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RiessenGasse #6

Added: Friday, November 8th 2019 at 6:05pm by bigfatdaddy
 
 
 

 

It was called “Deferred Travel”.  When a married soldier was assigned to a new post, usually overseas, and no housing was immediately available for his family, he had to travel to the new post alone, leaving his family behind, until he found either government quarters or quarters on the local “economy”…in other words, civilian quarters.  When I proposed marriage to MC, I told her my plan was to marry her, re-enlist into the Army and go back to Germany.  Her eloquent response was: “Okay”.  The married part was pretty easy and went off fairly well, considering there were only four days between proposal and wedding ceremony.  After a brief honeymoon, I drove up to the Induction Center in Los Angeles and re-enlisted in the Army, got an assignment to Germany, and advance travel pay, started a thirty-day leave and returned to El Cajon in less than 48hours.  The only thing left was to get MC all set up with an ID card, allotments, and a ticket to Germany. 

I had been informed that we would not be able to travel together, but we were assured that it normally never took more than a couple of months to arrange housing and get my family orders to move to Germany.  I won’t go into the gory details, but it took five months to get MC over there.  Five long, lonely months for both of us,  especially hard for her because she was living with my folks, hardened Navy travel vets who were not the least sympathetic with my nineteen-year-old bride’s angst and sorrow. 

I left for Germany in early November, ’67, thinking that our separation would not last long.  I found an apartment over a shoe repair shop in Lampertheim, a small town just north of Mannheim.   It was four rooms: a good-sized living room furnished with some very uncomfortable chairs and loveseats, a large bedroom with a huge bed, and in between the two, a small kitchen/dining room and tiny bathroom behind the kitchen. I think the apartment was originally just an attic that they finished to rent out.  The ceiling was sloped down on two sides  so we could only stand up straight in the middle of the rooms.  It was a nice-enough little apartment, and the landlord and his wife were nice people. 

It was located on an alley a few houses down from the main road through town.  Across the main road from the end of the alley was a huge stone church whose bells tolled four times an hour.  Just down the street from the alley the main road curved north but one lane continued straight on past a bar, and a couple of doors down from there was a gasthaus that served good schnitzel at a very reasonable price.  Across the road from the gasthaus was  a bakery and the yard where we bought coal to fire our hot water heater.  Following the main road through town there were department stores and other shops and family businesses.  There was a five-star hotel in town with  one of the best restaurants in the whole world, called the Deutscheshaus…yeah, five stars in Podunk; go figure.  The signature dish at the Deutscheshaus was the Jaeger Platte…ahuge dinner plate with three kinds of meat (venison, pork, and veal) and a huge pile of either rice or spaetzle (german noodles) covered with mushroom gravy and tiny baby carrots.  The platte was 20 DM (twenty Deutsche Marks) or, at the time, five dollars.

I moved into the apartment in late November ’67.  That winter was cold and snowy and I spent some of it on the road.   I was a squad leader in a truck company but we had ‘way more trucks than drivers in those days so even the sergeants had to take loads out sometimes.  The senior operations sergeant, the Truckmaster, told all of us junior NCOs that he would jump in a rig and make a load if he needed to, but if he did you could bet your sweet bippy that everyone he out-ranked would be out there making smoke first.

I spent many nights in the apartment, too. I would open the living room window and watch snow fall like huge goose feathers floating down, feeling the bite of the cold and listening to the muted sounds from below.  Snow covers the ground but it also covers a lot of sound.  When it got dark the snow would show up in the street lights like a shimmery cone.

 Sometimes on the weekends some of the guys would stop by for a visit, sometimes I would go to the movies but I didn’t have a car and I hadn’t figured out the bus system so I was dependent on the kindness of others. 

.  German electricity was normally 220 volts and 50 cycles.  US appliances will work on German electricity if you have a transformer that reduces the 220 to 110, but things with a motor would run slow.  I would play my records on my Motorola Swingline stereo but they all dragged along, almost not worth listening to.  I found a battery-operated record player that solved that problem but it ate batteries like candy.

Meals were easy enough.  Most days I would eat breakfast in the Mess Hall; if I recall correctly, it cost 25 cents.  a Burger, a bowl of chili, or a fried bologna sandwich from the snack bar for lunch at about a dollar.  Dinner was usually out of a can heated up on the stove, or something easy out of the ‘fridge, occasionally I’d walk over to the gasthaus and spring for a schnitzel dinner, 5 DM or about a dollar and a quarter.  A half litre (about 16 ounces) “flip-top” bottle of beer was 50 pfennigs, about 12 cents.  Two interesting GI bar tricks:  1)  snap your fingers just right next to the flip top and you can open the bottle; get it wrong and you can dang near break your finger. 2)  The top of the flippy has a hard rubber gasket and it is the mark of a strong and very determined man to have one of those gaskets stretched outaround your zippo lighter.

I spent so many nights in that apartment with my arms folded on the window ledge, hanging out of the open living room window watching folks walk by.  This is a popular German pastime; they even have a name for it, but I can’t remember what it was.     The house across the alley had a family with a teenage girl, she and her mom would see me hanging out and open their windows and practice their English on me.  We would compare our opinions of the folks below and giggle .  They always asked when my wife would show up and I always said it would be soon.  But it wasn’t.

It turned out that the extra months of waiting were a result of my gullibility, naivete, inexperience, and general ignorance.  The effect it had on MC was intense and lasted for years; in fact, I am sure she is still not over it.

It was a pretty sad time for both MC and me.  We were a couple of kids, really.  MC had turned 19 three weeks after we were married.  I was twenty.  I finally figured out the errors in our travel applications and MC arrived in April of ’68,  one year after we first met.  We had known each other for six months when we got married.  We’d been married six months when she got to Germany but we had only lived together for a month before I left for Germany.  We both had begun to wonder if we would still like each other when we finally got together.  What would it be like?    .

In mere moments that sad and lonely little apartment turned into our first home, just us, our place.  We walked out to look the town over, I showed her all the places I knew about.  She discovered apricot streusel cake at the little bakery and right away, she felt like she was at home.  We explored and shopped and enjoyed being in Germany…and being together.

There were  several big churches in town and they all had bells and they all rang several times a day; at first it sounded cool…then it got pretty annoying.  But after we lived there for a while, we hardly noticed them.  Until Easter Sunday when every bell in every church in town rang all day and half the night.  MC loved it!

Then Spring turned to Summer, the town celebrated its annual “Spargle Fest”…Asperagus festival!  Asperagus has its own festival.  Green Asperagus, white asperagus, Asperagus soup, and anything else you can imagine and some things you never would.

On the highway that went along the Rhine River toward Worms. There was a marshy area between the town and the river and all summer we shared our nights with loud and persistent mosquitoes.  On hot summer nights we would open the bedroom window to try to cool off.  We slept on top of the covers in little or no night clothes.  In the mornings I would have five to ten new welts, itchy as all get out.  MC?  Not a nibble.

 

We needn’t have worried, everything turned out fine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

User Comments

🙂🙂🙂 precious memories 🙂🙂🙂

How's it goin', rg?  Hope things are looking up.

My appointment is this Wednesday. To schedule biopsy

fingers, toes, even eyes crossed!!  

✝️✝️✝️

That must have been a real challenge for you two newlyweds!  I'm glad it all worked out in the end, and that you got to be together for the adventure.   It sounds lovely!

Thanks, maggie...

{#basic-cool.gif}   Now me want schnitzel.

Me, too!!

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