Work started at 7am; at noon everybody raced home for an hour of lunch break. Mostly I drove people to their place, went home, gobbled down my meal and picked them up again. It all went fine until one sunny August noon; I had a passenger and was trying to cross an intersection to get from the construction site into the main street. People were in cars, on foot and everywhere. I slammed on the accelerator to get out swiftly before other cars came and was hit full power into my driver’s side.
Next thing I noticed was me kneeling on all fours on the street, searching for my glasses.
My holy glasses! I was blind without them. Miraculously they remained in one piece and within my reach on the street.
People were scrambling and screaming, someone came up, helped me to my feet and led me to the side; sat me on the grass. Fifteen minutes later my Father was there beside me. Someone had notified him. My car, a red Opel Record with a black top was totaled and that’s what Father saw first.
I was wondering why he knelt beside me and constantly stroke my head, my hair. Onlookers had told him that I shot out of the car like a canon ball and rolled a good deal along the road. The steering wheel was pulled toward my seat; yeah, I had a lot of strength back then. After all I was a construction worker! Father feared that I must be injured, badly hurt.
He kept asking me: “Johanna, aren’t you wounded? Isn’t your chest damaged? You must have slammed into the steering wheel?”
I had lost my voice. I was so in shock that I wasn’t able to say a word for hours. I shook my head over and over, saw only fog and marveled what Father was talking about. I hadn’t seen my car. It was reduced to scrap metal.
I wore jeans that saved my butt and legs. But my shirt was ripped to pieces. I instinctively had rolled myself into a ball when I was catapulted out of the car. No seat belts were invented yet. It probably was a good thing; my opponent would have killed me. His vehicle ascended to car-heaven too.
I was well known as a wild speed driver and Father feared that people would be angry; 'That, she had coming'. But no, they defended me in front of him: “The sun was so bright; your daughter must have been blinded.”
And Father? He never scolded me. No word of reproach! This was his other side. I demolished a company car but it was not intentional; that’s how he saw things like that. All of us, all five of his offspring, totaled at least one.
My passenger had some bruises and the opponent’s car driver was ok, miraculously. Ironing the street induced severe burns on my back, feet and arms.
Father drove me to the hospital in Erbach where after my examination he was assured that besides the brutal burns I was ok. I still did not speak a word.
It was the end of my construction career and the beginning of cruel char treatments.
For weeks our family doctor came every day and ripped the bandages off my back while I was screaming and biting into my pillow. He was Mother’s cousin and we called him Uncle Otto.
Our sweet Uncle Otto! Yet what he did to me was everything but! I begged him: “Please, Uncle Otto, don’t! Please, at least dampen and soften the dressings a little!!” “No, Johanna! I can’t. This is the newest we know about burns like yours. I have to rip it off to make new skin grow from the outside in. You don’t want to have scars for the rest of your live. Don’t you?”
NO! I didn’t want ugly scars! Consequently I bit the daily bullet and ended up with the smoothest of a baby’s skin on my entire back from shoulders to the waist line.
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After passing all
final tests and examinations and despite quite unpleasant expectations being
continually under Father’s pitiless control, I went to work at My Company!
While I went to a
local school before I attended Boarding School I rarely was found at home.
Homework? Umm, done in a hurry. Someone looking for me? Try the Intercom at the factory. I unquestionably was
somewhere crawling under a machine or greasing one, if not looking people over
their shoulders to learn what they did and how it was done.
I helped them to get their load done faster, painting the back of the snow
globe covers in an angelic blue, mounted them on their bases and filled them with
Most interesting to
me was the department where 24 carat gold was applied to a limitless variety of
figurines. Every single ornament
was attached to clamps holding them in place. First real silver and then the
gold was vacuum deposited, evaporated from tiny heated
metal boats which were loaded with precisely counted pieces of precious metal.
I knew my ways around
the electrician’s section as well as those of the masons; I painted figurines
and glued them together to form dream scenes for our ‘Dream Globes’.
I packed and wrapped finished items into clear display boxes. I ran around the shipping department and learned how to properly package and
address parcels to global customers.
I also would visit our toolmakers and the injection molding division in the end;
I always came home dirty, rust-covered, filthy.
Accustomed to each and every company department, I knew all connections and
everybody from the janitor (who was my big
friend) to the accountant staff.
Now, this dream was a close second:
Running my company one day.
Sadly, there were two
heirs to the throne: my brothers. Girls were neither considered nor counted and
shamelessly cheated out of everything at the end.
My first assignment
was to hop into a truck, get on the Autobahn and haul material to a women’s
prison up north where pieces where fit and glued together by inmates and made
into a whole. Sometimes Snow Globes, sometimes weather stations or wall
plaques. I then would bring assembled items back home with me.
