Tag Archives: John C. Krueger

Father – Daddy – Dad

I met my Dad coming out of a lift. I didn´t give him a chance of nervously pacing around a waiting room, sitting down and jumping up again. I was there when he arrived at the hospital, being carried around on the arm of a nurse.  I don´t remember this momentous meeting, but my father does.

What I remember are the times he took me to the printshops. I felt privileged to sneak a look at the enormous machines, smell the ink and see the huge paper rolls that were used to create the newspaper, which my father worked on. It was also very noisy, but I didn´t mind because that was part of the magic.

My Dad the journalist

I took it for granted that we lived in Europe, my father came from the States and had married an italian lady. Until recently I did not appreciate where he came from. In the course of this year we have spent many hours chatting about his childhood in a cozy midwestern town called Oak Harbor. We talked about the accident, which nearly killed him when he was seven and left him with one eye. We talked about him leaving his town and beginning life on his own at the University of Notre Dame (while still sending home all his wash ) and how he tried to get a foothold as cartoonist and journalist in the States after graduation.

He went to Europe as a tourist and decided to look for a job while there. He got lucky in Rome, where the “Daily American” was being published. A paper where, while it still existed, I also was able to visit the printshop. This is where he met a girl called Maria. He went off to Paris to work for the Herald Tribune, but found that he really missed the lady that became my Mother – Mummy – Mum. She joined him, while mastering climbing mountains of bureaucracy that were not used to dealing with an American and an Italian that wanted to get married in Paris in the year of 1957.

I discovered in our chats that he had saved every letter my mother and he wrote in this time of their long distance courtship. He saved every letter his mother sent him. He saved his lists of wash sent home from University. He saved every cartoon and copies of many of the articles he wrote.  We decided to go through all his material to organize it. For me it was like walking through time, discovering what was on my father´s mind and happening in his life at the time and with him there to explain and elaborate on pictures, drawings, stories and letters it all became real.

Sometimes things happen for a reason. I had just finished compiling an anthology for an adult learning course. It was a lot of work and of course I was doing it for free (which is something I cannot really afford, but who can nowadays). While we sorted through my Dad´s work I came upon familiar drawings of a pirate. He was called Captain Bucky and the drawings showed him golfing or skiing, things we normally don´t associate with pirates. But to my great surprise there were a lot more drawings of Bucky, which I had never seen and a story my father had written about the pirate. That´s when the pieces of the puzzle fell in place.

I had drawings. I had a story. I had an author and I had just learned how to create books. The idea was born and my father liked it. What a way to celebrate being over 80.

 

Pirate Bucky know what to do with Cannon Balls @John C. Krueger

Pirate Bucky knows what to do with Cannon Balls @John C. Krueger

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon the first print of “The Jolly Roger Twins – Pirates who fly Kites” will be produced. Little did I know there was a lot more learning to do, but throughout it all my Dad and I had a wonderful time creating his first book. And being 80 and suffering from makular degeneration, doesn´t stop him from making plans for the next one.

It will be called Roma Oma and Europa Opa.

@Francesca

Here is a sample of my Dad´s professional writing from the sixties:

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Snow – friend or fiend?

“Excuse me. The U-Bahn was late because of the snow,” Francesca said when she arrived 15 minutes late to our meeting. “The Germans can´t handle snow any more,” I grumbled.”Two snowflakes, and everything runs late. Just shows how far German reliability has gone down.” “But in London public transport really broke down”, our South Korean friend reminded me. “In comparison, 15 minutes late in  Germany aren´t that bad”.

When it comes to snow, I become a raging “Kulturpessimist”, one of those  who always  sigh “When I was young, everything was much better”.

Snow  was much better when I was young.

