Chapter X of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part III

Creative Use of Margarine Cards and Early Insights into Marital Spats

When Mother had a day off, we were able to do things together. What I liked the most was to go with her on hikes through the wooded hill country surrounding the town. At the end of a two- or three-hour leisurely walk along the highways that were not plagued too much by traffic, we always found a cozy roadside inn, where we dropped in for some refreshment and relaxation. Mother would order a cup of coffee for herself and for me a glass of mineral water or some homemade apple juice. On one occasion the innkeeper, who was running a small farm on the side, was too busy to stay with us being the only guests. So Mother and I spent the afternoon alone in the guest room and watched a movie on the small b/w TV screen. This was the very first time that I watched TV. I was thrilled getting acquainted with the new media that was just beginning to conquer the German entertainment market. The film most likely boring by today’s standards caught my immediate interest with its simple but captivating story about an immigrant from Europe who was on death row in an US state prison. He asked for and was granted permission to write letters to his aging mother in the Old Country. Within two weeks he wrote more than a hundred post-dated letters describing his imaginary tale about his proud achievements leading him from rags to riches in the New World. After his execution a prison guard with a heart sent off a letter every few months to his mother. A sad, but compelling story I remember vividly to this day.

Rudersberg - Photo Credit:

Rudersberg – Photo Credit:

On the few rainy days, when we could not go on our beloved hikes, we stayed in Mother’s room and played her particular variation to the German card game ‘Six-and-Sixty’ with a double-deck of cards, which allowed us to unite in ‘marriage’ lots of queens and kings. Each marriage resulted in twenty more points than the marriage before. On these occasions Mother inspired by a glass of local wine or a satisfying victory in the card game would talk about her life in Pomerania, both sad and humorous stories. At times she would back to her childhood years in Grünewald. Proudly she told me that what she enjoyed the most. She liked horsing around and roughhousing with her brothers, which, although not becoming for a girl, was very much respected by her older brothers. Curiously she did not talk much about Father, nor did I ask any questions about him. I lived in the present; the future and the past did not yet have any meaning for me.

Back in Brünen, where the excellent food from the Wefelnberg country kitchen did miracles to the still slightly undernourished pre-teenage body of mine. In no time I gained enough weight so that I suddenly appeared quite chubby, perhaps even a little stout. There are no photos of the time, but I remember distinctly that I easily won wrestling matches with boys of my age by simply pinning them to the ground on account of my sheer weight.

Sanella Album of Africa - Photo Credit:

Sanella Album of Africa – Photo Credit:

Butter was still expensive in the mid-fifties. Many households therefore were using margarine made of vegetable oil as an alternative to butter. One of the major margarine manufacturers added picture cards in the size of a standard 4 by 6 in. photo to their packaging and encouraged customers through their advertising to collect them and eventually paste them into booklets available from the company for a small fee. These booklets contained text and additional drawings, maps and illustrations for the cards and when completed represented a veritable treasure trove in the geography of Germany and other countries. I eagerly collected these cards. Frau Welfelnberg made sure that I would get them, when she opened another margarine package. Since there were many doubles, I traded them like stamps with many like-minded friends in the neighborhood. Since I had no money to order the corresponding booklets, I sorted them by themes of my own creation and glued them together to make a roll of forty to fifty pictures. Out of a sturdy cardboard box I fashioned a miniature stage. I cut out a rectangle roughly the size of one picture, inserted a round wooden peg on the right side of the box to serve as a pick-up spool for the roll of colorful images that would slip through the rectangular viewing area one picture at a time.

Now it was time to invite all my friends together with their younger brothers and sisters for the show that would take place in the natural theater of the backyard. The children sat on the lawn, while I presented the pictures very close to them on a small table taken out of the house for the performance. I invented the accompanying story and presented it extemporaneously in the form of a travelogue. The slide presentation became an instant success. The spectators not yet spoiled by children’s TV shows wanted to see more episodes. To help me they gathered as many picture cards they could scrounge up at home. What a creative way on the part of the Sanella margarine company to get people to buy their product!

One evening, while I lay on my bed that was wedged between the walls of my tiny bedroom, I overheard a conversation between the young miller and his wife, whose names I have completely forgotten. I witnessed a most peculiar spat between husband and wife behind the wall that separated their bedroom from mine.

Wife: How do like my new dress?

Husband: It looks beautiful on you.

Wife: Don’t you think it is VERY beautiful?

Husband: It is beautiful, indeed.

Wife: Now, now, you must admit that it is VERY beautiful.

Husband: There is nothing to admit here. It is my honest opinion that the dress is beautiful.

Wife: But you must see that my dress, the dress I bought with my own money, is VERY beautiful.

Husband: Whether you or I paid for it has nothing to do with its beauty. That’s illogical, my dear!

Wife: Leave me alone with your logic. Don’t you want me to look VERY beautiful?

Husband: Indeed, indeed! I want to …

Wife: So then, why don’t you say that the dress looks VERY beautiful on me?

Husband: Because there is a difference between beautiful and very beautiful.

Wife: So what you’re saying is that I look less than very beautiful. Why don’t you come right out and say I look VERY ugly in my new dress.

The conversation went on for a long time and became more and more animated and vociferous, but suddenly and rather abruptly ended with the wife sobbing quite miserably and with the husband deciding that it would be wiser to add no more fuel to the heated argument. It was time for the couple to make peace. A few minutes later the not so quiet springs of the marital mattress announced that love had overcome their verbal sparring. I had often pondered about the meaning of this curious episode.

