On Monday, I invited my wife to look for huckleberries (wild blueberries) in a place at 900 m, where we used to find lots of these delicious berries in the past. Because of the wet and cold spring, we found only a few, barely covering the bottom of our pails. So our focus shifted to photographing the wildflowers that grew in great profusion. Daisies, Indian paintbrushes, tiger lilies, and many others dotted the unusually lush landscape for this time of the year. I captured my wife pointing the camera at some nearby paintbrushes.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was happy to have regular school again and looked forward to classes every day.
Two days after my mom had enrolled us at the Elementary School Am Baum (at The Tree), I woke up with a sore throat. I was prone to severe allergies, especially during the pollen season in the spring. My mother suggested I stay home, sending my brother off at the usual time. I did not want to miss school and pleaded with my mother to let me go until she relented.
I ran as fast as I could not be late, but classes had just started when I arrived. Out of breath, I reached the classroom door where my teacher received me. As I already indicated earlier, he seldom smiled and was very strict. He looked earnest this morning, “Why are you late?”. he asked in a stern voice; still out of breath, I stammered, “I wasn’t feeling well.”
“Don’t lie to me!” he shouted and, without warning, slapped me across the face.
Never before had I been physically punished by my parents or other adults. For a moment, I felt frozen in time. I was so stunned and shocked that I did not know what was happening. Eventually, like a sleepwalker, I made it to my desk and sat there dazed until dismissal time. I felt humiliated by this unjust punishment and very sad. Until then, I had idolized and adored teachers. In my mind, they embodied the highest human qualities like wisdom, knowledge, fairness, justice and kindness. This undeserved slap in my face shattered that illusion.
Only when I got home did I cry. It wasn’t the physical pain of the slap in my face that hurt but the emotional pain of undeserved punishment and the betrayal of trust by an abusive person in authority.
Most people did not own phones when I grew up, so my mother talked in person to the teacher the next day, but the damage was done.
Look what I have picked from our raised garden beds. The strawberries plants were shipped to BC from Prince Edward Island two years ago. Now they are at the peak of their production. A bowl a day provides a healthy collection of jam, cake topping, or just the pleasure of eating them
Located near Essen is the beautiful lake Baldeney, a dammed reservoir of the Ruhr River. It was the destination of one of our first family excursions on a sunny spring day. It would become our favourite recreation spot. Lake Baldeney has personal significance for me because it changed my life forever. But I won’t get ahead of myself.
My dad, who loved nature and, above all, water sports, was delighted to have this jewel of a lake in our vicinity. It would still take some effort to travel there by bus, but these outings were recreational highlights and brightened our otherwise drab existence in the Old House.
My dad and I walked approximately 16 km distance through forests and fields a few times. I felt very proud to keep up with my dad on these long hikes. My brother, who was not fond of swimming in cold water and hated exertion, seldom accompanied us.
My dad and I would often daydream about the future on those hikes. We envision a beautiful home built on a hill surrounded by forests and overlooking a big lake. Far, in the end, this dream would come true for me at the Arrow Lakes in Canada. On his last visit to Canada before his death, my father experienced the fulfilment of our vision for a short time with us.
The first time we walked barefoot at the shore of Lake Baldeney, we were puzzled that our feet were sooty black even after a swim in the clear water. At that time, the coal industry was still in total production, and there was heavy pollution around Essen. As seen in these pictures, blue skies were rare in my childhood, but I appreciated it when we had them.
On Sunday we had a brilliant, almost cloudless sky. So, half an hour before sunset, we quickly drove down to the Fauquier boat dock, hoping to find a few interesting objects to photograph in the setting sun. The Alberta wild rose was literally aflame in the late evening setting. A daisy in a dense carpet of like flowers also attracted my attention. The weeds in the remaining moments looked glorious. Enjoy.
Although the yard was neglected, it was an ideal play area for kids. We had plenty of safe space to engage in ball games, skip rope, play badminton, hopscotch, marbles, tag and even hide and seek in the bushes and behind the old trees. There were even grassy areas where we could put blankets to suntan, read or do gymnastics. We played outside in all kinds of weather until nighttime. The rooms in the Old House were too small for children to play in. Our parents struggled to cope under the primitive and restrictive conditions in the decrepit emergency shelter. However, we had lots of freedom, space and companionship with other kids. We were happy. Velbert is a big town in North-Rhine Westphalia. Its primary industry is small-scale steel production. It is renowned worldwide for the manufacturing of keys, locks and fittings. You can see all kinds of exciting locks and keys in the local museum. Velbert has a primarily small-based metal industry that evolved from backyard forges. Right beside the Old House was such a small forge. At suppertime, we would see tired, and grimy-looking workers emerge from the dark, windowless stone building to trudge home.
My mother had respect and pity for these hard workers looking emaciated and pale from working long hours in that hellish plant. North of Velbert is the city of Essen, where the largest steel manufacturing plant in Europe was located. My dad found employment in the dental laboratories of the 400-year-old Krupp dynasty of steel manufacturing.
Every morning my dad would leave by bus around 6:00 a.m. to go to work. It would take him about an hour to get to his workplace in Essen. He would return at 6:00 p.m., dead tired but happy to have employment with a prestigious and socially progressive company that treated its employees well. For my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary, a representative of the Krupp management visited my parents at the Old House and delivered some gifts and well wishes. My parents were touched and honoured by my dad’s employer’s caring and generous treatment.