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

Rowboat Adventure and a Visit to the Reeperbahn

Summer Holidays 1958

In the following summer Mother allowed me to return to Möltenort with my friend Rainer Schüler, a classmate in the modern language branch of our high school. I was thrilled by the degree of individual independence and trust that Mother had placed on me. She had reserved the same cottage we had rented the previous year. Breakfast was included and offered so much food to sustain us till early afternoon. We followed the German custom of eating our main meal at noon in the local resort restaurant. Rainer and I lived frugally to save money for purchases in Hamburg, where we were going to drop in later at Auntie Ella’s place. We bought two eating passes for our two-week stay at the Baltic Sea. When we dined together, we discovered that we were getting less meat, vegetables, dessert than if we had eaten separately. Therefore, we decided to eat our meals individually about thirty minutes apart. For the same cost we enjoyed larger portions and we both were very proud about our clever plan to get more for less.

Modern Laboe - Photo Credit:

Modern Laboe – Photo Credit:

In the afternoons we spent many happy hours at the beach, where we soon became acquainted with an easygoing doctor, his wife and their five or six children. They had come all the way from Bad Kissingen for their vacation at the Baltic Sea. The Baudachs had rented a Strandkorb. And Rainer and I helped them build a large wall around it. It did not take very long to feel like being part of the family sharing their good company at the beach and as an extra bonus the snacks and refreshments of which there seemed to be an endless supply in the wicker basket. I no longer remember what Christine, the eldest 15-year-old daughter, looked like, but Rainer and I spent a lot of time with her. After our swim we would sit down on our towels and tell her about our ambitious plan to ride our bikes all the way to Southern Germany making a circle tour with Lake Constance being the farthest point away from home. Christine found it very exciting to listen to us, as we were dreaming aloud about our adventures the following summer. She must have talked to her dad about these plans, because Dr. Baudach surprised us with an invitation to drop in and use their home as a stopover on our bicycle tour. We gladly exchanged addresses and promised to write as soon as we had finalized the details of our trip.

The lady who was running the bed and breakfast business had an old decrepit rowboat that had definitely seen better days. The paint was peeling off, the ancient registration number, no longer valid, was barely visible, and as we found out later the vessel had a small leak and was hardly seaworthy. One day we asked the lady if we could drag it down to the seashore and take it for a little excursion. ‘As long as we hug the coastline within swimming distance’, was her somewhat vague reply. While we were rowing, we noticed that water was indeed penetrating through a hairline crack and collected in small puddles in the bottom of the boat. Staying close to the shore we proudly glided by the populated beach area heading south toward the Laboe Memorial Monument. Then Rainer, who acted as the temporary pilot at the stern, spotted a red buoy bobbing up and down in the waves about half a kilometer out at sea. Ignoring the cottage lady’s warning we immediately turned the boat into that direction thinking it would be an excellent place to tie up our vessel and go diving and swimming with the buoy serving as a diving board. Now it was Rainer’s turn to work at the oars. When we reached the buoy, we had trouble at first securing the boat with a rope as the wind was beginning to make the sea choppy. But eventually we succeeded, and with no danger of losing the rowboat we jumped onto the buoy. What an exhilarating feeling! We felt as if we had just crossed the sea and discovered our very own dream island. We had fun jumping off the buoy and swimming around it. Suddenly we detected a speedboat racing towards us. As it was looming larger, we recognized that a marine patrol boat was coming our way. The officer must have spotted us in his binoculars and apparently decided to give us a stern lesson on marine safety rules. When he saw that we were just foolish, young boys, he softened his approach and explained to us that a buoy is an important warning marker for ships and not a toy or some sort of water playground equipment. Then he let us go with a warning not to come back and with the request to tell the owner that the boat had no proper identification and therefore should not be used at sea. When we landed safely but somehow with dampened spirits, the lady, who had witnessed the entire scene from her cottage, was very angry with us and let us know in no uncertain terms that her boat would from now on be off-limits.

On our way home we stopped in at Auntie Ella’s in Hamburg. This was now the third year in a row that she had welcomed me into her home. Looking back I am amazed at her most generous hospitality and at myself taking her kindness for granted. On the first day of our arrival I noticed that her radio in the living room was not working. Upon hearing that I had some knowledge in electronics she gave me permission to remove the back cover of the radio and have a good look inside, where a bewildering array of tubes, transformers and coils would have frightened the uninitiated. I searched for the obvious prime cause of the breakdown. Hidden behind the main transformer was the pair of metal clamps that held the fuse in place. Sure enough it had blown and needed replacing. To get the radio working, I wrapped a tiny sheet of aluminum foil around it. Voilà, the radio came back to life. This was the first time that I applied my knowledge of basic electronic circuits in a useful fashion. Puffed up with infinite pride I announced my success to Auntie Ella, who instantly burst the bubble of my joyful but over-inflated ego by saying, “Yes, I know. The fuse had been blown. Thank you, Peter!”

