The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

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Albert Schweitzer Seminar #1

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AS01

1. Seminar

Ich stelle mich euch vor

Mein Name ist Hartmut Kegler. Ich wurde im Jahr 1931 in Stettin geboren. Als ich sechs Jahre alt war, kam ich in die Schule. Damals schrieb man noch in einer anderen Schrift mit einem Griffel auf Schiefertafeln. An dieser Tafel hing ein kleiner Schwamm und ein Lappen, mit dem man die Schrift wieder auslöschen konnte. Später lernten wir dieselbe Schrift wie ihr und wir schrieben auch in richtige Hefte.

Als kleiner Junge fuhr ich gerne mit einem Roller, spielte viel im Sandkasten oder mit anderen Kindern Kasperletheater. Später habe ich auch Soldat gespielt, bis ich merkte, dass das kein gutes Spiel ist.

Als ich neun Jahre alt war, begann der Zweite Weltkrieg. Schon im ersten Kriegsjahr ist mein Vater gefallen. Nun war meine Mutter mit uns drei Kindern allein. Gegen Kriegsende wurden die Schulen geschlossen, weil in Schlesien die Ostfront immer näher kam. Als wir schon den Kanonendonner hörten, packte meine Mutter jedem von uns einen kleinen Rucksack mit ein paar wichtigen Dingen und ging mit uns auf die Flucht. Fast wären wir in die Bombennacht in Dresden geraten und alle umgekommen. Da erkannte ich. wie grausam der Krieg ist. Unsere Flucht endete in der Mark Brandenburg. In einem kleinen Dorf bewohnten wir in einer alten Mühle ein Zimmerchen. Es gab wenig zu essen und wir hatten alle Hunger. Um etwas zu essen zu haben, sammelten wir Getreideähren vom Acker auf und haben Kartoffeln geklaut. In Notzeiten verschwindet die Moral.

Mit vierzehn Jahren ging ich zum Bauern und lernte dort Kühe zu melken. Schweine zu füttern, mit Ochsen das Feld zu pflügen und mit einem Traktor, einem „Bulldog“, das Getreide zu mähen. Mein Arbeitstag begann früh um fünf Uhr und endete abends um sechs. Die Arbeit war zwar schwer, aber sie bereitete auch Freude. Es war schön, abends auf ein Feld zu sehen, das man selbst umgepflügt oder besät oder abgeerntet hat. Vor allem habe ich in der Landwirtschaft viel gelernt und Achtung vor schwerer und oft schmutziger Arbeit gewonnen.

Als ich neunzehn Jahre alt war, begann ich an einer Fachschule und auf der Universität Landwirtschaft zu studieren. Es gab viele Fächer über das Wachsen der Pflanzen, die Pflege von Tieren, die Eigenschaften der Dünger und wie man auf einem Bauernhof rechnen muss.

Nachdem ich mein Studium beendet hatte, holte mich ein Professor in sein Institut nach Aschersleben. Es war das frühere Institut für Phytopathologie, das sich mit den Krankheiten der Pflanzen beschäftigte. So wurde ich so eine Art von Pflanzenarzt. In diesem Institut habe ich dann 36 Jahre lang gearbeitet. Wir halfen den Bauern, dass auf ihren Feldern gesunde Pflanzen wuchsen, sie viele Früchte ernten konnten und alle Menschen genug zu essen hatten.

Ich habe eine liebe Frau (gestorben 2017), die viele Jahre in Aschersleben Lehrerin gewesen ist. Wir beide haben einen tüchtigen Sohn, der Städtebauer und Landschafts­gestalter ist.

Nun bin ich Rentner und möchte euch von einem Menschen erzählen, der mein großes Vorbild geworden ist. Er heißt Albert Schweitzer und wurde als „Urwalddoktor’ in der ganzen Welt berühmt. Er war ein guter Mensch und ein wahrer Christ. Als er bereits Pfarrer und Universitätsprofessor war, gab er alles auf und ging nach Afrika, um dort kranken Negern zu helfen. Auch hat er viel für den Frieden in der Welt getan.

Albert Schweitzer sagte einmal, wer eine glückliche Kindheit gehabt hat, darf das nicht als selbstverständlich hinnehmen, sondern soll dafür dankbar sein und an anderen Menschen Gutes tun. Darüber wollen wir nachdenken und miteinander sprechen.

The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Chapter XVIII

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On my Moped to Father in Michelbach

It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.

