Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch6 Part 11

Hard Work in the Golden West

Biene wrote this post.

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.

Peter took this photo near Velbert in 1968.

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.

Papa Panknin Working in a Dental Lab

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.

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