Reperbahn in the 1950's - PhotoCredit:

Reperbahn in the 1950’s – PhotoCredit:

The Reeperbahn is the most famous street in Hamburg. To the tourist it offers bars, restaurants, shops, theaters and clubs, along with sex museums, erotic theaters and strip clubs. The district is the second most popular attraction of Hamburg after the harbor. In the 1960’s the Beatles wooed the German audiences in Hamburg and started their career in various music clubs along the street “Große Freiheit” (literally “Great Freedom”). At the corner of the Reeperbahn and Davidstraße is the most famous police station in Germany. The Davidstraße provides highly visible police protection and makes the area one of the safest ones in Hamburg. The name “Reeperbahn” comes from the old German word “reep” meaning heavy rope. In the 18th century heavy hempen ropes were produced here for sailing ships in the Hamburg harbor. The Reeperbahn does not come to life before the evening hours. So it was entirely safe and proper for us sixteen-year olds to visit this illustrious and somewhat notorious street during daytime hours. Under a heavy cloud cover the area appeared rather drab in the afternoon drizzle. With only a few tourists walking up and down the sidewalk, the street almost looked deserted. So it was not surprising that the employees of the various entertainment centers that were actually open at this time tried all the harder to get customers to come in to take in whatever titillating things there were to see. One of the attendants of such a steamy establishment boldly approached us and surreptitiously suggested that if we were eighteen years old we would be allowed in for free. Rainer and I just shook our heads as a sign of our refusal. We were neither eighteen nor had the desire to get a glimpse of whatever was lurking behind the garish-looking entrance. Besides we found out later that free meant one had to order a beer for twenty marks. No, we were driven by a totally different desire, the desire to spend our surplus money that we had saved up during the past two weeks. I had fifty marks in my pocket, and to my greatest delight I discovered a shop that specialized in radios and other small electronic gadgets. Before the summer holidays I had just ‘improved’ my latest receiver to the point of irreversible damage. Thus I was happy to see a radio within my anticipated price range in the display window. It was love on first sight. Even though guided by the bait-and-switch tactic the merchant did not succeed in convincing me to buy another ‘better’ model. I remained adamant. It was either the one in the display window or no purchase at all. Rainer did not find anything suitable to buy. So we strolled back to the bus station, passing by all those attractions for the pleasure-seeking night owls. With this excursion our vacation trip had come to a remarkable conclusion. Rainer had extra money in his pockets and I another radio in my possession.

Chapter XII of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part II

Baltic Sea 1957

This year marked the very first time that Mother and Aunt Mieze went on a longer vacation since the end of the war. Finances were tight and did not allow anything fancy for food and accommodation. It was decided to go to Möltenort, a small fishing village near Kiel at the Baltic Sea.

Our Hostess, Peter and Mother at the Baltic Sea

Our Hostess, Peter and Mother at the Baltic Sea

There we enjoyed a pleasant 3-week stay at a humble cottage at the north end of the village. We were blessed with mostly sunny weather that allowed us to spend the daytime hours at the sandy beach. When young and old had been frolicking enough in the shallow waters of the sea, we would withdraw to our roofed wicker beach chair (Strandkorb in German) that Aunt Mieze had rented for a small weekly fee. Apart from offering protection from the cold breeze, they were comfortable and large enough for people to change into dry clothes, sunbathe, read a book, or simply relax. The Germans are very possessive when it comes to claiming a place in the sun. If the less well-to-do tourists couldn’t afford the expense of these mini-cabins, they simply spread a towel on any free spot on the beach. And that was for the rest of the day their very own place that no one else was allowed to touch. But a true German Strandkorb is not complete and does not lend that sense of privacy and security unless you surround it with a wall of sand. Then you truly have that ‘my-home-is-my-castle’ feeling. I soon became friends with a young girl from Berlin whose parents had their Strandkorb next to ours. After swimming and playing around in the gentle waves of the Baltic Sea, we helped each other build the castle walls for our parents. We even thought of making out of wet sand the city crest of Berlin, the emblem of the bear, at the entrance of her castle. Upon Mother’s suggestion we decorated ours with the mystical griffin, the official coat of arms for Pomerania.

