Author Archives: phvarmybrat

Forbes Article on Future of PHV

Hey folks, it’s been a few years since I’ve updated the blog but, like I mentioned before, the well of memories was starting to run dry since my time at PHV is now roughly 35 years in the past.

I came across this Forbes article from September 2016 discussing the future of PHV, and almost fell out of my seat when I saw it includes a link to this very blog!

I know that PHV is being used as refugee housing at the moment, as evidenced in this other PHV blog, but the Forbes article seems to suggest it might be repurposed…again.

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Big Blue Balls, and Other Photos

I found a few pictures from my PHV days that seemed worthy of sharing.  First up, here are the big blue balls that I mentioned in my Luisenpark post.  See, I wasn’t crazy!  I’m sure me or my brother, or both of us, are in this picture, but it’s too blurry for me to be sure.


Next up is just a picture of PHV in the winter.  You can tell this is old because of the stripes on that van!


And finally, I was surprised to find a picture of me in that Halloween costume which nobody seemed to understand…check out my Halloween post for the details.  I’m trying to mimic the claw-hands of the monster.  Notice the rotary phone in the background, and the cutting-edge technology of VHS tapes!


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The Destruction of Heidelberg Castle

Here’s something interesting for those of us who explored the ruins while growing up in PHV:  A video recreation of the destruction of Heidelberg Castle by the French during the Nine Years’ War.


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Reader Comments

Hey folks, I know it’s been a while since the last entry.  I have a few more topics lined up which I want to cover, but it’s getting harder to dip into the well of memories that are over 30 years old and still find fresh content.  Even if I do eventually run out of things to talk about, this blog will stick around indefinitely because there’s still a steady stream of newcomers discovering it and having fun reminiscing along with the rest of us.

One of my frustrations with this blog format is that while I’ve gotten a lot of great and interesting comments from others who have lived in PHV or the surrounding area, including some German residents who have fond memories of interacting with us Americans, these comments are scattered all over the place so it’s not very conducive to starting up more PHV-related conversation.  For example, a lot of people have chosen to comment on the About page but I bet a lot more of you haven’t looked at that page!  (It’s up there at the top right)

It would be great if there was some sort of centralized message area for a blog.  As the blog owner I do have a special page where I can review the comments to all of the entries, but I don’t think anything like that is available to readers.

One thing you can do, though, is click on the Comments RSS link down in the lower right.  It only shows the more recent comments, but it does give you some indication of what people have been talking about.  You can also subscribe on that page so that you’ll be notified when new comments are entered.  It doesn’t happen all that often, although today was a very busy one with three different comments left by newcomers to the blog.

Anyway, as my bank of PHV and Heidelberg memories is slowly running dry, there are a lot more great memories left by readers in the comments section of various entries to supplement what I’ve written.  Give those a look if you haven’t, and feel free to contribute your own!

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PHV in the 1960s

One of my readers and fellow PHV Army brat, Susan, was gracious enough to send some pictures she had of Patrick Henry Village in the 1960s, so here they are along with my observations and comments on each (you can click on any of them to get a larger view):

4465 Little Big Horn

This first picture is 4465 Little Big Horn Street.  The view is facing south.  You can locate the building on this Google satellite view as the 3rd of 5 buildings on the south side of Little Big Horn, in between South Gettysburg and South Lexington.  There’s a lot to talk about in this picture.  First off, I was surprised to see the buildings painted dark green!  I’m pretty sure they were white when I lived there in roughly 1977-1981, just as they are in the satellite view I linked.   In the stairwell furthest from the camera, on the first floor, is where Mrs. Taylor had sort of a daycare/babysitting service in her apartment.  So I used to walk to this very building every day from the elementary school!

That flat slab of concrete where the kids are playing is where I remember the dumpsters typically being, as I described in a previous entry detailing a typical apartment building.  This picture reminds me that in cases like this where two buildings essentially shared the same parking lot, the dumpsters could sometimes be found in between them at the end of the street.  You can see these dumpsters at the far left of the picture.  In fact, I can remember pulling some big cardboard boxes out of these very dumpsters during our stays with Mrs. Taylor and playing the “tank tread” game with them, where you lay the box on its side and open at both ends, then 3 or 4 kids lie down inside and all start rolling in the same direction so that the box travels along the ground like a tank tread.

Behind the kids, along the low part of that northern wall, are a few interesting features.  They’re a little hard to make out clearly, but clicking the picture to enlarge it will help.  I think one of them, perhaps the white rectangle to the right, is the hatch I mentioned in the aforemented entry where, if you found it unlocked, you could crawl down into the room full of coal.  On the left side of that same wall is something I’d completely forgotten about until Susan mentioned it.  You can see a rectangular area cordoned off by a two-rung metal fence.  As best as we can recall, this was actually an elevator leading down to the coal room!  I think most of the time it was covered up by a metal trap door, so you could just walk around on it and it’d make banging noises.  I think we kids also used to perch on that railing when just hanging out.

