The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

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The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Chapter XXXIV

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Storm Clouds on the Horizon

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Key Player #1 in Chapter 34: Gertrud (Biene) Panknin 1965

As the drama unfolds I will introduce for each part of this chapter one person, who played a major role in our desperate struggle for being reunited in Canada.

We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle with against the things our significant others want to see in us.  Even after we outgrow some of the others – our parents, for instance – and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues within us as long as we live. Charles Taylor

The Letter to Biene’s Parents

To merely summarize the troubles we experienced, the opinions we voiced, the arguments we had and the decisions we made, the agonies and struggles of the heart would have distorted the true picture we had created through our correspondence between October 1965 and March 1966. On the one hand an objective approach, if it were possible at all, would never have succeeded in describing the passionate appeals we fervently made to one another in the face of dire adversities. On the other hand a purely emotional account would most certainly have embodied on my part a lot of bias and subjectivity. So for the next two chapters I mostly let the letters speak for themselves. They include more and more often our first attempts to correspond with each other in English. Here and there I corrected a few grammatical errors and edited out some awkward expressions without changing the intended meaning.  The letters in a sense are also a fine record of our progress in the use of the English language. As to those still written in German it is my hope that not too much of their emotional impact has been lost in translation.

September 25th Didsbury

My dear Peter,

…From my mother I had an immediate reply to my letter, which was going to prepare her for the letter from you. With her words my mother has taken a big burden off my heart; for she writes that she is glad that things are working out for us and that she would help us in as much as she could. She congratulates you to your success at your entrance exam and is confident that we somehow will make it together. Strangely, I felt my heart ache, even though I was happy all the same. Please, dear Peter, write to my parents soon; for now they have been prepared. How I wished I were already with you! Then I would know that everything was true and not just a dream.

Be lovingly kissed, Your Biene

October 15th Calgary

My dear Love,

There are a lot of important things I have to tell you. But first of all I have to apologize that my letter is so late. It is quite possible this will happen again and again for the next couple of months, because the academic work is overwhelming. Only with a time schedule from dawn to dusk I am likely to pass the final examination in the spring, Therefore, dear Gertrud (I guess it sounds better in English to say your real name), remember that I am working hard, that I am devoting more love to you by spending every minute available to me for studying.

About a fortnight ago, I wrote a long letter to your parents. I am still waiting for an answer. I don’t know what they will think of me, and in which way they will react. I only hope positively. I explained the situation and spoke of you as Biene without recognizing that, because this name had become so familiar to me, I had forgotten at this moment that a little more formality would be required. I hope they will not mind it. Canada was shown not in terms of a paradise for their daughter, but as the place to start a completely new life with all the uncertainties of the future, which I cannot anticipate now. They have seen the financial problem as well as the problem of my professional career. Now it is up to them to make their decisions, I hope, in favour of both of us…

With a thousand warm kisses, Your Peter

The letter I wrote to Biene’s parents does no longer exist. As the events unfolded it became very clear that I had made a grave mistake by describing honestly and realistically all the challenges we would be facing in a letter that was supposed to make them agree to let their daughter go to Canada and marry me.

Ominous Rumblings from Biene’s Home Front

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Key Player #2 in Chapter 34: Peter Klopp

After having dispatched my letter to Biene’s parents I felt very much at ease. With vim and vigour and guided by an indomitable desire to achieve high marks in my academic endeavours, I embraced a regime of self-denial, a kind of mental forced  labour. I cut my leisure hour of guitar practice in the evening, shortened my social lunch time with friends and fellow students at the university, and allocated an extra hour to my studies at home in the morning. I had no idea about the potential danger to my health by placing so many burdens on my shoulder. But I was happy in the sweet knowledge that all the hard work would pay off in the end. Little did I know, however,  of the storm clouds gathering on the other side of the Atlantic and of the ominous rumblings coming from Biene’s home turf.

October 20th, 1965 Didsbury

My dear Peter, Life is like a brilliant symphony. Again and again I feel this. Every day has its special tune and colour and atmosphere and you need to be a poet in order to give a vivid and colourful picture of it. Sometimes the melody of the day is light and joyful, in other times dark and full of melancholy.

Today was a bright and sunny October day, and pushing the carriage with the little laughing Paul through the park, I felt happy and at peace with the world. Here in England I have gained new aspects of life and I really feel for the first time free and independent. Two letters, which arrived with the second post, made me hurry to the place, where I usually have a little rest in the sun. I got your letter as well as my mother’s and I have a lot to tell you. At first, Peter, be assured that my parents got your long letter. Don’t worry about not having received an answer until now. I am going to tell you the reason although I rather would not like to speak or even think of it, because it makes me feel unhappy. My aunt (you know, I sometimes talked about her, because I loved her very much) died a fortnight ago. My parents went immediately to Berlin and stayed for a week to arrange everything for her funeral. All the tasks connected with my aunt’s death caused my parents much grief and my mother felt mentally and physically exhausted after the journey and she was not even able to write to me. As soon as she feels better she will let you know what decisions she and my father have made. She asks me to tell you that this is the reason for their long silence. My mother had to tell me so much about the last happenings that she only gave notice to me of the mere fact that she got the letter from you. Yet she did not discuss it. She only reassured me that she would stick to her promise and try to help us in any case…

In love yours forever, Gertrud

A day later, having not sent off the letter, she continued on in German, which I took as a bad omen, and so it was.

My dear Peter,

Today I received a long letter from my brother, which contained the main thoughts and arguments, which he as he told me had written also to you. It is quite impossible for me at the moment to delve into all the details. I didn’t know at all that you don’t find it easy to stay in Canada. This is in any case the way my brother interprets your words. As soon as I have answered my brother, I pass on his letter to you. Dear Peter, my decision is firm, and nothing can detract me from what I recognized as the right thing to do. I have no fear of an uncertain future. This just for today! As soon as I have a little more time and leisure I will write you everything, which I have considered and decided.

Your Biene

I knew all along that, when this moment came, everybody would be against our plans.

For the moment it was very easy for Biene to stick to her decision. To join me in Canada was not only the right thing to do, but also fulfilled the promise of love between the two of us. She was still far removed from the source of disapproving views on getting married to a young adventurer with an uncertain future in the far-off and hitherto unknown country of Canada. Thus, she was able to take a firm stand against the first volley shot by her twin brother Walter across the English Channel.

Gradual Descent into Emotional Hell

 

Walter

Key Player #3 in Chapter 34: Walter Panknin, Biene’s Twin Brother

On the 23rd of October, 1965 I had not yet received the devastating news about her family’s opposition to our wedding plans. Not being aware of the storm clouds gathering over our sweet hopes and aspirations, I wrote Biene a cheerful birthday letter. Being in a most jocular frame of mind, I teased her about the severe yoke of marriage and encouraged her tongue-in-cheek to enjoy the few remaining months of freedom until our wedding day in May . A few days later my mood changed drastically, when I received the bad news.

October 25th, 1965 Calgary University

My dear Gertrud,

If this turns out to be true what you have just been describing in your last letter, you will be in great trouble pretty soon. I had to force myself to work yesterday, because I kept thinking about your problem, which consequently is also my problem.

First of all, what your brother told you is definitely wrong or it is at least the wrong impression. I have never mentioned that I wouldn’t like to be in Canada. The more I think about it, the more I do believe that your parents and brother don’t have any objections against me, but against the fact that their only daughter and sister should leave them in a couple of months. Thinking of returning to Germany is now out of the question. I thank you again for not having interfered in the time of undecided matters and inner conflicts before I entered the university. But if you had done so, it would have been the only possibility of getting me back to the Old Country. Now I have decided to stay. It is not only the money (about one thousand dollars) that is invested now into my studies for the winter session, I am also personally involved with great delight in the courses, especially in German literature and cannot give it up just because your folks want to have you around for a few more years.

But you were resolute and are still resolute, as you wrote me. Didn’t your parents know that you intended to follow me after some time? Sure, they did. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that they must have hoped that our relationship would eventually come to nothing. I guess on this particular point they underestimated the strength and sincerity of our love. Maybe they will think quite differently when they realize that they cannot change your mind. Though I wished I could do more, I cannot help except politely answering your parents’ letter, but definitely stating that I am willing to stay.

There is something else I want to tell you. You said your brother is going to write me too. He may write as often as he wants to, but he cannot expect me to answer his letters as long as I haven’t gotten word from your parents. I know what an awful impact a death of a close relative can have so that I fully understand why they couldn’t answer. In this case I’m willing to wait another fortnight and even longer, but I cannot accept your brother as a mediator between your parents and me. Do you understand me? I think the matter is too important to have it delegated to your brother. I wrote your parents and expect no answer from anybody but from them alone. How can I find out that the arguments are his and not those of his parents? Would you mind telling him that I really enjoy studying now that ‘I really like to be in America’ and his conclusions must have been a misunderstanding.

Although I don’t want to, I am getting quite a bit worried. But when you are involved, how can I remain calm! Nevertheless celebrate with an untroubled spirit your 21st birthday. I hope you will get a day off on Friday.  As to your next year it is my heart-felt wish that in spite of all adversities all things will come to pass that you are hoping for right now

With lots of love, your Peter

Biene’s Bold Reaction to Five Letters from Germany

Papa

Key Player #4 of Chapter 34: Papa Walter Panknin

November 2nd 1965 Didsbury

My dear Peter,

Before I respond to your messages and also tell you about my life here, I want to deal with the main issue at hand. Dear Peter, my parents and my brother’s reaction came so unexpectedly for me that every letter from home was a real shock for me.

First of all my brother wrote, who until now has only written this long letter to me. He tried to logically explain that our plans are against all reason that out of several reasons I would be unhappy with you in Canada and above all that I would make my parents unhappy. Shortly afterwards I received an equally long and logical letter from my father with similar arguments and the threat that if I acted against all warnings and reason, I would in no way receive any support from him. Then finally came a long letter from my mother. She desires that we two come together and that she was prepared to let me go ‘one day’ to Canada. However, influenced by my father and brother’s arguments, she too thinks that it would be too early and that we would only be unhappy. Even my brother-in-law and sister asked me in long letters to take everything into consideration and let reason prevail rather than listen to my heart.

Dear Peter, as I can only roughly indicate to you, their main concern was about my happiness and the fear to lose me. Therefore, Peter, I cannot feel any anger or disappointment. You are right, Peter, my parents must have hoped all the time that everything, as you said, would fizzle out between us at the end. And only now I understand as to why without any objections they let me go to England. I believe that they hoped it would lead me to different thoughts. Dear Peter, you can imagine in what kind of conflict I find myself! I have never been so determined in my life as now! I come to you, even if I have to earn the sea voyage myself. My decision is final, and nothing can dissuade me from it. Therefore, Peter, prepare everything.

My parents fear that the hard work would make me unhappy. O Peter, I realized here in England how physical work in harmony with intellectual work creates happiness. And to work together with you for our life can truly make me happy! Mrs. Lande literally cried, when I told her that I would have to leave at Christmas time. She thinks that never before had a girl managed to do so well with the work and the children as I have. These words give me self-confidence; for I came  with no experience whatsoever. My mother always says, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’ I also believe in it. Sometimes I think that I am hard-hearted and egotistical, because I want to come to you, although I know how much pain I am causing to all the people that love me. Yet, Peter, don’t we need to live our life as our parents lived theirs? My father writes that he would rather travel to European destinations four times a year than to spend a single penny for a trip to Canada to visit his daughter, who has abandoned her home country. You too will feel while reading this, how much these words have hurt me. When I come home for Christmas, I will talk calmly with my parents. If they insist on their position and refuse us any help, then Peter I will come in spite of it all. I have so much confidence in our future. Perhaps we can only convince our parents with an iron will! O Peter I think that I appear so hard-hearted toward them, for I can sense how they must feel. But I know that it is right to go to you.

