Dancing on Tour Overseas pt 2

Continuing Saga

by Lynda Southworth

The Flight from the USA to Germany 2

A short while later, one of the young pilots walked down the aisle to check the passengers. When he returned, he struck up a conversation with me and sat in the empty seat next to me. 5 minutes later he returned to the cockpit. There were three pilots.

A couple hours passed, and people were trying to get comfortable enough to sleep on the long, overnight flight. I was resigned to a sleepless night and being exhausted by morning.

Then the cockpit door opened. One of the pilots came out to speak to me. He informed me that they had a couple bunks, but rarely if ever used both. I was invited to use the one they rarely used, “because a young lady entertaining the troops should be well rested.” I was assured I’d be perfectly safe. How long do you think it took me to say, “Yes”? I very quietly stepped in front of him, so he blocked the view and stepped through the door.

I didn’t wake until morning when I heard through the curtain someone knock on the cockpit door. It was George in a panic because one of his troops was missing. The pilot whispered where I was. George asked how long before we landed and was told in about two hours. I went back to sleep.

Just before we were supposed to land, the pilot came to notify me through the curtain that we would be landing in half an hour. I went quietly back to my seat refreshed and ready for the day. Only George knew that I had slept in a bunk. All the rest were stiff, bleary-eyed, and exhausted. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, so to speak. As I deplaned, all three pilots wished me well on the tour and to “knock them dead.” 

My Angel had been with me all the time. If I hadn’t been late, I would have been sitting back with the rest and exhausted. What I thought was a disaster, turned into a wonderful adventure. I’m always amazed at the kindness of strangers.

We landed, were driven to our lodgings, and had time for a nap before supper and our first performance. After every performance, the troop remained on stage to meet and greet the soldiers. I decided my M.O. (Method operandi) that evening. I noticed a young man still sitting in his seat when others came on stage. He seemed hesitant, so I went to him. We talked until it was time for us to depart for our lodgings. He was a shy, homesick young man. He wanted to know the latest songs in America, etc. At times I tried to make him laugh, but mainly, I just listened to him tell me about his hometown, his family, and his girlfriend along with his wish for a juicy American hamburger instead of sausages. He was so grateful that I listened to him. He expressed what he was experiencing and feeling. He couldn’t tell that to his buddies because they all are tough MEN at least on the outside. 

That is when I decided I would look for the young and shy and mainly just listen to them along with answering questions about what was happening socially in the USA. Remember, many of these young men were fresh out of high school, this was the first time they had left home, they were dealing with a new culture, and they had to be unemotional, tough MEN ALL the time. Many times, I heard that they just wanted to talk with an American girl.

This tour was so satisfying to me because it was like listening to and comforting one of my brothers when he needed to let it all out.


by Allen Dale Olson

The idea for DINING IN ALSACE struck me in the spring of 1971. At lunch with Mary Neth, a reporter for STARS and STRIPES, she mentioned that I was always taking notes about touristic-related sites to include restaurants and wineries. Her beat included the Defense Department schools, and she saw that part of my protocol and public affairs duties included arranging off-duty activities as well official conferences and interviews for visiting dignitaries and, often, their wives. Such groups enjoy good food together.

I showed her my notebook which at the time contained a couple dozen interesting restaurants within about a 50-mile radius of Karlsruhe, most of which were on the French side of the border. She told me she thought a lot of American military families in Germany would really like to enter France for a dining experience because it was nearby – just across the Rhine River – and didn’t require all the time and expense of having to go to Paris. “Why don’t you turn these notes into a book?” she suggested.

In February, 1972, Walworth Publishing Company produced the first edition of DINING IN ALSACE. With photos and chefs’ commentary it told the story of twenty restaurants on the French side of the border with Germany, all within an easy drive of where most Army and Air Force families were assigned. It covered a range from a couple of world-famous classical places to a few rustic places with romantic and/or historic associations. But in all cases, the quality of the food and the value of the experience were highlighted. We were told it was the first-ever English language book about restaurants in Alsace.

