15 June 2015

Home Alone 2

[This is the second installment of three in the collection of correspondence from my father to my mother in the month he was alone in Germany while waiting for my mom to join him.  You’ll read about the swirl of activity, the preparation for the change in my family’s lifestyle plus the introduction of Dad’s new responsibilities and obligations, continues. This section of the three-part series covers the second week of Dad’s new adventure.  (I’ve also included here the translations of the two local newspaper articles that introduced my father to the citizens of Koblenz and the Rhineland-Palatinate.).]

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 1962
My darling,

No letter from you this morning so I am a little disgruntled.  You spoiled me the last few days by providing one each day.  There was one from Doug (a carbon) which had all the warmth and charm of his personality.  I could just picture him as he was writing it.  I am sure that he is devouring his school experience at his point.

I had my first official meeting with the Oberbuergermeister this morning and of course it was very formal, proper and each of us said the required things.  He is fairly new at the job and appears to be well thought of in the city.  I am sure we will both see more of him during the next three years.

It occurs to me that this being the beginning of the month, there will be bills arriving at home.  I don’t intend that these should be paid by you out of the funds left for you.  Forward them on to me and I will pay them all.

I have taken some pictures of the house, but I’m not sure they will be very satisfactory.  There are a couple of trees in the front that tend to block the view, and in the back, the yard is so small that I couldn’t get far enough back to get a shot.  There are fences separating us from the adjoining houses, and it would have meant climbing a fence and getting into a neighbor’s flower bed—not [a] very good way of meeting them.  I still have about seven or eight exposures on the roll, and as soon as I can use these up I will have it developed and send you the pictures.

Still no word from Rick—I envy you your visit to him this coming weekend

*  *  *  *
Thursday, Oct. 4, 1962
My dearest,

Again no letter from you this morning.  My day doesn’t start out very well if I have no mail from home, especially from you.  I suppose you must be up to your ears in all sorts of transactions and details.  By the way I am somewhat amused by the sudden interest of B. Nicholls.  You know, I listed the house with him way back last summer when we first decided to list it with other than Sophia.  He was actually the first outside agent to have it.

A few things of interest . . . . the shoes worn by German men have points as narrow as those worn by Italian women.  They even go in for highly styled colors such as beige, gray, green, etc.  [Q]uite unattractive.  On the whole I don’t think it can be said that the Germans have a great sense of chic or style in anything­—clothes, furniture or decorative arts.

In Koblenz there are bottlers for Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola, Canada Dry and a domestic bottler named Ass-Brunnen.  They put up a series of bottled beverages such as orange soda, and they are generally referred to as Ass.  So when you ask for a little Ass in Koblenz, you are apt to get a bottle of soda and a glass—not what you would normally expect in the States.  [Ass is the German for ‘ace’; Ass-Brunnen literally means “ace fountain.”  (This is like the French soft drink Pschitt: it’s named for the sound the bottle makes when it’s opened, but to English-speaking ears, it sounds an awful lot like ‘shit,’ to the amusement of Americans, Brits, and Aussies!)]

I neglected to bring with me the copy of the contract with Girard Trust Corn Exchange Bank of Philadelphia providing for the monthly payments of Doug’s tuition.  The first payment is due this month and since I am not sure of the correct amount I sent a check for what I recall the amount to be and asked that they notify me if it is wrong.  If you should see the envelope from this bank lying around conveniently, please forward it to me.

Speaking of banks, the deposit I made for you of $1,000. before I left was acknowledged to me here—I assume you credited it to your account.  I am sending you the deposit slip for your information.  [It was enclosed with the letter.  $1000 in 1962 would be worth about $8000 today.]

If my timing is correct, you should receive this letter right after you return from visiting Princeton for the weekend.  [I was in boarding school in Princeton, NJ.]  I hope everything is as well with Rick as it appeared to be when I left.  I still have had no letter from him.  Here are copies of the newspaper articles which appeared over the weekend concerning my arrival—how good is your Deutsch.  [The two clippings were enclosed with the letter: “Eugene K***** leitet AH Koblenz,” Rhein-Post (Koblenz) 29 Sept. 1962; “Amerika-Haus hat einen neuen Direktor,” Rhein-Zeitung (Koblenz) 29/30 Sept. 1962.]

