Summer 1953

Fräulein Kubis was one of our lodgers. She was in her fifties, worked in an office and had never been married. Come Saturday afternoon, an elderly gentleman friend of hers would arrive for afternoon tea in her room. I think he never stayed for more than a couple of hours. Mum would call Fräulein Kubis ‘an old spinster’. She looked to me kind of bland, actually a bit like a mouse.

Fräulein Schröder was our other lodger. She was the most sophisticated lady I had ever come across. She was in her early twenties. She bleached her hair to a wonderful blond shade. The colour reminded me of cornfields. She came from a country town, had four younger brothers and sisters, who once came along for a brief visit. However none of her siblings seemed to be approaching her good looks.

I always called her ‘Fräulein Schröder’. She liked that, because she was of the opinion it would help to keep the relationship on a respectful footing. Fräulein Kubis called me Fräulein Uta, but Fräulein Schröder wanted to call me just Uta. However, she insisted, that she would address me with ‘Sie’ rather than with the more familiar ‘Du’. Fräulein Schröder was about seven years my senior. Through all the years that she lived in our apartment, she was always a very reliable friend to me. I could turn to her with any kind of problem. She listened to me patiently and gave me good advice, whenever I asked for it.

Before Fräulein Schröder moved in, she talked to Mum and explained, that she had a man-friend, who was often away on business. However, when he was in Berlin, he would like to stay with Fräulein Schröder over night. So she asked Mum, whether she would mind that. Since Mum had already met Herr W and judged him to be a ‘respectable gentleman’, Mum had no objections to the liaison.

Herr W often had to travel to Western Germany. In fact he frequently stopped in Düsseldorf to stay at his house there. When he heard, that my father also lived in Düsseldorf and that I wanted to visit him, he offered to take me along in his car. It so happened that after six months work at FLEUROP I was able to take my one week summer holiday. So with Mum’s blessings I went off with Mr.W to visit my father. Only, when we arrived in Düsseldorf, my father was not home. His land-lady had not been told, that I would arrive. She had no idea, whether my father had made arrangements for my staying with him. She was very doubtful whether it was proper, to let me in, especially since Mr.W offered, to put me up in one of the spare-rooms in his house. He said, his house-keeper would look after me. So I accepted the kind offer of Mr. W.

Mr.W’s elderly house-keeper had expected him and had prepared some delicious Klops (Meatballs) with Capers for the evening meal. Of course, she had not expected me to appear. However, there were enough Klops for me too. And a nice bed to sleep in! Mr.W knew that I did not want him to come close to me. Obediently he stayed away. I must say, his behaviour was that of a perfect gentleman.

My father had rented a very large, sunny room in a one story family home, which belonged to two ladies. One was elderly, the other, her daughter, looked to be in her thirties. Once the younger lady happened to enter the café where my father and I were having refreshments. My father invited her over and she sat down at our table and ordered coffee. Later on, when my father asked for the bill, the lady gave him the money for her coffee. Naturally my father objected and pointed out that she had been invited. She did not want to hear of it. She insisted to pay for the coffee herself. She said:

‘I’m an independent woman. I don’t want any man to pay for what I consume. Thank you very much, but I really feel better if you let me pay for my coffee.’ I thought by myself how very different from my mother this woman was. —

As it turned out, the old landlady was very caring and so was her daughter. When they found out, that my father had no bed for me but wanted to let me sleep on a mattress on the floor, they both objected. They straight away offered to let me sleep on a sofa in one of the living-rooms. They made up a very comfortable bed for me on that sofa. — The ladies always called my father very respectfully ‘Herr Doctor’.

The government had established my father on one of the floors of a modern, highrise office building. Dad introduced me to his secretary, Frau Kusche. I had the feeling, she was really pleased to meet the daughter of her boss. For lunch Dad met me in the office-canteen where excellent subsidised meals could be had. Instead of a beer to go with the meal my father ordered apple-juice for me. For me to have a drink like that was pure luxury. In those days I had not yet acquired a taste for beer. I said: ‘Daddy, I love this apple-juice very much!’ Saying this, Dad’s face lit up in a big smile. He wanted me to have a good time. He was pleased that a glass of apple-juice could make me happy.

