Chapter 16 of the P. and G. Story Part II

Yoga and Electronic Tinkering

I will insert in some posts a fact sheet to show what made the news headlines during the same time period in Canada.
St. Willibrodi Cathedral in Wesel -Photo Credit: wikipedia.org
St. Willibrodi Cathedral in Wesel – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

In school I managed to stay within the shrinking number of senior high school students and even improved my grades, especially in physics, where I impressed my science teacher and fellow students with my electronics projects. I brought them for enrichment into the old-fashioned physics lab that was equipped with outdated apparatus. I once demonstrated the ability of capacitors to store electrical energy. Out of old radio parts I had assembled a rectifier that supplied the high voltage energy to charge several electrolytic capacitors wired in parallel. After the device had been unplugged for several minutes, I connected a light bulb to the terminals. To everyone’s amazement the bulb lit up brightly. More than once through similar experimental contributions my teacher entered an A+ in his grade book. These voltage charges were not without danger, especially if I had forgotten to discharge the capacitors or worse, if I had left the power on. Many a times I suffered a severe zap from 300 V DC, when I wasn’t careful enough working with live circuitry. At one incident I was stunned for several minutes by the current that had run through my body from one hand into the other.

My passion for this hobby was well-known to my classmates and the word got around very quickly  that I had built a transmitter for wireless Morse code transmissions. When tinkering with a small electrical motor IMG_8993run by a battery I discovered that the stream of sparks on the commutator in turn produced a continuous noise across the entire AM band on the radio. With a long antenna connected via a Morse key to the running motor the electromagnetic signal spread over a distance of several hundred meters. Soon orders were coming in from my excited classmates for the Klopp transmitter, which I was selling at a tidy profit one unit at a time. Of course, it must have been very annoying for the people in the immediate neighborhood having to listen to the dah-di-dah’s instead of the news or music from their favorite radio stations. Even though my nickname Ede accompanied me for the remainder of the high school years and even past graduation as long as I stayed in contact with my closest friends, they also dubbed me the electro-boy. I took the name as a compliment. My friends did not use it to ridicule me, but rather in admiration for the expertise in a field that was supposed to become my professional career.

Sportday at the Wesel Highschool - Peter Third from the Left
Sports day at the Wesel Highschool – Peter Third from the Left

In Physical Education, where I trailed near the bottom of the class, it was an entirely different story. Because of my extreme growth rate during my teenage years I never felt quite at home in my own body. The old Latin saying ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ had no meaning for me. The call for a sound mind in a healthy body applied only to the fortunate ones whose body and mind grew up together in perfect synchrony. As for me I suffered under the lack of physical skills in the gym and outdoors on track and field days. I was actually afraid of having anything to do with the balance beam, the horizontal bar, parallel bars, the pommel horse, the rings and the vault and often refused to participate in all but the most basic exercises.

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Mother and Aunt Marie(Tante Mieze) on a Walk in Wesel

One day I had bought a book on yoga. The exercises were described in a simple and concise language. They were illustrated by a number of photos that appealed to me. I could practice them in the privacy of my little room at home. Thus, I had a chance to have control in a slow and deliberate manner over my body. Little by little I acquired a skill level that made me proud and allowed me to compensate for my shortcomings in P.E. Soon I was doing a head stand away from the wall, assumed the lotus position for as long as I wanted, even wrapped my knee over the neck and did many other exercises, which with their emphasis on extreme flexibility and coordination of all body parts were bordering on acrobatics rather than on the meditative nature of yoga. When I presented some of the more spectacular exercises to my class during P.E., I had to learn to live with yet another nickname. Even the gym teacher was so impressed with the display of my new-found skills. They were so much different from the prescribed curriculum for the upper grades that he and my peers called me the yoga-man.

