From Germany to Camden High School in the 1960s
Lincolnville — Karl Kalender lives in the "small town" of Herten, Germany, but he's quick to concede that with a population of 50,000, Herten is no small town by Maine standards. He should know. Kalender was the first American Field Services exchange student to attend Camden High School and has made a point of visiting his host family in Lincolnville about twice a decade since graduating Camden High School in 1965.
Kalender and his wife, Monika, arrived in Maine Aug. 10. They departed Aug. 24 after spending two weeks enjoying quintessential Maine at a rustic camp on Norton Pond. The camp — which belongs to the McFarland family — is familiar to the Kalenders, Monika said, adding they've visited Maine together seven times and called the waterside cottage home for several weeks at a time.
Kalender grew up in Herten and said his inquisitive nature catalyzed his participation in AFS. In 1964 the organization was only offering an exchange program between Europe and the U.S.
"I was curious, I wanted to see a little more of the world and get to know the society of the U.S," he said. Kalender noted he had journeyed to the U.S. aboard the vessel Seven Seas, making port in Boston, where he first met the McFarland family.
"It was a slower approach to the country," he said of traveling by sea.
As the very first exchange student to attend Camden High School — now Camden Middle School — Kalender was a celebrity of sorts, according to his host brother Tom McFarland. Currently living as far away as Texas, the three McFarland brothers, along with their wives, congregated at the camp Wednesday, Aug. 22, to enjoy a meal and a bit of good-spirited nostalgia with the German couple. Kalender said the previous day the camp had been the backdrop for a mini-reunion with a handful of his Camden High School classmates he has kept in touch with through the years.
The McFarland brothers said their mother Muriel initially had the idea of volunteering to host an exchange student. Paul McFarland — who was attending college at the University of Maine in 1965 and still resides in Lincolnville — recalls that there were "a number of families involved" in the application stage. Tom McFarland was a high school junior and Michael McFarland was in eighth-grade.
"We were the best family," Michael McFarland added. Tom McFarland recalls "quite a vetting situation."
"Mom said you have to be good," Tom added as his brothers nodded in agreement, recalling their mother's familiar sentiment about preserving the family name.
"I'm really blessed that [the McFarland family] took me as an exchange student," Kalender said.
The brothers McFarland have fond — and typically teenage —memories of their time with Kalender. Tom McFarland looked over his shoulder from his seat on the camp porch, noting the first time Kalender visited the family place on Norton Pond he swam clear across the pond — much to the dismay of Muriel McFarland.
"Karl was always a little aggressive with everything," Tom McFarland said, "Badminton, ping-pong."
Muriel McFarland never drank or smoked, and didn't condone those practices said her sons, but she "justified" the occasional beer for the then 18-year-old Kalender.
"Our old man was all for that," Michael McFarland noted.
Kalender participated in many school activities including Model United Nations. Though memories are imperfect after 45 years Kalender and the McFarlands recall he was president of the group. Kalender also remembers selling candy bars to raise funds for the Washington, D.C., class trip, a tradition that has transcended time — as well as location and name— and is still in practice Camden Hills Regional High School. He recalls having an active and independent social life as a foreign exchange student.
Kalender was "very outgoing and got involved in everything," Michael McFarland said. Kalender explained he studied English for seven years prior to participating in foreign exchange. He is modest about his grasp of the language but the McFarlands are quick to assert that his English has always been very good.
In keeping with a policy that still exists for foreign exchange students Kalender was not allowed to drive in the U.S. One memorable evening Tom McFarland had driven Kalender and a young woman on a date to the movies. As the young men were dropping Kalender's date off at home, Tom McFarland ran over her cat.
"I didn't get a date again," said Kalender.
Kalender noted some moments of homesickness during the year he lived in Maine.
"It was a difficult time at Christmas, I have to admit," he said, explaining in the mid-1960s a letter could take up to 12 days to get to Germany.
Karl and Monika Kalender spent their honeymoon in Lincolnville. They've previously visited Maine with their son Simon, now 34, who was once an exchange student in Florida and works as a physician in Germany.
Kalender obtained a Master's Degree from a German university and recently retired after 38 years as a journalist. He said he is still involved with AFS on a voluntary basis and is pleased with how the program has evolved in a global sense — allowing students from a broader number of countries to have foreign exchange experiences. He observed that Camden, too, has changed with the times, noting the absence of Camden Farmer's Union and the former YMCA building downtown.
Though Kalender has periodically traveled parts of the United States other than Maine, he and Monika are looking forward to a serious dose of American culture. After leaving Maine they'll fly to Denver where they'll rent a car and spend 19 days touring the Western part of the country. Kalender said they've planned a plethora of stops including The Grand Canyon, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone National Park and Las Vegas. They'll head back to Germany in mid-September.
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.