By the way, as a result of this article I received a letter yesterday from a German who described an incident which took place a year and half ago in which he was involved in a fight with some American soldiers.  The soldiers were arrested, turned over to the M.P.’s and properly tried and punished.  He claims, however, that he suffered the loss of 400 marks ($100) in various unspecified damages.  He has tried unsuccessfully to get this money and he asks me to help him.  If I don’t help him he threatens to write to the newspapers in the Soviet Zone [i.e., East Germany] and tell them what liars we are in telling of the friendship of Germany and the U.S. and how the NATO agreement is a partnership etc.  At the very end he tells me to please contact his wife, since he is at present in jail for some totally different offense.

I miss you tremendously and I love you even more—


P.S. Congratulations on the Kreeger deal.  [I don’t know what this refers to.  My parents did know David Lloyd Kreeger, Washington philanthropist and art collector, but I don’t know into what “deal” they might have entered in 1962.]

*  *  *  *
[Below are translations of the two newspaper articles that covered my dad’s arrival in Koblenz.]

Rhein-Post [Koblenz] Saturday, 29 Sept. 1962: “The Koblenzer Page: Eugene K***** heads A[merika] H[aus] Koblenz: He was introduced yesterday — First post in the diplomatic service.”

koblenz – “I am pleased to be in Koblenz because I know that here the city and the people have a good relationship with the Amerika Haus,” explained Eugene K*****, who has just undertaken the leadership of the Amerika Haus Koblenz and the German-American Library in Trier.

In the next weeks, the new head will make himself familiar with the situation and improve his German language skills somewhat.  On the basis of his personal interests, he will expand the AH program without altering it in principle.  “It won’t be easy for me because my predecessor, Rosinus, did such a good job.” 

Eugene K***** was born in New York, [and] studied at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the School of Journalism.  Afterwards he worked as a reporter for newspapers in New Jersey and Virginia.  During the war, he served in the American army and was assigned as a captain of artillery in Europe.  In the years from 1946 to 1962, Eugene K***** worked in the American film business in Washington, Baltimore, and Virginia.  At the same time, he operated a radio station in Little Rock, Arkansas, and ran the leading gallery for contemporary art in Washington.

The Amerika Haus in Koblenz—K***** called it “my new adventure”—is his first assignment in the diplomatic service.

Rhein-Zeitung [Koblenz] Saturday/Sunday, 29/30 Sept. 1962: “Amerika-Haus has a new Director: Until now, Mr. Eugene K***** was mainly active in journalism.”

“I hope to be able to continue the good relations that have been established between the people of Koblenz, the local authorities, and the Amerika Haus,” said Mr. Eugene K*****, the new Director of the Koblenz Amerika Haus as he presented himself yesterday to the public.

For the 43-year-old New Yorker who has been named as the successor to former Director Rosinus, who has been transferred to Bonn, the Koblenz position is his first in the diplomatic service of the US.  Mr. K***** was until now active in journalism in the United States.  After journalism studies at Washington and Lee University in Lexington (Virginia), from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, he was a reporter for newspapers in New Jersey and Virginia.  During the last war, he served in the US Army and was for some time a captain stationed in Europe.  From 1946 to 1962 Mr. K***** was active in the American film business in Washington, Baltimore, and Virginia.  At the same time, he ran a radio station in Little Rock (Arkansas) and headed the leading gallery for contemporary art in Washington.

Next, the new Director of the Koblenz Amerika Haus awaits his family, with whom he will occupy the house on the Rheinanlagen.  Both his sons are still school-aged and they will attend a school in Germany.  Before he took up his Koblenz post, Mr. K***** took a German-language course for several weeks and hopes to perfect his German language skills here.  Since his interests lie mainly in the area of art, he is considering possibilities, within the framework of the Amerika Haus programs, perhaps to treat such topics.  In addition, the appointment of the new director means that the Amerika Haus will be continued in the same manner as it has up to now, for as you know in the spring a new form of organization was established involving the city, the Federal Government, and the central Rhine economy.  The numerous friends of this [Amerika] Haus will certainly welcome that.

*  *  *  *
[Friday,] Oct. 5, 1962

Have you finished your shots?  [We had to get passport immunizations before traveling overseas in those days.]  Please don’t let this go until the very last minute.  It occurred to me last night that I had better remind you about it.  Also, has Joe Mona [handyman and carpenter who worked for my dad’s former company, District Theatres Corp.] picked up my golf bag and refinished it for me.  If you haven’t heard, please call him and remind him about it,  I understand that there is a very lovely golf course at Bad Ems about 20 minutes from here, and I think we will want to take advantage of it.  [Bad Ems is a spa town across the Rhine from Koblenz.  Coincidentally, I went to a German army school there later when I was stationed in Berlin in 1972.]

