Collected memories of Hans with a start in the spring of 1930?

Recollections and memories from, as far as I can discern today, the approximate age of perhaps two or three months. The early beginning of my memory with today’s hindsight seems to be not all that exciting. Yet it is the beginning of my stock of experiences and to me, at least at the time, strange and unreasonable occurrences.

 I know no way to bypass them and still give you understanding of what I saw later on and why I judged the happenings as I did. So, while these recollections of past experiences are not world shaking news they open a door into my own way of viewing and judging the goings on around me. I found so many of my early thoughts puzzling and frequently opted for immediate critical investigation, and if that didn’t help, to store my experiences for review at a later time.  

This stock of memories is not derived from a learned skill or a method taught in school. It is a very personal system ingrained in my brain which has grown more useful by usage. Today it has that fine patina that only frequent use seems to add.  As we all have learned to walk and not lose our balance, I have without this learning practice collected memories that are still hauntingly fresh to me.  I have at times judged my eyes as too critical. There have, from time to time, been mistakes in my perceptions, but with time I learned more and more to reduce flaws to an almost insignificant number.

An evaluation of my mind set by one of our new breed of psychologists’ states, that I have a strange method of thinking, yet regularly come up with valid conclusions.

In my early twenties I met a young man who drew beautiful character pictures of people around us. He was doing manual labor and I found his descriptions of casual acquaintances fascinating enough to want him to analyze me. He refused to do this for a while until I found the right wavelength to him. His judgment of my personality stunned me. I think it took me a week to come to grips with one particular character statement of his.

As close as I can remember he said ‘you are the most intense person I have ever met’. My mother was of the old breed with a strong set of ambitions. She was always striving to get her way and to inscribe her set of rules and our family’s cultural values on me, her boy. There wasn’t anything subtle about my mother’s methods. On top of her list was to teach me manners. This package of behavior matching her approach to etiquette did perhaps not sit too well with a boy who lacked the usual portion of phobias translated to fears. Intimidation, I found, has a difficult road when the element of terror fails to penetrate.

This strategy of correct, and thereby friendly, manners mixed in with my ruthlessly expressed judgments hid from me, what my talented young friend explained to me about my character.



My earliest clear memories are of having my diapers changed. My thoughts at the time were filled with puzzlement and questions. Questions seem to be my major mode of thinking. These early thoughts of curiosity are an overpowering force in my life. More than that it takes first place in my thinking process to such a high degree it shadows my emotions. In later years my parents told me repeatedly that my first words were not mommy or daddy, but ‘well why?’ 

My early thoughts were questions such as; why did they always lift my right leg and not ever my left leg when lifting my rear end for the change of diapers? I found it peculiar and unpleasant that a cold draft seemed to accompany this exchange of diapers. I was puzzled by this repetitive routine with a curiosity for why, since I felt quite comfortable with the wet but comfortably warm cloth. The frequent operation was stored in my head with a lingering question mark. I shelved the memory of this experience for discovery at a later time.

There wasn’t much else going on in range of my vision, my hearing or my sense of smell. My sense of touch I categorized as a very different sensation not at all related to the first three senses.

            A long time later, by my sense of time at that age, when I had learned to sit up, I found myself watching this large two legged person raise her two appendages with some extensions it held onto and proceeded to cut a hole into the white wall. I sat on the floor at the time and saw her having a problem to reach up high enough to get the top cut evenly, despite the fact that she stood on a four legged contraption made of a material which showed irregular lines running all in one direction. This type of material I learned later to be made from growth labeled trees so tall that it seemed to reach into the blue top of the outside world

The two legged person I later learned to be my mother, took a foldable contraption we call a stepladder. This interesting thing she proceeded to unfold and stand up next to the hole she had cut out of the large white wall to my left. I still see this same woody design on it as the previously mentioned four legged contraption I later found out to be a chair. This mother, I later was instructed to recognize as mine, had acted in a fashion which I soon found meaningful as a form of communication, classified as rejection.

As I was sitting on the floor the window was being cut into the wall to my left. The door through which this mother of mine had brought in the window I later learned to identify as a door was built into the far right corner from me. I watched my mother pick up the window which I found to be an interesting fun object. The fact that it seemed to be a frame only with a large empty center became even more fascinating when I saw moving reflections of the opposite wall in it.