Chapter X of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part I

Problems with Latin and Yearnings of a Miller’s Maid


One cannot answer for his courage when he has never been in danger.
Francois de La Rochefoucauld


Mother had taken a new position in a senior citizens’ home in Rudersberg near Stuttgart. Aunt Mieze (Aunt Marie), her eldest sister, found a teaching position in Brünen near Wesel in the province of North Rhine Westphalia. In the mid-fifties the rebuilding of the 98% bombed-out Wesel was in full swing. Aunt Mieze had applied for an apartment and for a transfer to the Wesel Elementary School. About the same time she must have invited Mother to run the household in exchange for free lodging for her and me, the youngest son. This arrangement would become reality, as soon as the apartment already under construction would be available. How Father on a long-term basis would fit into these plans, I have never been able to figure out. While Mother was still working for another year in Rudersberg, I was going to live with my aunt at the farm-like residence across from the historical Wefelnberg mill that had lost its wings, but with the aid of electric motors was still turning grain into flour until the early seventies.

Staatliches Gymnasium Wesel

Staatliches Gymnasium Wesel

From here I took the bus to attend the high school for boys in Wesel. In those days smoking was still permitted on public transport. I often felt sick from breathing in the lingering smoke of cigarettes and cigars. Things did not go very well at school either. I had started with French as the first foreign language. Here at the ancient language school, Latin was taught first and carried on for nine long years. Although I had received some private tutoring in Latin, it became abundantly clear after my first report card with an F in Latin that I had to repeat the grade. In order to survive in a school, whose claim to fame was being the toughest in the region, there was no other option.

Historic Wefelnberg Mill now used for Kindergarten School

Historic Wefelnberg Mill now used for Kindergarten Classes

At the opening assembly Dr. Marx, the principal, announced that out of the hundred students there would only be one-quarter left at graduation nine years later. There was no doubt in our minds that the process of weeding out the feeble and incompetent would be ruthless and merciless. My high school years were going to be fraught with stress and anxiety. At least at the miller’s home in Brünen I had a good life. Aunt Mieze was strict, but fair. When she felt the needed to teach me a lesson, I deserved the punishment. When she gave me on rare and exceptional occasions a spanking, it was intended to correct unacceptable behavior. Love and care for her nephew were her main motivation, not anger and rage as I had experienced at the Stoll house.

Post Card of Brünen near Wesel

Post Card of Brünen near Wesel

There were at least seven people in the Wefelnberg household: Aunt Mieze and I, robust widow Wefelnberg in her early sixties, her daughter, who had remarried, after she had lost her first husband in the war, a 10 year old daughter from her first marriage, and Leni, the maid. The couple had their bedroom next to mine. The new husband and experienced miller had taken over the duties of running the mill. With so many widows eager to remarry and competing for the few men that survived the war, it seemed that the young man had made a good choice. My tiny room of less than six square meters, even judged by the standards of the cramped living conditions in postwar Germany, would hardly qualify as a bedroom. It used to be a storage facility located under the slanting roof and was now skimpily furnished with a cot, a chair and a small desk on which I could do my homework. The door on the left of the wooden staircase was in the shape of a square just large enough for me to crawl through. On the upper floor to the right were Aunt Mieze’s office, living room and bedroom all combined in an area not larger than twenty-five square meters. At the far end on the right was Leni’s bedroom. She was responsible to assist Mrs. Wefelnberg with general household duties and was happy like most unmarried young women to have employment for free room and board and a little bit of extra pocket-money.

Protestant Church in the Village of Brünen - Photo Credit: See caption above.

Protestant Church in the Village of Brünen – Photo Credit: See caption above.

          Aunt Mieze’s room in spite of its shortcomings was a very cozy place and created with a comfortable sofa, coffee table, desk and books on the shelves a pleasant ambiance that my Spartan attic room could not match. Here I sat often in the evening hours, when my aunt, a very conscientious teacher, had gone back to school to prepare her lessons for the next day. Leni, who had taken a liking to me, often, especially when nobody was around, dropped in to chat or to play a game of checkers with me. The latter I liked very much. Although being at least ten years younger I was able to beat her by managing to convert my pieces into kings more quickly than she did. For someone who was at the time in school emotionally wrapped-up in a fierce struggle of survival, the survival of the fittest, our principal would say, these small victories and the praises Leni lavished on my battered ego were indeed balm for my soul.

          One day after being defeated again and providing heart-warming accolades for my strategic prowess, Leni unexpectedly slid over to my end of the sofa. What followed would have been a perfect scene for a comedy hour. The miller’s maid generously endowed by Mother Nature burning with desire of which I did not have the slightest inkling sat uncomfortably close to me, the twelve-year-old boy, and almost in a whisper asked me to kiss her. As for me having been raised in a family, where physical closeness, such as kissing, embracing and hugging, was rarely experienced, where aloofness and demureness were the norm rather than the exception, I was shocked at the maid’s incomprehensible request. For five marks as a prize I once ate an earthworm sandwiched between two slices of bread. But to touch those lips longing to be kissed, for my lips to make actual contact with her mouth was a most horrifying thought to me. When I refused, she pleaded with me, this time more urgently with a considerably louder voice, “Please do me this small favor. Please, please I want you to kiss me …” Suddenly the door burst open. At the door stood the miller’s wife and ordered Leni in a stern, authoritative tone to get into her room and never ever be seen again in Frau Kegler’s room. Whether she had been eavesdropping or even spying on us through the keyhole, I do not know. But to this day I am grateful to her for rescuing me from one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.