This morning was really a dilly—not hard or confused, just busy.  I am getting into the schedule of official calls, and I had three of them to make by noon.  One to the head of the local Stadt (city) bank, who is our landlord [I presume Dad means the AH office is leased from the Stadtbank; I think the U.S. Government owned the house we lived in—but I’m not positive]; one to the Regierungspraesident (the head of the regional administration); and the third to the Commanding General of the Army in this area.  [That would be the German army, the Bundeswehr’s Third Corps, headquartered in Koblenz.]  You can imagine what procedures are involved in making an official call on a German lieutenant general at his headquarters—all the formalities and escorts and salutes, everything short of a twenty-one-gun salute and a fanfare of trumpets.  He was quite amiable, spoke good English, and appears very interested in the Amerika Haus and its work.

Yesterday afternoon I was invited for drinks (after work) by an English lady whose husband (also English) runs a rather important factory in this area.  She read in the newspaper of my interest in an art gallery [that would be Gres Gallery in Washington of which my parents were part owners in the late ’50s and early ’60s] and she is an amateur painter and is leaving next week for N.Y.  She asked if I could give her an introduction to any galleries to whom she could show some of her work—guess who I sent her to see.  [I have no idea who the British lady was, but I can only guess that the person Dad sent her to was Beatrice Perry, who’d been the managing partner of Gres and moved to New York City after the gallery dissolved.  (For confirmation of this guess, see Dad’s letter of 16 October.)] 

Over the weekend I shall be able to give the furniture in our house a closer inspection.  The painters have finished now, and we are awaiting the go-ahead from Bonn to have the floors refinished.  Mr. Rosinus called me yesterday from Bonn to say hello and wish me well.  [Gunther Rosinus, Dad’s predecessor in Koblenz, was Cultural Affairs Officer at the Bonn embassy in 1962, responsible for all Amerika Haus programs in Germany.  In 1965, Dad was promoted to that job himself.]  He and his family have just returned this week and are in process of getting settled.  They would like very much to see us both when you arrive here.

No mail from any one today.  Ah well, it’s tough when you’re gone and forgotten too. 

All my best love, all my strongest love, all my existing love,

*  *  *  *
[Monday,] Oct. 8, 1962
My dearest,

It’s Monday morning and I am waiting impatiently for the mail to be delivered so that I can absolutely devour the letter or letters that will be coming from you.  In the meantime I will give you some ideas about the  furnishings in the house.

First, as a general statement the furniture is not very attractive.  At best it represents fairly typical modestly priced German stuff, and the use and wear over the last few years have given it a hard time.  I would definitely suggest that you plan to bring over just as much as you can that will seem to fit into the rooms which I sketched for you and will not exceed our weight allowance (allowing for the crating, etc.)

I spent some time in the bedrooms on the second floor and was a bit unhappy and surprised to find that in the master bedroom and guest bedroom which adjoins it at the front of the house there are built in identical headboards for Hollywood beds which cannot be removed from the walls; they even have electrical outlets in them.  They are shaped and sized as follows: [There follows a pencil outline of the bedroom showing the built-in headboards, with measurements indicated.]

The indent that is shown is simply a shelf indentation in the headboard.  The thing that bothers me is how are we going to use our beds in the master bedroom with this thing against the wall.  By the way, it is against the far right-hand wall in the master bedroom as you come in the door, and the far left-hand wall in the guest bedroom as you come in the door.

