Chapter XIX of the P.and G. Klopp Story Part II

One Drink Too Many

550_6_historische-rathausfassade--grosser-markt-flaggschiff-film
Peter’s Home Town Wesel (Willi Brordi Church) – Photo Credit: hanse.org

When I returned from my brother’s wedding, I resolved to be more goal-oriented, to study hard, to raise myself above mere mediocrity to an academic achievement I could truly be proud of. On the wall hung the work schedule, which I had imposed upon myself outlining a rigorous timetable: getting up at six, attending school from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., taking some time off till three, doing homework and studying till five. After supper followed another two hours of intensive study. I had a lot of catching up to do. An hour before it was time for me to go to bed. usually around ten o’clock, I critically reviewed my day. And if according to the work schedule I had passed the test, I rewarded myself (and only then) with a small shot of vodka and let the pleasant warmth penetrate my body as a form of instant relaxation. The master allowed the slave to temporarily forget the self-imposed burden. At moments like these I would grab my guitar, play a few simple classical pieces composed by Carulli, or take out the harmonica and strike up a potpourri of folksongs, pop music or my favorite scouting melodies.

Bild 62

At times when I felt in a creative mood, I would open the metal box with a dozen or so water colors and try my untrained hands to paint a picture often with a futuristic theme inspired by my voracious reading of science fiction novels. One picture (see above) depicts a romantic scene showing a young couple sitting on a park bench under the light of the full moon. High above the horizon towers the head of a helmeted space woman of a distant century in the future, whose envious eyes are glaring down on the romantic couple below.

          Wilhelm, my classmate, came to school from a neighboring town. His father produced apple juice, with which he tried to compete with the popular Coca Cola product that was making economic inroads into the German beverage market. Wilhelm once demonstrated in our school how corrosive coke was by filling two glasses, one with his father’s apple juice and the other with coke. He then threw an iron nail into each glass. In the following week, when we entered the chemistry lab, we were astounded by what we saw. The nail in the glass filled with coke was completely encrusted with rust, whereas the one in the apple juice was still shiny and unaffected. However, we failed to see the connection to the possible ill effects that the popular drink might have on our sensitive stomach linings.

          It was about two weeks before Christmas, when Wilhelm came up to my apartment and brought me a 10-liter jug of apple juice. I placed it on the hot water radiator. Without the aid of a wine making kit with its expensive accessories we embarked on producing a cider by letting Mother Nature do the job. After only a few days I could report to my friends in school that bubbles were rising in the bottle, a certain indication that the process of fermentation had begun. Hans, Helmut, Wilhelm and I were already looking forward to our Christmas break party with the potent apple wine in the making. Soon the bacteria finding ample food in the juice and turning the sugar into alcohol multiplied a million times over generating CO2 at first weakly fizzing, then growing into a crescendo very much like the sound of rushing waters. Finally the bacteria had done their duty, and the homemade cider was ready for the party. School was out. In the New Year the final race would come to the finish line. The dreaded written and oral exams were looming on the horizon. So we four all felt the need to let go and put aside for a while our worries and graduation blues. I had put the jar outside into the wintry air on the balcony to chill the brew into a refreshing drink. We made ourselves as comfortable as possible in my tiny room. My three friends were sitting on the couch that converted into a bed and I sat on the only chair at my desk, whose prominent occupant was the giant jug with its delicious content. I poured the cider into coffee mugs. There were no glasses in the mini-kitchen. At first we had a serious talk about our plans for the future. The classroom genius Hans wanted to enroll at the Marburg University to study nuclear physics; Helmut, the lawyer’s son, was seeking a position in economics; Wilhelm planned to embrace a teaching career, and I had set my eyes on becoming an electronics engineer specializing in high frequency technology.

Aus Elektronik 62
Peter’s ‘Engineering Notes’ on Basic Electricity – 1962

 I poured us another cup of that deceptive cider that tasted like a refreshing fruit drink but carried a powerful punch. Hans tuned my guitar and starting picking a few melodies. Most Siemens workers in the building had gone home to their families. The apartment building was almost devoid of people. So there was nobody we would disturb with our singing. After another cup we had reached the point where singing had become the necessary ingredient for the continued success of the party. The vocal chords well lubricated by the smooth drinks were ready to metamorphose us into a cheerful bunch of young men.

