The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

Monthly Archives: December 2016

Chapter 24 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part II

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Happy New Year to Bloggers and Friends Far and Wide!

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A Tale of Two Castles

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Marburg Castle – Photo Credit: Panoramio.com

 In contrast to Koblenz soldiers relatively small in numbers did not overcrowd the medieval city of Marburg. The only barracks was relatively small and like Maxhof in Bavaria served as a technical training center. To go to the city center I had to descend from the hilltop where the Tannenberg barracks was located on steep roads or if I wanted to take a shortcut on even steeper stone staircases. In the narrow streets below there was hardly enough room for cars to pass each other. It was not uncommon to see vehicles parked right on the sidewalks as not to impede the traffic flow. On my free late afternoons and evenings I often strolled by the many quaint shops. Sometimes I dropped in at one of the numerous bookstores, which always have exerted a special attraction for me. With shelves upon shelves reaching all the way to the ceiling these stores looked more like libraries, which is not surprising, if one considers that Marburg is a well- known university town. Here I discovered and bought a copy of the New Testament in Latin. The young saleslady might have thought that I was a first year student enrolled in the faculty of theology rather than a common soldier from the local barracks.

Marburg Castle - October 1964

Marburg Castle – October 1964

In the downtown area there were also many cozy pubs. In one that was catering to the students of the nearby university my friend Hans and I frequently got together for a chat and a refreshing local beer from the tap. Naturally in such congenial place we did not limit ourselves to just one drink. After the third beer I felt ready to give my old friend a progress report on my relationship with Biene. Through our correspondence Hans was well aware of the trials and tribulations, but also had also been very skeptical about my love to her. He shook his head in disbelief when I told him that I had met her only two times earlier in the spring. Having gone through several love affairs, all of which have ended in disaster, he could not believe that I was still on my first.

            “We are planning to meet again in November,” I said noticing the same doubtful expression that I had seen so often in Dieter’s face.

            Ignoring my statement, Hans bluntly asked with a sardonic grin, “Have you kissed her yet?”

            “Yes, I have,” I answered curtly getting quite a bit uncomfortable with the direction our conversation was taking.

            Making use of his own peculiar metaphor, which he had used in his letters before, he ventured another question. “Have you conquered the castle or has she voluntarily open the castle gate to you?”

            I felt quite annoyed with the embarrassing questions, which so glibly popped out of his mouth. With a hint of rising anger I managed to reply firmly, “Whether it is open or whether it is locked is none of your business! But to satisfy your juvenile curiosity, I will wait to marry her if and when she is ready.”

My Friend Hans giving a Guitar Concert to Fellow Stundents

My Friend Hans giving a Guitar Concert to Fellow Stundents

            “Ede,” using my nickname and almost shouting now, “you must be kidding me …” He stopped in mid-sentence, when he glanced at my angry and determined face. Whatever was his opinion on this delicate topic, I did not care to hear anymore from someone so disillusioned as my friend was through all his failed relationships. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to change topics, before the matter would escalate into a real fight. I told Hans that I still had the set of walkie-talkies, which I had bought from a roommate and had occasionally used in Koblenz to transmit music within the short range of the barracks environment.

“ Wouldn’t it be exciting if we tried them out over a longer distance between the castle and the barracks?” I suggested to him. He happily agreed. And so we turned our attention away from the contentious issue of a few moments ago and focused on the number one common interest in electronics that had once formed the foundation of our friendship. Opposite to the Tannenberg barracks was an even higher hill, on which the Marburg castle and the Museum for Armory were located. Three kilometers or perhaps even four separated the two hills with a direct line of sight high above any obstruction, which might have impeded the radio signals. We agreed to test the radios at five o’clock on the very next day. To add an air of adventure, we recalled from the time before we joined the European scout movement our old code words we had used in our twosome secret society ‘The Black Hand’. However, what we in our excitement did not consider was that the fantasy world of our boyhood adventures was not so far removed from the reality of the Cold War era, where spies and agents from East Germany were roaming about looking for valuable information of military significance in West Germany. Precisely at 1700 hours Hans and I established a communication link with our walkie-talkies between the two hills. An exchange of short and snappy statements ensued taking on a distinctly clandestine character and went approximately like this.

            “XU73 calling Ede Wolf. Over.”

            “Ede Wolf acknowledging call from XU73. Over.”

            “XU73 to Ede Wolf. Confirm validity of call by providing code word between XU73 and Ede Wolf. Over.”

            “Code word is: ‘The Black Hand’. Over.”

            “Roger from XU73. What is today’s message? Over.”