The mail just arrived and I had to take time out to read it—I had a jackpot.  Two letters from you, one written from Baltimore and postmarked Sept. 30, and the other from Washington marked Oct. 1.  A silly card from Viv [that would be Vivian Rabineau, the wife of the couple who were my folks’ best friends back then, and often my brother and my second parents], and a lovely letter from Rick.  The glow will last all day.  You spent the weekend in Princeton, I guess; and I watched the time over the two day period tracing your progress—now you are on the road, now having lunch, now with Rick, now having dinner, etc.  It made the weekend palatable.  You know, they are the worst times.  The office is closed Saturday and Sunday and having no car and nothing to do I find time hangs very very heavy.  I take long walks (weather permitting) in order to tire me, give me some exercise, and pass the time.  In addition, I read, and am completely absorbed in “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” [William L. Shirer’s 1960 history of Nazi Germany].  I find it absolutely fascinating.  This weekend  just passed was a little better.  First I met an American naval lieutenant who is here at a German Army School as an exchange student for a couple of weeks.  He happened to be making a telephone call from the lobby of the French Club, so we struck up a conversation and spent the evening (Sat.) chatting.  He came back at noon on Sunday for lunch as we sat together and had some more conversation.  I suspect I will see him again (misery loves company, you know).  In addition to that, I had a complimentary ticket to the Ballet on Sunday night.  You see, on Friday night we had a lecture on ballet in the U.S.A. (in German) at the A.H.  It was my first public appearance, and I had to make the introductory speech in German.  [See Dad’s letter of 2 October.]  It was a little frightening to stand up before a German audience and address them in German, but it went off all right and the directress of the Ballet and head choreographer, who was present, sent me a ticket for the performance.  [Nearly every German city or large town has at least a municipal theater, ballet, opera, or orchestra, and many have two or more of these.  Koblenz has all of them, and in many of these companies across Europe, American artists come to get their starts since we have so few starter troupes in this country.  Many of these American artists were the subjects for AH demonstrations, American musicians, singers, or dancers showing their skills.]  I went last night and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Obviously it was not “The N.Y. City Center Ballet,” but a lot better than I imagined, and most enjoyable.  I must say, however, that with very few exceptions the German female is not well constructed for ballet purposes.  One of the ballerinas looked more like a Valkyrie than a dancer, and one had a slight resemblance to a Knackwurst tied very loosely in the middle.  None were ungraceful or ungainly.

To get back to the house and furnishings: the master bedroom is painted a light blue and contains the following items of furniture.  All are dark wood.

1 hollywood bed frame 53″ wide (¾ bed I think)
2 chests of drawers
2 bureaus
2 night tables
2 green upholstered chairs (slipper chairs I think)
2 chiffarobes (for hanging clothes)
1 vanity or dressing table
1 odd chest (must have come out of another room, looks like a captain’s chest)

The adjoining dressing room is peach-pink in color and contains no furniture as such.  I suspect that several of the items in the bedroom belong in this room.  If you place both chiffarobes in here, I doubt that your day bed will fit.

The master bath is also the same shade of peach pink above the tile, and where there is no tile, the lower part of the wall is painted light gray.  [Most German homes and offices were painted in light and pastel colors.  When I got to Berlin later, the BOQ’s were painted in the same shades—unless, as I did, you painted them yourself and didn’t let the quartermaster dilute the base pigment with white paint.]

The guest bedroom is light yellow and contains the following:

2 chiffarobes (not matching)
2 hollywood bed frames (singles)
1 small upholstered easy chair (green)
2 night tables

The bathroom adjoining the guest bedroom is the same light blue as the master bedroom.  It has no second color since it is tiled throughout to normal tile height.

The other bedroom facing the back of the house is a pale green color has 1 single bed; 1 chiffarobe; 1 bureau; and one night table.

The downstairs furniture seems to line up as two separate sets of green upholstered nubby living room sets (two sofas, and about four chairs); a large dark wood living room piece which I can’t define.  [We ended up just calling it “the Schrank,” the generic German word for “chest.”]  It isn’t a breakfront and it has no display area.  The dining room is dark wood consisting of a table, a sideboard, a breakfront or china closet, and numerous chairs which have blue leather panels on the seat and back.  No furniture for the breakfast nook.  Haven’t gotten to the den yet.

As I said before, there are no fireplaces in the house, and no shelves for books.  There are two book racks in one of the small bedrooms, but they are like office racks or the unfinished racks that we buy at home and paint.  I suppose they could be repainted and placed in the bar alcove on the first floor.  In short, don’t plan on shipping too many books.  Just enough for our own immediate use.  We do have the use of our own library [meaning, I presume, the AH library, which contained only books on America—many in German—or books by American authors (i.e., no Dickens, Fleming, Shakespeare, Proust, Schiller, Cervantes, and so on!)].

All for now—much much much love,

*  *  *  *
Monday afternoon [8 Oct. 1962]

Just a short note for an errand to charge you with.  I had a call from the embassy (sounds important, doesn’t it) telling me that I would have to have personal calling cards.  Please order them for me, and bring about half a dozen with you when you come.

The cards should be 2½ x 3½.  They should be engraved in script and read

Eugene Monroe K*****

You might also bring a few of your own cards or Mr. and Mrs. cards, either will do.