In the meantime you will have received my brother’s letter. Don’t take it as an insult that my parents have used my brother as mediator. I am more offended than you; for I know that only my brother’s influence could have changed my parents’ mind. However, Peter, all parents would just like my parents try to keep their children at their side, especially if it means to let them go into a world of uncertainty. And Canada is for them uncertainty. We must understand them. But nothing can change my decision.

My dear Peter, now I have not yet dealt with many of your questions and problems you brought up in your letters. However, I shared the main issue with you so that you can undertake all the necessary steps and you can tell me what I need to do. As always in a big hurry, unfortunately!

Be lovingly embraced by your Biene

Having observed in the past quite a few of Biene’s vacillations during times when decisions of the heart had to be made, I felt total admiration for Biene’s courageous handling of a dilemma out of which there seemed to be no escape. In my eyes she ruled like a queen over the complex issues that were going to haunt us for a long time to come. Indeed I was awed by her bold stand against the odds that were stacked against her. However, what I did not realize at the time, when her letter  gave my anxious heart a lift, was the fact that Biene was fighting far away from home the  good fight in the safe haven of her British employer.

A Letter from Biene’s Twin Brother

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Key Player #5: Elisabeth Panknin, Biene’s Mother

November 8th 1965 Calgary

My dear Biene,

I would like to embrace you and kiss you a thousand times for your decisive letter on Monday. If it had only arrived on Saturday! Then I would not have gone through the hell of emotional turmoil. My brother Gerry brought your brother’s letter from the Fyffe Road. It had been sitting there for the past fourteen days, Dear Biene, not even during the worst time in the German Army had I been so devastated! I was incapable to do anything sensible. But one thing at a time in the right order! How great you have become again in my heart. I know now what made me happy. In my mind you have already been with me all this time. We celebrated your birthday together. I played your Don Giovanni record, while getting up in the morning. I did all kinds of repairs, bought a picture to decorate our little basement room, and you helped me choose it. You spurred me on at my studies. Imagine I wrote one of the best essays on the Canterbury Tales with very few mistakes. Here too my independent individual opinion was being admired. In Math there have been only very good results on tests and assignments. I have been welcomed into the social life. Everywhere I have gained friends not just with my professor, who is already looking forward to meeting you, but also with my fellow students. I am helping some in Math, others in History. And I did all this as if you were already living with me and made me happy. Dear Biene, quite frankly with this certainty in my heart I could have waited another two or three years. But now I am completely cured. Biene, how good it is that you want to come. Otherwise I would have to ask, yes indeed I would have to beg you to come!

But now let’s look at this letter. If I hadn’t developed in my life so much sensibility, I would have perceived the letter as completely harmless. He had taken my letter to your parents apart into thousand fragments and quoted, quoted, and quoted. In his opinion there was nothing that would keep me in Canada, the prospects in Germany were a thousand times better and so on and so forth. After he had completely blackmailed me morally, he added injury to insult by threatening with financial blackmail. Imagine, I was so dumb as to believe that these were his own ideas. I deemed your father too good to threaten me. Still awake in bed at three o’clock in the morning I could no longer take it anymore and wrote till six a long letter to your parents and presented piece-by-piece positive arguments. Above all I mentioned that the Alberta government will pay for the second year at university, that all my relatives here in Canada had offered financial assistance, that there are still 1,500 marks left in my German bank account, and that thanks to you I have great success in my studies here in Calgary.  O Biene, it is no use. If they are not willing, then even the best arguments will not help. I will have insulted your father; for I attacked your brother by stating that I hold myself too good to accept such mean-spirited blackmails. They will mark me as an evil character. O Biene, be firm and strong and hold on to me. I feel you are almost stronger than I, because I have been deeply insulted. But a determined will can bring them still to reason. Besides I think much of your mother’s influence, when the time for action will have actually come. Again thank you for your letter! I am stuck in the midterm exams and need peace, inner peace. How strong has your unshakeable determination made me!

Now that I can breathe more freely again, I will outline precisely, what needs to be done. With your approval I will go to the immigration office in the next couple of days. But I think that in spite of it all I should wait for a reply from your parents. Should I give to the immigration official your address in Velbert or my mother’s address? Don’t do anything, until you receive a message from Cologne. They will set a date for giving you a physical examination in Cologne. Be accurate with all information regarding your relatives in East Germany. When they notice that you were not telling the truth, they may reject your eligibility for immigration. Beforehand you have to get your lungs x-rayed. You need a valid passport as well, for which you must apply in due time. For the voyage you must been inoculated against small pocks, if this has not been done during the past two years. As soon as you are done with these preliminaries, you must see a travel agent to make arrangements for the trip. There will be no immigration visa without a ticket! If it is an efficient travel bureau, you will have no trouble with your luggage crate. They will pick it up and take it to the railroad station. Only in Montreal you will see it again. You yourself will be lost there without any help, because there will be nobody to look after you, when you have been cleared by customs Canada. I will have to be there, when you come. But that much money I will have left over. O Biene, it is not the most beautiful prospect that we both have to work very hard to have things work out for us. But on weekends we will be able to travel to the mountains for a few days  for sure. Oh, how I feel well again.

Many thanks for your letter! I still have so much to tell you.

With a thousand dear kisses,

Your Peter

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Key Player #6: Erika Klopp, Peter’s Mother

As the drama unfolds I will introduce for each part of this chapter one person, who played a major role in our desperate struggle for being reunited in Canada.

Stepping up the Pace

“It is easier in spite of the great distance to visit relatives in Canada than those in East Germany. And we will lose our children we try to hold captive. In a higher sense we will regain them as we let them go.”  Peter’s Mother

From the moment the avalanche of opposing letters came crashing down on us, Biene and I accelerated the pace of our correspondence to a feverish pitch, as far as the notoriously slow mail service between England and Canada  would allow any speeding up at all. Biene continued to be resolute and firm in her decision to come to Canada and marry me as early as the following spring. While I had nagging doubts about our future, her bold attitude emanating from her letters was like a shining exemplar encouraging me to be strong and not to despair. Biene’s twin brother had planted poison in my heart. I had premonitions, even believed to hear inner voices with dire warnings of imminent disaster. Fortunately, Biene was always able to dispel such dark fears, which usually surfaced on my distraught mind after stepping down into my dingy basement room after a long, hard day at the university.

With every new letter she rekindled my longing for her presence. Her passionately written words filled my heart with warmth and confidence, fortifying me for the long pause in our correspondence, which was to come even before she returned to Germany. For the longest time like a weary wanderer leaning on his walking stick, I clung to her words.

Do you know Peter that I have the same feelings like you namely that I might become a good wife to you? I am longing for you so much! Your words saying that we must both grow together touched me deeply because that’s what I feel every day more. Yet, Peter is it not a miracle all the same? Look we both are going through the same experiences of life although thousands of miles are between us. In mind we are together. I feel so closely linked to you that to a certain extent the distance does not matter. Yet we are living beings of flesh and blood and not only souls. Therefore even the strongest mental link is only a substitute for being together. I want to feel your arms around me, touch you, speak to you and kiss you. Please undertake all the necessary steps for my coming at once. Have always confidence in me and never let doubts prevail over you.

My dear blogging friends, let me break the rules for writing an objective autobiography and allow me to address you directly. After reading these passionately written lines, tell me who would be the young man whose pulse would not go up a notch faster, would not feel the warmth of tender anticipation flood his heart, and would not foretaste in all its intensity the embrace of his beloved sweetheart ? Even a heart of stone would melt after being exposed to so much loving-kindness!

How could Biene have so much confidence that everything would work out in the end? Was it naive and wishful thinking or blind trust in Providence? Was she truly prepared to enter the lions’ den, especially after the barrage of opposing letters suddenly ended and dead silence from parents and brother was sending out ominous warning signals?

Canada’s Moral Code for Biene’s Immigration

Paul

Key Player #7: Paul Werner, Biene’s Brother-in-Law

December 5th 1965 Calgary

My dear Little Bee!

Your admission to Canada is more complicated than I had thought before and is connected with some obligations. Dear Gertrud, you know that I like to talk about each step with you. However, it would take too much time, and I had better hurry up so that you can come next spring. I hope you will agree with all I am undertaking now. First of all there is no other possibility of your coming except that you come as my fiancée. Second, I have to declare that I am willing to marry you within 30 days after your arrival. That means, I cannot compromise with your parents as I have suggested to them that we shall marry after a trial period of a year or so.

I have many things to do now. But I hope that I’ll be at the department of immigration on Monday and have all the requirements fulfilled for them. I have to provide the following pieces of information:

1) A letter from some responsible person, preferably a married woman, who will have accommodation for you until the day of the proposed wedding. (I got a letter from Martha and Gerry). This is probably for maintaining the good morals.

2) A letter from a minister stating that I am of good character, free to marry and that he will perform the wedding ceremony within thirty days of your arrival. I’ll get this letter tomorrow after church.

3) Then I have to give them an exact report to demonstrate that we are well acquainted,  that we correspond regularly and that we have exchanged recent photographs etc. This is already done.

4) And I need to provide additional facts relating to you and to me.

It was really wise to start the whole matter from here, for it would have been difficult for you to apply for your immigration in Cologne without having somebody financially responsible for you. If anything goes as the officer in charge has promised me, I might embrace you in May 1966.

How good you are in English! I see you have learned the natural way of expressing yourself. No wonder that you had so much success at your school. You are really familiar with the so-called everyday English that still eludes me. Will you promise me to speak English after we meet again, at least during the regular course of the day? You know, in my second year at the university I will begin with student teaching at the high schools. Therefore, I must have a satisfactory command of the English language.

In longing and in love

Your Peter

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Manchester, England – Photo Credit: tourist-destinations.com

Biene’s Last Letter from England

December 10th, 1965 Didsbury

My dear love Peter,

As usual I can just drop a few lines although I am dying to write you all I have on my mind. Your last letter contained quite a lot of exciting news concerning my coming to you in Canada. I feel so relieved that everything is set going for it. I think the conditions are quite sensible and I do agree with them. Peter, imagine we both will get married in less than half a year. On the one hand it seems quite natural to me to get married to you because I cannot imagine another husband for me than you. Yet on the other hand it seems like an unbelievable marvellous wonder, which only happens in dreams and fairy-tales. The thought of it is really overwhelming me with thousands of exciting feelings.

On the 23rd I am flying home. I booked my flight yesterday in town. I am afraid that I will have to face much trouble at home. Yet I feel strong enough to defend my cause. My brother has caused all my relatives to write to me in order to bring me to reason. Are we really that foolish, Peter? I admit that our plans are extraordinary, yet the more I think it over the more I feel that we are doing nothing wrong. I must convince my family! I have so many arguments. But perhaps on both sides the emotional sphere is more powerful than reason, and since strong feelings are involved it will be difficult to come to terms. Oh I really wish I could see clear. At home I will see.

Mrs. Lande often wonders where I get all my patience from and why nothing can shake me and then she says that she really wished to know you because judging from me you must be a really marvellous man to make me always so happy. Do you know Peter that it is about a year ago that I realized how much I am in love with you? It was after the ‘Don Giovanni’ opera, after I had given you the little good luck charm, the magic ‘Glücksbringer’ and after you had left me, and the train had disappeared. I suddenly felt for the first time that I could never live anymore without you loving me. This discovery shook me so very much and stirred up all my feelings and frightened me to such a degree that I was really ill at night and then I wrote to you and then … oh Peter, I sometimes cannot believe that all I had so desperately wished in that night has come true. I do not believe in magic at all, yet you must admit that it was a strange coincidence that I gave you the ‘Glücksbringer’ just on that particular night. 

