Mary Lou McClellan grew up in Parma, Ohio. Her mother was a shop owner and her father was in communications. In the summer, she and her siblings loved to ride bicycles to the local swimming hole and swim all day, enjoying sandwiches their mother packed. In 1950, she married George McClellan, who had enlisted in the Army, completed his service, and then commissioned from Ohio State ROTC. In 1952, she and her two-month-old daughter flew to Germany to join her husband, who had traveled ahead. Their first assignment in Germany lasted until 1956, and during this time another daughter was born. Stints at Ft. Benning, Georgia, for the Advanced Course, and Monterey, California, for Russian language school followed, as did two more children, both boys, one born in Georgia and one in California. The family returned to Germany in 1958 and spent two years in Oberammergau for additional Russian language training before being stationed in Berlin, with occasional duty at the Potsdam House. In 1961 she lived through construction of the Berlin Wall, and in 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, her last daughter was born. In 1964, when George was assigned to Korea, Mary Lou and the family returned to Parma, Ohio, and lived near extended family. From 1965 to 1966, the family lived in Thailand, assigned to the Thai Military Academy, where Mary Lou taught English. After George returned to the States, they relocated to West Point, where George taught in the Department of Earth, Space, and Geographic Sciences until deploying to Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. After returning from overseas, the family was reassigned to the Military Academy.
In this interview, she focuses on her life as an Army spouse during the Cold War. She describes living in Germany in the 1950s and 1960s, the children attending German Schools, and various aspects she liked about German culture and society. She recalls being spied on by the Soviets, experiencing major world events, and various periods of unrest in Germany. She discusses living in Thailand and enjoying a vastly different culture. She reflects upon her time at West Point and its close-knit community. Finally, she highlights changes she observed during her decades as an Army spouse.