Now came the moment when our game reached its climax. Even though we had rehearsed the script in the pub the day before, I felt just as excited as if the whole scenario was for real. “The message for XU73 from Ede Wolf is: Five black umbrellas in Italian ice cream parlour. I repeat …”

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Tannenberg Barracks at Marburg – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

I could not repeat the sentence. In the twilight of the early November evening hours I saw a police car with a directional antenna on top racing up the winding hillside road. Almost in panic I pressed the send button one more time and warned my friend, “Danger! Turn off your radio at once. I explain later.”

            While the police car navigated a few more switchbacks, I had barely enough time to jump off the road and hide in the dense brush below. A minute later I heard a car passing by at high-speed no doubt in search for that elusive radio signal carrying those mysterious messages. If I had been caught, Hans and I would have been in a real pickle as to how to explain that the conversation between a student of the local university and a member of the Armed Forces was just a juvenile game apart from the disturbing fact that we had been using a communication device without a license.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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Brilliant Sunshine after the First Snow in Fauquier, BC

Photo Essay without Words

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This will my last post for 2016. I will resume my blogging activity in the New Year. I would like to take the last post of this year to say thank you to all my followers and visitors for supporting me with your kind and encouraging comments. I wish you all a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Chapter 24 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part I

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A Wall Comes Tumbling Down

But love is much like a dam: if you allow a tiny crack to form through which only a trickle of water can pass, that trickle will quickly bring down the whole structure, and soon no one will be able to control the force of the current. For when those walls come down, then love takes over, and it no longer matters what is possible or impossible; it doesn’t even matter whether we can keep the loved one at our side. To love is to lose control. Paulo Coelho

Having a Good Time in Marburg

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Downtown Marburg – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

In the afternoon of October 1st, 1964, I stepped into Room 328 of the Tannenberg barracks named after the place in East Prussia, where Germany defeated the Czarist Second Army at the beginning of WW1. The room was fully occupied by ten soldiers. To accommodate me, another bed was brought into the room for the newcomer from Koblenz. Even though I felt like an intruder in this close-knit group of young men, they gave me a cordial welcome into their circle of friendship and camaraderie. We had many things in common, which greatly facilitated my acceptance by the group. All of us were near the end of our army time with 180 days or less left to go. We shared the same know-how of carrier frequency technology and were looking forward to more technical training on the latest communication devices. But best of all there was a love in the entire group for music, singing, even dancing in a wholesome, man-centered environment, which gave me a big lift in optimism and morale. There were three buddies in Room 328, who could play the guitar. They were delighted to see that I had brought my six-string with me. I gladly let them use it, as they were so much better in the accompaniment of our favorite army songs, whereas I was just a beginner and concentrated more on playing simple classical guitar pieces. We celebrated the major countdown dates of the remaining days, first every month, then every week, finally the last ten days every single day.

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Singing and Celebrating: Peter to the left of the one Playing the Guitar

As part of the ritual we marched through the hallway past the rooms where the new recruits were just beginning their lengthy term of duty. Boisterously, mockingly, but mostly joyfully singing, our voices reverberated throughout the building with the intoxicating line, ‘Homeward bound, the reserve has rest.’ Then we returned to our room for more celebration and merrymaking. On one of these occasions, having already consumed a good quantity of the fine Marburg beer, I felt emboldened to demonstrate to my room buddies how beer can travel upwards from the mouth to the stomach. To accomplish that feat I assumed the typical yoga headstand position. To everyone’s amazement, I drank a glass of beer, which a roommate was slowly pouring into my open mouth. Klopp, the yoga man from high school, had just added a new twist to the ancient Indian system of physical exercises.

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Peter drinking Beer in a Headstand Position

There must have been some favorable mention of my instructional abilities on my transfer papers. For it did not take long before I was asked to resume my teaching duties in basic electricity and electronics. To deliver effective lessons to the new recruits, I was given preferential treatment. For the preparation of the instructional units I had more time than I needed, which I often used to write letters to Biene instead.

Maneuvers and military war games were more frequent now and occurred on a much greater scale often involving several divisions drawn from the various regions of West Germany. The exact starting time, scenario and action plan were kept secret by the high command to make the exercises more realistic. Our commanding officers at Marburg were also kept in the dark and fretted like little schoolboys over their involvement in the upcoming operation. For achieving success in the eyes of the army top brass they heavily depended on our cooperation and technical expertise. Gone were the days of the master-servant relationship of former days at the basic training period. It felt good to be truly respected as citizens in uniform. I remember one particular military exercise very well. Many days ahead of time the Tannenberg barracks were put on high alert. Weekend passes were cancelled. Maintenance crews feverishly worked on the trucks to make sure that they were ready to roll out at short notice. I had to verify that the electronic equipment was functioning properly in the truck that was assigned to my driver and me for the impending maneuver. Alluring promises were filtering down the ranks. If we did well during the seven to ten days of the upcoming manoeuver, we all could count on a pass for an extra long weekend as a reward for our efforts.