When Herr W drove back to Berlin with me, he made a comment about my father’s lodgings. He said something like: ‘Your father knows how to pick a good place for himself!’ And when later on Dad moved into his own modern brand new flat, he said, ‘The government sure knows how to look after their Public Servants!’ I am sure, he did not mean it to sound nasty.

I knew that Fräulein Schröder was sometimes invited to spend time with some of Herr W’s family, who had a large family home in Berlin. Apparently no-one in the family had any nasty thoughts about Fräulein Schröder. How could they? She was such a kind and considerate person. On top of that she looked always classy in simple but very tasteful outfits which showed off her slender figure. I asked her: ‘Is Herr W not thinking of marrying you?’ And she said: ‘No, he can’t because he is married. His wife has been in a convalescing home for many years. He visits her as often as possible.’ And Mr. W? He pitied Fräulein Schröder that she had ended up being stuck with him. He said: ‘She should have a large family by now. Maybe to marry a park ranger would have been good for her.’

That night when I ended up sleeping in Mr. W’s house, he behaved – as I said – in a perfectly gentleman like manner. I am sure, Fräulein Schröder would have mentioned to him, that a year ago, at the age of seventeen, I had had an unhappy love affair, but that recently I had fallen in love with another young man. He probably also knew that I was totally inexperienced as far as a relationship with an older men was concerned.

In the car on the way to Düsseldorf he threw around some phrases such as that men were like bees who could fly from flower to flower. In a philosophical way this made kind of sense to me. However I myself certainly would not see myself as one of these flowers! So I already had made up my mind: No hanky panky with me, old buster! In due time he made a pass at me anyway or what I understood could have been a pass. We had had dinner in the kitchen while the house-keeper was serving us and talking to Mr. W about affairs that had to do with the housekeeping.

Experience must have taught W that a lady could alsways change her mind, if e.g. she felt very attracted and found it hard to resist the man’s advances.. Gallant Mr. W certainly would have regarded himself as being attractive to ladies. On the other hand, that he should find me attractive, flattered me in some way. However I had no intention of having an affair with him. As I said, I had already made up my mind.

After dinner he asked me into the living-room. I stood beside him as he put a record on. As soon as the music played, he lifted his arms to embrace me. Instinctively, I shrank away from him. I excused myself claiming to be very tired. I wished him a good night. I went to bed and it did not take me long to go to sleep. End of story.

6 thoughts on “Summer 1953

  1. This was so interesting! It is very interesting to look back on the adults we met and observed as children/teenagers. I think most of them were just trying to live their lives as best they knew how. I think of several of my mom’s older sisters. I could write a book about them! I so admired them and their courage and strength at the times they lived in.

    Good for you, Uta! You were a strong young woman with a good head on her shoulders!
    I laughed out loud at “No hanky panky with me, old buster!”…I cheered you on, too! I said something similar to several of the men in my life, even young men near my age when I was in college/university. I was picky about the males I would let into my life, even as just friends.

    HUGS!!! 🙂

  2. I could go on and on about this subject, Carolyn. You mention your mom’s older sisters. Well, my mum had two older sisters. I could write a book about them too! Not to mention my father’s three sisters and all my girl cousins. I very much liked all my aunts and uncles, and all the girl and boy cousins too. Family life I found always very interesting. A lot of memories about Grandparents too. But then there were also times when I was more or less mostly by myself. I read a lot and was dreaming about good company!! 🙂
    Have you for instance heard about Australian fiction author LIANE MORIARTY? She wrote BIG LITTLE LIES and TRULY MADLY GUILTY. During our recent trip I bought another book of hers: nine perfect strangers. I just finished reading this book about the ‘perfect strangers’. Moriarty writes beautifully how these strangers relate to each other under some very odd circumstances. Apart from these nine ‘strangers’ there are some other very interesting characters in this book. The reader gets to know a bit about each person’s sex life. These sexual or non-sexual relationships somehow all make sense. One can reflect also, how important it is for children, that the adults in their life communicate with each other in a friendly way. 🙂

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