Anne Sexton

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My Father in front of Erna’s House in Michelbach near Schotten

It had been more than five years, since I had seen Father. He had left one day looking for work at friends and relatives. Considering his poor health and age, he was faced with the dilemma of having to return to Wesel, where he would be dependent on Aunt Mieze’s financial support or else be content with the odd casual work, which barely supported his livelihood. Furthermore considering his intensive pride as a former successful agricultural administrator and the pain he must have suffered from the dismal failure of his farming venture in Southern Germany, I can understand his anguish and feelings of having become utterly worthless in his own eyes and in the eyes of his family. Pride and failure have never been good bedfellows in a man’s heart, and Father was no exception. As for me, I missed his presence a lot, but I was too timid to ask as to when he would come back and did not know what was going on behind the scenes. Much later I found out that with Uncle Günther’s support Mother had initiated divorce proceedings. On the basis of the law that required common residence and conjugal relations Mother was able to get a divorce in exchange for waiving any rights to financial support from Father. So to make this sad and depressing story short, Father after the divorce joined and not long afterwards married Erna Krämer, an old acquaintance from the Warthegau days, who lived in her rustic and cozy home in the village of Michelbach at the foot of Mount Vogelsberg north of Frankfurt.

Schotten_Uebersicht_Kirche

Picturesque Schotten – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

The last summer holidays before graduation were only a few weeks away. It was also to be the last year Mother and Aunt Mieze would reside in Wesel. Uncle Günther and Aunt Lucie had invited them to live with them in Watzenborn-Steinberg (now Pohlheim), where all four would share the rent of a brand-new house that had been built by a teacher as a retirement home in the distant future. Naturally there was a lot of joyful excitement among the three Kegler siblings having been raised together at the parsonage in Grünewald and now having the chance of living once more under one roof. There was just one problem. How would I fit into the grand plan of bringing the family members together? A transfer to a high school in another province with different graduation requirements was out of the question. The solution was an obvious one. I had to stay behind and continue my studies later on in the fall, while they would move to the land of the Hessians. The decision to finish my secondary education in Wesel proved to become one of the great milestones and turning points of my life.

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Twenty-year Old Peter

But for now at the beginning of the six-week break from school I had other things on my mind. I had to think of visiting Father. One of my old scout buddies sold me his moped for DM 50.00, a true bargain at the equivalent of ten monthly allowances. It had a peppy engine and in spite of being quite old was in excellent shape. The best part was that I did not need a driver’s license. Having always envied Klaus for his scooter, I now had my very own motorized transportation with which I could travel to Michelbach to see Father and his new wife Erna.

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Philosophical Discussions with my Father

At a maximum speed of 50 km/h it took me all day to reach the scenic hill country around Mount Vogelsberg. Father and Erna gave me a warm welcome alleviating immediately all fear that Father might have turned into a stranger. I had departed from Wesel with these somber feelings, which had been building up due in part to our long separation, but also due to Mother’s bitter and regretful remarks that she had sometimes made about the divorce. So it was a great relief to be greeted so cordially and be welcomed as son and friend into their cozy old farmhouse. Here then I was going to spend the next six weeks, would become reacquainted with a rural environment slightly reminiscent of Rohrdorf, would get to know Father more closely through our philosophical and historical discussions, would begin to like his wife, would be introduced to her friends and relatives in the village, would taste her hearty meals albeit a little too rich in fat, in short I was here to relax and feel completely at home in an atmosphere of genuine friendliness and camaraderie.

Joy at my Father’s Home

Right from the beginning of my visit Erna and I got along very well. Her cheerful and lively disposition did not allow me to lose myself in gloomy moods, as I was occasionally prone to do, especially during prolonged periods of idleness and aimlessness. I could even see, even though I was reluctant to admit it, that Erna was the right person for Father. She was the sunshine that had brought lightness and contentment to his sunset years. From her radiated a contagious joyous spirit that created the in-peace-with-the-world atmosphere so conducive to Father’s healing process from a torturous past, from which he only now began to recover. I definitely do not remember him as a man broken in body and spirit, as my distant cousin Eberhard Klopp described him in his book of the Klopp Family History.