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On the Way to Military Exercises on a foggy November Day

Then one day in the early morning hours the long-expected order came. Within less than an hour a column of heavy-duty Mercedes trucks was heading west. The purpose of the operation for all the army units in the northwestern region had finally been revealed. Our mission was to throw back an imaginary enemy across the River Rhine. At a location unknown to me, the truck and electronic gear for which I was responsible was parked in a small clearing surrounded by dense woods. These were tiresome days. My partner and I often worked through the night ensuring that the connections were establishing telephone contacts by the cables, which the linemen were rolling in from all directions. But there were also lulls in the frantic activities, when we took turns sneaking in a little bit of much-needed sleep. The only noise then was coming from the 220 V generator, which provided power for light, electronic gear, but also heat for those chilly November nights. I found the entire experience challenging and rewarding to be at the controls of one of the centers of a complex communication’s network. Tired, but satisfied in the knowledge of having made a small contribution to the success of the Marburg contingent, I took the extra long weekend catching up on some much-needed sleep and enjoying Mother’s excellent home cooked meals and hospitality.

Breaking the Code – Part IV

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Patience and Persistence Pave the Road to Success

The search was on for software that would convert Bill Laux’s ClarisWorks files into Word documents. For information I visited Apple and MS Word forums. Some offered very lame solutions: Load the file into word processor X, wade through the first 4 pages through a jungle of gibberish, delete it and you are left with just the text. I decided against this odd solution, which may be fine for just a few files, but with hundreds of files that would have turned into a nightmare.

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Batik by Artist Bill Laux

There were a lot of complaints against the Apple Company, which did not produce a single program that was backward compatible with their old product. But many forum contributors were also unhappy with MicroSoft Word not being able to read files with the cwk extension. In other words there was a real dearth of information on the Internet. Someone suggested downloading the open source software Abiword, whose claim to fame is that it can read all kinds of text files without any gibberish on the screen. I tried it with no success, but learned on the side that it is otherwise a very powerful word processor that can easily read and write Word document files. It is free and but accepts donations for further development.

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The Castle that Bill Laux built – Photo Taken in 1977

Then by mere luck – and we need it when we do work like this on the Internet – I stumbled across a comment made in a users forum to the effect that a program with the promising title docXConverter by Panergy might just do the trick. It was supposed be free. I eagerly downloaded the software and tried it out immediately. After the installation you simply drop the file into its window on the screen and voilà it works! Yet there was another fly in the ointment. After being mesmerized by the first couple of pages directly decoded and translated into Word format, I was confronted with another message, this time by the Panergy company to pay to get the full version. Being enticed to bite the bullet and pay the reasonable amount, I finally experienced the ultimate success in my quest to unearth Bill`s mystery files.

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Tiny Portion of a Bill’s First Document Decoded and Revealed

So my plan for the New Year is to collect as many text files from Bill`s research and publish some on my blog, but also donate them to the Arrow Lakes Historical Society. Of course, I will do this on the shaky assumption that MS Word will be around for a few more years or with any luck even decades.

If you would like to read the previous posts on Breaking the Code, click on the following links (part I, part II, part III)

Chapter 23 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part III

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The Pain of Indecision

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Romantic University City of Marburg, Hesse, Germany  1964

Love that is engulfed by fear is not perfect. It cannot grow in the darkness of uncertainty, where doubt enters the heart and where there is no commitment. In my excessive sensitivity towards Biene’s past distressing experiences of love coming too early and too suddenly, but also out of the horrid fear of rejection, I never found, as I should have, the courage to ask her point-blank to marry me. With a clear yes or no, we both would have been able to carry on with our lives and make plans for the future with or without being together. There is infinite wisdom in the convention to have a formal engagement when both partners gather with their families, relatives and friends, exchange rings, and promise before witnesses to marry each other. In as much this formal coming together was lacking, doubtfulness and its evil ally distrust cast a dark shadow on our relationship in spite of our declared love for each other. Until we met again in November, the pretense to be happy with a mere friendship on my part caused us both to sit on the fence. Frustrated with the regression to a mere amicable correspondence between two very good friends, I responded to Biene’s lamentation over the power of Fate, which was threatening to separate us,

          “Leave Fate, dear Biene, out of the picture. Fate in our case is not a blind, impersonal power, to which we must submit. We all create it with our own desires and action. When you say that Fate will one day separate us; that we have to knuckle under; that we have to be happy with what we have given to each other, then you don’t mean Fate, but you yourself and your hidden wishes. What should separate us? Is it perhaps my voyage to Canada? This is not Fate’s power, but my own wish. My wish is also to return if necessary, and yours could be simply to follow me. Why am I harping on it so long? Because I remember all too well our agreement right from the beginning to be honest and truthful, even if it meant to hurt one another. Please don’t be angry with me that I am writing to you so openly… I do not stand terrified and inconsolable before this mysterious force called ‘Fate’. No tyrant, nor any distance, nor any ocean can separate us. We alone separate each other.”

