Children in general are flexible and adaptable in dealing with the pain of separation and divorce their parents create, as long as they can live in a sheltered and loving environment with their remaining parent. So although I was initially missing my dad, I did not find it too disturbing that I was going through a major part of my teenage years without him. Now more than fifty years after my parents’ divorce, looking back, I find it outrageous that it took more than five years to see my father again.
How Father met his second wife is shrouded in darkness. I could have asked him on my first visit about the circumstances under which the two met and came to know each other. And later on, when my father had passed away, his wife would have gladly given me a lot of information about it if I had only cared enough at the time to ask her. I was simply not interested. I had more important things to do than to dig into my father’s past. Having missed quite a few opportunities to find out an important part of my father’s life, I can only conjecture that he may have known Erna Krämer from the ‘golden’ years in Gutfelde, where so many people flocked during the war to seek refuge from the never ending bombing raids of the German cities.
Finally, as a twenty-year old young man during the summer holidays in 1962, I hopped on my used Miele moped and drove from Wesel to Michelbach, which is now part of the municipality of Schotten. At a maximum speed of 50 km/h, it took me all day to reach the scenic hill country around the Vogelsberg region. Father and Erna gave me a warm welcome alleviating immediately all fear that my dad 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.
On Valentine’s Day, my wife and I ventured out into the cold again. As we put on very thick gloves to prevent frostbites, we found it very difficult to handle those tiny buttons on our digital cameras. So we bared our hands to shoot some more pictures of the impressive ice formation. In return for our numb fingers, we were rewarded with a few more photos with interesting ice formations. Over a cup of coffee and a delicious apple torte, we always preview, compare and critique each other’s photos. Rain and milder weather are in the forecast. So this could be easily the last instalment of winter photos. Enjoy.
Winter has finally arrived. Extreme cold has gripped the Arrow Lakes region with temperatures hovering around the minus 15 C mark. Luckily, the cold weather was still tolerable, as the sun was casting its brilliance over the winter landscape. My wife and I all bundled up walked along the lakeshore at the Fauquier boat dock. The freezing temperatures had worked hard to cover driftwood, boulders and boat launch with a thick layer of ice. Then I discovered icicles in all kinds of forms and shapes which I captured with my camera. The following is just a small sample of Nature’s artwork. Enjoy.
The only child left in 1954 with his parents Ernst und Erika Klopp was the 12-year old Peter. With no family workers left on the farm that produced little more than a few eggs from the henhouse and milk from a goat or two, my father’s health being on rapid decline, there remained scant hope for a successful farming operation and inevitably Father’s dream came to a sudden end. All the Ernst Klopp children eventually emigrated and settled in Western Canada.
Four years after the lease agreement with retired farmer Ös came into effect, my father gave up and burdened with a heavy debt load became officially unemployed. He moved into a tiny house at the bottom of the hill where he was often bed-ridden suffering from intense backaches for long stretches of time. In the meantime, my mother found employment as a housekeeper and cook at the Hohenzollern Castle at Sigmaringen. In the meantime, carpenter master Stoll and his wife in Meßkirch took care of little Peter in the role of foster parents, while he was attending the local high school.
So after what had begun with a miraculous escape from death and destruction in their home province Pomerania and a promise of fetching a few morsels of the former happiness, the glue that once held the family together loosened and showed definite signs of disintegration.
Last week before the weather changed our natural playground into a deep freeze, my wife and I went for another hike along the shoreline of the Lower Arrow Lake. As always we took our cameras along. I also had my camcorder in my pocket. I placed it on a tripod and pointed it to the near-by mountains where the morning fog was just lifting. The 15-minute video was later reduced in time-lapse fashion to less than two minutes making the fog lifting look more dramatic. Enjoy.
Then suddenly in the summer of 1950 an opportunity presented itself to Ernst Klopp. An elderly farmer by the short name of Ös decided to retire and leased his farm house and a few parcels of land not more than 6 ha in size to my father on credit. By comparison to the 3,000 ha Ernst had administered in Gutfelde, the total of arable land available for farming was minuscule. The house was adequate and a vast improvement over the upstairs dwelling of the ‘poor house’. It came with a large barn with a hay loft, a sufficient quantity of farm implements, a fair-sized kitchen, the ubiquitous manure pile in front of the kitchen window and an outhouse. The only luxury item that I recall was the large tile stove (Kachelofen in German) providing warmth and a cozy ambience for the entire dwelling. Many of my sweet childhood memories are going back to the Ös farm, as we often irreverently called it.
So here my father Ernst Klopp tried with little prospect of success to pick up his life-long dream again to running a farm under his very own management. Having no capital to spend on much needed supplies, he heavily depended on loans, which created a heavy financial burden. He must have counted on the help from my older siblings for turning the farming operation into a successful venture.
Soon after his high school graduation Karl left home to study economics at the university of Braunschweig. Adolf, my second eldest brother, barely 18 years old found work at the Bizerba Factory in Meßkirch. Since that time in the early 1950s the Bizerba Company GMBH has developed into a world leader in weighing technologies for industry and trade. Adolf had to contribute most of the money he earned in order to keep this fledgling farming operation financially afloat. Three years later, Adolf was getting tired to support what in his opinion was a hopeless enterprise. Together with another refugee son by the name of Waldemar Klein he immigrated to Canada. Soon thereafter, my sister Erika also left home to take up nurses’ training in the City of Hamburg. In 1954, Gerhard managed to get an apprenticeship placement in a prestigious institute of technology in Switzerland.