That led to a fourth edition in 1986, but there is much to tell along the way between 1972 to 1986. First, In the beginning I met twenty established restaurateurs and many of their suppliers. My conversations with them changed the way my wife and I spent our weekends and leave days. We went to wineries, asparagus growers, cheese makers, foie gras producers, and to the writers of gastronomic and culinary writers and journalists. We became friends with a couple of Michelin Guide inspectors and eventually had meetings with two different chief inspectors. I made sure that whenever I traveled, any free time would be used to find an interesting place for a meal, wherever I happened to be.

Germany’s Black Forest is also on the border with France, and Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, and Stuttgart are “gateway” cities to this famous area. We began to get questions about the German side of that border; DINING IN THE BLACK FOREST  was born.

The late Jean-Pierre Haeberlin who, with his brother, for years looked after the three-Michelin-star Auberge de l’Ill, made sure I gained entrée to two of the most prestigious hotel-restaurant associations in the world: les Grandes Tables du Monde and Relais et Chateaux, and soon my wife and I would be invited to some of their special events, and we became acquainted with some of the most remarkable cooking personalities ever – Paul Bocuse, Jacques Pic, Pierre Troisgros, Mado Point, to name a few. Wine families like the Humbrechts, Trimbachs, Matuschkas, Mondavis, Jadot, and Latour became friends.

The Romantik Hotel Association of Germany made sure we visited their member hotels in all parts of the country, giving rise to our DINING IN GERMANY.

With the help of friends like those I was able to meet chefs from Sweden to Italy, the Baltic to San Sebastian, England to Belgium and Holland. Those contacts spawned two additional books: DINING IN GERMANY and DINING IN EUROPE’S GREATEST RESTAURANTS in 1983.

Of course, there have been many highlights resulting from this second, unpaid career, but one of the most memorable came the morning after the Armed Forces Television Network aired a film of my having dinner in a German restaurant interacting with the wait staff about dining customs and etiquette in Germany. As I walked into the Karlsruhe Army Motor Pool that morning, I made eye contact with a sergeant coming off the night shift. He stared at me a full minute, then said “Ain’t you the guy I seen eatin’ on television last night?”

A footnote… One of our more interesting findings was that most of the hotel-restaurant people were surprised that we wanted no payment for inclusion in the book. Learning that we were doing this privately without any corporate support opened them up to candid and revealing discussions about the business. Many of them offered us a free meal or a free room, but other than that, all of our production was out of pocket and on off-duty time. Book sales enabled us to recover most of the actual production costs of the books but nothing close to the travel and dining costs necessary for that production.

Ah, but the friendships. We still hear from a few of the chefs. Every month or so we get a message from a former soldier or teacher about how they appreciated the books when they were serving in Europe. Retired STARS AND STRIPES and American Forces Network journalists still e-mail us descriptions of their current meal experiences just because they know we care – and remember.

And my wife and I still insist on dining well, often trying to recall just what dish was it we liked so well in where was it?

To see all of the titles, please go to the museum’s book blog At Ease at: 



Who Are Military People?

The museum will be focusing on a series of topics over the next year as part of our E Pluribus Unum-GRAICE Under Pressure project. Our Writers in Residence will examine and reflect on numerous topics pertaining to gender, religion, race, identity, culture and ethnicity. In addition to essays, our podcasts and YouTube videos will also examine what makes us-well, us. Please be thinking of ways you can lend your experiences to the wider conversation.

In July 1971 in Paris, France, Jim Morrison, frontman for the band, The Doors, died a rock star death. He was 27. Despite my many young-1960s hours spent listening to The Doors while sitting on the linoleum of my barracks cubicle and leaning against my bunk — I had no car — I don’t have any “I remember where I was” instant with Morrison’s death.