Along the south edge of the building, not visible in this shot, was one of the dirt marble courts I decribed in my very first blog entry.  And just beyond that would be the big playground I exhaustively detailed in my playgrounds entry.  In fact, the picture of the girl in that post features the south side of this same building in the background.

Look at all the old cars!  What I find interesting is that there are two Volkswagen Beetles in the picture, because in our last year in PHV over a decade after this picture was taken, we had one too!


This next picture is a closeup of one of the cars from the first photo, but there are some things in the background I find more interesting.  First, you can clearly see the stairs descending to the basement door in the back of that next building.  As I described elsewhere, each building had one set of these stairs on each end.  I remember there being a flat slab of concrete with poles for air drying laundry at the top of these stairs, but either this picture was taken before those were installed or else maybe not every building had them.  Also, on the edge of that building you can clearly see the metal railing around the coal elevator which I mentioned above.  Finally, you can see a hedge along that building which I suspect might be the same one Susan recently mentioned in the comments for my previous entry about the hedge tunnel.


Here’s another shot of some PHV buildings. Susan and I put our heads together and determined, largely by the large grassy areas, that this shot is probably of San Juan Hill street, looking north.  The building from the first two pictures is also in this shot, in the background where you can see a sidewalk leading to the playground area and then to that building.  For my last year in PHV, I lived on San Juan Hill street!  My building is off camera to the right, though — you can just barely see a small bit of its roof peeking through.  I see at least 3 more VW Beetles in this picture!

PHV rainbow

Here’s a shot of PHV with a rainbow in the background, but I’m not sure exactly where this shot was taken.  The wide open area in the right foreground and clues like building placement makes me think perhaps this might have been taken from the intersection of San Juan Hill and South Lexington, but that’s just a guess.

Stairwell at Halloween

This shot shows the interior of one of the stairwells I’ve mentioned in a few posts, like the one about Halloween in PHV which this shot exemplifies.  On the right is the railing where we’d climb to the top and then try to spit all the way down to the basement.  I don’t remember the walls being painted two different colors, but who knows, maybe they were like that during my time at PHV too.  Also, I do vaguely recognize the square fuse box doors along the back wall, but I don’t remember if they were still in use in my day.  It seems like sometimes we’d come across one of these doors just hanging wide open, but it was a bit too high for us kids so I don’t remember poking around in there at all.

Finally, Susan sent some pictures of Tompkins Barracks which was briefly mentioned in a recent post where I talked about an aerial picture of PHV which had been mistakenly credited as Tompkins.  The architecture at Tompkins is clearly different than PHV, though.  Although I recognize the name Tompkins Barracks, perhaps from signs pointing that way, I don’t really have any memory of ever visiting this facility.  However, the last picture showing what I presume is the front gate does seem a bit familiar, but if so the memory is very hazy.
Tompkins Barracks 1 Tompkins Barracks 2 Tompkins Barracks gate

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Heidelberg Bridge

I remember the Heidelberg old bridge, or Alte Brücke, being as much a part of the city landscape as the castle itself.  I think my eyes were always drawn to the high walls on the hill above, but the bridge was another landmark to be seen whenever we ventured out of Patrick Henry Village.


I recall that they used to light up the castle each night, and I’m pretty sure at some point we took in the view from either bridge itself, or from one of the long glass-topped tourist boats like the one seen docked in the above photo.  The bridge has quite a history going back hundreds of years.  I found this German-language Wikipedia page which, although I can’t read the text, seems to indicate that perhaps the bridge was covered at some point.  I also learned elsewhere that in World War II the retreating German army destroyed three of the bridge’s spans, making it one of the few architectural casualties for the city since it surrendered without a fight and was spared the bombing that destroyed many others.

Heidelberg_Castle_and_BridgeThere’s just one story I can conjure up related to the bridge itself.  One night we were standing on the bridge in order to watch a fireworks display.  As I recall, they had closed a bridge further down the river and were launching fireworks from there and perhaps from the castle as well.  Everything was going great, until it started to rain.  At that point, everyone on the bridge started to move for cover.  Our family, like everyone else, headed for the big white-towered gatehouse at the end of the bridge.


The problem was that the people in the front of the pack had decided to stop underneath the guardhouse to use it as shelter.  I’m not sure if our goal was to push through and keep going or if we were also seeking to stop under that imposing portcullis gate, but it became impassable very quickly.  Being very young, I didn’t have a good idea of what was going on but I remember the crowd of people and then somebody yelling out in English, “There are children here!”  My dad may have put me on his shoulders, I don’t remember clearly.


Eventually the blockage seemed to break and I remember us hurrying through the gatehouse and underneath the overhang of the building across the street, where we then tried to make our way back to the car without getting too wet.  This whole experience is sort of a hazy half-memory for me, but I do recall sensing the building panic in the moments before we were able to push through and finally get off the bridge.