Wine Jug
Our home made cider would not have earned any prizes. But it was potent.

To the great delight of my friends, after we had gone through our favorite scouting and traveling songs, I offered to sing a spiritual to express my sentiments over our oppressive teachers in school: “When Israel was in Egypt’s land, let my people go. Oppressed so hard, they could not stand …”, which I sang with the deepest voice I could muster without floundering. Now Hans injected rhythm into the life of the party and played masterfully one of the Flamenco style pieces with the beats being pounded vigorously on the guitar body. “That was the rendition of our friend and maestro worthy of another drink”, I said. By now the content of the 10-liter jug had dropped to about the halfway mark. Suddenly Helmut got up and said he had to go to the bathroom. The way he staggered into the hallway made it clear that he had already had too much to drink. Someone said, “I hope he’ll find the toilet in time. He looks ‘blau’ (German slang for drunk) to me!” Now one must know that in Germany you locked the bathroom door with a key. Poor Helmut must have taken it out and dropped it on the floor. All of a sudden we heard him call, “Let me out! You locked me in!” We rushed into the hallway and tried to convince him that he was the one who locked himself in and that he would have to find the key. “It is not in the lock”, he complained.

          “Then it must be on the floor. Look for it”, we replied. Finally he located the key. What came next is incredible. Helmut’s level of intoxication was so far advanced that his eye-hand coordination was severely hampered. He was unable to insert the key into the keyhole. Imagine the hilarious scene, in which we three friends tried very hard to give him directions how to put the key into the hole. I was just about going to call the janitor for help, when Helmut managed to open the door. He looked pale and disgruntled, whether it was out of embarrassment or intoxication, we could not tell. Without saying good-bye he took his coat and left. Needless to say the bathroom incident had put a damper on the jolly time we were having. Nobody felt like having another drink. The party was over.

Autobiography Book Germany Photography The P. and G. Klopp Story Writing

9 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Goodness gracious…what a story…and so much detail, I feel like I was there! There is so much I love in this narrative…the Photos of Wesel and the charming watercolour, ( I love the lovers on the bench and the jealous disgruntled helmeted woman..note the name Helmut further down…love the connection…looking down ). What a tough rigorous timetable…what a focused dedicated young man you were, wanting to better your work prospects. Ah wódka…we had many flavoured vodkas in the house when I was growing up…cherry being the favourite! Wisniówka! I too learnt the Spanish guitar at boarding school and still play from time to time, sometimes called upon to accompany folk type hymns! You are stirring up so many memories here Peter…and I remember Carulli well. My son has done the Coke test here recently and it actually cleaned the coins here when left in for a time. I think the recipe has changed over the years. As for the apple juice/ cider incident…an absolute classic! Home Brew…dangerous stuff that. We make home made elderberry wine and after a few years that is pretty potent! Drink with care. We now make home made beer but we buy the special kits…much safer! As for the toilet story…poor poor Helmut. What a panic, poor young man. It is a Rite of Passage…I have been witness to my own 17/ 18 year old son going through just the same these last few months. The pressure of exams and trying to get into the Uni of your choice is harder and tougher than ever it used to be in my young days. I do feel for our young folk and their trying to make their way in the present World. An absolutely BRILLIANT post Peter! 😊 So very well written my friend! 😊

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    • You cannot imagine how much joy you have brought to my hear with those heart-warming words. You belong to the few of my followers, who can express their appreciation and actually feel WITH me, what I once experienced as a young man. Your comments are a pleasure to read and reveal a great capacity to write. There are also parallels between the lives of your family and mine that I find absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for your uplifting comment on another rainy, dreary day here in BC, my friend!