I loved it … free as a bird riding in a truck and being on my own.
I totally was Girl Friday, good and
useful for everything. Being Father’s secretary or hosting a collection of
gathered company sales agents when the time came. Chase me around, give me
different errands all the time and I am happy.
At one point Father
decided that I should get more air, I was too pale (in his opinion); so he sent me to our construction side in
the next town, Erbach, where our new factory was being built. Now that was right down my line. Because it
was erected on marshy land we first had to sink massive concrete pillars into
the ground. I had pumps running in fifty holes to keep the waters off from
creeping up. Dead rats again were gift-wrapped and presented to shrieking
office ladies. Well, fun had to be too, right?
My jobs were to order material and act as foreman for the construction crew,
supervise and guide them. I learned electro-welding, operated the tower crane and
didn’t flinch when a massive iron screw coming from above hit my big toe; I
moved iron and carried out masonry when I was not on the road hauling earth
around for the foundation. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Please don't forget to hug your kids tonight! In the meantime, Please, sign up, become a "fan", follow me? Leave a message? Tweet it, click on +1 ...?? I'd be grateful. Thank you!
The coming years were dreadfully boring because it surely wasn’t what I wanted to do, learn and work. I fought to be accepted as a buddy and not as the daughter of this ‘other’ big shot who was friends with the boss here. My colleagues first saw me as a ditzy cow and assumed I’d tell on them. Oh, far from it! I unloaded my best tomboy acts, jumped out the windows, collected dead mice from the nearby fields and presented them gift-wrapped to our old-fashioned Lady-accountant. I was fortunate and lucky though to have a very understanding chief who always encouraged me:
“I know, Johanna, you are doing what your father wants. But come on, let’s get through this. One day you will have finished school and your apprenticeship here. Then you go home and succeed in your company. Let’s get through this together.” Breaking the daily monotony was a colleague who had my unlimited adoration. The days were saved when I saw his jacket hanging on the designated hook in the morning when I came in. I knew he would be there and the day wouldn’t be so tedious. It took us two years until we, on the occasion of a company get-together, switched over to a first name basis.
It’s called: Drink to brotherhood. Cheers! He even kissed me and I was on cloud seven. We had two or three dates walking through woods and fields when I belied my big mouth and became world champion in the art of head-turning (away). I was 17.
It was a thrilling adventure and then a disheartening shock for me when Werner abruptly stopped paying attention to me.
Our boss of course found out about our hanky-panky. He felt responsible for me ergo threatened Werner to fire him if he doesn’t stop seeing me. I finally felt at ease going with a guy but now I was heartbroken; I knew nothing about the threat and only learned what happened many years later.
I had received my primary kiss a year before by a youngling; it caused me countless months of nightmares. It felt awful! I was disgusted! Yet it should have been sweet, walking on this little rivulet and a full moon being visible. Suddenly this smug boy stopped, grabbed my shoulders and turned me towards him. Oh dear! Now it’s going to happen, I thought to myself. And he smells so intensive and intrusive. He used way too much cologne! “Pitralon” was the name of this sharp smelling stuff.
Then the kiss came. I looked at the moon, was aware how yucky his tongue felt and told myself that I probably should close my eyes now – and clap!, shut them.
I was so confused and ashamed, shaken with agitation that I immediately hated this guy.
Being smitten with Werner helped me to get over it a little. But after graduation I lost sight of him. Werner went on joining the police force and became a significant big shot after all.
were built and we didn’t leave our beds for just our nightly pork fests.
Each girl had someone
she adored and worshipped. The beloved one received goo-goo eyes, hot love
letters and the worshipper’s puddings, Jell-O desserts, forbidden fruits from the
home packages and all possible and impossible signs of boundless
Careful advances were
made by day. At night one tiptoed to the chosen object of desire and knelt in
front of her bed. That was grisly cold in winter but as soon one received an
encouraging reaction, she disappeared under the warm blanket.
Our little ‘games’ were absolutely harmless. Our fondling and petting was
totally naive and without getting really close. Sometimes we used a hairbrush;
that tickled and made us giggle when brushed along the back, belly or the
inside of the legs. Yet we felt mighty wicked and grown up and were perfectly happy
when our prayers were answered.
Thankfully, I was
In the two-bed rooms of the senior classes though must have happened lots of hotter get-togethers. Three of those girls were expelled from school and we
youngsters were anxious to learn more and had much to whisper about.
As it behooves for
proper educated Catholics we frequently had to go to confession.
