Well I have never done anything like this before, my kids told me that I should write a book about my life experience. Mind you, now in the year 2012 my kids don’t talk to me anymore, we will get to that later. I am 79 years old, born on the 17/ 01/ 1940 in Hamburg, Germany.
My parents were Ewald & Alwine S. I don’t know what my Mother did at the time (oh yes, she was pregnant with me) my Father owned a Hotel, I still have a battered knife from there. Mum saved quite a bit of cutlery from the hotel after leaving Hamburg in 1943 due to the fact that the house that we lived in got bombed by the British (there was a war going on)
Dad was on the Russian Front, getting cold and frost bitten.
What I been told from that time is; we lived on the 1st floor of a 4 story building and when the Bomb hit we still had time to grab a few things and then run out of the house. I was in a big white wicker type pram. With me in the pram was lots of silver cutlery, mum’s jewelry and mustn’t forget all going to be home for the next 12 month . I don’t know why, but I will never forget Christmas there. ,
Aunt Leni was very religious, she always wanted to be a missionary in Africa, but for some reason never made it. I don’t know if this has anything to do with my story. So back to that Christmas. I remember there being us kids and some adults (no idea who they were)
But I remember there being big white double doors that we were all staring at because behind these doors was a another room and we knew that “Santa” was in there, which meant presents and “Goodies” I cannot remember a Christmas before this, but this Christmas stayed with me for the rest of my life. Back to the white door; suddenly there was the sound of little bells ringing, this meant that “Santa” was leaving, the great white doors opened and what I saw next I shall never forget and I always remembered Aunty Leni for this. Einfeld In one corner of the room stood the most beautiful Christmas tree that I had ever seen, it was full of real candles and they were burning brightly, there were all kinds of decorations on the tree and stars, little figures of angels and all kinds Of shapes all made from beautiful tasting dough. Presents too, but I have no idea what I got. That is all I can remember from that time. Oh, by the way Aunty Leni was also my Godmother. Jurgen 13month old with Mum Dad, me and Mum Ah well, here we go again. This one is hard; although I am older I remember less. The one thing I do remember is that I am getting in lots of trouble. Nowadays we would seek medical help, but in them days that was unheard of. Anyway to start the story, we shifted further up north of Schleswig-Holstein to a place called Högel, a small farming town full of “Aunt’s and “Uncles”. My mother must have been very popular she had lots of friends here. I don’t know if my Father came here with us, I think he came later. Can’t remember anything until I got into trouble for the 1st time?
I found a Bayonet which I used to “Ring bark” a tree on the side of the road. All roadside trees are planted and owned by the Government. So we had a visit from the town constable. Boy, was I in trouble. Now most of my memories of my time in Högel are fairly mixed-up. So I will try my best to remember. My best friend lived on a farm some kilometres away from us. I used to love going to his place, or I should say being at his place. The walk to his place used to scare me something shocking but I loved playing at his place, especially behind the shed where there were some old broken, rusty motorbikes. We used to race all day, I was a caricature named “George Meyer” Naturally I always won. When we got sick of that we played in the Barn which was full of Hay.
But back to the reason why I was so scared to walk along the road. First I had to walk past a Fir tree Forrest, where I and others had been told that an escaped Soldier lived in there in a makeshift hut that he had so well camouflaged that nobody could find it and he would overpower people and then kill and eat them. That would frighten most 5 year old’s. Also I wouldn’t walk on the Road as somebody might come along and do me harm. So I always walked 50 – 100 meters to the left or right of the road. I don’t think there was a more scared person in town then me. I remember one time as I was walking home one night, I was caring a Lantern with a lit Candle in it (my friends parents lend it to me) I heard a Horse and coach coming towards me, quickly I blowed the candle out and hid behind a heap of dirt. (Brave?) A time I was walking home, it was winter, so everything was beautiful and white. As always I was walking to one side of the road, this would have been all right hadn’t it not warmed up and the small manmade waterways had thawed out. So when I came to the first one I thought to myself; I can jump that, there was a wire fence on the other side that I could grab if I had to. So I jumped and I had to.
I had a good grip on the top wire and thought that I had it made. But, oh no, here I was hanging onto the wire and it started to stretch very slowly. All I could do was hang on; till my back touched the water and then the rest of me went in. Who was in trouble again? Me! I don’t think this is in the right order but never mind, we are still in Högel, I am still or even more so in trouble and this is my story. By now my Father was with us. I was petrified of him. (With good reason) But first back to me and what got me into trouble.
Like the time the men came with a Tar Machine to repair the road. They left the Machine over the weekend beside the road so that I could come along and knock off all Gauges and play with them in my sand heap. In the shit again. No I didn’t get a hiding, worse, I had Tar all over my legs and my Mother got it off by scrubbing it with some sort of Stuff that shouldn’t touch the human skin. I screamed, I was not allowed inside; it was summer and the sun kept beating down on my painful legs.