Yours for ever Gertrud

After this passionately written letter more than two weeks passed until I received a card, which did not even arrive on time for Christmas, because it had been sent by surface mail. But her last letter from England was so heart-warming that its message of courage and love sustained me through the darkest days of the season. In quick succession I jotted down all my thoughts about the best possible strategy for Biene’s handling of parental opposition to our plans. I decided to keep writing in small instalments and wait, until I had received word from Biene before sending off the compiled letters. This method also served to bridge the time. However, as Christmas was drawing near, worries about how Biene was making out in her struggle with her parents occupied my heart and soul. Was it not exactly two years ago that I had worried about losing her forever during the gloomy days in the army? Should it be possible that her parents gain the upper hand? Would they be able to soften her resolve to come and marry me in the spring? With no Christmas greetings from Biene or from her parents the stage was set for the loneliest Christmas of my entire life.

Albert Schweitzer – Seminar #14

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Wie Albert Schweitzer Häuser baute

Immer mehr Kranke kamen zu Doktor Albert Schweitzer und seiner Frau Helene. Von morgens bis abends arbeiteten sie schwer. Sie operierten, impften; verbanden die kranken oder verletzten Menschen, die oft lange geduldig warten mussten, bis sie an der Reihe waren. Doch wo sollten sie die vielen Kranken und ihre Familienangehörigen unterbringen? Sie konnten ja nicht immer im Freien schlafen! Sie mussten vor der Hitze und vor den heftigen Tropengewittern geschützt werden. Also mussten Baracken gebaut werden. Doch es gab im Urwald keine Baufirma, die das erledigte, und es gab auch keinen Baumarkt, wo man Bretter und Nägel kaufen konnte. Also musste alles selbst geschaffen werden.

So zog Albert Schweitzer mit starken Männern, die ihre kranken Frauen im Hospital hatten, in den nahen Urwald. Dort fällten sie große Bäume und zersägten sie. Die Arbeit war bei der Hitze schwer und der Schweiß rann ihnen in Strömen von der Stirn. Die zersägten Bäume wurden dann an das Ufer des Flusses gerollt oder getragen und von dort in Kähne geladen und zu einem fernen Sägewerk gebracht. Danach kamen die Bretter dann wieder zurück und wurden zum Trocknen aufgestapelt. Auch dabei hat Albert geholfen, obwohl er schon vom Operieren ziemlich müde war. Doch er trug die Bretter mit wie alle anderen Männer. Da kam ein Afrikaner in vornehmem Anzug vorbei. Albert rief ihm zu: „He, Kamerad, helfen Sie uns bitte die Bretter tragen. Es wird gleich regnen und die Bretter werden nass!“ Aber der Afrikaner antwortete: „Das ist keine Arbeit für mich! Ich bin ein Studierter!“ Albert schüttelte nur den Kopf und sagte: „Schade, dass ich kein Studierter bin!“ Dabei hatte Albert Schweitzer viel mehr und viel länger studiert als der „vornehme“ Afrikaner!

Was hatten die fleißigen Hände  von Albert Schweitzer nicht alles zu tun! Am Vormittag mussten sie operieren, impfen und Salben auftragen; am Nachmittag galt es, Pfähle zu setzen, Dächer zu decken und Bretter zu nageln; abends spielten sie auf dem Tropenklavier und nachts schrieben sie Briefe und dicke Bücher. Nur wenige Stunden der Ruhe waren ihnen vergönnt.

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Wir merken uns: Kein Mensch ist für einfache Arbeiten zu schade. Man soll jede Arbeit achten und auch bereit sein, sie zu verrichten.

 

THE MINING ERA OF THE CANADIAN COLUMBIA by Bill Laux – Chapter 13

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SILVER ON KOOTENAY LAKE

The placer miners of the 1860s had noted in may places the presence of gold and silver in hard rock veins but had been obliged to pass them by. Lode deposits required money and machinery to develop. Tunnels and shafts would have to be dug, and the ore crushed by powerful machines. Lode mining was for capitalists; the ordinary prospector had but his pan and his shovel, and needed a gravel bar with gold at the bottom of it.

For the silver and copper showings, a smelter would be required to extract the metal, and none existed in the North American West in the early Sixties. Transportation was again the deciding factor.  Without an economical means to bring in heavy machinery and to move the ore out to a smelter, investors would not risk their money on lode mines.

However, that lead deposit on Kootenay Lake continued to attract attention. In 1868, American prospector Henry Doan investigated the surface showings of galena, on which he staked a claim.  In 1873,  he sent a very rich sample of ore which he said was from his claim (it was not) to some San Francisco investors who were impressed. They bonded the claim for $10,000, paying Doan $1000 in advance.  They then sent mining engineer, George Hearst, to examine the deposit and advise them if it was worth buying. Hearst came north from San Francisco by boat to Portland, by steamer to Walulla, and stage coach to Colville.   At Marcus, Hearst and Doan engaged Captain Albert Pingston, now without a steamer, but with serviceable rowboat, to take them up the Columbia, and then to portage around the falls and rapids of the Kootenay River to reach Kootenay Lake. On the portage Doan suggested to Captain Pingston that he “lose” the assay outfit that Engineer Hearst had brought along. Pingston indignantly refused.  At the lake Pingston rowed them across to the peninsula with the huge iron stain on the bluff overlooking the lake. Here was Doan’s claim. Hearst tested the surface showings and apparently built a small furnace of stones where he smelted  some of the ore over charcoal to test its lead and silver content.   Hearst’s assays revealed a low grade deposit with  6% lead, 8% zinc, and 2.8 oz. of silver to the ton. True, there was a lot of it, and it was on the surface, but it was nothing like the bonanza silver-lead ore Doan had sent him.

Furious at having been duped by the false sample, and having come all this way at considerable expense, Hearst, who had hired the boat, refused to let prospector back into it for the return trip. Captain Pingston protested to Hearst, “You can go and thrash him if you like but you cannot leave him there to starve and you must let him come back in the boat to where he can get something to eat.”   Presumably well thrashed, Doan was allowed back in the boat to return to Colville, though a still furious Hearst may have kicked him out at Fort Shepherd. It was supposed by prospectors around Colville, that the sample Doan had sent to San Francisco was specimen silver ore from one of the Colorado mines.

For the remainder of the Seventies, the Big Ledge of lead-silver ore on the east side of Kootenay lake remained undisturbed, except perhaps by Kootenais and Sinixt Indians casting balls for their Hudson’s Bay Company trade muskets..

There was a Canadian Pacific Railway promised to British Columbia by the Dominion government as part of the terms of union in 1870.   But it was virtually in limbo, as the result of a political scandal concerned with its financing.   The Conservative Party, which supported it, was out of power as a result of the CPR scandal, and the Liberals were offering money instead, and a government dry dock to the new Province to try to get out of the very costly railway promise.

In the 1880s with CPR, still unbuilt, it was the Northern Pacific Railroad, building from Duluth on Lake Superior, to Tacoma on Puget Sound, that revived mining interest in the Kootenays.   The Northern Pacific was to run down the Clark Fork River in western Montana to Pend Orielle Lake and Sandpoint, Washington.   This would put it just 30 miles from Bonner’s Ferry by that easy valley bottom route of the Walla Walla trail.   Suddenly, that low grade lead and silver deposit Henry Doan had tried to sell George (now Senator) Hearst was going to be within reach of a railroad.

  Robert Sproul, an American from Kennebec County, Maine, was in the Washington Territory in the 1870s prospecting for coal to supply the Northern Pacific Railroad which was under construction.   He was accused of claim jumping by another coal prospector, John Stone of Puyallup, and apparently framed by Stone or some other for a barn burning.   He was released by the Puyallup magistrate, who could find no evidence he was the culprit, and he quickly put the Cascade Mountain between himself and his adversary. 

In 1880 he turned up in Colville, and was befriended by the Jacob Meyers family.  In the spring of 1881 he was in Bonner’s Ferry helping the Fry brothers, Richard and Martin build a scow with which they intended to begin a transportation service down the river to Kootenay Lake.   The Frys, who as trappers and traders, knew the lake well, told him of the big galena outcrop on the east shore of that lake.  The next summer he obtained a grubstake from a Colonel Hudnut of Sandpoint, and with his friends, Jesse Hunley, and Jacob Meyers from Colville, borrowed a rowboat from the Frys to go down the river and prospect Kootenay Lake.   With the map the Frys had drawn for them, the three men found the place.   Sproul staked the Bluebell, and, believing himself to be the discoverer, staked an extra claim, the Comfort, for Col. Hudnut.   Hunley staked the Kootenay Chief, and Meyers staked the Ruby.   The mining law in effect in British Columbia at that time had been drawn up for placer miners working their claims though the summer season.   It required the claimant to remain on his claim throughout the season, June 1 – Oct. 31, not leaving it for more than 72 hours at a time.   This was intended to prevent disputes in which one miner might mine another’s gold in his absence.   It had no real relevance to lode mines, few of which had been staked in the Province up until this time.  It was amended to accommodate lode mining the following year.   But the law in effect in 1881 also required the claim to be registered at the nearest mining recorder’s office, which at that time was William Fernie at Wild Horse Creek, a difficult journey back to Bonner’s Ferry and up the old Wild Horse trail which could not possibly be accomplished in 72 hours.

Sproul, Meyers and Hunley were not the only prospectors interested in Kootenay Lake that summer.   By this time the Northern Pacific crews building from Wallula on the Columbia had laid rails as far as Sandpoint.   This brought the Ainsworths of Portland back into the boundary country.   They had put two steamers on Pend Orielle Lake and the Clark Fork River to supply the Northern Pacific contractors, and now an Ainsworth prospecting party came up the just completed line to Sandpoint.    With the rails a scant 30 miles from Bonner’s Ferry and navigable water to Kootenay Lake,  Kootenay minerals could have the transportation that had so long been lacking.   The Ainsworth syndicate’s party comprised Captain John C’s son, George; Enoch Blaisdel; the Englishman, Thomas Hammil; a man named Maxwell; and New York journalist, A. Y. Woodbury.   They were to investigate mining possibilities on Kootenay Lake.   The provision of bringing along a New York journalist ensured that any mines the expedition might discover would be reported in the American press and so generate investor interest.  With wise forethought, Woodbury wrote William Fernie, the mining recorder at Wild Horse, asking him to come to Kootenay Lake to give legal sanction to their mining enterprise, and record what claims they might stake.   All of this careful planning suggests that the Ainsworths had advance knowledge that there was mineral on Kootenay Lake and even where it was to be found.

William Fernie, who may well have been the source of the Ainsworth’s information as he knew the Lake region well, did come and met the Ainsworth party.   Sproul was able to record his Bluebell claim with Fernie on July 31, 1882.

Hunley and Meyers did not stay the full season, as required by the law, to hold their claims.  They probably did not think low grade lead worth the trouble, since Sproul had been unable to sell a half interest in his Bluebell to Fernie.   Fernie doubtless informed them that their discoveries had been recorded and abandoned several times previously, and in his opinion were not worth much.   Sproul, though,  stayed on, developing his claim and building a stone powder house.   It seems clear he intended to mine it if he could not sell it.   But on October 25 he tacked a note stating he was ill and out of food to one of his claim stakes, and set off in the Fry’s boat to row to Bonner’s Ferry.