Schotten - Photo Credit: vogelsbergtourist.de

Town of Schotten – Photo Credit: vogelsbergtourist.de

Erna also had a moped of the same make and the same 49 cc class as mine, on which she would travel down the steep hill into the town of Schotten to buy the few things she needed for the small household in Michelbach. When there is company, one always seems to find the time to show off the beauty surrounding one’s home turf. Without visitors one tends to delay and leave such outings for another day. Erna was no exception. Now she was eager to travel with me to the nearby-forested hills, up the scenic Nature Park around Mount Vogelsberg, down winding country roads into the lush verdant valleys neatly tucked in between minor mountain ranges. There was no better form of transportation than our two mopeds. With a lunch pack clamped to the rear luggage rack we were ready to dart off into the wonderful Hessian landscape. Father a little overweight for these light machines gladly stayed behind looking after a few chores still to be done on this mini-farm with just a few goats to feed and milk,. Just as we were revving up the engines, Father came to the road to congenially shout over the noise, “Have a good trip!” At the end of my vacations thanks to our weekly excursions into the hill country, I had acquired a solid geographical knowledge of the region. As I was internally preparing myself to leave the Rhineland for good after my graduation, I had already created a new base to drop in as son and stepson, a place I could truly call home.

Landscape of Vogelsberg Hill Country - Photo Credit: vogelsbergtourist.de

Landscape of Vogelsberg Hill Country – Photo Credit: vogelsbergtourist.de

In the long summer evenings after supper we three would sit in the living room leisurely sipping homemade apple cider. We would talk until it was time to go to bed. More accurately speaking it was Erna, who did most of the talking. She truly had the gift of the gab. With the unerring memory for minutest details spiced up with colourful expressions and peppered with the melodious dialect of her village she was the born storyteller. I will never forget how she described the chaotic scene of the German Reichstag of the roaring twenties. She and her friends were sitting in the same living room forty years earlier and acted out the ugly political debates they had heard over the radio. And they did this with such exuberance, with so much mock yelling and screaming that the poor cats terrified by the brouhaha created by the inflammatory speeches sought refuge under the sofa and added to the parliamentary cacophony with much hissing and growling.

Incredible Rock Formations near the Top - Photo Credit: myheimat.de

Amazing Rock Formations near the Top – Photo Credit: myheimat.de

Is it Love?

Within the scope of the family history I would go too far if I included Erna’s side of the family except the ones that I came into contact with. There was the Langlitz family, Walter, Frieda (Friedchen) and their two daughters Helga and Anita. Walter had become a successful contractor who ran a prosperous business with his impressive array of trucks,

Church of Michelbach now part of Schotten - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Church of Michelbach now part of Schotten – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

caterpillars, backhoes and other heavy machinery that he had acquired to assist in the government sponsored land reform program. In contrast to the northern provinces of Germany, where the eldest son inherits the farm, inheritance laws in the south required equal division of the fields among all the children of the deceased farmer. Thus, over time emerged a chaotic patchwork of tiny fields often less than one ha in size, which made farming more and more inefficient and unproductive. So Walter profited from the reallocation of land by owning the right equipment at the right time. The two daughters, Helga and Anita, age 12 and age 10, whose exact degree of relationship to Erna I do not recall, often showed up to play board games, such as chess and checkers with the newcomer in Father’s home.

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Peter Basking in the Sun – Summer 1962

Erna was also anxious to have me meet her 16 year-old niece Roswitha, who lived a few houses down the street with her widowed mother. Even though I did not recognize it at the beginning, it was clearly a matchmaking effort supported by Father. In collusion with her sister-in-law, Erna invited her niece over for coffee and cake to make sure we would see each other as often as possible. Roswitha in terms of the standards I had set for what a girl should look like fell well within the range of acceptability. However, inner qualities, such as interests in activities that one could do together, readiness to share and exchange thoughts and feelings, to support them and if necessary even to oppose them, such qualities, which began to gain more and more in importance for me, were severely lacking. In a way my encounter with her helped me set the bar a few notches higher, which further limited the number of choices for my future mate. I vaguely felt for the first time that only love could help jump the hurdle. But what is love? I could not tell, because I had not experienced it yet. So what Erna had hoped for, did not happen. We were friends, who did things together for a while. We walked down the steep hill down to the town and district swimming pool in Schotten and on Saturday evenings we went dancing in the nearby villages. The music was not exactly rock ‘n’ roll, but we could dance to it, whenever a fast beat would permit. The performance of the band improved with each refill of the giant beer mugs during the frequent breaks. Thanks to the loud music there was no opportunity to talk, and there would not have been much to talk about. On our long walk home in the moonlight I explained to her how the stars would move like the sun following the rotation of the earth. For everything I said during my scientific dissertation she approvingly giggled. Only once did she protest to express her utter disbelief, when I insisted that the moon shining so brightly now onto the forests and meadows would also show its pale face during daytime.