Timorously like a rabbit in front of a snake, I confessed all my ‘wickedness’
to ease my conscience. It’s that easy and sounded something
‘I lied. I stole. I
was lazy. I had impure thoughts. I didn’t pay attention during holy mass. I was vein.’
The priest then would
ask what I stole. I’d say ‘chocolate from my neighbor.’
Then he’d ask what this is about impure thoughts and deeds.
He must have grinned over our innocent games and fantasies.
always an adventure and closely monitored by the nuns. They checked whether we
went often enough and showed appropriate penitence.
Once in my life, much
later, I really felt guilt and remorse and went to confession crying and
trembling so dreadfully, that the entire confessional box shook. I was content
that this institution existed; alas, it did not help much to reduce my pain.
To satisfy all this probity,
we were never allowed to wear slacks, long pants, sleeveless blouses or dresses
and an inch too low dropping décolleté was a big no-no.
The summers were unbearable hot back then, but we had to be covered up as it
suits young ladies.
St. Ursula School
Pitiable were we
girls when we had to deal with our menstruation. For one German Mark our
‘quail’, Mater Gabriele, gave us ten sanitary napkin pads as coarse as steel
wool. Changing them was
quite another venture. During afternoons we were always under supervision in
class rooms, pouring over our home work. We had to ask to go to the bathroom and
bad luck if we’d forgotten to bring fresh pads with us. Nobody was allowed to
go back to the dormitory for personal reasons during the day.
The pinnacle of an
utter torture was when we had to go on our daily airing, especially on Sundays
because that would last for 3 hours. My pad would be
soaked and resolved into crumbs, ripping the skin off the inside of my legs. It
took days to heal and be able to walk naturally again.
But funny were these
excursions at any day.
Twenty girls marched through the vineyards in rows and formations of two abreast,
followed by Mater 'Quail' with wafting veils. Our uniform consisted
of navy blue pleaded skirts, white blouses, navy blue blazers with our school’s
emblem: St. Ursula, and a dark blue beret. Totally chic. Coming back to school we had to wrestle and battle for one glass of lukewarm
Lucky the ones who could take hold of a second glass. I will never understand
why I didn’t die of thirst. Tap water was undrinkable because it was heavily
chlorinated, filtered from the Rhein river.
and Boarding School-special were our ‘rare’ trips to church.
There was: Monday ‘Mission’ Mass to pray for African Missionaries.
This was optional,
but one better asked to be woken up to pretend to be a ‘good girl’.
Time to get up? 6 am because we had only 20 minutes to get ready.
I went often but I am certain that it helped neither African Missions nor me.
Tuesdays group mass was for only our floor – other groups had different days.
This was mandatory. Rising time: 6 am.
On Wednesdays we had to attend school mass outside the convent when also the
external studens had to be present.
On the evenings of Wednesdays we went to our chapel for the official church
evening prayers, the Compline.
Nothing special was demanded on Thursdays, but whoever went to mass anyway
earned an entrance into the nun’s good books. We call that ‘having a stone in
Friday is the day of the Lord’s crucifixion – a trip to our chapel compulsive.
Rising time: 6 am. Missing mass on
Sundays of course was a mortal sin. Assuming all this
would have been enough for our salvation – far from it.
Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays we indulged ourselves in devotion and prayers in
were reserved for mediation and reflections headed by Mater Superior who
preached contemplation to help us become more internalized.
I felt thoroughly submerged
by never ending prayers, masses, additional rosary praying, mediations, and at
noon ‘bim-bim-bim’, everybody rose and prayed the ‘Ave Maria’; 6 pm ‘bim-bim-bim’ again,
the chapel’s bell calls for the evening’s ‘Ave Maria’.
Having clean laundry
after our weekly bath required some somersaults.
To have washed socks and knee-highs was up to us. I laundered them in the bowl
after my cat lick before bedtime. Forgetting it meant I had to search for the
least stiff ones next morning. One gets used to. At least my socks got soft
again after an hour of wearing.
though was pure luxury. I often saved it for after my once-a-week deluxe bath ‘orgy’.
Actually I had a very
practical way to obtain ‘new’, washed laundry.I had a wooden container approx. 30 x 20 x 25 inches with a sliding lid
that had my home address on one side and the convent address on the other. Mother
had a key as well as I and it was always a holiday when I received my box with
washed clothes and hopefully lots of candy in it too. I had to open my packages
from home in front of the entire voracious group of girls and share everything.
To find a loving letter in my laundry box I waited forever; the only words I
got to read were admonitions.
always took weeks to send and then get my heaps of laundry back.