You would think that I learned from this. Nope! Sometime later that week I saw the Farmer next door, with Horse and Cart spreading Lime onto hi Field. After a couple of hours with him he commented how nice and “white” I was. You guessed it, in trouble again. About this time my brother Karl-Heinz came back from the war, he was in English Prison Camp. Lothar on the right He was pretty sick and had Carbuncles all over him. My Mother used to put a glass against them to cure him. Karl-Heinz was her Son from her first marriage. My Dad was 20 years older than my Mum. People that old shouldn’t have children. He had 2 Sons, Erich & Lothar, Lothar died in the war.
The next year my sister Ina was born. But we are not there yet. Karl-Heinz Other things I remember are just short glimpses. Like my mother spend one night in Jail in the town of Bredstedt (8 Klm from Högel) she didn’t have her ID card with her. At that time, this was a criminal offence. She used to go shopping in Bredstedt by swapping things for goods that we needed. I also remember we were at “Tante Meinhards” (Aunty Meinhard) Meinhard was her husband’s name who had died some time ago and she became Tante Meinhard. She and her two sons lived out of town and a short distance from the road. I remember on the way to the house there was this giant Oak Tree. The best tree in the world for climbing, once you got up the trunk and to the first lot of branches. Close to the house was the Well where all the water for the household came from. I was very frightened of the Well, no idea why.
I remember playing with some other Kids near it, we were making “Mud pies” with real eggs. In trouble again! The Farmhouse was very old, it still had the doors that were cut in half, top and bottom. As the Story goes this was the practice all over the country. This was done by order of the local Duke, who owned everything, all doors facing his Castle the top part of the door was nailed shut. This way, whenever the people were leaving the house they had to bow down and those pay homage to the Duke. (Sick sense of humor I think)
But what I really remember as if it was yesterday is; my father one morning appearing out of nowhere, so it seemed to me, not in his beautiful uniform but in ill-fitting scruffy soldiers clothes. Apparently he didn’t know that I was watching him with fascination. He took a shovel or spade, I couldn’t tell the difference, went over to the giant Acorn Tree and dug a hole at the bottom of it. In this he put all of his medals, pistol, pay book and his beautiful ceremonial Dagger which was given to him by Herman Göring for whatever. He must have been AWOL because I remember the war was still going on.
Some nights when the “Enemy” flew closely over us we were hiding at rock walls in the paddock. Just outside of Högel, Hitler had one of his many Dummy airfields. The Enemy used to drop their Bombs on these useless places instead of the real thing. When one of their planes got hit, I used to ask my father what the flames were and he told me that the pilot was lighting up a cigarette.
Kids believe anything. The women of the town would go and look for Parachutes; they were made into beautiful shirts, blouses and ladies underwear. We kids used to collect brass cartridges. We were lucky living in a farming community, no food problems yet. (That was still to come) Lots and Lots Refugees were coming through, we usually put them up in the Barn, and they took a lot of our precious food.
The next Item I have no timeline on, but I remember the town got occupied by Russian forces, I don’t know whether they were regular or partisan. They had women with them. One of these women ordered my mother to make a pillow for her Baby. So Mum made one and stuffed it with Horse Hair.
The women were furious at this and my mother explained that with Horse Hair in the pillow the Baby could not suffocate besides we had nothing else. Just past the farm where we lived was the dirt-road to Hogelund. Anyway the men of the town were ordered to dig a large hole (I think it was so big you could bury a Bulldozer in it) than all kinds of weapons including Knifes where buried in it. I wonder if anybody ever thought of digging them up. Anyway the Russians didn’t stay long and we all went back to our homes.
School! I didn’t think it was for learning, just socializing .Well lot of things happened during these years.
We’ll start with the first day at school and think of the rest afterwards. My schoolbag came from the people we were living with. Which again was an “Aunty”, no uncle he and the eldest son died in the war. But we had “Opa” (Grandfather) I liked him, he let me help him in the Vegetable Garden. I can remember the good times. Then there was Kalli, he was the youngest son and a hero of the town. He was a champion “Ring-Rider” . You say; what the hell is that. Once a year at what is commonly known as “Thanks given” The young men of the Town get together on Horseback for the big event. A wire is strung across the road; in the middle of the wire is a round Ring, the hole approximately 30mm in diameter. All Riders have a Lance about 1 meters long, 500mm of this is Handle and the rest is a steel rod, the better you are at this game, well, the longer your Lance is. Kalli’s Lance was the longest. The idea of the game was; you rode your Horse at full speed towards the ring hanging from the wire and getting the Ring onto your Lance.
Afterwards everyone celebrated with Homemade Brew that was made from Sugar beet. Syrup was also made from Sugar beet, the mush was put into a big Press, and similar to our wool press only it had lots of tiny holes in all four sides. The men would turn the big handle and the juices would come pouring out.
What happened next I can’t remember? Then I remember peeled and cut potatoes were lying on big sheets in the sun that was to make potato flour. When it was Potato digging time, Women and Children would follow the digger and collect all the Potato’s that the Farmer didn’t want. One day while being out there in the Paddock, I got a bit close to one of the Horses and he kicked me fair in the guts. Off-course I went flying and a fair distance too. Mum thought it was funny. She has got a weird sense of humour.
One day she took me to the Dentist in Bredstedt, I had some Teeth pulled out and on the way home she offered me an Apple.