 In a peculiar way it seemed that the window was constructed to fool my perception.  The center appeared to be empty. This was just the thing to plant in me a strong urge to investigate the reflections of light from this apparently empty space.  The impulse to get closer gripped me. I used the appendages on my main frame we call arms and legs to move toward it. This brought about my first encounter with opposition to my will and intent. My mother physically moved me away from the window denying me to explore. A strange experience when first encountered, I assure you.

  Once this mother had fastened the window in the hole in the wall she stood back to appraise it with a stance I later learned to recognize as satisfaction and pride. This episode was of short duration. The mother brought a metallic shiny object which became identified as a bucket and stirred a combination of a white powder and a liquidy thing to be known as water in it. Later on this material became identified as plaster of Paris.

The mother then started to put this plaster into the openings around the contraption known as a window. She did this by using the chair and the ladder at various times to overcome the inefficiency of her appendages’ length. The use of these wooden contraptions called a chair and a stepladder allowed her to easily reach the remaining spaces around this window. She filled the spaces with this white gook like substance from the bucket using a large flat extension to her appendages I later learned to identify as a spatula.


As time went on I started to look at descriptive nomenclature with an increased interest and found that the original meaning of the word window came from a root language and originally was split into two words with the strange meaning of wind and eye. Further more I found the light reflecting material was called glass. Since it did not let the wind in I was puzzled by the terminology until I, at a later date, learned that at a previous time these windows did not have the reflective material glass in it, but were just an open hole in the wall, that is except for oiled cloth being used to hold out the wind in the winter time.

It was just a little while later that the larger of the two people I frequently saw in my room started to work on a large black tube standing upright near the wall opposite the window. This person I later learned to identify as a counterpart to the mother, labeled as father, accessed openings at the bottom and the top of the upright standing tube which had escaped my previous attention. This father, poked into it to get some gray dirt out of it after which the bottom door was closed and the tube was being filled with some black rocks. Shortly after this the two persons started to repeatedly point at the black tube and talk to me with a strong intensity.

 I had never seen these two people be so adamant about anything in my life. The taller one went to the big black tube standing close to the wall, reached out to it waved at me and the black tube of the stove and made some loud and to me meaningless sounds. The smaller one, my mother, come close to him and the black tube and she seemed to have an even higher intensity than my father did. This went on and on for perhaps ten, eleven times. Thinking back to these moments, remembering that I did not understand the meaning of the word sounds my parents made, but I started to collect the sounds pitch and intensity for a message conveying warnings. It started me on the road to reading body language  

 Can you imagine what an odd experience this was? This was the first time I became aware, that these persons had a puzzling and peculiar mental problem. I also made a surprising discovery because of this repeated demand to look to the right side of my room where the stove stood. I found that I could see the wall and the black round stove as clearly as a photograph without turning my head in its direction. I did not have to look to the right side any more because I could just see the wall and the black round stove that clearly with just the tiniest amount of concentration.

It seems like yesterday. I had a toy train consisting of two passenger cars and one locomotive made from wood in front of me. I had moved up on my right leg to get a greater range of movement. It allowed me to move the little toy railroad around in a larger circle. It is the first toy that got the level of interest that it stuck with me. The attention was at that degree of fascination. I can close my eyes and still see these cars with doors and windows painted on in red and black.

I thought it strange that these two people were not aware of my preoccupation with my amusing toy train. I promised myself to take care of inspecting the black tube over at the wall at a later time. Obviously I decided to ignore the odd behavior of this team of mother and father for the time being. It was the start of a new rule of behavior for me. I started to be attentive to these peoples’ odd behavior.

Since I was born in Spring and the usual time for starting a fire in a stove is in the Fall perhaps late September, it would indicate that I was approximately six months old. My information from a later date indicates we left this town by the name of Kreibitz early that following Spring. I was told the place burned down shortly after we left it, and we never came back to this, my first home. Which pretty much fixed the time of my observations into an unmistakable period.

It is in this early period of time that I formed the intent to watch and learn about my parent’s frequently odd attitudes and behavior.