Consequentially I never had enough tidy clothes and just like everybody did, I
went downstairs to my used laundry bag on a fishing expedition for the least
The worst experience was to learn how awful girls not only can be, but ARE. Girls,
women in collective packages can be so appalling, it hurts.
Me being a bold rascal but very insecure and shy in front of others (no, it does not
cancel each other) I was not able to
defend myself against those brats from big cities. I was raised in the security
of our home and closed-in backyard. A country wench always being told that we
are nothing and that I ‘can’t do it anyway’.
Often I just stroke out in a sweeping blow. A young lady!! Now THAT was
Females, whether big
or small, kids or adults turn into a bunch of mean creatures when they are
gathered in groups of more than two. I learned and suffered through it in
boarding school, later as a member of Tennis Clubs and in my Fashion business.
Dealing with groups
of women? Ugh! They are perfidious, sneaky and back-stabbing.
There were lies nonstop, networks of intrigues were spun, kicking under the
table to provoke a scream and following punishment by the nuns.
I was at the mercy of a precise pecking order and totally powerless and
I did not have the gift of a quick tongue.
Besides, I always had this feeling for an aura around people. I always can
sense if someone is sad, distressed and grieving.
I thus can always feel on the spot when someone dislikes and rejects me. I feel
and see when someone lies, talks false and dishonest. It’s an ugly and very tense
feeling for me. Often I am asked by
friends and partners: ‘What do you think? Is he for real?’ I can tell then and
there what a person is made of. I feel uneasy around
people resenting me because I feel it. Consequently I am getting awkward and uncomfortable
instantly uttering and do something brash, clearly improper.
Meals were taken in
the big refectory; sixty quacking individuals placed on two long tables at 1
and 7 pm. We rotated to attend and serve always for a week and in consequence barely
got something to eat when it was my turn.
Mealtime was our opportunity to chat – IF we conducted ourselves properly
leading up to it. Often I had the misfortune that one of those malicious kids
pinched the inside of my upper arm to make me scream with pain.
‘We all are going to remain silent now until the end of dinner.’
And I was the devil who caused it, which triggered more kicks against my shins
and nasty nips into my rips.
I was always boiling
when I merely heard this “we” do this, “we” do that and “we” are silent now.
The nuns didn’t do anything – and I never could grasp this: “How are we feeling today?”
WE?I know you are not talking about
yourself. Do you mean me? Then say so!
For all intents and
purposes I am not clumsy at all. But these girls sometimes initiated mishaps
that were grounds for more penalties.
delivered from the kitchen on huge platters. To keep them warm we would place
them on huge radiators. What happened? The inevitable.
One lashed out at me, my hands flew under the platters, and all the pancake
dishes with much clangor and clatter landed behind the heater. That was it and my
number was up once more. Dessert pudding is
burnt; everybody clasps their noses – who is caught?
That would be me.
I recall - it was the time of anorexia Twiggy style. We would wear our vest
backwards, the buttons in the back and paint our lips white; we felt
beautifully ill, just as the scrawny English model. ‘The Quail’ asked me
if I am feeling unwell.
‘Oh yes, Mater Gabriele’, I was totally excited to fetch some attention.
‘So’, she answered, ‘then we are cancelling our visit to the theater.’
That was a punsh down
low. She knew exactly that I was fit like a fiddle.
My parents had
invited my entire group to a ballet evening in the nearby Spa Resort
and Mother ‘Quail’ in a cruel stroke of her cranky, pettishly mood killed it in
She didn’t mind to snub my parents either.
On Sundays we had
to write a letter home that, needless to say, was read by Mater
‘Oversight’. Once I
asked Father to allow me to go to an Arts and Crafts College in the North-West
part of Germany.
answer came soon and was signed by the ‘ruler’ himself:
If someone can create
a few squiggles and draw a little, it does not entail a special education in a
continued School. Your parents only want the best for you and think you are too weak and
not talented enough.
Your parents (note:
third person) are evidently concerned
about your future and have decided that you are going further with your studies
right here and in a Company that we are friends with. You always will be at home and go about with a train … etc. etc. Your Father and your
That I was sad,
insulted and terribly disappointed was of no interest to anybody.
I’d have loved to be creative, design, invent, become an architect and let my
fantasy do cartwheels.
Father though was the one who paid and hence was the sovereign.
All told it was a
harsh, cruel, merciless time full of humiliations and homesickness for me. I
emerged with even less self-assuredness and was so timid that I had plainly
problems crossing a street straight at home, always trying to hide – please!
