|Walter M. Snyder
589th Field Artillery / Battery A
Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC, 1043
|Walter Snyder is Prisoner in Eastern
Springdale Man writes to Mother from Stalag VIII-C. First time since reported missing December 17.
First word was received Saturday by Mrs. Edith Montgomery Snyder of Orchard Street, Springdale, from her son, Cpl Walter Snyder who was a prisoner of war in Germany at Stalag VIII-C near Sagan in the eastern part of Germany at the time he wrote the card on February 6. Previously Cpl Snyder has been listed as missing in action on Secember 17, 1944 with the 106th Division during the Ardennes bulge offensive.
Although the area has been overrun by the Russians where he is imprisoned, no further word has been received by Mrs. Snyder.
On the postcard Cpl Snyder wrote "Am still OK and thinking of you and the family and food all the time. Am hoping this will be over soon and that once again we may be reunited. Am definitely going to be a stay-at-home. Got a lot of recipes to try out. Be sure and let me know how sis is getting along and the boys and above all, don't worry." Signed, Walter.
In service two years, Cpl Snyder received training at Fort Jackson, S. C. and Camp Atterbury, Ind., prior to embarking for overseas duty in November 1944.
Two brothers also in service are Storekeeper Third Class Richard M. Snyder with the U. S. Navy at Berkley, Calif., and Pfc Harry R. Snyder in Germany. Mrs. Snyder is executive secretary of the New Kensington chapter of the American Red Cross.
WALTER M. SNYDER
Tuesday, September 13, 2005 and we are at the Dundalk Historical Society
Snyder. Mr. Snyder is 81, born December 11, 1923. He served in the
United States Army in WW 2 and
my name is Barbara Ptirkey.
Barbara: Could you
start by telling us where you were born and raised?
Mr.: I was born in Montreal back in 1923. My Father was an engineer
working both in Canada and the United States o in the earlier years, we
moved around to several cities. Basically, however,
when I was about five years old, we came back to my Mother's home town
which was a little community called Springdale, Pennsylvania about 30
miles north of Pittsburgh up the Allegheny
River. That is where I went to school, Springdale Elementary, Junior and
Senior High School,
graduated there in 1942, 6`r' in a class of 200. I
enjoyed school very much. For a year before being
drafted in the Army, I worked in a factory in Oakmont, Pennsylvania that
made bombs. I was drafted and came on down to Fort Meade to be processed
and then headed to Fort Jackson, South
Barbara: You did
your basic training in Fort Meade. Is that correct?
Mr.: No, basic training was in Fort Jackson. Fort Meade was where they
processed you for 2 or 3 days, gave you certain tests and interviewed
you. I think what they were trying to do, was to set up a new Division
called the 106th Division and they had a lot of young men coming from
the Central and East Coast. They were giving tests to say, "Ok, this one
goes to the Infantry, this one to
happened to end up in the Field Artillery.
Barbara: What was
your parent's response to your going into the Army?
Mr.: Well my Father was not there. He had walked out on my Mother during
the depression years. My Mother was already used to it because my older
brother was in the Infantry and my younger
brother was in the Navy. At that time, if you recall, anyone that was
the least bit healthy had joined
the service or was
Barbara: So it was
Mr.: Sort of
expected. I was afraid that I would not be drafted because I only
weighed 137 pounds and I was 6 foot tall and I always remember when I
was worried about it, my Great Grandmother
"Walter, take a lean horse for a long run." So the Military did take me
and I was certainly
glad to be a
part of it because everyone from my little town was gone. People that I
had grown up with were all in
the service, etc.
Barbara: Then you
went to Fort Jackson for Basic Training?
Mr.: Fort Jackson for Basic Training. We were a totally new division so
it was Officers and
enlisted men that had been brought in from other Military Units but we
were starting from scratch. It was very interesting with all the
different kinds of training that we did. I was glad to be in the
field Artillery. I wasn't working the guns, I was something called Scout
Corporal working with
the Officer who was responsible for the men and the gun crews, firing
experiences and so forth.