My brother Adolf relaxing at the Schotten Swimming Pool

My brother Adolf relaxing at the Schotten Swimming Pool

With my first visit to see Father after such along gap inconceivable in the light of today’s custody laws that require visiting rights at regular intervals, I accomplished much more than just reconnecting with him. The ice had been broken. Other family members now were eager to come in a spirit of reconciliation that was shared even by Mother albeit somewhat reluctantly. Near the end of my holidays my brother Adolf dropped in for a visit. He had returned from Canada to Germany on a temporary basis to learn a trade in an apprenticeship program at the Honeywell Company at Hanau. There he eventually acquired a journeyman ticket as a trained machinist that would – so he was hoping – land him a good paying job upon his return to Canada. Adolf endowed with a witty sense of humor and an extroverted personality was the life of the party no matter where he went. In formal or informal gatherings, in suit or in jeans, with academics or with factory workers, he was the born entertainer who made people cheer up when they were depressed, got things rolling when they appeared to be stuck. Everybody liked him. He had many friends and few enemies. There was just one problem with this gregarious likeable brother of mine. He seemed to be shy, yes even afraid of unmarried women, who might take too much of a liking to him, pursue him with the full force of passion and lock him up in the golden cage called marriage. When we received an invitation to a social evening by Roswitha’s mother, Adolf felt safe, because his youngest brother was with him. On the surface it looked like we were the suitors, Roswitha being courted by two promising young men. In reality in a strange reversal of the customary roles it was the other way around. As we gathered in the living room, Frau K. served us wine, crackers and cheese, spent a few perfunctory minutes in conversation with us and discretely withdrew with a few cheerful words meaning that we now were on our own. I found the situation very odd and to some extent embarrassing, because I had expected her to stay. It was Adolf who saved the day or more accurately the evening with his social skills that helped to get the ball rolling. He asked Roswitha about school, hobbies, her likes and dislikes, the weather, and all the other trivia that he was so apt in using as a social lubricant. To her replies often accompanied by the aforementioned giggles he added humorous comments that made us laugh and feel at ease. Eventually even I emerged out of my taciturn shell and presented to everyone’s amusement a few jokes and riddles. Around eleven o’clock Adolf ironically remarked that it was time for us ‘boys’ to go home. We politely said good night and cheerfully departed to have another drink of a more potent kind at our Father’s place.

Happy End to a most Enjoyable Visit

Then my sister Erika dropped in for a brief visit. When she heard that I had been going out dancing with Roswitha, she mockingly and contemptuously commented on her in Father’s presence, “Ho! Ho! Peasant duffer! (Bauerntrampel in German)” By now I had become quite accustomed to the unpredictable outpourings of her sharp tongue. Her caustic and biting remarks at Mother’s place in Wesel had been edged forever into my memory. However, Father was livid. Having respected all his life the hard honest work of the farmers from whom we receive our daily bread, he was deeply insulted by that derogatory remark. He gave her a severe dressing-down for displaying unjustified disdain for such an honourable class of people. Never since my early childhood days, when he had read me the riot act for stealing eggs from Mother’s henhouse, had I seen Father so angry. If I did not know the meaning of holy wrath, I knew it now.

My brother Karl and his wife Ingrid with an aunt in front of Erna's house

Erna Klopp with her neighbor’s baby in her loving arms

Erna’s house was at least half a century old and the electrical wiring was outdated and no longer in compliance with the latest electrical code. It required that all circuits be properly grounded. It made me feel good that I was not just there to enjoy a relaxing summer visit but also had the opportunity to make myself useful. Father had bought the three-prong wire, and I installed it and connected it to the junction boxes, outlets and switches. When I showed reluctance to take the twenty marks Father wanted to give me as pay for my work, he lectured me somewhat like this, “Listen, Peter, if someone offers you money, not dishonest money mind you, but money earned for work you did, do not hesitate to accept it. For you not only cheat yourself out of the reward that is rightfully yours, but you also insult the generosity of the giver.” To such a powerful argument I had nothing to reply and took the twenty marks.