In haste but not without much much love and loneliness.

*  *  *  *
Tuesday, Oct. 9, 1962
My darling,

Another jackpot this morning.  Two letters from you and one from Rick, the second one from him this week.  Yours are absolutely breathless and left me panting and exhausted after reading.  His was delightful, witty and completely HIM.  [Who, me?  Musta had a ghostwriter.]  I gather he is having a good time.  Have no fear about Doug and algebra; he’ll manage fine and take it in his stride I am sure.  When you can, have school keep us informed of his progress in this one subject.

Now about the house and furniture.  First off, in your letter of Friday, Oct. 5 you mention 8100 lbs. gross weight.  I hope this is not what you’re planning to ship.  It was a bit vague as to whether this was the weight of all the furniture or just what you plan to take.  Remember we are limited to 4000 lbs. to be shipped and the balance for storage.  The first thing that strikes me is that in view of my letter of yesterday in which I discussed the built in headboards in two bedrooms whether it makes sense to bring any beds at all, and also the night table.  I would concentrate, as you mention, on the things for the first floor.  There are plenty of chests and bureaus and other bedroom items, albeit not the most attractive.  I would think the green chest, the provincial chest (is this 450 alone or along with either your or my chest, I didn’t quite understand)[.  I]f it is only about half the 450 lbs. by itself, then I would bring it and the china cabinet, and leave both of our chests home.  I think you are going to need space for storing your china, linens, and crystal.  The cabinet space in the kitchen is just barely adequate for your regular everyday things.  Again, as a general rule, concentrate on furniture for the downstairs, and we’ll make do with the bedroom things.

[What my father was suggesting to my mother was that they deemphasize the appearance of the residential areas of the house, that is, the second floor bedrooms, and focus their attentions on the entertainment and “public” parts of the house.  A large part of my dad’s job, and the part that would concern my mother most, was socializing with and entertaining the local power structure, everything from formal dinners to less formal (there was no such thing as “casual” in those days!) Weinabends and Kaffeeklatsches.  It was more important to my parents that the part of the house which would be visited by Dad’s “clients,” as it were, be presentable and functional than the private parts of the house that only the family would use.  In the end, of course, we learned to adjust to the house and the way things were done in Germany and we had a terrific and successful three years in Koblenz, as I recounted in “An American Teen in Germany.”]

Now about your departure date.  The 26th [of October, I presume] is perfect.  I can meet you in Frankfurt without any difficulty and come right to Koblenz.  My mention of the conference [see the letter of 25 September] was intended for you to arrange to come after it.  I would not be available during those two days.  Check one point.  In your letter you speak of arriving TWA, it sounds from your schedule that this is the same PAA flight I took.  Verify this with Mrs. Lewis.  [I don’t know who Mrs. Lewis was, but I suspect she was someone in the USIA office in D.C. who handled transportation arrangements.]  I hope you did get your shots and everything is complete.

Slight emergency.  Do you think you can find the passport photos we had made, and which I placed with other papers to be shipped with household effects.  If you can, send yours and mine immediately.  I need them for driver’s permits and identifications papers.  [Dad was talking about the international driver’s licenses and the German Ausweiß, a kind of internal passport we all had to carry.]  Otherwise have to wait until things arrive or have new ones made.  No great crisis, just damned thoughtless of me.

Do me a favor.  Write and mail two letters or envelopes at the same time.  Address one as usual (c/o Amer. Cons. Gen. etc.) and the other one direct to me at Amerika Haus, Schlossstrasse 51, Koblenz, Germany (.15 air mail postage).  I am quite sure the latter will save at least one day, and maybe two.  I’m anxious to find out.  [The first address was the APO address which went through the U.S. and army mail systems (for 7¢ domestic airmail postage) but got delivered to the Frankfurt Consulate and then sent by courier to Koblenz.  (Since the office was closed on weekends and American holidays, there’d be no APO mail delivery on Saturdays and holidays.)  The other was the German mail address and would have been delivered directly to Dad’s office by the Bundespost.]

Now that I have a target date for your arrival, the days will go much faster and I will have something definite to which to look forward.


[Well, that’s Dad’s second week in Koblenz alone without my mom.  I hope readers plan to return to ROT for part 3 of the series, bringing Dad’s introduction to the town and his new job up the eve of my mom’s arrival at the end of October.  I‘ll be posting the third installment in a few days, and you’ll read about the last week before my mother’s arrival in Germany.]

No comments:

Post a Comment