For a number of months, we trained at Fort Jackson. We went to
Mufreesboro, Tennessee for several weeks out in the field and moved up
to Camp Atterbury because hundreds of our people had been taken out of
our Division and sent to Europe where they were needed as filling for
casualties in other military divisions. We returned to Camp Atterbury in
the late fall of '45. We moved out to England for a short period of time
and moved out by boat to LeHarve and then by
Military Transportation to the front lines which was where the Battle of
the Bulge began.
Barbara: Were you
in the Battle of the Bulge?
Mr.: Yes, that is
where I was located and captured.
Barbara: If I
remember, there was a Pennsylvania Group that was involved in the Battle
of the Bulge.
Mr.: There were
many thousands of people. For instance, a typical division has close to
fifteen thousand in that division. So when we were talking about 106th
Division, we were talking about hundreds upon hundreds of people in the
Infantry, in the Field Artillery, in the Engineers and Communications,
etc. We were on a front line that was expected to be very quiet, spread
much too thin, very limited ammunition and we were really not provided
with winter attire such as gloves, heavy jackets, boots and everything
else like that.
Barbara: 1-low did
that happen? They sort of knew about the weather, didn't they?
Mr.: It fell short
because top leadership was probably planning to bring up more ammunition
and better clothing and everything like that but there was no particular
necessity to hurry up because no one thought the Germans would come
through the Ardennes Forrest. There have been a few clues of what was
going on but it was not correctly interpreted by our Military. All at
once these massive Germany Armies broke through a totally green
organization with little ammunition and very limited experience.
meaning the 106th?
Mr.: Yeah, young
and having only trained in the States and having no experience of being
fired on by the enemy.
Mr.: Many were
killed and even more were captured because the Germans were coming in
tanks and all levels of machine guns, mortars and that sort of stuff.
What little we had, we utilized, withdrew and thousands were surrounded
and taken as Prisoners of War.
Barbara: So that
was when you were taken.
Mr.: That is where
I was taken prisoner, yes, just before the Christmas Holiday. It was not
much of a Christmas gift.
Barbara: I guess
not. So you were with other men in your group when you were taken.
Mr.: Oh, yes.
Barbara: What was
it like, the first day, when you knew you were a prisoner?
Mr.: Well, we were
frightened because we did not know what to expect. Different groups were
taken to different areas to be processed. It was interesting. One of the
things the Germans did was to line us up to check to see if you had a
wrist watch. If you did, they stole it. Fortunately, being only 137
pounds of "romping, stomping, dynamite", when they pushed my sleeve up
to see if I had a wrist watch on, which I did, my arm was so skinny the
watch went up the arm at the same time and they missed it. That was good
for me because when I was a POW, it was possible to trade off a wrist
watch with the German Guards for some frozen potatoes and a little bit
of brown bread, which we did. The only reason I had a wrist watch was
because one of my officers had two and he said, "Here Walter, take one
of my Army wrist watches." So you know the Gods were kind. In talking
about POW experiences, six pages that I provided you with gives you a
day by day, sort of a writing of the experiences about the time I was
captured and the time I got back to the States.
Barbara: Well, do
you want to talk about some of those? The most memorable experiences. I
guess first, it is an experience obviously; they sort of marched
someplace or put you on a train someplace. Where did they send you?
Mr.: Well the
first camp I was in was called Lindberg. Prior to being assigned there,
some of us were interviewed by some Germans.
Mr.: That is
right! They wanted information which I think I was interviewed because
my name is Snyder, which is somewhat like Schnieder and that could
indicate a German background. The man was dressed in handsome clothes,
very articulate in English and asked me some background information. Me,
being young and brash, said, "Don't you Germans know you have lost the
Barbara: Oh my,
you told him that?
Mr.: It was
interesting when he said, "Yes we do but we are going to continue to
fight until the end. We will not give into unconditional surrender which
is what your President is demanding. In sharing this with friends later
oil, they said, "Snyder, you are damn lucky he didn't just put you up
against the wall and shoot you."
Mr.: We were sent
to a Camp, Lindberg and hundreds of people were jammed in limited areas.
