Introducing Bill Laux, Late Local Artist, Writer and Castle Builder

1960A051Bill Laux
Bill Laux: Writer, Artist and Castle Builder

From the Obituary Column of the Arrow Lakes News

The Arrow Lakes lost another of its World War II veterans. William Arlington Laux, age 79, resident of Fauquier for 42 years died of cancer in the Arrow Lakes Hospital on October 7, 2004. He is survived by one brother, Jim Laux, in Florida, USA as well as three nephews. Bill’s wife, Adele predeceased him in 1967. Bill was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on February 28, 1925. He entered the US Army in 1943 and served with the Allied Army troops that crossed France and northern Germany ending World War II in 1945. After the war Bill studied English at university, but chose not to be an academic. Instead he worked outdoors. First with the Forest Service, then the California Park Service and finally as grounds superintendent at Yosemite National Park. While at Yosemite he met and married his wife, Adele Osborne. Bill and Adele immigrated to Canada in late 1962, where they were apprentices to Jack and Janie Ise of Vaki Batiks who moved their business from Mexico to Cedar Springs Farm, south of Fauquier on the lakeshore. A couple of years later, the Wises sold the business to the Laux’s who continued making and selling batiks, an enterprise Bill continued for many years after Adele’s death. In the early 1980s Bill started a new career as historian searching out the stories and locations of the early mines and railways of the West Kootenays and eastern Washington state. He published many magazine articles, though his books are unpublished. Bill is known for his endeavours as an artist, a writer, a builder of buildings made of mud-cement bricks, a small hydroelectric plant operator, as well as an exotic evergreen tree nurseryman.

When looking through the archives at the Fauquier Communication Centre, where Bill Laux’s unpublished works are located, I came across a few old floppy disks that contained among other documents two of his major unpublished books on the railroad and mining history in the Kootenays. The data that I found were recorded in the ancient Apple format. It took me considerable time and effort to have these data decoded. As I publish them one chapter at a time, I will also make them available to the Arrow Lakes Historical Society headquartered in Nakusp. In doing so I hope to pay homage to a great local artist, writer and castle builder, who died too soon to see his historical research published. The book that I published last year was on the colourful history of the railroads . The second book focuses on the era of the mining industry in the Kootenays. Both railroads and mining are intimately connected with each other, as one could not exist without the other.

 

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lake

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Place of the Butterfly Party

Wednesday’s Photos

Wild Party of the Butterflies

On a  walk along the shore of the Arrow Lake in June I came across a most curious sight. On the ground I spotted a gathering of butterflies which displayed a rather odd behaviour. They were attracted to a grey mass of an object. Tightly bunched together they appeared to be in a drinking frenzy with their proboscises sucking up some undefinable liquid. First I shot a few pictures from several metres away fearing that they might fly away before I had a chance to capture their bizarre behaviour. As I came closer and closer I noticed that they completely ignored my presence. Rather they behaved like people in a bar being in various stages of intoxication. One butterfly was lying on its side sticking its proboscis deep into a crack of the unknown substance. Others sitting on top of one another. I was deeply puzzled. Now I was so close that my camera lens was able to take close-ups at times even touching their wings. Then I finally realized that the source of their attraction  was a fish head, which had been left at the beach by a fisherman. I hope you can still enjoy the photos. Apparently butterflies do not always go after the colourful flowers. At times they rather prefer the valuable nutrients of a rotten fish head.

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The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Chapter XVII

Some Reflections on the So-called Coincidences of Life

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
Albert Einstein

Camping with Hans and Helmut
Hans Playing the Guitar and Helmut Sitting in frontofmy Tent
Hans playing the Guitar and Helmut sitting in front of my Tent