Another time I think she actually felt sorry for me. She had to take me to the Doctor in Hogelund to get Warts removed from my hands. I thought it was barbaric, the Doctor used sulphuric acid, Boy did I scream, they must have heard me in Högel. But I didn’t die and Life went on.
By now we were starting to run short of certain foods. The English Army was camped nearby but they couldn’t help us as they were short of food too. We used to get of them what we called Dog biscuits; they were salted biscuits like our Salada biscuits. But the best came from the Rubbish-Tip; Bricks of Cabbage were nice, big lumps of powdered Milk gone solid. It kept us Kids happy and contented for hours. Bread was green and moldy, we used to cut all of the sides off and then eat it. For us Kids the Tip was like a Restaurant.
Certain Grasses, once cooked tasted like Spinach. Most of the time I didn’t know what we eat. Meat was the same, most farmers slaughter d their own meat, cured it, and made it into Sausages etc.
I have eaten Horse, Donkey, Rabbits, and Cats etc. Cat meat is sweet tasting but eatable, The Gypsies taught us how to cook and eat Porcupine. You cover the Porcupine in Clay or similar and then place it on hot ashes. When the Clay is hard baked, you crack it open and eat the meat.
We had a French POW by the name of Milon, he taught us how to cook and eat Cat. He was a lovely person. I remember one day we had a very bad Thunderstorm and I was very frightened. Milon took me by the hand and led me to the Stable were the Horses where, he then told me that Thunder and Lightning never harmed horses and if I stayed with the Horses I didn’t have to worry. His wisdom stayed with me for many years. One day I asked him if he could build me a Locomotive, He agreed to build one for me but I had to find lots of Iron, Tin etc. He said without it he could not build it.
Funny things one remembers; one day I came home from school most upset and the Girl that worked for the Farmers asked me what was wrong, so I told her that we had learned the words to “Brahms Lullaby” And when it was my turn to sing some of it, I was told that I was no good at singing. So she told me to sing some for her and when I did, she said that I was very good. That made my day and I was very happy again.
Over this inquisitively nature I got into lots of trouble. I can’t remember much about school, I was not a good student that was for sure. I am in the back row 6 from the left Here I am talking about everything except for my first day at school. My school satchel came from “Aunty” that we lived with. It used to belong to her eldest son. It was made from real Leather and it was made so that you could wear it on your back. For writing on, we all had a piece of Slate which came from somebody’s Roof. I don’t know where they came from, but for writing with we had round pencil like pieces of Slate. The big piece of slate had a hole in it at one side, a string was threaded through the hole and for most of us a piece of rag was attached to it, which was for wiping the slate clean (Where have I heard that before?) Kids with rich parents had a piece of Sponge instead of the rag.
Your lunch was wrapped in Paper and was always soggy. Can you imagine Black Bread with Lard and Sugar? Yuk. It was always black Bread or Bread made from Corn flour. Double Yuk.
Now that I was older, of course I got into more trouble.
Some of the things I got up to where: throwing wires over the Mains Electric Wires, Throwing stones at horses as they with their wagons and driver came past my hiding spot, climbing up the Lighting Conductor up onto the roof of the barn, which was reed, and then used that as a slide coming down the roof. There was lots more.
At about this time I also started stealing money from my mother and bought things from the shop saying that I found them. Sometimes I would plant things along the road and when Mum and I went for a walk, I would “Find” them. My parents also were of the opinion that I destroyed everything they gave me. But I looked upon it as being inquisitive wanting to know how everything worked. Over this inquisitively nature I got into lots of trouble.
I can’t remember much about school, I was not a good student that was for sure. My moment to Fame; while playing outside my normal play area I found lots of pieces of Flintstones among them what looked like a Dagger but chisel from stone.
After playing with it for a while I took it to school to show my Teacher. I thought I might get some Brownie Points. Teacher send the Dagger to the big “Smoke”. Well that caused an unexpected commotion with people from the Universidad coming looking for more stuff. They found stone Axes and other artefacts and I got my name in a Book. So I wanted to become an archaeologist. I might have had the brains but I was too lazy to study.
Meanwhile Opa died, when I was told I didn’t believe it so I went to his room to have a look. When I got into his room my suspicion was confirmed. He wasn’t dead he was just lying there. I knew that when people died, that they went to Heaven or Hell and he was still there. But later things were explained to me.
Some weeks later a Girl about my age that I knew from school Died. She had drowned in the Town Lake. This was very confusing to, as I thought that only old people died. For the Girls Funeral we all had to Dress in our good clothes and we walked behind the Coffin, we were told the Girl was in it, I didn’t want to go, but we, us Kids, were all given a Basket with flowers which we had to chuck on the road, I was the first to get my Basket empty, my mum tried to give me some of her flowers but me and my mate snug of to play by the Lake.
In the winter we used to play on the frozen lake and the big kids did Ice skating, at the beginning of the summer the Farmers used to drive their wagons into the Lake and wash them, we used to help, but we got dirtier than clean, they also washed the Horses. In the summer we all went bathing in the Lake, but it was always cold.
