The Pittsburg State University College of Education hosted Dagmar Snodgrass to speak in elementary social studies classes from 8 to 9:15 a.m. and from 11 a.m. t0 12:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8. Snodgrass spoke of her childhood growing up in Berlin, Germany during the Berlin Airlift in World War II and reflected on her remembrances of Gail Halvorsen, the “Candy Bomber.”
Dagmar “Dagie” Snodgrass was six years old when World War II broke out and was 11 by the time it ended.
“I lost my best friends, I lost family members, but I didn’t lose my immediate family,” Snodgrass said.
Snodgrass prefers to share pleasant stories of what happened during the war rather than “of downers life can bring.”
Snodgrass shared about the night she received a Christmas gift, her first in five years, that would forever impact her life: a chocolate bar.
It was the first Christmas Eve in Berlin after the war, and Snodgrass was 11 years old. She said it was a silent and holy night because no bombs went off. Snodgrass said she was cast as an angel for a Christmas play; at the church she saw soldiers and was suddenly filled with fear because she said she was used to soldiers bringing death. She thought she would die that night, but instead received a pleasant surprise.
After the prayer, a soldier tapped her on the shoulder. He held a duffle bag containing presents for children and told Snodgrass she could take a gift from it. The gift she picked was a chocolate bar, which she took home to share with her mother.
“I didn’t know what chocolate was,” she said. “Only that it was supposed to be wonderful.”
She said that chocolate was the best and sweetest thing she had ever tasted. Every Christmas since then, Snodgrass always has chocolate before her tree is put up. Chocolate taught her an important message, one that she hoped those in attendance at her presentation would also learn; she compared chocolate to freedom.
“When I had my first bite of chocolate it was delicious and I wanted more,” Snodgrass said. “Freedom is like that, if you’ve never had it before, you’re hooked and you want more.”
She then implored those in attendance to always fight for freedom and make sure they always appreciate it.
“Fight for your freedom,” she said. “And don’t let anyone take it from you.”
She also spoke of her experience with Gail Halvorsen, the “Candy Bomber,” or as she and many German children more fondly remembers him, “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” Halvorsen was a pilot who dropped candy attached to small “parachutes,” usually made out of handkerchiefs, to the children of Berlin. He was often called “the man with the golden heart.” When Snodgrass was 14, she worked in order to help provide for her mother, so she could not wait for Halvorsen’s candy drops. One day as she walked down the street, she saw something lying on the sidewalk. When she approached it, she discovered it was a parachute with a chocolate bar attached to it. She felt it had been very special that the parachute had landed in her way.
Ever since that day, it became a dream of hers to meet her “Uncle Wiggly Wings” and the man who gave her the first chocolate bar; in May 2015, that dream became a reality. Snodgrass was given the opportunity to meet Halvorsen in person at Goddard Middle School.
“God gave me my biggest wish come true,” she said. “To meet the man that he sent to help 2.2 million people, and I was one of them.”
Since they met, Snodgrass and Halvorsen became great friends. He also gave her the nickname “Sunshine” and they call often to chat.
“Dreams and wishes do come true,” she said. “You just have to wait for them, just wait.”
Debbie Restivo, elementary social studies lecturer, brings in speakers for her class about every other month. She hopes to equip her students with the tools to lead a classroom one day in ways that captivate students and make them excited to work.
“My whole thing is to really bring social studies alive,” Restivo said. “Instead of that boring states and capitals—no. You can go so far beyond that, and she is such a great example of that.”
Jaina Mills, senior in elementary education, is a student in Restivo’s class and was able to attend Snodgrass’ talk. Mills said she left the talk feeling inspired.
“It was just really cool to see how much she struggled a lot, but still had so much hope,” Mills said.
Snodgrass has written a book about the Candy Bomber and is currently at work on a more comprehensive memoir about her life during World War II.