Last national reunion for Canadian teachers who taught military children in Germany
Memories of decades gone by, youth, and friendships all were brought to life on Labour Day weekend for Stammtisch 2016. The last reunion of its kind for teachers who taught at Department of National Defence (DND) schools overseas, the weekend was raw with emotion for the more than 300 people attending.
“People were so happy to be there, to meet each other. What we did was just put in place a set of activities, we’re all teachers so a set of activities, that would work. And people came and made them work. They just brought so much spirit and enthusiasm and excitement,” said Anne Mundy-Markell,
Over a year of planning went into this year’s reunion held at CFB Trenton, “where it all began.” Various activities such as wine tastings, beer calls, tours of the National Air Force Museum and Prince Edward County, a gala dinner, a performance by the Baden Rube Band accompanied by a BBQ, were all arranged to give attendees a chance to reconnect and enjoy.
Though the attendees were in their 50s and above, Mundy-Markell said reliving the memories of decades gone by brought youth back for many that weekend.
“When I saw people dancing at the gala dinner that night we weren’t that age anymore. We were all around 25. We were all the age we had been when we taught,” observed Mundy-Markell.
Stammtisch 2016 was especially significant this year since it was the last reunion to be held on a national scale.
“We’re getting to be an older population. Many of the people that used to come are no longer with us,” noted Mundy-Markell.
The DND overseas schools have a long history intertwined with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). In the 1950s, the CAF sent a steady stream of soldiers to Europe as a commitment to NATO. Originally the postings started as unaccompanied short-term postings, but families began accompanying their spouses, on their own expenses, and setting up makeshift camps. In 1953, the Canadian Government changed the overseas posting policy to allow accompanied postings. With that change came the DND school systems overseas to educate the children of military members.
“That allowed Canada to supply NATO with a really strong stable force. We weren’t just in and out,” said Mundy-Markell.
From 1954 to 1956 the DND student body went from 1,700 to 2, 690 in 14 schools with 182 teachers. By the 1967-1968 school year, DND had established 22 schools.
For many of those civilian teachers that applied to teach overseas at DND schools, that time was a time like no other. Since many of the small towns in Europe didn’t have TVs or even phones, in some cases, Mundy-Markell says “we became our own entertainment.” The teachers were a tight-knit community that became a part of the larger Canadian military community.
Mundy-Markell taught at the Baden Jr. Public School at CFB Baden in the mid-1970s. She recalls that when she flew out of CFB Trenton for her overseas experience in the summer of 1974 all she felt was pure excitement at the opportunity.
For Mundy-Markell, like many of the civilian teachers, the experience of teaching at DND school overseas had personal ramifications.
“When I was in Baden I went, my very first weekend I was there, to see Fidler on the Roof, my all-time favourite movie on a Saturday afternoon. I was watching the movie with a group of new friends, and I could hear someone snoring behind me so I turned around and sort of gently touched somebody on the knee to alert him to the fact that he was snoring. Well, that man is now my husband,” recalled Mundy-Markell.
Mundy-Markell’s husband was a military member posted to CFB Baden.
Many other teachers joined the ranks of military spouse due to their teaching experiences. Some of these teachers include Mundy-Markell’s sister, Leslie Mundy, who married Gen. (ret’d) Walter Natynczyk and Elizabeth Dallaire, who is married to LGen. (ret’d) is now Romeo Dallaire.
“I think that’s what really happened with the European experiences. It’s a very small world. Teachers went to Europe and many of us had no military backgrounds. Our parents had maybe fought in World War 2, but they didn’t really talk about any of this after the war. Many of us went over there without a lot of experience with the military and became completely part of the community,” said Mundy-Markell.
Europe saw a steady decline of Canadian soldiers in the late 1960s and by 1982 there were 3,242 children with 249 teachers in ten schools remaining. CAF bases across the country began to close across the continent.
The impact of these teaching opportunities was far reaching, and many teachers influenced change in Canada.
“Schools were just more than buildings and numbers. The Curriculum of the DND schools though based firmly on Canadian requirements had some distinctive features. Second language teaching was always a priority, and the out-of-the-school teaching program was the envy of many schools in Canada,” said Mundy-Markell.
These ideas were brought back to Canada and implemented in school systems.
To keep the legacy ongoing and the connection between teachers alive, The Order Of The Stammtisch (TOOTS) was established in the early 1990s to plan reunions.
With the 2016 reunion being the last one, TOOTS was disbanded.
On Monday Sept.5, the last day of the last reunion, all the teachers gathered held a ceremonial “mugging out.”
“When a mess member left the mess they were ‘mugged out.’ So, they had a mug of beer, and a mug was presented to them. We gave out beer mugs with our logo and sang and had tears, and that was the goodbye,” said Mundy-Markell.
Featured image:Mundy-Markell teaching swimming at the DND school