They separated Officers from enlisted risen. Just before Christmas, the
Camp was bombed at night. Barbara: Our people bombed it.
Mr.: I don't know
if it was American Bombers or British Bombers. I think what had
occurred, the Camp should never have been close to a railroad yard but
the Germans ignored that. A wing of the Camp was hit and I think about
67 American Officers were killed, including one of my favorite Officers.
We had to help go into that area and pick up parts of bodies. What they
did was just take a group of POW's and say, "Ok, we want you to do this
type of work." It was very traumatic. Barbara: I guess it was.
Mr.: Eventually we
left that Camp and spent most of our time in Camp Hammelberg. That
included being oil a box car for three days, jammed in because there was
not enough room to sit down, no food, freezing conditions and so forth.
"That is where I got frozen feet and hands. We moved very slowly because
other German Trains with tanks and ammunitions and so forth were being
shuttled around Germany and that was a higher priority. Hammelberg was a
very large Camp and it is mentioned in those cards.
Barbara: What does
the Camp look like? Give us a picture, what quarters are like, how big a
space you are in, how many men and where you were sleeping.
Mr.: Hammelberg, I
think, was some kind of a training facility probably for horses. We were
in great big barracks. If you could picture in your mind a metal bed,
with one on top of the other. Each bunk had to sleep two people, they
weren't much more than a yard and a half wide. Then, 4 sets of those
kinds of bunks were pushed together so in a radius of about 3 or 4
yards, 16 people were assigned.
Barbara: Wow, that
was very tight!
Mr.: Very tight!!
It was just enough room to get in and out. Each person was issued a
dirty mat full of lice and a kind of thin blanket.
Barbara: And this
is very cold.
Mr.: That is
right. There was some very limited heat; it wasn't the terrible cold
suffered in the box cars. We were very regimented as to what tune you
got up and what time you went out and were counted, what time you
received horrible cabbage soup, perhaps some potatoes that had been
frozen and some horrible tasting brown bread and a lousy tasting coffee.
The diet was terrible. I was 137 pounds and went down to probably 100
would sort of blow a whistle to wake you guys up, a specific time?
Mr.: Oh, yeah!
Barbara: Did you
have jobs to do that they made you do?
Mr. Snyder: Most
of the tine, no. Occasionally, they would send a group or two out to
collect some cuttings, wood and everything like that. It was used to
provide a little bit of heat. You have to realize that some of these
encampments may have had 50 to 60 thousand men and they weren’t all
Americans. Some were Russians, Poles and English.
separated them and the Officers from the enlisted men.
Barbara: I talked
to one gentleman who was in a Prison Camp but it was a working farm and
they worked oil a farm.
Mr.: Aid to POW's
changed drastically in the last 7 or 8 months of the war. Germany was
being bombed horrendously and we were a low priority as to who was being
taken care of and everything like that. This was especially true of the
care provided Air Force People who had been in Prison Camps 4 or 5
years. They had been shot down and some of those Camps had library
facilities, a little music and were treated more humanly that in the
fading months of the war, just like we treated the Italian and German
Prisoners that had been sent over here to the United States. A lot of
them were living high off the hog compared to the conditions if they
were on the firing lines in Germany or Italy.
Barbara: So what
about mail and so forth. Did you have access to mail from home?
Mr. Snyder: We
weren't receiving any type of mail. They would bring in some little
white cards to write about 50 or 60 words on them. As I understand,
these white cards were provided to the American Red Cross and the Red
Cross made accommodations to have there mailed. In my book if you want
to make copies of some of them, they were eventually received. I was
amazed! Another thing, back when I told about the things they took, they
took your wallet and also took any money that we had. They wrote a
little receipt. When I got out of the service, it was possible to send
this receipt to some United States Governmental organization and I
eventually received a check for sixty or seventy dollars which the
receipt indicated had been taken from my wallet.
that interesting! So they had to pay people back. I wonder if, well I
guess the watches were never returned. You all had a lot of time on your
hands, what would the guys do to sort of pass the time away?
