Moving from small house in suburbia of Columbus, Georgia to across the ocean to a typical apartment building in Mannheim, Germany. . . was an adjustment for our military family.
Life would never be the same again.
The base we lived on in Mannheim, Germany, was for the most part multi-story apartment buildings that are typical in Germany.
Most of the apartment buildings in the housing area were a gray stucco, with three stories, three stairwells, and about 18 families to each building.
The roofs were a dark, red-orange tile and the roof line was interrupted by a series of dorm windows every few feet, allowing light into the six sets of temporary quarters in the attic of the building.
Each stairwell was lined with a smooth floor and there were wooden hand rails. The stairwell was well lit as there were floor to ceiling windows.
Each living room, which was to the right or left of each stairwell, had a giant picture window that seemed to be at least as large as a sheet of plywood, abut 4 feet tall and maybe 8 feet wide. The windows were hinged so they could be swung inward for cleaning.
The windows in the apartment for the bedrooms were much smaller and there were wooden guards outside the window. All the smaller windows as the windows opened outward and from the second floor up, a fall from a window would have been very bad for a child or adult.
Steam radiators were positioned beneath each window, and where painted white.
The back of each apartment building back faced the playground area and an concrete slab with clothes drying lines.
The playground area was shared between the two apartment buildings. The playground included huge sandboxes, an enormous slide, a giant “Mushroom” climbing tower and see-saws
There was a large grassy area for running back and forth, flying kites, playing games, and other activities which kept us busy after the school day was out and on Saturdays.
We were not allowed to play in front of the building as cars came in and out throughout the day, but we could walk on the sidewalks in front of the building, and we explored a few buildings up and down the street.
At the far right end of the building, there was a small metal shed that was attached to the end of the building. This shed was actually a covered lift which was used by the building’s engineer to remove spent coal and for bringing in maintenance equipment. The building had a coal fired boiler, which supplied hot water to sinks and to heating radiators throughout the building.
Sometimes there were coal deliveries and the trucks would fill the coal holding room almost with coal. Piles of coal would spill out beyond the small openings to the furnace room.
Occasionally we would have disagreements with other kids “invading” our turf and we would resort to chucking pieces of coal at kids we did not know . . . it didn’t happen very often and I have no idea what would start it, but I imagine it was name calling and something to make a typical boring afternoon more interesting.
We hated to touch the coal, as it was greasy and it wound up on our clothes.
The buildings in our group were all a light tan color, whereas the rest of the post buildings was a light gray color.
Glass in front
Each stairwell was well lit during the day by tall vertical windows. As you climbed or descended the stairs in the stair well,
tiny window at end in bathroom
Most if not all of Europe uses 220 volts and 50 cycles for supplying electricity to offices and homes. In the U.S. we have 110 volts and 60 cycles.
Many appliances of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and beyond, were designed for 110 and if you took your washing machine, TV, Iron, or other appliance over to Europe you needed a transformer.
Transformers ranged in size and capacity, depending on what you were trying to power, and went between your U.S. appliance and the the 220 volt wall outlet.
The larger transformers hummed or buzzed when in use and gave off heat, and were something new and different to deal with.
Motors presented another problem—while you could step down the voltage, the “cycles” could not be changed, so motors ran slower and hotter.
I brought over a Olivetti typewriter that worked ok, but was always much hotter and louder than in the U.S. After a couple of years of use in Germany, though I took frequent breaks, the bearings in the motor burned out.
Stereo record players were another problem. While your records would play, everything was very slow and turntables that used belts and pulleys needed a special adapter added so it would compensate for the motor running more slowly. The PX did a good business in selling such replacement parts.
Transformers were usually sold to the next family coming into the housing area or placed with the thrift shop for sale after the family moved on.
Radiators were a new concept for us. In Georgia, we had a floor furnace in the center of the house, but in our apartment, we had these strange things called radiators, that made strange sounds when first started in the winter time.
Later, when we had our first snowball fights and spent long Saturdays outside making snow forts, we came to appreciate radiators and how they could both dry and heat gloves, towels, pants, socks and other items.
coal power = building engineer
using the basement when it was raining
running through the basement
getting quartermaster furniture
fireworks with sparklers
Google map and what it is today.