Monday, November 2, 2009

A Few Summer Memories from Germany

In the mid-50s a lot of building was going on at the U.S. military bases in Germany, and we were beneficiaries when we moved into new or nearly-new family housing on Mississippistrasse on the Hainerberg housing area sometime in summer 1956. More about that another day, but first a few summer memories.

I can’t really remember anything about it, but I’m sure we had a car – bought from someone returning Stateside and sold again when we “rotated” in 1957. Although my father was busy with his military duties and often had to be away at the firing range in the scarily-named Todendorf (“village of the dead,” I always thought), we did do some sight-seeing. The two events I most remember are a visit to what I can only call “catacombs,” and a Rhine River cruise.

The “catacombs” – and I have no idea where they are, but probably not far from Wiesbaden – were underground chambers where the walls were crammed with the bones of deceased Hessians. It seems to me they may have been monks, and the “catacombs” were just the most memorable part of an abbey or monastery tour. Alas, I have no further information.

The Rhine River day cruise may not have been quite as long as the one Onkel Hankie Pants and I took later on (see last Friday’s blog), but it probably also started out in Mainz, and here I must digress. My father was prone to singing snatches of song or quoting bits of verse that had caught his fancy – usually just one line. I’ve tracked down some of the songs and continue to search out more. One non-musical bit of doggerel he used to quote was:

”Me and the old lady and my pal Heinz

Hopped on the Fahrrad and headed for Mainz.”

I suspect there was more to it, perhaps not suitable for children?

Anyway, back to the Rhine. Our trip definitely went past Burg Katz and Burg Maus, the two castles on opposite sides of the river near the Lorelei; and we also saw the Mouse Tower of the wicked Bishop Hatto of Bingen. You can read the story of the Bishop here, and Longfellow’s poem which mentions him (doubtless familiar to my parents, who both went to school in the Brunswick area at a time when classic poetry was part of the curriculum) here.

Besides the glorious freedom of summer play for a kid in the unscheduled 50s, I had one organized activity – Brownies, and in summer, Brownie Day Camp. Here’s a picture showing approximately what my Brownie uniform looked like (there were slight changes made between 1955 and 1956); of course, I wasn’t blonde.Brownie Uniform Mrs. Larsen was our troop leader, and I remember being in the Larsens’ back yard making sit-upons from oilcloth and the Stars and Stripes newspaper, as well as hot dog/marshmallow toasting sticks – we made papier mache insulating handles for the straightened coathangers. I don’t remember where the day camp took place except that it was woodsy; my chief memory is of the songs we sang: Vreneli,Hand on myself, was ist das hier?”, and of course, Make New Friends. We sang a verse that I have seldom encountered elsewhere (the Internet turned it up as a “toast”):

New-made friends, like new-made wine,

Age will mellow and refine.

I suppose many people would not think this appropriate for 7-year-olds to sing, but to our Swiss leader it posed no problems.

That’s all for today, as I have some reviews to write, some reading to do, and oh yes – laundry, cooking and dog-walking.

1 comment:

Sisterfilms said...

I think ours were made out of vinyl, but isn't it funny to think girl scouts were still making sit-upons when I was one? And we made roasting sticks too, but they were actual sticks we whittled... or maybe that was just camping with daddy.

I am going to write a post right now!