Possibly nobody sees
After years of threats to be kicked out of school for unladylike conduct I left
on my own. Brother Bernhard came into the vast quadrangle, loaded me and my
belongings into our open Mercedes 300 Convertible and drove off, leaving the
other girls behind with big google-eyes. Now, that felt good! Please don't forget to hug your kids tonight! I missed out on that :( In the meantime, Please, sign up, become a "fan", follow me? Leave a message? Tweet it, click on +1 ...?? I'd be grateful. Thank you!
One day I had this glorious idea how to escape Father’s strict regimen. Both, my older sister Edith and Brother Bernhard attended boarding schools and since I hadn't heard anything negative from them about it, I decided I wanted to go too and approached the parents about it. After searching for a suitable school and two month later at the beginning of the new school year I took off to a new adventure. Big mistake. My parents probably were relieved if not happy to shift their responsibility to another ‘institution’. They were way too busy and money wasn’t of short supply. I enrolled in a catholic convent school and came from a frying pan into the fire. The clientele was international, from Venezuela via Spain to Australia. I had to bring complete bedding, one set of silver ware, clothes with my affixed identifying name and a whole lot of courage. Mother delivered me at the nun’s school sitting on the shores of the Rhein River and after preparing my bed, set up and organize a tiny closet that didn’t deserve this name, I walked her to the exit and said ‘good bye’. Somber and crying I found myself alone in one of those many gloomy, dreary hall ways that were framed by stone columns which ended in high arch ceilings. I couldn’t find my way back into my room. During the first days I saw my surrounding through fog and tears and cried at night until I fell asleep. There was no place to be alone, no place to retreat. As interns we were constant subjects to control and supervision. I praised myself lucky though that I had to share my dormitory only with three other girls. Others were not so fortunate. They had to reside in rooms with up to 16 mates. Exceptional and phenomenal were our wash- and bath facilities. We had a deluxe medieval enamel bowl on top of our very small night stand which was completed by a matching enamel pitcher. Water was hauled from the corridor; twice a week we enjoyed the comfort of warm water. When I forgot to save some clean water for my toothbrush glass I had to use delicious soap water. The water then was disposed of into the toilette down
the hall. Once a week we were allowed to bathe, which had to be completed in exactly thirty minutes. Each girl had a certain time when she had to leave the class room where we spent our time and did our home work every afternoon. I ‘flew’ down three stories, crossed a huge court, ran to St. Mary, the dormitory, climb up two stories, collected my bathing utensils and fresh clothes, ran back to the school building, and down into the basement where we had four bath tubs for 120 intern students. I then would jump into the tub, scrub myself rough-and-ready, jump out, clean the tub, got dressed, ran back to St. Mary, tucked my stuff away, and raced back, up three stories again into the classroom. Mater ‘Supervision’ sat there with a stop watch in her hand. Thirty minutes were not to be exceeded. Anyone dreaming of washing their hair? It was allowed once a month and our appearance was venturesome at times. I always felt like a piglet and held true shower orgies when I was home on spring or summer breaks.
Once in a blue moon my parents would come to visit when they were close by on business. They used to stay overnight in a ritzy hotel at a Spa Resort, Wiesbaden. When they asked me if I had a wish, I asked to take a bath and wash my hair in their hotel room. Now THAT was a special gift for me.
White curtains hung on high iron rods between our hospital style beddings that served as screens. They should have shielded us from snooping eyes but that was difficult to achieve. There was a constant clamor, hue and cry because everybody was afraid half a naked butt might be exposed. Whoever started to get undressed in our bedrooms thus called: ‘Klausur’ – meaning nobody dare to move a curtain. 'Klausur’ (Conclave) was an excellent word and used for a myriad of things in this environment. I quickly learned to hate it. 'Klausur’ meant silence and separation; loneliness and tears; bellyache, homesickness and weltschmerz (sentimental pessimism). All the nuns lived and ate in conclave, separate buildings where students never ever were allowed to even glance into. Our Group’s Supervisor, Mater Gabriele’s nickname was ‘quail’. She would enter our room with this ill-founded spiritual face expression to pray ‘Good Night’ with us. 8:30! Lights out. Klausur! Silence!!! Then we started. ‘The quail’ was eavesdropping outside, listening to find out who chatted most. She then would storm into the room and we could enjoy our quail to be in her element. MAD as hell. She had a way to sport a furious look, her eyebrows grew together on her forehead, she was almost spitting when she raised her high pitched voice. Lucky the one that was found in her own bed and not nibbling on cookies or chocolate, or God beware, being found in one of her roommate’s bed. MUCH more to come.
Please don't forget to hug your kids tonight! I missed out on that :( In the meantime, Please, sign up, become a "fan", follow me? Leave a message? Tweet it, click on +1 ...?? I'd be grateful. Thank you!