Before the ‘golden years’ arrived, the division of labour was fair for both husband and wife. In the following posts, I will talk about the injustice of the heavy burden for Frau Panknin as a mother, housekeeper, cook, and wife. I will also show how much, on the other hand, Papa enjoyed his sunset years as a father, hiker, traveller, hobbyist, and history enthusiast.
Grocery shopping has drastically changed since the early 1960s. Nowadays, well-to-do families living in their homes or modern high-rise apartment buildings take the elevator down to the ground floor, step into their car and drive to a nearby shopping centre. After they are done shopping, they may have time to dine in a family restaurant and take the kids to a bowling alley or the movies for some weekend entertainment.
Sixty years ago, in the little town of Velbert, Elisabeth Panknin went shopping at least twice a week. She takes two large cloth bags and descends the 120 steps down to the ground floor of the three-story building. The tiny neighbourhood corner store only carries bare essentials, like bread, milk and butter. Frau Panknin takes the bus to a larger city. She only buys as much as she can carry. Public transportation poses a problem when the bags are filled to the hilt, and there is no seat for a sixty-year-old woman in an overcrowded bus reeking from the nauseating fumes of cigarette smoke. It is also time-consuming. If you miss the bus, you may have to wait up to an hour to catch the next one. Mutter Panknin finally stands at the entrance of the apartment building. Huffing and puffing, she climbs up the staircase with the two heavy bags of groceries. Then, you will not believe this. She immediately starts cooking the evening meal for her husband and the twins Gertrud and Walter.
Unusually mild weather has been dominating our January weather. I recently spotted some beautiful droplets hanging from a rosehip twig on a hike at the Fauquier boat dock. Upon closer inspection, I discovered in the reflective lens a few fir trees inside the droplet. Enjoy.
In late 1960, shortly before Christmas, a letter from the highest state court arrived at the Panknin residence with the long-awaited good news. Their request for Papa’s pension and the refugee status associated with all the rights and privileges had been granted. However, having battled for seven years with the various government agencies, they had paid a high price. Frau Panknin had been travelling by bus and train to talk to the officials in person. At the same time, Papa Panknin did the massive paperwork to make requests and provide written proof to the authorities. One day, Elisabeth Panknin collapsed from juggling the nerve-wracking travels and her housekeeping chores at home. Papa had to write the Christmas letters to all their relatives and friends, as his wife was too weak to do so. Fortunately, Mutti recovered just in time to prepare the Christmas dinner for the family. After over ten years, they could finally sit down on Christmas Eve and enjoy feasting on a sumptuous goose dinner with all the trimmings.
The celebration of their victorious battle with the West German bureaucracy marked the end of their financial woes. It also turned out to be the end of their workload’s fair and equitable sharing. Up to this point, the couple had performed their domestic and professional duties along traditional lines. Papa, as a police officer, worked under highly stressful conditions under the Nazi regime, while his wife, in charge of their beautiful home, lovingly took care of the children. In those days, it was rare in most societies to have the predefined roles of husband and wife reversed. Today, it is very common, especially in Western societies, for a wife with higher qualifications to go out to work and leave the nurturing of the children to the father. Unfortunately, the basic things of life, such as shelter, food, and transportation, have become so expensive that both need to provide an income to make ends meet. They have to entrust their children to others all too often at an exorbitant price. Coming back to my father-in-law, I believe that he was so deeply rooted in the culture of a bygone era that he, without any qualms, left the entire burden of the household to his wife while he was experiencing to the fullest extent the joys of early retirement.
A little bit of green (Hope) provided by the Ponderosa pine tree and a sprinkle of red (Love) with courtesy from the rose hips go a long way to cheer up our hearts on a soggy, rainy winter day in the Kootenays. Temperatures 10 degrees above normal in April are quite common but not in January in our neck of the woods. I took the two photos 30 minutes before dark. Enjoy.
Papa Panknin was a man of the old guard. Born in 1898 in Kalthof, a small village in what was once called Royal Prussia. He grew up in Imperial Germany, absorbed the social values of his time, and, imbued with love for his country, fulfilled his duties as a civil servant in an honourable manner. Above all, he dearly loved his wife, his stepdaughter Elsbeth, and the twins Walter and Gertrud. Captain Panknin survived two world wars and experienced runaway inflation, the Great Depression, the Nazi era, and the post-war stress in East and West Germany. The cliches about the typical German describe him almost perfectly, a hardworking, intelligent, reliable individual. However, in today’s world, with its emphasis on gender equity and its rainbow-coloured trendiness, he would have had a tough time fitting in.
As I alluded to earlier, his view as a civil servant (Beamter) of the police force was that the relationship between the state and its employees is a two-way street. This contract promises financial security in return for honourable services rendered. During the years of the Weimar Republic and National Socialism, he adhered to the prevailing code of conduct that did not allow a reputable civil servant to have his wife go out and have a job. In his opinion, the wife has a vital role at home and needs to take care of and nurture the children in a safe and loving environment. I share many of his views and thus, to some degree and without apology, have become a living relic of the past. Where I disagree with Papa will be the topic of the next post.
It has been a turbulent year-end for the Klopp family in the Interior of BC. One of our sons had to call off their visit. Just a few days before Christmas, he and his wife had come down with severe flu. I drove into the nearby town to buy a few extra groceries for the other son and family’s visit. The road was extremely treacherous. I had to navigate our car on the narrow tracks left behind by the vehicles before me. On the way home, I drove on a stretch of slush to avoid an oncoming vehicle. You probably guessed. Attempting to return to the tracks, I landed in the ditch and was stuck in one metre of deep snow. The insurance company wanted to declare a write-off. But in the end, it turned out that the damage was repairable. Some good Samaritans gave me and the groceries a ride home. I am so grateful that I was able to come home uninjured. After the accident, things were looking up, and we had a wonderful Christmas with our other son, wife and granddaughter. One of the highlights was the singing of German Christmas songs and playing the ukulele with our youngest son. Below is a brief excerpt of our mini-concert. We played Ihr Kinderlein Kommet.