I never forget (for me it was a scary thing, I knew it was forbidden} one winter, 4 of us Boys 3 bigger than me caught a Girl, we got her onto the ground and tried to take off her underpants, we wanted to know what was so different about Girls, I don’t know who screamed louder the Girl or I. I don’t know why I screamed. We never did get her pants off. She told her Parents what we had done and with our parents we had to see the local Pastor who gave us a lecture on Morals, which I didn’t
understand. We all got a caning which hurt a lot.
Later that year, it was winter a Girl that I knew very well showed me the difference between Boys and Girls. She was my Girlfriend and we were going to be married. We were 7 years old at the time. I was faithful to her till I left Högel at the age of 10 years.
Likes& Dislikes There are not too many likes, playing with my friends, down the Hogelund road we had built a Cave, big enough for 4 kids to play in, we had no idea how dangerous this Cave was, we had virtually scooped it out of the small hill the sandy roof could have fallen in on us at any time, when a Horse & Cart came by, the sand used to come trickling down on us, but we weren’t worried.
I also liked going for long walks with my Dad. He did lots of walking for exercise.
Some evenings we would sit by the fire and my Dad would light a piece of windscreen that he got from an enemy airplane. It smelled funny and he would only burn a little bit each night.
My brother Karl-Heinz carved me a knife out of wood, it was my treasure. Karl-Heinz also once took me to a Circus in Flensburg. He worked as an apprentice there. I thought he was just the greatest. I remember having to go to the Toilet but I couldn’t reach the Urinal. My brother stood me up on a box. I didn’t see him again for a very long time.
I don’t think my father liked him. But I did. I used to like going with my Girlfriend, her name was Hannelore. We used to have to look after the Cows. When we got hungry we used to eat Beet, they was nice. We did lots of things together feeding Chooks, Ducks and other Farm animals.
Not so nice; One day we were having our evening meal, my Father told me to take an empty bottle out to the rubbish bin and he said; don’t break it. I didn’t know but he followed me out and when I broke the bottle , he grabbed me and hit me continuously with a stick and when the stick was all broken up he grabbed another stick and then another and so on. Next day at school I told everyone that I fell of the Roof. I don’t think many believed me.
Another time when he had a Paper-round, it was about the time when Germany got a new Currency, he told me to go around and collect the money from everyone that was owed to my father. But he told me to make sure that I didn’t accept any of the old currency from anybody. But that was easier said than done. I didn’t have the guts to stand up to any Adult and so I came Home with some old Currency.
So my father got stuck into me again and next day the Kids at school teased me again about falling of the roof. Next he sends me out to deliver the Newspaper, not in Town, but the surrounding areas. After a while delivering Papers, I hid the Papers under some Dirt and went to play with my Friends. By the time I got home my Dad knew what I had done. After I got a hiding, he made me get the papers and deliver them. I also had to explain to the Customers what I had done.
My other Job was Baby Sitting, I hated it, and I was always scared that something would happen.
In them days one didn’t buy new saucepans when they had a hole in them. I always had to take them for repair and pick them up again. It’s embarrassing for a little Kid to say that they will get paid later. That’s when I knew why I got all the shithouse jobs.
Speaking of Toilets, our Toilet was my favoured place to play in peace and Quiet. It was a fairly big room with a big wooden toilet that went from one wall to the other. I remember it was Green in colour and had a big square Lid.
At another time I was send to my brother Erich in the town of Heide, he was my father’s son, I liked him very much, and he was always nice to me. I was told that on his 21st Birthday, my Father gave him a hiding. My Father ruled by fear. Erich was a good man. He and his wife Hilde had two Children, Erni & Karin they were a few month older than me. Erni had built the biggest Cave you ever seen; you could stand up in it. We had great fun playing there and at the park in an old Tram. Karin was a real “Tomboy”.
In the meantime Ina my Sister was born, 1946 September. I remember when she was born there was blood everywhere. When I ask my Father he said that was where the Stork bit my Mother, after that I used to throw stones at the Storks.
My sister was very sick when she was born. Her whole body was covered in Puss, except for her Ears. The doctor came every day from Hogelund to make her better, but it took a long time. The local Priest also came, I don’t know why. I think it had something to do with her name. The women from town used to come every day and bring us hot meals.
That was nice. One night when I was babysitting her, I was lying in Bed and she was on the Couch. I woke up to this noise coming from near the couch. In them days because of the cold weather we had a Bucket for “PEE” and yes you guessed it, Ina had fallen into the Bucked which was half full of “PEE”. I dragged her out by her Hair washed her and went back to bed, only this time I took her with me.
I don’t know when it actually was, but my Father got a Job in Westerland on the Island of Sylt in the North Sea at the Danish Border. During School holidays I went up there by Train and Stayed with my Dad. I met some nice Kids there but they stayed only a short time as they were on holidays with their parents.
When Karin came out to stay with us in Högel, she was always crying, she was homesick. Erich was the first person that I knew who owned a Car. I thought he must have been very rich, but he was just very clever. Soon he moved to Hamburg.
I still got into lots of trouble, maybe it was in my nature, I just don’t Know. I didn’t want to be a bad Boy, but it seemed that I had no choice.
A couple more things before we/ I leave Högel. I remember Karl-Heinz came to see us. Gee, he can get into more trouble than me. He came to Högel to ask my parents for him to get married. That in itself was bad enough , I don’t know what was the big deal, but I soon found out. The women he wanted to marry was a single mum with one child. Well, he got married anyway and they settled down not far from where we were going to live. He build a House for them and her parents.