Mr.: We would talk
and talk mainly about food. You would think all those guys would be
talking about their girl friends, women and all of that sort of stuff.
When you are hungry and totally insecure, you just cannot imagine how
you walked by a bakery! Guys would have on their jackets, etc, favorite
foods and recipes.
Barbara: I have
heard about recipes.
Mr.: Yeah, yeah,
because you were continuously hungry and continuously losing weight. I
think I had, I was a POW, a little over five months; one shower in 5
months. We would sit there talking about many things while searching our
clothes and breaking lice and killing lice. Many of us had sores on our
bodies because the lack of food and everything and was not strong enough
to break the infections from the lice. You get used to people's odors,
dirty clothes and all that sort of thing.
Barbara: Did you
have any kind of facilities where you could cook anything _just in case
you got any potatoes?
Mr.: No, we had
none of that. Not in the Camps where we were, although when in Neusberg,
the last Camp that I was in, things became more flexible as to doing
outside cooking because the war was winding down and the Germans were
retreating and all of that. The only food that we received was from the
Germans or occasionally, there might be a Red Cross Box that became
available. According to the Geneva Conference, each POW was supposed t5o
be guaranteed one Red Cross Box a month. That would include vitamins,
toothpaste, tooth brushes, powdered milk, chocolate, cigarettes and
stuff like that. I think once or twice, our boxes came through, but had
to be divided up around eight people. Cigarettes, by the way, were more
valuable than money.
there was such large numbers that they had there.
Mr.: The food was
so rich. If you were not careful, your stomach could not handle it. Let
me tell you something that was interesting to me. The latrine facilities
were somewhat limited but in the main Camp there was a great round
building as a latrine. If we had to urinate, you would just do so over a
side. If you had to pass, diarrhea, you would just set your fanny over
the side and just let go. The thing that was interesting was, every week
the Germans came in and drained that pool. There were certain acids that
they could separate from the urine that could be converted into military
use, possibly for ammunition or fuel or something. The Germans were very
alert and they used everything. That was the first time I had ever seen
any diesel because their trucks would come by and the dirt y diesel
black would be coming out the smoke stacks or whatever they were.
that is what I am thinking.
Mr.: Hours would
go by. Two or 3 times a day you would be called and lined up to be
counted. Outside of sleeping, watching and talking, there was nothing to
do. There were all different kinds of Camps and depending upon the
leadership of the Camps, some people were treated more horribly than
others. The Political Camps were where they killed people, gassed people
but seldom POW's. I think it was political or ethnic types of prisoners.
Barbara: So you
were not really in fear that anything would happen to you?
Mr.: No, I didn't.
There were certain Camps where people tried to escape but we were not
aware of it and too huge a gathering of people crammed into such a small
area. Sometime the most dangerous people to be around were the other
people in the camp.
Barbara: For what
they might do?
Mr.: What they
might do. There was always someone who was crooked. If you were not
careful and alert enough, while you were asleep someone could cut your
wristwatch off without you even knowing it. I indicated that my
wristwatch was valuable and I shared a bed with a guy from the 101St.
Infantry Division. He too had a watch and being a wheeler-dealer, he was
able to change our watches for a little extra food. Therefore, the bread
and potatoes we got, probably worth 17 cents, had to be protected. We
stayed close to our bed because that is where we kept our food under the
blanket, etc. So, except when everyone was called to duty to be counted,
one or the other would be with our food to protect it.
Barbara: Wow! So
you made that food last awhile.
Mr.: But we were
that is what I was told.
Mr.: I had never
heard of chilling a banana and covering it with hot fudge and sprinkling
it with coconut. That was one of the things I said, "When I get out, I
am going to eat one of those because it sounds so delicious." I never
Barbara: You were
fantasying about that.
Mr.: That's right.
It was very interesting when we were released. The first thing that they
did was to de-lice us. Everything that we wore had to be destroyed. We
took hot showers and received new clothes. Then they had to be very
careful in the first week of how much and how rich they fed us.
Barbara: Tell me
about the day the war was over. How did you get that information?