It was a fresh spring morning still in the town of Kreibitz that I found the door to the outside had been left open. Information of a later date is that I started to walk in my tenth month. My curiosity to see the outside, other than from the arm of my parents, was enough reason to walk over to the door and out onto the dirt road. An inborn drive of curiosity is not a learned taste. I later came to recognize this thirst for information as my most pervasive, inborn personality trait. I decided to explore the outside.

 I walked out of the door and found a vast and complex picture. The dirt road was just a few steps from the front door. A few needle trees stood across the road and at the other side of the ditch running along the road. The sun was glistening off the trees and I discovered a number of new smells that were a combination of fresh grass, wood, resin, and fresh wind breeze. I had never experienced anything like this before.

Fresh light green grass stood up from the rising bank on the other side of the ditch on the far side of the hard dirt pavement. The grass was interrupted by splotches of light brown or sandy colored dirt. It seemed to be a much larger place to explore than the inside. To the best of my knowledge this was my first opportunity to get to grips with the outside world. I remember it to be as exciting an experience as I ever had before.

That my mother came a little while later to interfere with my discovery did not seem that strange to me anymore.

I had observed my father riding in a large toy like contraptions which I heard him call Kaelble which I later learned to be a tractor. My recollection is that this huge toy was not to be seen after we left this town called Kreibitz.

The only memorable person other than my parents was a man who was even taller than my dad was. I actually only started to pay attention to him after he one day picked up my father, my mother and me in his arms and walked with us out the door. Years later I found out that he was a war veteran. I also heard that his wife when carrying her first baby felt she needed to go to the toilet. Most toilets were outhouses. She went to the outhouse, gave birth right there and dropped their first born child into the pile of excrement found underneath these huts.  

 More recently I have had the opportunity to find out that Kreibitz was one of the few places where the art and industry of glass blowing came into effect as early as the thirteenth century. This glass blowing had, it appears, been previously the exclusive secret art of the glass blowers of Venice. These industry secrets had been closely guarded by the Venetian trade people to the point of sending out a person called a Bravo. A Bravo, I later learned, is a Venetian professional hit man used to punish and eliminate a competitor, spy or enemy for a fee. 




It was shortly after I started exploring the front of my home that my parents packed the Itala full with suitcases and we drove off for an extended trip. The Itala was an open car with a convertible top and three rows of seats. The drive, I believe, took all day to darkness, though I spent much of the time sleeping. When my father stopped the car in a courtyard between two buildings I woke up. He took some packages from the car while my mother lifted me out of the seat and carried me inside the larger of the two buildings. As we went into this large house there were a bunch of strangers. These people paid us quite a lot of unnecessary attention. The only interesting part to me was that I got a bottle of milk and then some soup.

As so often I must have fallen asleep, because the first thing I knew after that was waking up in a small bed like contraption.  The following day, after the many hours of sleeping in the car and some watching of the landscape flying by we again came to a stop. I saw a surprisingly strange driveway into which we had driven.  I saw a long rock wall on the left with a large crowned tree next to it.  I also saw a larger house on the right side with a small house like structure attached to it.

What I didn’t know at the time was that this was my maternal grandparents’ home. For a seemingly long period of time this is where mother and I stayed. As usual I spent many of my waking hours on the floor exploring the life in a kitchen that doubled for both living room and dining room. The room had two windows and two doors one for each wall. The dining table had the table legs fastened to small boards at a height where I could get my legs underneath, which I shortly found to be an unpleasant restriction to my moving around.

I never did get enough time to explore all the nooks and corners or the stairs leading down to a dark cellar. Soon my father reappeared and after some packing off we went, this time for an hour’s drive to a large two story building with a long private driveway and a separate building for the car as well as structures for horses, sheep and chickens. To the best of my recollection this was my first encounter with sheep and horses.

The dimensions of the estate I was to call home from that time seemed endless. With the first snow a red tricycle appeared on the scene. This little three-wheeler helped to keep me inside the house where the ten foot wide hall, paved with light gray marble slabs, which reached from the front door to the rear door and the double sized farm kitchen were for me to roam in. It was just a few days later when I used my new indoor transportation to run my lips into a drawer knob. I did this so hard that my lip hammered between my teeth and the knob opened a hole which even today still shows a bump.