In that same July and on that same continent, I was roughly four and a half hours due east of him, in third-floor walkup Army quarters in Pirmasens, West Germany, now a soldier’s wife instead of an Army personnel clerk. If the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service network in Europe broadcast news of Morrison’s death, I missed it. 

Eight changes of address after Pirmasens, my husband and I were back in West Germany. Now we were on the other side of the country. This time, Elvis had died. This news on the radio gave me the flashbulb moment I missed with Morrison. By then I was near Fulda, in my kitchen, 20 klicks from the East German border, giving my son breakfast. Quaker instant oatmeal. Apple.

So why should I consider Morrison’s death relevant to my experiences? Not that I knew it then but Jim and I had both been military kids. 

Jim Morrison’s father had been a career sailor and was a retired admiral when his son died. My dad had been a career soldier/airman and was a retired Air Force master sergeant when The Doors lost their lead singer in Paris. I doubt my dad noticed. During WW 2, Jim’s father had been a sailor, floating somewhere on the Pacific. My dad, during the same war, had been an aerial photographer, flying somewhere over the Pacific. The glaring difference between Jim and me is that he was famous. I was very much not famous. Jim was seven years older than I was, so he’d had a head start on fame but, seven years later, I still wasn’t famous. Still, as military kids, we shared the life. 

So, are there traceable events in the lives of military dependents, of brats, that make some of us rebel and become the Lizard King, and others to follow an opposite path and be the wife of a career soldier? Since, among my friends, the ways grown brats live their lives range from off the grid living in the wilds of Alaska to establishing post-service Beltway contractor businesses, I’m guessing statistics would show that our life paths are all individual. 

Many of us children of military parents serve in the military services: Francis Warren Pershing, John S. D. Eisenhower, John McCain, the three children of General James McConville, the current Chief of Staff of the Army, my brother, and my sister and me. Some brats become pacifists, such as the members of the mellow rock band, America. Other brats blend into civilian communities as teachers, nurses, middle-management corporate officials, or any of the host of jobs available in the country. Some military-affiliated kids, with less tragic stories than Jim Morrison, also rise to stardom: Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Ciara, Kris Kristofferson, Amy Adams, and Patton Oswalt. 

As for the parents of brats, despite continual volunteer work in communities and as government employees themselves, spouses of career service members usually don’t attract fame outside the various awards for “spouse of the year,” but fame is not necessary for valued contribution. Value itself resides in being part of the team supporting our country’s warriors.

Military children, drafted into the life often at birth, are a part of the overall population of Americans who take part in the mission of America’s military services. Some may say that spouses and kids are dependapotamuses, brats, straphangers. Of course, some family members are ‘less than supportive.’ Lake Woebegone notwithstanding, no population group is all above average. We’ve all heard, “If the [Service name] wanted you to have a spouse/family, they’d have issued you one!” 

Overall, spouses and brats provide service members with stability, with normal homes to settle in after a day, a week, a month, or a year of military duties. Spouses are sounding boards, absorbing stories from their partners, both of frustration and joy. Children ground the service members in the everyday. 

The support given to service members by their families has military value as attested to by so many promotion photos of family members pinning on the service member’s new rank. If the military services did not value spouses and brats, then Congress would not appropriate, and the DoD would not disburse, the funding necessary for hospitals, health care, and youth activities. The government would not spend money on family housing, transportation of dependents, or shipping mini-vans or other vehicles overseas. There would be no point to large commissaries, youth centers, and dependent schools. If our government did not recognize that families share the purpose of mission with servicemembers, far fewer soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen would have families. 

So who are military people? All of us ID-card holders make up the fabric of the American military structure, with service members as the tip of the spear. Given the money underpinning the DoD, rather than thinking, “if [Service] wanted you to have a spouse/family, …” one official outlook must be, “recruit an individual; retain a family.” No spear consists only of its tip.

Valerie Bonham Moon