Spring came early in 1962. I no longer played an active role in the scout movement. But my desire to get out of the city and enjoy nature in the company of friends was as strong as ever. Among my friends, who had survived the nine-year culling process at the high school, only Hans and Helmut were left. All the others were either eliminated by the academic hurdles or departed on their own looking for other ways of moving up the educational ladder. Ever since I did Helmut that great favour at the ballroom final, he was seeking my friendship and clung to me like a burr on a woollen sweater. He wanted to be included in our overnight camp-outs. When I objected on the grounds that there was not enough room in my tent, he replied that he would sleep in his own tent. So it happened one sunny weekend that three young men went out camping together, with Helmut – so it appeared – being the odd man out. Hans and I in spite of our differences shared a bond that had lasted for more than five years. Our friendship was based on experiences in the boy scout movement, on our common interest in experimental electronics, all the way back to early days on the school yard, when I was Ede Wolf and Hans one of three piglets that I was supposed to catch. Helmut was a newcomer and in a sense also an intruder, gentle, polite, simply wanting to be part of our camaraderie. Perhaps on his part it was a struggle against loneliness that intellectuals feel more intensely, but we perceived him as an intruder just the same.

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Peter strumming a few tunes on Hans’ guitar

It was evening, when we arrived on our heavily packed bikes at a clearing. We quickly erected our tents helping each other to get ready for the night. After we had wolfed down our sandwiches, which our mothers had so lovingly prepared, we hurried into the woods, gathered dead branches and proudly started a campfire with only one match. In no time, flames leaped up and around the kettle, which we had suspended over the fire on a wooden tripod. Helmut, in my eyes still an intellectual nerd, impressed me how well he had learned the basics of camping in such a short time, and most of all how hard he tried to be helpful. The tea water in the kettle had almost come to a boil. Hans and I ceremoniously took turns adding tea bags, plenty of red wine, pepper and other assorted spices into the steaming brew. We lifted the kettle off the tripod to prevent the alcohol from evaporating. To fortify the punch some more, I pulled from my coat pocket a small bottle of rum and poured its brown content under the approving applause of my friends into the aromatic brew. By now it was getting dark. The stars began to shine in ever increasing numbers on the canopy of a moonless sky. The fire merrily crackled and its fiery tongues shot up high casting dancing shadows of us onto the mossy ground. It was time to fill our cups to the rim, to cheer to each other’s health and happiness, and drink. Hans grabbed his six-string and entertained us for a while with Spanish guitar music, which he played superbly off the cuff. In the meantime, the cups needed a refill. The warmth of this miraculous elixir penetrated deep into our bodies and spirits. During a pause I suggested to Hans to do something together, while the drink was good and the fire burning, “Let’s raise our voices and sing our favourite scouting songs.” Helmut being a good sport supported my suggestion, even though he did not know the lyrics of most of these specialized traveling songs. He would whistle along, whenever he recognized the tune, he said. Soon a chorus in a strange blend of young male voices, guitar chords, and whistling rose above the campfire strengthened in volume and enthusiasm by the concoction from the kettle. The birds waking up in the forest may have wondered why we were making such a cheerful noise. The more the night advanced, the more boisterously we belted out the songs, which glorified the violence and cruelty of the German and Swedish pike men in the Thirty-Year War in lines like, ‘We also came to Rome, there we threw the pope from his throne.’ ‘The little nobleman’s daughter we cast her into hell.’ And ‘Hang the chaplain on the window cross’. The booze, the raucous singing, the flickering flames, the starry night, all contributed to conjure up images in our young hearts of a time wild and free, in which we participated for this one short moment and in which Helmut had become a member of our friendship circle. Long after midnight we poured the remaining dregs from the kettle over the embers and happy and sleepy crawled into our sleeping bags.

A Most Curious Camping Trip

How I Met Biene

Pentecost was a long weekend and the beginning of a one-week break from school, the last one before the summer holidays. Hans had dropped out of our planned camping trip, because he had to baby-sit his younger stepbrothers and sisters. So Helmut and I got together to discuss our destination and the supplies we needed for the two and a half days. The reasons for the choice of our campsite will forever remain one of the great mysteries of my life. The nearby forests on either side of the River Rhine were within easy reach of a two- or three-hour bike ride. Our favourite camping sites were on federal land, rarely controlled for trespassing by forestry officials, miles away from the noisy highways, perfect places to be in tune with Mother Nature. The choice for this particular location was the opposite of everything I had learned to cherish during the years as a scout. As Helmut and I unfolded the map for the area of North Rhine Westphalia, we glanced over the tent icons, which marked the locations of campsites, and spotted one that bordered directly on a lake. On closer inspection we found out that it was Lake Baldeney between the city of Essen to the north and the city of Velbert to the south.