Together with Helga and Anita in Michelbach

Together with Helga and Anita in Michelbach

At times when Father’s back pains were hurting too much, he stayed in bed for most of the day. Adolf and I were sitting at his bedside to keep him company. Then Father and I would often talk about the great empires of the past and the lessons one might learn from the causes of their decline. I really warmed up to this topic as I had recently taken a keen interest in the history of the Roman Empire. We came to the conclusion that if one allows foreign religious and ethnic elements to penetrate the cultural core of the nation, it will sooner or later lose its identity, its values and strength and will eventually have to face first decline and then total collapse. Germany according to Father has not learned her lessons and was headed in the same direction. He pointed to the record player on the night table remarking, “The record is turning, the needle appears to be progressing even though it is running in circles, but in the end it will be starting all over again symbolizing the eternal recurrent of the same in world history.” Adolf feeling a little left out in this highfalutin talk said he would buy himself a couple of history books to study up on the things he had missed in school.

Reading and Relaxing - Summer of 1962

Reading and Relaxing – Summer of 1962

 

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

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1960A051Bill Laux

Bill Laux: Writer, Artist and Castle Builder

From the Obituary Column of the Arrow Lakes News

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

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

 

The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Chapter XVII

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Some Reflections on the So-called Coincidences of Life

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

Camping with Hans and Helmut
Hans Playing the Guitar and Helmut Sitting in frontofmy Tent

Hans playing the Guitar and Helmut sitting in front of my Tent

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

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Peter strumming a few tunes on Hans’ guitar

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

A Most Curious Camping Trip

How I Met Biene

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

Lake Baldeney - Photo Credit: dirkosada.de

Lake Baldeney – Photo Credit: dirkosada.de

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

Lake Baldeney near Essen - Photo Credit: mapio.net

Lake Baldeney near Essen – Photo Credit: mapio.net

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

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

Biene and her Dad

Biene and her Dad

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

Twin Brother Walter with one of his Model Airplanes

Twin Brother Walter with one of his Model Airplanes

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

Biene at the Mediterranean Sea

Biene at the Mediterranean Sea

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

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

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

12

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hartmut Kegler

Chapter 42 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part II

57
animals avian daylight ducks

Photo by Achilles Demircan on Pexels.com

Finally Together

In the meantime my brother Gerry (Gerhard) and I were getting ready to pick up Biene at the airport. The Chinook winds, which had brought spring-like weather to the city of Calgary less than a week ago, now yielded to the cold front chilling to the bones everyone who was foolish enough to venture outdoors. I was grateful to my brother and his wife Martha for providing accommodation for Biene until the time of the wedding. Biene seemed to have forgotten that this arrangement was part of the conditions we had to fulfill for getting her landed immigrant status. ‘Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis.’ Times are a-changing and liberally minded people may scratch their heads nowadays and ponder in mockery and disbelief over this old-fashioned provision by Canada Immigration of the 1960’s.

At the airport we found out to our great dismay that Biene’s plane was delayed by two hours. I admired Gerry’s patience for having to wait that long before he could drive back to his home in southeast Calgary. This being Wednesday he had to work the next day. And I had a psychology lecture to attend in the morning. Shortly after midnight we were standing at the gate, through which the first bunch of travellers  were passing and were being received with cheerful hellos from friends and relatives. As their number dwindled to a trickle and the flight attendants were marching through the gate, Gerry noticed the grave expression on my face and in his own peculiar way to cheer me up remarked matter-of-factly, “Don’t worry, Peter. Biene is not coming.”

He had barely finished teasing me, when a figure, rather slim and bundled up in a black coat emerged all alone in the doorway. The fluorescent light gave her a pale appearance. But her smile upon seeing me was unmistakably Biene’s. Weaving our way through the remaining stragglers we approached each other faster and faster like driven by powerful magnets feeling the overwhelming forces of attraction every step of the way. Then we embraced and kissed each other, while Gerry looked on amazed at the sheer length of time we took just to say hello.

So it came to pass that exactly one year after we had kissed each other good-bye in Germany, Biene and I were wondrously reunited at the Calgary Airport.

End of Book I

Note to my dear readers: I will be taking a break from the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story. I consider to write Book II on Biene’s side of the family, especially on her father, who unfortunately has been getting a lot of negative coverage in the final chapters of Book I. I  also would like to start a series of stories on the life and work of Albert Schweitzer written by my cousin Hartmut Kegler in German. It is a wonderful children’s seminar on this famous doctor and activist for peace. For my English speaking friends I suggest Google translate, if you are interested. I also want to do another series of posts on Bill Laux’s unpublished work on the mining and railroad history of Western Canada.  Of course, it goes without saying, I will also continue with the popular series ‘Wednesday’s Photos’. That will be enough on my blogging plate for the next couple of months.

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