U-Boat 995 and Marine Memorial Tower - Photo Credit:

U-Boat 995 and Marine Memorial Tower – Photo Credit:

At the south end of the beach stood in a stark silhouette against the sky the Laboe Naval Memorial. The 72-meter monument originally memorialized the WW1 dead of the Imperial Marine, but now stands for all sailors in the world who died for their services at sea. The monument today consists of an observation deck on top of the tower, a hall of remembrance and a veritable tourist attraction, the German submarine U-995, the only submarine of this class that had survived WW2. I remember how on gray days not suitable for spending time at the beach I approached the awe-inspiring tower pointing its tall front to the sea that had swallowed up many a sailor both in peace and war times. The area around the monument was nearly deserted. Attached to the inside wall was a giant open staircase zigzagging to the observation platform. Leaving Mother behind who suffered even more than I from acrophobia, I climbed up the stairs first very boldly. Then I slowed down and anxiously clung to the railing with its large gaps, which opened up an intimidating view down to the concrete floor below. Near the top I had to stop frequently and close my eyes to fight the oncoming vertigo. But I could not admit to Mother that I was afraid, so in small frightening installments I climbed to the top and was rewarded with the most memorable view of the sea and proudly waved to Mother below as if I had just conquered Mt. Everest.

Mother and Tante Ella

Mother and Tante Ella

On the way home, Mother and I stopped by at Auntie Ella’s place. She received me very kindly, as if I had never caused her any grief with those horrendous telephone bills the year before. After a brief visit to the Hamburg harbor and shipyards, we traveled back to Wesel having enjoyed a most relaxing and very happy vacation.


Chapter XII of the P. and G. Klopp – Part I

Summer Vacations

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. Albert Camus

Hamburg 1956

Among our family acquaintances and friends I had a few aunts to whom I was not related. Out of convenience and lack of a better word I called them so. One was Auntie Pippi, who had known me from the time in Gutfelde (Zlotniki). She had lost her first husband in January 1945 and had married Ernst Grohmann, a well-to-do master of the chimney sweeper guild in Hamburg. From her first marriage she had a son whose name was Thomas about my age. Since Mother and Auntie Pippi were very good friends, they decided that I should travel to Hamburg and spend my summer holidays with Thomas. Auntie Ella, another of Mother’s close friends, agreed to provide bed and breakfast for me in a nearby district of the city.

City of Hamburg - Photo Credit:

City of Hamburg – Photo Credit:

Thomas and I had a great time together. We played outdoor games in the yard, climbed trees, or played chess when it was raining. But what I regretfully remember most are the utterly foolish and thoughtless things we did in the name of having fun. Relatively mild in retrospect were our chess games we conducted over the phone. Using the European method, we identified each move by a combination of letters and numbers. Moving the king pawn two squares from its original position would be e2 – e4. What we did not realize in our enthusiasm for the royal game was that a local call at that time was charged by the minute. As all chess players know a good game lasts at least one hour. After a dozen games that we played during my stay in Hamburg the telephone bills must have been quite a shock for poor Auntie Ella.


Playing Chess with a Friend a Few Years Later

Getting bored with spending the afternoon hours on trees and itching to do something more exciting, we decided to build traps for imaginary wild animals in the neighborhood. We dug 30 cm deep holes, covered them carefully with twigs and dead branches and camouflaged them with clumps of grass to blend in nicely with the lawn. Just as we were digging another hole at the far end of the yard, Auntie Pippi stepped out from the backdoor and walked across the lawn to bring us some refreshment. She was a heavy lady weighing at least three hundred pounds. Not that she was overindulging in calorie rich food; on the contrary she was literally starving herself to keep herself from gaining more weight. She was suffering from a severe case of malfunctioning thyroid glands. In horror we saw her walking straight to the first trap. Why we did not call to warn her is hard to understand. Perhaps we were stunned, perhaps we hoped that she would miss the trap and we would not be scolded for digging unsightly holes. But she stepped right onto the camouflaged twigs and plunged her right foot deep into the hole. With a loud terrifying shriek she dropped the tray and managed to land on both hands cushioning the impact of her massive body on the ground. She could have easily broken her ankle. Great was her anger over our stupidity and thoughtlessness. For punishment we had to restore the lawn to its original state of perfection, which we gladly did.

Typical Autobahn Bridge - Photo Credit

Typical Autobahn Bridge – Photo Credit:

One day we went to a pedestrian overpass to watch cars and trucks traveling north and south on one of Germany’s busiest freeways. It is one thing to throw flat stones onto the surface of a lake to make them skip, but it is unquestionably a most reckless prank to lob small pebbles onto the cargo areas of passing trucks from an overpass. In our adolescent fervor to seek excitement at all cost we were blind to the grave danger of causing damage, injury or even death to the drivers below. We had not dropped too many pebbles, most of which had luckily fallen onto the pavement, when one landed with a loud clang onto the top of a truck’s cabin. Before we had time to rejoice over the successful throw, the truck pulled over to the emergency lane and came to a complete stop. The driver emerged from his vehicle and seeing us young punks at the railing immediately started racing up the hill that separated the overpass from the highway. In our attempt to escape the angry truck driver, we broke all athletic school records in the one-kilometer run for our age group. Even though we managed to escape, I often felt guilty and even more so considering what could have happened if the truck driver had not taken any action and had not stopped our dangerous game. To this day I am being reminded of this event and cringe when I hear reports in the news of similar mindless behavior on our city bridges and overpasses.