He those became the “Black Sheep” of the Family. But not for long. HAMBURG 1949 nearly all my relations lived in Hamburg Oma & Opa my Grand Parents on my Mother’s side lived adjacent to us. I stayed with them till our house was build or livable. I liked it with my Grandparents. Opa worked in Hamburg on the Warf and Oma spend most of the day in her garden or her Coal finding missions, If you went down to the Powerhouse, by the foreshore of the river Elbe and you waited by the discharge pipes you could pick up the occasional piece of coal but on a good day you could get a bag full, which we transported home on our 4 wheeled Cart.
The winters in Hamburg get very cold and it was impossible to get Coal for your stove the Legal way. When I got older 11-12 I joined my Brother Karl-Heinz in pinching Coal of Railway Wagons. Sometimes the Police would shoot at us, but they were not trying too hard to hit us.
Meanwhile our house went up. It was a 2 roomed prefab. House made of wood, very popular in Finland. Once you had the floor down and the Brick Chimney in you just put the 4 sides up and then the Roof which was also made from Wood and covered with Tar-Paper. Quite Cozy. One room acted as Kitchen & Dining Room and the other room was the Bedroom. Toilet was outside. Bucked. When it was full Dad used to dig a hole in the Garden and burry the content. My Uncles helped putting up the House and Toilet.
One day I found a pistol where we were playing and I was dying to try it out. But I was afraid of the noise, so I stuck the barrel of the pistol into the toilet bucket and pulled the trigger, well you can imagine the rest.
My Mother had two Brothers Uncle Otto and Uncle Heini she also had a Sister Käte Who was married to Bruno, they had a son and a much younger Daughter, Bruno jr & Karin. Heini & Gerda had a daughter Waltraud. Otto & Else had 2 boys my age Jϋrgen & Horst. That was a lot of help.
Running water we had not and everybody used to send their Kids and their wagons 2 or4 wheel with a big up to 50 liters container to get the water.
Later Uncle Otto build us a shed and we moved the toilet inside the shed. Next we bought another house same as before and put the second one onto the first having a small hallway between the two of them. This house we left as one room and it became the Lounge room which was only used for special occasions. Then we build onto the first house another room which became a general room.
By now we had a small Vegie. Garden and a few fruit trees. Both mum & dad worked and that left me to find trouble. The worse trouble I could get into would be having friends over. No Fear, my father would always surprise us by coming home early and everybody would run for the hills so to speak.
By 1952 we had our own water tap in the garden between Oma & Opas place and ours, we had to share. In the winter we would still bring a bucket full of water inside because the water pipes would freeze-up. We would put paper and straw around the pipes and then make a fire hoping to melt the ice inside the pipes.
School was all right for socializing I got in constant trouble there too. I was no good at sport, so I just sat on the side or disappeared. I had some good friends there and I must admit the teachers really tried. Some of my friends were Rϋdiger, he was the quite intelligent type, Holger, he lived closes we both looked like each other and so we both got continuously into trouble, Klaus, was older and the Artist, Olaf, could make a whip out of anything, as long it was stringy, Wolfgang, his mum owned the local pub. Horst lived with his grandparents, his parents died in the war and then there was Georg he lived the furthest away but we all went to the same school. Georg is the only one that I know that has passed away.
When there was more than two of us to-gather the teachers knew there would be trouble. Wolfgang always had money; he pinched it from the pub. I always got in trouble for waging school, I sometimes go to Karl-Heinz and then get him to write a note to the Teacher. But he soon stopped that. Meany! I always got back at him and anyone else that crossed me.
Our main hangout was the local Railway station. Next to it was a big Bridge where the trains went under. Ever tried peeing into the chimney of a steam loco from above. I don’t advise it, it comes back and usually into your face.
Under the Bridge where it was all railway property there were lots of service tunnels where we used to play. Then there were the railway yards also good place for playing. I think we were like most kids all over the world playing Cowboys & Indians, Cops & Robbers etc.
Not far from there was a landfill place where the trains used to bring all kinds of rubbish (Goodies to us) sometimes even old food which we ate if it tasted all right.
Swimming hole or channel was also close by the girls even joined in. we all went in the same just dressed in our undies. I remember later the Girls were made to dress in shirts, we didn’t worry, and their breasts were not big enough.
Once the weather was warm enough (More than 21 ˚ Degree) we would go to a place called “Boberg” there was a big Waterhole in the sand dunes surrounded by Bushes which were favored with boys and girls for the purpose of engaging in all sorts of sexual play. We started pretty young but then lot of it was just harmless play.
A another one of our play grounds was a heap of dirt some kind of embankment about 2 Klm long, leftover from the war, complete with bunkers and places with or for antiaircraft guns. We would find lots of leftovers from the war. We used to look for Bullets and anything we could take apart and use the explosives to make our own little bombs. These things usually went off without a hitch but sometimes things went wrong. I know of one Boy who hit a Bullet with a hammer, it exploded and he lost a leg. Two more boys lost their lives in similar incidences.