First of all, there was snow. Snow season started in December and lasted till March. Sometimes we even looked for Easter eggs in a snow covered garden. In the moderate clima zone of Germany, snow meant fun: skiing, riding a sleigh, bulding a snowman, snowball fights. At least for the kids. For my father, it was hard work. Every morning, after a night of falling snow, I woke up to the sound of the snow shovel scraping on our gravel road. 200 m he had to clear before he could get out to work. I didn´t hear his words, probably for the better. But his angry shoulders and abrupt movements told me that he was not amused. 

When I got up and went to school, not only had my father already cleared our private road, but the public roads were free of snow, too. At 5 o´clock in the morning, the snow plough had started its work. It pushed the snow aside with its iron shield, coughed it up with the snowblower and melted it with salt distributed by a rotating disc. The garage of the snowplough was near my parents home. On my way to school I passed the huge barn, filled with saltbags for winter. Those saltbags, empty,  served as make-shift bobs for us children, as they where very thick and durable. 

Snow never was a problem for drivers in the Black forest. Everybody boasted confidence, nobody came one minute late because of the snow. The secret: be prepared. We had cars whith  engines in the back and not in front, which helped when you had to drive uphill in snow. Everbody knew which gear to choose for the right speed on snowy slopes and winding streets. Everybody knew about engine brakes, had non-skid chains in its trunk and winter tyres on the rims. Sometimes, when somebody got stuck on a hill, all neighbors came to weigh the rear end down with their bodies. 

While  enjoying these happy memories I always forget about the cold. Cold as in terribly cold. Wet woolen mittens didn´t warm my fingers, neither did unlined wellingtons warm my toes . All during winter,  feet and hands were icy red. And wouldn´d get warm at night.

Germans don´t heat bedrooms. Instead, they rely on thick feather duvets and a hot water-bottle for warmth (some of them with two ears…). Normally, the window is open, at least a bit. For this nightly nip of fresh air, German windows can be opened two ways: completely or by unhingeing the upper part which then inclines into the room.  This is the mode for the night, while the wide open window is reserved for the morning, when the duvets are placed on the window sill to air them. 

Germans sincerely believe in the prophylactic power of cold and fresh air: as if bacteria and viruses would immediately die in an oxygen enriched, cold environment. To catch a cold, in our understanding, is only remotely connected to the temperature outside. Of course, German mothers insist that their children wear coat, gloves and cap in winter. But deep in their heart they don´t worry too much: “Draußensein in der Kälte härtet ab. Das ist die beste Vorsorge gegen Erkältung – to beware of a cold  be out in the cold.”

Those “on duty” when snow falls find ample opportunities to enjoy the cold. By law, sidewalks must be cleared from snow before 7 o´clock in the morning and kept open till 8 o´clock in the evening. Otherwise, if somebody falls and breaks its ankle, he can claim liability. In principle, the clearing of the sidewalks lies in the responsibility of the local council. In practice, local councils hand this responsibility down to house owners, who hand it further down to the tennants. Whose duty is to  do what in which week is part of rental contracts and elaborate in-house arrangements. In German appartment houses, you often see calendars with alternating names either fixed to the notice board or dangling from the doorknob of the person on duty.

Homesick Ohioan gets lesson in Snowshovelling in 1967 @John C. Krueger

Homesick Ohioan gets lesson in Snowshovelling in 1967 @John C. Krueger

This schedules for “Kehrwoche” must be obeyed, at all cost. Otherwise, sanctions aren´t far away. A German saying goes: “Es kann der Beste nicht in Frieden leben, wenn es dem bösen Nachbarn nicht gefällt – even the best can´t live in peace if his neighbours decide do act nasty”.  On the other hand, if you obey to the Kehrwoche rules and fight your way out into a snowstorm at 6 o´clock to shovel snow, you will be rewarded with the warmest possible welcome from your neighbours, a 10 on the Richter-scale. 

My landlord outsourced the snow-cleaning job to a professional firm. Lucky me. I can stay in my – heated – bedroom till it´s time to go to work. It is only when I see my handsome new neighbour shoveling snow that I feel a pang of regret. 

But this is another story.

©Truegerman

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