Lake Baldeney - Photo Credit: dirkosada.de
Lake Baldeney – Photo Credit: dirkosada.de

Apart from the dead side branches of the River Rhine, there was no real lake in the vicinity of Wesel. It appears to me that the things one does not have exert a certain attraction that one often finds hard to resist. So despite nagging doubts that in the light of the hard facts we had made a poor choice about our camping destination, our decision to go there was irrevocable. Who would have thought it possible that I would have considered taking a train to go camping? Was it not totally insane to trade a peaceful refuge in the forest for the hustle and bustle of a noisy commercial campground? The Rhine was filthy and burdened with chemical pollutants that came from the Ruhr industrial area, to which we were planning to go. With the economic recovery of West Germany came the demand for energy. Mining for the high-quality anthracite coal was in high gear bringing work and prosperity to the region, albeit at a price. On windless days the coal dust polluted the air. Dirt and grime covered walls, lawns, and even the wash that women hung up to dry. Yes, it is hard to believe that Helmut and I actually went, where – as people who knew the area around Essen warned us – the sun would seldom completely break through the grey cover of a leaden sky.

Lake Baldeney near Essen - Photo Credit: mapio.net
Lake Baldeney near Essen – Photo Credit: mapio.net

So it came to pass that on the late afternoon of June 9th, 1962, two young men carrying heavy backpacks and holding a two-man tent between the two of them arrived at the Baldeney Lake campground. Helmut and I were pleasantly surprised to view scenery quite different from what we had anticipated to find. The sky had cleared from the cleansing action of an early morning rain. There was not even a layer of industrial haze left to obscure the blue sky. The sun shone brightly, the trees were in full leaf, the lawn impressed us with its light-green spring verdure, best of all the brilliantly shining lake reflecting the blue sky created an ambiance we had not expected in a park south of the city of Essen. Since it was still early in the season and only a few hardy people had ventured out to camp, we had no trouble finding a suitable site near the lake shore to set up our tent. We enjoyed an early supper, which I had prepared from a can of chunky soup and had heated it up over my gasoline fuelled camp stove. We spent the evening listening to pop music from my transistor radio and were taking in the lush-green trees and bushes that the locals call the green lung of the Ruhr region. The only reminder that the black gold was mined north of here deep down from the rich coal deposits came when we looked at the dark soles of our feet black from our bare-foot walk through the park.

Next morning after a frugal breakfast with cereal and milk we pulled out our air mattresses into the brilliant morning sun. We relaxed reading, listening to music from Radio Luxembourg and watched people saunter by on the way to the beach. Two men, one in his early sixties, the other a little bit younger than I, caught our attention as they brought two of those so-called folding boats down to the lake shore. They can be easily transported on buses, trains, and even in the trunk of a car, because when folded together they easily fit into a large duffle bag.

Biene and her Dad
Biene and her Dad

For lunch I opened a can of sardines, an excellent staple for people like us traveling on a shoestring budget. Helmut having relied on me for the provisions grumbled about the meal that consisted only of slices of dry bread and fish. In the meantime the boaters had returned to their tent with the folding boats. As we found out later, they were Herr Panknin and his son Walter. It seemed strange to us that they had nothing to eat and just sat there as if they were waiting for something. That something was obviously food. For now at a distance we noticed two persons approaching the camping area. As they came nearer, they turned out to be a woman and a young girl carrying baskets filled with delicious food perfect for a picnic in the sun. Enviously we looked on, as Frau Panknin and daughter Gertrud with a rather curious nickname Biene (Bee in English) unpacked the mouthwatering content of the baskets. We could see that this was culinary heaven on earth, Schlaraffenland, as a German fairy tale by Grimm so aptly describes the land, where people eat the finest delicacies in gluttonous quantities without having to work for them.