Marburg, Germany on the Lahn River - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Marburg, Germany on the Lahn River – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

          There is some truth in my reflections of some fifty years ago. People do indeed use this irrational force as a pretext to excuse their own lack of courage, inability to act when action is required, their self-doubt and uncertainty about that portion of their personal life that could be given direction and purpose if there was a will. However, truth becomes tarnished when mingled with disingenuous motives and intentions. Such was the case when I accepted the boundary that Biene had set for our love, although in reality I had always wanted to cross that boundary. Instead of giving a pedantic lecture on Fate, why didn’t I tell her that I loved her, asked her to marry me, and then, if she said yes, point out that we needed to make plans to turn our dreams into reality? With horror I look back and realize how much I had been willing to risk with my provocative letter, in which I had renounced my true intentions. But I was young and inexperienced, only a little over a year out of high school. I was groping in the dark. I had nobody to turn to for advice. I only had Biene’s responses and reactions, which were often just as bewildering and confusing to me as were my letters to her. The problem was that we were so much alike in our fear of the pain of permanent separation, which was looming more and more ominous with each passing month that we were erecting walls to protect ourselves, when we should have been busy building bridges of love and faithfulness. Thus, it is not surprising that Biene shrouded in darkness about my true feelings for her would not be writing very encouraging words to bolster our relationship.

          “Alas, I also hope, as you do, that everything will work out nicely between the two of us, before you depart, although then the good-bye will be even harder. I thank you that you want to grant me my wish (respecting the boundary) and imagine, sometimes I even wish the opposite. Oh Peter, it is so confusing. Please forgive me! I don’t understand it myself. The more I want to free myself from you, the more my longing for you increases.”

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Biene with Sister Elsbeth (see previous post)

          Weren’t these lines popping up sporadically in her letters as an urgent plea to me to make a move, to take the first step to reach out to her, to comfort her with a word of commitment? In the culture of traditional values and conventions of the mid-sixties Biene expected me to take the initiative and break the stalemate. But shy like a little schoolboy I kept beating around the bush. The word marriage was not part of my vocabulary. However, mindful of my good friend Dieter’s advice, I began to arrange another rendezvous with Biene. She was eager to prepare our meeting and combine it with a visit to the Wuppertal Opera House. We both were looking forward to it. We sincerely felt that seeing each other again would chase away those gloomy thoughts and ominous forebodings about our impending separation and potential break-up of our tenuous, yet so cherished relationship.

 

Breaking the Code – Part III

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 The Unholy Union of Success and Failure

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The Unicorn by Batik Artist Bill Laux

The new external disk drive arrived. Hooray, it worked! I was able to retrieve one floppy after another. The feeling of success after such a long wait almost created a sense of euphoria. After checking some fifty disks with all those enticing file names, I came across only one disk that the floppy disk drive could not read. Some contained images, but most had text files all carefully numbered by chapters indicating that massive amounts of research were hidden on these archaic storage devices. That was exactly what I was hoping to find. I randomly picked one disk and transferred its content onto my harddrive. In our era abounding in giga- and terabytes, we easily forget the times when we had to struggle to make do with 3.5 kilobytes, with which the Vic-20, the dinosaur of ancient computer world, came so equipped. Still if the content was merely text and NOT the byte gobbling images and videos, then an entire novel of 800 pages would easily fit on a floppy disk.

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One of the Dozens of Floppy Disks with Bill Laux’s Writing

Now came that long expected moment to get a first look at Bill’s writing. From the first list of titles I could tell that their content dealt mostly with the political wrangling over the building of the great Canadian transcontinental railway, whose purpose was to unite the second largest country in the world.

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Bill Laux Working on his Castle at the Arrow Lake in 1977

Full of anticipation, I double-clicked on chapter1.cwk. Like a lightning bolt out of the blue sky, I was struck by the ominous computer message on the screen, “Windows cannot open this file”. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the file extension cwk comes from the extinct word processor Clarisworks, which the Apple company had acquired in 1998, renamed it AppleWorks, but later on abandoned it after its final upgrade in 2004. Owning 4 different word processors, I was almost certain that at least one of them would be capable of decoding those archaic files. Having thus recovered from my disappointment, I loaded one text file into the queen of all word processors (of course, I am referring to Word by Microsoft). But its performance was a total disaster. All it could produce was a whole pile of gobbledygook on the screen. Similar results surfaced, when I tried the other three word processors. Great was my disappointment, but I was not yet ready to give up. How the story ends will be revealed in next week’s post on Bill Laux and his mysterious collection. So stay tuned.

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