  Upon his departure, Hammil and Woodbury came to the Bluebell camp and jumped Sproul’s, Hunley’s and Meyer’s claims.   This, under the law, was technically legal, as the men had left before the end of the season.    William Fernie was right there to record Sproul’s Bluebell for Thomas Hammil, Hudnut’s Comfort and Meyer’s Ruby for Woodbury, and Meyer’s Kootenay Chief in the name of Enoch Blaisdel.   Fernie’s actions in so openly favouring the Ainsworth party are open to question.    He had told Sproul that he was not the discoverer of the east shore galena deposits, and therefore not entitled to a second claim, though recording a claim in the name of a friend was a common American practice and sanctioned by most miners.   But it was clearly not proper for Fernie to record two claims for Woodbury.   Jumping claims, even under the color of a legal technicality, was a despicable act in the view of the miners of the Eighties, and William Fernie’s actions strongly suggests that he had been co-opted by the Ainsworths.

On the other side of the lake, the Ainsworth party set up their camp at the hot springs where they filed a townsite claim for 160 acres around the spring to be called Ainsworth.   As well, they located other mineral claims on the west shore in the area of their townsite.  This was obviously no speculative prospecting expedition; the Ainsworths intended to become the dominant influence on the lake.

The following spring Sproul and Hammill  returned to Kootenay Lake.    Robert Sproul  found the Ainsworths had jumped his claims, and Thomas Hammill was setting up camp at the Big Ledge as it was called, a few hundred yards from the disputed claims.  Sproul filed a lawsuit against Hammill, but since the decline of the Wild Horse diggings there was no experienced civil servant assigned to the Kootenays as magistrate.   Instead, a well liked but largely ineffectual local storekeeper at St Eugene Mission on Moyie Lake, the elderly Edward Kelly, had been  appointed Justice of the Peace.

At the end of August, 1883 Judge Kelly came to Kootenay Lake to hear the lawsuit.  Hammill had wanted to bring in a prominent lawyer from the Coast, but the man either could not or would not make the arduous trip. Sproul engaged the English sportsman, W.A. Bailie-Grohman, to speak for him. This was probably a bad choice, since Baillie-Grohman was a notorious meddler, more interested in the figure he cut in the wild Kootenays, than concerned for his client.   The trial was a choice morsel for the book of Western Adventures, Baillie Grohman was writing.

Baillie-Grhoman’s description of the trial, probably somewhat embellished for his English audience,  follows.

“…Judge Kelly, a genial old timer, whose silvery locks and quaint Irish humour soon gained him the respect of all concerned, arrived in due time.   It was a somewhat memorable scene.   The canoe bringing him had been sighted from the enemy’s camp,  for the little cove in in which it lay, faced south.   Forgetting for the moment all the dire threats exchanged by both camps, Winchesters and six shooters were laid aside, and the inmates of both camps streamed down to the shore to receive the representative of the law.   We were a motley little crowd, six or seven for our side, for some necessary witnesses had arrived, and twice that number in Hammil’s party…  It became unavoidable that Judge Kelly should take up his quarters in one or the other of the rival camps.   ‘Now boys,’he addressed the crowd, ‘I think it would be fair to both camps if I grub in the one and sleep in the other, so just let me know which has the better grub outfit.’   A hasty exchange of information concerning our respective culinary possessions…left no doubt that the enemy’s grub box was far better stocked then ours.   Molasses, onions, and canned stuff, of which we had none, decided the question in which camp the judge would take his meals.   Every morning and evening he was escorted to and from from one camp to the other by one of his late hosts, the distance being a few hundred yards…  

The largest of the three shanties in the two camps was selected as the courthouse where the trial took place… The court opened on Aug. 31, and the first thing Judge Kelly insisted on was that all revolvers were to be deposited in a box at his side so long as the court sat… The litigation had resolved itself into four distinct cases,  for each of the two parties had taken up the same four claims on the Big Ledge.  As several important witnesses were absent, two or three short adjournments became necessary, and it was only on October 16, 1883, that Judge Kelly gave his last judgment.   All four were decided in our favour!   Judge Kelly was an old miner himself, and knew little of  law; hence he took the view which from the first I had recognized as the saving of our case, namely the common sense interpretation of the actions of men, who, from causes beyond their control, could not possibly comply with the strict letter of the mining regulations…”

Thomas Hammil had the resources of the Ainsworth Syndicate behind him, and at once appealed Judge Kelly’s decision to the B.C. Supreme Court.   Justice Begbie heard the appeal

in March, 1884. His decision reversed Judge Kelly in respect of  Hunley and Meyers.   They had in fact abandoned their claims, Begbie decided, and forfeited them. But Robert Sproul had made a genuine effort to stay with his discovery until the end of the season, so he was entitled to a leave of absence, being ill, and could retain his Bluebell claim.   Justice Begbie made it clear that he considered Thomas Hammill a despicable claim jumper and Baillie-Grohman a meddlesome obfuscater.   

Sproul, who had meantime secured an appointment as Road Commissioner for the Third District of Kootenai County, Idaho, organized a  company to construct and operate a 32 mile toll road from Mud Slough, near the Northern Pacific’s Kootenai Station, to a spot he called Galena Landing on the Kootenai River near Bonner’s Ferry.    Having lost his associates’ claims to the Hammill-Ainsworth party, he intended to control their access to the Lake.    In 1883 Sproul had assigned a 1/3 interest in his Bluebell claim to Col. Hudnut, but the Colonel refused to pay the court costs of the transfer. To settle the debt the 1/3 interest was put up for sale. It was bought, to Sproul’s fury, by Thomas Hammill.   The fact that neither Sproul nor his partners bid on the 1/3 interest suggests possible collusion between the court and the Ainsworth interests.

  In June, 1884, Sproul met Dr. Wilbur A. Hendryx of Grand Rapids, Michigan in Sandpoint.   Dr. Hendryx was representing a brass fabricating company in Connecticut owned by himself, his brother, and Edwin W. Herrick of Minnesota.   Sproul took Dr. Hendryx to inspect the Bluebell claim at the Big Ledge Camp on Kootenay Lake, and convinced the would-be mining entrepreneur of its value. He also pointed out to the Doctor that he held a toll road franchise for the route Bluebell ore would have to travel to reach the Northern Pacific at Kootenai Station. Sproul sold Dr. Hendryx a half interest in his toll road franchise and transferred his interest in the Bluebell claim to the doctor in exchange for shares in the Hendryx brothers’ Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company of New Haven, Connecticut. Once the toll road was built, the Hendryx brothers intended to mine the Bluebell ore and bring it out to the Northern Pacific for shipment to a Missouri smelter. 

Now the Kootenay Lake region became the focus of two rival groups of American capitalists grasping for control. The meddlesome Baillie-Grohman was fortunately distracted, getting up a Mountain Goat hunt with the future American President, Theodore Roosevelt.   Looking down from the high mountains on the wide bottomlands of the Kootenay River near present Creston, Baillie-Grohman conceived the idea of draining the marshy lands to reclaim them for farming. He had the idea that if he went to the Rocky Mountain Trench in the East Kootenay north of Wild Horse, he could divert the Kootenay River into the Columbia, a scant five miles away. Then the lowered flow down the Kootenay would leave the bottomlands dry and farmable. Roosevelt refused to become involved in such a visionary scheme, but did make inquiries about mines which might be for sale before returning to the U.S. Baillie-Grohman, infatuated with his idea, approached one of the construction engineers for the Northern Pacific, then building through Sandpoint. He brought the engineer to the flooded lands and took him over to the site of his proposed canal, and asked for his professional opinion on the scheme. The engineer pronounced the thing possible, and Baillie-Grohman lost no time in forwarding the engineer’s report to his English friends, soliciting their funds for his Kootenay Lands Reclamation Company.

What Baillie-Grohman apparently did not know was that the Ainsworths were deeply involved in the Northern Pacific Company, and the NP engineer dutifully reported Baillie Grohman’s scheme to George Ainsworth. Ainsworth in turn set up his own Kootenay Lands Reclamation Company, and the dispute as to who was to get or drain the drowned lands went into the courts.  The incident demonstrates that the Ainsworth Syndicate’s intent was to dominate the Kootenay region, in mining, agriculture and whatever other possibilities might surface, shutting  all others out. 

Baillie-Grohman’s schemes, though well financed from Britain, came to nothing. He built his canal with Indian labor, but it presently silted up with debris from the spring runoff, and became useless.  The Ainsworth’s stronger rivals, the Hendryx group, proposed to ship Kootenay Lake ore via boat or scow up the Kootenay River to Bonner’s Ferry, and then wagon haul it down their toll road to Kootenai Station and the Northern Pacific Railroad where the Hendryx brothers had set up their headquarters.

  The Ainsworth group’s plan was revealed to be even more ambitious. They intended a portage railroad from the outlet of Kootenay Lake (Balfour), around the falls and rapids, 40 miles to the Columbia, and from there via one of the Ainsworth’s sternwheel steamers to Portland. Captain John C. Ainsworth had commissioned Captain Pingston and his rowboat to survey the Columbia from the Canadian line down to the then head of navigation at Priest Rapids to determine if it could be worked by steamboats.   Captain Pingston reported that with several short portages, at Priest Rapids, and  Rock Island Rapids, the river could be run for “2/3 of the season.”   However a 15 mile portage railroad would be required from Rickey’s Rapids around the 20 foot Kettle Falls, to Marcus.  

Captain Ainsworth then began lobbying the U.S. congress for the improvements  Pingston had recommended. Congress in turn sent out the Army’s Lieut. Symons to repeat Pingston’s survey and report precisely what engineering works would be required to allow U.S. steamers to reach Canada. The services of journalist Woodbury were next used to plant alarming stories in the B.C. newspapers about a supposed Northern Pacific invasion of the Kootenay district with a branch line from its Kootenai Station.   Once the fear of losing a potential Kootenay trade had gripped the Victoria and New Westminster merchants, Captain Ainsworth presented himself at the Legislature to request a charter for his portage railroad.

  Posing as a friend of British Columbia, and concealing his connection to the Northern Pacific Railroad, he painted a picture of a wagon road to be built from Shuswap Lake, navigable from Kamloops, across the low Eagle Pass to Farwell’s (Revelstoke) on the Columbia.   From there, he told them, his steamers would carry merchandise down through the Arrow Lakes to the mouth of the Kootenay where his railroad would connect to Kootenay Lake.   The ore from the Kootenay Mines would come out via the same route and the trade would be preserved for B.C., defeating the Northern Pacific’s plan to build a branch to Bonner’s Ferry. The B.C. Board of Trade and the Provincial legislators were enthusiastic about this scheme.  They  gave the Captain his charter in 1883, and let a contract to G.B. Wright, who represented the Ainsworth’s Syndicate in B.C., to build the Eagle Pass wagon road. To finance the costly and isolated piece of track, they set aside a strip of Kootenay Land from which Captain Ainsworth might choose any 750,000 acres for his Syndicate.

All of this, and especially the generous land grant, aroused opposition, particularly in Victoria where the huge grant of some of the Island’s best land to the CPR to build the Esquimault and Nanaimo Railway was being  bitterly opposed.   Handing his choice of Kootenay lands to this American for a mere promise of a distant railway to an even more distant bluff of lead, was held to be scandalous. However, before he could build his railway and claim his grant the Captain had to obtain Federal Charter as well. In Ottawa, apparently for the first time, someone actually consulted a map.  While Captain Ainsworth had concealed his backing for the sternwheeler, Forty Nine which had stolen the trade of the Big Bend for the Colville merchants in the Sixties, it was perfectly obvious to the Federal Minister of Railways and Canals that an Ainsworth steamer could just as easily connect the Columbia terminus of his proposed railway from Kootenay lake to Marcus, Washington Territory, as to Farwell’s and the proposed wagon road to Shuswap Lake.   The hated “traders out of Colville” could then use the railway to steal the Kootenay Lake trade, and Ainsworth’s Columbia and Kootenay railway would become a feeder to the Northern Pacific at Spokane Falls. Accordingly, the Dominion government disallowed the B. C. legislation, which brought on another crisis between B.C. and Canada.   In British Columbia, it was thought wicked enough for the Federal Government to intervene in Provincial matters, nullifying its legislation, but the worse insult was that in doing so it exposed an egregious B.C. blunder.   