Twin Brother Walter with one of his Model Airplanes
Twin Brother Walter with one of his Model Airplanes

What attracted me to this family, however, was not so much the food, which in comparison to our lunch was so alluring, but rather that pretty seventeen-year old girl whose first impressions on me provided a good match with the image of idealized beauty that had been growing in my mind for the past two years. Biene, from the moment I cast my eyes on her, radiated a charm whose magic did not depend on bracelets, earrings, and similar outward adornments, not on make-up or perfume, which I rightly or wrongly loathed as poorly disguised cover-ups, but rather on the very lack of all those artificial means. In short, I gazed in admiration at the girl of my dreams.

Biene at the Mediterranean Sea
Biene at the Mediterranean Sea

Helmut and I were watching Biene and her twin brother play badminton in the open field. There was no net. The game was not very competitive. Its objective was to set new records by counting the number of times the birdie would fly back and forth before hitting the grass. Suddenly the idea occurred to me that we all could organize a mini-tournament with two pairs competing with each other for the highest score. After we had introduced ourselves, I explained the idea of a badminton tournament to be played with two pairs. Seeing that this would add a little bit of excitement, Walter and Biene readily accepted the proposal. As I had secretly wished, Biene wanted to form a team with me. I no longer recall how many rounds we played, but Biene and I always succeeded in getting the greatest number of hits. We were both very competitive, but the success in the game depended on complete cooperation. We felt good about our victories over our rivals and even more so, because we had won them together.

It was only a matter of time, until the topic of the folding boats would surface in our conversation. Walter suggested going for a ride on the lake. Herr and Frau Panknin voiced no objections, indeed they were happy to see their twins go boating and at the same time having a little bit of peace and quiet. Somehow Helmut had managed to partner with Biene, which at first made feel quite annoyed. But he argued convincingly that it was now his turn, since I had spent so much time playing badminton with her. As I was paddling with Walter, I soon got over my disappointment. Full of enthusiasm for his hobbies, Walter talked about his model airplanes and ships that he had been building. That was quite a pastime for Walter and took a lot of time, skills and dedication to bring a building project of this kind to perfection. I thought that just as Walter needed to have a plan and all the parts ready before he could even begin, so did I going through the same process in building a working radio. The moment Walter mentioned that he was thinking of using radio controlled devices to direct his model in the air or on water, I got quite excited and told him about my electronics projects, especially about the tube driven transmitter that provided musical entertainment to my friends in the apartment block in Wesel. Having found an area of common interest, we paddled less and less vigorously and talked all the more enthusiastically not realizing how fast time had been slipping by. When we pulled the boat ashore, we had already exchanged addresses and promised each other to mail each other schematics of electronic circuitry. Of course, what Walter did not know was that I had established a link to Biene, a connection that went beyond mere electronics. Like in an electric current, which the battery is pumping through a circuit providing energy and action to its individual parts, so warm feelings were flowing through my heart in the belief that Biene may have taken a liking to me during our badminton contest with Walter and Helmut.

Albert Schweitzer – Vorwort zu den Kinder Seminaren von Prof. Dr. Hartmut Kegler

 

Im Sommer des Jahres 2003 lud mich die Freie Montessori Grundschule Aschersleben ein, ihren jüngsten Schülern etwas über Albert Schweitzer zu erzählen. Damit sollte ihr Ethikunterricht ein wenig ergänzt werden. Nur zu gerne bin ich dieser Einladung gefolgt, denn es konnte für mich nichts Schöneres geben, als jungen Menschen diesen großartigen Humanisten und beispielhaften Christen nahe zu bringen.

Da ich selbst kein Pädagoge bin, traute ich mir auch nicht zu, ordentlichen Unterricht zu geben. So entschloss ich mich zu einer Art von Seminar. Meine „Schüler“ hatten sich freiwillig dazu gemeldet, keiner wurde zur Teilnahme gezwungen. Einige von ihnen schienen durch ein aufgeklärtes Elternhaus zu dem Entschluss ermuntert worden zu sein, denn sie zeigten mir später Bücher Albert Schweitzers aus ihrer Hausbibliothek.