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      • Good Day my friend! Apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I have been nursing a really heavy cold for weeks, and spent all day Sunday in the garden, pruning, tidying, cleaning up, also emptying the greenhouse and preparing that for sewing seeds. I think I must have overdone it as I consequently felt really unwell for the last few days , really low. So I have lain low for a wee while. Slowly resurfacing now. Indeed Peter, it staggers me that your family and mine have SO so much in common…especially in your youth! Amazing…I chuckled frequently on reading your story. I am probably behind a wee bit on here…och well, slowly does it. The weather is warming up here so I will now be didviding my time between the outdoors, writing on here, I have a lot of organ playing coming up…and so it goes! I will do my best to keep in touch on here…unlike last year when I disappeared completely for a few months! You are also too kind, remarking on my great capacity to write. Thank you so, it really lifts my spirits and a year down the line I really do feel I have made progress and find writing poetry such wonderful therapy, expression, focusing, stillness…when I have not got around to picking up my paintbrush. I hope the weather is improving for you over there…Spring must surely be there for you…just about! It is here. Good wishes to you and yours, and thank you once again… 🙂

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  2. Wer Gott liebt,wird selig .
    Wer Wein trinkt,wird fröhlich.
    Drum liebe Gott und trinke Wein-dann wirst du selig und fröhlich sein!

    Faszinierend,deine Story,Peter.So geschrieben,als hättest du es erst gestern erlebt!
    Ich finde,dein selbstgemachter Wein ist ausreichend gewürdigt worden-ihr habt ihm ja auch ordentlich zugesprochen!😂😂
    Und nach der dir selbstaufgelegten strengen Planung fürs Lernen u.s.w. hattet ihr das durchaus verdient !😉
    Dein Bild gefällt uns ausnehmend gut-es hat was!!!

    Herzliche Grüsse!
    Edda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vielen Dank, liebe Edda für deine lieben Zeilen! Sie haben mir viel Freude gebracht auch ohne Wein. Schön, daß euch mein ‘Kunstwerk’ aus der Sturm und Drang Periode meines Lebens gefallen hat. Morgen gehe ich auf eure email ein mit dem Video von Opa Dieter und der kleinen Mia. Herzliche Grüße aus Kanada!

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  3. Eine wirklich sehr heitere Geschichte. Dazu möchte auch ich meinen Kommentar abgeben: Bekanntlich lebten wir in der DDR ja in einer “Mangelwirtschaft”, obwohl man das, streng genommen, auf den Alkohol nicht immer beziehen konnte.(Ist ein extra Thema!) Aber bezüglich Wein gab es oft nur übersüßen Weißwein aus Ungarn, der zu heftigem Kopfschmerz führte. Da wir in den Gärten unserer Großfamilie Obst im Überfluss hatten, begannen wir bald mit der eigenen Herstellung von Wein aus den verschiedensten Früchten: Apfel, Sauerkirsche, Hagebutten,… Die Äpfel wurden in unserem Waschhaus in Stücke geschnitten und dann mit einer handelsüblichen Küchenmaschine zu Brei verarbeitet. Zum Trennen von Saft und Fruchtfleisch haben wir die Wäscheschleuder benutzt (die damals noch nicht in der Waschmaschine integriert war). dann kam alles in große 10- und 20-Liter-Ballons, mit Hefe und Zucker versetzt und mit einem Gärröhrchen verschlossen. So standen sie dann wochenlang in Küche, Schlafzimmer,… herum und mussten auch regelmäßig umgefüllt werden. Dazu namen wir einen Kunststoffschlauch (ähnlich der Benzinleitung beim “Trabant”!), saugten mit dem Mund an und ließen es dann im freien Fall laufen. Mein Sohn (damals im Kindergartenalter) machte das viel Spaß und er half seinem Onkel oft dabei. So wunderten wir uns zunächst, dass er auf der Heimfahrt mit dem “Trabant” fröhlich sang und erzählte, was sonst nicht seine Art war. Er hatte sehr lange an dem Schlauch gezogen und es war ein süßer Saft!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vielen Dank für deinen Kommentar, lieber Norbert! Ich finde, was du geschrieben hast, hoch interessant. Es gibt weitere Einblicke in das Leben der DDR Bürger. Ich denke die Geschichte ist wert, als Post in den Blog eingesetzt zu werden.

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