The matter went into the courts for the next seven years, the Ainsworth’s with the backing of B.C.. trying to get back their charter and land grant, the Federal Government blocking them in favour of the nearly bankrupt CPR which was making its halting way toward the Kootenays, where it, and not the Portland merchants, could profit from a portage railway around the Lower Kootenay River rapids and falls.  The tragic events of 1885 were to be the result of this bitter struggle between the Eastern Hendryxs and the Portland Ainsworths for control of the Kootenay mines and commerce.

As the mining season of 1885 opened, Robert Sproul, now an officer of the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company, hired three miners in Sandpoint, Charles Howes, from Shoshone County, Idaho, and the two Wolfe brothers, Adam and Charles, part Indians, from the Palouse.  The four arrived at the Big Ledge on May 29.   The Hammill party of six miners, was camped at the Ainsworth townsite across the lake.     On the 31st both the Sproul party and the Hammill party were working their adjacent claims.   A rifle shot was heard in the forenoon and at noon, miner Velnoweth of the Hammill party found Thomas Hammill lying on the ground, alive, but shot through the pelvis and spine.   Hammill was carried to his cabin where he died without being able to say who shot him.

Constable Anderson was summoned from the Ainsworth camp across the lake.  On questioning the other members of the Sproul party, he learned that Sproul had set off in a rowboat, for Bonner’s Ferry.   The Constable swore in a posse, and pursued Sproul in another boat.   Picking up a pair of Indian paddlers at the Outlet (Balfour), Anderson rowed furiously up the lake.   Sproul’s boat was shortly found abandoned on the lakeshore, but no trace of the miner was found.   Anderson had his men men row on up the Kootenay River to the boundary where the Boundary Commission’s 100 foot swath cut through the timber twenty years before, formed an open corridor down which anyone trying to cross into the U.S. could be spotted.   It was crucial for Anderson to intercept Sproul here, since if he managed to cross into the U.S. he could not be arrested.   

Three days later Sproul was spotted, walking out of the timber, and arrested for the murder of Hammill.   He was bound over for trial at Victoria before Judge Grey.   Adam Wolfe’s rifle was established as the murder weapon, and the defence did its best to implicate the two Indians. But Sproul was the only person at the Big Ledge that day with a motive for killing Hammill, and had been heard to make threats to him. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang.   The fact that only circumstantial evidence linked Sproul with the murder, and the repudiation by the two Indians, Adam and Charles Wolfe of their testimony raised a cry in the press for commutation to life imprisonment. The case went through appeals, up to the Supreme Court of Canada, with the Americans, and the Hendryx party protesting Sproul’s innocence, but judgment was eventually upheld.   Sproul was hanged at Victoria, still claiming to be innocent, on October 29, 1886. 

The controversy surrounding Sproul’s guilt or innocence brought general opposition to  the Ainsworth’s Kootenay projects. It was noted that the Ainsworth’s employee, the victim, Thomas Hammill, had been cited as a despised claim jumper by Justice Begbie. Miners in particular, sympathetic to a man who may have shot such a hated figure, began to oppose the Ainsworths.  For their part, the Ainsworths shunned publicity, while labouring quietly in Ottawa to reverse the Federal Government’s decision.     

With the Ainsworths in self imposed eclipse, Dr. Hendryx staked the Silver King claim along the shore of Kootenay Lake just west of the Bluebell.  From this spot he began tunnelling toward the Bluebell, intending to intersect the Bluebell glory hole at depth and bring out the ore though the tunnel.  In 1885 he bought a 31 foot screw propeller steamer named “Surprise” in Chicago, and had her shipped by rail out to Kootenai Station, where she was hauled by sled  to Bonner’s Ferry over the toll road, and launched. Pushing a scow ahead of her, the Surprise brought the Bluebell ore to Bonner’s Ferry where it was wagon hauled to the railroad and shipped to an eastern smelter.  In 1888 she was replaced by the larger twin screw steamer, Galena, built at Bonner’s ferry and capable of taking two scows on her trips to and from the Kootenay Lake mines, serving both the Hendryx and Ainsworth camps. Over on the Columbia in 1884, Captain Pingston bought a tiny steam launch, the Alpha, built in Hong Kong, and used it to barge supplies up to the CPR railroad camp at Farwells, for the Canadian Pacific Railway crews were  now across the Rockies, and would reach the Columbia river in 1885.

The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Chapter XXXII

19

Dover

Port of Dover and the Famous White Cliffs of Dover – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Biene Travels to England

“If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts.”

W. Somerset Maugham

In the meantime Biene had exchanged quite a few letters with Mrs. Lande, her employer-to-be in Manchester, England. She found out that she would be working in a modern household with three small children all less than six years of age. In spite of the many warnings from her friends regarding tough working conditions, Biene was looking forward to her job as an au pair girl, which offered a great opportunity for improving her English language skills through direct contact with people speaking their native tongue.  Becoming familiar with running a household while earning some money also proved useful for the young lady from Germany.

At the railroad station

Biene and her Parents at the Düsseldorf Railway Station – August 1965

On August 10th Biene took the train from Düsseldorf to Calais to catch the ferry to England. At dawn the ferry reached her port of call at Dover, where Biene had to endure a gruelling time at customs and at the passport control station. She arrived at London by train two hours later than expected and therefore missed her connection to Manchester. Fortunately at Dover she had enough time to send off a telegram to Mrs. Lande. After a brief sightseeing tour of Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London she was on the train again and traveled through a very pleasant landscape, the so-called Midlands, featuring one of Britain’s finest scenery, greenest countryside and grandest views, through a picturesque patchwork of streams, valleys and woodlands.

Midlands Lyth_Hill_01

The Midlands of England – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

After the cold night onboard of the ferry Biene felt sleepy and happy in the warm afternoon sun that was peering through her compartment window. After she had conducted her first English conversation with a nice elderly couple, who almost overwhelmed her with good luck wishes for her time in England, she fell asleep and awoke only, when the train was already approaching Manchester. The closer she got the more excited she became and wondered if Mrs. Lande would recognize her on the platform.

Manchester_Victoria_station Edited

Victoria Station, Manchester, England – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

But she worried about that for nothing, because her employer was nowhere to be seen. In vain she looked around and after some time she was standing with her suitcases all alone on the deserted platform. She asked a black porter, who looked at her with pitiful eyes, to carry her suitcases to a taxi. When he found out that she was from Germany, where his mother was living, he was so delighted to be able to help her that he did not take any tip from her. Biene was quite touched by his helpfulness, especially after the porters in London had shamelessly taken advantage of her uncertainty over how much money would have been the appropriate amount for a tip. In the taxi she felt drowsy and suddenly very tired after so many wakeful hours. She could barely follow the verbal onslaught of the taxi driver, who in his zeal to share his local knowledge wanted to tell her about all the remarkable sights of Manchester.

Biene’s Plunge into Life’s Reality

Lande's House at the Corner

Lande’s House at the Corner of Parkfield Road in Didsbury, Manchester, UK

What a pleasant surprise unfolded before her eyes, when the taxi stopped at a large house with a friendly appearance. Immediately all tiredness disappeared. Mrs. Lande received her with open arms. The two became instant friends. That night Biene slept like a log. And it was good, because there was a lot of work waiting for her the very next morning. Mrs. Lande had just returned from her vacation in Spain and needed all the help she could get with the children. There was little baby Paul, who was being potty-trained. He was not too eager to cooperate and constantly climbed off  his tiny chair. While Biene was putting him back, where he was supposed to do his business, Caroline and Simon were pinching each other and screeching like howling dervishes. Gradually Biene was adapting to a totally new routine in her life. A 7:30 Paul woke her up with his crying, because he was wet and the diapers needed changing, all the while the older siblings were hanging on to her skirt and were hollering for attention. They wanted to get washed, dressed and fed breakfast all at once. And when at rare occasions a little bit of peace and quiet reigned in the Lande household, a pile of children’s clothes, the entire gamut from diapers to pants, were waiting on the ironing board. So Miss Panknin was on her feet from dawn to dusk seven days a week, during which she had altogether one half-day off. But even then Mrs. Lande occasionally brought Paul into Biene’s room, because she could not handle him any more.

Nearby Park Didsbury Manchester England

Lots of Green Spaces in Nearby Parks

In spite of the hard work Biene was happy. Every night, when after a relaxing bath she sank into her bed, she fell asleep with a sense of accomplishment she had never experienced before. In her letters she would often mention to me that through her work with the children, as challenging and arduous it really was, she was able to draw herself out of the darkness of idleness into the light of meaningful activity with little children. It was heartwarming for me to see that she too was going through an important trial period albeit quite different from mine. By dealing so intensely with young children she was in a much better position to decide on a small or large or no family at all. She learned first hand how much love and labor one needed to invest in raising a large family. Being an au pair girl was a real eye opener for her.

Leisure time had become a precious commodity for Biene. Whereas back home at Velbert she had often idled away her time, she now began to appreciate every free moment that she had at her disposal. What allowed her to truly enjoy her time off was the heightened awareness that what she was doing in Mrs. Lande’s household was not drudgery she needed a break from, but deeply satisfying service to others.

On one of her half-days Biene took little six-year old Caroline to a nearby cinema. Mrs. Lande had recommended the movie ‘Sound of Music’, which had gained the status of a box office hit not just in England, but also in translation practically all over the world. Completely enraptured by the picture and the music Caroline cozily sat on Biene’s lap. She was proud that she had been allowed to go out with the new so amiable au pair girl in the family.

Sound of Music

Little Paul also brought much joy to Biene. Barely two years old he had already turned with his cute baby talk into a real chatterbox. One of his favourite words to express his admiration or approval for something she suggested to him was ‘nice’. When she played on the harmonica I had bought her in Schotten, he dropped all his toys and looked at her with his big dreamy eyes as if a fairy had just arrived to play for him on her magical instrument. Then he clambered up into her bed. Every time she stopped playing, he would nudge her to play some more by tapping with his fingers on the harmonica and by humming and crooning a melody of his own. On another day in the evening, when the kids had all been put to bed, Simon, the middle child, sleepy-eyed with drooping eyelids, stepped into her room, snuggled up to her on the bed and like an affectionate little darling laid his head on her lap. She stroked and caressed him, until he finally fell asleep.

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The Original Harmonica – Banged Up but still Functional

 

 

Biene’s Engagement Ring

 Her Half-Day Cultural Activities

On one of these half-days my letter with the engagement ring arrived.  Biene having no idea what it contained and filled with joyful anticipation placed it prominently on the mantle piece. She did not want to open it until all her work was done. This way she would enjoy reading the latest news from Canada in the peace and quiet of her room.  The morning hours crept by at a snail’s pace. Finally the moment had come, when she could open the letter. I thought it would be best to let her describe her reaction upon finding the engagement ring in the envelope, about which we both had given up hope of ever seeing it again.

