa, to England, back to Germany, and finally to Japan, my recollections would always return me to Dreux, France and my days and experiences as a teacher at Dreux High School as having been some of my most memorable ones.  

To all the students who were part of that time at Dreux High School, with the words of Bob Hope in mind, I say to you, “Thanks for the memories.”  

K. Gregory Apkarian
P.O. Box 1234
Englewood , Florida 34295
k.apkarian@yahoo.com