One more of our favoured pastimes were going around at night blowing-up Letterboxes. I remember my Grandmother complaining about me blowing up her Letterbox. To which my father replied that it couldn’t have been me as our letterbox was also blown up. I was smart enough to blow ours up too.
One Day I disarmed a German Hand grenade, then went to the Railway station and as the People came from the Train I threw the harmless grenade into the Crowd. Result; enormous panic.
My Grandfather had grey Hair and my Fathers Hair was white, no wonder I used to pinch my Grandmothers Milk bottles so that I could go to the Cinema. When it came to getting money for the Cinema nothing was secret. I made a lot of my money by selling Scrap-Metal and clean lots of Newspaper. I would walk long distances to find Rubbish tips where I could get my sellable scrap. I remember one day working for hours with hammer and chisel to separate Aluminum from some piece of Iron.
As I got older I found a new venue off getting money. From the Church! I used to volunteer to carry the Collection Box over to the Parish House and help myself to a small amount. Later I found out that the Pastor knew what I was doing. We later became good friends.
Makes for a good story “The Priest and the Thief”
MS Spreewald People ask me about my travels; well really speaking I started travelling in May of 1955. Against my parents’ wishes I joined the Merchant Navy in Hamburg, Germany.
My father wanted me to be a radio-technician. It would have been a very interesting Career as I always had been interest in fiddling with radios and other electrical Items.
But I had always been a bit of a rebel. But that was not it, for as long as I can remember I have been reading books about faraway countries and dreaming of being there. Well now was my chance. After I got my Seaman’s Ticket I applied with the Hamburg American Line (HAPAG) for a job as a Cabin-boy. After a couple of days I found out that my application had been successful and that I had to report to the 3rd Officer at the “MS Spreewald” an old Cargo –Ship with provision for 4 Passengers. The “Spreewald” was tied up at pier 48 in Hamburg Harbor.
Hamburg Harbor is one of the busiest Harbors in Europe even so it lays 60miles inland on the river Elbe.
My first day on the ship. When I got Aboard I went to report myself to the 3rd Officer. I was very apprehensive; this was the first time I was away from home by myself. The Officer was not too bad, he send me to the Deckhand to show me where to bunk and after that he showed me my duties and then he showed me around the ship.
His name was Gerd and this was his second voyage on the MS Spreewald. When showing me my Duties we went to the Pantry and while having a cigarette and eating some of my favoured cheese, Gerd told me his story. One of my jobs was serving the Crew with their meals this I shared with Gerd. He had to look after the Deck-Crew and I had to look after the Engine-Crew. That was the easy job. Than we had to clean their Cabins and make their Beds. Wake them up and generally be their slaves. We also had to clean the Shower, Laundry and Hallways. While we were on Deck, Gerd pointed to the Flag we were flying. It was Blue with a White square in the middle. He said that is the “Blue Peter”. I don’t know where the name comes from, but it means we are leaving within 24 Hours.
My first evening was spend getting to know People. That meant lots of Beer and playing Poker for Cigarettes till late in the Night. In my case getting to know people was mainly the Deck Crew as the Engine Crew were my superiors. But when it came to Poker we were all Friends.
Next morning early up and while Gerd and I were getting our Job done the Deck Crew connected our Ship by Manila Ropes to the Tug Boats that would pull us out of the Harbor. I sort of felt funny in my stomach. I had always suffered from motion sickness and so I was sort of accepting it.
Half an Hour out on the River and I started to get Sea-sick. It was great everybody made fun of me and said you’ll get over it. Little did I know that it was going to take me 9 month to get over it? I felt like a pregnant Women considering the time. I wondered at the time who would feel worse. I just wanted to die. That was until I got to the next Port.
In our case it took as a day to get to Bremen. Germany’s 2nd biggest Harbor. We stayed here for 2 Days. In which time I got to do my first Night Clubbing. Wow! I, Gerd and a couple of other Fellows went to the Bremen Night Club District. For me it was unbelievable, not that I went out drinking, no once you are a Sailor that becomes part of the Image and at my time in Germany nobody took notice of how old you were.
In fact the only time I was stopped from drinking was in the USA. No, what really got to me having half naked women touch and kiss me.
Next morning of course I had the Mother of all Hangovers. In the Navy you work 7 Days a Week with no time of, not even on Christmas-day. We usually have a couple of Hours break from work in the afternoon. I took this time trying to get rid of my Hangover, by getting a bit of sleep.
Next day we left for Rotterdam in Holland. We only spend a Day here, so I didn’t get to see very much. Lot of the Dutch workers that came onto the Ship were asking for Food at our Pantry and at the Kitchen. I don’t know why but I found that unusual.
Next Day we went on to Antwerp in Belgium. At least here we got shore leave. After spending a couple of Hours at the Brasserie Hannibal, a Bar. I was slightly intoxicated and bet my Mates that I could get a Kiss from the Pretty Barmaid. Bummer, I lost.
While walking in the Streets of Antwerp, I was busting for a Piss. But I couldn’t find any Toilets, I didn’t know that the round things on the Street Corners were “Pissoir’s” in other words that’s where you went for a Piss. So when I couldn’t hold on any longer I just pissed in the Street. Luckily no Policeman saw me.