The Ring

The Engagement Ring

O Peter, if I had opened it any sooner, I would not have been able to do any work. Now I was by myself, and it took me a very long time, until I had recovered from the joyful shock. I was totally unprepared for this! Now your ring is on my finger and I have to keep looking at my hand, because I can hardly believe it. And how accurately you have chosen size and form as if we two had bought it together! Is it not like a miracle that your letter with its precious content after a journey half  around the globe finally landed in my hands? How did I yearn for it in June and then later again, when you thought it could arrive by surface mail! And now it has come so unexpectedly! Will it always be like this with us? I keep thinking of the quote from Bodelschwingh you had given to me in Michelbach, ‘To learn to wait is our merit …’. Ever since I love you, Peter, even waiting fills me with joy. All I do is for you, and all I experience, I experience in thought with you. It is unimaginable how much inner peace and how much strength you have given me after all these years, in which I had been torn and  tossed to and fro by feelings as if I had been living in a labyrinth. Now it seems to me as if I have found the right way. No, it is actually not like that, for I know that I found it through you …

As hard as her daily chores often were, they did not diminish her enthusiasm for the care she was able to provide for the children. Having received much love during her childhood, she was able to pass it on to the Lande children. In fact the close relationship with them aroused feelings of tender anticipation of the not too distant future, when she would be looking after our own children in the land of our dreams in Canada.

Every once in a while, she granted herself a little treat and went out to immerse herself into the British cultural environment. When she attended a performance by the internationally renowned Bolshoi Ballet, which happened to be in Manchester on its tour throughout the United Kingdom, the dancers and the music enchanted her such that in her imagination I was sitting next to her just like on our rendezvous at the opera in Wuppertal and with this romantic image on her mind she no longer felt alone among all those strangers in the theatre.

On rare occasions she went out to dine sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend. With all the work that Biene had to do, there never seemed to be enough food for her on the dinner table. Indeed, at times she was so hungry that she often resorted to eating candies, which was certainly not helping to keep her teeth in good health. The dentist in town paid for by the generous medical program, which included foreigners with a work permit, took care of many a cavity in her teeth.

Like me at my road trip through Canada, she was sometimes puzzled by certain customs, peculiar expressions and idiomatic expressions. One day while waiting for her meal to arrive in an East Indian restaurant, she was looking at the little trays, which the waiter had placed in front of her on the table. One of them particularly attracted her attention with its dark aromatic liquid, which Biene thought to be an appetizer. After all this was an exotic eatery, and while she did not recognize what it was, good manners and etiquette required that she at least tried and tasted some of these mysterious substances. The saying ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ may have also prompted her to reach for the teaspoon and dip it into the liquid that appeared to her as most appetizing. The strong piquant flavour was not altogether disagreeable. However, when the observant waiter saw the young lady from Germany sample another spoonful, he came rushing to her table and discretely said, “Excuse me, Miss. The items are not hors d’oeuvres, but rather condiments for the main course you had ordered.”

condiments (3)

Some other time she went out to dine with her friend Susan. They had ordered a glass of wine to complement their meal. As they happily savoured the delicious food, the waiter came by their table and announced in a tone that was supposed to convey his appreciation for his customers, “The drinks are on the house.” Biene pondered on the meaning of his puzzling remark. In her mind she visualized drinks being placed somewhere on top of the restaurant. But she was smart enough not to ask any questions or make a silly remark, as I had once done on my trip with Adolf through Canada. Susan clued her in later saying that the waiter meant that the drinks were free this evening.

Biene’s Academic Endeavours

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Cambridge University, which administered a branch in Manchester – wikipedia.org

To strengthen and further develop her language skills Biene enrolled at the Manchester branch of the Cambridge University, which offered English proficiency courses to foreign students. By some administrative error they had placed her at a lower level program, which was way too easy for her. When she brought her concerns to her teacher’s attention, he made sure that she would participate in a more challenging course. There the curricular material was quite difficult. But Biene, never afraid of tackling new challenges, attended the evening sessions with vim and vigour. Many nationalities were represented in her class, all striving to obtain the prestigious Proficiency Certificate. In spite of having less time for studying than her fellow students she made excellent progress. She soon became known in her class as the ironical author. Her instructor was so impressed with her ironical style that he read out her essay to the students as an exemplary piece of writing. The topic was ‘First Impressions of the Typical Character of the Englishman’. Based on her own experiences, she attempted to show and to prove that there was no such thing as typical Englishmen. Like other human beings, they all have their own individual character traits. The recognition, which she received from her teacher, was a great boost for her morale and strengthened her self-esteem. She was proud to see not only her language skills improve,  but also to see herself evolve as an independent thinker. Great was her joy, when she heard that her composition would be published in the official school magazine.

The Dream Word of Bienes Stories

Her facility to express herself well in the English language also came in handy in the Lande household. Being able to communicate well with the members of the family had become truly a source of great pleasure for her. This was especially the case when dealing with the older children at bedtime. She discovered the joy of story telling, not just any story that she may have read in a children’s book. In fact, she invented them in her creative mind at the spur of the moment. Caroline and Simon were fascinated, because they were involved in shaping the development of the story and felt important that they had a say in how the story would end. Each time Biene got lost in the maze of her own thoughts and paused for a brief moment, the children would spark with their questions new wonderful ideas and thus often contributed to a fanciful, fairy-tale kind of ending. To the children the most popular stories with all their variations were about the ‘Little Moon Man’ and his friend, the ‘Little Star Friend’. When Caroline and Simon listened as quiet as a mouse, Biene was happy about her success and dreamt of creating story and picture books for our own children. Until then a lot of water would spill over the Niagara Falls, she regretfully wrote to me in one of  her letters.

Peter’s Passionate Plan

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The River Irwell at Salford, looking towards Manchester City Centre – wikipedia.org

With the intent of giving Biene a mild shock followed by a pleasant surprise I wrote Biene  a letter, which seemed to suggest that the waiting period might be cut short by more than she had anticipated.

Calgary, September 11th 1965

My dear Biene, I have to bitterly disappoint you. Believe me, my pain is greater than yours not to see you as quickly again as we first thought possible. We must resign ourselves to some unforeseen circumstances. I don’t know how it all came about. Either the official of the university exam committee did not have all his marbles or I wasn’t quite there myself, but — I passed the test!

Aren’t you a little glad now that you will be able to come to Canada as early as next spring? Oh, how happy I am to finally have gained a foothold in Canada. This will be the last letter with my brother’s return address; for I will immediately start looking for a small apartment to rent in the northwest of Calgary close to the university. From there I will write to your parents in Velbert. I hope that they will have some understanding for our unusual plans. But I have to ask them soon, if everything related to your immigration should pan out as intended. Right after your parents have given us their consent, I will pay a visit to the immigration office and will initiate the process. You need not do anything, until the Canadian Embassy in Cologne will give you further notice and tell you what to do. Greetings with love, Peter

Biene thought she had prepared her parents well, before she had left for England. She now wrote a letter to her mother, who had given her until now her full support for our plans in Canada. In it she let her know that a letter from me would be coming soon, in which I would ask the parents to grant me permission to marry her beloved daughter. Shortly afterwards, Biene urged me, “Please write my parents soon. For now they have been prepared.”

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Manchester Town Hall – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

In my mind, I was merely going through a number of steps that would involve a few letters going back and forth with questions about my progress at my studies, my job prospects in the teaching profession and my assurances that Biene would be well looked after and be happy. In my mind the exchange of letters was a mere formality, a remnant of an old custom that appeared antiquated in the modern world, yet had a useful function of getting to know one another. This was especially true in my case, where a formal visit from Canada was out of the question. With Biene having done her best to have her parents prepared for my letter and in view of the fact that she would be of age to determine her own destiny, I did not spend one minute worrying about a negative reply. Besides, after passing my English proficiency test, I was riding on a wave of renewed optimism and was looking forward to boldly taking on the next major hurdle, two intensive semesters back to back with hardly a break in between. My ambitious goal was not just to get by with average marks, but to excel with a high enough grade point average to be eligible for government grants to acquire the necessary financial support for the following year.

The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Chapter XXXI

24

At the Crossroads

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”  Elbert Hubbard

Peter Quits his Job

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Calgary in the Mid 1960’s

In the middle of July I got an unexpected three-day break without pay. It rained so hard for the entire time that all outside construction was grinding to a halt. Restless and deeply worried I studied again the classifieds in search for a more meaningful job. There I stumbled upon an ad of a geophysical company, which was looking for young candidates whom they were willing to train with pay as seismic observers. I had not yet learned that just because there were positions to be filled and companies advertised them in the newspaper did not mean that one had already landed the job. My youthful enthusiasm for a great opportunity for carving out a happy and prosperous future for Biene and me made me ignore all the hurdles I needed to jump in order to get the job.  Nor did I heed the warnings of the somber prospects of separation, which inevitably would have come with the fieldwork in remote areas of the province. Having been apart for such a long time, this was the very thing Biene and I were trying to avoid. As always when I was all fired up and nothing in the world could dampen my zest for immediate action. I spoke with confidence and a fair level of fluency in English the day I contacted by phone the personnel manager of the company.  He appeared favourably inclined – so I thought in spite of my strong German accent – and promised me to mail right away the necessary forms and a pamphlet what seismic work was all about.

On the very same day I also visited the campus of the University of Calgary to enquire about their teachers’ training program. Here too I was impressed with the friendly and professional manner the lady at the registration booth received me. Little did I know then with my naïve trust in outward appearance that in contrast to the rough and tumble world of the construction industry these people at the institutes of higher learning were trained to be kind, helpful and polite! It was part of their job. Smug about my progress I had made in a single day I rode the bus home to my brother’s place. High in spirit, already projecting myself far into the future and seeing us in our cute little bungalow à la Biene’s vision I sat down to write her a very long passionate letter that evening, essentially pulling us out of the deep trough we had just gone through with the loss of the engagement ring.

At the beginning of the following week the blazing midsummer sun returned full blast and was burning mercilessly from a cloudless sky. Mr. Milne phoned to tell me that he would start on a new building project in the town of Vulcan, where he had taken on a lucrative contract to build a movie theatre. Knowing me as a good and reliable worker, he had assigned me to a special work crew. I found the prospect of working long hours and of making more money quite alluring at first. At five in the morning I climbed on the back of the same old truck, which had taken me to my first job site in early June. There my Yugoslav coworkers and I huddled together for the ninety-minute ride to Vulcan, halfway between Calgary and Lethbridge. The first few days turned out to be quite tolerable in spite of the heat and the long hours. The walls were still low and the heavy concrete blocks were within easy reach of the masons. Best of all the cool of the early morning air lingered on for a good part of the day. It actually felt fairly pleasant to work under such conditions, especially when a breeze brought relief from the heat in the afternoon. Yet, I was totally exhausted after fourteen hours, out of which I was only paid for eleven, because they deducted the traveling time from my pay. I did not complain, the pay was good. I even had recently received a raise, which brought my weekly take-home pay to a hundred dollars. But in the second week the steadily rising walls were beginning to cut off any air circulation and the sun was relentlessly beaming down onto the building site. The masons working high up in the cool breeze were clamouring for the concrete blocks and were shouting at me to hurry up. Down in the searing furnace I struggled to keep up with the demand. With heat being reflected off the walls, the temperature was inexorably rising. I began to drink huge quantities of water and drenched my shirt in a desperate attempt to cool off the overheated body through sweating and evaporation. During such brief breaks, which I had granted myself to recuperate a little, I suddenly realized that the combined worst hardships I endured at the German army during basic training were by comparison to this hell like a pleasant Sunday school picnic. I felt like a slave in the service of Vulcan, the god of fire, after whom the town had been named.