My dad’s mother had died the year before we moved into my grandfather’s country estate. My grandmother’s personal friend, whom for lack of a better word I shall call the housekeeper, was in charge of the servants. I remember her only by the term Fräulein. She had discharged the cook and taken over the kitchen with just one more maid to help her. Fräulein was not particularly happy to have a rambunctious child invade her territory. My father, the youngest child of my grandparents, had been out of the childhood stage for at least twenty years.

None of the maids ever talked to me that I can remember. Fräulein repeatedly warned me that I was begging for my father to spank me. Soon she began to shake her head at me when my activities exasperated her.

To my disappointment the horses were sold and the coachman was discharged. The coach house was soon rented to a tailor. Once a week I watched the remaining two maids carry buckets and large metal cans filled at the pump up into the attic. Once when I had a chance to get there through the heavy fire proof metal door up the stairs from the second floor, I saw them pour the water into a big black kettle which with its five foot heights and six foot width impressed me tremendously.

This water kettle was the source of water at the water closet downstairs at the end of the first floor’s corridor. It also fed the toilet on the second floor’s bathroom in the addition to the main building. My grandfather had added this, from what I learned later, after he inherited this estate in a village then called Sandhübel. The history of Sandhübel is, that its name prior to the seventeenth century was Wüstenkirch, though in the older style of spelling it was Wüstenkhyrch which name reaches back to the middle of the fourteenth century when the area was very commercial with its iron and steel production.

Once a year our front garden was rented to the village administration for some religious celebration. It was then that our front property was turned into a mix of flea market and amusement park. I think that is when my grandfather lost interest in staying at Sandhübel with us.

 Grandfather Gabriel sold the sheep and shortly after that he told me over breakfast that he was going to leave and only come back to visit us each year in the spring. I can still see him slicing his open-faced sandwich into strips. Then he would  fit them carefully into his mouth without staining the mustache part of his large white beard with the bread spread, which for the morning was always jam or marmalade.

My grandfather left and a few months later, Fräulein got sick and had to be taken to the county seat Freiwaldau’s hospital. I remember being three years old and having to go and visit her in that hospital. This was not something for which I had much eagerness. Fräulein died shortly after the second or third visit and I was obliged to attend her funeral, my first one.

After Fräulein died my mother let all but one maid go. Three quarter’s of the main building was locked up and a door was installed upstairs to separate the part of the mansion we continued to use from the rest. Workmen came, and under my father’s directions the big upstairs bathroom was divided up into a smaller bathroom, a kitchen and a small entry hall. A coal burning kitchen stove was installed, which for a year or so was where my mother began to cook for our family.

Shortly after this my father brought three hotplates from Germany which’s border was about six miles from our village. He had the carpenter build a box for the hotplates and connected it up to the electric circuits. In order to get the wiring to the wall above the hotplate he chiseled the walls plaster open right into the bricks underneath and laid a triple wire into it after threading it into a number of threaded tubes. I remember the first time he turned on the hotplates to test them.

At age three my eyes were not high enough to see his hand did not touch the hotplate. I was sure he had laid his hand on it. I have always been quick to copy anything I saw him do. So, without hesitation and too quick for anyone to stop me, I copied him. This is the first time I ever burned my hand.

This is how Sandhübel had become electrified beyond just lighting. Within weeks my dad added an electric oven for baking which he shoved underneath the boxed hotplates that were our cooking range.  

Soon the coal stove became a relic of an older time. After the new home made electric range had been started up the wood and coal burning kitchen stove stood there rarely ever fired up. It saw so little use that when I wrote it down a few days ago I had to be reminded that it was still there to the day we took a powder away from the newly established Czech communist system to the west. Our four or five car garage with nothing but an ancient motorcycle was largely used like our attic. The bike still had square tank like the Henderson which Papsch had once driven for a while.

One of the local pubs, the Rum Bay, has a few antique motorbikes and a Henderson with its four cylinder engine is there too. The attic was a storage place for complete sets of furniture, paintings, Persian rugs, shotguns, sabers, lances, and a couple of revolvers. I am talking about the first floor of the attic which was not much smaller than the second floor not the upper much smaller second level. The larger one of the latter weapons was a Lancaster pin fire, forty-five caliber, octagonal barrel and with all kinds of ammunition. The, for its time large library, had a book titled ‘THE CARE AND USE OF THE LANCE.’ which I read from cover to cover.

