I have written about my introduction to The American Field Service Student Exchange Program (AFS) while on my trip to Germany. After returning home and getting settled in our new home, one of my first projects was to carry through on my resolve to bring two German students to live and study here for one school year.
My first step was to talk the whole thing over with Darlene. She was as enthusiastic as I was about the idea. I then explained AFS to Mr. Plank, the Culver City High School principal. He, too, was interested. After more communication with Mr. Galatti in New York, I knew my next step was to find homes for two students. As much as we would have enjoyed having one in our home, we knew we had no room for another person.
I told our Sunday School Class in Maynard Methodist Church all about AFS and announced that I was looking for families to take care of two German students for a school term. The very next Sunday, after church, I noticed the Morley family lined up in front of me.
"Glenn, are your still looking for a home for a German student? After your little talk last Sunday, Dorothy, the kids, and I agreed that we'd like to take a student for the school year."
Of course, I said I was still looking and I thought they would be an ideal family.
I had also spoken to the ministers at University Church about AFS and the assistant minister was very interested in having a girl in his home. It was time to let AFS in New York know that the Morley and Dale families were ready for students for the 1953-54 school year. We sent in the paper work and both families were approved.
A girl named Hannah Fluhrer came to stay with the Dale family. We didn't have too much contact with them as she attended a Los Angeles school. However, all went well with her and her family during the school year.
Gundolf Goethel was the student who came to live with the Morley family. We were very lucky to have started the AFS program in our high school with Gundolf Goethel and the John Morley family. Gundolf and his family were well suited to each other, and seemingly had few, if any, adjustment problems. Furthermore, during that year we became very good friends with the Morley's. Even though John, being an engineer and working for several different aircraft companies, moved his family a number of times through the years, we have always kept in touch and exchanged visits. Yes, we consider the Morley family among our dearest friends.
Gundolf was the ideal exchange student. He was popular at school. Also he was a good speaker and gave many talks to various civic organizations about the program. Thus, he made the program popular and we were able to continue it year after year, both receiving and sending students abroad.
At the close of the school year, Gundolf was feted with a community send-off celebration. The city presented him with a scroll expressing greetings and goodwill to his hometown of Oberhausen, Germany. This practice was followed a number of years for the students who had spent a year in our high school.
Darlene and I worked very hard contacting all the various organizations in Culver City, and many became regular yearly contributors. The local hardware store donated a wheel barrel that the high school committee took around to the grade schools telling about the program and soliciting money. Each year we sent a student abroad on the summer program, and each year we hosted a student from abroad. The students came from and went to different countries each year.
Other schools in the area heard about our program and began to participate. One year we had a big party at our high school for all the students in the area. We invited Sy Miller and Jill Jackson to come to introduce their song, "Let there be Peace on Earth." You can imagine how enthusiastic a group of students from many countries were about the song. After all, that was just what the AFS program was all about. As I explained in the story above about Brotherhood Camp, the "Peace Song" has gone around the world and some of the impetus can be attributed to its introduction to AFS students.
Sometime after we moved to Maryland in 1969, for some reason the program ceased in the Culver City High School. By then there were other similar exchange programs around. I suppose the lack of volunteers was the chief cause of the demise of AFS in Culver City. We learned when we moved back in 1980 that the AFS committee at Venice High School, who had gotten their inspiration from our program, still was going strong and sometimes placed students in several schools in the area, including Culver City.
Toward the end of Gundolf's school year here, I got the idea that I should make a sound motion picture about his year at Culver City. I talked to Herb about the idea and he suggested that I talk to Bob Wagner, who was then head of the Cinema Department.
"Glenn, that sounds like a great idea. The Cinema Department will foot the bill. We will make it your own project," Bob said.
I was very happy to get Bob's approval for the production. I certainly couldn't foot the bill. All I had to do was write a script and get it approved. Writing the script wasn't much of a problem for me. I knew exactly what I wanted to put in the film. All I had to do was "get at it." And that was exactly what I did!
"My Trip Abroad" was the name we gave to our film about Gundolf's year in Culver City. It was a black and white 16mm sound film. Gundolf narrated the film, telling his various impressions about life in general in his American home, and about the Culver City High School. He did two sound tracks, one in English and one in German.
The film had its premier showing in the Culver City Farragut Grade School auditorium, and it has been shown many times through the years. Hannah and Gundolf were each presented two prints of the film, one in German and one in English. They were eager to show them everywhere they could get an audience back in their hometowns.
Several years later, I received a telephone call from Mr. Galatti asking me to read a script at the RKO Studios. He had persuaded a film company to promote the AFS program through the medium of television. The television show was to be called "Two Worlds of Nicolo."
"Glenn, I can't take my time to shepherd such a long-term project. You live near the studio and you are very familiar with the AFS program. Would you help us with this?"
How could I not take on that job? Of course, I said, "Sure I'll do whatever I can, Mr. Galatti."
My first job was to read the script. Mr. Galatti wanted me to be sure it was true to the purpose of the AFS program. I felt there was too much conflict between the student and the host family. It didn't depict the type of adjustment problems that were typical. All in all I felt the whole story was too dramatic in nature, and didn't really show enough about the positive aspects of the AFS program.
"No, you can't leave out that part of the script," the writer would say. "It must have some conflict built into it. All stories for TV situation productions must have that."
Although the writer didn't like my suggestions, he did agree to "water down" some of the scenes. I finally approved the script and the film was completed and broadcast. Mr. Galatti had the same opinion I had about the finished product, but what could we do! It was finished and as the saying goes, "in the can." We could only hope it served to inform people about AFS, and maybe, encouraged some families to become hosts to foreign students.