Posted in Souvenirs

More of Pops’ Diary

A while ago I was asked to share more of my grandfather’s diary entries from his trip to Germany with his father when he was 19 in 1936. This post is a bit overdue, but here it is. 

June 20

We made the boat with plenty to spare. As yet we cannot find the shower. Felt all right considering this is my first ride on an ocean liner. It was quite foggy the entire day. Dad has already gotten into a card game. We were late for both meals.

Sunday, June 21

Am not seasick yet. Somebody swiped one of our deck chairs. We were late again for all our meals. It takes three dishes just to serve a sardine. Pop thought that the napkins case was a souvenir but the steward thought different. We saw the Queen Mary. Won a mark and 20 pfennig in a pinochle game.

June 29, Montag

It took a bunch of Englishmen to get the passengers most of whom are German to sing “Deutschland Uber Alles.” They got on board, got stewed and acted like a bunch of Americans. Well tomorrow is the last day. I don’t know whether I’m glad or not. The boat ride was very nice.

July 1, Mittwoch

We took a train early this morning, that is shortly after midnight and went to Nürnberg or that is Fürth. Dad telegraphed home that night so Kunic, Ketta + Augusta were there to meet us. Pop got a good reception. All the young kids in Zirndorf keep looking at me as though I were a foreigner. Boy are these kids soft.

Pops (left) with his dad, Fritz, at the Niederwald monument Germania

July 3 Friday

People here still continue to stare at us. The beds sure are comfortable. Yesterday and today we didn’t get up until 12 o’clock. I never saw so many bicycles in my life. It seems everybody owns a bike, a motorcycle or an Austin-like car.

Saturday, July – 4

No fireworks for me this year. It didn’t seem like the fourth at all. We went to Oldenburg today and for the first time I saw German playing cards. They sure are funny looking things. I found out today in German cars you get 100 kl on 8 ½ liters of gasoline. This amounts to about 30 miles to the gallon. Prices over here are very high. It costs .83 for a liter of gas. In Bremen I saw a Ford priced a 6800 marks.

The longer I stay here the better I like it. The food is delicious and the beer gardens interesting. Motorcycles are not expensive as you can get them as low as 300 marks. Went to Nürnberg and we bought some ties there.

Monday July – 6

Watched Conrad skin a small deer. Personally I wouldn’t want to be a hunter. Received the P.O. today with full details of the Schmeling Louis fight. Today was the first time I ever saw chickens screwing. I suppose we’ll have deer meat for dinner tomorrow, but I don’t know whether I’ll be able to eat it or not.

Tuesday – July 7

Well we had venison for dinner today. It tasted darn good. In the afternoon we took a walk through the woods and climbed the tower. From the top you can see about six towns, including Zirndorf and Nürnberg.

To-night in the Brëmen I met some one who could talk English. He was the only one besides pop who could. Boy the working men here sure have it tough. They work 48 hours a week and only make 24 marks. The two men Conrad has helping him have to work 12 or 13 hours a day. They slaughtered three large pigs today.

Friday – July 10.

Went with Conrad in the uncovered wagon to the slaughter house in Nürnberg. There I was walking thru puddles of blood with white shoes and light grey suit. Boy every body stared at me and the cop asked where I came from.

I notice every town has a sign “Juden Unerwün(s)cht” which means “Jews are unwanted”

Monday – July – 13

Walked all the way to Fürth with Pop. Then we took a street car to Nürnberg and went to the museum there. What a place. We walked around for about two hours and still only saw about half the place. It’s a much more interesting place than the Cleveland museums. Walked all the way home from Fürth also. Never walked so much in all my life.

Monday July 20

We started on our trip down the Rhein [Rhine] finally. Stopped at Heilbronn for lunch. While we were there we visited the Rathaus. Got to Heidelberg in time for supper. We went up in an old German castle after supper to see a play. The whole thing was nifty. What a walk we had up a steep hill to the old burg.