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Star Trek Enterprise Replica in the Town of Vulcan – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

While I was standing there for a short moment leaning against a huge pile of blocks, my boss caught me, as he called it, in the act of loafing and severely reamed me out. It was there and then that I decided to work only till the next payday and to start looking for another job. Unlike my fellow workers from Yugoslavia I was not a slave of this construction outfit and had the freedom to quit.

Working on a Wheat Farm

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Harry Mueller and his Family in front of the Farm House

On the weekend Harry Mueller, a wheat farmer from the Hussar region and a good friend of my brothers Adolf and Gerry, dropped in for a short visit. When he learned that I just quit my job, he invited me to help out on his farm, where he would have plenty of work for me. He promised that in return for doing some basic chores he would pay me well in addition to free room and board. I would become part of his extended family that included his permanent farm helper and a young boy on a visit from California, whose company he assured me I would enjoy. I gladly accepted the offer, which after my ordeal as a labourer appeared to me like a godsend. Apart from the welcome change in scenery I felt it would be good to be away from Calgary for a while, where day in and day out I was sitting on pins and needles in tense expectation for some positive sign either from the university or the geophysical company.

I was the third of the Klopp brothers, who worked on the Harry Mueller farm. Adolf, who immigrated to Canada in 1953, had stayed the longest and had become quite attached to Harry and his family. He liked working on the farm. Life in a close-knit family after the turmoil during the postwar years in Germany must have been very appealing to him. Here he found everything he had been missing at home: stability, security, meaningful work, companionship with Harry, Eileen, Harry’s wife, and his mother Mrs. Mueller, whom I remembered well from her visit to us in Wesel in the late 1950’s. Adolf thrived in an environment, where he could see the fruit of his labours, see the results of a day’s work, and relax in the evening having a beer or two and shoot the breeze. He was not the type who would worry about events that may or may not disturb his life in the distant future. He lived very much in the present. His brother Gerry and later also Karl would do the worrying for him and urged him not to remain an unskilled labourer forever. Gerry after his arrival in Canada also spent some time at the farm, but just long enough, until he landed a job as a toolmaker at a bottle manufacturing plant in Medicine Hat. His ambitious nature would never allow him to stay at a dead-end job.

From the very outset it was clear that my time on the farm would be limited to two weeks. It became a respite from the harsh realities of hauling bricks and mortar. Indeed working for Harry felt like taking a holiday. Looking back I can safely say that quite apart from earning money I received much more than I was able to give. I learned to drive a tractor, operated a hydraulic lift arm, and was able to do in one day what the construction crew would not have accomplished in a week. There was a fence that had outlived its usefulness, which Harry wanted me to remove one fence post at a time. He showed me how to use the manual gearshift of the tractor, how to lower and raise the hydraulic lift, how to wrap a chain around the post, and how to attach the chain to the lift arm. Then he hopped on the tractor and gave a brief demonstration of the entire process. Being the owner of a full section of fertile land all planted in wheat, he had more important things to do than pulling out old fence posts. He left me with the encouraging remark, “I see you at lunch, Peter. Good Luck!”

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Peter Pulling Fence Posts on the Harry Mueller  Farm

I stood there for a while contemplating the incredible amount of trust he had placed upon my ability to live up to his expectations. I was determined not to disappoint him. At first I took ten long minutes to pull out just one post. But soon I got the hang of it and yanked three out of the ground within the same time period. When Eileen rang the lunch bell, more than twenty posts were lying along the narrow dirt road leading up to the farmhouse.

Great Blunder and a Gentle Rebuke

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Half way through the afternoon I noticed that the tractor was running low on fuel. Harry had gone to town to get some supplies. So I took matters into my own hands and drove the tractor to one of the nearest fuel tanks. They stood high above the ground on sturdy metal legs, letting gravity do the work. After I was done filling up, I restarted the tractor and headed back to the nearest fence post. While I was driving, I detected an acrid smell in the air that I had not noticed before. Heavy black smoke belched out of the vertical exhaust pipe. The engine began to stutter and threatened to stall. Panic stricken I immediately turned off the ignition. At that very moment Harry had returned from town and parked his truck right beside me. From a mile away he had seen the ominous smoky telltale that there was something seriously wrong with his tractor.

“What did you do?” he asked.

“The tractor was low on fuel, so I decided to gas up,” I replied.

“Which storage tank did you use?”

I was getting a bit alarmed by Harry’s questions. Sensing that I might have done something wrong, I answered rather timidly, ”From the one nearest to us.”

“Well, Peter,” he began calmly explaining without the slightest trace of anger in his voice, “this is a gas driven tractor. You just refilled it with diesel. You did well in turning off the engine. You could have damaged it, you know.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon draining the tractor tank and refuelling it with gasoline. On startup dark sooty smoke was still spreading its foul stench into the air, but after a few more minutes the oil had been cleared from the internal parts. The engine was chugging along again at its regular smooth rhythm. How grateful I was to Harry for letting me carry on the next morning in spite of my blunder at the fuelling station!

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Peter Pulling out Fence Posts the Easy Way

At the end of the week I had pulled out all the posts, had loaded them on a utility trailer and had hauled them away. I was beaming with pride, when Harry entrusted me with a much more challenging task I was supposed to start on the following Monday. With the removal of the old posts I thought I had merely cleared away an eyesore, which would in fact be very low on a wheat farmer’s priority list. Rather I had created some more space for the expansion of the existing wheat field. Harry had already ploughed that part and said that my job would be to drag the harrow over it to break up the clods and remove the weeds. For that he added he would let me use the brand new John Deer tractor. It goes without saying I was absolutely delighted about my latest assignment.

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The Immense Wheat Field behind the John Deer Tractor

Anyone who ever stood in front of a wheat field so large that one could not see where it ended would understand my fascination about the mysterious way the wind was playing with each individual stalk to create the illusion of waves swirling over the giant expanse in front of me. Unlike an ocean wave, where the water molecules bob up and down and actually never move forward except at the surf near the beach, a wheat wave consists of myriads of stalks swaying in the wind following in faithful synchrony its force and direction. This is especially spectacular to watch when the direction of the wind suddenly shifts, at times creating the strangest patterns of circular motion. They appear to dance around as one unit  until they suddenly dissolve and unite again in perfect harmony with the action on the entire field.

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A Memorable Fishing Trip

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Near the end of the week Harry, Gary, his permanent farm hand, Chris, the young boy from California and I were relaxing in the living room sipping cool beer straight from the bottle. Harry suggested that it was time for a break and that we should all go together to a remote lake in the Rocky Mountains, where he knew a good fishing spot. That was indeed good news, for I longed to be back in the mountains and fishing would be another skill I could acquire while enjoying nature at its best. The time before the harvest was relatively easy for the wheat farmers on the Prairie Provinces. They often took their vacation in July or August to rest up for the hard work that lay ahead, when they had to bring in the crops. For harvesting, timing was everything. If you harvested too soon and the grain had not matured properly, the wheat board would downgrade the quality. If on the other hand you waited too long and let the rain and sometimes even early snow dampen the grain, you would again not get top dollars for your harvest. Harry had $20,000 worth of high quality wheat growing all around his farmhouse, the equivalent of ten times the amount in today’s buying power.

Trailer

Bright and early on Saturday morning we were heading out to the Rocky Mountains. Harry had hitched to the truck his travel trailer, which comfortably slept the four of us. After a three-hour drive, he turned off from the main highway. Somewhere up a steep forestry road Harry knew a good fishing lake surrounded by snow capped mountains. Very few people dared to venture out so far into the wilderness. As it turned out, we would have the rustic campsite right at the edge of the lake all to ourselves. There was nothing to set up. Harry unhitched the trailer and blocked the wheels, while we helped by unloading the two boats off the truck and dragged them into the water. After a quick lunch consisting of bologna and cheese sandwiches, we were eager to try our luck in fishing.

Harry and Chris

 

Harry took Chris, his young guest from California along and directed his boat across the lake to a promising spot, where he had been fishing in previous years. Gary and I decided to make a circle tour hugging the rugged shoreline in the hope to reel in a good-sized trout or two. My interest in fishing was at best lukewarm. In my mind I saw me actually catch a fish, kill it somehow, and wondered how I would clean and make it ready for supper. Suppressing these disturbing images I focused on the beauty of the mountains all around us, the crystal clear water reflecting the majestic scenery in the still mountain air, and the bright blue of a cloudless sky competing with the dark green curtain of the impenetrable forest. The eyes of the scout in me were searching for suitable sites, where one day Biene and I could set up our little tent, here perhaps a bay with a sandy beach, there a small rocky island with a single spruce tree for protection and shade. A tug on my fishing rod pulled me out of my daydream.

 

Gary

“Peter, I think you’ve got a fish on your line,” Gary said and stopped the outboard engine. Then giving me clear and simple instructions he guided me step by step in the fine art of landing a fish into the net. It was a medium sized trout. Gary grabbed it and through its gills he threaded a piece of nylon line, which was tied to the boat. Then he threw it back alive into the water where it would stay fresh and would not spoil on deck in the hot afternoon sun. This practical approach to fishing seemed cruel to me. Why not kill it immediately, I wondered. But my interest in fishing got a little boost with my first catch ever. After Gary had restarted the engine, I cast my line with greater enthusiasm. Soon after I felt again a tug and pulled in another trout. Before we had finished our circle tour, I had altogether caught three trout and Gary always too busy with the outboard motor nabbed only one. When Harry and Chris returned from across the lake, we counted six beautiful trout weighing a little under a pound each. Chris. barely able to hide his envy, commented, “Beginner’s luck!” So it was. The greenhorn from Germany had provided half the amount of meat for supper tonight.

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Fortunately, I did not have to kill and clean the fish. Harry and Gary took care of the messy job. They also looked after the cooking. I volunteered to make a fire. While I gathered rocks to build a safe enclosure, Chris helped me pick up dry twigs and branches from the forest floor, which he chopped up into small pieces with a hatchet. Soon we were ready to start the fire. I placed some birch bark in the middle of the fire pit. Then I built around it a cone of thin twigs with thicker, longer ones on top. I held a burning match close to the birch bark and said, “A good scout knows how to start a fire with only one match, even when it rains.” Almost instantly the flame fed by the oily substance in the bark spread quickly through the twigs. The crackling sound and the flames shooting higher and higher indicated to all that the one-match experiment had been successful. Chris and I brought out four lawn chairs and kept feeding the fire with bigger branches to make it ready for cooking. By now Gary had wrapped the trout in aluminum foil and suggested to let the fire burn down a bit so that the meat could be baked on the ember. Harry came out of the trailer with a large frying pan filled with cut-up baby potatoes. In no time at all a tantalizing aroma spread around the campfire and made our mouths water. A cynic would have quoted the old adage, ‘Hunger is the best sauce.’ Indeed, we were ravenously hungry. But in the great outdoors, where likeminded people gather around the campfire, a simple meal with just a few ingredients, such as freshly caught trout baked in butter, baby potatoes fried in vegetable oil, ketchup for extra flavour, and a cool beer that was in fact all we needed for total and complete satisfaction.