Mr.: By the last
week or so, someone had a radio. Whether or not they got little pieces,
always technical people who knew how to put the pieces together, there
was that radio information that was discussed and we could hear bombing
in the back ground. We could see flights of our planes going over to
bomb other cities, etc. At one Camp, I remember the German Rockets that
went over and bombed London. This was towards the end of the war. The
Germans had developed these rockets that flew and you could hear them go
roaring over the Camps. They might be traveling hundreds of miles and
were very destructive.
Barbara: So you
had a radio. I would imagine that rumors would go around Camp.
Barbara: What was
something that you might remember in terms of rumors that went around?
Mr.: Well, in Hammelberg, where we were the longest, we heard but did
not know what it was all about. It was the roar of gun fire in a part of
the Camp. We heard that American Troops had come in and tried to release
the POW's at the Camp. It was true! Patton had sent a small group, not
knowing how massive the Camp was, to try, at least according to the
rumor, release, I think, his son in law. Well we didn't know what
happened or anything except when we were being moved out of Hammelburg
to take us to Nuremberg, there was an indication of some American bodies
lying along the side of the streets, dead. There was no doubt, been a
battle and in the Historical books, this is written up as far as I am
concerned. We really did not know only that the name of Patton had
infiltrated through the group. It was a big hope that we were soon to be
released. We weren't, but moved deeper into Germany. This occurred
towards the end of the war.
Barbara: I can
imagine how that was, it sort of gave you hope.
Mr.: Sure, sure.
Let me tell you of another incident. Apparently, because I was at
Hammelberg the longest, some of these stories would relate to that.
Certain Sgts were used by the Germans to run various aspects of the
Camp. When we were being processed at the end of the war before being
shipped back to the States, we were questioned if we knew any of these
Sgts. or knew anything about them. The story was that they would sell,
when the Red Cross Boxes arrived, to the Germans. The Germans were
having trouble getting food and everything like that and the Germans
were paying them out of the money that they took from the prisoners.
There are always some people that are going to be greedy and shady. Now,
I never was a smoker, and it really did not mean anything to me but
cigarettes were gold. There were always people that had cigarettes and
they could wheel and deal whenever they got it from the Germans or
whatever it might be. We just did not know what we know about tobacco
now and the tragic thing was that there were people that needed
cigarettes so desperately that they would trade their food off for
cigarettes. I know from one of the Camps, those type of people had to be
carried out on stretchers.
Barbara: I guess
so, I mean serious malnutrition. That is a shame. I have heard some
people say that they never started smoking until they went into the
service; it was almost like it was issued to you.
Mr.: Well, they
were very inexpensive and people enjoyed them. I don't get any Halo, I
was just lucky. My brother and sister, two out of four of us, are
Barbara: Tell us
more about after the war was over and you were to be released and how
did all of that take place.
Mr.: Well, I carne
home and I guess, about 60 days at home. Being a POW, the Military sent
you for 2 weeks of R&R and it could have been Lake Placed or
Barbara: Was it
your choosing or what?
Mr.: They said
this is where you are going. When you were there, you were wined and
dined, slept in nice Hotels and everything like that. You would have
physicals and some counseling and everything like that. Then they would
get you ready to send you some other places. Barbara: Right because
Japan was still out there.
Barbara: We hadn't
won over Japan yet.
Mr.: They invited
me to stay there and work in the Processing Center because I had typing
skills. I did that and it was great and eventually there were few POW's
coming in from Europe because by then, the war had stopped and they were
getting ready now to take care of the POW's that were coming in from
Japan and everything like that. I was moved up to Indiantown Gap. Some
people would say I did a very foolish thing because I re-enlisted.
Barbara: Why did
you do that?
Mr.: I wish I had
asked my Mom in later years what her reaction was. Being in the Military
never bothered me. I was first one up in the morning, my bed was always
perfect, no dust underneath my bed, my foot locker was always in order,
etc. At that point, I was ready to return. Once I did that, I was
assigned to recruitment duty and stationed in Norton, Virginia, way back
in the hills, Big Stone Gap, Coburn. I was the clerk for the office.