Tuesday July 21 – Wednesday July 22

We bought a couple raincoats in Heidelberg. Then we went up to the castle again, only this time we went thru the whole thing with a guide.

About 11 A.M. we left Heidelberg and went to Darmstadt for lunch. After that we went to Mainz and visited the great wine factory there. We also visited a large church there. Just as we were coming into Mainz a truck hit us and tore a hubcap off and bent the fender. We stay all night in Rüdesheim and also tomorrow night. Our whole bus load went to some place and had a bit of a party. Two of the girls from our gang were trying to teach me to dance. Personally I don’t think they got every far. We had plenty of wine and I was feeling pretty good.

Wed. July 29

Rode to Nürnberg and back, Fürth and back and Leichendorf and back on a bicycle. Well it looks like Sunday we go the Mts and Thursday I leave for Berlin with Ketta and Shank.

August 10 (last entry)

Well I’m on the train toward Zirndorf. It wasn’t as bad in Berlin as I thought it would be. Toward the end Ketta and Shank were battling a little too much. On the ship to Potsdam yesterday Ketta bawled me out for drinking too much beer. I only had eleven glasses. Boy is Shank tight. If Pop hadn’t given him a fifty, he wouldn’t have spent a cent.

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Posted in Souvenirs

Pops’ Diary

I never met Pops, my maternal grandfather. He passed away when I was one year old. The picture of him I have in my head is of a smiling man in his mid-twenties with a large round head, glasses, and a cigarette in hand, wearing three-piece suits thus always looking dapper. I have two heirlooms of his. The first is a ring; the second is his travel diary.

This year for Christmas for my mother I decided to transcribe his travel diary. In 1936 when he was 19 he accompanied his father to Zirndorf at Nürnberg, Germany to visit his father’s family and friends. Coincidentally, his father bought him the ring while on that trip.

The whole experience of transcribing this little book was fascinating to me on several levels. I loved learning about my grandfather’s personality and what he perceived important to note. Not only did I get to know him as a young man, but I also caught a glimpse of life pre-World War II in central Germany.

My grandfather captured some economic markers. He commented on how high prices were compared to in Cleveland, Ohio, his home. A liter of gasoline cost 83 pfennings (33 cents in 1936), and a Ford cost 6800 marks (2742 dollars in 1936). He said how many hours a day the workers worked (48 per week) and how much they were paid (24 marks). The list of occupations of people he met includes butchers, a pencil factory worker, and a Zimmermann (metal work) factory worker.

Cultural items and events, both German and American, were referenced. I learned about the Max Schmeling/Joe Louis fight of 1936 and its place in boxing history, something he was eager to hear details about in a letter from home. Shortly after he saw pictures of the fight in town. He also mentioned going to two films, one being Der Junge Graf or The Young Count starring Anny Ondra, who happened to be married to Max Schmeling.

On a more historical cultural note, my grandfather mentioned seeing signs all over Nürnberg that read “Juden Unerwünscht” or “Jews are unwanted.”

One thing that caught me off guard while doing this project was how some things he said seemed to be universal of a 19 year old on holiday, from the frivolous to the true. For example, he tallied up the number of glasses of water he had for the entire trip – two half glasses. Everything else was beer. I did a similar thing when I went to Ireland (age 20). I had a tally at the end of each day’s journal entry of how many beers or Jamesons I’d had.

My grandfather also wrote about something that is very common to the traveling experience. He described how he felt he was constantly stared at by the Germans, mostly the children. People often feel they stand out from their host culture for one reason or another be it their dress, their race, their body language, or their speech. His dress drew some stares one particular day while he was visiting a relative’s slaughterhouse. He was wearing white shoes and a light grey suit while walking through the blood puddles. This was apparently not the typical uniform worn in a slaughterhouse.

This project of transcribing my grandfather’s travel diary was an awesome experience for me. I love to read travel memoirs and here I was able to learn about my grandfather at the same time as reading about his journey. Seeing how much has changed and how little was intriguing and, in parts, unexpected.