Pyramids from a Socialist Point of View

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Egyptian Pyramids – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

After sunset the air quickly cooled off. We threw more wood on the dying ember and moved our chairs closer to the fire pit. It provided the only light, as twilight gradually changed to complete darkness on this moonless night. Our teenage companion, who was first to break the contemplative silence in our group, astounded us with his patriotic, boastful chatter about California being in his opinion the greatest, the most beautiful, the most attractive, the most this and the most that place in the world. Harry impressed me with the calm manner, with which he countered the preposterous display of chauvinism, when he simply stated, “It takes a lifetime of traveling to many countries before one can decide which is the most beautiful place on earth.” Then in a conciliatory tone he added, “But there is one thing we can all agree on.  This place here without comparing it to any other place is truly beautiful. I for my part wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

After a few more beers our conversation shifted towards more philosophical topics, such as the eternal grandeur of creation in contrast to the ephemeral nature of the man-built structures, even of the most enduring 5000-year old pyramids of ancient Egypt. When I ventured to express my admiration for the wonderful buildings that the ancient civilizations had created as lasting monuments to their cultural achievements, Gary responded rather disdainfully, “I don’t care two hoots about all these amazing structures in the world, because they have been built on the backs of millions of slaves, who had to sacrifice their lives in pain and agony so that one person, a pharaoh, a king or an emperor would be remembered as great and glorious in the annals of history.”

Gary’s unexpected outburst, tinged with socialist undercurrents, reminded me a little of my brother Adolf and his strongly worded attacks against the exploitation of the working class. But I had to admit that Gary had a point, which didn’t fail to leave a lasting impression on my way of thinking. Not quite firm in the pronunciation of English words I meekly said, “Nature is the best ‘arshitect’. So let us all admire its creation.”

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Harry Mueller in his Cozy Trailer

The fire had completely died down. The Big Dipper had moved a considerable distance during the last couple of hours on the starry northern hemisphere. It was time to go to sleep in Harry’s cozy trailer. I was in a very happy mood having plucked a delicate mountain flower, which I intended to send to Biene as a little memento of our weekend fishing adventure. Dreaming about owning a small trailer and traveling with it to a place like this with Biene, I drifted off to sleep being blissfully content with the world around me.

U of C in the mid 60s

University of Calgary in the Mid 60’s

On the way home to the farm Harry dropped me off at Gerry’s place. It was very disappointing not to have any letters waiting for me, neither from the Employment Office nor from the University of Calgary. I was very anxious to find out whether or not my high school diploma had received full recognition for the entrance requirements. So I checked in at the registrar’s office. To my greatest relief, the secretarial staff had done their homework and reported that come September I would be eligible to begin my studies as a student in the Faculty of Education. Now the time had come to decide in earnest which program to choose. To make sure that I would succeed in my first two semesters not just with passing grades, but rather with superior marks in most subject areas, I embarked on a most unusual program. I selected German as my major and Mathematics as my minor. After a brief interview with the head of the Modern Language Department it was decided on the basis of my German background to advance me to the senior courses at the 300 level and above. In math I would take the mandatory calculus courses, which at least for the first semester would be simply a review of the material already covered at my final high school year. This arrangement with the core subjects, I thought, would enable me to concentrate my energy on the other subjects, such as English literature, philosophy, psychology and school administration, all of which required fluency in the English language. Having accomplished all this in the course of a single morning visit, I returned home full of confidence and wrote Biene a letter feeling on the top of the world again.

Peter’s Daring Request and a Chinese Love Poem

Calgary-Pallister-Hotel-1960s-1024x597

Calgary Pallister Hotel in the 1960’s

Still dwelling on my romantic sentiments fuelled by my recent fishing trip into the Canadian Rockies and riding now on a wave of euphoria brought on by my apparent success at the registrar’s office of the University, I sat down to finally write the letter to Biene, which she had been yearning to receive for such a long time.

August 2nd 1965 Calgary

My dear Biene, …And now I come to the most important part of my letter. Next April my first year will be over, and I will do everything in my power to pass all my exams. Then I will be at the halfway mark of my teachers’ training program, and the most difficult period of my studies will be behind me. However, a very busy summer will be waiting for me, because I will have to earn enough money to pay for tuition and living expenses for the second year. Since the direction, which I have chosen for my profession, will have been secured, I think that it will now make sense for you to come to me so that we two can take on the challenges of the last year together. That way we both will have worked our way up, and it will give us later the feeling of having reached our goal together. But above all remains the fact that I love you, and it seems to me now that two years of waiting will be unthinkable and unbearable. This summer has brought me so many wonderful experiences that I am hurting just to think that you could not share them with me. After your reply I will find out what to do next. I love you. Your Peter

214

The House on the Fyffe Road

Four days later I received the devastating news from another department of the university administration that they had reviewed my high school certificate and determined that I would have to take a written English proficiency exam on September 10th.  Only if I passed that test would I be admitted as student in the Faculty of Education. I was deeply worried, since I had only a month to prepare myself for this decisive moment in my life. Every day I wrote for practice a paragraph, sometimes even an entire essay on the topics I had gleaned from my brother’s old high school English text. I was afraid that if the standards were nearly as high as they were for essay writing in German at my high school, I would most certainly fail. I was clearly standing at the crossroads. The thought repeatedly crossed my mind to return to Germany and enrol at the University in Erlangen near Nuremberg, Bavaria, for the beginning of the fall and winter semester. Proud as I was, I rejected what was to me like an open admission of surrender of all the plans that Biene and I had made for our future in Canada. Going back to Germany would entail six long years of postsecondary education and an equally long waiting period, before I would reach financial independence. By comparison even one year’s delay here in Canada seemed preferable to me. So I boldly stuck my neck out and asked Biene to come as early as the following spring regardless of the outcome of the test on September 10th. In case I did not succeed in passing it, I would take night classes in English 30 and work during the day to earn more money for my studies in the following year. No matter what was going to happen, I thought, I would be teaching within three years. Biene and I would be navigating through the uncharted sea of an unknown future with the unshakeable trust of reaching eventually the island of a secure and happy life. The dreamer in me was temporarily getting the upper hand. Perhaps it is a good thing to lose oneself in one’s dreams every once in a while. As it turned out, there was no need to ask, to beg, or to entice Biene to come. Her reply was swift and passionately written.

X325

Brothers Adolf (on the right) and Gerry, his Wife Martha and Son Wayne

August 7th Velbert

My dear Peter, How auspicious your letter already looked from the outside! When I opened it full of expectation and the color photos and the little mountain flower fell into my lap,  I already felt that it would contain only good news. And really, from one line to the next I felt warm and happy all over. But when I came to the ‘most important part’, I lost all my composure. My heart leapt for joy and in my excitement I had to read twice before I could comprehend that you meant next spring.

O Peter, you don’t know, how much in the last little while my heart was sinking! I could not and did not want to tell you, because uncertainty lay heavily on your shoulders. You know, Peter, my thoughts about you and our future did not offer any calm. How often did I lie awake at night searching desperately for a solution! And always at the end I came to the same conclusion that if you stayed in Canada, I should come to you as quickly as possible. I wanted to write you this only when a decision had been made. Dear Peter, can you now feel what your question means to me? It feels like being liberated. To me it is as if you read my most secret thoughts, and I always have to think of the lines in the Chinese poem, which a poet had written to his wife over a thousand years ago.

‘I have read your silky characters

and distinctly saw the letters cry.

Hundreds of rivers and mountains block your path.

Yet in thought and desire we are one.’

…Over and over again, since you were gone, I had to think, how much better it would be to bear right from the start all our initial hardships together. When we are so far apart for such a long time, even the beautiful things we experience make us feel sad, because we cannot share them with each other. Isn’t that so?

See, dear Peter, I lived through some bad times after our flight as refugees from East Germany, and so I know that one doesn’t have to be unhappy in times of need. One just has to have confidence. Imagine, like you I thought of renting a room at the beginning. How more easily will we be able to work and learn, when the constant yearning is no longer eating away at our hearts!

Dear Peter, the main thing now for you to do is to write my parents and tell them what your thoughts are on all this so they can put their trust into our plans. When they notice that we thought this through maturely and prudently, they will find it easier to let me go …”

X336

My Brother Adolf 1965

I was delighted, no, more accurately put, I was absolutely ecstatic about Biene’s affirmative response. We two were one heart and one soul with the same sweet wish to join forces to embark on life’s journey as one. However, I was realistic enough to realize that writing her parents at this time would do nothing to convince them of a stable, happy and secure life for their daughter in the light of the current uncertainty over my academic endeavours.

Albert Schweitzer – Seminar #13

7

AS01

Die Geschichte vom Hühnerstall und vom Arzthelfer Joseph

Die siebzig Kisten standen am Ufer des Flusses. Da bekamen sie plötzlich viele schwarze Beine und wanderten den Hügel hinauf zum Holzhaus des Doktors und seiner Frau. Als der Doktor genauer hinsah, bemerkte er viele schwarze Jungen und Mädchen mit kurzen, krausen Haaren, die die Kisten hoch trugen und dabei lachten und schwatzten. Als alle Kisten im Doktorhaus untergebracht waren, stand nur noch das Klavier am Fluss. Das war aber zu schwer für die Kinder. Da mussten starke Männer kommen und das Instrument ins Haus tragen. Albert Schweitzer spielte nämlich abends nach der Arbeit immer auf dem Klavier Musikstücke von Johann Sebastian Bach oder schöne Choräle.

Schon als Albert und Helene die Kisten auspackten, kamen die ersten Kranken zu ihnen. Die meisten fuhren in Einbaumbooten auf dem Ogowefluss zur Station. Es hatte sich nämlich durch Buschtrommeln herumgesprochen, dass ein weißer Oganga in Lambarene ist. Ein Oganga ist ein Zauberer, der Menschen krank und wieder gesund machen kann. Aber Albert sagte ihnen, dass er kein Zauberer sei und auch niemanden krank machen will und kann.

Das sei nur böser Aberglaube. Aber die Kranken kamen nicht allein, sondern mit ihren Familien. Für die Behandlung mussten sie bezahlen. Weil die meisten kein Geld hatten, bezahlten sie mit Hühnern, Bananen oder Bambusstäben. Das alles brauchte der Doktor zur Ernährung und Unter­bringung der Menschen. Es gab nämlich noch gar kein Krankenhaus. Albert und Helene mussten im Freien operieren. Das war sehr mühsam, denn die Sonne schien heiß vom Himmel und wenn es regnete, mussten sie die Operation unterbrechen. Abends waren beide immer todmüde.

Doch bald kam Hilfe. Der Missionar zeigte ihnen einen kleinen Hühnerstall. Den konnten sie als „Operationssaal“ nutzen. Natürlich musste der Stall zuvor gründlich gesäubert werden. Aber nun mussten Albert und Helene nicht mehr in der heißen Sonne stehen und waren auch vor dem Regen geschützt. Der kleine Hühnerstall war der Anfang ihres Hospitals. Eine zweite Hilfe war der Joseph. Er war früher Koch gewesen und konnte acht Stammessprachen sprechen, außerdem französisch und englisch. So konnte er immer alles übersetzen, was der Doktor zu den Kranken sagte. Nur schreiben und lesen konnte Joseph nicht, denn er war nie in eine Schule gegangen. Der Doktor musste den Kranken ganz wichtige Hinweise geben: „Ihr dürft nicht in der Nähe des Krankenhauses hinspucken!“ Oder: „Ihr müsst eure Medizin so einnehmen, wie ich es euch sage!“ Zuerst haben sie nämlich oft alle Tabletten oder die verordneten Tropfen auf einmal geschluckt. Das war gefährlich und das darf man nicht. Weil Joseph früher Koch war, benutzte er auch Ausdrücke wie Fleischer. So sagte er zum Beispiel: „Der Mann hat Schmerzen am Kotelett.“ Oder: „Dieser Frau tut das Filet weh!“. Manche Kranke nahmen überhaupt keine Medizin ein. Sie glaubten, der Doktor würde sie durch Zauber heilen. Aber auch das ist schlimmer Aberglaube. Das alles mussten ihnen Albert und Helene geduldig erklären.

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