Meine Seminare dauerten jeweils eine Dreiviertelstunde. Diese Zeit hatte ich dreigeteilt. Zunächst erzählte ich ihnen jeweils eine der nachfolgenden Geschichten. Dann spielten wir einige Geschichten als kleine Theaterstücke nach. Das begeisterte die Jungen und Mädchen am meisten. Jeder wollte einmal Albert oder Helene, Joseph, Emma oder Mausche, Esel, Fiffi oder sogar Regenwurm spielen. Oft genug musste ich die Begeisterung bremsen, um nicht in Verdacht zu geraten, im Klassenzimmer Volksfeste zu veranstalten. Doch im letzten Drittel der Stunde setzten wir uns hin und malten eine ganz bestimmte Szene nach. Wie viele liebevolle Zeichnungen künden von dem gerade erzählten und nachgespielten Erlebnis!

So entstand nicht nur ein beglückendes Freundschaftsverhältnis zwischen meinen Schülern und mir, sondern ich erlebte zunehmend, wie Albert Schweitzers guter Geist Eingang in ihre Herzen fand. Das gab mir Hoffnung und auch etwas Mut, vor älteren Schülern aufzutreten, dort allerdings mit regelrechten Vorträgen über das Leben und Denken dieses wunderbaren Menschen. Auch hier in Sekundarschulen und Gymnasien stellte ich große Aufgeschlossenheit und Aufmerksamkeit fest. Es schien mir, dass die jungen Menschen geradezu danach verlangten, außerhalb der regulären Schule ein­mal etwas anderes zu vernehmen als ihnen eine flache Unterhaltungsindustrie ansonsten bietet.

Meine Geschichten habe ich weitgehend dem ausgezeichneten Kinder- und Jugendbuch von Werner Laubi „Albert Schweitzer, der Urwalddoktor“ sowie den am Schluss genannten Büchern Albert Schweitzers entnommen. Von all dem habe ich kurze Texte verfasst, die ich den Schülern übergeben habe, damit sie sich damit später noch einmal befassen oder ihre Eltern ihnen daraus vorlesen können. Jedem Text habe ich einen kleinen Fingerzeig angefügt, bei dem es um die wichtigste ethische Aussage ging, über die man nachdenken und die man beherzigen sollte. Damit sollten Samenkörner ausgelegt werden.

in der Hoffnung, dass das eine oder andere trotz einer für menschliche Werte wenig zugänglichen Umwelt keimen und wachsen möge. Ohne Hoffnung kann kein Mensch leben und Hoffnung ist Kraft, hat Schweitzer einmal selbst gesagt.

Hartmut Kegler

ALEA IACTA EST – The Die is Cast

I Made My Decision.

Fall and Winter Schedule for the Klopp-Family Blog

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

No, I am not Caesar, nor am I crossing the Rubicon. But after listening to my dear followers and after careful deliberation I have come up with a plan that will guide me through the next stage in my blogging activity. Knowing my weakness to procrastinate I decided to write down the various kinds of posts that I will be publishing for the next little while. By giving you the schedule in writing, I feel a little more committed. Here are the various topics as they will appear every week:

  • Mondays: Seminar for Children on Albert Schweitzer in German – Guest Contributor: My cousin Hartmut Kegler
  • Tuesdays: Rerun in complete chapter of the Peter and Gertrud (Biene) Klopp Story starting with our first encounter in 1962.
  • Wednesdays: Splendour of the Arrow Lake
  • Fridays: Publishing the Unpublished Historical Book on the Mining Era in the Kootenays by Late Writer, Artist and Castle Builder Bill Laux

 

When the last chapter of any of the above topics has been published, I will have had enough time to write the continuation of our story. As one of my blogging friends stated so correctly, Biene’s coming to Canada was only the beginning. ‘And they lived happily ever after’ is how many fairy tales are ending. But while our story of Book I after many twists and turns had a happy end,  we were facing many new challenges, and this time not in our fantasy world, but on the playing fields of  the rough-and-tumble daily living.

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lake

Wednesday’s Photos

The Magic of Water Droplets

We find much beauty in water droplets. After the rain we discover these brilliant jewels clinging to leaves or hanging precariously from cedar and fir branches. They often reflect in their tiny mirrors the fascinating world around them. At times the photographer finds himself hidden in their magic imagery. All five photos have been captured during past couple of days. Enjoy.

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