There were 4 or 5 recruiters and a Lt. in charge of the office. By the
end of that year, I was ready, taking some English Courses to revitalize
my skills, correspondence courses and so forth. There was a teacher
where I was living and he said, "Walter, why don't you just talk to Ms.
Blankenship, I think that was her name, and see if you can't go
tip to the
High School and during the lunch hour you could take some English
courses with the kids. 'So everyday I went up and took High School
English again. Refresh. It wasn't as much as I needed it so much because
I was a decent student in High School and once again it was good for me
because I was reconstituting my thinking and interest in returning to
civilian life. Barbara: Right, what am I going to do.
Mr.: Well, I knew
by then there was the GI Bill and was planning to be a teacher. I always
wanted to be a teacher since the 7"' grade but never thought I could
afford it; where was I ever going to get the money to go to College. It
was the depression in those days, etc.
Barbara: You said
before that your Morn worked for the Red Cross. Tell us a little about
Mr.: My Mother was
a very interesting person, very lovely, very attractive. In her late
teens she had been in some movies but not big parts. She also had this
great ability to play the piano without reading notes or anything. You
heard something and Morn could play it for you. When she was in High
School, she earned money by playing piano at the movies, those days were
no talkies. In the background you would have one indicating like joy,
laughter, spookie or something like that. My Mother of all things,
joined the Marines.
Barbara: Oh, she
was a Marine.
Mr.: She was a
secretary for the last 6 months of WWI. WWII representative hearing
about this wanted her to come back as a Colonel. Mother was only a
Private but you know with good PR and everything like that. By then she
was the Red Cross Director in New Kensington, Pennsylvania and to her,
that was more important. She set up a blood program and different types
of things and programs that were very, very highly appreciated.
Unfortunately she was living in a little town and didn't have much
choice with 4 kids and a husband that had left her. She came back to a
little town and worked a place called Silvennan's that sold women's
dresses, yarn and all that sort of stuff. Barbara: Was that after the
Mr.: It was
during, oh, I am sorry, it was before and eventually she got into the
Red Cross. Barbara: Ok. During the war, she worked for the Red Cross.
Mr.: My sister was
the youngest, in High School and my Mom had 3 sons in the Military.
Barbara: So when
she got word of your missing in action, being in the Red Cross, did that
help her finding out about you?
Mr.: No, all I
know is that when the first POW card came through I think the head of
the Post Office had told Mother if anything arrived for her, he would
Barbara: She got
the standard telegram and we have a copy of that. How long after that
telegram did she find out you were OK? Do you have a sense of that? Do
Mr.: Not really
except the very fact that she received the card that indicated at least
I was alive in a POW Camp.
Barbara: Right! I
was wondering how long a time between the telegram and that card. Did
she go for a long time before she knew?
Mr.: Lets see, I
was captured on December 17"' and I would have imagined the card would
have come through in March.
Barbara: Ok. So a
couple of months she was wondering about you. You had a couple of
brothers in the service; one in the Army and one in the Navy. How did
they make out?
Mr.: In fact, my
brother I-Larry, after the war was called back for Korea as an enlisted
man. The other, brother Richard, I don't know what the nautical term
was, possibly Store Keeper, did paper work in handing out supplies and
all that sort of stuff. He wanted to get in the activities but he ended
up in the University of North Carolina totally frustrated that he was
not on the front lines. He
was transferred to a boat and never left the wharf in New Your City and
he kept complaining about going to the theatre and all this sort of
Barbara: He really
wanted to be where the action was.
Mr.: He did.
.Before he got out, he was a part of the Bikini Atomic Program assigned
to a ship in the South Pacific.
group. I talked to one of the gentlemen who was there.
Mr.: You will
never believe what that brother turned out to be.
Barbara: What is
Mr.: A Black Jack
Dealer in Las Vegas.
Barbara: Oh my
Mr.: He went out
to Las Vegas in his last year of College. The town had only 30,000
people around 1950. Now, of course, they are working on their second
million. He always loved gambling and show business so what better place
sounds exciting. We are about finished the first side of this tape.