A few years later I would go upstairs through the fire proof iron door to the attic and take some of the shotgun ammo, cut the shells open take out the powder from a dozen or so.  Then I went down to the chicken coop poured the powder into a small pile and put a match to it. The powder went off with a huge flame and scared the hens so much they would go and lay their eggs in the bushes for a week instead of in their nests.

There was so much stuff that my parents never went to buy furniture. When they felt a need to change anything, chairs, tables, beds, armoires, chest of drawers, mirrors, clocks, servers or desks, they just had a couple of people, meaning men, come in and carry upstairs what they wanted to get rid of and bring down what style of furniture they wanted to change to.

One Biedermeier armoire was brought down for my toys and my books. It was set down in the upstairs hallway, which had the same ten foot width as the one downstairs. My mother fell in love with the Biedermeier style of this armoire. So she had the living room furnished with a complete set from our attic exchanging it with the existing black Oak arrangement.

My father’s only sister lived in Vienna on Radetzky street (Platz?). The luxurious apartment she lived in was on the third floor of a large apartment building. Before you get a wrong impression, I should straighten out the floor arrangement of Viennese apartment buildings. Our first Floor would be a Viennese sous-parterre, our second floor is the parterre and our third floor is a Viennese first floor. Additionally, the floor sizes in heights are considered to require eleven foot and a seven foot height is considered a half floor. 

 Her husband had died before my time. She came to visit us when I was three, with her younger daughter who was ten at the time. This cousin of mine was ten years old at the time. She was the first child I ever remember meeting. She became a dream playmate for me, possibly because she spent a lot of her time pulling me around in a little wooden toy hay wagon painted a nice grass green. Ten years would pass before I saw her again.

My mother, letting so many of the help go made us short of help for carrying the water up to the kettle in the attic. Dad hired a couple of workmen for a part-time job. Soon the two laborers had dug a large deep round hole next to the well. That is when a horse drawn wagon arrived with a huge load of red bricks. Even though I was made rather unwelcome at the dig site, wild horses could not have kept me away from it.

As soon as the deep shaft had been bricked out another wagon came into the yard with a huge pump and a kettle, which was lowered down and connected up with pipes both to the well as well as to the main building in front of it. Under my dad’s supervision the men when finished, covered the top of the new pump well with a large black iron lid. The sun baked the lid which I in my ignorance made the mistake of touching. I burned my hand enough to make a mental note to watch out for dark objects that roasted in the sun.

A couple of extra faucets and sinks had been installed. We finally had running water and not from maids carrying the water upstairs but from that humming pump in the back yard. Not enough that we now had running cold water, dad brought home an electric motor about the size of large pumpkin. With some drawings in his hand he got into his Itala car and drove to Bömischdorf.

The name Bömischdorf translates to Bohemian village. It was east of us, between our place, Sandhübel and the county seat Freiwaldau. Bömischdorf was blessed with a blacksmith by the name of Karl Kurzer who had a machine shop there. What impressed me the most when visiting him was the view out the rear windows to the creek, where a water wheel brought power and transmitted it to his machines and drill press. Every time we were visiting the Kurzer blacksmith I would sneak over and open one of the windows so I could hear the water running down the wheel and splashing back into the brook. 

Whenever my dad drove some place I was eager to come along. In just a little while the Kurzer smith had welded a small contraption together which we took back home. To get to the attic you had to get up on the second floor’s corridor walk over to the front of the building and to the right there was a double sash door behind which you found the staircase to the attic. This was not the previously mentioned metal fire door, which you got to after going up a set of stairs which was twisting to the right.

As always my curiosity about my dad’s design and the promised end product was immense.  I successfully fought my mother and her wish for me to take a nap, off.  Instead I stuck with my father to watch him assemble the eggbeater and motor with the frame into what turned out to be a motorized mix master. This is when and where I saw the first mechanized whip cream maker and eggbeater ever. My father assembled the machine right there on the steps. I saw him take great pleasure in getting a bowl of egg white and have the new kitchen machine beat it to stiff foam.