To be continued…

Chapter 16 of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part I

 

Summer Employment, School, and Ballroom Dancing

 

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Voltaire

 

Berlin Gate of Wesel - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org
Berlin Gate of Wesel – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

On a side street not too far from the post office and the Berlin Gate – not to be confused with the Brandenburg Gate of Germany’s capital – was a small electronics store. The owner was also a contractor who did most of the electrical wiring jobs for the apartment buildings, which were popping up like mushrooms in the early sixties. I was well known to the staff as I had often dropped in to ask for nonworking radios, which I would then cannibalize for parts. One day I felt especially courageous and asked if they had a job for me. To my great surprise the boss immediately hired me to work as an electrician’s helper on the various construction sites in Wesel. For the next week or so I had to punch holes into the concrete walls using hammer and chisel. For the first time in my life I began to see the connection between hard work and earning money. Being quite unaccustomed to this type of work at first, I often hit my hands and fingers leaving bluish and bloody reminders of my clumsiness at the end of the day. I worked under pressure, because the rectangular holes had to be ready for the certified electrician to wire the junction boxes. One day the foreman asked me to run over to the shop and ask the boss for construction holes, as they would be needed immediately. Very proud of having received such an important assignment, I ran as fast as I could to make the request for something that sounded quite mysterious to me. When the boss had received the message, he asked his employees with a twinkle in his eyes if they had seen any of those construction holes lying around.

          “I believe that some of those holes are on the top shelf over the counter”, the lady of the sales department answered. The boss reached for them and placed them into my outstretched hands. In total disbelief I stared into my empty palms. Then I realized that I had been fooled, when he said, “Here are half a dozen of these holes. Now rush back to the construction sites and make sure you don’t lose any.” With this remark the entire staff could no longer restrain themselves and burst out into good-natured laughter indicating their prank had worked  on the novice employee. For my part I was quite a bit annoyed that I had become the laughing stock, but took some consolation in the fact that every newcomer in this business had to undergo the same humiliating initiation.

Peter's Notebook on Electronics Theory
Peter’s Notebook on Electronics Theory

At the end of one of my shifts a young aggressive salesman, who had been standing outside the store, cornered me on my way home and bombarded me with an endless stream of words extolling the advantages of becoming a member of the Bertelsmann Book Club. It represented one of the largest publishing houses in Germany, the young man asserted. Eager to get home and totally unaware of the financial consequences, I signed on the dotted line of the contract. As long as we lived in Wesel Aunt Mieze (Marie Kegler) paid the quarterly membership fee. She assumed correctly that if I was going to do a lot more reading as a result of this commitment, it would help improve my language skills not only in the remaining school years, but would hopefully create an appreciation of good literature.

Membership Card for the Bertelsmann Book Club
Membership Card – Bertelsmann Book Club

In the meantime my boss had been informed by the safety board that it was illegal to have an electrician’s helper at my age working on a construction site. Apparently it had to do with laws governing safety and liability issues. However, he kept me in his employ at the store, even though there was absolutely nothing for me to do. For most of the day I hung around in the store, where pop music from the latest stereo equipment attracted a lot of potential customers, mostly women deeply touched by the sentimental love songs in vogue in those days. Occasionally I ran an errant for the people working in the repair and service department. During those days I discovered that working life is boring if one does not have anything meaningful to do.

Old Radio with Valuable Parts for Peter's Hobby - Photo Credit: antiqueradio.org
Old Radio with Valuable Parts for Peter’s Hobby – Photo Credit: antiqueradio.org

One day I saw a short piece of solder on the floor. No cow was attached to it like in Rainer’s birthday speech. I put it in my pocket thinking it might come in handy when working on my electronic projects at home. A few minutes later one of the technicians, who had watched me pick it up, reported the incident to the boss. It is quite possible that my employer was truly outraged over my pilfering or perhaps it provided the perfect pretext to let me go from a place where I had outlived my usefulness. Whatever it was that made him fire me, something good came out of it. It created a moral sensitivity in me with regard to theft. No matter how small, petty, insignificant an item seems to be, whether it is piece of solder or a pen belonging to an office, in the realm of absolutes there are no gray areas. Theft is theft.

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