Mr.: I am probably
talking too much.
Barbara: No, we
have another side. We are talking about the war and you decided to go to
College. Mr.: Well, I lived at home and decided I wanted to go to the
University of Pittsburgh which was a 45 minute ride on the bus. I was
very gong ho and I started at the University of Pittsburgh in February
of '47 and by August, 1950 1 had completed both my Bachelor and Master
Barbara: You were
Mr.: Sometime I
would take 17 or 19 credits where some people take about 15, 1 enjoyed
College. I was President of the Military Organization called Scabbard
and Blade which is a National Organization. I also was President of an
Educational Organization. So I kept busy, made pretty good grades and
graduated trained to be a teacher. Soon I was looking for a job in
Pennsylvania. Each little town has their own school board, their own
superintendent and everything like that. They might only have 2 or 3
vacancies coming up, maybe none in that business. My mentor told me
there was someone from Baltimore County interviewing for teachers; why
didn't I sit in on one of the interviews. I did. She was interviewing 5
people at a time because in those days Baltimore County was growing so
rapidly they needed about 600 new teachers. To me, this was almost
unbelievable. So I got the information and said, "Oh, they are too good,
you'll never get the job with them." Well, not being successful of
finding anything in the Pittsburgh area, I mailed in an application and
I was offered a job. I was a good candidate because I could teach
business, English and Social Studies. The Baltimore County Board of
Education sent me an assignment to teach in some strange community
called Dundalk. Not having a car, I came down here by bus, I asked the
bus driver where Dundalk Junior, Senior High School was. He told me that
when I got off of the bus at the corner to turn left. Well, when I got
off at the corner, I went to the right since there was a school there. I
thought the bus driver did not know what he was talk=ing about. So I
went and knocked on the door of the Elementary School and they sent me
further up the street. Compared to where I graduated from, the Dundalk
Junior, Senior High School was quite modern and handsome. I accepted the
job there and had great students. In those days, maybe the wildest thing
they did was to sneak a cigarette or a beer. They were polite and
willing to learn. Another fellow and I were asked to take over the class
of 1952 and be their sponsors. We said, yes. I worked closely with kids,
had the cheer leaders and so forth. The best friend of my sisters was at
Harvard University working on a Master's Degree. He said, "Walter, they
are starting a new Doctoral Program up there and why don't you apply for
it?" I didn't even know where Harvard was located. He forwarded the
information to me and I told my supervisor and he said, "Walter, you are
going up for an interview. There is a National Convention in Business
Education in Boston and I am going to drive you up there and you can
stay with me up there. You are going to get an interview at Harvard."
Barbara: How exciting!
Mr.: Yeah. I was accepted. I didn't have a penny in the world. My
friend, Bev Bailey who sent me the application, told me about an
organization that had a grant and they give you plenty of time to pay it
back; Baltimore County had no type of leave program. The
Board of Education let me go on an academic leave and be able to come
back. So I went up there and worked in the program, educational
administration. It had a great type of program and a creative
philosophy. Instead of writing a formal type of Doctoral Dissertation,
the philosophy of that program was to work with a school system that had
a particular need around this. You would build a project related to the
school system in the community rather than some type of exotic study.
Barbara: So this is real practical hands on.
Mr.: Yes. There were about 40 of us in the program. Some from Canada,
Chicago, Philadelphia and there is little Walter from Dundalk, a
business education teacher. Some people say, "Why do you teach business,
you know typing, shorthand, office machines and business math?" In those
days these are important skills for those not planning to attend College
but in need of a _job. At the end of the year, I went from summer to the
regular school year and then I had a summer coining up. I checked to see
if there was anything in Baltimore County or surrounding that would be
appropriate for me, not to return on a teaching level, but
administration level and build a program around it. Such was not
available! However, Plymouth, Massachusetts, (the rock and the
Mayflower) offered a new challenge to me. The superintendent there had
an elementary background and since the school system was expanding, he
needed an assistant. I ended going up to Plymouth, Massachusetts for 3
years as an assistant to the superintendent. It was great? It was a
small school system and I worked. We complimented each other and became
great friends. I was welcome in his home. His wife had an interesting
philosophy, leave those dam dishes in the sink, if the kids want to go
on a hike with Morn and Dad or want to go play softball, that became the
priority, their kids. They couldn't have kids and had adopted two kids.
