Moving to Germany—(Not the Recommended Way)

By Circe Olson Woessner

The curious thing about memories is that some details are quite clear, and others are foggy. This memory is how I remember the sequence of events unfolding, although the timeline might be flawed…27 years is a long time ago!

Erik, Bad Hersfeld, Germany

Erik, Bad Hersfeld, Germany

When it became obvious that we were moving to Germany, I got excited. Ft Sill was no longer interesting to me and I was eager to move onto my next adventure.

A true Army wife, (albeit brand new) I could shuck off an old life and location and embrace, full-on, a new one. Once a decision was made, I’d go full-speed ahead.

When my husband’s orders came, even though he had a couple of months left of school, I suggested I go over to Germany and stay with my parents who were living in Heidelberg.

My reasoning was this: I could start scouting out Bad Hersfeld– it was only a few hours away. I could get us a place lined up. Because our toddler was quite a distraction in our lives, my husband was not opposed to having some peace and quiet to study.

To save money, I decided to try to fly “Space A” out of Tinker Air Force Base, OK. We arrived at the BOQ and checked in with the other Space A people. Then the waiting began…my husband had to get back to school, so Erik and I spent 2-3 days waiting for a flight. We waited, eagerly, then impatiently, and finally admitted defeat.  I was not a high priority and because I had a child, there were additional considerations- which resulted in delaying our departure.

I called my husband who came and got us and took us back to Ft Sill.

Two weeks later,  we coughed up the money for a ticket, and drove to Dallas where Erik and I boarded a commercial Delta flight for Frankfurt. 

My parents met us at the Frankfurt airport and we soon settled into a routine in Heidelberg. Erik went back to the US daycare as well as to his old German Kindergarten. (We’d spent much of my husband’s basic training in Heidelberg, only a few months prior… so it was as if we’d had an extended holiday in Oklahoma.)

I began researching Bad Hersfeld. It was a Kur (spa) town in Hessen a few kilometers from the East German border. The travel books said it was beautiful. I sure hoped so–

One weekend, my parents, Erik and I drove up to check it out. I immediately fell in love with the city.

McPheeter’s Kaserne, the American Army post was small; the post housing area was too. The nice German lady at the housing office assured me there was no post housing to be had. We’d have to live on the economy. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to stay in touch. I felt we’d hit it off well– maybe my speaking German to her had helped.

We drove back to Heidelberg very encouraged about the assignment.

A couple days later, the housing office lady called me. She’d found the perfect house for us… It was a little further out than I’d wanted…but worth every penny. She needed to know now.

Even though my husband and sponsor (AND the only person legally allowed to make any decisions) was about six weeks away from coming, I said, absolutely, I’ll take the house—sight unseen. I had money from teaching, so I agreed to a year’s lease. My housing office contact wouldn’t steer me wrong would she?

I went down to the bank to get a German bank draft to send as deposit.  Once again, for better or worse, I was 100% “in”.

My husband wrote that our small amount of household goods had been shipped from Lawton and were somewhere in route to Germany. I decided to take the next step and just move up to Bad Hersfeld, and wait for them there.

I called my contact at the housing office who said that the house was available immediately and she could help me set up all the utilities, etc.

My mom had extra dishes and blankets and so one weekend, my parents and I drove up, car laden with household goods and moved the two of us in.

The house did not disappoint. It was really pretty in a 1950s way. There was red and blue and grey linoleum on the floors, fabric textured wallpaper, and tons and tons of room.

There was a living-dining room combination, a kitchen, half-bath and sun room on the ground floor, a three-room basement with a shower–and an enormous fenced yard with fruit trees. Perfect for an active boy to explore.

Upstairs, there were three bedrooms. The only downside was that the bedrooms had sloped roofs because they lay under the eaves of the house.

After a couple of days, my parents left to go back to Heidelberg. I was alone in the house with just Erik to keep me company.

We ate supper sitting on the floor of the living room and we put out our feather beds and blankets to sleep on there as well. It made sense to be in a central location—between the three stories. At night, the house was enormous and it was very dark. The oil furnace downstairs rumbled, waking me up. Nervously, I wondered if anybody could break in through the basement door…or if there was something creeping about upstairs.  I got a sharp bread knife from the kitchen—just in case. It was a long, long night. But, we both survived it.

Over the next few days, I acquainted myself with the town that was now my home.  Right down the street from us was a bakery, where every morning I got fresh hot brotchen and little pastries.  I found a payphone and called our local “sponsor” and point of contact.  His name was CPT M–, and he was quite surprised that I was here before my husband even left the United States.

Still he stepped up to the plate and came to pick me up and drive me to the commissary, housing office and HOW battery.

After stocking up at the tiny commissary, I decided to check in at the HOW battery where my husband was to be stationed.  I took a copy of his orders into the building with me and introduce myself to the two men in uniform sitting near the front door.  I said,  “Hi, I’m Circe Woessner and my husband LT Woessner will be stationed here soon.” In unison, they both said something to the effect of “who?”

That is not what I wanted to hear, so I handed them a copy of the orders, which they took. One of the soldiers said, “Just because he has orders here, doesn’t mean he will end up here. He could be diverted at Frankfurt airport and end up anywhere in Europe”.

I thought about the lease on the house, and that maybe I was in a little bit of trouble. I didn’t indicate that though, and said to the men, “Don’t worry, he’ll be here in about three weeks.  Thank you—goodbye”.

The CPT and I then stopped by the housing office and the nice lady informed me that my household goods had arrived; she had pulled some strings to get them there even before my husband was in country. I thanked her, and calmly set up a delivery date. CRAP! This could be very bad…

Back at the house, I made friends with the neighbors and looked at maps to see all the different places we could go visit on weekends. I enrolled Erik in German kindergarten and found out all the stores in the area where I could buy groceries, household goods, etc.

Erik in front of the Niederaula Kindergarten

Erik leaving the Niederaula Kindergarten

My parents came down again and took me shopping for food and staples to tide me over, Things were pretty good.  CPT M– stopped by every other day with his dog, Ruby, to check on me and to offer a ride into post.

I stayed away from HOW Battery because I did not want to think of any bad news– like my husband would be transferred somewhere else, and I had committed us to our one year lease in an expensive house in a strange town far from my family.

The household goods were delivered a week before Bill was scheduled to arrive, and that gave me something to do, so I threw the house together and hoped for the best.

Our German neighbors brought things like curtains and wine and encouragements,  so I was quite cheered. Because I was bilingual, I did not feel at all out of place in this tiny town.

Luckily Bill did arrive, did actually have a job, and things looked promising. Soon, our car would be delivered—and we’d be independent again…

However; right after he got there, I came home from taking Erik to kindergarten and found a handwritten sign on the floor that said, “gone to the field– see you whenever…”

That was my introduction to Cav life.

The kitchen in the house on "Am Schulrain Strasse"

The kitchen in the house on “Am Schulrain Strasse”

 

The boy with Gypsie--another impromtu decision that didn't have such a good outcome

The boys with Gypsie–another of my impromptu decisions that didn’t have such a good outcome

 

 

 

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