Sandhübel had a railroad station and a gas pump at the corner grocery across the street from the river Biele. As far as the gas pump is concerned we are talking about a couple of five liter glass jars hanging from a funny metal figure resembling a scarecrow painted red.  A lever between the two glass urns with a wooden handle allowed you to pump gasoline into one of the jars while the other drained through the hose into the car’s gas tank. When dad pumped gas into our Ittala, which had a thirteen liter engine, it took more than eight fills of the five liter jars to quench its thirst.

The Itala remains vivid in my memory since one day, but for my Uncle Richard’s intervention, its door would have cut off some of my fingers. Someone had slammed the door closed while my hand still reached into the door frame. Lo and behold Uncle Richard caught it in time to stop it from closing.  He was the youngest brother of my mother. For the moment I am skipping forward eight years to a time that was to seal his fate. 

He is one of these strange people who didn’t get to survive the second war for the simple reason that he turned into a pacifist as early as the Polish Blitz war. Uncle Richard had been conscripted into military service soon after Czechoslovakia was invaded and the border counties known as Sudetenland were annexed to Germany.

I remember him showing me his ribbon to mark him as a specialist machine gunner with great pride. The war on Poland was called the Polen Feldzug. This quick and sudden war still carrying the name Feldzug was where and when the term Blitzkrieg was coined. Surprisingly just a couple of weeks into this Feldzug he showed up in Sandhübel. My mother was quite surprised and questioned him with concern. I can still see him eating from a freshly baked layer cake while relating a strange story of his being sent back for an unexpectedly sudden furlough. Uncle Richard told the story twice. First time he told us with my parents present and then again when the two using him as a babysitter went to see a movie.

My Infantry Company was traveling on foot. We had to cover some sixty Kilometers a day.’  This amounts to about forty miles. ‘My feet just simply gave out. So with my feet blue and green I walked off the road into a Polish farm barn where I spent a couple of nights waiting for my feet to heal enough to get back to the front line. The propaganda stories about the Polish people cutting noses and ears off their prisoners went through my head. It was pretty scary all right. As soon as my feet had healed enough I got out of there in a hurry and rejoined my unit.”

Uncle Richard told us his company was well dug in, now quite a stretch inside Poland. He received orders from his Sergeant to open fire. That was when, his finger on the trigger, the two days he had to think about the war and his place in it came to roost.

Shaking his head he told his sergeant; “these people didn’t do anything to me. I am not going to shoot them dead.” The sergeant’s mouth fell open in surprise. This was the most unexpected statement in the Polish war. His sergeant who had no experience with this was puzzled for a short while. The famous book had no answer for this. Not knowing any better he asked the company commander to write my uncle a furlough release and to send him home. As a result Uncle Richard was considered to be fatigued. The Wehrmacht sent home for that furlough which brought him to baby-sit with us in Sandhübel.


Going back to nineteen thirty three; I still had my fingers intact because of Uncle Richard, which was good because I still needed them sometimes to do the ordinary thing of picking my nose and scratching in places that itched.

If you are puzzled about my fascination with the water splashing you got to understand that the river Biele I am talking about the other side of the road from the gas station was just a touch less than two feet deep. I couldn’t even learn to swim in it. The only time I tried to, I cut my toes wide open on the glass our village people had thrown into it. It was just one more of these important lessons that life taught me early on. I promise you it wasn’t the last one either.

All this was just before I decided to leave home and run away to my grandmother. I had been busy with my new toy train. This was not the old woody but a brand new electric train my dad had bought as a kit to assemble. It was a beauty and I was so totally gone on it I forgot to go potty. I mean I pooped in my pants. You should have heard my mom. She became so vicious I decided to leave as soon as the maid had cleaned me up.

I went over to the upstairs hall, got into my toys containing armoire and took out my doll suit case. I packed it full of clothing. It was a bitch all right. I could barely get in what I felt I needed, then I had a hell of a time getting it closed. Finally I was done and off to the railroad station I went.