They were just wonderful parents and he was a superb superintendent. His
whole philosophy of working with people and children and everything like
that built on that type of thing. About that time, Baltimore County was
continuing to grow and they wanted to establish a personnel office.
Instead of having someone worry about the secretaries, custodians, bus
drivers, there was a need to draw all of that together. They invited me
down to be interviewed. I accepted the job and held it for 25 years. We
started with 4 people, 2 secretaries and the woman that interviewed me
many years ago. I now was her boss. When I retired in 1983, we had
about. 35 people in personnel. We had to recruit about 1000 teachers in
September and maybe about 2 or 3 hundred during the year. At our peak,
we had 120,000 students and 60 some schools. Our staff used to recruit
teachers practically all over the country and I know at least 250
colleagues in different Universities all over the East Coast and as far
west as Colorado. I wasn't on all of the Campuses but had probably
visited 100 Campuses over my career. We had a very fine school system.
People didn't realize it when we would go out and tell all about our
different teachers, modern facilities, elementary schools having a
nurse, librarian, band music, tremendous curriculum guides, having vocal
music, you name it, gyms, auditoriums, people would just sit there with
their mouths open. It is
interesting. One out of four teachers come from Pennsylvania.
Barbara: One out of four teachers come from Pennsylvania?
Mr.: On the weekend it was a caravan of teachers going home to visit.
Barbara: Well, there were close.
Mr.: Pennsylvania has a lot of Colleges and Universities, a lot of State
Colleges, etc. A lot of the people who were administrators and so forth,
come into Baltimore County and become Assistant Principles and
Barbara: So when you worked for Baltimore County, you sort of lived in
Mr.: Oh, I have
always lived in Dundalk.
Barbara: Why did
you choose Dundalk? Interesting.
Mr.: Well, let’s
see, after my first year living in Essex, some colleagues moved into
Dundalk and 1 decided to do the same. The person that became my room
mate was teaching in Dundalk also. When I came back in 1958, Director of
Personnel job, it seemed logical and I wasn't necessarily going to live
in Towson, a half an hour away. I don't mind driving so then the person
in Essex moved to the Dunmanway Apartments. The fellow said, "Why don't
you look at the apartments there?" I did and have lived there since
1958. First time I talked to the class I told them I came to this
strange town called Dundalk. Basically, I have never left. Some friends
in Towson say, You live in Dundalk? Can't you afford to live in Towson?"
Why do I want to live in Towson. Dundalk to me is like the little town I
grew up in and I am very comfortable with it here.
Barbara: Well, I
guess it is time to wrap things up. Do you have any particular thoughts
about war or having had the experiences you had?
Mr.: I have to
tell you, for 40 years, I have been registered as Republican and I
became so distressed last spring that I re-registered as a Democrat.
That doesn't mean that I don't think each has any fine ideas, I just
don't think the government was honest with us to get us in this war.
Being a confirmed bachelor, I don't have to worry about sons and
daughters and grandchildren being over there and losing their lives. I
find it very difficult to justify continuing. I don't know enough about
the ins and outs but I would hope as soon as possible that we get out!
You look at the pictures of these people in their 20's and 30's and they
are just beginning their careers. I am 80 and I had a wonderful career.
When you look at the balance coming back blind, missing arms, missing
legs, I just can't believe that it is all worth it. I know what the
schools need, I know what the poor need, 200 billion dollars already
being poured into a questionable war when there are so many of our own
people who still need help her in the United States of America.
Barbara: Yes. A
good place to end and thank you for coming in to talk with us.
Welter M. Snyder, Director of Personnel
of Baltimore County,
B.S. February, 1050 M. d.
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|Source: Walter Snyder memoirs
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James D. West www.IndianaMilitary.org