Then I spotted a Street-Vendor selling, Chips and Mayo in a Paper bag. It tasted wonderful. We then took a Tram to go back to the Harbor but we were told that we couldn’t eat on the Tram. So we had to get off, eat our Chips and catch another Tram. So much for Antwerp.
Next Day we left for New York. I don’t remember too much about the voyage except that I was Seasick, every day, I wanted to Die. Nobody would let me. They all were after me to do my work, no sympathy; I suppose they all had been through it in some form or other.
About halfway to New York Gerd got very sick, he complained about pain in the region of his Appendicitis. We all felt for him as the Sea was quite rough at that time and every little jar brought on new pain. Soon it became evident that Gerd could have a ruptured Appendix. The R.O. send out a distress call trying to reach anybody that could help.
We got Lucky. The American 7th Fleet was near us. Our 2nd Officer who is also the Medical Officer liaison with the Medical Officer in Charge of the 7th Fleet. First they tried to get a Helicopter into the Air to pick up Gerd who by now was in a Bad Way. But the Weather was against us. The Winds were too strong to get a Helicopter into the Air.
The American Doctor Suggested that we take Gerd to somewhere like the Officers-Mess, Make him comfortable on one of the Tables and pack his Abdomen with Ice and hope that the Weather would Change. Gerd got worse, so the American Doctor told our Medical Officer who had no training in this sort of thing that he had to operate. The Doctor would talk our M/ O through it, which was better than letting Gerd die. The Capitan ordered the highest Speed that our Engines could muster as this would make the Ship more steady cutting through the waves.
Half way during the Operation they ran out of Aesthetic. I believe the used anything they could lay their hands on. We could hear Gerd crying out in pain. In the finish everything went all right and Gerd was kept Amidships for observation till we got to New York.
When we got to New York we didn’t have to wait for the Pilot to take us into Harbor. This time the Pilot was waiting for us. He took us straight in to the Pier where the Ambulance was waiting to take Gerd into Hospital for further treatment and observation. Poor Gerd had to see America from a Hospital Bed.
Next Day I went ashore with a couple of the other boys from the Ship. We went on the Subway to 86st Street where one of the Boys knew of a Shop which was owned by a “Jew” (no disrespect intended) and he was selling Clothing. What made him so special was; whatever we bought, he would add a shaving Towel for free. Anyway I spend nearly all
of my money on buying some Khaki Trousers and a long-sleeved Khaki Shirt. After I paid him, I said to him; what about my shaving Towel? He laughed and gave me one.
After looking at Times square and other Attractions we went back to the Ship. No drinking this night. I wanted to save my money for the next Day when we went to see and climb the Empire State Building. We also went to the Statue of Liberty. Apparently the French Nation had given the Statue to the American People. We also still went to Coney Island Amusement-Park. Our Purser had handed out free Tickets.
After New York we went to Philadelphia, Norfolk, New Port News and I can’t remember in which order. Then back to New York where we picked up Gerd, now all recovered with plenty of stories about American Nurses.
The return Trip was pretty uneventful, except we had to do what they called “Farbe waschen”. What it really meant was we had to wash all the Cabins, Walls and all. What a shithouse Job!
About 12 month later TS-World Triumph” It is sort of a new beginning. The TS-World Triumph was an Oil Tanker, about 32000 Tones; ships of this kind were called Liberty Ships. They were built in the United States towards the end of WW॥, they were welded instead of Pop-Riveted, very cheaply and quickly build.
Now they were “Rust-Buckets”. Onassis & Niarchos bought them cheaply and used them under Panama or Monrovia Flag till they broke apart. The “World Triumph” was under Panama Flag which meant that while on the ship we were on Panamanian Soil. This was mainly done for Insurance Purpose. To us Sailors these Ships were known as “Gangster” Ships, nobody in their right mind would work on these. The Crew was usually made up from Sailors that couldn’t get a Job elsewhere or had Black Marks against them. Also you had to sign-on for 1 Year but you never got off the ship until they had a new Crew to replace you.
Anyway we had to meet the Ship in Bahrain in the Red Sea and so we had to catch a Charter-Plane in London to Fly to Bahrain. Boy that was fun. 1 DC3 Plane, 1 Stewardess, and 32 Sailors.
The Stewardess brought us Candy & Cotton Wool each time we Landed or took-off. That was for our Ears popping. But we also got served alcoholic drinks which made the trip more Fun. We took-off at Daybreak and landed in Rome (Italy) for Lunch. We had Spaghetti and Meatballs and Wine of course. I bought a Record as Souvenir (Arrivedechi Roma by Dean Martin)
Next Stop Istanbul (Turkey) Here we had Dinner and stayed the night.
Next stop Bagdad (Iraq) here we got in trouble for imitating a Local at his Noon Prayer. Nearly got shot. It was nearly dark when we arrived in Bahrain. After Customs they bundled us off into an old Bus. As the Driver was reversing he punctured his Petrol-Tank on a Steel Stake and we had to switch into another Bus.
Then we got on to a Boat that was just big enough to hold us all. When we got to the ship we all wanted to go home again. It was the worse Rust-Bucked I had ever seen, but it was going to be Home for at least the next 12 month. Our Captain was English; the rest of the crew was German or German speaking.