 I had a little trouble looking over the counter. I very clearly told the Czech railroad ticket guy to sell me a ticket for Schwarzwasser. I don’t know what went wrong. The guy walked away and came back with another man and the two were talking gibberish at each other. That did it for me. All I knew for sure was that these two were useless. Just another dead brain case obviously because they were foreigners and I think they had trouble both with the language as well as being slow with the brain.

I went back home, which was a ten minute walk. What a waste of my time except for the fact that it was another lesson learned. Watch out for the foreigners. Anyway I didn’t talk to my mother for a whole day. It was an important lesson for her to learn and for me to teach her.

It was almost a whole year before she forgot and again came up with that disgusting attitude of hers. What it was all about escapes me today. I listened to her with great restraint and politeness. I never said a single word until she was finished and had totally run down. I gave her complaint my full attention and then advised her in the most serious voice I could muster. “If you don’t like me,” I told her, “Just go kill me, than I’ll be out of your hair.” Mom opened her mouth but she didn’t say a single word after that. She just gave me a funny look, went away and shut up. I guess she did not want to kill me enough to do it. Figure that?

My father went and sold the Itala. The only car we had left was that little navy blue mille cento. That is a Fiat just one step from the smallest car they made, best of my knowledge. It was a four door sedan but compared to the Ittala it was tiny. The size I was, it was still plenty big enough for me. I was learning to drive.

What I mean is, that I would always sit in the right front seat and I brought a steering wheel with me. Well you know, I mean I took a small wheel that is for rolling in front of you as you run behind it and hit it with a stick so it keeps on rolling. I copied every move my dad made with his steering wheel. I particularly liked the twenty kilometer drive to Schwarzwasser to my grandparent’s home. There were these hairpin turns and the trees and the bridges but most of all I loved those cone shaped roadside stones all painted in white. I wondered what it would be like to run one of them down and into the ditch.  

My mother’s dad was owner of a number of granite quarries as well as a shop with a stone saw, a shaping shop where men with hammer and chisel were giving form to the stones, not to forget a shop where women were polishing the stones as the last and final part before they were loaded on wagons and taken to the next town’s railroad station.

There was a single crane at the stone saw shop. All other movement of the stones was done by placing hardwood rollers underneath them and then men pushed them from one shop to the other or even up a ramp onto a wagon for shipment.  When years later a carborundum saw arrived the whole workforce stopped for a couple of minutes to ogle this infernal machine that could cut granite as if it was butter.

I am afraid here I am jumping the gun again. Back to me age three. Well there it was Easter and granddad had come to visit us as he had promised. The problem was that this was close to April first too. Granddad took off his jacket and started to saw fire wood and some of it needed cutting. I still can see him swinging that ax. I got to get back to April first.

It was late March and the weather had turned nice and warm or so it seemed to me. My personal thermostat always worked real well, so if I saw the sun shining it was warm as far as I was concerned.  I had been building a fox trap out of beanpoles. Today it seems incredulous to me but back then it seemed quite reasonable.

 Granddad sat down to have breakfast with me as he always did when he was at Sandhübel. Between bites he told me that a fox had been caught in my trap. To me this was the most important thing in the world. My mind was racing a mile a minute and I almost lost my shoes as I jumped up eager and impatient to run downstairs to see the fox in my beanpole trap. There my mother was at it again with her commandeering way trying to tell me what to do. 

That is women for you. “Hans you are going to have breakfast first before going outside.” Under the circumstances I obviously wasn’t about to take orders from her. I just shook my head at her and ran to the door. Granddad held up his hand stroking his long white beard and cautioned me. “Hans you don’t want to go down there on an empty stomach do you? The fox might get away if you are not ready for him.” I had a big heart full of love for my granddad and his advice was something I had to take seriously. I stayed to have breakfast first, hard as it was on my patience.

 My disappointment once I got down to the trap was immense. The fox had escaped from my construct. It was only when I returned to the dining room that I was greeted by a; “First of April Hansi.”

It was a few months later, just a week or so before it started to snow, that I got my first pair of skis. They were the wooden type ,about two foot long and with a neat leather binding. From that day on each morning I got up as early as possible to look out the window, my heart brimming with longing for snow. Then finally on an early day in November I looked out of the window and the world had turned white. Not ever again in my life did I love to see snow as much as that day in November of Nineteen Thirty-Three.