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Nice image of PHV

I found the following aerial image on a German photography site.  They listed it as Tompkins Barracks, but it’s unmistakably Patrick Henry Village — I spent a lot of time at those three playgrounds in the foreground, and played tee-ball at those baseball fields in the upper left.  I don’t know when this was taken, but it’s after my time because the buildings have those white tower-like additions on the back which a reader informed me were used as laundry rooms or other additional space.  You can click on the image to go to the site where I found it.


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There are several disconnected memories I have of my youth in Heidelberg which I’ve never really been able to place.  I’m just now discovering that several of them might actually originate from a single location:  Luisenpark in nearby Mannheim.

Much of what I know about Luisenpark is recently discovered, including its name.  Once I had the name by asking family members about a vaguely remembered park, I spent some time glancing over the park’s German-language official site and its Wikipedia page.  It is essentially a paid-entry city park with several seemingly unrelated attractions, some of which I remember and some I don’t recall at all.   I also remember at least one attraction which doesn’t appear to exist anymore.  So for the rest of this blog I’ll talk about the various pieces of Luisenpark that I do remember.

My first disjointed memory is of walking up to a park entrance with an air of anticipation and excitement.  I think maybe I had the wrong idea about the park at first, expecting roller coasters and other thrill rides which clearly is not what Luisenpark is about.  After pushing through the turnstiles, I remember walking through a large area of flowering gardens.  At some point we probably passed by this hill of flags:


I’ve mentioned in other posts that Germany had a lot of amazing playgrounds for kids, and one that has always stood out in my memory was a big stone castle, featuring a tower that you could climb up from the inside.  I think the tower interior was essentially a ladder with a few grate landings if you needed to take a break.  I’m not sure, but I want to say that it was a series of short ladders, so if you happened to fall then you would just fall to the closest grate rather than all the way to the bottom.  I didn’t remember there being a slide at the top until I saw this picture and discovered that the playground is part of Luisenpark:


Another playground favorite which I can’t find any evidence of, so I assume it doesn’t exist anymore, was this structure of giant blue rubber balls arranged like a pyramid, with a net thrown over the whole thing.  Each ball was taller than us kids, so you had to use the netting to climb up and then you could jump around on them like a multi-tiered trampoline.  It sounds like a real safety hazard, thinking back, and that might be why it isn’t around anymore.  But since rediscovering Luisenpark, I’m pretty sure that these balls were one of its attractions, in a wide open area perhaps like this one:


There’s another memory that always goes hand-in-hand with the bouncy balls, and that’s of a small bridge crossing a body of water and German children running around naked and swimming.  I think this area must have been adjacent to the balls.  I’m sure the only reason I remember it at all is because, even though at this point in my life I probably knew Germany better than the States, I was still American enough to find it really strange that kids were running around naked in public.

I’ve always had it in my mind that not far from the castle playground there was a greenhouse, and at one end of the greenhouse they had an exhibit of reptiles and/or insects.  Looking at the official site, it appears that not only was I correct about the greenhouse but that Luisenpark features a whole zoo worth of animals.

One of my strangest memories of Germany has been of walking through some sort of Chinese buildings and gardens.  It seems strange to think of Chinese architecture when remembering Germany, but I was pretty confident that somewhere in Germany we’d done this.  I even mentioned it in one of my early blog posts because I remembered going there as a field trip with my 1st or 2nd grade class.  It turns out that this, too, is actually a memory of Luisenpark.  There looks to be an extensive Chinese Garden area there, which really connects some dots for me in my head.


Strangely, some of the park’s central features are ones I don’t recall at all.   The big telecommunication tower with a restaurant at the top does look familiar, but there is also a similarly shaped tower near Children’s Paradise on top of the Koenigstuhl, so maybe this style of tower is a common sight in Germany.  The tow boats seem to be a central feature of Luisenpark, but I don’t have any memory of seeing them, let alone riding them.

Luisenpark is a place I’d really like to visit as an adult, I’m sure I’d have a greater appreciation for some of it now than I did as a kid.  But I would definitely still climb up that castle tower!  Overall, it seems to have a much more relaxed atmosphere than what I’d think of as a paid-entry park in the States…those would be more like my original expectation of Luisenpark, with roller coasters and blaring music and big crowds.

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Heidelberg Reflections

Here’s an 8-minute video I came across with both Americans and Germans reflecting on the time that the Army was stationed in Heidelberg.

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Images of a Deserted Heidelberg

I just found the DVIDS Heidelberg gallery which has 26 images showing a deserted PHV, as well as Campbell Barracks and Patton Barracks.   At the site, click each picture to get a larger view and a descriptive caption.  The captions confirm that the big building at the extreme southern end of PHV was actually a commissary, so I guess residents no longer had to drive into town to the separate Army facility containing the PX, commissary, and other shops like we had to do back at the end of the 1970s/start of the 1980s.

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