I settled into my Cabin and met the other two occupants. Hans was Deck-Hand. By the looks of him he was a scrawny looking Weasel. But one shouldn’t judge a Book by its Cover and he turned out alright. The other Occupant was Walter (Wally) he was about 18 months older than me and Blond almost White. He wore his Hair in a typical American “Crew-cut” but other ways we could have been related. He came from Hamburg too, which made him automatically my “Blood brother” Wally was Cabin-Boy for the Officers at Amidships.
Everything was routine and nobody worried you. We again did lots of drinking and played Poker. We left first thing next morning for Japan with our tanks full of Oil. The great bit was now, I didn’t get Seasick anymore. The rougher it got the more I liked it and it was a pleasant change for me to see other People running to the Side of the Ship and feeding the Fish.
We pulled in at Colombo, but sadly only for a short time. After that it was like they say, smooth sailing, getting closer to Japan. One night we were rudely awakened by a very loud “Bang” We got up fearing the worse. Apparently a Boiler had blown in the Engine-Room. So we limped very slowly into Singapore to get a new Boiler. Singapore looked lovely but we were not allowed ashore.
But to make up for it we had lots of lovely young Malay Women come Aboard to do our Laundry etc for a small amount of money. So, that kept us all happy.
When we left Singapore and our “Laundry-Ladies” behind it didn’t take us long before we dropped Anchor at Yokohama in Japan. This was the First Time in Japan for me. First impression was that of a Picture Book. It was as if time had stood still here for the last 100 years.
I loved Japan, the People, the Culture and especially the Country Side. Like I said, the towns, Houses flimsy build out of wood and Rice-Paper. It was winter and so it was cold. Anyway, straight after work was finished the 3 of us went to Town full of anticipation. We spotted a building that seemed to be a Nightclub of sorts. When we entered we found that most of our Crew was here enjoying themselves.
There were plenty of pretty Girls, enough for all of us and then some. Inside it was nothing like what we were used to. No Bar or Table and Chairs. Everyone was sitting and or lying on big Cushions. You kept your Drinks and Snacks on tiny Tables.
There was big Ceramic or Clay pots in the Room filled with hot Ashes. As the evening came along we slowly all paired off.
Wally and I stuck together with our two Girls Mitsiko and Skiko. It is amazing how well you can get along without speaking the Language. The Girls next took us to the Community-Bath. I’s like a shallow swimming pool. Something like the Romans used to have. The water was so hot you could see the Steam coming of the water. I saw we were not the only once there, we also had the company of a Japanese Family. Upon seeing us they all bowed slightly to us. As you know “When in Rome” so we bowed back. For us it was hard to get over the fact that everybody was Stark Naked. It seem to be the Normal Thing to do. The Girls motion to us to get undressed just as they were doing.
I think we were a bit embarrassed even with quite a bit of alcohol in us. I must admit it was funny. The Girls motioned for us to get into a small Pool where they were going to scrub us. Wally objected, but he had no chance. I had to laugh, when his Girl washed his Genital there was no reaction from him. But when she was washing his hair he got an instant Erection.
It was all in good humour. What I will never forget is how hot the water was. I honestly had trouble getting in to the Pool. We then retired to different Rooms. The walls were made from Rice-Paper and so we talked to each other.
Later that evening “Mama-San” brought us some Food. I think what we had were Sushi Rolls. They were very filling anyway. In the morning we returned cheerfully to the Ship. During the Morning I noticed that my Wallet was missing and got a real surprise when Mitsiko arrived at the Ship with my Wallet. There was nothing of value in it but it was still pleasant to see that there were still honest People in this World.
A few days later we went to the next Port, Ofunato. Ofunato was so small; they didn’t even have a Nightclub, just a small Bar where I got very drunk on Gin and Tonic.
We still visited a few more ports in Japan and then back to Arabia. Kuwait, Ahmadi, Ras-Tanura and a couple of others whose names I couldn’t pronounce. Well we did a couple of Trips to Japan.
Even got to Tokyo and a few more Places. Saw lots of beautiful Castles. On one Trip we had some Fighter Jets from Formosa getting a bit close to us. This Trip when we got to Ahmadi we were told that we are not going back to Japan but to Australia.
We were a bit disappointed from what we heard; it was very English, no decent Night Clubs and nothing much for us to do. After we left Ahmadi I started to think, yes very dangerous. I was getting sick of the life at sea and so I started thinking about “Jumping Ship” in Australia.
I could manage a few words, sentence, so what if I went there for about 6month. It would give me a break and a bit of Adventure. Only thing was I didn’t really feel like going by myself. So when I got around to it and thought it was the right time, I ask Wally, what about we go together.
Wally had another Beer and said; yes he’ll be in it. He was way overdue of being relieved from the Ship and returned Home. We had a 1 Year Contract and Wally had been on the Ship for 18month. So he was more than willing to come along. We started selling some of our things to get some more Money and when ask we told them that we were going to “Jump Ship” in Australia. Everyone laughed, but nobody believed us. So when we got to Geelong, Australia Wally and I took off. But that is another Story.